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Syria Withdrawal: Betraying the Kurds to Appease the Turks

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Military Council of Manbij Wants City to Return Under Damascus Control – Reports

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered contradictory messages in a speech in Cairo on January 10. On the one hand, he said Washington will withdraw American troops from Syria in line with Donald Trump’s momentous announcement on December 19, and on the other, he emphasized the US will continue fighting the Islamic State and will also contain the influence of Iran in the Middle East region.

Obviously, both these divergent goals are impossible to achieve, unless Washington is planning to maintain some sort of long-term military presence in Syria. In an exclusive report by the Middle East Eye’s Turkey correspondent, Ragip Soylu, on January 10, he mentions that the US delegation presented a five-point document to the Turkish officials during National Security Advisor John Bolton’s recent visit to Turkey.

“Those in attendance with Bolton during the two-hour meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara included General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and James Jeffrey, the US special envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition,” according to the report.

A senior Trump administration official briefed on objectives outlined at the meeting, speaking to the reporter, said, “As the president has stated, the US will maintain whatever capability is necessary for operations needed to prevent the Islamic State’s resurgence.”

And then the reporter makes a startling revelation, though hidden deep in the report and mentioned rather cursorily: “The US is not withdrawing from the base at al-Tanf at this time,” the official said. The revelation hardly comes as a surprise, though, as John Bolton alluded to maintaining long-term US military presence at the al-Tanf base during his visit to Jerusalem on January 6.

The al-Tanf military base is strategically located in southeastern Syria on the border between Syria, Iraq and Jordan, and it sits on a critically important Damascus-Baghdad highway, which serves as a lifeline for Damascus. Washington has illegally occupied 55-kilometer area around al-Tanf since 2016, and several hundred US Marines have trained Syrian militant groups, including Maghawir al-Thawra, there.

Thus, for all practical purposes, it appears the withdrawal of American troops from Syria will be limited to Manbij and Kobani in northern Syria and Qamishli and al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria in order to address the concerns of Washington’s NATO-ally Turkey pertaining to the Kurdish militias which Ankara regards as “terrorists,” and the fate of US forces operating alongside Kurds in Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria and al-Tanf military base, in particular, is still in doubt.

Regarding the evacuation of American troops from the Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria, clearly, an understanding has been reached between Washington and Ankara. According to the terms of the agreement, the Erdogan administration released the US pastor Andrew Brunson on October 12, which had been a longstanding demand of the Trump administration, and has also decided not to make public the audio recordings of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, which could have implicated another American-ally the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the assassination.

In return, the Trump administration has complied with Erdogan’s longstanding demand to evacuate American forces from the Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria. Another demand Erdogan must have made to Washington is to pressure Saudi Arabia to lift the Saudi-UAE blockade imposed in June 2017 against Qatar, which is ideologically aligned to Erdogan’s AKP party since both follow the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, in return for not making public the audio recordings of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

It bears mentioning that after the Khashoggi assassination and the international outrage it generated against the Saudi royal family, Saudi Arabia is already trying to assuage Qatar as it invited Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh on December 10, though Doha snubbed the goodwill gesture by sending a low-ranking official to the meeting.

Regarding the murder of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, a question would naturally arise in the minds of astute readers of alternative media that why did the mainstream media, Washington Post and New York Times in particular, take the lead in publicizing the assassination?

One apparent reason could be that Khashoggi was an opinion columnist for The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon. The Washington Post has a history of working in close collaboration with the CIA as Bezos won a$600 million contract [2] in 2013 to host the CIA’s database on the Amazon’s web-hosting service.

It bears mentioning that despite the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman being primarily responsible for the war in Yemen that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and created a famine in Yemen, the mainstream media hailed him as a “moderate reformer” who brought radical reforms in the conservative Saudi society by permitting women to drive and by allowing cinemas to screen Hollywood movies.

So what prompted the sudden change of heart in the mainstream media that the purported “moderate reformer” was all of a sudden reviled as a brutal murderer? More than anything, it was the timing of the assassination and the political mileage that could be obtained from Khashoggi’s murder in the domestic politics of the United States that prompted the mainstream media to take advantage of the opportunity and mount a smear campaign against the Trump administration by publicizing the assassination.

Jamal Khashoggi was murdered on October 2, when the US midterm elections were only a few weeks away. Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, in particular, have known to have forged close business relations with the Saudi royal family. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Donald Trump chose Saudi Arabia and Israel for his maiden overseas visit in May 2017.

Thus, the corporate media’s campaign to seek justice for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was actually a smear campaign against Donald Trump and his conservative political base, which is now obvious after the US midterm election results have been tallied. Even though the Republicans have retained their 51-seat majority in the Senate, the Democrats now control the House of Representatives by gaining 39 additional seats.

Clearly, two factors were responsible for the surprising defeat of the Republicans in the US midterm elections. Firstly, the Khashoggi murder and the smear campaign unleashed against the Trump administration by the neoliberal media, which Donald Trump often pejoratively mentions as “Fake News” on Twitter.

Secondly, and more importantly, the parcel bombs sent to the residences of George Soros, a dozen other Democratic Congressmen and The New York Times New York office by Cesar Sayoc on the eve of the elections. Although the suspect turned out to be a Trump supporter, he was likely instigated by shady hands in the US deep state, which is wary of the anti-establishment rhetoric and pro-Russia tendencies of the so-called “alt-right” administration.

Notwithstanding, the reason why the Trump administration is bending over backward to appease Ankara is that Turkish President Erdogan has been drifting away from Washington’s orbit into the Kremlin’s sphere of influence. Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO, has been cooperating with Moscow in Syria against Washington’s interests for the last couple of years and has also placed an order for the Russian-made S-400 missile system, though that deal, too, has been thrown into jeopardy after Washington’s recent announcement of selling $3.5 billion worth of Patriot missile systems to Ankara.

In order to understand the significance of relationship between Washington and Ankara, it’s worth noting that the United States has been conducting airstrikes against targets in Syria from the Incirlik airbase and around fifty American B-61 hydrogen bombs have also been deployed there, whose safety became a matter of real concern during the foiled July 2016 coup plot against the Erdogan administration; when the commander of the Incirlik airbase, General Bekir Ercan Van, along with nine other officers were arrested for supporting the coup; movement in and out of the base was denied, power supply was cut off and the security threat level was raised to the highest state of alert, according to a report [3] by Eric Schlosser for the New Yorker.

Perceptive readers who have been keenly watching Erdogan’s behavior since the foiled July 2016 coup plot against the Erdogan administration must have noticed that Erdogan has committed quite a few reckless and impulsive acts during the last few years.

Firstly, the Turkish air force shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet on the border between Syria and Turkey on 24 November 2015 that brought the Turkish and Russian armed forces to the brink of a full-scale confrontation in Syria.

Secondly, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated at an art exhibition in Ankara on the evening of 19 December 2016 by an off-duty Turkish police officer, Mevlut Mert Altintas, who was suspected of being an Islamic fundamentalist.

Thirdly, the Turkish military mounted the seven-month-long Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria immediately after the attempted coup plot from August 2016 to March 2017 that brought the Turkish military and its Syrian militant proxies head-to-head with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and their US backers.

Fourthly, Ankara invaded Idlib in northwestern Syria in October 2017 on the pretext of enforcing a de-escalation zone between the Syrian militants and the Syrian government, despite official protest from Damascus that the Turkish armed forces were in violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And lastly, Turkey mounted Operation Olive Branch in the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria from January to March 2018. And after capturing Afrin in March last year, the Turkish armed forces and their Syrian jihadist proxies have now set their sights further east on Manbij and Kobani.

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Nauman Sadiq and do not necessarily reflect those of Spec Ops Magazine. 

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Op-Edge

Why the Stealth F-22 Isn’t ‘Ready’ For Combat

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F 22 Raptor demonstration of power - Why the Stealth F-22 Isn't 'Ready' For Combat

To some extent, this fits the Air Force’s shift toward distributed basing, where small sub-units of fighters are deployed at multiple locations rather than a few big — and vulnerable — forward air bases. But that won’t work with the current F-22 organizational structure, which the Air Force last reviewed in 2010 — after which it eliminated one squadron so there would be enough to distribute to the remaining units.

Poor U.S. Air Force organization and management have contributed to problems with the F-22 Raptor fighter, according to a new Government Accountability Office audit.

F-22 availability, already diminished by maintenance problems endemic to the complex and finicky stealth fighter, has been further reduced by the small size of F-22 squadrons and the practice of deploying small detachments from individual squadrons overseas. The combined effect has been to reduce F-22 availability to the point where there are neither enough planes to meet mission requirements nor to provide pilots with sufficient training for air-to-air combat, which is the Raptor’s primary role.

“The small size of F-22 squadrons and wings has contributed to low aircraft availability rates,” according to GAO. “Further, the Air Force practice of deploying a small portion of a squadron makes it difficult for F-22 squadrons, as currently organized, to make aircraft available for their missions at home station. The Air Force would also face difficulties generating aircraft to support DOD’s concepts for using distributed operations in high threat environments with its current F-22 squadron organization.”

Typical Air Force fighter wings comprise three squadrons of 24 aircraft apiece. F-22 wings comprise one of two squadrons of 18 to 21 aircraft apiece (GAO notes that F-35 wings will be organized according to the traditional model, with two to three regular-sized squadrons per wing). Larger wings are considered more efficient because equipment and personnel can be shared, thus two-squadron F-22 wings in Alaska and Virginia have enjoyed higher aircraft availability than single-squadron wings.

Compounding the problem is the Air Force practice of dividing squadrons into detachments, called Unit Type Codes, for overseas deployment. But the F-22 UTCs are not a uniform size.  For example, one of the F-22’s UTCs is designed to have only 6 of a squadron’s 21 aircraft but contains almost 50 percent of the squadron’s equipment, approximately 40 percent of the squadron’s maintenance personnel and 60 percent of its operational personnel,” which leaves the remaining portion of the squadron with too few resources, GAO says.

To some extent, this fits the Air Force’s shift toward distributed basing, where small sub-units of fighters are deployed at multiple locations rather than a few big — and vulnerable — forward air bases. But that won’t work with the current F-22 organizational structure, which the Air Force last reviewed in 2010 — after which it eliminated one squadron so there would be enough to distribute to the remaining units.

Not surprisingly, lack of available aircraft has affected training.

“An Air Force analysis conducted in 2016 determined that, based on current aircraft availability rates, pilots in an F-22 squadron with 21 primary mission aircraft need 270 days of home station training each year to meet their minimum annual continuation training requirements,” GAO notes.

“However, F-22 pilots are generally not meeting those minimums, according to the officials, and F-22 operational squadrons have reported numerous shortfalls. For example, one squadron identified training shortfalls in its primary missions for four consecutive years in its annual training reports. Another squadron identified training shortfalls in one of its primary missions, offensive counter-air, in three of the last four annual training reports.”

Pilots also can’t train because they are tasked with homeland security, even though air defense is a mission that could be handled by other aircraft.

“Operational squadrons in Alaska and Hawaii have F-22 pilots sitting alert in order to address the 24-hour per day alert commitment,” GAO says. “During this time they are not able to train for their high-end air superiority missions. Further, the squadrons must dedicate a number of mission-capable aircraft to this mission, which is more challenging for squadrons with a smaller number of aircraft. Squadron officials from one location estimated that they could generate hundreds of additional training sorties on an annual basis if they could use the aircraft that are currently dedicated to the alert mission.”

GAO does acknowledge that a large part of the availability problem is the stealth materials on the F-22s skin, which require frequent and lengthy maintenance. The coatings, which are good for 8 to 10 years, are also reaching the end of their service life — in part because many F-22s are not based in climate-controlled hangars.

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Why Photos Of Osama bin Laden’s Corpse Are Still Not Available to Public

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Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri

A years after the Osama Bin Laden, the notorious terrorist leader, was killed there is still many conspiracy theories about his death He was killed on May 2, 2011, by US Navy SEALs operators at his compound in Abbottabad, Abbottabad, Pakistan. The operation was codenamed as Neptune Spear. In an article published on TheNewsRep, author Jack Murphy writes about the fact that so far there are no publicly released photos of Osama bin Laden’s corpse. Down below you can find his opinion on this topic:

There are a lot of puzzled expressions on people’s faces when it comes to the subject of the late Osama bin Laden and why the White House has not authorized the release of any pictures of his body. Photographs and video were released of Saddam Hussein’s hanging, as well as post-mortem pictures of his criminal sons, Uday and Qusay after Delta Force took them out. Why not release a few pictures of Public Enemy #1 to prove that he is dead and show the world what happens when you take on the U.S. of A?

Matt Bissonnette, one of the SEAL Team 6 operators on the bin Laden raid, partially outs the reason in his book “No Easy Day.” The book reads, “In his death throes, he was still twitching and convulsing. Another assaulter and I trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds. The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless.”

But this is perhaps the most measured and polite description that one could give of how operator after operator took turns dumping magazines’ worth of ammunition into bin Laden’s body, two confidential sources within the community have told us. When all was said and done, Osama bin Laden had more than a hundred bullets in him, by the most conservative estimate.

Was this a one-time incident or part of a developing trend of lawless behavior? Consider these two other incidents:

•In 2013, The Associated Press reported that SEALs attached to SEAL Team 6 were investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service after $30,000 in cash strangely vanished from Capt. Richard Phillips’ lifeboat. Phillips had been taken a hostage from the Maersk Alabama ship. SEAL snipers shot and killed his pirate captors using night-vision goggles, laser target designators, and multiple rounds. They took control of the lifeboat — and presumably the money.

But the money was never recovered — and its disappearance remains a mystery to this day. Phillips described the incident in his book this way: “Two stacks of hundreds, one of the fifties, then twenties, fives and tens … I never saw the money again. Later, when they gave me a sack to lean against, I felt the stacks of money inside, but I never spotted the cash out in the open again. “The case was eventually closed because there was no substantial evidence linking the SEALs to any wrongdoing.

In Eric Blehm’s book “Fearless,” he openly writes about illicit drug use by an active-duty SEAL stationed on the East Coast who ultimately went on to serve with SEAL Team 6. How this same person managed to pass a top-secret background clearance despite having 11 prior felony convictions is perturbing and revealing at the same time.

You may not care if bin Laden got some extra holes punched in him — few of us do — but what should concern you is a trend within certain special-operations units to engage in this type of self-indulgent and ultimately criminal behavior. Gone unchecked, these actions worsen over time and in the end risk creating a unit subculture that is hidden from senior commanders, that is more “Sons of Anarchy” than “American Hero.”

So is putting a few extra rounds into the enemy illegal?

Under the Laws of Land Warfare, a soldier is fully authorized to put a few insurance rounds into his target after he goes down. Provided the enemy is not surrendering, it is morally, legally and ethically appropriate to shoot the body a few times to ensure that he is really dead and no longer a threat. However, what happened on the bin Laden raid is beyond the permissible. The level of excess shown was not about making sure that bin Laden was no longer a threat. The excess was pure self-indulgence.

And if there’s any truth to the rumors floating around the special-operations community related to illegal activities at home and abroad, it will be a sad day of reckoning for America in many regards. When the truth comes to light, honor will have been betrayed by actions that are not aligned with the very principles these warriors swore an oath to uphold, the same ones that distinguish good guys from the bad.

Of course, these attitudes and behaviors do not come out of anywhere. Endless back-to-back combat deployments, post-traumatic stress disorder, broken families and the ugliness of more than a decade of war all play into it. War is ugly, ugliest of all for the warriors required to do the actual wet work, and Americans would do well to keep this in mind before passing judgment.

Now you know the likely reason why the Obama administration has not released pictures of Osama bin Laden’s corpse. To do so would show the world a body filled with a ridiculous number of gunshot wounds. The picture itself would likely cause an international scandal, and investigations would be conducted that could uncover other operations and activities many would do anything to keep buried.

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