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Navy SEALs and Special Operation Forces members ask Zinke to protect public lands

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US Navy SEALs in hard firefight with ISIS militants

Thirty-seven active and retired Navy SEALs, Special Operations Forces members and other military leaders have sent a letter* to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke expressing grave concern with his decision to advise the president to remove protections from national monuments including Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears in Utah, and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon.

The recommendations from Zinke come at the conclusion of an unprecedented 4-month review of over two-dozen monuments designated since 1996, which was initiated by an April Executive Order from President Trump.

The letter, which is signed by service members from all branches of the military and includes veterans, reservists, and active personnel, was initiated by retired Navy SEAL Brett Myrick, outspoken public lands advocate who hiked through Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument with Zinke last month during his visit to the area.

In the letter, Brett and his fellow service members ask Zinke, himself a former SEAL, to remember that the military has a strong culture of stewardship of natural resources and remind him of the role protected public lands play in getting military families outdoors. As the military leaders put it “Public lands are a physical manifestation of ‘America the Beautiful,’ representing one of the reasons we chose to serve our country.”

For the last 100 years, the Antiquities Act has been used by Presidents on both sides of the aisle to protect lands of great cultural and natural value, including historic military sites. Efforts by the Trump Administration to remove protections from national monuments or significantly downsize them would be unprecedented and are likely to be met with a quagmire of legal challenges.

“We believe that you, an avid outdoorsman and former military leader, must also feel the same way about the value of our nation’s public lands,” the military leaders state in the letter. “That is why we were shocked to hear of your efforts to remove protections for magnificent national monuments like Bears Ears. We strongly urge you to change your current course on public lands and take a longer-term view of your role as Secretary of the Interior and steward of our nation’s public lands.”

You can view the letter online here.

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Special Forces

Canadian special forces out of Mosul, preparing for new battle in Iraq

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Canadian special forces have left the city of Mosul and are now backing up Iraqi forces as they prepare to assault one of the Islamic State group’s last strongholds in the country. The move comes amid growing friction between the various local groups facing off against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and warnings that despite its battlefield victories, the international community has a lot more work to do in Iraq.

The Iraqi military, Kurdish Ppeshmerga and various paramilitary groups have surrounded Hawija, a city of about 150,000 people, and are waiting for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s order to attack. The victory there would represent a pivotal moment in the war against ISIL, since the group would then control only a few small pockets of Iraqi territory along Syria’s border.

Canadian troops who had been helping Iraqi forces secure Mosul throughout the summer are now near Hawija, and will provide support during the upcoming battle, military spokesman Maj. Alexandre Cadieux said Friday. Canada has about 200 special forces soldiers supporting local forces in northern Iraq. Most of their work has been with the Kurds, but Cadieux said they are also now operating with other Iraqi groups.

“Members of the Special Operations Task Force will provide their (Iraqi Security Force) partners with advice and assistance in the vicinity of Hawija,” Cadieux said in an email. “Canadian Armed Forces personnel are advising its partners on how to best secure their position and prevent effective counter-attacks from Daesh,” he added, using the Arabic name for ISIL.

“CAF personnel also advise and assist in the detection, identification and possible prosecution of Daesh targets by our partner, or through coalition resources.”

Exactly when the battle will start has been a source of speculation for several weeks. Hawija is located in territory claimed by both the Kurds, who have their own semi-independent regional government, as well as Iraq’s central government in Baghdad.

That alone has created disagreements between the various forces preparing to attack the city, but the fact the Kurds plan to hold a referendum on independence on Sept. 25 has heightened tensions. Yet even if Hawija is liberated, one senior Canadian officer whose job is to organize coalition training efforts and help Iraqi officials plan operations says the hard work is just beginning.

Brig.-Gen. Steven Whalen said that’s because Iraqi security forces will continue to need help as ISIL shifts to terrorist tactics such as suicide bombings, one of which killed 80 people on Friday. “This fight is not anywhere near over,” Whalen said in an interview from Baghdad, where he is leading a team of international advisers inside Iraq’s defence ministry.

“From a military perspective, we are expecting that there is going to be some kind of insurgency-type scenario that will evolve. And we see some signs of it occurring elsewhere in Iraq.” Special units are being trained to deal specifically with such a threat, Whelan said, but there is also the need to make sure regular forces are able to hold territory and conduct basic military tasks.

“We’re going to transition from building hardcore combat capability to moving towards giving the Iraqis training and resources to help them become self-sustaining,” Whelan said. “They’re not ready for self-sustainment yet from a security perspective.”

The Liberal government recently extended Canada’s mission against ISIL until March 2019, while giving the military more flexibility to decide on its own what it needs to accomplish its objectives. One area that Canada is exploring is whether to partner with NATO to train Iraqi forces to find and disarm improvised explosive devices, though military officials said no decisions have been made.

In addition to the special forces troops, Canada has surveillance, refuelling and transport planes, an intelligence unit, a helicopter detachment and a military hospital in the region to help fight ISIL.

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Special Forces

IDF releases rare video of its elite Unit 5101 also known as SHALDAG

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The IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) have released a video of Shaldag unit. Shaldag (Hebrew: שלדג‎‎, Kingfisher), also known as Unit 5101, is an elite Israeli Air Force commando unit. So far, their public appearance was very rare. Shaldag was founded in 1974, in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, by Muki Betser, a Sayeret Matkal veteran who brought several Matkal veterans with him. Initially operating as a Sayeret Matkal reserve company, it was eventually transferred to the IAF.

Shaldag’s mission is to deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to conduct special reconnaissance, establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and commando actions.

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