Pentagon brushes off Russia's claim on ISIS commander kill - We Are The Mighty
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Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill

The Pentagon strongly pushed back August 31 on Russia’s claim it was responsible for killing Islamic State’s chief spokesman in Syria.


ISIS released a statement Tuesday saying its lead spokesman, Abu Muhammed al-Adnani, was killed near Aleppo, Syria. The Pentagon confirmed it carried out airstrikes in Aleppo targeting Adnani, but has not independently confirmed Adnani’s death.

Russia seized on the Pentagon’s remarks to try and claim credit for the airstrike. Russian State-run media released a statement hours after ISIS’s announcement, saying, “According to reports confirmed by several intelligence channels, field commander Abu Mukhammad al-Adnani [sic], better known as ‘the official spokesperson’ of the international terrorist group Islamic State, was among the liquidated terrorists,” in a Russian air raid that day.

Russia made its claim despite acknowledging its airstrikes were carried out nearly 20 miles away from the area of Aleppo where Adnani was killed. Russia is likely trying to advance its narrative that the mission in Syria is to help Syrian President Bashar Al Assad go after terrorists. Throughout its nearly one-year military intervention in Syria, Russia has labeled any group that opposes Assad as “terrorist,” regardless of religious affiliation.

Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook took a swipe at Russian airstrikes in Syria to reporters Wednesday, saying, “we have no information to support Russia’s claim that they also carried out a strike against Adnani.” Cook elaborated, “Russia, as you know, has spent most of its time, its military campaign supporting and propping up the Assad regime,” continuing “It has not devoted much, if any, effort that we’re aware of targeting ISIL’s leadership.”

Another senior defense official told Reuters Wednesday, “Russia’s claim is a joke.”

Follow Saagar Enjeti on Twitter

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldier recalls serving with Medal of Honor recipient Travis Atkins

“He was a selfless leader, a brother and a friend.”

That is how Stuart Hollingsworth remembers Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, the former 10th Mountain Division (LI) soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on March 27, 2019.

Hollingsworth, a former staff sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, had first met Atkins a month before their deployment to Iraq in August 2006. He said that Atkins was originally with another company, but he was needed to serve as a team leader in D Company.


“He was training his previous team for combat, and was such a master of his craft, that he was able to step into another team leader role and earn the trust of everyone he met,” Hollingsworth said.

“My first impression of him was that this man was very much an authoritative leader. He led from the front and led by example — never asking anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill

Soldiers kneel to pay their respects during a memorial ceremony June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker for Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed June 1, 2007 by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq.

(Photo by Spc. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT PAO)

Hollingsworth said that theirs was a tight-knit team, and they developed a bond that would carry them forward into combat.

“Staff Sgt. Atkins was a huge proponent of team camaraderie and unity,” Hollingsworth said. “We would do everything as a team — we moved as a team, trained as a team, ate, slept — everything.”

With that, it was easy to learn everything there was to know about his teammates, and Hollingsworth said that Atkins spoke constantly about his son Trevor.

Also read: What you need to know about the solider receiving the Medal of Honor

“He was very much a family man, always talking about them,” Hollingsworth said. “I would also say that he probably loved his men almost as much, if not the same.”

That camaraderie and the love he had for his team is demonstrative of his actions on June 1, 2007, when Atkins sacrificed his life to shield his fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber. Atkins had engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent who had resisted a search, and then threw himself on top of the suicide bomber to bear the blast of the detonation.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill

A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, stands in front of the monument honoring 2-14 infantry soldiers who died in service to their nation.

(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Hollingsworth said that every soldier learns the words to the Soldier’s Creed, but some of those words impact him more now because of Atkins.

“There’s that one phrase — ‘I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life’ — that has more meaning to me today than ever before,” he said.

In November 2007, Atkins’ name was among those added to the 2-14 infantry monument at Fort Drum. Atkins’ heroism received national attention when he was honored with the Distinguished Service Cross during a Veterans Day ceremony at Fort Drum in 2008.

Also read: This is the infantryman posthumously receiving the MoH

Hollingsworth had attended both ceremonies, but he said that words failed him upon meeting Trevor, who was 12 at the time.

“I was not able to adequately describe to Trevor how much I appreciated his father, what he meant to me and how truly great a man he was,” Hollingsworth said. “So being here at the Medal of Honor ceremony, I am incredibly grateful to be in the presence of the Atkins family. To have this opportunity to spend this time with them is a great honor.”

To learn more about Atkins and to watch the live webcast of today’s Medal of Honor ceremony, visit www.army.mil/medalofhonor/atkins.

Articles

Russia’s aircraft carrier has started launching sorties over Syria

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo


The US Naval Institute NewsSam LaGrone reports that armed fighters have flown from Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

As of yet, no strikes have been carried out. Only scouting missions involving the Su-33s and MiG-29Ks have gone forward, according to Lagrone.

Also read: Russia has a ‘pipe dream’ of replacing the US as the world’s dominant naval power

While the Kuznetsov and attack planes on board add little to Russia’s capabilities in the region, the US has nonetheless condemned Russia escalating a conflict where humanitarian catastrophes and possibly war crimes go on with some regularity.

“We are aware of reports that the Russian Federation is preparing to escalate their military campaign in Syria. The United States, time and again, has worked to try and de-escalate the violence in Syria and provide humanitarian aid to civilians suffering under siege,” a Pentagon statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday read.

Russia’s deployment of the troubled, Soveit-era Kuznetsov to Syria serves little military purpose, and likely deployed for propaganda purposes.

Articles

These Fidel Castro assassination attempts are crazier than your Saturday morning cartoon plots

Fidel Castro famously held onto power through 10 U.S. presidents — from 1959 to 2008 — as Cuba’s ruler before finally calling it quits for health issues.


Related: The Cuban Missile Crisis: 13 days that almost ended the world

Surviving as a communist leader for half a century just 90 miles from the U.S. is a surprising achievement considering the estimated 638 CIA assassination attempts, according to Cuba’s chief of counterintelligence Fabian Escalante in the video below.

Castro was on the naughty list from the very beginning for overthrowing President Fulgencio Batista and converting Cuba into the first socialist state under Communist Party rule in the Western Hemisphere. He stood for everything the U.S. was fighting during the Cold War, and his friendly relationship with the Soviet Union only made things worse — especially after allowing Moscow to place its nukes pointed at the U.S. there during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It was a no-brainer; Castro had to go. And the U.S. attempted his removal by economic blockade, counter-revolution, and by assassination. This short animated History Channel video explores some of the most outlandish Fidel Castro assassination plots by the CIA.

Watch:

History Channel, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

So long to smocks? Army considers changes to 40-year-old maternity uniform

The Army Uniform Board will consider whether to update the service’s 40-year-old smock maternity uniform and possibly issue a lactation shirt for new mothers as part of the board’s 152nd meeting on Wednesday.

The uniform board meets twice a year to discuss recommendations for potential improvements to Army uniforms and changes to issue clothing bag items. It also proposes possible future uniform items for the service to study.

The board, which is made up of members of the active force, National Guard and Reserve, plans to discuss redesigning the Army Green Service Uniform-Maternity, which is part of the service’s new World War II-style uniform, according to a news release.

“That maternity uniform resembled the style of uniform that has been issued since the 1980s and was first designed in 1979,” the release states. It adds that the board will discuss whether to modernize the maternity uniform or continue with the current style.

The Marine Corps announced late last year that it is considering new long- and short-sleeve maternity shirts after the Air Force unveiled a new design of its own that offers more stretch and stain resistance.

Pregnant airmen at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio tested the new maternity shirts in 2018 to gather feedback from women at different stages of pregnancy to improve fit options.

Improved fit and function of maternity clothing items are overdue, said then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who explained that female service members have been forced to spend more money than men altering uniforms so they fit properly.

The Army Uniform Board is also scheduled to consider developing a lactation shirt for the Maternity Utility Uniform in the Operational Combat Pattern, according to the release.

The effort could result in an issued uniform item for new mothers. Currently, the Army does not include a lactation shirt as part of the clothing bag issue; female soldiers must purchase them from commercial companies, the release states.

The Marine Corps announced last year that it was fielding a nursing undershirt for new mothers as part of other uniform changes that emerged from a Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services committee meeting. Sailors and airmen are authorized to wear specially designed nursing T-shirts with certain uniforms.

The uniform board’s June 25 meeting resulted in a recommendation to develop a maternity Army Physical Fitness Uniform. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville approved the recommendation, allowing the service to proceed with a user evaluation, which will include a wear test of potential uniform items.

The board also recommended research on improving the quality and effectiveness of the athletic bras issued to soldiers in entry-level training, as well as to deploying troops.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis orders a halt on cluster bomb ban

Well, it looks like cluster bombs won’t be riding off into the sunset any time soon. The Pentagon has officially decided to hold off on enforcing a planned ban on the weapon system, which previously set to take effect on January 1, 2019.


Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Center. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by the Washington Post, the decision was made by “senior Pentagon leadership” and ensures that the systems will continue to be purchased. This same ban would have also restricted rockets used by the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, as well as versions of the BGM-109 Tomahawk, AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon, the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), and the MGM-164 ATACMS II.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
A ZSU-23 is hit by BLU-97 sub-munitions like those used on the BGM-109D Tomahawk. (DOD photo)

A Nov. 30 memo, signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, stated that “adversaries and potential adversaries have developed advanced capabilities and operational approaches specifically designed to limit our ability to project power.” As a result, the DOD decided to reverse the ban to avoid “military and civilian casualties” caused due to “forfeiting the best available capabilities.” It should be noted that, under certain circumstances, cluster bombs can do things that “smart bombs” can’t.

The decision drew criticism from Senator Patrick Leahy, who said, “on the eve of that deadline, the Pentagon has decided to go back on its commitment, just as it did after pledging to develop alternatives to antipersonnel landmines more than two decades ago.” Leahy and Senator Dianne Feinstein had sponsored legislation to codify policy from the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions into law.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
The Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) is a highly mobile automatic system that fires surface-to-surface rockets from the M270 and M270A1 weapons platform. Twelve MLRS rockets can be fired in less than one minute by the three-man crew, as well as two Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles. Both the MLRS rockets and ATACMS have cluster munition variants. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

We won’t get into politics here, but it should be noted that neither Senator Leahy’s nor Senator Feinstein’s official congressional biographies show military service. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, by contrast, has 42 years of military service and is the first general or flag officer to serve as Secretary of Defense since George C. Marshall.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Belgian F-16s intercept 2 Russian nuclear-capable supersonic bombers

Belgian Air Force F-16s scrambled to intercept two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic, nuclear-capable bombers, accompanied by two Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighters over the Baltic Sea on Sept. 17, 2019.

The Belgian Air Force has been guarding the Baltic airspace since Sept. 3, 2019, when it took over the police mission from fellow NATO member Hungary, which was supported by Spain and the UK in its mission. Four Belgian F-16s and at least 60 soldiers have been deployed to protect Baltic airspace from unwelcome incursions, according to the Belgian Ministry of Defense.

Sept. 17, 2019’s interception was Belgium’s first since it began its rotation over Baltic airspace, and seemingly at very close range.


Russian aircraft have engaged in several provocative actions over NATO airspace this year. In June 2019, British Typhoon fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian Su-30 Flanker fighters twice in two days.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill

An British air force Typhoon fighter jet, foreground, with a Russian fighter over the Baltics.

(UK mInistry of Defence/Twitter)

But NATO countries aren’t merely reacting to Russian aggression. In August 2019 alone, US and UK aircraft sent clear messages to Russia:

  • US B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flew with UK F-35s, the B-2’s first time flying with non-US F-35s.
  • B-2 Spirit bombers landed in Iceland for the first time. The B-2, which operates from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and Royal Air Force Fairford in the UK, needs specific conditions to support its stealth capabilities.
  • B-2 bombers flew their first extended sorties over the Norwegian Sea earlier in September 2019 — right in Russia’s backyard.
Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill

Two US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, currently deployed to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, fly alongside two Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning aircraft from RAF Marham near the White Cliffs of Dover, England, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

NATO countries share the mission of protecting Baltic airspace, as the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — don’t have the infrastructure to protect their own airspace and are considered at risk of destabilization or invasion by Russia.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Sinking ships? The Army requests $1 billion to do just that

With the Department of Defense reorienting itself toward the Pacific, the Army is requesting to purchase more than triple the number of Precision Strike Missiles (PrSMs) in the fiscal year 2022 compared with 2021. The service is requesting 110 of the new long-range attack weapons. Seeking to solidify both a stronger operational capacity in the Pacific and to deter China, the Army hopes for more than $1 billion to fund 2022 research and development of long-range missiles, such as the PrSM, for targeting ships at sea.

According to the Army, the Precision Strike Missiles will not be fully operational until 2023. However, in May, the Army successfully hit a target with the missile at 400 kilometers, or roughly 250 miles. During this test, which produced the longest distance yet that the Army has fired the projectile, the missile was fired from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

“PrSM accomplished all of the Army’s test objectives again today in its longest flight yet,” Gaylia Campbell, vice president of precision fires at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said in a press release.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
A Precision Strike Missile launches from a HIMARS during a demonstration in 2019. The Army has requested 110 of the missiles for 2022. US Army photo, courtesy of Lockheed Martin/released.

Later this year, the Army plans to test the Precision Strike Missile out to distances of at least 1,000 kilometers, Defense News reported. To do so, the Army is requesting $5 million in the 2022 budget to develop this capability, describing it as one of its “critical technologies.” Additionally, the Army has made Precision Strike Missile development a priority program in order to replace the older Army Tactical Missile System and solidify the service’s role in the Pacific.

While working to extend the range of the Precision Strike Missile, the Army is also enhancing the missile’s guidance system and requested $188.5 million in 2022 funding to do so. Currently, the missile is guided by GPS, which has proven accurate in testing. However, Defense News reported that the Army would add “seekers” to the missiles as it refines the weapons platform. The added guidance will enable the missile to precisely engage smaller targets, such as ships.

“The early capability is against long-range artillery and integrated air defense systems,” Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team director, told Defense News. “As you integrate the seeker technology, it gives you the ability to go after the mini-targets. Those mini-targets can be maritime in the Pacific; those mini-targets can be fire control radars [and airfields] in the European scenario.”

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
Both the Army and the Marine Corps currently employ the HIMARS system to test different anti-ship missiles and capabilities. US Army photo, courtesy of Lockheed Martin/released.

The focus on long-range strike capabilities, particularly against naval vessels, comes as the Office of Naval Intelligence estimates that the Chinese navy is on pace to have 400 ships by the end of the fiscal year 2025. In a May essay in War on the Rocks, Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn and Lt. Gen. Laura Potter wrote that an Army presence supporting naval operations through Long Range Precision Fires would be vital to deterring China and, if necessary, fighting a war.

Flynn is the US Army chief of staff for operations, strategy, and planning, and Potter is the US Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

“If naval and air forces are out of position, the Army can still access and employ its greater intelligence network with integrated protection and long-range fires to enable the military to deliver multi-domain effects,” the pair wrote. “Without landpower, the commander is reliant on the positioning of naval and air forces to deter and respond. With it, he can assure, deter, and respond at any time and in a manner of his choosing.”

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
A live-fire demonstration using multiple HIMARS systems is performed during Exercise Talisman Sabre. US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Maldonado, courtesy of DVIDS.

The development of this anti-ship capability by the Army, the Marine Corps, and the Air Force indicates what Pentagon leadership envisions will happen in a future fight. Speaking before the Hudson Institute, Gen. John Hyten, 11th vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described how there would be no “lines” on a future battlefield. Each service, therefore, will have overlapping capabilities.

“In the future, those lines are eliminated, which means an army capability can have on its own platform, the ability to defend itself or the ability to strike deep into an adversary area of operations,” Hyten said. “We create such a huge advantage for the future joint combined force that it will create huge challenges for our competitors around the world.”


This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Bill Boeker/released.

Articles

Chinese drone engineer is restricting ISIS’ ability to fly

Chinese drone maker DJI is working on a software that can define no-fly zones for their aircraft in order to avoid use by terrorist groups like the Islamic State (EI) in areas of conflict such as Iraq and Syria.


The drone maker has increased areas where its devices cannot fly to avoid attacks in Iraq and Syria, but it does not rule out terrorists being able to hack the software or create their own drones.

Terrorists in the Middle East have [been increasingly using drones in combat], equipping them with homemade explosives. But the leading global manufacturer of drones has decided to react.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

Militiamen use drones equipped with explosives, thus making them flying bombs or a means to release explosives over a given target.

This year, the terrorist organization even announced that it had established a unit to handle this type of device, and claims they killed or injured 39 Iraqi soldiers in just one week.

Now, Chinese drone maker DJI has decided to counter-attack using the company’s drone software that can define no-fly zones in which the aircraft is barred from entering, MIT Technology Review said.

Normally this capacity is used to prevent consumers from flying their aircraft over restricted areas, such as airports and military bases. But now DJI seems to have added a number of locations in Syria and Iraq to the list, including the city of Mosul (Iraq), USA Today reported.

Also read: US military explores more anti-drone technology

So far it is unknown whether the measure will be fully effective, since the software can be modified to avoid the no-fly zones and because not all the drones used by the EI are commercial products.

It is also possible that the terrorist organization has developed its own aircraft from scratch from pieces of rudimentary components and cores.

Established in 2006 by Frank Wang, DJI has its headquarters in Shenzhen, the epicenter of factories, brands, and technology development in China.

The company currently employs 3 thousand people and has offices in the United States (Los Angeles), South Korea, Germany (Frankfurt), the Netherlands, and Japan (Tokyo), with two additional centers in China, located in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Articles

This White House plan for the Afghanistan war might surprise you

The Trump administration is considering the ramifications of paring back the US presence in Afghanistan as part of its ongoing strategy review in America’s longest war, The Wall Street Journal reports.


Trump’s national security cabinet is bitterly divided on the future US role in Afghanistan. Senior national security officials like Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster are reportedly pushing Trump to allow a surge of approximately 4,000 troops into Afghanistan, while White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has lobbied against the effort.

“It doesn’t work unless we are there for a long time, and if we don’t have the appetite to be there a long time, we should just leave. It’s an unanswered question,” a senior administration official told WSJ of any plan to increase US troops. “It is becoming clearer and clearer to people that those are the options: go forward with something like the strategy we have developed, or withdraw.”

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
Secretary of Defense James Mattis (left). DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Trump is reportedly deeply skeptical of increasing US troops in Afghanistan and sent back McMaster’s final version of a plan to his national security council in late-July. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other military leaders in charge of the war in Afghanistan say they need a few thousand more US troops to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces in the fight against the Taliban.

The Afghan National Security Forces have largely failed to rise to the challenge of the Taliban insurgent movement, despite tens of billions of dollars in US assistance and a 16-year NATO presence. Afghan civilian casualties are also at a 16-year high in the war as a result of Taliban improvised explosive devices. US military commanders admit that any surge in US troops will need to be sustained for years to come in order to build up the Afghan National Security Force’s indigenous capabilities.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Afghan Air Force Brig. Gen. Eng A. Shafi. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since the US invasion in 2001, and maintains control over approximately one-third of the civilian population. The US backed Afghan government remains paralyzed by corruption and political infighting, further hindering the war effort and plummeting morale among Afghan troops.

Former US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller described officials asking the same fundamental questions about US strategy in the region in 2017 as they were 4 years ago, in a recent interview with Politico Magazine. “Here we are two full presidential terms and into the start of a next one later; there are no peace talks,” Miller lamented.

Intel

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
A Navy military working dog handler trains his partner. Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson


A former member of SEAL Team Six and military working dog handler wants Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, infamous for allegedly walking away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, held accountable for his actions.

James Hatch was on a failed mission against Taliban insurgents in 2009 that he maintains was designed to rescue Bergdahl. The DEVGRU SEAL sustained a career-ending injury when his femur was shattered by an enemy round. Remco, a Belgian Malinois assigned to another Navy dog handler on the mission, was killed while assaulting two insurgents to protect Hatch and others.

See the whole story, and Hatch’s reaction to Bergdahl being called for trial, at Stars and Stripes.

Articles

US practices D-Day-like landing in Latvia amid Russia tensions

U.S. Marines engaged in a mock beach landing in the Baltics on June 6 in a scene reminiscent of the D-Day landings of World War II.


The drill took place as part of NATO’s Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), an annual exercise involving approximately 6,000 troops that runs from June 1 to 16. The drill, which took place on a beach in Latvia, is a key component of the exercise which aims to project NATO power from sea at a time when the Russian threat to the Baltics has taken a drastic increase.

“What we want to do is practice and demonstrate the ability to deliver sea control and power projection at and from the sea,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
U.S. Marines land in the Baltics for BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Reserve Marines from Texas deployed from the the USS Arlington, an amphibious landing transport, onto the beach with various landing craft. The drill was conducted on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II, the largest amphibious invasion in modern history.

The Latvian landing was significantly smaller in scope than the multiple landings on D-Day, but both operations involved a combination of air, maritime and land forces. BALTOPS, like D-Day, is also multinational, with 14 nations participating in various drills.

BALTOPS has been recurring since 1972, but this year’s event comes at a time when NATO’s tensions with Russia are at their highest since the end of the Cold War. The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive rhetoric has Balkan countries concerned they could be the next target.

They’re scared to death of Russia,” said Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command in January. “They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.”

The U.S. sent a detachment of special operations forces to the Baltics in January in order to help train local forces.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
Marines participate in BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Russian forces could reach the capitals of both Latvia and neighboring Estonia in less than 60 hours, according to an assessment by the RAND corporation, even with a week’s notice. Latvia has approximately 4,450 active ground troops, while all three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have only around 15,750 between them. Estonia can also activate the 16,000 paramilitary troops in the Estonian Defense League, while Lithuania has around 10,000 militia members in the Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union.

NATO also has rotating forces throughout the Baltic region, but RAND’s assessment noted that they may not be enough to stave off a Russian attack.

“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” noted the report.

Fortunately for the Baltics, President Donald Trump has noted he is “absolutely committed” to the collective defense of NATO, a stark change from his previously doubtful outlook on alliance.

 

 

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Articles

Russia tells the Western world not to worry about its giant military exercise

In a bid to dispel Western fears about planned war games by Russia and Belarus, the Russian military said Aug. 29 the maneuvers simulating a response to foreign-backed “extremists” won’t threaten anyone.


The maneuvers, to be held Sept. 14-20 in Belarus and western Russia, have raised NATO concerns. Some alliance members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized Moscow for a lack of transparency and questioned its intentions.

Amid spiraling tensions over fighting in Ukraine, Western worries about the planned maneuvers have ranged from allegations that Russia could keep its forces in Belarus after the drills, to fears of a surprise attack on the Baltics.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin, rejected what he described as Western “myths about the so-called Russian threat.”

“The most improbable scenarios have been floated,” he said at a briefing for foreign military attaches. “Some have reached as far as to claim that the Zapad 2017 exercises will serve as a ‘platform for invasion’ and ‘occupation’ of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.”

Fomin said the Russian military will invite foreign observers to the maneuvers, which will involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops, about 70 aircraft, up to 250 tanks, 200 artillery systems, and 10 navy ships.

Moscow’s assurances, however, have failed to assuage Russia’s neighbors, which expect the drills to be far greater in scope than officially declared.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin (center). Image from Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik said last month that Moscow could deploy up to 100,000 troops for the maneuvers. Poland’s Deputy Defense Minister Michal Dworczyk also questioned Russia’s official claims, saying that Warsaw expects many more Russian soldiers and equipment to be deployed.

Speaking Aug. 28 on Polish state Radio 1, Dworczyk expressed hope that the exercise “will not include any aggressive scenarios” and won’t cause any incidents, adding that “operations on this scale always run this risk.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that the alliance will send two observers to the maneuvers, but noted that access offered by Belarus does not constitute real monitoring. He said NATO is seeking “a more thorough way of observing” the drills.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (right) speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (left). Photo by USAF Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

NATO has rotated military units in the Baltics and Poland and held regular drills in the region — activities that Moscow has criticized as a reflection of its hostile intentions.

The alliance has watched Russian military moves with utmost concern following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Russia had leased a naval base in Crimea prior to its seizure, and used troops deployed there to quickly overtake the Black Sea peninsula.

Speaking in Moscow, Fomin said next month’s exercise will simulate a military response to foreign-backed extremist groups and aren’t directed against anyone in particular.

“Despite the fact that the bulk of it will be held on the territory of Belarus, we had in mind an imaginary adversary unrelated to any specific region,” he said. “According to our estimates, the situation envisaged in the maneuvers’ scenario could develop in any part of the world.”

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Dworczyk, Poland’s deputy defense minister, said Warsaw is particularly worried about the possibility that Russia could keep some of its forces in Belarus after the maneuvers.

“Obviously, this would negatively impact the region,” he said.

Belarus has maintained close political, economic, and military contacts with its giant eastern neighbor. Its authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, has relied on cheap Russian oil and billions of dollars in loans to keep the nation’s Soviet-style economy afloat.

But relations between the two allies often have been mired in disputes, as Lukashenko has accused the Kremlin of trying to strong-arm Belarus into surrendering control over its most-prized industrial assets.

Belarus hosts a Russian military early warning radar and a navy communications facility, but Lukashenko has resisted Kremlin pressure for hosting a Russian air base. Some in Belarus voiced fears that the base could provide a foothold for Moscow if it decides to annex its neighbor, like what happened in Crimea.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) shakes hands with President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

The flamboyant Belarusian leader has hailed bilateral military cooperation and criticized NATO’s moves, but he has refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia. He also failed to follow suit when Moscow acknowledged Georgia’s breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states after a brief 2008 Russian-Georgian war.

Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based independent military analyst, said that while Moscow would certainly like to permanently station its forces in Belarus, Lukashenko will strongly oppose such a move because that could put his nation in cross-fire in case of a conflict between Russia and NATO.

“The possibility of a permanent Russian military deployment in Belarus appears unlikely,” Golts said.

Pentagon brushes off Russia’s claim on ISIS commander kill
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent political analyst in Minsk, agreed.

“Lukashenko is involved in a delicate balancing act, trying to show his loyalty to the Kremlin without damaging ties with the West,” he said.

The chief of the Belarusian military’s General Staff, Oleg Belokonev, pledged Aug. 29 that all Russian troops involved in the maneuvers will leave Belarus by the end of September.

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