A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

If you can’t destroy the mountain, go around it.

Despite spending the past 20 years focused on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East, the US military still outmatches its Chinese and Russian competitors. The US is the only country that can effectively respond to a military contingency anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.

Understanding that they are conventionally overpowered, China and Russia have been using irregular warfare to achieve their goals without matching the US military’s might. And they have been quite successful.

In Africa, China has been handing out development aid and infrastructure loans like candy, with the dual purpose of securing geopolitical influence and resources for its growing economy. In Asia, Beijing has been bullying its neighbors on its way toward regional supremacy.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units
A US Army Green Beret and multinational Special Operations Forces disembark an MH-60S helicopter during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, July 5, 2018.
US Navy/Chief Mass Comm Specialist William Tonacchio

Russia has used social media to influence election outcomes in the US and Europe. Moscow has also been using private military companies, such as the infamous Wagner Group, to achieve strategic goals in Ukraine, Libya, and Syria, among other places.

Both countries understand that in an era of renewed great-power competition — a race between the US and Russia and China for geopolitical influence, economic advantages, and resources — irregular warfare is the ideal strategy against the US.

Now the US Department of Defense is trying to counter that threat by investing in and expanding its own irregular-warfare capabilities.

The Pentagon heralded this shift with its recent decisions to turn the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office into the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate and to release the irregular-warfare annex to the National Defense Strategy.

The creation of the directorate was included in a November memorandum signed by acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, which elevated the Pentagon’s civilian official overseeing special operations to the same level as a military service chief. The annex was released in October.

Struggle in the gray zone

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units
A US Special Forces soldier discusses tactics with a Latvian Zemessardze officer during a small unit exercise near Iecava, June 7, 2020.
US Navy/Lt. Rob Kunzig

The US military defines irregular warfare as a “violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s).”

Irregular warfare doesn’t necessarily mean open warfare, but it can take place in the gray zone between competition that’s below the level of armed conflict and a war that’s formally declared. It can affect all traditional and non-traditional realms of geopolitical struggle, such as the economic, diplomatic, military, intelligence, law enforcement, and cyber domains.

The difference between irregular warfare and counterterrorism is that the former is a strategy that aims to defend US global supremacy against state and non-actors, whereas the latter is a mix of activities and operations against terrorist groups and state-sponsored terrorism.

Same game, different name

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units
Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Forces members and US Army Green Berets conduct mission planning during an exercise, September 8, 2018.
US Army/Sgt. Karen Sampson

Irregular warfare isn’t new to the US military. Indeed, the US campaign against terrorist organizations over the last two decades has included elements of it. But now, the irregular warfare “target deck” has been officially updated to include near-peer adversaries, such as Russia and China.

Irregular warfare against a near-peer adversary isn’t new either, but now the Pentagon recognizes that the strategy’s utility isn’t seasonal but enduring. Previously, the US would use irregular warfare against an adversary, such as the Soviets in Afghanistan, but would then let the capability and resources dedicated to it atrophy.

The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) already has potent irregular-warfare capabilities. Army special operations, in particular, take the lead on that front.

The Army’s Green Berets specialize in foreign internal defense, which means training local troops, and in unconventional warfare, which consists of creating and leading guerrilla campaigns. Both are squarely within the gray zone of irregular warfare.

Additionally, the Army’s Civil Affairs teams help create the necessary civil and political conditions for US diplomacy and political influence to be more effective. The Army’s Psychological Operations teams also help shape the geopolitical environment to favor the US.

Other special-operations units, such as the Marine Raiders or Navy SEALs, can contribute to an irregular-warfare campaign but perhaps not as effectively as their Army counterparts.

But to ensure a robust and effective irregular-warfare capability, US military has to understand and embrace it as a whole.

The conventional side of irregular warfare

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units
Cadets talk with actors playing locals during West Point Irregular Warfare Group’s Unconventional Warfare Exercise in April 2019.
US Military Academy

Policymakers have relied on special-operations forces for almost everything for years, but conventional forces also play a big role in irregular warfare.

For example, if a US aircraft carrier cruises through the South China Sea, it sends a message to China by physically contradicting Beijing’s territorial claims in the disputed region.

Similarly, when an Army mechanized brigade deploys in Eastern Europe and trains with local forces, it sends a dual message: A psychological one to the US partners and allies about American commitment in the region, and a geopolitical one to Russia, illustrating the US’s reach and influence.

Ironically, it is the conventional might of the US military that encourages adversaries to invest more in their own ability to wage irregular warfare.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gunmen assault Afghan spy facility in Kabul

Gunmen have launched an attack on an Afghan intelligence training center in Kabul, officials say.

Police officer Abdul Rahman said on Aug. 16, 2018, that the attackers were holed up in a building near the compound overseen by the National Security Directorate in a western neighborhood of the Afghan capital.

He said the gunmen were shooting at the facility and it wasn’t immediately clear how many gunmen were involved in the assault.


Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said the attackers were firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi later said three or four attackers took part in the assault and two of them were killed.

He said Afghan forces had cleared the building from the basement all to the fourth floor and were battling gunmen on the fifth floor during the early evening.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

A rocket-propelled grenade (on the left) and RPG-7 launcher. For use, the thinner cylinder part of the rocket-propelled grenade is inserted into the muzzle of the launcher.

There was no immediate word on the number of casualties among civilians and security forces nor any immediate claim of responsibility, which comes a day after a suicide bombing in a Shi’ite area of Kabul killed 34 people and wounded 56 others.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group on Aug. 16, 2018, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Afghanistan’s Western-backed government has been struggling to fend off the Taliban, the Islamic State, and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

McCain’s latest Pentagon pitch puts Russia in the crosshairs

GOP Sen. John McCain said Tuesday he wants the U.S. to consider stationing troops permanently in Estonia, which borders Russia.


While on a tour of Baltic nations wary of the prospect of Russian aggression, McCain said stationing troops permanently in Estonia, in addition to fulfilling existing obligations to NATO, would increase military ties with the country, The Associated Press reports.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units
A U.S. Soldier assigned to 2nd Cavalry Regiment speaks with an Estonian soldier in Sillamae, Estonia, June 11, 2016. During exercise Dragoon Ride, Soldiers conduct static displays to validate our partnering allies’ abilities to assemble forces rapidly, deploy them on short notice and improve the ability to shoot, move and communicate as a multinational alliance. Soldiers are also given the opportunity to play sports with the local citizens to build team cohesion. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nikayla Shodeen/Released)

Part of the reason for McCain’s visit to the region is to reassure Baltic countries like Lithuania and Latvia that even though GOP President-elect Donald Trump has somewhat soured on NATO, the U.S. will nevertheless maintain its security commitments. During his presidential campaign, Trump said he’d think about withdrawing from NATO because the “obsolete” institution costs the U.S. a lot of money

“I think the presence of the American troops here in Estonia is a signal that we believe in what Ronald Reagan believed, and that is peace through strength,” McCain said in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital.

“And the best way to prevent Russian misbehavior is by having a credible, strong military and a strong NATO alliance,” McCain added.

Additionally, McCain has taken special interest in the area because he’s a trenchant critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has blasted Russia’s military incursions in Ukraine. McCain noted he doesn’t expect U.S. sanctions on Russia to lift anytime soon.

He’s also pushed for a congressional panel to examine Russia’s reported attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

However, McCain downplayed the idea that the U.S. can say with any certainty that Russian interference changed the course of the election.

“There is no doubt that the Russians were hacking, but there is doubt whether it had any effect on the outcome of the election,” McCain said. “There is no evidence right now that indeed the Russian cyber attacks and the leaking of the information had any tangible effect on the outcome of the American election.”

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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Civilian ejected from French fighter jet during takeoff

A 64-year old civilian passenger was accidentally ejected from a French Air Force twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet as the aircraft was taking off from Saint-Dizier 113 air base on March 20, 2019.

The backseater, whose identity was not disclosed, is said to be a man. He suffered serious injuries, including back injuries and was hospitalized. He’s reportedly in stable conditions and his health is not a cause of concern according to a French Air Force spokesman.


The incident occurred at 13.52 LT as the aircraft was taking off for a training mission. The pilot managed to land the aircraft with minor injuries to his hands (caused by the broken canopy).

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

A French air force Rafale B aircraft.

What happened is pretty weird: VIPs and journalists (including this Author) are often invited to take part in “orientation” flights, for communication or information purposes. The passenger-for-a-day is always given a detailed briefing that covers standard cockpit operation, emergency procedures, egress etc. You are clearly explained what to touch and what you should not touch in the cockpit. The ejection seat handle is one of those things you should be aware of. For this reason, in a previous post about flying as a backseater in a jet I wrote:

“As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle.”

Anyway, we have no clue what activated the ejection: it might have been a voluntary ejection, an involuntary one or even a failure, even though modern ejection seats are extremely reliable and malfunctions are extremely rare.

An investigation is in progress.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is making a comeback on all fronts

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an alarming announcement on Aug. 20, 2019 – the Islamic State terrorist group is showing signs of resurgence in almost every place it still operates. While there are some caveats to go along with that statement, the “caliphate” that was all but squashed out just four years ago is making a dramatic comeback.


“It’s complicated. There are certainly places where ISIS is more powerful today than they were three or four years ago,” said Secretary Pompeo. While making that grim assessment on CBS “This Morning,” the Secretary of State also reminded viewers that the territory once held by the terror group has been recaptured and that making attacks in those areas would be terribly difficult for Islamic State fighters.

But guerrilla attacks have increased in Iraq and Syria in recent days, as ISIS retools its finances and recruits new followers from refugee tent cities across both countries. The statement came days after an Islamic State attack on a wedding in the Afghan capital of Kabul which killed 63 and wounded 182 others.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

Pompeo was a guest on CBS This Morning when he acknowledged the resurgence of ISIS.

After President Trump declared a total victory over the Islamic State, the Pentagon has cut the number of U.S. troops supporting the fight against the “caliphate” by more than half, leaving the allies in the region to do the bulk of the fighting. As they departed, ISIS sleeper cells and other units began sniper attacks, ambushes, kidnappings, and assassinations against security forces and returning community leadership. The group even has an estimated 0 million in unaccounted for funds that it could use as a war chest.

Its main source of new recruits comes from a tent city run by allied nations that houses an estimated 73,000 people in poor, cramped conditions. The camp, called Al Hol – or “swampland”– houses refugees from 43 different nations, all crammed in together. It is said to have become a hotbed of ISIS ideology, a breeding ground for terrorists that CENTCOM and the United Nations both say will soon be a huge problem if not dealt with soon.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

An estimated 10,000 fighters are in Afghanistan already.

But the ISIS resurgence isn’t limited to Iraq and Syria. From Afghanistan to West Africa, the terror group is reminding the world that theirs is a global movement that has killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians alike. ISIS may have as many as 18,000 fighters still ready to go to work in Iraq and Syria, along with untold others elsewhere around the world. So far in 2019, ISIS and ISIS-supported attacks have targeted Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt, Mali, Tunisia, and have even inspired attacks like the Easter bombing in Sri Lanka.

MIGHTY CULTURE

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

Utility deposits, eating in restaurants because your kitchen is in boxes, having to buy everyone in the family a winter coat because you moved from Florida to Colorado in February (just me?) — military families know that whether you do a full HHG or a full DITY move, or something in between, moving can be expensive. But until now we didn’t know quite how expensive.

The Military Family Advisory Network just released survey data that shows that every PCS move can set a military family back by an average of about $5,000. That’s money they’ll never be reimbursed for and will never recover. Considering that military families move, on average, every two to three years, it sheds some light on one reason why it’s so hard for military families to save money and build wealth. Eighty-four percent of active duty respondents to the survey said they had moved within the past two years.

Included in that $5,000 figure are things that families have to pay to move themselves and the cost of loss and damage to items over and above the reimbursements they receive through the claims process. This PCS season the added chaos of COVID-19 promises to only make moving more hectic and more expensive.


“We’re struggling because of it. You have to spend your money for the expenses, THEN get reimbursed afterwards. We’re skipping my birthday and Thanksgiving … maybe Christmas because it’s not wise to spend any unnecessary money at this time,” said the spouse of an active duty airman in Hawaii.

Respondents reported that, on average, their unreimbursed, out-of-pocket expenses during a move were almost ,000 and that their average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was almost ,000. And, 68% of respondents said that their possessions—furniture, keepsakes, and other items—were damaged during the move, and some of those items could not be replaced.

“Movers lost one leg of a table and reimbursement tried to just pay us the value of that leg, which is silly. It rendered the table unusable,” said the spouse of an Army active duty member in Washington.

Numerous respondents reported dissatisfaction with the professionalism of the movers.

“They know they can take and break whatever they want, and nothing is really done about it. They will also mark damage that actually isn’t there on the paperwork so they can avoid claims for when they do damage things. They dropped our daughter’s dresser out of the truck and just laughed about it,” said the spouse of an active duty soldier in Texas.

The moving costs data is part of MFAN’s larger 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, presented by Cerner Government Services. The full survey report will be released Tuesday, June 23 at 3 p.m. during a one-hour interactive release event.

Earlier this month, senior Department of Defense officials said the PCS-freeze put in place because of the pandemic is beginning to lift and that 30 to 40% of military personnel moves are already happening. Officials said that as regions of the country get labeled “green,” meaning that service members and their families can move to and from that region, more service members will be allowed to move. In order to be “green”, the region must have decreasing trends in COVID-19 diagnoses and symptoms, and local authorities must have eased stay-at-home and shelter-in-place restrictions.

Once a region is determined to be “green,” the Service Secretary, Combatant Commander or the DoD Chief Management Officer (CMO) will make a determination if the installations within that region have met additional criteria that include:

  • Local travel restrictions have been removed
  • The upcoming school year is expected to start on time and sufficient childcare is available
  • Moving companies are available to safely move individuals from the community they’re leaving and to the one they’re going to
  • Local services, such as water, sewer, electricity, are safely available

For many military families, moving is both a blessing and a curse. Living in a new place can be exciting and fun, but uprooting your whole life and starting over somewhere can be overwhelming. Add all the extra costs in, and it’s no wonder that orders to move are often met with dread. Moving is one of the most stressful and expensive experiences in military life, even without the confusion caused by the pandemic. And this year promises to be crazier and costlier than ever.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Congolese refugee’s work with Ohio National Guard serves as reminder of parents’ sacrifice

Each time Jacque Elama hands out a package of food, he connects with another family in need.

The interactions touch Elama, a specialist in the Ohio National Guard, on a personal level. He spent most of the first 10 years of his life in a refugee camp in his native Democrat Republic of the Congo before his family came to America. He is now 25 years old and part of a National Guard mission helping out at a food bank in Toledo.


“It was a hard endeavor to overcome,” Elama said of his childhood. “Basically, my parents tried to shape me into a person who can be encouraging to others, because they themselves didn’t have what I have right now, the technology, the cars.”

Those things are not what prompted Core and Antoinette Elama, their five children (Jacque is the oldest) and one of Jacque’s uncles to relocate to Newport News, Virginia. Jacque said they arrived in 2004; Core recalled it was in 2005. Regardless of the timeline, one fact remained clear.

The Elamas were escaping their war-torn homeland in search of a better life, searching for a home in a country in which they were stepping foot for the first time.

“Once you come, you just come,” Core Elama said. “You need the help to get yourself set and [adjusted] to the new situation. You really need help in any way, so you set yourself in the community.”

The Elamas’ move from Congo, a country of nearly 90 million people in central Africa, was fraught with challenges, not the least of which was learning a different language. Jacque Elama’s parents needed jobs; they found work in factories. They did not know how to drive and never had experienced the mundane tasks that Americans take for granted, such as going to the grocery store, paying bills and scheduling medical appointments.

The family had never owned a television — or operated an oven, for that matter. So much was new, but they were ever so grateful.

Their circumstances were much improved from the world they left behind.

“The struggles were absolutely difficult, compared to how I’m living here in the U.S.,” Jacque Elama said. “The basic necessities were hard to come by [in Congo], so we had to struggle to get food and water for the family. Mostly as a child, I personally did not experience any personal hardship, because what you’re doing is just playing around, having as much fun as you can without worrying about the outside world.

“I was pretty much enjoying my life as much as I possibly could.”

A Catholic charity organization helped the Elamas relocate to America.

Jacque Elama credited one couple in that group in particular, Keith and Jill Boadway, with being especially helpful in easing the family’s transition.

“They came to our house for Thanksgiving,” Jill Boadway said. “Jacque used to come to our house during the summer and spend a week at our home. We have a son who’s about the same age. It was a real blessing.”

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

Spc. Jacque Elama. Courtesy photo.

The Elamas became U.S. citizens in 2010 and moved to Ohio when Jacque was in high school. He joined the Ohio National Guard in 2017 and embraced the opportunity to participate in his unit’s mission as a volunteer at a food bank.

Elama packs boxes for emergency relief, veterans and senior citizens and distributes them to those same groups, said Lt. Michael Porter, the task-force leader.

For 40 hours a week, Elama sees it as a way to give back. Each box reminds him of his parents’ sacrifice.

“I think about it every day,” said Elama, a senior at Bowling Green studying international relations. “It’s a blessing and an honor to be out there and help people, because that’s what I want to do in the future. I want to continue to help others.”

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 reasons it’s hard to tell how violent the ‘most violent’ cities in the world are

The most recent ranking of the world’s most violent cities by the Mexican research group Security, Justice, and Peace again drew attention to Latin America, home to 42 of the 50 cities on the list.

Latin America is indeed the most violent region, accounting for about 8% of the global population but tallying roughly one-third of the world’s intentional homicides.

While homicide is not the only kind of violent crime, it is generally considered the best measure of it.


“Of all the different types of crime, homicide is probably the easiest to track because there’s nothing more biologically evident than a dead body,” Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention, told Business Insider.

In most places, there are also legal procedures that authorities are supposed to follow when dealing with homicides.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention.

(YouTube)

“So unlike, say, assault or robbery or sexual violence or domestic abuse, homicide is one of those variables that across time and space is relatively straightforward to capture,” Muggah said, adding that researchers can draw on a panoply of sources — law enforcement, public-health agencies, nongovernmental groups, the press, and the public — to tabulate and track homicides over time.

But, as Latin America illustrates, there are a number of recurrent challenges that arise when collecting homicide data that complicate efforts to make comparisons and compile rankings.

Where did it happen?

“Are we looking at national data, state data, city data, and if we are looking at city data, in this case, how are we defining a city?” Muggah said.

A city’s geographic limits can be defined in a number of ways. The UN has three: the city proper, delineated by administrative boundaries; the urban agglomeration, comprising a contiguous urban area; and the metropolitan area, the boundaries of which are based on social or economic connections.

The populations of each of those areas can vary enormously, as can the number of homicides.

“It turns out cities are surprisingly difficult to define. There is no unified or uniform definition of a city, and this has been a source of some consternation for geographers for over a century,” Muggah said.

The Igarapé Institute eschews homicide rankings but does maintain a Homicide Monitor that compiles data on killings, using the urban-agglomeration definition for cities, Muggah said.

The Mexican group adheres to some set of criteria, requiring minimum population of 300,000 people and excluding places with active conflicts, such as Ukraine or Syria.

But the group says in its methodology that whenever possible it includes all the municipalities that it assesses as part of a city — “localities that form a unique urban system, clearly distinguishable from others, independent of the geographic-administrative divisions inside the countries.”

Muggah and his colleagues noted issues with this method in relation to the 2015 ranking, which found Caracas, Venezuela, to be the most violent city. That year, others also said the group based its tally on the homicide total for the metropolitan area of Cali, in southwest Colombia, and, in their view, overstated the number of homicides.

The group’s ranking for 2018, its most recent, put Tijuana, Mexico, at the top of the list, with a homicide rate of 138.26 per 100,000.

Tijuana has seen a precipitous rise in deadly violence, but the city’s public-security secretary disputed its rank, citing the inclusion of the nearby city of Rosarito, Mexico, in the homicide count and the failure to account for Tijuana’s migrant population.

Security, Justice, and Peace rejected the criticism, saying that it based its population count on official numbers and that excluding Rosarito would have actually raised the homicide rate. (Though it did not say why it assessed Tijuana’s metropolitan area and not those of other cities.)

What’s a homicide?

“It turns out there are many kinds of homicide,” Muggah said. “We have homicide that’s intentional. We have homicide that’s unintentional, which we also call manslaughter. We have homicide committed by police, which sometimes isn’t included in the formal homicide statistics.”

Mexico has experienced an alarming increase in homicides, setting records in 2017 and 2018.

Mexico’s official crime data includes two categories for homicide: “homicidio doloso,” which refers to intentional homicides, and “homicidio culposo,” which refers to manslaughter or unintentional homicides.

The most recent tallies for intentional homicides in Mexico in 2017 and 2018 are 28,868 and 33,369, respectively. The totals for all homicides are 46,640 in 2017 and 50,373 in 2018.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

Missing persons in Mexico.

While official government tabulations distinguish between unintentional and intentional homicides as they are legally defined in those countries, counts by nongovernmental groups, the media, and the public can elide that distinction, grouping different kinds of lethal violence together.

“And that matters,” Muggah said, “because in some countries, including Mexico and Brazil, when you include police lethality, police killings, which fall under a different category, that can actually significantly augment the overall count.”

In many cases, Muggah added, “those deaths are not what you describe as illegal.”

In 2017, Brazil had 63,880 homicides — 175 killings a day — up 3% from 2016 and a record. (Homicides were trending downward through the first nine months of 2018, but full-year data for 2018 is not yet available.)

In 2017, there was also an increase in the number of people killed by Brazil’s police, rising 20% from 2016 to 5,144 people, or 14 a day. Authorities in Rio de Janeiro state have attracted special scrutiny for their lethality, drawing accusations of extrajudicial executions.

Not only where and how you measure, but also when?

Even when homicide data for a full calendar year is available — which is not always the case; Security, Justice, and Peace list in some cases extrapolates from partial-year data — it may change over time.

“In many cases, there are outstanding trials and judicial processes that are ongoing to determine … what in fact that lethal outcome was, and that can take months. It can take years,” Muggah said. “Typically though, there’s a delay when governments produce data to issue this information because they’re still dealing with many of the legalities around sorting out homicide.”

Full-year 2017 crime data for Mexico, released in January 2018, put the number of homicide victims at 29,168.

The most recent data for that year, updated in March 2019, indicates there were 28,868 homicide victims. (The Mexican government changed its methodology at the beginning of 2018 and updated previous tallies to reflect that.)

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

Police on the street in the high crime area of Iztapalapa, Mexico City.

There are also 26,000 unidentified bodies in Mexico’s forensic system, and the government estimates that more than 40,000 people are missing. Hidden graves full of unidentified bodies are frequently found all around Mexico.

All of that — coupled with issues such as a lack of prosecution and suspicions about officials manipulating crime data — means Mexico’s homicide totals are subject to change for the foreseeable future.

“In many countries, Latin America, in particular, there are huge impunity rates and a great gap in processing some of these cases, precisely because of the volume but also the lack of capacity to go through all of these cases, and so there’s a reason” for a delay, Muggah said.

It’s necessary to reflect on violence and trends in crime, but, Muggah added, “the challenge is that many governments are operating at different speeds.”

Relaying on data for only part of a year, or drawing on only certain sources that are readily available can often “unintentionally bias our sample,” Muggah said.

Know what you don’t know.

A challenge for “all of us who are in the business of monitoring and tracking and building systems to better understand criminality is that there are many places or instances where crime, including lethal violence, is not particularly well reported, or if it is reported it’s reported very badly,” Muggah said.

Latin American countries release crime data fairly regularly, but closer examination reveals “great gaps in the data,” especially in parts of Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil, Muggah said.

“There’ll be reports that … don’t accurately capture the cause of death, and therefore you get misattribution. There’ll be a situation where they just can’t store the bodies because there’s insufficient space, and so you get undercounts,” he said. “There’ll be places where the governments themselves, police in particular, have no incentive to report on lethal violence and therefore will skew the figures.”

Outside the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a 36-member group that includes most of North America and Europe, available information about crime is also lacking, Muggah said.

“If you go to Africa, with the exception of a few countries, it’s … a knowledge gap around homicide,” he added. That’s also the case in parts of Asia, “where governments just don’t want to report overall statistics on crime, citing it as a national-security issue.”

Incentivizing cities.

In the methodology included in its most recent report, Security, Justice, and Peace said that it compiles the ranking with the objective of “calling attention to violence in cities, particularly in Latin America, so that the leaders are pressured to fulfill their duty to protect the governed to guarantee their right to public security.”

“What we are also looking for is that no one … wants their city or cities to appear in this ranking, and that if their city or cities are [on it] already, they make the maximum effort so they leave it as soon as possible,” the group added.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

Brazilian Federal Highway Police.

There are positive and negative potential effects of inclusion on such a list, Muggah said.

“One hopes that as a positive outcome, [inclusion] would incentivize city leaders, business leaders in cities, civic activists, and common citizens to be alert to the many risks that are there and also to seek and strive to find ways to get themselves off that list,” he said.

Stigmatizing cities.

But there can be negative consequences. Reducing a complicated issue such as personal security to a single metric risks sensationalizing the problem and can skew public perceptions, potentially empowering leaders who push hardline punitive responses, Muggah said.

In some cases, it can “stigmatize cities,” Muggah said, affecting foreign and domestic investment, credit ratings, and business decisions. It can also have a particular effect on local economies, especially for tourism, on which many parts of Latin America rely.

“The hope is that by shining a light … on these challenges that somehow this will provoke” a constructive response from the city, its residents, and its leaders, rallying them around a common goal, such as reducing insecurity and getting off that list, Muggah said.

“It’s not clear yet if that in fact has ever happened, whether these lists have contributed positively to social change, and that might be asking too much of a list,” Muggah said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation

A former interpreter who helped US troops in Afghanistan before fleeing the country with his family was detained at the international airport in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 11, 2019, upon their arrival from Kabul, according to a Texas-based immigration advocacy group.

Mohasif Motawakil, 48, was detained by Customs and Border Protection along with his wife and five children, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) told The Washington Post. Though his wife and children have since been released, Motawakil is still being held by authorities.


RAICES said Motawakil served alongside US troops as an interpreter from 2012 to 2013, later working as a US contractor in his home country.

He and his family were reportedly traveling to the US on Special Immigrant Visas, which are hard to come by and granted to those whose lives are in danger as a result of their service with the US military.

Special Immigrant Visas take years to obtain, and tightened immigration controls have apparently made the process even more difficult for applicants.

“The father remains detained and his wife and children were allowed into the US pending the outcome of his proceedings,” CBP told The Hill, further explaining that “due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, US Customs and Border Protection does not discuss the details of individual cases.”

The temporary release of the mother and the children was attributed to the efforts made by four Texas Democrats working on behalf of the family.

Texas Reps. Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro called CBP while Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee supported the family at the airport.

Nonetheless, the family is is “confused and traumatized” by the situation, RAICES spokesman William Fitzgeral told The Post. Motawakil’s wife and children spent Jan. 11, 2019 at the Afghan Cultural Center in Houston.

The reason for the detention is murky, but Fitzgerald told The Post the family was threatened with deportation after someone — potentially a relative — opened sealed medical records, leading authorities to question the authenticity of the family’s documentation.

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

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Here’s an inside look at North Korea’s ballistic missile inventory

North Korea’s been carrying out a lot of missile tests. And according to the latest info, April 16’s test was another flop. So, what are we looking at with these launches? What is being tested?


The fact is, the North Koreans have been really making a lot of missiles. So, here’s a scorecard to tell the Nodongs from the Taepodongs (which sound like the names of villains from an adult film starring Jay Voom).

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units
Map showing the ranges some North Korean ballistic missiles can reach. (Graphic from Wikimedia Commons)

North Korea’s missile inventory started out with the Scud – that V-2 knockoff the Soviets produced and then exported to their allies and a lot of the globe’s most disreputable citizens, including Saddam Hussein, Moammar Qaddafi, the Hafez al-Assad regime (where they were passed down to Bashir al-Assad), and the Iranians.

North Korea developed advanced versions of the Scud, known as the Hwasong-5, Hwadong-6, and Hwasong-7 missiles. These missiles were widely exported from Cuba to Myanmar. The Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that the Hwasong-5 has a range of 186 miles, and can deliver 2,170 pounds of explosives. The Hwasong-6 and Hwasong-7 are longer-range variants that trade payload for more range.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units
Syria owns Scud-B, Scud-C, Scud-D, and variants of the Hwasong missile (similar to the North Korean variant pictured here). (Photo: KCNA)

Bad enough, right? Well, the North Koreans didn’t leave well enough alone. They made an improved version that South Korean and American media called the Nodong. The Nodong is a modified Scud able to send 2,750 pounds of high explosive warhead almost 1,000 miles away, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

North Korea’s been developing other missiles, including the Taepo-dong series. The Taepo-dong 1 is a missile with a range of up to 3,106 miles. The Taepo-dong 2 is an ICBM able to reach over 9,300 miles away.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units
Center for Strategic and International Studies/Missile Defense Project

The North Koreans are also developing the KN-08, a road-mobile ICBM, with a range of almost 7,150 miles, and the KN-14, a regular ICBM with a range of over 6,200 miles. Shorter-range missiles are also in development, including the KN-15, which blew less than 15 seconds into its launch on April 15 of this year, and the BM-25 Musudan.

Of course, North Korea’s had problems getting its Nodongs up recently so, this scorecard could be subject to change. But this should give you a rough roadmap to the North Korean missiles that they may – or may not – get up in the future.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new Air Force Secretary is a trained astronaut – and so much more

It’s time to put your politics away for a moment and prepare yourselves for the most badass service secretary since Teddy Roosevelt left his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. President Trump nominated Ambassador Barbara Barrett to be the Air Force’s new civilian leader. She already has close ties to the Air Force as a former administrator at the FAA and board member of the Aerospace Corporation.

Even though outgoing SecAF Heather Wilson was an Air Force officer and Barrett has never served in the Air Force, Barrett is still an accomplished aviator, scholar, and astronaut.


I wanted to make a joke about how much more accomplished and awesome she is than every previous SecAF, but have you seen the resumes of these people? Air Force Secretaries are the real Illuminati.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

Except I guarantee Barbara Barrett can take all four of these guys in a fistfight.

Time will tell if Barrett will take the job. The lawyer turned Harvard-educated diplomat is probably busy heading the boards of some of the most influential and brilliant institutions of our time, including the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, The Smithsonian Institution, and the RAND Corporation. But the former Ambassador to Finland founded the Valley Bank of Arizona, partnered at a large law firm in her native Arizona, and worked at the top levels for Fortune 500 companies before age 30 – at a time when many women were relegated to getting coffee for middle management.

But let’s talk about feats of strength and athleticism that will win her the respect of all the troops, not just the ones under her command. An accomplished aviator, Barrett was the first civilian woman to land an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier, she’s an inductee in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, and even trained with the Russians in Kazakhstan to be a backup astronaut on a 2009 international spaces station mission.

Back on Earth, she’s just as impressive. She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Barrett didn’t stop there. As Ambassador to Finland, she biked hundreds of kilometers all around the country.

That’s a service secretary you can get behind… which you’ll have to because most of us would have trouble keeping up.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is Israel’s ‘impenetrable’ underwater border around Gaza

Israel has begun construction on a massive underwater barrier with the Gaza Strip which it is calling “impenetrable.”

Israel and the Gaza Strip are both located along the Mediterranean Sea, and are separated by several land borders. But no barrier has ever been erected at sea.


Israel’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that building of the “impenetrable” barrier has begun at Gaza’s northern border, along the beach of a small agricultural community, or kibbutz, called Zikim. The barrier is designed to withstand harsh sea conditions for many years, according to the ministry.

A defense official said the massive barrier will consist of three security layers, which include a layer below sea level, a layer of armored stone, and a top layer of barbed wire. An additional fence will surround the entire area.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the “one-of-a-kind” security project will “effectively block any possibility of infiltrating Israel by sea.”

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units
Location of the Gaza Strip.

Leiberman added that the barrier serves to limit militant group Hamas’ strategic capabilities as tensions continue to flare along the border. At least 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured during violent clashes with Israeli soldiers early May 2018. On May 29, 2018, more than 27 rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza into Israel.

The decision to build the barrier was prompted by a thwarted attack by Hamas militants at sea in July 2014, during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Four Hamas naval operatives, referred to as frogmen, swam ashore at Zikim beach and attempted to cross into Israeli territory. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the men were armed with automatic weapons and explosives, and sought to carry out a terror attack. The four men were later killed in combined sea, air, and land attacks by the IDF.

The IDF posted aerial footage of the thwarted attack:

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine vet won a $63 million judgement for his imprisonment in Iran

A U.S. judge has ordered Iran’s government to pay $63.5 million to a former U.S. Marine who was held in Iranian jails for more than four years.


U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle of Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of 33-year-old Amir Hekmati, an Iranian-American, after Iran failed to respond to the complaint.

Hekmati was detained in August 2011 after he went to Iran to visit family and spend time with an ailing grandmother.

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units
Amir Hekmati with his siblings and parents several years after his parents resettled into the United States. (Image Facebook)

He was arrested on espionage charges and sentenced to death. The sentence was later overturned by Iran’s Supreme Court and he was instead given a 10-year sentence.

He was freed in January 2016 as part of a prisoner swap along with four other American prisoners after Washington granted clemency to seven Iranians.

Hekmati filed suit in May 2016, claiming he was tortured and tricked into providing a false confession while held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.

It is uncertain if the U.S.-born Hekmati will actually receive any of the money, but his attorney, Scott Gilbert, said the family was pleased with the decision and “will do everything in our power to ensure that Amir’s claim is paid in full.”

Freed along with Hekmati was Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and two other Iranian-Americans in exchange for pardons or charges being dropped against the seven Iranians.