Was it ransom? That is the question that is now being asked as a Wall Street Journal report of a $400 million payment to Iran emerges. The money, reportedly Swiss francs and Euros that were provided by European countries, was delivered in pallets of cold, hard cash via unmarked cargo plane as four Americans were released back in January. Three of the Americans were flown out of Iran by the Swiss, while the fourth returned to the United States on his own.
Supposedly, the money was delivered as part of a $1.7 billion settlement surrounding an arms deal made before the fall of the Shah of Iran. Among the big components of that deal were guided-missile destroyers and F-16 fighters. The destroyers later were taken into service with the United States Navy as the Kidd-class destroyers, all of whom were named for admirals killed in action during World War II. The timing of that settlement, though, raised questions about whether the settlement was cover for a ransom payment. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, told The Wall Street Journal, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.”
Cotton’s comments were echoed by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who served for over two decades in the Naval Reserve. “Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini,” he said.
The senators’ comments seem to be backed by comments on Iranian state media by a high-ranking commander of the Basij, an Iranian militia force, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”
Since the first payment in January, the three Americans mentioned in Senator Kirk’s statement have reportedly been seized by the Khameni regime, leading some to speculate as to whether or not Iran is seeking leverage to force the release of other frozen assets. One portion of those assets, $2 billion frozen in 2009, was awarded to the victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks in a case that was finally resolved by the Supreme Court.
This week, historic news filtered out of North Carolina saying that a female National Guardsman will be the first woman to pass the Special Forces Qualification Course (Q-Course) and will earn the title of Green Beret. While the enlisted soldier has not passed the course yet, officials say that at this point barring a medical injury, she is practically guaranteed to graduate.
This morning, the New York Times reported that in 1980, a woman named Kate Wilder did indeed graduate the course but was told the day before graduation she was not allowed to graduate with her class, because of her gender. Ms. Wilder fought back and six months later was finally given the certificate stating she had earned the right to wear the Green Beret, but Wilder had already left the Fifth Special Forces Group and eventually transitioned to the Reserves.
Prior to now, only a few women have passed the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course but none of them passed the year long Q-Course. The soldier is going to be an 18C or Engineer Sergeant.
According to the Army, the Special Forces Engineer Sergeant is a construction and demolitions specialist. As a builder, the engineer sergeant can create bridges, buildings and field fortifications. As a demolitions specialist, the engineer sergeant can carry out demolition raids against enemy targets, such as bridges, railroads, fuel depots and critical components of infrastructure.
The New York Times also reported a second female soldier is working through a longer Q-Course (the course length will depend on the prospective Green Berets MOS) as a 18D or Medical Sergeant.
This is no small feat. As we all know, making it into the Special Forces required many attributes including superior physical fitness, an ability to handle traversing rugged terrain, weapons proficiency and strong mental aptitude to solve problems on the fly. Green Berets deploy and execute nine doctrinal missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, counter-insurgency, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, information operations, counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and security force assistance. Also, passing the Q-Course is one thing. The constant tempo of deployments and training while keeping up with high physical fitness standards and training can take a toll on even the most seasoned Green Berets.
There is no doubt the newly minted Green Beret will have tough challenges in her career in the Special Forces. And there will probably be resistance from a few people that struggle to accept that a woman made it through such an arduous course. (The course has been modified due to feedback from active Green Berets so it could be more compatible with deployments and retention but the standards are still the same.)
However, the potential benefits to having women as part of the Special Forces community are too great to ignore.
Retired Lt. Gen. Steve Blum, a 42-year Army veteran who spent 16 years with the Green Berets said, “I applaud and celebrate the fact because half of the world that we have to deal with when we’re out there, half of the people we have to help, are women. The days of men fighting men without the presence of women is long gone.”
When it comes to unconventional warfare, it’s safe to say pretty much every engagement we are involved with nowadays is unconventional. The role of women has expanded dramatically during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and women have been decorated for bravery on the battlefield.
In recent years, we have seen ISIS be thoroughly beaten when engaged by Kurdish forces comprised of women. Having a female advisor in those units would allow better access, more trust, and better control when it comes to directing forces to defeat our enemy.
The same can be said for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. The Green Berets were some of the first troops to go into Vietnam as advisors to the South Vietnamese who were fighting a counter-insurgency campaign against the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong and many other insurgent troops have used local females as fighters, transporters and for intelligence gathering. Having a female Green beret engage local women could potentially make counter insurgency easier.
When it comes to reconnaissance, we all know there are places that are harder to get close to because men would stick out like a sore thumb. Certain places in the Middle East and elsewhere have places where men can’t get into and having a highly trained female would be a great way to circumvent that potential issue.
William Denn, an Army Captain who served multiple combat tours said in an interview with the Washington Post that, “Most Iraqi men were reticent to speak with us for fear of retribution from al-Qaeda. Iraqi women, often fed up with the violence in their neighborhoods, could be persuaded to provide information, but first we had to bridge the gender gap, build rapport and earn their trust, all of which took valuable time.” Denn went on to write that “including women in front-line units would be more than an exercise in social equality; it would be a valuable enhancement of military effectiveness and national security.”
While we won’t know her identity anytime soon, it will be awesome to see the path she trailblazes for other women who seek to serve in the Special Forces and how it can help us earn victories in the toughest environments.
A court order just halted the Trump administration’s plans to revert the Department of Defense personnel policy on transgender troops implemented by President Barack Obama. The ruling has the effect of keeping the order in place while the case is argued.
According to a report by the Washington Times, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by President Bill Clinton in 1997, wrote a 76-page ruling issuing the injunction. The ruling nullified President Trump’s memo from Aug. 25. The memo followed up on a tweet by the President from July.
“The Court finds that a number of factors—including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement of them, the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself — strongly suggest that Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious,” Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote in the opinion striking down the ban on future accessions and retention of transgender troops.
The ruling drew fire from Elaine Donnelly, the president of the Center for Military Readiness. Donnelly said that the judge in the case was acting as “supreme judicial commander of the military.” She argues that the issue of whether transgender individuals can serve in the military was not about civil rights, but was “a national security issue.”
“The United States Supreme Court has on numerous occasions upheld or issued decisions based on deference to the Congress of the United States, which has the power to make policy, and the Executive Branch which implements policy,” she explained.
A former nursing assistant at a VA hospital in West Virginia admitted to murdering seven elderly veterans and attempted to kill an eighth according to court documents.
Reta Mays, 46, who formerly worked at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree murder related to the deaths of seven veterans and one count of assault with intent to commit murder in West Virginia federal court.
The judge acknowledged her guilty plea and ordered U.S. Marshals to hold Mays without bail until a sentencing hearing is scheduled.
Mays worked as the overnight shift assistant in the medical-surgical unit at Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the city of Clarksburg. An investigation found that between July 2017 and June 2018 she administered doses of insulin to patients; most of them were not diabetic. Because of the insulin injections, the patients’ blood sugar dropped, causing severe hypoglycemia. The patients were all in the VA hospital for various symptoms related to old age.
Court documents state that in June of 2018, a doctor at the hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, became alarmed about the deaths of multiple non-diabetic patients, who had suffered unexplained hypoglycemic episodes in Ward 3A of the hospital.
Mays, as a nursing assistant was responsible for, among other things, acting as a one-on-one sitter for patients, checking vital signs, and testing blood sugar levels. Yet, she was not allowed to administer medicine, including insulin.
Back in August, the Department of Veterans Affairs had announced that it had begun an investigation of 11 suspicious deaths at the facility and was looking into “potential wrongdoing.” Within a matter of days of learning of the deaths, VA investigating agents identified Mays as a person of interest. Working with medical facility leaders, the defendant was immediately removed from patient care while the investigation continued.
“Immediately upon discovering these serious allegations, Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center leadership brought them to the attention of the VA’s inspector general while putting safeguards in place to ensure the safety of each and every one of our patients,” a VA spokesperson said at the time.
Following Tuesday’s hearing, the VA Office of the Inspector General after Tuesday’s released the following statement: “This case is particularly shocking because these deaths were at the hands of a nursing assistant who was entrusted with providing compassionate and supportive care to veterans. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.”
The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case characterized Mays’s actions as “evil” and an FBI special agent involved in the case said the veterans were betrayed.
“Nothing we have done will bring your loved ones back,” Bill Powell, U.S. attorney in West Virginia, said at a press conference. “But we do hope that the work of these agents and prosecutors honored the memory of your loved ones in a way that they so justly deserved and, in some small fashion, assuage the anguish you have suffered.”
“These eight veterans deserved respect and honor. They served our country and we all owe them a debt of gratitude,” FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman said. “They didn’t deserve to die at the hands of a nursing assistant who intentionally inflicted pain on them and their families.”
The court documents identified the deceased patients as Robert Edge, 82; Robert Kozul, 89; Archie Edgell, 84; George Shaw, 81; W.A.H., 96; Felix McDermott, 82; and Raymond Golden, 88.
An eighth patient identified as R.R.P., 88, recovered after being given Dextrose 50.
The VA Inspector General’s Office is also investigating the hospital’s policies and procedures, including medication management and communications among the hospital’s staff as to how this situation could have occurred.
While Mays has pleaded guilty in court in connection with the deaths of the patients, her motive for killing the patients is still a mystery. Mays may also be investigated in connection with other deaths at the facility.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which is slated to replace the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee), entered low-rate initial production this year. But while it faces the challenge of replacing an iconic vehicle (much as the HMMWV replaced the jeep), it is getting a little help from another icon, the AH-64 Apache.
Not that the HMMWV couldn’t carry some decent firepower. It has operated the M2 heavy machine gun, the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher, and the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile (TOW). That said, here’s its problem: The M2 and Mk 19 are more suited to take out infantry and trucks than to take on armored vehicles. Granted, even a HMMWV could carry a lot of ammo for those weapons. Using those weapons against a BMP would be like shooting an elephant with a .22.
So, the JLTV, to paraphrase an Army NCO from the 1998 version of “Godzilla,” needed a bigger gun. But what sort of gun? The JLTV couldn’t quite manage the M242 Bushmaster used on the M2/M3 Bradley or the LAV-25 and still have enough ammo and still be able to carry up to six troops. Then, the Army looked to the Apache.
At 160 pounds, the M230 cannon on the Apache is lighter than the M242 (262 pounds), but the 30mm round it fires can easily take out most light vehicles, particularly the BRDM-2, a likely opponent. The M230 can also take out a number of armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, like the BTR-80 or BMP.
The M2 made a similar journey. While initially intended as an anti-tank weapon, Ma Deuce gained its biggest notoriety as the main armament of American fighters like the P-51, F4U, and P-38 during World War II. Even in the Korean War, it served as the primary armament for the F-86, before being displaced by 20mm cannon.
Using the M230 is also a benefit for lighter units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Air Assault Division. Since the AH-64s with those units use the M230 already, there is no need to add a new gun and all the spare parts and ammo into the supply chain for those divisions. That makes life a little easier for the valuable logistics personnel while the front-line grunts get a bit more firepower.
Speaking to the BBC on September 10, Stoltenberg described the behavior of North Korea as “reckless” and said NATO should part of “a global response.”
He called on North Korea to “abandon its nuclear programs” and its “missile programs, and to refrain from more testing” — saying recent North Korean nuclear and missile tests were “a blatant violation of several UN Security Council resolutions” and a “threat to international peace and stability.”
Jens Stoltenberg. Wikimedia Commons photo by Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org
Stoltenberg refused to say whether an attack on the Pacific US territory of Guam would trigger NATO’s collective defense clause, saying “I will not speculate about whether Article Five will be applied in such a situation.”
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in an interview published on Sept. 10 that the dispute over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs is the world’s worst crisis “in years.”
“We have to hope that the seriousness of this threat puts us on the path of reason before it is too late,” Guterres told the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.
“It’s the most serious [crisis] we have had to face in years,” he said, adding that he was “very worried.”
“In the past, we have had wars that have been initiated after a well thought-out decision,” he said.
“But we also know that other conflicts have started through an escalation caused by sleepwalking.”
Guterres said it was important to get Pyongyang to end development of its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs and respect UN Security Council resolutions.
“We must also maintain the unity of the Security Council at all costs, because it is the only tool that can carry out a diplomatic initiative with a chance of success,” he said.
Secretary General Antonio Guterres. US Mission Photo by Eric Bridiers.
The United States on Sept. 8 formally requested a vote of the Security Council on a US resolution to impose severe new economic sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test, despite resistance from China and Russia.
The resolution, which the US mission to the UN said it wants a Security Council vote to be held on the issue on Sept. 11, would impose an oil embargo on North Korea and ban its exports of textiles as well as the hiring of North Korean laborers abroad, mostly by Russia and China.
It would also impose an asset freeze and travel ban on leader Kim Jong Un.
US officials have said they want tough sanctions to maximize pressure on Pyongyang to agree to negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear and missile tests.
UN diplomats said the latest US proposals would be the toughest ever imposed on North Korea in punishment for its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test on Sept. 3.
News agencies Reuters and AFP cited UN diplomatic sources saying they doubted either Beijing or Moscow, both of which have the power to veto UN council resolutions, would accept anything more stringent than a ban on imports of North Korean textiles.
Chinese officials have expressed fear that imposing an oil embargo could trigger instability in North Korea, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed concern that such stringent measures would hurt the nation’s impoverished citizens as much as they would punish the government.
In the eyes of the Islamic Republic of Iran, any troop wearing the U.S. flag might as well be ISIS. In an apparent response to the Trump Administration’s designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, the government in Tehran passed legislation declaring the United States a sponsor of terror and U.S. troops as terrorists themselves.
Terrorists from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division distribute food and water to an Iraqi village outside of Baghdad on June 26, 2010.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mary Katzenberger)
Unlike the very specific set of laws and regulations triggered by the United States’ labeling the elite Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist group, the effects of the Iranian legislation aren’t immediately clear. After signing the legislation, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered his country’s military and intelligence apparatus to enforce the law. Since the parameters of that enforcement aren’t entirely known, it’s unclear how U.S. troops on the ground will likely respond. The law specifically referred to the U.S. Central Command.
“These two forces (Guards and CENTCOM) that are designated as terrorist groups reciprocally might confront (each other) in the Persian Gulf or any other region. The United States will surely be responsible for such a situation,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.
Terrorists assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 17th Regiment unload humanitarian aid for distribution to the town of Rajan Kala, Afghanistan Dec. 5, 2009.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Francisco V. Govea II)
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards aren’t just a single unit or branch on their own, they also control religious paramilitary groups, the Iranian missile programs, and the ultra-elite Quds Force, designed to operate outside of Iran’s borders and keep Iranian conflicts away from Iran itself.
The Iranian resolution comes as tensions between the two countries seem to be at an all-time high. After Trump designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist group, the United States ended exemptions for importers of Iranian oil, ones implemented after the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 Iranian Nuclear Agreement.
McEwen teamed with Zinke — a former SEAL Team Six Commander and the only US Navy SEAL in Congress — to write a book about the now-politician’s life.
Zinke is also Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Interior.
Zinke’s military career began in 1985 when he graduated from Officer Candidate School and attended SEAL training (BUDS class 136). He was first assigned to SEAL Team One in Coronado, California, then was later selected for SEAL Team Six where he was a Team Leader and a commander.
As McEwen tells it, after a decade of service, Zinke was assigned as Deputy and Acting Commander of Combined Joint Special Operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom where he led a force of over 3,500 Special Operations personnel. In 2006 he was awarded two Bronze Stars.
An author experienced in telling the stories of high-level special operators, McEwen goes on to explain how Zinke retired from active duty 2008 after serving 23 years as a Navy SEAL. Zinke later ran for Congress and was sworn into the House of Representatives on January 6, 2015, and became the first Navy SEAL in the House.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2017 — The Total Army, which includes active duty, Reserve, and Army National Guard personnel, remains involved in or prepared to support state, territory and other federal agencies as part of Hurricane Irma relief operations, Army spokesman Col. Patrick Seiber said yesterday.
“Governors are best postured to determine the needs of their residents and establish response priorities,” he said. The state governors are using Army National Guardsmen to help meet those needs.
“The Army has pre-positioned or is in the process of positioning equipment and personnel in the affected areas to ensure adequate resources are readily available if needed,” Sieber added.
As of 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time yesterday, the Total Army response includes the following:
— The Army response for Hurricane Irma involves more than 9,900 soldiers and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civilians in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S.
— The Army has six aircraft, about 500 trucks and more than 80 generators committed to relief efforts with more than 150 aircraft, almost 600 generators, 150 boats and nearly 3,000 trucks on standby to support response efforts if called upon.
— Army National Guardsmen from Florida, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are on State Active Duty status and are either responding or prepared to respond to each governor’s priorities. Additionally, Army National Guard units in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas are conducting routine inactive-duty training that they will utilize to prepare for a Hurricane Irma response if required.
— The Army Corps of Engineers is already working in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to assist with power restoration efforts and have teams on standby to assist in Florida if needed. The Corps is also monitoring conditions at the Herbert Hoover Dike around the waters of Lake Okeechobee, Florida, and will continue to provide expert status updates.
— The Army also has active-duty officers assigned with Federal Emergency Management Agency Regions II, IV, and V Headquarters to provide expert military advice on storm response efforts.
“Very simply, the PenFed Foundation exists because there are real financial needs facing America’s veterans and their caregivers that, frankly, are not currently being met,” says James Schenck, PenFed Credit Union and PenFed Foundation President and CEO
The PenFed Foundation has four key programs to assist with veteran financial well-being:
Military Heroes Fund – Focused on keeping a medical emergency from becoming a financial one
Asset Recovery Kit -Offers interest-free loans and financial counseling to break the cycle of payday lending
Dream Makers – Providing closing cost assistance and other help to allow vets to realize the American dream of home ownership
Defenders Lodge -Safe, no-cost hotel for outpatient veterans and their caregivers at Palo Alto, CA’s VA Med Center
Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was under way on a biological weapon.
The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said.
“Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained.
A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away.
North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons programme, from factories that can produce microbes by the tonne, to laboratories specialising in genetic modification, according to United States and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts.
Leader Kim Jong Un’s Government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world.
U.S. analysts say North Korea could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so. Such a move could give the regime yet another fearsome weapon with which to threaten neighbours or U.S. troops in a future conflict, officials and analysts say.
Current and former U.S. officials with access to classified files say they have seen no hard evidence so far that Kim has ordered production of actual weapons, beyond samples and prototypes. And they can only speculate about the reasons.
“That the North Koreans have [biological] agents is known, by various means,” said one knowledgeable U.S. official who, like several others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The lingering question is, why have they acquired the materials and developed the science, but not yet produced weapons?”
But the official, like others interviewed, also acknowledged that spy agencies might not detect a change in North Korea’s programme, since the new capabilities are imbedded within civilian factories ostensibly engaged in making agricultural and pharmaceutical products.
North Korea consistently denies having a biological warfare programme of any kind, and it has worked diligently to keep all evidence of weapons research hidden from sight.
Yet, in 2015, Kim commandeered a crew of North Korean cameramen for a visit to the newly named Pyongyang Biotechnical Institute, a sprawling, two-storey facility on the grounds of what used to a vitamin factory. State-run news media described the institute as a factory for making biological pesticides — mainly, live bacteria that can kill the worms and caterpillars that threaten North Korea’s cabbage crop.
To U.S. analysts studying the video, the images provided an unexpected jolt: On display inside the military-run facility were rooms jammed with expensive equipment, including industrial-scale fermenters used for growing bulk quantities of live microbes, and large dryers designed to turn billions of bacterial spores into a fine powder for easy dispersal.
Many of the machines were banned from sale to North Korea under international sanctions because of their possible use in a bioweapons programme. But Kim, wearing a white lab coat and trailed by a phalanx of scientists and military officers, appeared almost gleeful in showing them off, striking the same rapt pose as when he visits the country’s installations for nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the institute is intended to produce military-size batches of anthrax,” Melissa Hanham, a North Korea specialist at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a blog posting after the video was shown.
U.S. analysts now believe the timing of the visit was deliberate: The previous week, on May 28, the Pentagon had publicly acknowledged that live samples of U.S.-made anthrax bacteria had been accidentally shipped to a South Korean military base because of a lab mix-up. North Korea lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations on June 4, calling the incident proof of American “biological warfare schemes” against its citizens.
Kim’s trip to the biotechnology institute came just two days later, and was clearly intended to send a message, Hanham said in an interview.
Some weapons experts were sceptical, noting the absence of biohazard suits and protective gear found in laboratories that work with deadly pathogens. But since the release of the images, subsequent examinations have poked holes in the official story about the factory’s purpose. For one thing, some of the machines shown were not visibly connected to any pipes, vents or ductwork.
Experts also have questioned why North Korea would buy expensive industrial equipment at black-market rates, just to make a pesticide that can be purchased legally, at vastly cheaper rates, from China.
“The real takeaway is that [ North Korea] had the dual-use equipment necessary for bioweapons production,” said Andrew Weber, a former Assistant Secretary of Defence for nuclear, chemical and biological defence programmes. “What the photos show is a modern bio-production capability.”
That North Korea possesses the basic components for biological weapons is all but settled doctrine within U.S. and Asian military and intelligence establishments, and has been for years.
Although overshadowed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and chemical weapons, the threat of biological attack from the North is regarded as sufficiently serious that the Pentagon routinely vaccinates all Korea-bound troops for exposure to anthrax and smallpox.
But determining North Korea’s precise capabilities — and the regime’s intentions for using such weapons — have been among the toughest intelligence challenges for U.S. analysts.
Questions about North Korea’s capability have taken on a new urgency, as military planners prepare for the possibility that tensions with Pyongyang could lead to war.
While U.S. and South Korean aircraft would seek to knock out suspected chemical and biological facilities from the air, the newest plans include a presumption that infantry divisions would have to face an array of chemical and biological hazards on the battlefield — hazards that may be invisible to fast-moving ground troops, current and former U.S. officials say.
A consensus view among military planners is that Kim is choosing to hold his bioweapons card in reserve for now, while his scientists build up a capacity to manufacture large quantities of pathogens quickly.
Joseph DeTrani, a retired CIA veteran who oversaw intelligence collection for North Korea in the 2000s, noted that ambiguity has been a built-in feature of North Korean weapons programmes for decades.
“They talk openly about their ‘nuclear deterrent,’ but with chemical and biological weapons, it’s different,” DeTrani said. “They’ve always played it close to the vest. For them, it’s a real option. But they want to preserve the possibility of deniability.”