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As US-Trained Forces Turn On Each Other, Army Expands Foreign Training Mission
The United States Army is quickly reorganizing to expand its training, advising, and assistance to foreign forces — even as two militaries trained and equipped by the U.S. are clashing with each other in the contested Iraqi city of Kirkuk. The flaring military confrontation between Kurds and Iraqi federal troops highlights the dangers of bolstering the battlefield capabilities of foreign governments whose objectives don’t necessarily align with America’s national interests.
The Army announced on Oct. 16 that it will speed up the fielding of its security force assistance brigades, or SFABs, which will be manned by conventional troops but structured like the 75th Ranger Regiment and also maintain similar physical standards. The original goal was to have five SFABs stood up by 2022, with the first ready to deploy as soon as 2018. It is unclear if that timeline has changed, though the Army seems to be suggesting it has.
“Our fundamental strategic approach to deal with terrorism and terrorists is to work by, with and through host nations, partner nations, friends and allies — their indigenous security forces — in order to provide for a stable environment for their own country,” Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, said on Oct. 9 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting in Washington. “By doing that, we’ll meet U.S. objectives.”
Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shellie HallU.S. Marine Corps Capt. Zachary Weidner watches as an Iraqi soldier fire a .50-caliber machine gun while training in Iraq, April 12, 2017.
Once formed, the brigades will deploy to train, advise, and assist partner militaries in countries around the world...including Iraq, where Iraqi Kurds and the Iranian-backed Iraqi government — both key U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS — appear to be on the brink of a civil war. Tensions in the region escalated dramatically since the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government held a referendum on Sept. 25 in which an overwhelming majority of Kurdish voters affirmed the region’s right to declare independence from Baghdad.
Washington also strongly opposed the Kurdish vote for independence, as did neighboring Turkey and Iran. The inclusion of Iranian-backed Shiite militias in the combined force that advanced into parts of Kirkuk on Oct. 15 infuriated the Kurdish Regional Government, which is controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or K.D.P. The peshmerga general command in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region, told The New York Times that the presence of the Shiite militias amounted to “a flagrant declaration of war against the nation of Kurdistan.”
The Kurdish peshmerga seized Kirkuk in 2014 after the Iraqi military fled amid an ISIS offensive that saw may key cities in the region fall to the terror group. On Oct. 15, the Iraqi government, backed by Iran, launched a “probing attack” against peshmerga forces southwest of Kirkuk, according to the Institute for the Study of War, and then easily secured parts of the city after Kurdish troops with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or P.U.K, a rival of the K.D.P, agreed to withdraw to make way for the Iraqi advance.
Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua S. McAlpineU.S. Marine Corps Col. Christian Cabaniss, the commander of Task Force Al Taqaddum and deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, speaks with Italian police officials about the current and future training plans for the Iraqi police and military forces on Al-Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, April 27, 2017.
The “train, advise, and assist” effort has been a core pillar in the U.S. strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS in Iraq and neighboring Syria. And while the anti-ISIS campaign has been largely successful on both sides of the border, the Kurdish and Iraqi militaries, which were reluctant partners in that fight, are now flush with American arms, equipment, and tactical doctrine that they are now turning against each other.
“We have enough weapons,” a Kurdish field commander stationed north of Kirkuk told The New York Times on Oct. 16. “We can fight as long as we have to.”
A spokesman for the American-led coalition told The New York Times that U.S. troops are not supporting either side in the Kirkuk standoff.
The Army intends to build a total of six SFABS — five in the regular Army and one in the National Guard. Two of the SFABs will focus on the Middle East, while the other four will focus “on the Pacific, Africa and possibly Europe,” the Army said in a statement. The Army says its goal is to enhance its ability to fight global terrorism while freeing up its traditional forces to focus on readiness for conventional warfare.
Army photo by Sgt. Lisa SoyA Peshmerga soldier assesses components of a simulated improvised explosive device during counter-IED training at Bnaslawa, Iraq, Dec. 4, 2016. By enabling Peshmerga security forces through advise and assist, and building partner capacity missions, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
The 500-600 officers and non-commissioned officers selected for the first SFAB are currently being trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. “SFABs are not Special Forces,” Brig. Gen. Brian Mennes, director of force management with the Army’s G-3/5/7, said at the AUSA meeting on Oct. 9; however, as the Army notes, soldiers in the units will receive “some comparable training, including language instruction.”
As Stars and Stripes reports, the Army is aiming to add 17,000 more soldiers to the active-duty component in fiscal year 2018 to “offset losses to combat formations as it moves experienced soldiers into” the SFABs. In May, the Army announced that troops who volunteered to join the SFABs would receive a $5,000 bonus — one of several perks intended to entice top-performing soldiers into a post that will likely entail a lot of time spent overseas.
“We are likely to be involved in train, advise, and assist operations across the world for many years to come,” Milley said on Oct. 9 at AUSU. “We think it’s about time we recognize that fact with force structure specifically designed to train, man, and equip organizations that can go forward for those operations.”
Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal officially endorsed Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) for president on July 18. A former Marine infantry officer who deployed to Iraq four times, Moulton joined McChrystal on MSNBC to discuss the endorsement, and whether he's bothered that he hasn't found a spot on the crowded Democratic debates so far.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer shot down an Iranian drone Thursday in the Strait of Hormuz, President Donald Trump announced.
"The Boxer took defensive action against an Iranian drone which had closed into a very, very near distance – approximately 1,000 yards – ignoring multiple calls to stand down and was threatening the safety of the ship and the ship's crew," Trump said during a White House ceremony. "The drone was immediately destroyed."
"This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters," he continued. "The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities, our interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran's attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce. I also call on other nations to protect their ships as they go through the Strait and to work with us in the future."
The Army may be celebrating its prized Army Futures Command (AFC) reaching full operational capability, but the organization's leaders still have quite a to-do list in front of them.
AFC commander Gen. John Murray briefed reporters on Thursday alongside Bruce Jette, the Army's Assistant Secretary of Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, on the progress of the Army's modernization roadmap and what's coming down the pipe to help soldiers soldiers win the conflicts of the future.
But while that lawmakers skirted questions on the war in Afghanistan during former Secretary of the Army Mark Esper's confirmation hearing for defense secretary this week, AFC's top priority remains, first and foremost, the soldiers fighting in conflict zones right now.
The official trailer for Top Gun: Maverick is here, and if you were praying to God there would be another volleyball scene, you are in luck.
Slated to hit theaters in 2020, the sequel to 1986 classic features Tom Cruise back in the role of Maverick, only this time he's a Navy captain behind the stick of an F/A-18 Hornet.
The two-minute trailer features a number of throwbacks to the original Top Gun: There's Maverick pulling the cover off his motorcycle and driving down the flight line, a shirtless volleyballer (there was no way you would have escaped this), and a piano-playing scene with Great Balls of Fire, my man.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski, the film also stars Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, and Ed Harris. The film hits theaters on June 26, 2020.
Watch the trailer below:
Top Gun: Maverick - Official Trailer (2020) - Paramount Pictures www.youtube.com