Tag Archives: Pentagon

Pentagon’s “COVID Detecting Microchip” For Under Your Skin?

Pentagon’s “COVID Detecting Microchip” For Under Your Skin? – powered by ise.media

A new report from 60 Minutes includes an interview with a scientist from the Pentagon who says that there is now a microchip that can be implanted under your skin in order to determine if you have COVID.


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Google Employees Resign In Protest Of Pentagon AI Project

Mountain View, CA — At least a dozen Google employees have resigned in protest over the company collaborating with the Department of Defense by supplying artificial intelligence for a controversial military pilot program for the DoD known as Project Maven, after thousands of employees signed a letter last month asking the company to cancel the Pentagon contract and institute a policy against working for the military.

‘We can no longer ignore our industry’s and our technologies’ harmful biases, large-scale breaches of trust, and lack of ethical safeguards. These are life and death stakes,” the petition read.

[Related: US Army Developing Drones With AI Targeting]

Project Maven, developed to scan images in drone footage and identify targets and classify images of objects and people— was launched in April 2017, and according to a Pentagon memo, aims to “augment or automate Processing, Exploitation and Dissemination (PED) for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in support of the Defeat-ISIS campaign” in order to “reduce the human factors burden of [full motion video] analysis, increase actionable intelligence, and enhance military decision-making.”

More than 1,000 academics and researchers penned an open letter in support of the Google employees and calling on the company to cease work on Project Maven. The letter touches on the implications of Google working with the Pentagon:

With Project Maven, Google becomes implicated in the questionable practice of targeted killings. These include so-called signature strikes and pattern-of-life strikes that target people based not on known activities but on probabilities drawn from long range surveillance footage.

While the reports on Project Maven currently emphasize the role of human analysts, these technologies are poised to become a basis for automated target recognition and autonomous weapon systems. As military commanders come to see the object recognition algorithms as reliable, it will be tempting to attenuate or even remove human review and oversight for these systems. According to Defense One, the DoD already plans to install image analysis technologies on-board the drones themselves, including armed drones. We are then just a short step away from authorizing autonomous drones to kill automatically, without human supervision or meaningful human control. If ethical action on the part of tech companies requires consideration of who might benefit from a technology and who might be harmed, then we can say with certainty that no topic deserves more sober reflection – no technology has higher stakes – than algorithms meant to target and kill at a distance and without public accountability.

The DoD contracts under consideration by Google, and similar contracts already in place at Microsoft and Amazon, signal a dangerous alliance between the private tech industry, currently in possession of vast quantities of sensitive personal data collected from people across the globe, and one country’s military. They also signal a failure to engage with global civil society and diplomatic institutions that have already highlighted the ethical stakes of these technologies.

A few of the Google employees that chose to resign in protest spoke to Gizmodo anonymously about the reasoning behind their decision.

“At some point, I realized I could not in good faith recommend anyone join Google, knowing what I knew. I realized if I can’t recommend people join here, then why am I still here?” one resigning Google employee told Gizmodo.

“I tried to remind myself right that Google’s decisions are not my decisions. I’m not personally responsible for everything they do. But I do feel responsibility when I see something that I should escalate it,” another said.

“Actions speak louder than words, and that’s a standard I hold myself to as well. I wasn’t happy just voicing my concerns internally. The strongest possible statement I could take against this was to leave,” a resigning employee added.

Reports of Military Sexual Assault, Retaliation Increase

(IVN) A report released last month by the Pentagon found that reports of sexual harassment in the military increased from fiscal year 2016, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The report also found that reports of retaliation against those making reports increased as well, proving that there is still much work to be done to combat the epidemic of sexual violence in the nation’s military.

The report, compiled by a bi-annual survey, found that there was an approximate 10 percent increase in the number of sexual assault cases reported. For fiscal year 2017, which ended on September 30, there were a total of 6,769 cases reported across all military branches.

This is up from the 6,172 cases reported in FY2016. It is the largest increase since 2015. Of those, 1,200 were outside of the military’s jurisdiction.

Among those surveyed, fewer than 15,000 people described themselves as being victims of unwanted sexual contact. This is a dramatic drop from the 26,000 people when the military sexual assault crisis first made headlines in 2012.

According to the report, the Marine Corps saw the biggest increase in reported incidences of sexual assault. In FY2016 there were 870 reported cases reported. In FY2017, this number increased to 998.

For fiscal year 2017, which ended on September 30, there were a total of 6,769 cases reported across all military branches.

But this isn’t the only trouble the Marines found itself in. In early 2017, the Marine Corps was embarrassed by a nude photo sharing scandal across social media.

The Facebook page Marines United had thousands of images of female marines, marine veterans and wives of marines in various stages of undress and compromising and sexual positions. Accompanying the photos were degrading and threatening comments.

After a lengthy investigation, it was found that the majority of the material was voluntary, however a handful of those marines still on active duty and found to be responsible were disciplined.

The Navy saw a nine percent increase in reports. In FY2017 there were 1585 reports of sexual assault. This is up from the 1450 reports in FY2016. The Air Force also saw an increase of nine percent.  The Army saw an increase of eight percent.

While it may seem to some that an increase in reports of sexual assault would signal a worsening problem, according to the DOD, this isn’t the case.

In fact, increased reporting is a good thing. This means that service members are more comfortable coming forward and reporting incidence and have more confidence that the system will get them justice because sexual assault is such a sensitive, highly under-reported crime.

The data from the DOD showed that while reports increased, the incidents of reports sent to the courts for punishment actually decreased. Of all the cases reported in the previous fiscal year, 2,218 were referred for disciplinary action. 774 went through the court martial process.

This is down from 790 the previous year.

This doesn’t mean that perpetrators aren’t being punished. They are just being punished outside the military’s court system.

“It is very, very challenging to go through the court-martial process and testify. Victims may opt not to testify and commanders are now left with administrative actions and discharges to hold people appropriately accountable,” said Nathan Galbreath, the deputy director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

Because fewer victims are testifying, military commanders are using administrative actions, discharges, or non-judicial punishment. There were 378 cases referred for administrative action or discharge in FY2017, up from the 260 cases in FY2016.

In addition, another 294 faced non-judicial punishment. This can include a wide variety of punishments including loss of pay, loss of rank, and even the end of someone’s military career.

In a disturbing twist, however, the reports of retaliatory behavior have gone up remarkably as well. The same DOD report found that 40 percent of those who reported sexual assault experienced some kind of retaliation.

“The department has made progress in combating sexual assault in the military,” said Rear Adm. Ann Burkhardt, the director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “But we know that there is more work to be done.”

Written by Wendy Innes



This article was republished with permission from IVN.

US Marines Enter Ground Combat in Iraq to Defend Oil Fields

by Jason Ditz

Even as Pentagon officials have sought to emphasize their claims of ISIS being “on the run,” ever more US ground troops are being deployed into Iraq to try to cope with ISIS offensives, with the battle of Makhmur leading to the introduction of US Marines in front-line combat roles.

Officials are trying to downplay the operation as “force protection” for Iraqi ground troops, who have been massing in the area in an effort to ultimately launch an attack on the ISIS-held city of Mosul, not far away.

The explanation is unsatisfying for several reasons, but primarily because this “tactical assembly area” already includes thousands of Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga, and these are the same troops who are supposed to attack Mosul. Yet these troops are apparently unable to even hold Makhmur, let alone advance toward Mosul.

The Makhmur District is also a key to holding oil fields around Kirkuk, and the ISIS offensive is seen by many analysts as part of an effort to ultimately regain control over those lucrative oil fields, and have been “outgunning” the thousands of Iraqi troops in the area.

Whether they’re trying to save Iraqi ground troops who still can’t stand up to ISIS, or save oil fields, however, the latest escalation puts US troops even further in harm’s way, and has put the war even further afield from the “no boots on the ground” affair initially promised by the Obama Administration.


Pentagon Set to Renew Training of Syrian Rebels

The Obama administration has reportedly approved the Pentagon’s request to once again arm and train Syrian rebels, albeit on a smaller scale than a previous effort that had a price tag of $500 million and effectively trained far less rebels than originally estimated.

There is currently limited information available regarding details of the new program other than statements that the program is confirmed to be re-launched. The Los Angeles Times reported that Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the U.S. military operation to defeat ISIS known as Operation Inherent Resolve, has yet to declare how many fighters will be trained or when the program will begin. Warren reportedly noted that the new program will be a smaller operation, acknowledging that “this is part of our adjustments to the train and equip program built on prior lessons learned.”

After reports surfaced in Sept. 2015 that the the Pentagon was suspending its “train and equip” program for Syrian rebels, the program officially ended in Oct. 2015, largely due to its ineffectiveness. Trainees in the first group of the program were reported to have “largely disbanded soon after they were sent into combat; some were captured or killed, while others fled,” and training of another group “yielded only a small number of new fighters, drawing criticism from U.S. lawmakers who condemned the program as a joke and a failure.”

The original program’s cost reached $384 million and produced only 145 trained fighters, which was far less than the 5,400 fighters that the program had originally hoped to train.

In early March, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) commander, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, asked the Obama administration for approval “to restart the effort by using a different approach,” according to The Hill.

Ben Swann released a Truth In Media episode, embedded below, that explored “the central issue of whether or not ISIS was created by ‘inaction’ by the United States government or by ‘direct’ action,” including the U.S. government sending weapons to Syrian rebels.

Origins of ISIS

Ben Swann explores the origin of ISIS that has already been long forgotten by American media. Swann takes on the central issue of whether or not ISIS was created by "inaction" by the United States government or by "direct" action.

Posted by Ben Swann on Thursday, March 19, 2015

According to the Department of Defense, the most recent estimated cost of “operations related to ISIL since kinetic operations started on August 8, 2014, is $6.5 billion and the average daily cost is $11.4 million for 571 days of operations.”

For more information, see these related links:
Flashback: Ben Swann’s Truth In Media on Syria

Al-Qaeda Whittles Down US-Trained Rebels in Syria

New US-Trained Rebels in Syria Gave Their Weapons to al-Qaeda

Pentagon’s Syria Rebel Training Cost $2 Million Per Rebel

U.S. Senators Call For Obama To End Program Training Syrian Militants

Obama Administration Ends $500 Million Syrian Rebel Training Program

Follow Annabelle Bamforth on Twitter.

Pentagon: Drone Strike in Somalia Kills Over 150 Militants

by Jason Ditz

US drones launched a massive attack against an al-Shabaab training camp 120 miles north of the Somali capital city of Mogadishu, according to the Pentagon. Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis claims over 150 militants were slain in the attack.

Officials say that they were watching the camp “for several weeks” prior to the attack, and the Pentagon claimed they posed “an imminent threat to US forces.” It’s not clear where those US forces are that were at risk.

The attack reported took place on Saturday, and US officials are insisting that there are no indications of any civilian casualties. This is a common claim after US strikes, though time and again civilian tolls start cropping up in the days that follow.

The Australian government also reported having seized a shipload of weapons that were on a fishing boat near Oman, claiming that they believe the weapons were heading for Somalia. This is adding to talk that al-Shabaab is on the rise as a regional force.

Pentagon: Number of ISIS Fighters in Iraq, Syria Declining

By Jason Ditz

Desperate to claim some “progress” in the ongoing ISIS war, US defense officials are claiming that their assessment on the size of the ISIS force between Iraq and Syria has declined, and that the best estimates are now between 19,000 and 25,000 fighters.

In 2014, the intelligence estimate was that they believed there were around 20,000 ISIS fighters, though they later conceded that it could’ve been “as high as 31,000,” though there was never really a good effort to square the rather broad estimates.

In that regard, the claim of declining fighters might simply be untrue, with the 2016 estimate just the lower half of the over-broad 2014 estimate. US officials say they aren’t sure the reason of this, but say it could be a combination of the massive number of people they’re killing in airstrikes and efforts to make it harder to get into Syria.

The estimate also does not account for the soaring number of ISIS fighters outside of Iraq and Syria, with large numbers now in Libya, and significant affiliates also setting up shop in Yemen and Afghanistan. All told, ISIS is definitely getting bigger.

Pentagon Seeks ‘Hundreds More’ US Troops in Iraq and Syria

by Jason Ditz

Last week, Pentagon officials were talking up a few hundred additional “trainers” for the ISIS war in Iraq and Syria. This appears to have just been the start, as reports now suggest that over the last several weeks, the Pentagon has sought another 800 US troops for the war.

800 would be a big deployment for a war in which the “no boots on the ground” mantra has continued to be repeated by the administration, so the plan is to split this up over several deployments. Over the past 18 months, the US has brought some 3,700 troops into Iraq, over a large number of small escalations.

In all of this the Pentagon has repeatedly suggested coalition partners would make up a lot of these deployments, though recently they’ve complained that many in the coalition are doing “nothing at all” for the war effort, and several have spurned requests for more troops.

Even this effort to get up to 4,500 troops on the ground is just the near-term goal, and doesn’t seem like it’s going to be anything close to the end of the ongoing escalation of the war.

Absent from the Pentagon push for ever more troops is the question of if the Iraqi government will go along with it. Several times in the past they’ve expressed annoyance at the US announcing escalations before asking them, and several Shi’ite militias in Iraq have complained that the US presence is already far too large.

Senators: Demoting General Petraeus Is ‘Unreasonable And Unfair’

By Jonah Bennett – Two prominent senators are coming to Gen. David Petraeus’s defense, urging the Pentagon not to retroactively punish the retired military official.

Sens. Jack Reed and John McCain argue retroactive demotions almost never occur and add the Petraeus case is even more unusual because he retired nearly four-and-a-half years ago in a letter written to Defense Secretary Ash Carter. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor in 2015 and paid a fine and accepted a two-year probation. He handed classified information over to his biographer with whom he was having an affair and then lied to investigators.

According to Reed and McCain, investigations should only be reopened in the advent of new evidence, fraud or some other error that renders the initial procedure null. Even then, that investigation should only occur within a reasonable time frame. Reed and McCain are arguing is that the time frame in this case is long past reasonable.

Since Carter is not compelled to reopen a review, the senators are concerned this apparent action, which is not yet confirmed, is “manifestly unreasonable and unfair.”

“We take this opportunity to remind you of General Petraeus’ long career of exceptionally distinguished, honorable and dedicated service to our Nation and to the soldiers he so brilliantly led to success in combat,” the senators write. “Under these circumstances we urge you to consider the the original retirement grade determination remain unchanged and that he be allowed to retain the title of General in recognition of his honorable service.”

Reed and McCain aren’t the only two complaining about Petraeus’s treatment.

GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush both think Petraeus should be left alone and pointed to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as a far more egregious example of mishandled classified data.

“I mean look at Petraeus — good guy, made a mistake, and by the way, leave the guy alone,” Trump said Wednesday at Oral Roberts University, according to CNN. “Leave Petraeus alone. Right? Enough already. Enough. They’ve gone after him, they’ve destroyed him, and yet Hillary’s flying safe and she did 100 times worse than what he did.”

Demotion is serious business. Petraeus would not only owe back pay from a four-star pension, but he would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in future income. His reputation would also further be sullied. The Pentagon is reportedly considering a demotion in this case because it wants to maintain consistency in the treatment of its senior officers.

Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

Send tips to jonah@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.



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Pentagon: New Mosul Strike Destroyed More Cash, Killed ‘Acceptable’ Number of Civilians

by Jason Ditz

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren has confirmed that on Monday, the US launched its second attack on an ISIS “cash collection point” in as many weeks, destroying another pile of unspecified cash in the middle of the large city of Mosul.

As with the previous incident, there were reports of civilian casualties in the attack, though Col. Warren insisted the Pentagon was willing to accept some civilian deaths in the attack, and that the initial estimates were that they only killed “in the single digits.”

Pentagon officials had similarly indicated that in the previous attack they were “comfortable” with civilian casualties in the scores, but that they believed they’d only killed between 7-9. Those deaths have not been formally confirmed by the Pentagon, however, who usually denies reports of civilian deaths as a matter of course.

Col. Warren termed the killings “tragic” but did not indicate that the Pentagon had any qualms about launching such attacks, but warned that ISIS was likely to keep its cash in smaller amounts spread around multiple locations in the future to keep it from getting blown up.

While the first such strike was believed to have destroyed a few million dollars in cash, this latest strike is conspicuous in its lack of details, with officials making no attempt to estimate what they actually destroyed, suggesting the figure will seem less impressive, and less worth the casualties inflicted on the civilian population.

Of course, launching strikes that they know will kill civilian bystanders is widely held to be illegal under international law, and officials made a big deal with the previous attack about launching the strike late at night to limit the number of people around the area. In this case, no such assurances were given.

Pentagon Desperate to Avoid Calling Afghan Fight ‘Combat’

by Jason Ditz

On Tuesday, US special forces accompanying Afghan troops engaged in a protracted firefight with Taliban forces in the Helmand Province. One of the soldiers was killed and two others wounded, and a helicopter was virtually destroyed.

Don’t call it combat though. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook, pressed on the matter, appeared increasingly desperate to avoid the “c-word” when talking about Afghanistan, labeling the mission a “train, advise and assist” operation, and shrugged off the fact it was a gunbattle by saying Afghanistan “is a dangerous place.”

The troops were deployed in response to Taliban gains in Helmand, with an explicit eye toward fighting them off. US warplanes have been increasing their airstrikes against Helmand all the while, so why the pretense of a “non-combat” situation?

Despite being 14+ years into the Afghanistan occupation, Pentagon officials are increasingly loathe to present anything the US is doing as combat, even when it involves shooting people and blowing stuff up. The narrative in Afghanistan in particular is one of the US taking a “support” role, and the admission that US troops have to get into combat to keep the Taliban from seizing important parts of the country undercuts the pretense of progress.

Yet this isn’t just an Afghanistan matter. The Pentagon has similarly struggled with “combat” operations in Iraq, labeling gunbattles against ISIS there as “training” operations too.

Russian Defense Ministry Accuses The U.S. of Fighting ISIS ‘In Word Only’

The Russian Defense Ministry accused the U.S. of fighting ISIS “in word only, instead of taking real action” after the Pentagon refused to give Russia information on its ISIS targets in Syria unless Russia changes its policy towards Bashar al-Assad.

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the United States of protecting the Islamic State on Monday, after the Pentagon refused to share information about ISIS targets in Syria.

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza told Sputnik News on Friday that the U.S. would not “cooperate with Russia on Syria until they change their strategy of supporting Assad and instead focus” on ISIS.

In response, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told TASS that the Pentagon’s statement confirms that the U.S. is fighting ISIS “in word only, instead of taking real action.” 

[pull_quote_center]The hackneyed thesis has once again confirmed that the Pentagon will fight against IS in word only, instead of taking real action. The statement by the US Defense Department spokesperson Michelle Baldanza about the refusal from any cooperation in the fight against Islamic State is a broken record, and it’s high time to change it.[/pull_quote_center]

Konashenkov also said that last week General Sergey Rudskoy, the chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the Russian General Staff, presented data on changes in the routes of illegal oil transportation by ISIS militants. He claimed that the new routes are in the northwestern regions of Iraq, which “are in the focus of constant attention of the United States.”

Rudskoy said on Friday that based on aerial imagery in the vicinity of Zakho, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan, Russian intelligence has spotted at least “11,775 tankers and trucks on both sides of the Turkish-Iraqi border.”

[RELATED: Putin Claims ISIS is Financed by 40 Countries Including G20 Members]

During the G20 Leaders Summit in Antalya, Turkey, in November, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that ISIS is being financed by 40 different countries. “We have established that financing is coming from 40 countries, including G20 countries,” he said.

While Putin did not list the specific countries he believes are financing ISIS, the “Group of Twenty” includes countries such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

[RELATED: ISIS Seized 2,300 U.S. Armored Humvees, Possibly Worth 1 Billion Dollars]

In March, investigative journalist Ben Swann reported on the origin of ISIS, and he noted that the group grew drastically after it seized Humvees, tanks and weaponry left behind by the U.S. and that even when the U.S. government “became aware that ISIS fighters were capturing U.S. equipment, it did nothing.” 


Pentagon Seeks ‘New Narrative’ on ISIS War

by Jason Ditz

According to Pentagon officials, they are feverishly at work on a “new narrative” for public discussion about the ongoing war against ISIS, centering on growing criticism of the apparent lack of a concrete plan for how to win the war or any end-game theory.

“To say there’s no strategy is just flat out wrong,” insisted Army Col. Christopher Graves, the public affairs officer for the war, and others say the goal is to present the notion that there is a strategy in place in a “concise, easy to understand way.”

The official narrative on the war has struggled mightily to find its voice so far, in no small part because officials have repeatedly ruled out things like combat troops and “boots on the ground” before announcing deployments into Iraq, and a lot of revision of what was really promised leading President Obama to eventually insist it was only a pledge for no battalions.

It remains to be seen exactly how the Pentagon aims to shift the narrative this time, but conspicuously absent from early conversation on this “new” narrative is laying out exactly what that nebulous strategy to win the war actually is.

And despite Pentagon assurances that they “welcome debate” on the strategy, that’s the one thing that’s least likely to happen, as the administration has so far seemed to base the public narrative of the war on a series of vague pledges to eventually wipe out ISIS in some unspecified way with some unspecified force, all the while escalating in ways that publicly they had insisted were ruled out. There are doubtless more escalations in the cards for the ISIS war, and the Pentagon goal is not to start a debate about that, but rather to convince the public to acquiesce.

Officials: Pentagon Reduces Oversight on Drones

by Jason Ditz

For years, US drone strikes were the exclusive purview of the CIA, putting them in the realm of extrajudicial assassinations, and the shift toward the Pentagon running the show was initially seen as a significant step toward accountability and abiding by the laws of war.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Rather, some lawmakers as well as some CIA officials are warning that the transition has reduced what accountability there was, effectively eliminating Congressional scrutiny of individual strikes.

Congressional oversight of the drone war was limited even when the CIA was doing it, but it appears misplaced faith in the Pentagon to “do things different” had reduced a lot of the interest in keeping an eye on them, and unlike the CIA the military doesn’t have a legal requirement to disclose individual drone strikes to Congress.

From the military’s perspective, it makes sense. They argue the drone is no different from any other warplane, and they don’t have to give Congress an individual account of every other airstrike. Yet the drones are used differently, mostly for assassinations, and there is less resistance to using them than there would be for more expensive piloted aircraft.

The military sold their takeover of the program on the idea they’d be less secretive than the CIA, but it simply hasn’t borne out, and with the military blanketly denying virtually all civilian deaths in all airstrikes, and refusing to even say how often the drones were used.

Rights groups are urging Congress to try to revue the strikes, since the Pentagon claims Congress can always request more info, but so far most of the leadership doesn’t want to show a lack of confidence in the military.

US Special Ops Kicked Out of Libya

by Jason Ditz

A US military ground operation began and ended without much fanfare earlier this week in Libya, the Pentagon admitted today, in a shockingly bungling effort to secretly establish a presence of US special forces in the country.

A group of about 20 US soldiers, armed with assault rifles and bulletproof vests, but conspicuously not wearing uniforms, showed up in the Wattiya airbase just south of Tripoli Monday. Pictures of the US troops were published by the Libyan Air Force on their Facebook page.

The Air Force pointed out the troops arrived with no coordination and apparently no approval, though the Pentagon claims to have gotten an okay from some government faction or other, but apparently not the right ones, as local commanders quickly demanded that the US troops leave, and the Pentagon says they did to “avoid conflict.”

Pentagon officials further claimed the deployment was a “training mission” aimed at enhancing ties with the Libyan National Army, but didn’t explain why they sent the troops in wholly unannounced, nor why the troops were clearly combat-ready but out of uniform.

Recent conferences on Libya among NATO members, including one earlier this month in Rome, have had several nations talking up the idea of sending troops. It is surprising to learn, then, that the US went first, bungling their way into Libya and almost immediately getting chased out.

Pentagon: ISIS ‘Operationally Active’ in Afghanistan

by Jason Ditz

Delivering its bi-annual assessment of Afghanistan to Congress, the Pentagon today warned that the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan has progressed beyond its “initial exploratory phase to a point where they are openly fighting the Taliban for the establishment of a safe haven, and are becoming more operationally active.”

Previously, officials had downplayed talk of ISIS in Afghanistan being more than a passing branding effort by some disaffected figures in the Taliban, but growing in-fighting in the Taliban, and the ISIS affiliate asserting itself with some territory of its own, appears to be shifting this perspective.

Gen. John Campbell, the US commander in Afghanistan, confirmed that the ISIS faction is growing, and is trying to establish itself out of the city of Jalalabad, saying that there are growing numbers of foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria showing up on the ground there.

With the Taliban’s leadership still in disarray, a situation that has grown even worse, and with two factions vying for leadership in the Taliban, ISIS is offering a unified alternative for recruits, giving them a potential new pool of fighters.

Senate Passes Revised Military Spending Bill, Obama Will Sign

by Jason Ditz

In a 91-3 vote, the Senate has approved the revised military spending bill for 2016 that was also passed by the House last week. The bill offered less than 1% cuts from the previous bill and retained restrictions on releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Though it had previously threatened a veto of the bill, the White House today affirmed that President Obama will sign the bill as currently presented, suggesting the trivial cuts were sufficient. Likely, however, the shift is a function of both houses having a veto-proof majority on the bill.

Previous suggestions were that some in the Senate wanted to revise the bill to open up more avenues for releasing Gitmo detainees, though this ultimately did not happen, and the White House seems to be totally fine with it, despite complaining for months about those restrictions.

Instead, the White House now says they want “cooperation” on Congress on closing Guantanamo Bay, but that they intend to keep this totally separate from the military spending bill, which itself has for years been chock full of restrictions on the promised closure.

Pentagon Vows More Weapons Drops to Syrian Rebels

by Jason Ditz

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren today announced that the US intends to carry out more weapons airdrops in the Hasakeh Province of northeastern Syria, claiming the “Democratic Forces” faction has achieved massive gains in the weeks since they dropped their last batch of arms there.

The Democratic Forces have been hyped by the US as a major new force against ISIS, though most analysts agree the group exists “in name only” and simply refers to the Kurdish YPG and a few mostly irrelevant allies. Interestingly, the US claim of success is the first claim that any major territory has changed hands in Hasakeh recently.

Warren said the territorial gains “validate” the program, and that the US intends to send more weapons to “reinforce success,” though again the claim of territorial gains does not appear to be verified by any other sources, and even the Kurds aren’t claiming new victories in the area.

The planned weapons drops come amid talk of the US embedding a handful of ground troops in the “Democratic Forces” in the area, which suggests the intention of throwing more arms at the group is in part an intention to prop up the YPG forces ahead of embedding with them.

Pentagon: Syrian Kurds Didn’t Recover Any Airdropped Arms

By Jason Ditz

Adding to the confusion about who exactly this week’s US airdrops of weapons into Syria’s Hasakeh Province actually targeted, the Pentagon today issued a statement insisting the “Arab groups” they targeted successfully got all of the aid, and hadn’t shared it with anyone.

The statement was directed at media reports that the Kurdish YPG, the largest faction in Hasakeh and a US ally, had recovered some of the gear, and the Pentagon seems to be trying to reassure Turkey, who is outraged at the idea of Kurds armed by the US, that this didn’t happen.

Totally unanswered, however, is who exactly the US arms went to, as these “Arab groups” that the Pentagon keeps referencing are never named, and so far don’t seem to be actively fighting in the Hasakeh Province in any meaningful way.

The “Arab Groups” were also referred to in some statements as the Syrian Arab Coalition, and was claimed to have included tribal factions as well as an unnamed Assyrian Christian militia. The YPG, however, claimed to have joined this faction; claimed to have renamed it the Democratic Forces; and claimed to have been promised arms by the US.

Turkey has been warning both the US and Russia that they won’t tolerate any cooperation of any kind with Kurdish factions, and Russia has since assured them they aren’t providing any direct armament to the Kurds, though they are said to be backing them in anti-ISIS operations.

Confusion as Pentagon Arms Syrian ‘Arab Groups’

by Jason Ditz

After ditching the $500 million “train-and-equip” program, the Obama Administration rapidly started making high-profile pronouncements about new arms shipments to assorted rebel factions. Dubbed “Arab groups” in Pentagon statements, the program is creating a lot of confusion, primarily over who they’re arming.

“Arab groups” aren’t really a specific thing in a largely Arab country like Syria, and while some airdrops were reported in Hasakeh Province, Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions openly talking up terrorist attacks are also claiming stepped up shipments of missiles from the US.

The Pentagon doesn’t seem to be really specific about anything involving this new program. Yesterday, they insisted that the rebels don’t need to be vetted because they’re fighting ISIS, but today they assured al-Jazeera that the unnamed leaders of these unnamed groups were vetted.

But if so, why is the US so desperate to keep these factions a secret? A lot of tiny factions across Syria style themselves as US-backed groups, mostly recipients of CIA weapons in years past, and while a lot of them assumed they’d be the recipients of this major new armament effort. A lot of them don’t seem to be in the mix so far though.

Somewhere along the line, some of those arms are probably going to start flowing toward the Kurdish YPG, and that’s going to start a whole new round of arguments with Turkey, which has repeatedly warned the US against arming the Kurds, even though the YPG is the primary faction in Hasakeh, and fighting ISIS.

In the meantime, however, the US airdrops remain shrouded in mystery, with assurances that whoever the US intended to arm was armed, and expectations that those factions, whoever they are, are going to do something at some point.