National Security

Weekly Ops Briefing: Russian Military Exercise, Afghanistan, Weapons Seized, Airstrikes in Yemen and Libya, Niger Ambush, Afghan Traitors

We live in a busy world with a lot of information being thrown at you. Don’t feel overwhelmed. OpsLens will give you a weekly briefing on the major stories you need to know about and cut out all the extra information that isn’t important. Here’s your weekly briefing on what’s going on in national security and military news.

Largest Russian Military Exercise in Forty Years to Take Place

Russia announced this week that the Vostok-2018 military exercise will be the country’s largest military drill in nearly four decades. As many as 300,000 troops are expected to participate during the September 11-15 drill, with troops from China and Mongolia also participating. The exercise will also involve 1,000 aircraft and 900 tanks.

Russian officials have called large-scale exercises in response to what they perceive as aggressive and hostile actions from the United States and European neighbors in recent years.

U.S. military and intelligence officials are concerned over the exercise for many reasons, including the Russian takeover of Crimea in 2014, the recent positioning of Russian troops in Georgia and Moldova, and the participation of Chinese troops.

U.S. General Assumes Command of NATO Mission in Afghanistan

U.S. Army General Austin Scott Miller assumed command of the 41-nation NATO mission in Afghanistan on Sunday.

During the handover ceremony, outgoing General John Nicholson passed command to Miller after holding the post for more than two years. The change of command comes at a fragile point in Afghanistan, where the resurgent Taliban have launched a fresh wave of attacks across the country and have seized control of large areas of the country.

According to The Long War Journal, the Taliban currently control 49 districts in Afghanistan, with another 200 contested. The government of Afghanistan controls 147 districts. “The world recognizes Afghanistan cannot be a safe haven for terrorism, the world recognizes that we cannot fail. I know this has been a long fight, and it has been generations for us, for the Afghan people,” said General Miller.

U.S. Navy Seizes Weapons in Waters Off Yemen

The guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham seized an illicit shipment of arms from a skiff in international waters off Yemen in the Gulf of Aden on August 28.

Sailors from the USS Dunham conducted a visit, board, search and seizure of the stateless skiff and recovered a cache of over 1,000 AK-47 automatic rifles. The original source of the weapons has not yet been determined and they remain in U.S. custody.

“Our ship routinely conducts maritime security operations with our highly-trained VBSS team incorporating both on and off ship intelligence assets to help locate vessels,” said Cmdr. John Hamilton, Dunham’s commanding officer. “Ensuring the free flow of commerce for legitimate traffic and securing the sea lanes of communication continue to be paramount to the U.S. Navy and its regional partners and allies, and I am proud of Jason Dunham’s Sailors for accomplishing the mission.”

U.S. Airstrikes in Yemen and Libya

The United States conducted six airstrikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen between May and August, and another in Libya that targeted an Islamic State terrorist on August 28.

The strikes in Yemen occurred on May 25, June 23 and 30, July 22 and 24, and Aug. 14. The United States has conducted a total of 34 strikes in Yemen in 2018, which marks a drop from the 131 strikes in 2017 if the current pace is maintained.

All of the strikes, except for one, were carried out against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The one exception was a strike on the Islamic State in January.

In Libya, the United States carried out a precision air strike in the village of Bani Walid that killed one Islamic State terrorist, bringing the total number of strikes in Libya this year to five.

“The United States will not relent in its mission to degrade, disrupt, and destroy terrorist organizations and bring stability to the region. We are committed to maintaining pressure on the terror network and preventing terrorists from establishing safe haven,” said a U.S. Forces Africa Command (AFRICOM) press release.

French Airstrike in Mali Kills ISIS Leader Responsible for Niger Ambush

A French airstrike on a terrorist camp in Mali has reportedly killed an Islamic State leader who was responsible for the October 2017 ambush that killed four American soldiers.

The airstrike and a follow-up raid by French commandos were part of Operation Barkhane, France’s counterterrorism campaign in Africa. French forces there include about 3,000 ground troops, 20 helicopters, and a half-dozen jet fighters.

The French commandos that conducted the raid found Mohamed Ag Almouner and his bodyguard dead, along with two civilians. Ag Almouner was a senior leader in the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS).

The October 2017 Tongo Tongo ambush resulted in the deaths of two Green Berets, SSG Bryan Black and SSG Dustin Wright, and two soldiers assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), SSG Jeremiah Johnson and SGT La David Johnson.

American Killed in Apparent Insider Attack in Afghanistan

An American servicemember was killed and another wounded in eastern Afghanistan on Monday. The killing reportedly stemmed from another insider attack, known in the military as a “green-on-blue” attack. These types of attacks typically consist of an Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier turning his weapon on US or NATO troops – the very troops that are there to train the ANA to defeat the Taliban and secure their country.

“The sacrifice of our service member, who volunteered for a mission to Afghanistan to protect his country, is a tragic loss for all who knew and all who will now never know him,” Resolute Support and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan Commanding Gen. Scott Miller said in the news release. “Our duty now is to honor him, care for his family and continue our mission.”

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Chris Castellano

Christopher Castellano is a U.S. Army Veteran. He currently serves as a firefighter in New York City.

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