National Security

Weekly Ops Briefing: Afghanistan Attack, HMS Queen Elizabeth, U.S.-Saudi Tension, Joint U.S.-Turkish Patrols, Mosque Airstrike

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.

Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Targeted in Attack

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan may have been the target of an attack that killed a powerful police chief in Kandahar on Thursday. General Scott Miller was not injured in the attack but Abdul Raziq, the Kandahar police chief and a powerful ally of Coalition forces, was killed.

Also killed in the attack was General Abdul Momin Hassankhail, the head of the provincial National Directorate of Security (NDS) and two Afghan policemen. The governor of Kandahar Province, Zalmai Wesa, the commander of Maiwand 404 police zone, two Americans, and a Coalition force member were wounded.

One of the Americans wounded in the attack was U.S. Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Smiley, the commander of Train, Advise, Assist Command-South in Afghanistan. The Pentagon confirmed that Brig. Gen. Smiley was shot in the attack but provided no additional details.

According to an Associated Press cameraman who was at the meeting, the delegates had just gathered for a group photo when gunfire broke out inside the compound in which the meeting had taken place. Everyone scattered and the U.S. participants scrambled toward their helicopter.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, saying that General Miller was the intended target. A Taliban spokesman claimed on social media that an “infiltrator” opened fire inside the governor’s house during a meeting.

The attack reflects the deteriorating security situation in much of Afghanistan and the capability and audacity of the Taliban to carry out such attacks.

British Aircraft Carrier Visits New York City

The British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed into New York Harbor on Friday and will remain anchored near the Statue of Liberty for a week.

The $4 billion HMS Queen Elizabeth, nicknamed “Big Lizzie,” is the largest ship ever built for the Royal Navy and carries 1,500 officers and sailors. The ship is 932 feet in length and can carry up to 60 aircraft.

The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Jerry Kyd, called the visit “very symbolic of the intimate relationship the Royal Navy has with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.”

“We are the biggest carrier to go in there for about 50 years,” Captain Kyd said. The U.S. Navy’s larger nuclear-powered Nimitz-class carriers are not allowed to enter New York Harbor.

HMS Queen Elizabeth has been at sea to carry out flight trials with the new F-35B Lightning II, which carried out its first takeoff and landing from a British aircraft carrier last month off the eastern U.S. seaboard.

Tensions Rise Between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia over Journalist Killed

Tensions have been rising between the United States and Saudi Arabia after Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.

Recordings appear to show a Saudi security team detain Khashoggi as he walked into the consulate on October 2nd, the day Khashoggi disappeared. Turkish police have claimed that Khashoggi was detained, interrogated, murdered, and then his body dismembered and removed from the consulate discreetly by the Saudis.

Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and author, has been critical of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, and the country’s king, Salman of Saudi Arabia.

The incident has brought attention to U.S-Saudi relations. U.S. congressional leaders have called for severe consequences for the death of the writer in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Some lawmakers are calling for a break in the United States’ alliance with Saudi Arabia.

President Donald Trump has ruled out cutting arms sales to Saudi Arabia, saying they help the U.S. economy and the move “would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country.” The United States also depends on Saudi Arabia for oil imports and President Trump has said that global oil prices have a big impact on U.S.-Saudi relations.

Joint U.S.-Turkish Patrols to Begin in Northern Syria

Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters this week that U.S. soldiers are currently training Turkish troops and will transition to combined patrols with them in a few days.

The joint patrols will be conducted in and around the northern Syrian city of Manbij and will focus on maintaining peace and stability in the area. Manbij was freed from the Islamic State by Kurdish militias in 2016. Turkey has demanded that the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias withdraw from the area, a point of contention between the United States and Turkey. These joint patrols are part of an effort to ease tensions between Washington and Ankara.

Airstrike in Syria Targets Mosque Used by ISIS

The U.S.-led Coalition to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria confirmed that an airstrike last week targeted an ISIS command and control center in a mosque in Syria.

While mosques are protected under the law of war, the use of the building as a headquarters by ISIS caused it to lose that protected status. The mosque is in the city of Sousa, in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq. Sousa is the last ISIS-held pocket in Syria and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been trying for weeks to clear the area of the extremists.

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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