National Security

Weekly Ops Briefing: KIA in Afghanistan, Somalia Airstrikes, Troop Rollback in Africa, OPs in Syria, U.S.-Mexico Border, Yemen Airstrikes Decline

You 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.

Army Ranger Killed in Afghanistan

NATO’s Operation Resolute Support announced the death of an American servicemember in Afghanistan on Saturday, and a Pentagon press release on Sunday identified him as Sergeant Leandro Jasso (feature photo), a member of the United States Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment.

Sergeant Jasso, 25, was mortally wounded by small-arms fire while conducting combat operations in Khash Rod district, in Afghanistan’s Nimruz province. He was deployed as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and was on his third deployment to Afghanistan. He is the tenth American servicemember killed in Afghanistan this year.

“Sgt. Jasso was a humble professional who placed the mission first, lived the Ranger Creed and will be deeply missed,” stated Lt. Col. Rob McChrystal, commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

New Round of U.S. Airstrikes in Somalia Targets al-Shabaab Militants

This week, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced another round of airstrikes targeting the extremist Islamic group al-Shabaab in Somalia. Six al-Shabaab fighters were reportedly killed in the airstrikes and a weapons cache was destroyed.

The latest airstrikes bring the number this year to 35, making 2018 the year with the most airstrikes in the east- African nation. There were 31 U.S. airstrikes reported in Somalia last year.

The number of U.S. airstrikes against al-Shabaab have increased steadily since 2007, a year in which there were only two airstrikes reported. The largest increase occurred from 2015 (3) to 2016 (15).

Al-Shabaab remains a very active and dangerous terrorist group in Africa, particularly in Somalia. Several of the airstrikes have targeted Islamic State militants operating in the Horn of Africa.

The U.S. involvement in Somalia has not been restricted to the air. In March 2017, President Donald Trump ordered an increase in the U.S. military’s role in Somalia, authorizing U.S. commanders to move more quickly on drone strikes and raids carried out by special operations forces.

U.S. is Pulling Some Troops Out of Africa

The Pentagon announced this week that the United States will begin pulling 700 troops out of Africa over the next three years, part of a shift in strategy as the U.S. military continues to focus more on the threat from near-peer adversaries like Russia and China.

There are currently 7,200 American troops on the continent, with most focused on operations in Djibouti, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. Counterterrorism operations targeting al-Shabaab in Somalia have been the main effort for AFRICOM during the past year.

A new drone base in Niger is scheduled to open in either 2019 or 2020 and may alleviate the need for many of the troops currently in Africa.

The rollback in troops numbers “preserves the majority of U.S. security cooperation partnerships and programs in Africa to strengthen partner networks, enhance partner capability and support ongoing programs,” a Department of Defense statement indicated.

New U.S. Observation Posts are Going Up in Syria

The United States military is establishing a series of observation posts in northern Syria to help secure the Syria-Turkey border. The area has been a hotspot for fighting between Islamic State militants, members of the Kurdish YPG, the Turkish military, and Syrian Democratic Forces.

“This is a change, now,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced Wednesday at the Pentagon. “We are putting observation posts in several locations up along the northern Syrian border because we want to be the people who call the Turks and warn them if we see something coming out of an area that we’re operating in.”

The observation posts are part of a wider effort by the United States and Turkey, that have included joint U.S.-Turkish patrols, to secure the border area and maintain the focus in Syria on defeating ISIS.

White House Approves the Use of Force for Troops Deployed to U.S.-Mexico Border

The White House signed a memo this week allowing U.S. troops deployed to the border with Mexico to use lethal force, if necessary, and engage in some law enforcement duties.

The new “Cabinet order” was signed by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and allows “Department of Defense military personnel” to “perform those military protective activities that the Secretary of Defense determines are reasonably necessary” to protect border agents, including “a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention, and cursory search.”

There are currently around 5,800 active duty U.S. troops deployed to the border and they have, until now, only performed logistical, medical, aviation, and intelligence support to Customs and Border Protection agents.

There have been concerns about the role of U.S. troops on American soil, most notably the 1879 Posse Comitatus Act, a federal statute that prevents the use of the military in civilian law enforcement. Defense officials have said the language in the order was carefully crafted to avoid the legal limitations set in Posse Comitatus.

Number of U.S. Airstrikes in Yemen is Declining

The Long War Journal has reported a drop in the number of U.S. airstrikes targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen in 2018. Published earlier this month, the report shows a massive decline from the number of airstrikes in 2017 (125) compared to thus far in 2018 (35).

Since 2002, the United States has been conducting both covert and overt military operations to target and kill AQAP militants in Yemen.

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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