Military and Police

Weekly Ops Briefing: Reaper Down, Somalia Airstrikes, Yemen Offensive, Classified Ops in Africa, ISIS Militants Killed

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.

Taliban Claims to Shoot Down U.S. Drone in Afghanistan

Taliban militants are claiming they shot down a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (cover photo) in Afghanistan last month; photos of the downed drone have appeared in Taliban propaganda this past week.

The United States has said that the drone experienced a malfunction and crashed in Paktika Province. The drone was supporting Operation Resolute Support when it went down in the southeastern part of the country, a contested area between the U.S.-backed Afghan government and Taliban militants.

“An MQ-9 unmanned aerial system crashed on Oct. 28 at approximately 1:30 a.m. in Paktika province due to engine failure. The UAS was destroyed that evening to prevent capture of sensitive equipment,” U.S. Army Maj. Bariki Mallya, a Resolute Support spokesperson, told Air Force Times.

Reaper drones cost roughly $64.2 million and are equipped with visual sensors for targeting and surveillance missions, infrared sensors, multiple cameras, a laser range-finder, a laser illuminator, and up to four laser-guided AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

Number of U.S. Airstrikes in Somalia Increases

The United States carried out an airstrike against al-Shabaab militants in Somalia on November 3rd, according to a statement released by United States Africa Command (AFRICOM). Four militants were reported killed in the airstrike.

It is the 29th known airstrike by the U.S. in Somalia in 2018, putting this year on course to beat 2017 as 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). Several of the airstrikes have targeted Islamic State militants operating in the Horn of Africa.

Al-Shabaab remains a very active and dangerous terrorist group in Africa, particularly in Somalia. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility on Friday for a series of suicide car bombs in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu. Over 50 people were killed in the suicide bombings and over 100 were wounded.

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.-backed Troops Launch Offensive in Yemen

Troops from a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition attacked positions held by Houthi rebels in Yemen’s port city of Hodeida on Wednesday with airstrikes and began a ground assault that has led to the capture of a major road leading into the city.

The United States has been selling arms to Saudi Arabia and providing logistical and intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition. However, U.S. officials confirmed Friday that the Trump administration will roll back its assistance to Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen. The Defense Department said Friday that the U.S. would stop refueling Saudi fighter planes that have been participating in bombing campaigns that have resulted in thousands of civilian casualties.

Since 2002, the United States has been conducting both covert and overt military operations to target and kill al- Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in Yemen.

New Classified Operations in Africa

According to a new quarterly report on “Operation Inherent Resolve and Other Overseas Contingency Operations” from the Department of Defense Inspector General to Congress, the Secretary of Defense modified existing military orders and designated one counterterrorism mission in the Middle East and two in Africa as overseas contingency operations.

These classified operations seek to degrade al-Qaeda and ISIS-affiliated terrorists in the Middle East and specific regions of Africa, most prominently in Somalia and Niger.

“The Office of the Inspector General submitted a list of questions to the DoD about topics related to the operations, including the objectives of the operations, the metrics used to measure progress, the costs of the operations, the number of U.S. personnel involved, and the reason why the operations were declared overseas contingency operations,” according to the report. DoD provided classified responses to many of these questions, which are unavailable to the public at this time.

An increase in military operations in Africa could be connected to the October 2017 Tongo Tongo ambush that 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.

The DoD informed the Inspector General that “the new contingency operations are classified to safeguard U.S. forces’ freedom of movement, provide a layer of force protection, and protect tactics, techniques, and procedures.”

Operation in Northern Iraq Kills More than 50 Islamic State Militants

U.S. and Iraqi security forces conducted an operation in northern Iraq last month that killed more than 50 Islamic State militants.

Central Command announced this weekend that the operation was conducted on October 30th and 31st in Salahuddin Province and killed 5 Islamic State leaders and more than 50 militants. The Islamic State has lost nearly all of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria but there remain pockets of ISIS-controlled areas along the border between the two countries.

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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