National Security

Weekly Ops Briefing: KIAs in Afghanistan, Navy Commander Dies in Bahrain, Troops to Stay on Southern Border, ISIS Leader Killed, Russia-Ukraine Tensions, Iran Missiles

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.

Four American Soldiers Killed by IED in Afghanistan

Three American special operations servicemembers, two Green Berets and one Air Force combat controller, were killed by an IED in Afghanistan on Tuesday. A fourth soldier was wounded in the attack and, on Sunday, succumbed to his injuries while at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

The Pentagon identified the men as Army Special Forces soldiers Captain Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, Virginia, and Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Washington. They were both assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Air Force combat controller was Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pennsylvania and assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron out of Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The fourth soldier who was injured in the attack and later died of his injuries was identified on Monday as Sergeant Jason Mitchell McClary, 24, from Export, Pennsylvania. He was an infantryman assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, out of Fort Carson, Colorado.

The four men were killed by an improvised explosive device in the eastern province of Ghazni, an area where heavy fighting has gone on for months as the Taliban have sought to capture more territory. Sources on the ground have reported that the IED blast was large enough to blow the mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle into the air and more than 50 meters down the road.

This year has seen a steady uptick in the violence in Afghanistan and a resurgent Taliban. The deaths of Ross, Emond, Elchin, and McClary bring the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan in 2018 to 14, including five in November, making it the deadliest month this year.

Navy’s Middle East Commander Found Dead in Bahrain

Vice Adm. Scott A. Stearney, the commander of the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet and U.S. naval operations in the Middle East, was found dead in his home in Bahrain on Saturday.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is investigating the death but do not suspect foul play. It has been reported that suicide is believed to be the cause of death.

Admiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, tweeted Sunday: “Team, it’s my sad duty to inform you that today the Secretary of the Navy and I were informed that Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, our commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and commander of U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, was found deceased in his residence in Bahrain today.”

Rear Admiral Paul Schlise, Stearney’s former second-in-command, has assumed command of the Fifth Fleet.

4,000 Troops to Stay Deployed to U.S.-Mexico Border Through January

The Department of Homeland Security has asked the Pentagon to keep active-duty U.S. troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border through Jan. 31, 2019.

The troops will likely continue to provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection with aviation, logistical, medical, and military police support, as they have since they were first sent to the border in October 2018.

While troops are forbidden from carrying out law enforcement duties inside United States territory under the Posse Comitatus Act, Congress can and has granted exceptions for operations supporting border patrol agents.

Senior ISIS Leader Killed in Airstrike in Syria

The United States carried out an airstrike in Syria on Sunday that killed Abu al Umarayn, a senior ISIS leader, and several other ISIS fighters.

Al Umarayn is believed to be responsible for the beheading death of former U.S. Army Ranger and aid worker Peter Kassig in November 2014.

The Islamic State has lost nearly all of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria. They continue to hold onto small pockets in an area along the Iraq-Syria border, known as the Hajin Pocket, and the U.S.-led coalition continues to target its leaders and fighters there.

Ukraine Puts Itself on a War Footing Amid Tensions with Russia

Tensions are high between Russia and Ukraine after the Russian coast guard fired on and seized three Ukrainian ships and their crews in the Kerch Strait on November 25. Kerch Strait is a vital waterway linking the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called for the partial call-up of army reservists to bolster the country’s defenses. Poroshenko has also introduced martial law for much of the country for the next 30 days and placed a ban on the entry of Russian males between the ages of 16 and 60 from entering the country.

President Donald Trump canceled his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 meeting in Argentina over the incident in the Kerch Strait, and the U.S. and its NATO allies have called for Russia to free the Ukrainian vessels and crews.

U.S. Condemns Iranian Ballistic Missile Launch

Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced Iran for test-firing a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads.

The Trump administration has called for tougher sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program and has made accusations that the Iranians violated a United Nations ban on Iranian arms exports by supplying weapons to militants in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

“It is a grave and escalating threat, and nations around the world, not just Europe, need to do everything they can to be targeting Iran’s missile program,” said Brian Hook, U.S. special envoy for Iran.

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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