National Security

Weekly Ops Briefing: U.S.-Mexico Border, Somalia, ODNI Report, Afghanistan, INF Treaty, New Aircraft Carriers, Venezuela, ISIS in Syria

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.

More Troops Deploying to the U.S.-Mexico Border

The Pentagon announced on Sunday that another 3,750 active-duty troops will deploy to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The troops will assist the Department of Homeland Security in constructing and upgrading 150 miles of border fencing while also providing surveillance and monitoring of the border.

Homeland Security requested the additional troops that will likely include engineer and aviation units. There are currently 2,300 active-duty troops and 2,100 National Guard troops deployed to the border.

Airstrike Kills 24 al-Shabaab Fighters in Somalia

The United States continues to escalate the air campaign against al-Shabaab in Somalia, with the latest airstrike on January 30th that targeted an al-Shabaab encampment.

“U.S. forces conducted an airstrike near a terrorist encampment location in the vicinity of Shebeeley [Ceel Barde], Hiran Region, Somalia, on January 30, 2019,” U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced last week.

The airstrike killed at least 24 al-Shabaab fighters, according to an AFRICOM estimate. It is the tenth airstrike carried out by the United States in Somalia in 2019.

ODNI Releases Report on al-Qaeda and the Islamic State

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released its annual overview of the status of the al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terrorist networks.

The report is troubling, as it points out that both terrorist groups continue to maintain global networks that are far from being defeated. Despite almost eighteen years of heavy counterterrorism efforts by the United States and its allies, al-Qaeda still maintains command of its network and its senior leadership remains active around the world.

ODNI’s Worldwide Threat Assessment warns that the Islamic State “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks, and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world, despite significant leadership and territorial losses.”

Taliban Gains Ground in Afghanistan While U.S. Desires a Withdrawal

President Donald Trump has rightfully pointed out that the United States is tired of fighting in Afghanistan, and he has sought a withdrawal of half the U.S. forces in the country. Meanwhile, the Taliban has intensified its efforts to gain control of Afghanistan’s provinces.

Since the summer of 2018, the Taliban has increased its control or influence in at least seven provinces, according to a report by the Special Investigator General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

The Long War Journal has assessed that “the Afghan government controls 35.1 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, and the Taliban controls another 13.0 percent. The remaining 49.6 percent are contested, while seven districts (or 1.7%) cannot be accurately assessed at this time.”

The number of Afghan security forces, already full of endemic corruption and a substandard willingness to fight, continues to shrink. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. airstrikes in the country has increased dramatically during 2018 and will likely continue in 2019.

In Washington, the Senate has voted to oppose a proposed withdrawal of half the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

U.S. Leaving Nuclear Arms Treaty with Russia

The Trump administration has announced that the United States will be withdrawing from a key nuclear arms treaty with Russia that has been in place since 1987, citing Russia’s failure to comply with the treaty.

The withdrawal has sparked fears of a renewed nuclear arms race. The treaty bans all land-based cruise missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

U.S. Navy to Add Two New Aircraft Carriers

The United States Navy signed a contract last month authorizing Huntington Ingalls Industries–Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia to build two new aircraft carriers.

The new Ford-class carriers will replace older Nimitz-class carriers and will cost $12 billion each. The Navy estimates that the new contract will save the Department of Defense $4 billion, and the first carrier, to be named the USS Enterprise (CVN-80), is expected to enter service in 2028.

U.S. Military Intervention in Venezuela on the Table

When asked about the deteriorating security situation in the South American country, President Donald Trump has stated that the United States is still considering military intervention in Venezuela an option.

Russia, Turkey, and China support Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who critics have called a dictator and who President Trump has refused to meet. Maduro ordered all U.S. diplomats out of the country last month and later backtracked. The United States ignored Maduro’s order.

ISIS is Still Capable of Surging in Syria

The Pentagon’s Inspector General issued a grim warning that ISIS is still capable of regaining territory in Syria if the United States withdraws as planned.

“ISIS is regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria, but absent sustained [counterterrorism] pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory,” the report states.

The Republican-controlled Senate last week voted 68-23 on an amendment warning against a “precipitous withdrawal” from Syria. General Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, has stated that he was not consulted ahead of the troop withdrawal announcement.

President Trump has reaffirmed his intention to withdraw from Syria but recently stated that the troops could be shifted to Iraq to watch Iran and be in a position to go back into Syria if the Islamic State regroups there.

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 and, in his spare time, also operates Fittest Travel.

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