Saturday, April 25, 2015

Russian troop build-ups - Mariupol and Kharkiv

Mariupol

National Post reports " ... One focus of the build-up appears to be the port of Mariupol, the second biggest city in Donetsk with a population of 500,000. Mariupol was under separatist control until last August when it was retaken by Ukrainian forces. The city lies on the E58 highway running between the Russian border and Crimea, the region annexed by the Kremlin last year. Capturing Mariupol would help Russia to seize an overland link to Crimea. Ukrainian sources claimed that rebel artillery and tanks fired at government forces in Shyrokyne, a village on the front line near Mariupol, on Wednesday.

Kharkiv

The US said Russian troops were also massing 300 miles further north in the border area opposite Kharkiv, a Ukrainian city that has remained under Kiev’s control throughout the crisis. The latest military movements suggest that Russia’s aim would be to threaten Kharkiv and Mariupol simultaneously...."

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/russian-troops-amassing-in-eastern-ukraine-represent-largest-military-presence-along-border-since-October

Odessa

Also this article from Newsweek further elaborates on Kharkiv and on Odessa far to the west. http://www.newsweek.com/odessa-holds-its-breath-invasion-324794 It suggests May 9 Victory Day could be critical in Kharkiv and May 2nd in Odessa as an anniversary of a major killing last year.

Dnipropetrovsk

... In Dnipropetrovsk, which is 218 miles southwest of Kharkiv and 200 miles west of the front lines), the recent departure of the city’s mayor, oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, has residents on edge. Kolomoisky is credited by many with preventing a separatist takeover last year.
“When things started happening in the East, they tried it here,” said Soslan Bekoev, 39, a lawyer in Dnipropetrovsk. “There were people in the streets waving Russian flags. But Kolomoisky blocked off the city, and the agitators couldn’t get in.”
Under pressure from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Kolomoisky stepped down from office on March 25 after he used his personal guards to take over the Kiev offices of two companies in which he held interests, as a protest against efforts by the parliament to regulate his business affairs.
Some residents claim his departure has left the city vulnerable to pro-Russian separatists, who might look to seize advantage of a power vacuum and divided loyalties in the local government...." 
 
Just a note, but Dnipropetrovsk is just off the E105 about midway.
 
Black Sea Navy

"...
Russia's navy could strike Ukraine from the Black Sea, but it doesn't have enough manpower to launch a large-scale landing. That is according to the Chief of Staff of Ukraine's navy, Rear Admiral Andriy Tarasov.
Rear Admiral Andriy Tarasov, Ukrainian Navy: "The first thing the airborne assault brigade has to do is to conquer the sea. The second thing to do is to conquer the airspace and in order to have the opportunity to arrange ‘surprise' attacks. If one of these tasks is not fulfilled, the airborne assault operation will inevitably fail. This is a very difficult type of operation. Of course, troops are most vulnerable while crossing the sea. They have no protection at sea, so that they are fully open during landing."
Ukraine has been busy bolstering its defences. The military has planted mines near the coast on the Black Sea to prevent the Russian equipment from advancing on land...." http://uatoday.tv/geopolitics/ukrainian-navy-says-russia-could-strike-from-the-sea-418531.html

E105 Highway

I'm certainly no expert but if these troop concentrations are correct then the road E105 south from Kharkiv and the road M14 west from Mariupol will be key and they link at Melitopol on the route to the Crimea.





starts from Hesseng, (just south of Kirkenes), Norway and runs along Russia's M18, M10, M2: Ukraine's M20, M29, and M18 to Yalta, Crimea (disputed territory). Russians call this the Crimea Highway (Крым шоссе). - Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_route_E105  This is a 2870 km long road.  Of some interest and in passing note, the Norwegians have declined to complete the bridge between Russia and Norway of the E105.  Or at least it is delays for several years. http://barentsobserver.com/en/borders/2015/04/norway-delays-bridge-building-russia-road-crimea-23-04

John Boyd Patterns of Conflict Part 1


John Boyd Patterns of Conflict Part 2


Geographically splitting up the IS task in Iraq between US and Iranian backed militias


Reviewing recent news it would appear that the US is focusing on pushing IS out of Baiji and that Lebanese Hezbollah Brigade has been called in to help Shia forces hold parts of Ramadi from being overrun by ISIS.

U.S. Focuses On Protecting Iraq's Largest Refinery From IS

The top U.S. general says the United States is focusing a lot of airborne intelligence, surveillance, and aerial bombing on Baiji, home to Iraq's largest refinery, which the Islamic State (IS) extremist group has been targeting for months.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on April 16 that IS militants, who already control the northern town of Baiji, have "penetrated the outer perimeter" of the oil compound.
"The refinery itself is at no risk right now, but we're focusing a lot of our ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] and air support there," he said.
Dempsey indicated that he is more concerned about protecting Baiji than the western city of Ramadi, where IS fighters were reported to be closing in on the city center.... http://www.rferl.mobi/a/iraq-ramadi-battle-shiite-milita-is-militants/26961449.html

Hezbollah Brigade in Ramadi

Hezbollah Brigades, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, is deploying forces to the western provincial capital of Ramadi to fight off an Islamic State offensive. The Iranian-backed Shiite militia continues to promote past attacks against US forces on its official website.
Hezbollah Brigades has begun to release videos of its fighters operating in the western city, which has been contested for the past year. The Islamic State stepped up its offensive in Ramadi earlier this week. [See LWJ report, Islamic State launches assault on Ramadi.]
One video, from April 12, shows Hezbollah Brigade artillery units launching rockets against Islamic State forces in the Sijariyah district in eastern Ramadi. The district is considered to be under Islamic State control.
It is unclear how many Hezbollah Brigade fighters have deployed to Ramadi. More than 3,000 Shiite fighters from the so-called Popular Mobilization Committee, or Hashid Shaabi, are being dispatched to the city, according to RFE/RL.

Hezbollah propaganda video of ied attacks on US vehicles in Iraq


X37 4th flight scheduled

 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Keren Yarhi Milo: Knowing the Adversary: Leaders, Intelligence, and Asse...


Special Operations: Iran Takes Aim At Jordan - Strategy Page.com

April 23, 2015: A senior Iranian general recently gave a speech in Iran in which he described Iranian military operations in Iraq and Lebanon as going well and that soon Iran would have a presence in Jordan as well. Apparently the general revealed more than he was supposed to because Iranian diplomats began getting angry messages from Jordan about this. In response Iran said the speech never took place. It was too late for that as many details had gotten out (some via pro-government media in Iran) and all Iranian diplomats could do was attempt some damage control. What this was all about was optimism among Quds Force leaders and their eagerness to share it. To Jordan this Iranian slip makes sense because pro-Iran Syrian rebels recently took control of some of the border with Jordan and Quds personnel were seen to be active along this border area. ...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

ISIS Executes 10 Doctors for Refusing to Treat Wounded Jihadis in Terror Group - The Christian Post

Members of the Takfiri ISIS group in Iraq executed 10 doctors in Mosul on Wednesday as part of their continued terrorism against Christians and other religious and political groups throughout the Middle East.

The doctors were executed in the Hammam al-Alil area south of Mosul after refusing to treat wounded ISIS members, Iraq's al-Sumaria satellite TV network first reported. The doctors reportedly refused to do so because they did not support ISIS' activities; they were then forced to sit and shot in the back of the head. A photograph taken at the exact moment has been widely circulated, confirming the brutality of the radical Islamic jihadists....http://www.christianpost.com/news/isis-executes-10-doctors-for-refusing-to-treat-wounded-jihadis-in-terror-group-137299/

Report: Mosul resistance cell kills key ISIS leader - Rudaw

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – An armed anti-ISIS group operating in the extremist-held city of Mosul has claimed the assassination of the military attache of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State.

“A special force of the Free Officers Movement gunned down Wisan Kanan, Baghdadi’s military assistant, in the Mosul’s neighborhood of  Al  Faisaliah,” Mohammad Bahaj, a member of the Free Officers Movement, told the Al-hadath news on Thursday. ...http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/230420151

-bth: interesting in light of suggestions that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been paralyzed and may have been replaced by ISIS.

Is Isis replacing its 'injured' leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi with a former physics teacher? - The Independent

A former physics teacher who rose rapidly through the ranks of Isis has been named by an Iraqi Government adviser as the man now leading the militant terror group following reports that its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was injured in an airstrike.

Dr Hisham al Hashimi, an Iraqi government adviser, told Newsweek that Abu Alaa Afri, “the self-proclaimed caliph’s deputy”, has been made the temporary leader of Isis while Baghdadi recovers.
“After Baghdadi’s wounding, he [Afri] has begun to head up Daesh [arabic term for Isis] with the help of officials responsible for other portfolios,” he said. “He will be the leader of Daesh if Baghdadi dies.”...http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/is-isis-replacing-its-injured-leader-abu-bakr-albaghdadi-with-a-former-physics-teacher-10199521.html

-bth: the article is worth reading in full.  I haven't seen anything tangible to prove this one way or another.  Rumor is that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is paralyzed from a March air attack.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On Diguising IS artillery as civilian vehicles

.... The video also revealed that the Islamic State appears to have adapted to American airstrikes. Most of the images of artillery, rocket launchers and even heavy anti-aircraft guns mounted on the beds of trucks include a level of camouflage designed to mask the weapons’ positions’ from the air.
A Hezbollah military commander in Lebanon who reviewed the tape at McClatchy’s request said he found one tactic particularly ingenious: a civilian dump truck that had been modified to launch 122 mm Russian-designed Katyusha rockets and that could be covered almost immediately with a tarp for transport to blend in with civilian traffic.
“Hezbollah invented that,” said the commander, who’s fought the Islamic State in Syria but wouldn’t confirm whether he’d worked in Iraq advising pro-government Shiite Muslim militias. “We have spent 30 years learning to hide our weapons from the Israeli air force, and now our enemies have learned to hide their weapons from the Americans.”
The commander, however, was less effusive about the multiple scenes that showed Islamic State fighters gloating over the bodies of Iraqi army soldiers and militiamen.
“They are fanatics and want to die. They’re not as professional as Hezbollah in combat,” said the commander, who asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to talk to a reporter. “But neither are the Iraqis, who are too corrupt and brutal to be professional fighters.”



The video also revealed that the Islamic State appears to have adapted to American airstrikes. Most of the images of artillery, rocket launchers and even heavy anti-aircraft guns mounted on the beds of trucks include a level of camouflage designed to mask the weapons’ positions’ from the air. A Hezbollah military commander in Lebanon who reviewed the tape at McClatchy’s request said he found one tactic particularly ingenious: a civilian dump truck that had been modified to launch 122 mm Russian-designed Katyusha rockets and that could be covered almost immediately with a tarp for transport to blend in with civilian traffic. “Hezbollah invented that,” said the commander, who’s fought the Islamic State in Syria but wouldn’t confirm whether he’d worked in Iraq advising pro-government Shiite Muslim militias. “We have spent 30 years learning to hide our weapons from the Israeli air force, and now our enemies have learned to hide their weapons from the Americans.” The commander, however, was less effusive about the multiple scenes that showed Islamic State fighters gloating over the bodies of Iraqi army soldiers and militiamen. “They are fanatics and want to die. They’re not as professional as Hezbollah in combat,” said the commander, who asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to talk to a reporter. “But neither are the Iraqis, who are too corrupt and brutal to be professional fighters.” Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/04/20/263807/video-of-islamic-state-capabilities.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/04/20/263807/video-of-islamic-state-capabilities.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Michelle Manhart Arrested for Protecting US Flag from Desecration


US Naval Locations

Russia Receives Lowest Approval in World; U.S. Highest - Gallup

http://www.gallup.com/poll/182795/russia-receives-lowest-approval-world-highest.aspx
Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of the leadership of ______?
Russia Biggest Losses in Leadership ratings
Highest Disapproval of Russia's Leadership
Disapproval of EU, U.S., and Germany leadership

-bth; I'm not sure how important world public opinion is to Russia. But I would say that Putin has done an admirable job of pissing off most of Europe in the last couple of years.  I cannot see how this benefits Russia or future economic or peace prospects of all concerned.  He may be a good tactician but he looks like a poor strategist. The survey results are full of detail and worth a read in full.

Taliban, ISIS announce war against each other in Afghanistan - Oslo Times

http://www.theoslotimes.com/taliban-isis-announce-war-against-each-other-in-afghanistan/

April 20, Kabul, Afghanistan: The police chief of southern Helmand province, Nabi Jan Mullahkhel said Sunday that the Taliban and ISIS groups have announced jihad against each other.  Helmand province has been considered the hotbed of the Taliban and also the largest producer of opium. The turf war between the ISIS and the Taliban is not something secret as Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the ISIS has called the Taliban’s leader Mullah Omar “a fool and an illiterate warlord”. Al-Baghdadi who had fought under the banner of al-Qaeda against then Soviet’s troops in Afghanistan, said that Mullah Omar doesn’t deserve spiritual and political credibility. Last week, the Taliban leader ordered its fighters not join the ISIS and never let its flag to be hoisted on Afghan soil however despite that some insurgents are joining the ISIS perhaps for lavish resources and international caliphate ideology. Mullahkhel, said that they have received documents that show both the groups have announced jihad against each other. Reports of clashes between the fighters of the Taliban and the ISIS have not been surfaced yet however the Taliban condemned the suicide blast in eastern province of Nangarhar where 33 people were killed and over 120 injured. The ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attack....

-bth: this would be a very interesting scenario.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State - Spiegel Online

... This blueprint was implemented with astonishing accuracy in the ensuing months. The plan would always begin with the same detail: The group recruited followers under the pretense of opening a Dawah office, an Islamic missionary center. Of those who came to listen to lectures and attend courses on Islamic life, one or two men were selected and instructed to spy on their village and obtain a wide range of information. To that end, Haji Bakr compiled lists such as the following:


  • List the powerful families.
  • Name the powerful individuals in these families.
  • Find out their sources of income.
  • Name names and the sizes of (rebel) brigades in the village.
  • Find out the names of their leaders, who controls the brigades and their political orientation.
  • Find out their illegal activities (according to Sharia law), which could be used to blackmail them if necessary.

The spies were told to note such details as whether someone was a criminal or a homosexual, or was involved in a secret affair, so as to have ammunition for blackmailing later. "We will appoint the smartest ones as Sharia sheiks," Bakr had noted. "We will train them for a while and then dispatch them." As a postscript, he had added that several "brothers" would be selected in each town to marry the daughters of the most influential families, in order to "ensure penetration of these families without their knowledge."
The spies were to find out as much as possible about the target towns: Who lived there, who was in charge, which families were religious, which Islamic school of religious jurisprudence they belonged to, how many mosques there were, who the imam was, how many wives and children he had and how old they were. Other details included what the imam's sermons were like, whether he was more open to the Sufi, or mystical variant of Islam, whether he sided with the opposition or the regime, and what his position was on jihad. Bakr also wanted answers to questions like: Does the imam earn a salary? If so, who pays it? Who appoints him? Finally: How many people in the village are champions of democracy?
The agents were supposed to function as seismic signal waves, sent out to track down the tiniest cracks, as well as age-old faults within the deep layers of society -- in short, any information that could be used to divide and subjugate the local population....
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/islamic-state-files-show-structure-of-islamist-terror-group-a-1029274.html

-bth: this is a fascinating article about the formation of IS from former Iraqi intelligence officers with methods and strategies outlined.  It is well worth a read in full for those interested in IS and where it might be going.
 

Pew first: Gun rights top gun control in major public opinion shift -Wash Examiner

Voters See Growing Rift Between America and Islamic World - Rasmussen Reprot

The number of voters who believe terrorists are winning the fight against the United States and its allies continues to grow, while views of Muslims in general and U.S. relations with the Islamic world have worsened.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 29% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror. That’s down from the 33% measured in March, but still above findings for most of last year. But now 39% think the terrorists are winning the war, up from 33% in the previous survey and the highest level of pessimism since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Twenty-five percent (25%) say neither side is winning. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Confidence in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts hit a high of 62% in February 2009 just after President Obama’s inauguration, then steadily deteriorated until the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 when it rebounded into the 50s. But it had been trending steadily down for most of the past two years.
Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters now believe most Muslims worldwide view the United States as an enemy, up from 39% earlier this year  and tying the highest level last measured in August 2013.  Thirty-three percent (33%) disagree and say most Muslims around the world do not view America as an enemy. Nineteen percent (19%) are not sure. .... http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/war_on_terror_update

-bth: interesting data worth a detailed read in full.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Ukraine War - UAV at Work: Exploration and correction of artillery fire....


Example of Increased Use of Drones in Ukraine

Russian forces and their proxies fired 20 times at Ukraine-controlled positions in the past 24 hours, while employing an alarming number of 30 surveillance drones over Kyiv-controlled territory in war-torn eastern Ukraine.
The drones probed mainly southern Donetsk and northern Luhansk oblasts. Ukraine’s military managed to shoot down one in Luhansk, Andriy Lysenko, military spokesperson, said at a briefing in Kyiv on April 11. ....

-bth: one wonders if an increase in drone activity foretells a new offensive.

http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/ukraines-truce-still-not-holding-as-kyiv-sees-30-probe-drones-in-last-24-hours-385966.html