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October 20, 2014

Posts in "Army"

October 17, 2014

Weekly Recap: Elections, Interrogations, Revolts

The holiday made it a shorter week at Five By Five, so this weekly recap won’t hit as many highlights as usual — and will spend a little more time on what others were up to. Full story

October 15, 2014

Chemical Weapons Might be Another Gift for Militants

The New York Times’ blockbuster story about how U.S. forces discovered chemical weapons in Iraq and suffered injuries due to chemical exposure — unbeknownst to the public — is almost sure to provoke congressional overseers of the armed forces and veterans’ affairs. But the story also contains some worrying information that has implications for future U.S. action against the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State or ISIL.

American troops found thousands of warheads after the 2003 invasion, and a large number remain in Iraq — in easy reach of ISIL, the Times reports. Many of the chemical incidents and discoveries took place around a chemical weapons plant known as the Muthanna State Establishment, which was operational in the 1980s.

“Since June, the compound has been held by the Islamic State, the world’s most radical and violent jihadist group,” the Times reported. “In a letter sent to the United Nations this summer, the Iraqi government said that about 2,500 corroded chemical rockets remained on the grounds, and that Iraqi officials had witnessed intruders looting equipment before militants shut down the surveillance cameras.”

The military contends those weapons are old and pose no threat, but the story notes that Iraqi chemical munitions have a habit of staying dangerous after their expiration dates.

The reporting could prove to be another black mark for the government of Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister until this year, that gave ISIL an advantage. The al-Maliki government was also in charge of maintaining the Iraqi armed forces that collapsed as ISIL advanced.

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October 14, 2014

The Army, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan in the Week Ahead

levin002 033114 445x295 The Army, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan in the Week Ahead

Levin on March 31. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

All the hot spots get some attention this week in Washington, D.C., and there is a pair of big multi-day conferences — one of which is already underway. Full story

October 10, 2014

Five By Five Friday Q&A: Dan Perez of America’s Impact

dan perez 240x224 Five By Five Friday Q&A: Dan Perez of Americas Impact

How foreign policy/national security is figuring into the midterm elections is something of a preoccupation around these parts. Dan Perez, executive director of America’s Impact, has his own interest in the matter — he’s part of an organization devoted to increasing the topic’s prominence in the 2014 races, and aiding Democrats on the subject.

This week, America’s Impact joined with several other similarly-minded groups as part of a “6 PAC” event to raise funds for a list of Democratic candidates, featuring Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards (@repdonnaedwards), who is heading up the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program. Perez spoke with Five By Five about his group’s goals and how the 2014 elections have evolved with recent world events (and he just might’ve concluded with a less-than-subtle diss of John Bolton [@ambjohnbolton]). Full story

October 7, 2014

Northrop Grumman Pitches a Modernized Humvee

469168113 2 445x297 Northrop Grumman Pitches a Modernized Humvee

A military Humvee drives by as people cross 16th Street NW in front of the White House after a February winter storm. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Figuring out how to make U.S. military ground vehicles more maneuverable and cheaper while maintaining armor is a big dilemma these days. And the military has been, specifically, looking to upgrade the Humvee for a while. Northrop Grumman wants to tackle some of those issues, a company official said Tuesday, with a new Humvee chassis it plans to show off next week. Full story

September 22, 2014

Congress Vs. ISIS, National Security and the Elections in the Week Ahead

kaine 230 072214 445x280 Congress Vs. ISIS, National Security and the Elections in the Week Ahead

Kaine speaks with a reporter by the Ohio Clock Corridor in the Capitol in July. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A United Nations climate change summit that President Obama is scheduled to visit this week gives the White House a chance to push its fight against the Islamic State group before other countries. And a U.S. visit next week by new Indian prime minister Narenda Modi is giving think tanks and organizations a lot of reasons to hold India-related events in advance.

Then there are the subjects in the headline. Full story

September 17, 2014

Obama Reaffirms No Boots On The Ground But Chatter Continues

A day after the U.S. military’s top officer raised the possibility of boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria, President Barack Obama clarified the administration’s plans during an address to troops at U.S. Central Command.

“As your Commander-in-Chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our Armed Forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq,” Obama said on Wednesday, the day after Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that there could be circumstances under which he’d recommend the president use combat troops to fight the Islamic State.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates seemed inclined to agree with Dempsey, telling CBS This Morning: “The reality is, they’re not gonna be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air, or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces, or the Peshmerga, or the Sunni tribes acting on their own.”

“So there will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy,” he added, noting that to say otherwise “traps” the president.

See below for more commentary and analysis on the issue:

Film Review: What War Feels Like For Soldiers

 Film Review: What War Feels Like For Soldiers

Movie poster for “Korengal: This Is What War Feels Like”

After finishing a deployment at a notoriously dangerous outpost in northeastern Afghanistan, Capt. Dan Kearney recalled what it was like to be stationed there.

“Bad guys come to you so you can kill them,” Kearney says in the film, “Korengal: This is What War Feels Like,” a documentary released in May from the Academy Award-nominated director of “Restrepo.”

Five by Five attended a screening of the film along with a panel discussion, sponsored by New America and featuring the film’s director, Sebastian Junger, Navy veteran Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., Command Sgt. Maj. La Monta Caldwell  and Blayne Smith of the veterans group, Team Red, White & Blue.

In the film, soldiers described themselves as “bait” for members of Al-Qaida and the Taliban when they were on patrol. “I pretty much never thought I’d make it out of the valley alive,” says Spec. Misha Pemble-Belkin.

Over the course of five years, 42 American soldiers lost their lives while deployed to the outpost, which the U.S. shuttered in 2010 after unsuccessful attempts to gain the trust of the locals and to drive off the Taliban and Al Qaida.

“What I want is for viewers to understand the experience of combat by soldiers,” Junger told Five by Five. “Soldiers really don’t debate the merits of the war, the morality of the way, the strategy of the war, they really are focused on the mission that they are given.”

Indeed, your blogger found “Korengal” to be a more personal look into the lives of soldiers than 2010′s “Restrepo.” The film included intricate details like soldiers describing the sound of bullets flying as well as how tedious the terrain was to traverse.

August 18, 2014

Defense Philanthropy, Ukraine Vs. Russia in the Week Ahead

This is the slowest week event-wise of the August congressional recess so far, at least as it pertains to defense and national security. There are, however, a few items of note. Full story

July 28, 2014

Africa, Korea, Gaza in the Week Ahead

With the United States-Africa Leaders Summit starting Aug. 4, there is a preponderance of events about the continent this week in advance. President Barack Obama himself will kick off some of the pre-Summit activities. Africa has been a growing national security concern, given events in Nigeria, Libya and elsewhere.

It’s also the last week Congress is in town for a while. The schedule is a bit ambiguous, but before everyone leaves, there could be action at various levels on a new secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs; legislation addressing the VA’s health care backlog; a bill overhauling the National Security Agency’s bulk record collection programs; and declassification of a report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation and detention practices under President George W. Bush. Full story

July 24, 2014

Gen. Odierno: Russia Stealing From Iran’s Playbook?

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno is suggesting the use of surrogates — like the kind Russia is leaning on in Ukraine — could be the future of warfare. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 9:20 a.m.
Army, Foreign Policy, War

July 21, 2014

Taxpayer Group Knocks Senate Defense Spending Bill

490421347 445x296 Taxpayer Group Knocks Senate Defense Spending Bill

Pilots in a EA-18G Growler complete a nighttime, touch-and-go landing during Field Carrier Landing Practice for the Carrier Air Wing 5 of U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan on May 14. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Taxpayers for Common Sense found fault with the House’s fiscal 2015 Defense spending bill, and the group now has its share of gripes with the Senate’s $549.7 billion version, too, for spending money on programs the Defense Department doesn’t want and adding money beyond what the Obama administration requested. Full story

Medal of Honor Recipient Ryan Pitts, 9/11 Commission, VA Secretary in the Week Ahead

Former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan J. Pitts will be at the White House on Monday to receive a Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama. His story is both heroic and a tale of missteps by superiors, as he fought to fend off a wave of insurgents in Afghanistan in a patrol base in the bloody Battle of Wanat, all while badly wounded by shrapnel himself. Obama is awarding more Medals of Honor to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans than his predecessor, but the process has become slower.

The week’s offerings also include a confirmation hearing for a new leader at the Department of Veterans Affairs, a review of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 Commission report and discussions on the cyber threat, the shape of U.S. Combatant Commands, Iraq and the Navy budget. Full story

July 18, 2014

Russian RD-180 Not the Only Rocket Worry on Capitol Hill

Concerns over the Defense Department’s reliance on the Russian RD-180 rocket engine are just one aspect of the Senate’s worries about foreign-supplied rocket propulsion methods and instances where the Pentagon is counting on one vendor. In a report on the fiscal 2015 defense spending bill the Appropriations Committee approved Thursday, the panel expresses dismay about the overall state of the United States’ ability to produce rocket motors and the department’s tendency to award sole-source contracts. Full story

July 7, 2014

Defense Globalization, Acquisition, Nominations in the Week Ahead

Congress is back in town after the July Fourth holiday, and not entirely coincidentally there’s a great deal of Afghanistan on the schedule this week, from nominations to hearings to events off the Hill. Full story

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