Pakistani military accuses US of intentionally killing troops in Mohmand

From Long War Journal:

The Pakistani military dismissed the US military’s investigation into the cross-border incident that killed 24 Pakistani troops in the Mohmand tribal agency late last November, and accused the US military of intentionally attacking the troops and attempting to cover it up.

The Pakistani military issued a formal report today that attempts to rebut the investigation conducted by Brigadier General Stephen Clark, which was released on Dec. 22, 2011. Clark was assigned to determine the cause of the clash that resulted in the deaths 24 Pakistani officers and soldiers during airstrikes in the Mohmand tribal agency on the night of Nov. 25-26. Pakistan refused to cooperate with Clark’s investigation.

The US report said that Pakistani troops first opened fire with mortar and machine-gun fire, provoking a US response. A series of mistakes by both ISAF and Pakistani troops as well as mutual distrust between the parties led to the deadly firefight, Clark’s investigation concluded.

The Pakistani military’s response, which was released today at the military’s public relations website, called Clark’s report “factually not correct” and accused the US military of intentionally killing Pakistani troops in an “unprovoked attack.”

"It is highly improbable that such a large number of mistakes (as acknowledged in the US Investigation Report) could have been coincidental," the Pakistani military said in one of its conclusions.

The Pakistani military said the US investigation into the “unprovoked attack” was an attempt to “contort the facts and confuse the issue.”

"Not only was the response, not in self defence, it was disproportionate, excessive and sustained which resulted in death of 24 soldiers while 13 sustained injuries," the Pakistani report stated. "The unprovoked engagement thus left behind 7 widows and 16 orphans."

"Sustained aggression which continued for as long as ‘90 minutes’ despite US / ISAF being informed about the incident at multiple levels by Pakistan Military within minutes of initiation of US / ISAF fire, belies the ‘self defence’ and ‘proportional use of force’ contention," another of the report’s conclusions stated.

Additionally the Pakistani military accused Clark’s report of intentionally manufacturing evidence of Pakistani military uniforms that were found during the raid on the Afghan village where the clash took place.

"To justify the grave US / ISAF excesses committed on the night of 25/26 November, the Investigation Report tries to contort the facts and confuse the issue," the Pakistani report said.

"Moreover, reports of discovery of Pakistani Law Enforcement Agencies uniforms from Maya Village after the end of Operation SAYAQA is an unconvincing attempt to cover the US / ISAF attacks by giving a misleading impression that Pakistani soldiers on Volcano and Boulder posts may well have been mistaken by US / ISAF to be anyone else," the report stated later.

The Pakistani military also denied one of the key assertions made by the US - that Pakistani forces first opened fire on US and Afghan troops inside Afghanistan. Instead, the Pakistani military claimed the Pakistani troops “were defending against an unprovoked attack.”

"In an effort to provide justification for US / ISAF actions, the Investigation Report has gone to extreme lengths to construct the whole incident as an act of ‘self defence’ and the force used by US / ISAF / NATO as legal and proportionate," the Pakistani report stated. "At no stage did the Pakistani Posts fire on, or in the direction of the Helicopter Landing Zone or the route from Helicopter Landing Zone to Maya Village."

In the final conclusion, Pakistan refused to accept any responsibility for what happened in Mohmand, and instead said the US and ISAF are fully to blame.

"There have clearly been several failures on the part of US / ISAF / NATO (as acknowledged in the US Investigation Report)," the report concluded. "Trying to affix partial responsibility of the incident on Pakistan is, therefore, unjustified and unacceptable."

The Pakistani report is sure to further sour US/Pakistan relations, which are at an all-time low since the Mohmand clash. Pakistan closed down NATO’s supply routes for Afghanistan; ejected the US from the Shamsi Air Base, where drone strikes against al Qaeda were staged; and has said it is reevaluating its cooperation with the US in the War on Terror. The US placed the drone program on hold for 55 days before targeting al Qaeda on Jan. 11. There have been two other strikes since.

Norway, Netherlands Look to F-35 Cooperation

From DefenseNews:

European nations that expect to buy F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are looking to jointly train crews and maintain and upgrade aircraft, much as some countries that fly F-16s do.

Various governments are already meeting to discuss a “smart defense” program built around the new Lockheed Martin jet, Norway Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide said Jan. 12 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Potential partners include Italy and Turkey, but the nations’ varying purchase schedules make coordination difficult, Barth Eide said.

Still, other countries share Norway’s vision.

"I have asked Denmark and Norway to think about cooperation regarding the fighter plane that will replace our F-16," Netherlands Defense Minister H.E. Hans Hillen said the same day at the Atlantic Council.

"By doing so, we, the three countries, can build on the existing cooperation between F-16 nations that are also considering the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35, as its successor," Hillen said. "So we can hopefully continue to achieve higher levels of cooperation in the fields of acquisition, maintenance and perhaps even in the field of operations."

Hillen spoke of potential F-35 partnerships with Italy and Belgium.

"This is one example of how far the Netherlands is prepared to go in cooperation with other countries in order to keep up NATO military capabilities," he said.

Barth Eide said Oslo has made a “decision in principle” to buy four initial F-35s, and plans a fleet of 48.

Norway made a “complex set of simulations” that showed that while conventional non-stealthy aircraft like the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and next-generation Saab Gripen are adequate for wars like Afghanistan where there is a permissive threat environment, only the F-35 was suitable to fight a high-end adversary. Barth Eide, without mentioning a country by name, said that such a high-end threat existed in Norway’s vicinity.

"There was only one aircraft that would do," he said.

Barth Eide said that while such a conflict may not be likely, it is still theoretically possible, and as such, Norway needs to invest in weapons that could fight a sophisticated foe.

The concept of “smart defense” - which calls for European nations to pool their resources to become a larger buyer of a particular system, lowering the unit cost - is gaining ground in Europe as defense funding levels decline and other economic problems mount.

But the idea is not new.

Barth Eide cited the F-16 fighter flown by Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, Netherlands and Norway. The governments cooperate extensively on logistics, upgrades and training.

And he said that was simply one example of a host of procurements where Norway is partnering with allied nations.

Barth Eide said the shared experience showed its worth over Libya, where it was apparent which allies regularly trained together. During that campaign, NATO provided air support for Libyan rebels seeking to topple the government.

However, the defense minister said he was not optimistic that “smart defense” could be achieved in the near term because there is an upfront cost. Moreover, it could take more than a decade for the concept to yield dividends, he said.

Norway: NATO Losing Self-Defense Ability

From DefenseNews:

NATO’s ability to defend member nations against aggression by a conventional enemy force may be atrophying, Norway’s Defense Minister said Jan. 13.

"Article 5 is not in such a good shape," said Espen Barth Eide, speaking before an audience assembled at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "I’m not talking about political will, but the actual ability to deliver if something happens in the trans-Atlantic theater of a more classical type of aggression."

Exercises have shown that NATO’s ability to conduct conventional military operations has markedly declined, Barth Eide said.

Not only is NATO’s ability to defend its member states questionable, it might actually deteriorate further as financial pressures in Europe and the U.S. force cuts in military spending.

"I think we’re getting worse at it because of the many cuts happening in a lot of European countries," the minister said. "If we’re not smart, [defense cuts] may lead to a further weakening of the core ability to defend ourselves."

If NATO’s core ability to defend itself is weakened, the alliance’s ability to conduct out-of-area operations like Afghanistan will also wither away, Barth Eide said.

NATO has to strongly reassert Article 5 of the treaty and the decline of conventional capabilities has to stop, he said. The focus needs to shift away from large armies conducting stability operations to the air and sea, he added.

Norway, however, is bucking the trend with a growing defense budget and modernization programs that have seen the oil-rich northern European power purchase Aegis combat system-equipped warships, new intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance systems, and eventually new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters.

"We’re purchasing the F-35," Barth Eide said. "Hopefully, we’ll get it."

Norway made a “complex set of simulations” which showed that while conventional non-stealthy aircraft like the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, and next generation Saab Gripen are perfectly adequate for wars like Afghanistan where there is a permissive threat environment, only the F-35 was suitable to fight a high-end adversary. Barth Eide, without mentioning a country by name, said that such a high-end threat existed in Norway’s vicinity.

"There was only one aircraft that would do," he said.

Norway has made a “decision in principle” to buy four initial aircraft, and plans a fleet of 48.

Barth Eide said that while such a conflict may not be likely, it is still theoretically possible, and as such, Norway needs to invest in weapons that could fight a sophisticated foe.

Norway advocates the concept of “smart defense”, Barth Eide said. Under the concept, nations would pool their resources to become a larger buyer. But the idea is not new; Barth Eide cited the Europeans’ F-16 fleet where Norway, Portugal, Denmark, Netherlands, and Belgium cooperate on logistics, upgrades and training together extensively.

The shared experience showed its worth over Libya, Barth Eide said, where it was apparent which allies regularly trained together. However, he said he was not optimistic that “smart defense” could be achieved in the near term.

However, the F-35 program offers the potential for a similar arrangement to be created amongst the European operators of the new stealth fighter, he said. Meetings are taking place among those would-be European F-35 nations, Barth Eide said. The problem, however, is that each nation has its own decision cycles which are not in synch with each other.

German Eurofighters Await NATO Alert Role

From Ares:

With the start of the new year, Germany will have its Eurofighter force ready to support the NATO Response Force if the capability is called on during a crisis. 

The operational readiness was validated during a NATO exercise last month, the German air force says.

The fighter wing JG74 began preparing for NRF more than a year ago, which will see the unit ready to contribute with 300 personnel and six aircraft on standby (four would likely be deployed) to support the alliance’s rapid response mission. The goal is to be able to deploy the detachment anywhere in the world within ten days.

The alert phase will last a full year; previous NRF rotations lasted merely six months.

5,000 Surface-to-Air Missiles Secured in Libya

From Defense News:

SIDI BIN NUR, Libya - A top U.S. official said Dec. 11 that a team of U.S. and Libyan bomb-disposal specialists has secured about 5,000 surface-to-air missiles stockpiled during the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

"We have identified, disbanded and secured more than 5,000 MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems), while thousands more have been destroyed during NATO bombing," Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs told a group of reporters.

Dozens of these missiles were detonated in the sea, off the coast of Sidi Bin Nur village, east of Tripoli, as Shapiro, one a one-day visit to Libya, witnessed the event from the shore.

A joint U.S. and Libyan team of bomb-disposal experts has been working for several months now to find these missing missiles which are seen as potential threat to civil aviation. Gadhafi had a stockpile of 20,000 shoulder-fired missiles before the revolt against him broke out in February.

"We are working side by side with the TNC to reduce the threat of these loose weapons," Shapiro said after talks in Tripoli with officials from the ruling National Transitional Council, the interior and defense ministries.

There is a “serious concern about the threat posed by MANPADS … about the potential threat MANPADS can pose to civil aviation. However our efforts witht he NTC to reduce these threats are already paying off.”

Shapiro said contractors on the ground were still in the process of assessing how many missiles are still missing. Libya, under Gadhafi, was reportedly the country with the biggest stock of MANPADS outside of nations that produce these weapons.

The missiles, mainlySAM-7, were acquired in the 1970s and 1980s.

Shapiro said the United States has already spent $6 million in its efforts to secure these weapons.

French Numbers from Libya

From Ares:

The French Defense Ministry today issued some figures from what the French had codenamed “Opération Harmattan” in Libya.

Involved in the Libyan mission were five Rafales and one Harfang unmanned air vehicle based at the Sigonella air base in Sicily, and, based at La Sude air base in Crete, six Mirage 2000-Ds, four Mirage 2000-Ns, four Mirage F1 CRs, an E-3F (AWACS) and a C-135 tanker aircraft.

The aircraft flew a total of 27,000 flight hours in 5,600 sorties. These were broken down into:

  • 3,100 offensive sorties

  • 1,200 reconnaissance sorties

  • 400 air defense sorties

  • 340 airspace control sorties

  • 580 refuelling sorties

  • These sorties accounted for 25% of the coalition sorties, 35% of the offensive missions and 20% of the strikes — including the one which led to Colonel Muammar Gadaffi’s death on Oct. 20.

    About 4,200 men and women from the air force, navy and army were involved.

    At sea one tanker vessel, three frigates and one nuclear-powered attack submarine accompanied the BPC Mistral class multimission vessel and its air mobility group (18 helicopters).

    These helicopters accounted for 90% of the coalition strikes. They undertook about 40 raids during which 450 targets were destroyed. The French helicopter strike group always included 2 Tigers and then a combination of six to eight other helicopters chosen from the four Pumas, eight Hot Gazelles, two Canon Gazelles and two Mistral Gazelles.

    These helicopter figures prompt the question: where were the British helicopters?

    German Defense Cuts: Losing Helos, Eurofighters, and Pumas while Euro Hawk Spared

    From Ares:

    Germany’s new defense minister, Thomas de Maiziere, has been quietly going about his business trying to implement the reform program for the country’s military.

    De Maiziere may lack the public profile of his predecessor – Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who had to step down for plagiarizing in his doctoral dissertation – but according to German industry watchers, the new man at the top has brought a new level of nose-to-the-ground seriousness to the task.

    One of the big issues industry has been waiting for is to learn how the changes in end-strength will filter down into procurement plans. Last year, an €8 billion list of program cuts was already circulating and now, according to German reports, a new one list is making the rounds.

    Here’s what is apparently on the chopping list: 37 Eurofighter Typhoons to limit the current procurement to 140 units, 42 NH90 transport helicopters, capping the buy at 80 rotorcraft, and 40 Tiger attack helicopters, halving the procurement objective.

    The ground vehicle arena also is hit, with 60 Puma infantry fighting vehicles in the crosshairs.

    The Euro Hawk, recently unveiled publicly in Germany before the first prototype is delivered to the air force next year, would apparently be exempted.

    U.S. Warship Visits Georgia Despite Russia Anger

    The last time America got comfortable parking its heavy steel in Georgia, South Ossetia ended up staging an early fireworks party for the Beijing Olympics. Post-war, NATO began the maintenance of a constant force in the Black Sea under the guise of humanitarian aide and routine training. Russia has remained irked, constantly making sure we remain read-up on the Montreux Convention that limits the number, tonnage, and duration of visit of naval vessels of war.

    According to the article below, we’re sending the USS Philippine Sea (CG-58). I’m not familiar with the capacity or capabilities for humanitarian aid found onboard a Flight II Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, but I doubt Putin is about to take his shirt off and board it.

    From Defense News:

    A U.S warship arrived Oct. 17 in Georgia’s Black Sea port of Batumi for exercises with the country’s coast guard, the U.S. embassy said, in the latest of a series of such calls which have angered Russia.

    The guided missile cruiser Philippine Sea’s “regularly scheduled” port call will include “combined training exercises with the Georgian Coast Guard,” the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi said in a statement.

    "This visit serves to continue U.S. 6th Fleet efforts to build global maritime partnerships with Black Sea nations and improve maritime safety and security," the embassy said.

    U.S. warships delivered humanitarian aid to Georgia after the Caucasus nation fought a brief war with Russia in August 2008.

    Moscow has criticized the decision to send the sophisticated warships, saying it might contravene international conventions and that the ships were unsuited for aid missions.

    Naval Mine Countermeasures

    Think Defence has a comprehensive article on the UK and NATO’s mine countermeasure systems as well as the threats the alliance currently faces. 

    Some highlights are below. The article itself contains a number of informative videos and infographs related to NATO’s MCM systems.

    Why MCM matters:

    The sea mine is the IED of the maritime environment, cheap, easy to deploy and with a tactical and strategic effect out of all proportion to the resources expended.

    NATO’s Mine Countermeasures Group 1:

    Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) formerly known as Mine Countermeasures Force Northern Europe (MCMFORNORTH) and before that as Standing Naval Force Channel (STANAVFORCHAN) was formed in Ostend on 11 May 1973. It is one of two standing mine countermeasures forces maintained by NATO. Area of operations includes the waters of Europe from the North of Norway to the Mediterranean and from the Irish Sea to the Eastern Baltic Sea although it has also operated beyond these boundaries. As with most NATO forces, operational command rotates through the contributors to the force, these being Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, and United Kingdom (providing ships on a continuous basis) and Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as other commitments permit.

    On the RN’s MCM systems:

    The current RN MCM fleet consists of the Sandown-class (single role mine hunting) with the variable-depth multi-mode 2093 and the Hunt class (sweeping and mine hunting) fitted with the hull-mounted 2193. Supporting NATO operations, amphibious operations, securing Sea Lines of Communication, providing harbour defence and clearing legacy munitions the current fleet (even accepting recent reductions) is highly effective.

    Recent introductions include the Hydroid Remus 100Remus 600 and Atlas Elektronic Seafox C unmanned systems. The Hydroid systems, the larger Remus 600 is called the Recce UUV, support detection and classification whist the Seafox C is a compact disposable one shot neutralisation UUV. Ultra Electronics delivered the Seafox system in partnership with Babcock for the Royal Navy. Seafox was instrumental in the clearance operations for Operation Telic around Umm Qasr.

    Mine Threat and Mine Countermeasure/Survey Missions:

    Expeditionary Missions, mines are a basic sea denial weapon, their objective is not necessarily to sink ships but deny movement. Clearing Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) and supporting amphibious operations are the most common expeditionary requirement. The objective may not always be the complete neutralisation of all mines but to provide assured access or an acceptable level of risk.

    Accurate surveys will be required for most expeditionary operations, especially amphibious.

    National Missions, when looking at this subject we should not forget the legacy of old sea mines and other unexploded ordnance. Any new capability must still be able to counter these old fashioned but no less deadly threats. In addition, harbour and port clearance are national missions.

    Accurate ‘charting’ is essential to safe navigation and operations for both surface and sub surface equipment. This mission is carried out on a routine (the sea bed is constantly changing) and reactive basis.

    Threats, the diversity of mine threats creates a significant challenge.

    Environments include the surf zone, very shallow water, shallow water and deep water.

    Types of device include surface, anti invasion, buried, partially buried, moored contact, bottom influence, moored influence, floating contact and rising influence. These can range in sophistication from very simple WWI vintage devices to the latest mobile intelligent devices that use a variety of initiation methods.

    Emerging Threats and the Modern, Future-Looking, High Performance MCM:

    Also, the UK-French cooperation meme is alive and well when it comes to MCM:

    The UK and French Governments have formally agreed to work together in a number of areas including mine countermeasures so we can expect to see some interesting developments in the next few years as programmed converge and technologies mature.

    It seems the direction of travel at the minute is to mature systems in parallel with existing systems and create a platform agnostic capability that can be rapidly deployed on a number of vessels.

    If you’re interested in the current capabilities and capacity of NATO’s MCM, or what threats we’ll face in the future.

    AFRICOM Commander Sees End to Libya Mission

    From Marine Corps Times

    Army Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, told The Associated Press that American military leaders are expected to give NATO ministers their assessment of the situation during meetings late in the week.

    NATO could decide to end the mission even though ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi is still at large and his forces are still entrenched in strongholds such as Sirte and Bani Walid.

    NATO’s decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, agreed on Sept. 21 to extend the mission over the oil-rich North African nation for another 90 days, but officials have said the decision would be reviewed periodically.

    Ham said that the National Transitional Council and its forces should be in “reasonable control” of population centers before the end of the NATO mission, dubbed Unified Protector. He said they are close to that now.

    When NATO makes its decision, Ham said he believes there would be a seamless transition of control over the air and maritime operations to U.S. Africa Command. At least initially, some of the military surveillance coverage would remain in place.

    “We don’t want to go from what’s there now to zero overnight,” Ham said. “There will be some missions that will need to be sustained for some period of time, if for no other reason than to offer assurances to the interim government for things like border security, until such time that they are ready to do all that themselves.”