Monday, 03 August 2015
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While Jihad Central is located in the Syria-Iraq, area with the Deash self styled Islamic State gaining ground, other potential hotspots have been forgotten. One of them that has rarely been in the news and would surprise most people is Africa's behemoth: not Nigeria, but rather quiet South Africa Because of the clout of the country not only on the African continent but worldwide, links to terrorism could endanger all of us. In February 2015, the United Nations Security Council specifically warned South Africa that terror groups might use the country as an operational base, writes Olivier Guitta

This should not come as a surprise: since as early as the 1990's the Shia terrorist group Hezbollah had training camps in the country and proof of al-Qaeda's presence date back to 1997. al Shabaab, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda have reportedly a presence in South Africa. These groups used the country mostly as a fall-back base with fundraising, recruiting, access to official documents and possibly training as their main activities.Numerous cases of South African passport holders linked to terrorism are highlighting the possible ease by which these documents can be obtained by corruption or forgery.

The UK government will be able to keep to its commitment to spend 2% of national income on defence through to 2020 as a result of both an annual real term increase of 0.5% a year, and significant changes in the UK's calculation of its defence budget for NATO reporting purposes, according to a new RUSI Briefing Paper.

Entitled 'Osborne's Summer Surprise for Defence: Guaranteed Real-Terms Spending Increases', and authored by RUSI's Research Director, Professor Malcolm Chalmers, the paper examines the defence spending announcements made recently in the Budget.

In his Summer Budget on 8 July, Chancellor George Osborne announced that defence would receive annual real-terms increases in its budget of 0.5 per cent a year, to around £38.9 billion by 2020/21. For the first time since 2010, the MOD has become a 'protected' department, with its budget fixed in advance of the Spending Review. As a result, this year's SDSR should be able to avoid the severe capability reductions that were the main feature of the last Review in 2010.

An extract from the French Loi de programmation militaire 2015 also sets a context for the UK's SDSR, currently under way

The update of the military planning law takes into account developments in the strategic context since 2013. However, these developments do not call into question the big strategic defence and national security principles which were announced in the White Book, as well as the balance of the military programme. If the analysis of this reference work has been generally corroborated, the recent crises show a definite deterioration of the international situation and a sustained increase in the risks and threats identified. These require the consolidation of our defence effort.

The January 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris also showed that France, like other European states, is directly exposed to a terrorist threat which has taken on unprecedented size, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. Because this threat does not stop at national borders, these attacks illustrate the growing interconnectedness between the security of the population resident in France and the actions of the country outside its borders.

Faced with militarily armed groups taking control of territory, which constitutes a continuing and serious threat, our forces will, from now on, be widely engaged in challenging military counter-terrorism operations on the ground, in the air and at sea. This militarised terrorist threat constitutes a considerable challenge in the Sahel-Sahara, an area which is as large as our continent, and in Iraq against Daesh. As a result, it requires particular efforts in the areas of intelligence, mobility and the responsiveness of forces.

At the same time, the Ukrainian crisis has re-opened the issue of international security and the integrity of borders on the European continent itself, in a way that has been unprecedented for many years. As part of the reassertion of the collective defence mission of NATO, French forces are participating in insurance measures for the benefit of our eastern allies. The armed forces must therefore maintain their capabilities at a high level, in order to confront the resurgence of "threats of force".

The sudden and simultaneous nature of these developments has meant France's early warning systems have been deployed to a very high level. It has also put its force structure[1] under pressure. The 'operational contracts' ("contrats opérationnels"), which prescribe the capabilities the armed forces may deploy to complete the missions which are assigned to them, have also been reached and even surpassed in several areas.

The priorities, objectives, and balance between the strategic functions are still relevant because they correspond to the future challenges envisaged by the current Loi de programmation militaire (LPM). The triad of "deterrence, intervention, protection" continues to give structure to the actions of the armed forces. These three components must come together to reinforce each other. In addition, the worsening of the strategic situation proves that it would be illusory and dangerous to reduce even the smallest element of our force structure. This is why the defence effort, which has become a priority in the current context, is being increased to take into account the intensity of current commitments and new operational needs. The updating of the LPM also allows adaptations necessitated by the new strategic challenges, in terms of troops and equipment, to be put into place.

[1] The term in the original text is "système de forces". According to the French Ministry of Defence, a "système de forces" brings together homogenous groups of military resources or capabilities, working together to fulfil the same operational objective. The Ministry of Defence states that this approach enables unnecessary duplication to be avoided, the standardisation of systems to be reinforced and the interfaces between programmes to be better specified (Ministére de la Défense, 'Les systèmes de forces', 23 July 2010).

This week, Prime Minister David Cameron heads to Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore to secure trade deals with those countries. Besides this economic mission, he is also expected to talk to the leaders and ministers in those countries about combating the militant group Daesh. He is also expected to talk to them about improving airline security.[1] This extremist group, in it's quest to seize territory, has already ignored nation-state boundaries between Syria and Iraq. There is an extremely high likelihood Daesh or its affiliates may conduct similar activities across Southeast Asia boundaries, believes Jiesheng Li. How exactly can the Southeast Asian nations benefit from UK expertise and does this change anything in UK-Asia Pacific relations?

The improvement in airline security is of course essential as it boosts security and confidence in aviation transport. This threat of terrorist attacks via Man-portable Air Defence (MANPADS) missiles has been real even before the rise this new Islamic militant group—countries were scared that Al Qaeda would launch such attacks after 9/11. Former CIA Director General Petraeus has mentioned the likelihood of a MANPADs attack.[2] Just recently, the RAF Regiment (and possibly the Joint Ground Based Air Defence team) has been training African and Gulf States in airline security. [3] Malaysia itself may not have weak security at its airports, but it may benefit from British expertise, including improvement in airline control and detection, especially after the MH 370 incident.

In the last few months, the progress of all rebel factions in Syria against Assad's regime shows that the Government has lost the lead and that there are signs of weakness. In the streets and souks of Alep and Damascus conversations are about how close looms the end of the Assad dynasty, writes Mariano García Muñoz – and what happens afterwards.

The Assad Government's steadfastness is wavering and the trickle of military corpses is making it more visible. The potential collapse of Damascus' Government is also in evidence because its international sup-porters –Russia and Iran - are beginning to gauge that nothing else can be expected of their Syrian ally already surrounded by Sunni fighters, thanks to the help they are receiving from some Arab countries. The Russian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of Syrian affairs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are preparing their disentanglement from Syria in order to preserve their own interests.

On the other side, the rebel groups in the North, supported by Turkey and Qatar, have joined forces with the Syrian Free Army, under the air umbrella of the United States-led coalition, and are coordinating their advance with the rebel units in the South of Syria supported by Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Promotions, redeployments and retirements in the Armed Forces. One stars on the next page

Brig S K Ridge to be promoted Major General and succeed Maj Gen M D Conway CB as Director Army Legal Services wef September

Brig R J A Stanford MBE to be promted Major General, succeed Maj Gen RMB Nitsch CBE as GOC Support Command

TimbookunnamedPRISONERS OF GEOGRAPHY by Tim Marshall (How politicians operate within the confines of geography) - Reviewed by Nehad Ismail

To understand a political event or a sudden development, a revolution, turmoil, or a major upheaval in a country, you need to know the geography of the country which puts the event in some kind of context. Geography enhances our appreciation of the impact of embargoes, sanctions and even military operations. In his book "Prisoners of Geography" Tim Marshall examines the complex global geopolitical issues which are impacted by geography and the strategic issues which are influenced by geography.

Geography can facilitate conquest, trade and even smuggling. Geography can impede political and economic development. It can protect countries against external invasion.
Geography has played a critical role in shaping Russia and its relations with its neighbours. Russian geography and climate frustrated Hitler and defeated the Nazis.

In 1812 Russia's vastness and bad weather helped to defeat Napoleon. Even now it is a massive task for an invading army just to maintain their supply lines. The further they got into the country, the harder it becomes to keep food, fuel, ammunition flowing. Hitler discovered such realities in 1941. It was easy for Hitler to ponder a map with his commanders, but it is something else to traverse the boundless frozen wastes of Russia.

The vastness created logistical problems including worn out foot soldiers and dangerously overstretched supply lines. It also taxed the ability of the Luftwaffe to provide close cover for advancing ground troops, a vital ingredient in the Blitzkrieg formula which Germany had applied elsewhere in Europe.

In the summer of 2015, Canada has hit the "pause button." "Reset" will come in October with the federal election. At this juncture, polls suggest a numerical toss up with Tories holding statistical advantages due to advantageous distribution of their voters and 30 new seats added in areas regarded as leaning conservative. But considering repeated voter flips in the last several years, don't bet the mortgage money on any party, advises David Jones.

In contrast to the unsettled state of the federal government, recent elections have left the major provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec) enjoying majority governments for the next three-four years. Most interesting is Alberta where a 43-year-duration Tory dynasty was upended in May, replaced by a New Democrat (socialist) party—virtually the political equivalent of a Second Coming for its stunning nature

Quebec is of interest primarily because of the lack of discussion of sovereignty. Previously first on the lips of interlocutors, sovereignty now goes virtually without mention outside Quebec. In hope of galvanizing the sovereignist Parti Quebecois (PQ),members elected a media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau, who will either resurrect the sovereignty movement or complete its marginalization.

For its part, the Canadian Armed Forces are marching in place (see next page). All significant procurement decisions are on hold, explicitly or implicitly. Only if the Tories are re-elected can one anticipate Ottawa going ahead with most currently projected purchases. Operationally, the Army is in best shape with small individual units deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ukraine; the Air Force has F-16s running missions against Daesh (ISIL), but the Navy continues to decline in capability.

Marking the passing of those who have served this country. Comments and additions from comrades and families welcome

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