National Defense Briefs - June 18, 2015

by W. THOMAS SMITH, JR. June 18, 2015

National Defense Briefs

National Defense Briefs is a series aimed at informing readers with timely military and homeland-security news updates, trends, definitions, and short commentaries. FSM highlights the "National Defense Briefs" that matter.

  • This week, the U.S. and Spain signed an agreement dramatically increasing the number of U.S. Marines at Morón de la Frontera airbase in southwestern Spain. Presently, there are 850 Marines - members of the Corps' Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR) - stationed at the airbase. Under the new agreement, the numbers will swell to 3,500 leathernecks. Attached to the U.S. Africa Command, SPMAGTF-CR is a rapid-reaction force manned, trained, and equipped for a variety of contingencies on the African continent.

  • According to U.S. Naval Institute News, "The initial temporary basing agreement with Spain quickly followed the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death of U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens."

  • Suspected war criminal and Sudanese Pres. Omar al-Bashir fled South Africa - where he was attending an African Union (AU) summit - returning to Sudan's capital, Khartoum, despite having been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide related to the conflict in Darfur.

  • According to a policy brief published June 16 by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), "Suspected war criminals scored a victory Monday as [al-Bashir] defied a South African judge's order and fled the country back to Khartoum. Despite two outstanding arrest warrants from the ICC, Bashir landed in Johannesburg on Saturday to attend the AU Summit. In the past, Bashir declined to attend events in South Africa after its government said that it would be obliged to arrest him." [Read -]

  • In what CNN has referred to as "the first significant congressional vote on the war against ISIS," the U.S. House of Representatives defeated a Democrat-led resolution Wednesday that would have forced the administration to withdraw all troops from Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, Business Insider is reporting, ISIS lost what is being referred to as a key "back door" into Turkey this week "when Kurdish forces ran the militants out of Tal Abyad, cutting off the terror army's supply routeofweapons, cash, and foreign fightersinto Syria." The report - quoting FDD's Jonathan Schanzer - adds, "This is a devastating blow to ISIS' operations."

  • Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee, June 17, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, said, "Let me turn to the execution of DoD's two lines of effort, beginning with the U.S.-led campaign of air strikes against ISIL [ISIS] in Iraq and Syria.This effort has produced some clear results - in limiting ISIL's freedom of movement, constraining its ability to reinforce its fighters, and impeding its command-and-control. It has enabled some key achievements for local forces -including the very recent success of anti-ISIL forces who took the key town of Tal Abyad.The strikes are also buying critical time and space to carry out DoD's second line of effort, which is developing the capacity and capabilities of legitimate local ground forces."

  • Sec. Carter added, "The ground campaign is a work in progress. The Iraqi Security Forces were severely degraded after Mosul fell last June, when four divisions dissolved. The combination of disunity, deserters, and so-called ghost soldiers - who are paid on the books but don't show up or don't exist - had greatly diminished their capacity."

  • As we have reported, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (also ISIS), the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and the Islamic State (IS). Many Arab-speaking people refer to ISIS as Daesh, an acronym for Al Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham (the Arabic translation of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham).

  • Lt. Col. (P) Bill Connor, a U.S. Army Reserve Infantry officer (Ranger) and former senior U.S. military advisor in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, recently wrote, "Accompanying indigenous forces with access to overwhelming airpower is the key to winning." Speaking of the first few months of the war in Afghanistan, he added, "Until the U.S. advisory effort became embedded with the Northern Alliance, the war appeared to be at a stalemate. The difference came with the confidence and firepower brought to bear with the [embedded] advisers."

Speaking with Connor this morning [June 18], he says, "In addition to embedding advisers, we should be planning shock-and-awe raid missions with units like Ranger battalions and other special-operations forces." He adds, "The missions should be bold, and directed at ISIS command-and-control in Syria and their lines of communication going into Iraq. The missions should be coordinated with ground offensives by indigenous forces and should involve massive numbers of airstrikes. The effect should be primarily psychological; in other words, let ISIS know we can and will strike anywhere ‘out of the blue.' Keep in mind, the Doolittle Raid against Tokyo in 1942 caused little military damage, but gave us a huge psychological advantage. With these strikes against ISIS, we get both. Additionally, when we show indigenous forces how vulnerable ISIS can be, these anti-ISIS forces will press the advantage with embedded advisers calling-in massive air strikes."

W. Thomas Smith Jr. - a former U.S. Marine rifleman - is a military analyst and partner with NATIONAL DEFENSE CONSULTANTS, LLC. Visit him at

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