Thursday, August 31, 2017

Australia Offers Military Assistance To Philippines In Their Battle Against The Islamic State

Australian troops would be advising in Marawi City, where Islamic State terrorists have been most active. (Reuters: Romeo Ranoco)

ABC News Online: Australian special forces closer to helping Duterte's troops in battle against Islamic State

Defence Minister Marise Payne will visit the Philippines next week for more talks about sending special forces troops to the Philippines.

Earlier today Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's office confirmed that the Philippines had accepted Australia's offer of help, but Ms Bishop has since clarified that it has not yet been formally agreed.

Senator Payne's office said discussions were ongoing with the Philippines Government.

She will have talks in Manila next week with her counterpart Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Read more ....

More News On Australia Offering Military Assistance To The Philippines In Their Battle Against The Islamic State

Australia offers to train Philippine army in fight against Islamic State -- The Guardian
Philippines keen for Australian intelligence help in Marawi -- The Australian
Australia offers additional military help to Philippines -- Fox News
Australia offers defence training for Philippine forces in ISIS fight -- Courier Mail
New Australia Military Terror Aid For the Philippines? -- The Diplomat
Islamic State operations in Philippines a threat to Australia, Malcolm Turnbull warns -- ABC Online

U.S. And South Korean Defense Chiefs Talk Of Redeploying U.S. Nuclear Weapons To South Korea

Korea Times: Allies discuss redeployment of nuclear weapons

Defense chiefs of South Korea and the United States discussed the possible redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in the South to counter North Korea's nuclear capability, government sources said Thursday.

Defense Minister Song Young-moo raised this topic during a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.

These weapons were removed from South Korea in 1991 by the George Bush administration after the two Koreas signed a joint declaration on the denuclearization of the peninsula.

The defense chiefs also discussed ways to build up Seoul's military power.

Read more ....

Update #1: Defense Chief Raises Redeployment of U.S. Nukes in S.Korea -- The Chosun Ilbo
Update #2: Korea-U.S. defense chiefs discuss possible deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea -- Arirang

WNU editor: This idea did not last long .... S. Korea dismisses speculation over possible redeployment of U.S. tactical nukes (Yonhap News)

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Believes Private Contractors Will Save Afghanistan

Erik Prince testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on security contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan on Capitol Hill in Washington October 2, 2007. Larry Downing, Reuters

Erik Prince, New York Times: Contractors, Not Troops, Will Save Afghanistan

In 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor pulled the United States into World War II, a group of volunteer American aviators led by Gen. Claire Chennault known as the Flying Tigers fought Japanese aggression in China. They were so successful that many people believe they were decisive in holding back Japan, eventually leading to its defeat.

Although they were paid volunteers rather than members of the American military, they were not denigrated as “mercenaries.” The Flying Tigers — who now would be called contractors — fought for China and the United States and, like paid American contractors in theaters of war today, fought as bravely and patriotically as American soldiers.

As policy makers in Washington decide what to do in Afghanistan, they should keep the Flying Tigers in mind. Such a force could be just the solution Afghanistan needs.

The reasons are as obvious as they are compelling: Last week, President Trump announced his “new strategy” to end the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history. But in promising to add more dollars to the more than $800 billion already spent, not to mention more American troops to the thousands already dead or wounded, President Trump’s strategy is sadly more old than new.

Read more ....

More Reaction To Blackwater Founder Erik Prince's Op-Ed In The New York Times

Blackwater founder calls for military contractors in Afghanistan -- The Hill
Erik Prince makes case for privatizing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan -- Shandra Martinez, MLive
Times Runs Pro-Mercenary Op-Ed by Mercenary Whose Employees Committed Infamous Iraq Massacre -- Slate Magazine
I Was a Mercenary. Trust Me: Erik Prince’s Plan Is Garbage. -- Sean Mcfate, Politico
Who Cares What Erik Prince Thinks? -- Rolling Stone
4 Insights About Blackwater Founder Erik Prince -- Ryan Lucas, NPR

Top U.S. Commander Believes Islamic State Leader Al-Baghdadi Is Alive

US News and World Report: U.S. General Thinks Baghdadi Is Alive

The elusive leader should probably be killed rather than captured, the outgoing commander for the war against the Islamic State group says.

The outgoing U.S. commander for the wars in Iraq and Syria discounts recent reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed, saying he thinks the elusive leader of the Islamic State group is alive and likely in the middle Euphrates River Valley area spanning the border of the two war-torn countries.

Townsend says his appraisal of Baghdadi's whereabouts "is just an educated guess," stressing he does not know for sure the whereabouts of the former al-Qaida in Iraq operative and U.S. detainee or that he is indeed still alive. However, open source reporting as well as secret communications intelligence indicates he has not been killed, says Townsend, who is scheduled to step down from his yearlong assignment in the coming weeks.

Read more ....

More News On Gen. Steve Townsend Remarks That He Believes Islamic State Leader Al-Baghdadi Is Still Alive

Islamic State chief Baghdadi likely still alive: US general -- AFP
US commander: IS leader al-Baghdadi probably still alive -- National Post/AP
Gen.Townsend: Baghdadi is probably still alive -- Military Times
Top commander says ISIS leader most likely still alive -- Politico
Top US commander says ISIS leader likely still alive -- The Hill
ISIS leader al-Baghdadi probably still alive, US commander says -- Stars and Stripes
‘I Believe He Is Alive’: Top General Says Baghdadi Still On The Loose, And He Wants Him Dead -- Daily Caller
Pentagon: Daesh Leader Likely Alive, May Hide in Middle Euphrates River Valley -- Sputnik

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- August 31, 2017

Eli Lake, Bloomberg: Trump Is Right. Nuclear Talks With North Korea Are Pointless.

But that doesn't mean war is the only option.

Here's a shocker. On Wednesday morning Donald Trump tweeted something that was mostly true: "The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!"

Technically the U.S. government stopped providing North Korea food aid and oil shipments in 2009. But other than that, Trump got this one right. The notion that the current standoff between North Korea and the U.S. and its allies should end in another round of six-party talks recalls the old joke about the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- August 31, 2017

The downside of banning Americans from North Korea -- Andray Abrahamian, Reuters

Firebrand Trump Strategizes ‘All Options’ North Korea Approach -- Austin Bay, Observer

Donald Trump, North Korea and nuclear weapons: Should presidents alone decide? -- Tom Nichols, USA Today

The North Korea crisis: 10 questions, 10 answers -- DW

North Korea Tests Donald Trump -- Robert A. Manning, Atlantic Council

South Korea's Greatest Fear (and It Isn't a North Korean Invasion) -- Sandy Pho, National Interest

AP Explains: How the insurgency behind Myanmar attacks grew -- Todd Pitman, AP

Afghanistan and the War Against the West -- Clifford D. May, The Washington Times

Who killed Benazir Bhutto? The theories behind the murder -- AFP

Victory for Assad looks increasingly likely as world loses interest in Syria -- Martin Chulov, The Guardian

Where does IS stand after Iraq, Syria losses? -- AFP

Russia’s dual response to the west creates policy confusion
-- Lilia Shevtsova, Financial Times

Can Europe Stop a Venezuelan Civil War? -- MEP Dina Chararanzova, RealClearWorld

Putin Saved Assad, Will He Save Maduro? -- Bill Bray/Miyako Yerick/James Gregg, National Interest

Scandal Upstages Guatemala's Leader -- Mac Margolis, Bloomberg

World News Briefs -- August 31, 2017

Reuters: Mattis signs orders to send additional troops to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday he had signed orders to send additional troops to Afghanistan, the most concrete step yet by President Donald Trump’s administration in tackling America’s longest war.

Mattis did not specify the size of the force, which will help combat Taliban insurgents and other armed Islamists.

“Yes, I have signed orders but it is not complete. In other words I have signed some of the (orders for) troops that will go and we are identifying the specific ones,” Mattis told reporters.

Read more ....


Iraqi PM Abadi declares victory over ISIL in Tal Afar. Iraq says Tal Afar ‘fully liberated’ from Islamic State.

Britain will send more troops to Iraq to bolster IS fight.

UN gives Iran all-clear on 2015 nuclear deal. Iran in compliance with 2015 nuclear deal: IAEA report.

U.S. says Iran shows 'true colors' by restoring Hamas ties.

Kuwaiti emir to meet Trump as Gulf crisis continues.

Yemen's Saleh makes first appearance since Huthi clash.

Two million Muslims begin Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.


Myanmar ethnic violence: 'Major massacre' of Muslim Rohingyas, reports of women and children among 130 killed.

Rakhine violence pushes more Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh.

North Korea threatens to turn South into 'field of ruin'.

Trump, Abe agree to strengthen pressure on North Korea.

Jails, justice system at breaking point as Philippine drugs war intensifies.

Bhutto murder case: Musharraf declared fugitive by Pakistani court. Benazir Bhutto: Five cleared of ex-Pakistan PM murder.

Mattis signs orders to send more troops to Afghanistan.

India's growth rate slows as new sales tax confuses firms.

Monsoon floods leave over a thousand dead in South Asia.


Somali government: 10 civilians were killed in joint Somali - U.S. raid.

South Sudan rebels, short on supplies, draw on determination.

Eritrea rebels struggle as government strengthens ties with Gulf Arab states.

Amnesty warns against 'outsourcing' migrant crisis to Libya.

French foreign minister to travel to Libya to push peace deal.

Catholic bishop protects 2,000 Muslim refugees in CAR.

Islamic state claims responsibility for Algeria suicide attack: Amaq.

President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane denies alleged corruption.


Moscow to study new US moves on closing Russian missions and report its reply — Lavrov.

Russia warns US against news sanctions on North Korea.

Separation of forces in Ukraine's Donbas reaches deadlock - Russian OSCE envoy.

Brexit talks yield 'no decisive progress,' says EU negotiator Michel Barnier.

Hungary's Viktor Orban sends EU a border fence bill.

EU-Poland tension worries Polish citizens abroad.

Macron government launches overhaul of France's labour laws.

Angela Merkel faces protests in Germany's nationalist heartlands.

Frankfurt to evacuate 70,000 while World War II bomb defused.

Putin 'holiday mansion' revealed by Russian opposition leader.

Public mourns Princess Diana on 20th anniversary of death.


Tropical Storm Harvey: Twin blasts rock Texas chemical plant as flood danger moves east.

Hurricane Harvey: US petrol prices rise as key pipeline shut.

Trump to donate $1 million to flood relief: W.House.

S&P sounds alarm over US debt ceiling.

Trump's border wall moves forward with prototypes.

US orders Russia to close San Francisco consulate.

US, Canada aim for NAFTA deal by year's end: W.House.

Mexican president likens leftist rival to Venezuela's Maduro.

Hurricane Irma strengthens to Category 3 storm in Atlantic.


What is left of ISIL's 'caliphate'?

Top US commander says ISIS leader likely still alive.

US warned Spain of Barcelona attack risk: report.

Manchester bomber's brother faces trial in Libya.


U.S. data sends stocks higher; yields fall.

Apple expected to unveil next iPhones at Sept. 12 showcase.

China blocks US request for WTO arbitration in grain dispute.

Wells Fargo reveals more fake accounts.

Hyundai faces financial woes in China, South Korea.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- August 31, 2017

PHOTO: South Korea and Japan join US strategic bombers as they conduct a show of force in response to North Korea. (Twitter: US Pacific Command)

ABC News Online: North Korea: US bombers, allies conduct drills over Korean peninsula after latest missile launch

South Korean and Japanese jets have joined exercises with two supersonic US B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula, two days after North Korea fired a missile over Japan, sharply raising tensions.

The drills, involving four US stealth F-35B jets as well as South Korean and Japanese fighter jets, came at the end of annual joint US-South Korea military exercises focused mainly on computer simulations.

"North Korea's actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilising actions will be met accordingly," Pacific Air Forces commander General Terrence O'Shaughnessy said during an unscheduled visit to Japan.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- August 31, 2017

Marine F-35s, Air Force Bombers Sortie with South Korea, Japan in Show of Force After North Korea Missile Tests -- USNI News

US and allies display military might in direct response to North Korean missile test -- ABC News

North Korean ICBM Technology Still Falls Short, Top General Says -- Bloomberg

U.S. army helicopters seen over South Korean THAAD site -- UPI

Japan Seeks Land-Based US Missile Defense Systems After N Korean Missile Launch -- Sputnik

Japan seeks funds to boost missile ranges days after North Korea threat -- Reuters

Japan's military seeks record-setting budget of $47B -- UPI

Australian special forces to help Duterte's troops in battle against Islamic State in Philippines -- ABC News Online

US Gives Military Assistance to Pakistan, With Strings Attached -- New York Times

Chinese military made multiple attempts to negotiate with India to end stand-off, ministry says -- South China Sea

Report on China Naval Modernization and Implications for the U.S. Navy -- USNI News

Vietnam protests at Chinese military drill in South China Sea -- Reuters

Russia Hoping to Boost Arms Sales After Syrian Usage -- AP

Russia Ranks Second in Military Strength Ranking Among 133 Nations -- Sputnik

Russia plans to export weapons worth $47-50 bln -- TASS

Russia's sixth generation MiG 41 fighter jet will be capable of space travel and could operate without a pilot -- Daily Mail

Serial Deliveries of Russian Newest Su-57 Fighters to Air Force to Start in 2019 -- Sputnik

Zapad 2017: Rattling the West's Cage -- Yuval Weber, RCD

Heckler & Koch quietly becomes world's first ethical gun-maker -- DW

NATO battle groups in Baltics now operational -- UPI

Mattis signs orders to send more troops to Afghanistan -- The Hill

Blackwater founder calls for military contractors in Afghanistan -- The Hill

U.S. Navy's Hugely Versatile SM-6 Missile Keeps Scoring Hits -- The Warzone/The Drive

Air Force Lifts Flight Restrictions on Luke F-35As --

USS George Washington Begins Midlife Refueling, Overhaul With Benefit of Lessons From 5 Previous Aircraft Carriers -- USNI News

Army, Marines order new barrels for lightweight artillery -- UPI

Pentagon releases name of missing soldier from Black Hawk crash -- The Hill

Ex-government contractor Reality Winner, 25, demands that FBI interview 'in which she admitted to sharing classified documents' be declared inadmissible in her trial -- Daily Mail

New Navy Secretary Calls For 'Sense of Urgency' in Vision Statement --

Our Navy is Broken, and That is a Bad Thing -- Jerry Hendrix, Defense One

Adversaries Creep Up on Stealth Aircraft (Updated) -- National Defense

Our military needs support today to prepare for the battles of tomorrow -- Thomas Spoehr, The Hill

US military deploys thousands of troops to Texas -- CNN

Here's what the US military has done so far to help victims of Hurricane Harvey -- Business Insider/DoD

Editor's Note

Running behind. Blogging will return in the next hour or two.

U.S. Deployment Of Additional Soldiers To Afghanistan Has Begun

New York Times: Mattis Orders First Group of Reinforcements to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday that he had signed deployment orders for some of the American reinforcements that are to be sent to Afghanistan.

It is the first tangible step that the Pentagon has taken to carry out the new strategy that President Trump announced last week to step up the fight in Afghanistan and try to take back the initiative from the Taliban.

“I have signed orders, but it is not complete,” Mr. Mattis said. “In other words, I have signed some of the troops that will go and we are identifying the specific ones.”

Although Mr. Mattis did not say which forces were being deployed, administration officials have previously said the Pentagon will send nearly 4,000 additional troops, some of whom are expected to come from the 82nd Airborne Division.

Read more ....

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis Confirms That The First Deployment Of Reinforcements To Afghanistan Have Begun

Mattis begins sending additional troops to Afghanistan -- AP
Mattis signs orders to send additional troops to Afghanistan -- Reuters
Mattis signs orders for more Afghanistan troops; says he's not at odds with Trump -- CBS News
US defense secretary orders new troops to Afghanistan -- AFP
Pentagon Begins Deploying Additional Troops to Afghanistan -- TIME
Mattis Signs Orders to Deploy Additional Troops to Afghanistan -- Washington Free Beacon

U.S. Orders The Closure Of The Russian Consulate In San Francisco And Two Other Diplomatic Offices

Politico: U.S. retaliates against Russia by forcing diplomatic closures

State Dept. calls the Kremlin's prior ouster of diplomatic staff 'unwarranted and detrimental.'

The State Department is forcing the Russian government to vacate three diplomatic compounds in the U.S. by this Saturday — retribution for the Kremlin’s order that the U.S. reduce its staff in Russia by more than 750 people.

In a sharply worded statement, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the State Department had complied with Russia’s demands and had made its own “in the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians.”

Read more ....

WNU editor: This is not good. I was hoping (and believing) that the U.S. would not retaliate .... I was wrong. Here is the Russian response (so far) .... Moscow Reacts to Closure of Its San Francisco Consulate (Moscow Times). The closure of the Russian consulate in San Francisco is going to hurt. There are hundreds of thousands of Russian expatriates who now live in the Bay area .... getting a visa to visit Russia is now going to be a headache.

Update: More Russian reaction .... ‘Unfortunate escalation’: Reactions to US order to close Russian consulate (RT). And more here .... Russian ambassador comments on US demand to close three Russian diplomatic facilities (TASS).

More News On The U.S. Ordering The Closure Of The Russian Consulate In San Francisco And Two Other Diplomatic Offices

U.S. retaliates against Russia, orders closure of consulate, annexes -- Reuters
In tit for tat, US tells Russia to close post in San Fran -- AP
US orders Russia to close consulate and two annexes -- BBC
In Retaliation, US Orders Russia to Close Consulate in San Francisco -- New York Times
US orders Russia to close diplomatic offices in three cities -- Los Angeles Times
Russia has until Saturday to close 3 US diplomatic offices, State Dept says -- CBS News
US retaliates against Russia ordering closure of consulate and annexes -- CNN
U.S. to Shut 3 Russia Diplomatic Buildings But Expel No Staffers -- Bloomberg
State Department orders closure of Russian diplomatic offices in San Francisco, DC, and New York in retaliation for Moscow's 'unwarranted' decision to kick out U.S. personnel -- Daily Mail
Trump administration retaliates against Russia, forces closure of US posts -- Fox News
US Says Russian Diplomats May Be Reassigned to Other Posts as Consulates Closed -- Sputnik

This is Why You Serve When The President Asks You To

WNU editor: I could not have said it any better.

The U.N.'s Nuclear Watchdog Will Not Inspect Iran's Military Sites

Reuters: U.S. pressure or not, U.N. nuclear watchdog sees no need to check Iran military sites

VIENNA (Reuters) - The United States is pushing U.N. nuclear inspectors to check military sites in Iran to verify it is not breaching its nuclear deal with world powers. But for this to happen, inspectors must believe such checks are necessary and so far they do not, officials say.

Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley visited the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is scrutinizing compliance with the 2015 agreement, as part of a review of the pact by the administration of President Donald Trump. He has called it “the worst deal ever negotiated”.

After her talks with officials of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Haley said: “There are... numerous undeclared sites that have not been inspected. That is a problem.” Iran dismissed her demands as “merely a dream”.

The IAEA has the authority to request access to facilities in Iran, including military ones, if there are new and credible indications of banned nuclear activities there, according to officials from the agency and signatories to the deal.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: As far as the IAEA is concerned, Iran is complying with the nuclear deal, so there is no need for inspections .... Iran Is Sticking to the Nuclear Deal, IAEA Says (Bloomberg). But how can you say that they are complying with the deal when you are not even conducting inspections?

The Slow Breakdown In U.S. And Russian Diplomatic Relations Continues

AFP: US diplomats set to quit Russia as hopes for rapprochement fade

A Moscow deadline for almost two-thirds of US diplomatic staff to leave Russia expires on Friday, an exodus that starkly demonstrates the souring relationship between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

There were hopes of improved ties between Moscow and Washington after Trump's election to the US presidency last year, when both leaders showered each other in praise.

But after the US Congress approved new economic sanctions against Russia over Moscow's alleged meddling in the November election, Putin in July ordered the drastic embassy cuts in retaliation.

Putin said 755 diplomatic staff -- both Russian and American -- would have to stop work by September 1, although the US State Department has not confirmed the number.

The number of US diplomatic staff will now be capped at 455, the same number that Russia has in the United States.

Read more ....

WNU editor: Relations between the U.S. and Russia are definitely not good, but I will admit that the relationship is not as not as tense or as hostile as I had expected. It is almost as if both sides have other priorities, and there is a tacit understanding that the U.S. - Russian relationship will be revisited at some later time in the future. But the new Russian ambassador to the U.S. does have a valid point with his recommendation that military contacts between the U.S. and Russia should be resumed .... New Russian ambassador to U.S. calls for resumed military contacts (Reuters).

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Warns The U.S. That New North Korean Sanctions Could Be 'Dangerous'

US Secretary Rex W. Tillerson shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ©

Moscow Times: Russia Warns U.S. Against North Korea Sanctions

Punishing North Korea with additional sanctions would be “counterproductive and dangerous,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday.

According to an online statement on the Foreign Ministry's website, Lavrov and Tillerson discussed North Korea’s latest missile launch, Syria, and the Persian Gulf.

The United States and Russia agreed Pyongyang’s missile launch represented another serious violation of UN Security Council resolutions, while Lavrov urged the United States from taking military action against North Korea that could lead to “unpredictable consequences," the statement said.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Russian foreign minister is basically admitting that they do not know how North Korea will respond if new sanctions are imposed.

More News On Russia's Foreign Minister Warning The U.S. That New North Korean Sanctions Could Be 'Dangerous'

Russia warns US against news sanctions on North Korea -- Washington Post/AP
Russia's foreign minister warns Tillerson: New North Korea sanctions could be 'dangerous' -- Politico
Top Russian official tells Tillerson new N. Korea sanctions would be ‘dangerous’ -- The Hill
New North Korea Sanctions Could Be 'Dangerous,' Russia Foreign Minister Tells Tillerson -- Newsweek
Russia's Lavrov Urges US to Show Restraint Over North Korea -- U.S. News & World Report

Iraqi PM Abadi Declares Complete Victory Over The Islamic State In Tal Afar And In The Entire Province Of Nineveh

CNN: Iraqi prime minister: Tal Afar 'liberated' from ISIS

(CNN)Iraqi forces have seized the strategically important city of Tal Afar from ISIS, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday.

An operation to retake the northwestern city, captured by the extremists on June 16, 2014, began 10 days ago.

Tal Afar was the last city still under the control of ISIS militants in Iraq's Nineveh province following the liberation of Mosul, about 45 miles to the east.

"The joy of victory has been completed and the entire province of Nineveh has become in the hands of our heroic forces," al-Abadi said, in a statement released Thursday by his media office.

"I declare to you that Tal Afar has joined the liberated Mosul and returned to the homeland."

Read more ....

More News On Iraqi PM Abadi Declaring Complete Victory Over The Islamic State In Tal Afar And In The Entire Province Of Nineveh

Iraq Declares Victory Over ISIS in Tal Afar -- New York Times
Iraqi PM Abadi declares victory over Islamic State in Tal Afar: statement -- Reuters
Iraq's Prime Minister says Tal Afar is 'fully liberated' from ISIS -- Business Insider/AP
IS conflict: Iraq declares 'liberation' of Nineveh province -- BBC
Iraq Liberates Tal Afar From ISIS, Prime Minister Abadi Says -- Newsweek
Iraqi PM Abadi declares victory over ISIL in Tal Afar -- Al Jazeera
Why the battle against ISIS in Iraq's Tal Afar is ‘many times worse’ than Mosul -- RT

Drone Footage Reveals The Destruction Of The ISIS Stronghold At Raqqa

CNN: Raqqa in ruins: Drone footage reveals devastation in ISIS' stronghold in Syria

(CNN)The streets are eerily empty, with few signs of life in sight. Plumes of smoke billow from the top floors of hollowed out buildings. Neighboring structures appear flattened by mortars and bombs.

This is Raqqa, the capital of ISIS' caliphate in Syria, and the terror group's last major stronghold.

Photojournalist Gabriel Chaim has captured drone footage and photographs while embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces -- part of the US-led offensive -- that give a rare look inside the city.

For the past three years, access to Raqqa has been extremely limited -- only smuggled videos and occasional satellite footage have provided a glimpse into the besieged city. Under ISIS' brutal regime, phones and cameras were banned and anyone caught with videos or images could have faced death.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: For a city that once had a population of 220,000, there are only 20,000 left. When one looks at the above video .... aside from the ISIS fighters, you have to wonder why there are 20,000 civilians (most of them being children) who are still remaining.

Heavy Civilian Casualties Being Reported In The Battle Of Raqqa

Reuters: Heavy civilian casualties in Raqqa from air strikes: U.N.

GENEVA (Reuters) - Civilians caught up in the battle for the Syrian city of Raqqa are paying an “unacceptable price” and attacking forces may be contravening international law with their intense air strikes, the top United Nations human rights official said on Thursday.

A U.S.-led coalition is seeking to oust Islamic State from Raqqa, while Syrian government forces, backed by the Russian air force and Iran-backed militias are also advancing on the city.

Some 20,000 civilians are trapped in Raqqa where the jihadist fighters are holding some of them as human shields, the world body says.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that his office had documented 151 civilian deaths in six incidents alone in August, due to air strikes and ground-based attacks.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: For what it is worth, the coalition battling ISIS believes that the fight for Raqqa will be over in 2 months .... Exclusive: U.S.-backed Raqqa battle should end in two months, says senior SDF commander (Reuters).

More News On The Civilian Toll And Suffering In Raqqa

The Latest: UN official urges protection of Raqqa civilians -- Washington Post/AP
‘ISIS slaughter people, aircraft shell civilians’: UN estimates 27 Raqqa residents killed daily -- Newsline/RT
UN worried about civilians trapped in Raqqa -- Middle East Monitor
Hundreds of civilians killed since Raqqa offensive began, Amnesty says -- CNN
UN official: Half of trapped Raqqa population are children -- FOX News/AP
Young lives torn apart by war: Horrifying testimony from children who escaped ISIS in the Syrian city of Raqqa tells how they saw innocent people beheaded in the streets as it descended into a 'living hell' -- Daily Mail
Trapped in the ruins of Raqqa, we’re reduced to stealing from the dead -- Tim Ramadan, The Guardian

Editor's Note

Military And Intelligence News Briefs and World News Briefs will be posted later today (17:00 EST and 18:00 EST respectively).

Russian Military vs US & NATO

Kris Osborn, Scout Warrior: Weapons & War Analysis: Russian Military vs US & NATO

How much of a threat do Russia's emerging 5th-generation stealth fighter, nuclear arsenal, high-tech air defenses, anti-satellite weapons, conventional army and submarines

Current tensions between Russia and NATO are leading many to carefully assess this question and examine the current state of weaponry and technological sophistication of the Russian military -- with a mind to better understanding the extent of the kinds of threats they may pose.

Naturally, Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the pace of Russia's current military modernization and the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is a detailed analysis. Should we in the West be concerned .... not really. There is no appetite in the Kremlin or among the Russian public for a war against the West .... not even an invasion of the Baltics. One big reason is that there is a perception that should a war break out, it will quickly evolve into a nuclear exchange. As for the West .... they are not going to invade Russia .... a fact that many Russians also know. The problem is in places like Ukraine, or a resumption of a real arms build-up in Europe. Both situations have to be resolved, the question is when.

China Vows To Never Allow War Or Chaos On The Korean Peninsula

© Damir Sagolj / Reuters

RT: China says it will never allow war or chaos on its doorstep as tensions escalate on Korean Peninsula

Beijing has said it will not allow war or chaos on the Korean Peninsula, as two US B-1B bombers conducted a new flight in the area, joined by South Korean and Japanese fighter jets in a show of force amid mounting tensions.
The statement was made by defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang at a monthly news briefing on Thursday, Sina reports.

Six American warplanes - two nuclear-capable B-1B strategic bombers and four Marine Corps F-35Bs - held a joint flight operation with Japanese F-15 fighter jets on Thursday, Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) said in a statement. The squadron flew near the island of Kyushu, south of the Korean Peninsula.

Read more ....

WNU editor: Chinese has been the same thing for years .... but tensions on the Korean peninsula continue to get worse. Someone should tell the Chinese that their policy is not working.

South Korean And Japanese Jets With U.S.B-1B Bombers And 4 F-35 Fighters Conducted Exercises Together Near The Korean Peninsula

Reuters: U.S. bombers drill over Korean peninsula after latest North Korea launch

SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) - South Korean and Japanese jets joined exercises with two U.S. nuclear-capable bombers above and near the Korean peninsula on Thursday, two days after North Korea fired a missile over Japan, sharply raising tension.

The drills, involving two supersonic U.S. B-1B bombers, four U.S. stealth F-35B jets as well as South Korean and Japanese fighter jets, came at the end of annual joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises focused mainly on computer simulations.

”North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” said General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, who made an unscheduled visit to Japan to meet his counterparts.

Read more ....

Update #1: U.S., South Korean and Japanese warplanes carry out show of force against North Korea (USA Today)
Update #2: US fighter jets stage mock bombing drill over Korean Peninsula (CNN)

WNU Editor: These public bombing exercises are not going to intimidate North Korea. So why the publicity for this exercise? To reassure the South Korean and Japanese public that threats from North Korea will not go unanswered.

South Korea Is Revising its Strategy Against North Korea

In this photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, South Korea's Hyunmoo II Missile system, left, and U.S. Army Tactical Missile System, right, fire missiles during the combined military exercise between the two countries against North Korea at an undisclosed location in South Korea, Saturday, July 29, 2017. (South Korea Defense Ministry)

Daily Mail: South Korea draws up secret plan for trained killers to ASSASSINATE Kim Jong-un and his top officials if the tyrant sparks war

* South Korea is revising its strategy for a 'conventional' attack by North Korea
* Proposals said to include assassinating Kim Jong-un if he sparks a war with Seoul
* It comes after the dictator sparked outrage by firing a test missile over Japan

South Korean special forces have plans in place to assassinate Pyongyang dictator Kim Jong-un and his key officials if the tyrant starts a war, it has emerged.

Seoul's top military chiefs have briefed South Korean president Moon Jae-in on the proposals which are said to include sending trained killers deep into North Korea to target the regime's hierarchy.

It comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula were raised yet again after Kim fired a test ballistic missile over Japan, sparking international outrage.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I have mentioned this before .... the media focus is on North Korea, U.S. - Japanese responses, Chinese reaction, etc.. But the real 800 lb gorilla in the room is South Korea .... and they are positioning themselves to make it clear to everyone that they are not going to be quiet nor are they going to play a junior role in the discussions.

Hard Times Continue In Puerto Rico

Members of labor unions march past the capitol building during a protest in San Juan September 11, 2015. Alvin Baez, Reuters

Reuters: Government labor strife is latest test for fractured Puerto Rico

NEW YORK, Aug 30(Reuters) - Puerto Rico’s already frail economy faces a fresh test this week, as the bankrupt U.S. territory’s financial overseers try to force a defiant governor to furlough public workers, the single biggest block of employees on the island.

An escalating power struggle between the democratically elected Governor Ricardo Rossello and the federally appointed oversight panel culminated on Monday when the board sued Rossello, saying he had no authority to reject pension cuts and furloughs ordered by the board. The measures are set to begin Sept 1.

A competing lawsuit from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents 12,000 Puerto Rican workers, argues the exact opposite - that the measures violate the U.S. Constitution, and should be halted.

At least six unions are staging protests on Wednesday to oppose the austerity, featuring a midday march to the board’s San Juan offices.

Read more ....

Update: Hundreds of Puerto Ricans protest, decry austerity measures (AP).

WNU Editor: It is hard to feel sorry for an island that has consistently voted in politicians who pursued a policy of government growth/spending/and piling more debt to satisfy what their core supporters wanted ... which was better wages/pensions/etc.. I have been following Puerto Rico for years .... the warnings on this disaster were voiced by many 20 years ago .... but they were always voted out and/or ignored. People forget that when it comes to borrowing money and piling up obligations, there will come a day when it this no longer becomes feasible, and for Puerto Rico that day came a few years ago. How long will this suffering last .... that's easy to answer .... one has to only look at Greece and see that after years of debt restructuring and suffering .... they are still no better off today than they were 5 years ago.

U.S. Sanctions On North Korea's Finance Houses Will Set-Up A Confrontation With China

The UN Security Council unanimously demanded that Pyongyang halt its missile program (AFP Photo/KENA BETANCUR)

AFP: North Korea tests push US to action on Chinese banks

The failure of UN sanctions to even slow North Korea's nuclear missile program has many in Washington pushing for unilateral US action against the finance houses doing business with Pyongyang -- a move that would set up a confrontation with China.

World powers maintained a show of unity on Tuesday when the UN Security Council voted unanimously to condemn North Korea's latest missile test, in which it provocatively fired an intermediate range weapon over Japan and into the ocean.

But the quick condemnation did not arrive with any promise of a new UN sanctions resolution, amid reluctance from China and Russia to turn the screw too hard or too fast.

US President Donald Trump's administration was frustrated by the outcome.

Trump vented some of this anger at the slow pace of diplomacy on Wednesday in one of his daily Twitter blasts, declaring: "The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!"

Read more ....

WNU Editor: China will have to decide .... whether they like it or not. A few billion in trade with North Korea .... or $500 billion with the U.S. .... and you can't have both.

Tweets For Today

A Majority Of Americans Have No Problem Supporting A Nuclear Strike Against Iran

Faye Flam, Bloomberg: Americans Are a Little Too Relaxed About Nukes

A majority say they'd be fine with dropping a nuclear weapon on an Iranian city. What?

North Korea’s advancing nuclear weapons program isn’t the only news to unnerve arms-control experts this summer. A new survey has revealed that Americans are surprisingly willing to make a first nuclear strike -- and kill millions of civilians abroad.

The survey casts doubt on the power of what experts call the “nuclear taboo,” said Stanford University historian David Holloway, author of “Stalin and the Bomb.” The idea, or hope, behind the concept is that it’s not just luck that humans haven’t dropped any nuclear weapons for 70 years -- that there’s a stigma that makes the use of nuclear weapons unthinkable.

But many Americans say it’s quite thinkable. The taboo may be eroding, or it may never have been the protective barrier people thought it was.

Read more ....

WNU editor: This poll result is not a surprise. I posted a similar story 2 years ago .... U.S. Citizens Sign 'Obama Petition' To Launch A Pre-Emptive Nuclear Attack Against Russia (June 11, 2015).

Picture Of The Day

Enrollment candidates to the Krasnodar Higher Military Aviation School taking a tour of the school during the Doors Open Day. © SPUTNIK/ VITALIY TIMKIV

WNU Editor: The above picture is from this photo-gallery .... Sky's the Limit: Russia Resumes Training Female Military Pilots (Sputnik).

A Look At The Impact Of One North Korean Nuclear Warhead On Los Angeles

Loren Thompson, Reuters: What A Single North Korean Nuclear Warhead Could Do To Los Angeles

The government of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un continues to test ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads against distant targets. In July, Pyongyang demonstrated its missiles can reach the West Coast of the U.S., and perhaps deeper into the American heartland. In the aftermath of this week's missile launch over Japan, President Trump has again warned of harsh consequences if North Korea does not desist, but as today's Washington Post puts it, "there was no indication Kim was intimidated by the White House reaction."

These rhetorical exchanges have been going on for many years -- at least since the North exploded its first nuclear device in 2006. Yet despite abundant evidence of the progress Pyongyang's program is making, there has been almost no public discussion of what a North Korean nuclear attack might mean for a major American city. Perhaps pundits don't think Kim would ever have a reason to launch such a suicidal attack, or that U.S. missile defenses in Alaska and California could intercept the handful of long-range weapons he controls.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: If you want to know what the impact of a nuclear device will be on a city, go here .... New Map Graphics Measures The Impact Of A Nuclear Strike On A Major World City

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

It Appears That North Korea Is Preparing For Another Nuclear Test

North Koreans watch a news report showing North Korea's Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile launch on electronic screen at Pyongyang station in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo taken by Kyodo August 30, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Washington Times: U.S. sees signs of North Korean nuke test

Amid the latest North Korean missile test that overflew Japan, U.S. intelligence agencies recently detected increased activity at the North’s main underground nuclear testing facility in the northeastern part of the country that signal preparations for a sixth underground test blast.

U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports said the test could come as soon as Sept. 9, coinciding with the anniversary of the founding of the reclusive communist state.

A U.S. intelligence official told Inside the Ring that North Korea has been conducting an unprecedented level of testing since early 2016 and that “we have not seen anything in their defiant posture to suggest this has changed.”

“North Korea is capable of testing a nuclear device at any time with little warning,” the official said. “The United States continues to monitor and assess the situation on the Korean Peninsula in close coordination with our regional allies and partners.”

Read more ....

Update: North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site: New Media Reports of an Imminent Sixth Test Again Cannot be Corroborated -- North 38

WNU Editor: Every 2 months or so there are indications that North Korea may conduct a test .... most of the time it amounts to nothing .... but north Korea has alrady conducted 5 nuclear tests, and it should surprise no one that another one may happen at anytime.

Update #2: Is this the new normal? .... US must prepare for a decade of tensions, North Korea nuclear tests (Harry J. Kazianis, The Hill).

China Will Not Condemn North Korea’s New Missile Launch


The Diplomat: China Refuses to Condemn North Korea’s New Missile Launch

China keeps calling on all parties to exercise restraint and remain cool-headed.

Three days after launching short-range missiles on Saturday, North Korea launched a new ballistic missile on the early morning of August 29, with the missile flying right over Japan’s northern island and landing in the Pacific Ocean.

As Japan and the United States reacted strongly toward North Korea’s provocation and vowed to increase pressure, China has refused to condemn North Korea publicly. Instead, China keeps calling on all parties to exercise restraint and remain cool-headed.

On August 29, questions about North Korea’s latest missile launch dominated the regular press conference of the Chinese foreign ministry. Yet the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying refused to put out any harsh word on North Korea.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: More evidence that no one should expect much from China to reign in North Korea's missile and nuclear ambitions.

The U.S. Will Primarily Deploy Thousands Of Paratroopers And More Air Support To Afghanistan

United States Army soldiers from the Second Battalion, 87th Infantry oversaw training of the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province last year. Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

Washington Post: Afghan troop surge likely to include thousands of paratroopers, Marines and heavy bombers

The bulk of the roughly 4,000 additional troops headed to Afghanistan will probably be composed of thousands of paratroopers from two units — the 82nd Airborne Division and an airborne brigade from the 25th Infantry Division, according to U.S. officials.

More air support — in the form of more F-16 fighters, A-10 ground attack aircraft and additional B-52 bomber support, or a combination of all three — is also probably on the way, according to a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss plans that had not yet been made public. The B-52s will remain based in Qatar but will be tasked to cover Afghanistan.

Small Marine artillery detachments, composed of about 100 or so troops per unit, will be spread around the country to fill in gaps in air support, the official said.

The preparations come as the Pentagon announced Wednesday that it is altering how it counts the number of troops in Afghanistan to include all service members who are on temporary assignments and working for combat support agencies that did not count against the “force management levels” disclosed previously. The Pentagon has said for months that about 8,400 troops are in Afghanistan, but the actual “total force” number is closer to 11,000, said Marine Lt. Gen. Frank McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Greater air and artillery support .... with less restrictive rules of engagement ....will  have an impact on the battlefield. The question is .... will it be enough? My guess is no.

Pentagon Acknowledges That There Are More Soldiers In Afghanistan Than Previously Reported

Reuters: U.S. acknowledges more troops in Afghanistan than previously stated

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About 11,000 U.S. troops are serving in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, thousands more than it has previously stated.

The announcement by Pentagon officials at a news conference did not represent an increase in troops in Afghanistan and came after U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed frustration with the method of counting U.S. troops in conflict zones.

The Pentagon said previously that there were roughly 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, under a cap set during President Barack Obama’s administration.

While the Pentagon said the move was a step in increasing transparency, it did not provide counts of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Former U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and President Obama either knew what these numbers were .... or did not care and trusted what the Pentagon were saying. Either way .... this does not reflect well on their management of the Afghan war. And now that the truth is out (at least on Afghanistan), I can only hope that the Trump administration will continue to be honest and transparent about the Afghan war, and to also be open and transparent on what is happening in Iraq and Syria.

More News On The Pentagon Acknowledging That There Are More Soldiers In Afghanistan Than Previously Reported

11000 US Troops in Afghanistan, Pentagon Says in Effort at Transparency -- New York Times
Pentagon: US troop total in Afghanistan larger than reported -- AP
US has 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, more than previous count: Pentagon -- AFP
Pentagon finally comes clean on Afghanistan troop levels -- Politico
Pentagon revises number of troops in Afghanistan, disclosing 2,600 more -- CNN
Pentagon announces there are 2,600 more troops in Afghanistan than previously reported -- ABC news
Pentagon: 11,000 US troops in Afghanistan, more than previously reported -- The Hill
US has more troops in Afghanistan than previously disclosed, Pentagon reveals -- Los Angeles Times
Pentagon: 2600 more troops in Afghanistan than previously reported -- UPI
US Military Reveals True, Higher Number of Troops in Afghanistan, but Hides Iraq and Syria Counts -- Newsweek

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- August 30, 2017

North Korea's official news agency distributed this photo, purportedly of the rocket launch. KCNA

Justin Bronk, BBC: North Korea: What are the military options?

President Trump has said "all options are on the table" after North Korea fired a missile over Japan. So what could military action against Kim Jong-un's regime actually look like?

As a ballistic missile passed over the Japanese island of Hokkaido residents were warned to take cover.

The launch was a provocative act, which has been followed by warnings from the North Korean regime that it was just a "first step".

The UN and several nations have imposed sanctions on North Korea, while President Trump said he was considering the next steps.

But while the US has unrivalled military strength, the range of options it actually has against the hermit country are limited.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- August 30, 2017

N. Korea's Hwasong-12 Launch: Disturbing Development -- Michael Elleman, 38 North

Kim’s latest: Why he did it and what to do about it -- Uwe parpart, Asia Times

Will North Korea make missiles over Japan the new normal? -- Kim Tong-Hyung, AP

Implications of the Hokkaido missile miss -- Stephen Bryen, Asia Times

Post-Apartheid South Africa Is Failing the People It Liberated -- Lynsey Chutel, Quartz

How Russia Can Help the United States Defuse the Korean Crisis -- Georgy Toloraya, 38 North

Brexit Is Beginning to Look Like No Brexit -- Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg View

Socialism Set Fire to Venezuela's Oil Crisis -- Julian Adorney, RealClearWorld

Why Lethal Aid Can't Help Ukraine -- Julie Thompson, National Interest

Trump’s Interest in India Sends China Strong Message -- Simon Palamar, Toronto Star

Talking Tough to Pakistan Is Not a New Strategy -- Daniel R. DePetris, National Interest

Trump’s Afghan policy riddled with flaws -- Hammal Kashani, Asia Times

Hurricane Harvey's Toll on Texas Energy -- Stratfor

A win for Trump’s gas diplomacy -- Agnia Grigas, Reuters

Calculating the Risk of Preventive War -- Max Boot, Strategika

Are we running out of fresh water? -- Katharina Wecker, DW