Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Russian Actions Intensifying Syrian Civil War, Carter Says

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, September 30, 2015 — Russian actions are intensifying the instability in Syria and making the civil war there more vicious, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said here today.

During a Pentagon news conference, Carter said the Russian position of supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its desire to take on extremist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant represent a contradiction.

“Fighting ISIL without pursuing a parallel political transition only risks escalating the civil war in Syria – and with it, the very extremism and instability that Moscow claims to be concerned about and aspire to fighting,” he said. “So that approach is tantamount … to pouring gasoline on the fire.”

The secretary restated the American position, saying that a lasting defeat of ISIL and its terrorist allies can be achieved only in parallel with a political transition in Syria. “We will continue to insist on the importance of simultaneously pursuing these two objectives,” he said. “And I would hope Russia would join us in pursuing these objectives.”

Conversation With Russian Defense Minister

Carter spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu last week, when Russia’s intent to launch strikes in Syria became apparent. “During my phone call with Minister Shoigu, I also told him I was prepared to send a DoD team to meet with Russian defense counterparts, at a location that we agreed upon, to ensure that we avoid any inadvertent incidents over Syrian air space,” he said.

But Russian aircraft struck targets around Homs, Syria, this morning. A Russian officer notified personnel in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad of the strikes an hour before they launched. No coalition aircraft were in the region at the time, and Carter said he doubts any ISIL terrorists were in the area struck.

Russian and coalition officers will meet in the next few days to “deconflict” air operations. The meeting will allow a flow of information between coalition forces and Russian elements to maintain the safety of U.S. personnel in the region, Carter said.

The meeting also will be an opportunity to ensure that any additional Russian actions do not interfere with the coalition’s efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL, he added.

Mission Against ISIL Will Continue

The secretary stressed that the more-than-60-nation coalition is battling ISIL “across the physical, virtual and ideological battle space,” conducting more than 7,100 air strikes at ISIL’s operational core and logistics arm. “The coalition will continue to fly missions over Iraq and Syria as planned, as we did today, in support of our international mission to degrade and destroy ISIL,” he said.

Carter said the U.S. talks with the Russians over Syria do not indicate a lessening of America’s strong condemnation of Russian aggression in Ukraine, nor do they change U.S. sanctions and security support in response to those destabilizing actions.

“On that subject, the facts remain: If Russia wants to end its international isolation and be considered a global power, it must stop its aggression in eastern Ukraine and its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, and live up to its commitments under the Minsk agreement,” he said.

Airstrikes Hit ISIL Terrorists in Syria, Iraq

From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release

SOUTHWEST ASIA, September 30, 2015 — Yesterday, U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Airstrikes in Syria

Remotely piloted, bomber, and fighter aircraft conducted four airstrikes in Syria:

--Near Dayr Az Zawr, an airstrike destroyed two ISIL excavators.

-- Near Washiyah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL excavator and damaged two other ISIL excavators.

-- Near Palmyra, two airstrikes destroyed two ISIL tactical vehicles

Airstrikes in Iraq

Bomber, fighter, attack, fighter-attack, ground-attack, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 26 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with the Iraqi government:

-- Near Huwayjah, eight airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL staging area, 45 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL buildings, six ISIL vehicles, an ISIL trailer and denied ISIL terrain.

-- Near Beiji, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL buildings, eight ISIL fighting positions and five ISIL weapons caches.

-- Near Habbaniyah, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun, nine rocket rails and an ISIL recoilless rifle.

-- Near Kirkuk, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed 10 ISIL rocket rails, an ISIL cache, five ISIL vehicles and an ISIL vehicle bomb.

-- Near Kisik, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Mosul, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL cache and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

-- Near Ramadi, three airstrikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle, two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL obstacle belt and denied use of an ISIL resupply point.

-- Near Sinjar, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun and two ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Sultan Abdallah, two airstrikes suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

-- Tal Afar, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle and an ISIL vehicle.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.
Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Launch of Strong Cities Network to Strengthen Community Resilience Against Violent Extremism

Cities are vital partners in international efforts to build social cohesion and resilience to violent extremism.  Local communities and authorities are the most credible and persuasive voices to challenge violent extremism in all of its forms and manifestations in their local contexts.  While many cities and local authorities are developing innovative responses to address this challenge, no systematic efforts are in place to share experiences, pool resources and build a community of cities to inspire local action on a global scale. 

“The Strong Cities Network will serve as a vital tool to strengthen capacity-building and improve collaboration,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.  “As we continue to counter a range of domestic and global terror threats, this innovative platform will enable cities to learn from one another, to develop best practices and to build social cohesion and community resilience here at home and around the world.”

The Strong Cities Network (SCN)  – which launches September 29th at the United Nations – will empower municipal bodies to fill this gap while working with civil society and safeguarding the rights of local citizens and communities.

The SCN will strengthen strategic planning and practices to address violent extremism in all its forms by fostering collaboration among cities, municipalities and other sub-national authorities.

“To counter violent extremism we need determined action at all levels of governance,” said Governing Mayor Stian Berger Røsland of Oslo while commenting on their participation in the SCN.  “To succeed, we must coordinate our efforts and cooperate across borders.  The Strong Cities Network will enable cities across the globe pool our resources, knowledge and best practices together and thus leave us standing stronger in the fight against one of the greatest threats to modern society.”

The SCN will connect cities, city-level practitioners and the communities they represent through a series of workshops, trainings and sustained city partnerships.  Network participants will also contribute to and benefit from an online repository of municipal-level good practices and web-based training modules and will be eligible for grants supporting innovative, local initiatives and strategies that will contribute to building social cohesion and resilience to violent extremism.

The SCN will include an International Steering Committee of approximately 25 cities and other sub-national entities from different regions that will provide the SCN with its strategic direction.  The SCN will also convene an International Advisory Board, which includes representatives from relevant city-focused networks, to help ensure SCN builds upon their work.  It will be run by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a leading international “think-and-do” tank with a long-standing track record of working to prevent violent extremism:

“The SCN provides a unique new opportunity to apply our collective lessons in preventing violent extremism in support of local communities and authorities around the world”, said CEO Sasha Havlicek of ISD.  “We look forward to developing this international platform for joint innovation to impact this pressing challenge.”

“It is with great conviction that Montréal has agreed to join the Strong Cities Network founders,” said the Honorable Mayor Denis Coderre of Montreal.  “This global network is designed to build on community-based approaches to address violent extremism, promote openness and vigilance and expand upon local initiatives like Montréal’s Mayors’ International Observatory on Living Together.  I am delighted that through the Strong Cities Network, the City of Montréal will more actively share information and best practices with a global network of leaders on critical issues facing our communities.”

The Strong Cities Network will launch on Sept. 29, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. EDT, following the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism.  Welcoming remarks will be offered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, who will also introduce a Keynote address by U.S. Attorney General Lynch.  Following this event, the Strong Cities International Steering Committee, consisting of approximately 25 mayors and other leaders from cities and other sub-national entities from around the globe, will hold its inaugural meeting on Sept. 30, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT.