Archive for the ‘Air support’ category

Border Patrol union urges Trump to cut Obama’s red tape holding back agents

April 3, 2017

Border Patrol union urges Trump to cut Obama’s red tape holding back agents, Washington Times

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine agent peers out of the open door of a helicopter during a patrol flight over McAllen, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border. (Associated Press)

The Homeland Security Department has been reluctant to send helicopters on nighttime missions to aid the Border Patrol, leaving agents to face drug smugglers and illegal immigrants without critical air cover, the chief of the agents’ labor union told Congress late last month.

Brandon Judd, an agent who is also president of the National Border Patrol Council, said that unless President Trump can solve that kind of bureaucratic bungling — and is willing to oust the Obama administration figures who botched the policies — he will struggle to secure the border.

The helicopters are one example of that, Mr. Judd said.

Mr. Judd said that when the Border Patrol controlled its own helicopters, it got the air support it needed. But after the Homeland Security Department was created more than a decade ago, the helicopters were turned over to the Office of Air and Marine, which has been reluctant to fly the nighttime hours the agents need.

“Right now the Office of Air and Marine, they fly very little at night,” he told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “In fact, in [the Rio Grande Valley sector], we had to use Coast Guard to fly sorties in certain areas. And when their apprehensions became so great, it’s my understanding the officer at Air and Marine asked them not to fly anymore at night in RGV because it was making them look bad.”

Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees both the Border Patrol and the Air and Marine division, declined to comment.

But Mr. Judd said it’s just one example of a bureaucracy erecting hurdles — what he called “kingdom-building” — that he said could stymie Mr. Trump’s immigration goals.

“We talk about securing the border, and the border — we can absolutely secure it, but it cannot be secure if our operations are not sound,” Mr. Judd told The Washington Times.

“What’s very concerning to Border Patrol agents is, to this point, we still have the same people who gave us all of the failed operations, who were the authors of the catch-and-release program. They’re still in charge — even under this current administration,” the union chief said. “That’s head-scratching, especially since the president said we’re going to drain the swamp.”

Mr. Trump’s early changes to enforcement policy, freeing agents to carry out the law enforcement duties they signed up for, has helped boost morale, said Mr. Judd and Chris Crane, the head of the union for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council.

But they said the agencies’ leadership needs attention.

Mr. Crane said “a good ol’ boy network” pervades ICE, which he said is too heavy on managers who get in the way of agents trying to enforce immigration laws in the interior. He said agents are eager to enforce laws against employers who hire illegal immigrants, but their hands are tied.

The complaints of bureaucratic bungling struck home with both Democrats and Republicans on the homeland security committee, who said they are eager to find bipartisan areas where they can help the agents get things going.

One challenge is the polygraph test, which all Border Patrol applicants must pass. The agency’s 75 percent failure rate is higher than that of any other law enforcement department, but the top brass say they are committed to it — even as they prepare to try to hire 5,000 more agents to comply with Mr. Trump’s executive orders.

Even police officers who have passed polygraphs for their current jobs but who are looking to transfer can end up failing, Mr. Judd said.

Both Democrats and Republicans said they are eager to clean up the immigration agencies within the Homeland Security Department and would like to find common ground with the agents and officers.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said the panelists want to know the names of bureaucrats who are standing in the way of smart enforcement — though she said the ICE and Border Patrol unions, which endorsed Mr. Trump in the election campaign, may have a greater claim to the president’s ear.

Still, one Democrat, Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, said she worries that the agency is expanding too quickly, without training to protect illegal immigrants from overzealous enforcement. She wanted to make sure agents weren’t going after lesser-priority targets.

“When troops on the ground have not been trained, it leads to dysfunction because there is a lack of consistency and accountability and direction,” she told Mr. Crane, the chief of the union for ICE agents and officers.

Mr. Crane told her she misunderstood how agents in the field carried out their priority targeting.

Mr. Crane and Mr. Judd also said the government needs to be careful about salaries. Because ICE agents have higher pay and often have better living options away from remote border communities, Border Patrol agents may rush to join the other force.

Part of the problem is the complicated bureaucratic web.

ICE and the Border Patrol are separate law enforcement divisions within Homeland Security.

That bureaucratic mess also helps explain the problem with helicopter patrols along the border.

The Border Patrol used to have its own helicopters, but after CBP was created as part of Homeland Security, the Air and Marine division was created as a separate agency within CBP. Now, when agents want the assistance of eyes in the sky, they have to go outside their own chain of command.

Mr. Judd said the helicopters are a perfect illustration: Most illegal crossings are attempted at night, and air support is critical for maintaining visibility.

Just as important, when those attempting to sneak in hear a helicopter overhead, they are less likely to run — making the apprehension easier and less dangerous for agents.

Mr. Judd said the air division has dedicated most of its resources to the Border Patrol, but not at the right times, leaving the agents without night cover.

“We expected to see a huge change in the way CBP operates. There’s been no change to this point,” he said.

CBP has long faced questions about its use of air resources. The Homeland Security inspector general has been particularly withering in its evaluation of the drone program, saying CBP has a tough time keeping its aircraft aloft and in scheduling missions and can’t demonstrate the worth of the program.

CBP officials have said the inspector general is using suspect calculations.

Flights themselves can be dangerous.

In 2015, a helicopter was called in to assist local police who were trying to stop a drug smuggling attempt near Laredo, Texas. As the helicopter was making its second pass, it took fire from the Mexican side — perhaps as many as 15 rounds, two of which struck the aircraft.

CBP officials later said the man who fired on the helicopter was a specialized contractor whom the smugglers used to provide cover for their operations. Mexican authorities caught the man.

But in hopes of sending a message to the cartels, CBP sent to the region several Black Hawk helicopters, which can be armored to withstand enemy fire while continuing to fly.

Putin-Erdogan deal deadlocks Aleppo, Manjib frays

August 13, 2016

Putin-Erdogan deal deadlocks Aleppo, Manjib frays. DEBKAfile, August 13, 2016

n syria flashpoints

This hopeless standoff is the result of Moscow’s refusal to provide the Syrian army and its allies with enough air support to pull ahead, in the wake of President Vladimir Putin talks with Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan in St. Petersburg Tuesday, Aug. 9.

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All day Friday and Saturday, Aug.11-12, fighters of Hizballah’s elite Radwan Force – 3,000 in all – streamed to the pivotal Aleppo battlefield from all parts of Lebanon and Syria. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources disclose that they were following the orders of their leader Hassan Nasrallah, who was warned by Tehran that the pro-Assad army fighting for Syria’s second city was flagging in the face of rebel assaults.

The Radwan Force was called in as the only military capable of saving the day for Assad and his allies. This step had been carefully avoided by Nasrallah was required in view of the heavy losses his organization had already suffered for backing the Syrian army – some 1,500 dead in three years – and intense fallout at home.

He has now been forced to sacrifice his last remaining military asset to fight in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in recent times in the Middle East, even though it promises a swelling procession of Hizballah coffins returning to Lebanon.

According to our military sources, the battle to wrest Aleppo from rebel control, now in its second month, has claimed some 2,000 war dead and 4,000 injured on both sides – not counting the masses of civilians.

Some units have lost more than a quarter of their combatants and dropped out.

Nasrallah knows exactly what is happening in this critical arena. He also understands that a unit which loses 30 percent of its combatants is deemed in military terms unfit to continue fighting and that the battle for Aleppo will be drawn out and bloody. Yet he is willing to commit his entire deck of military resources to keep Bashar Assad’s fighting in Aleppo.

There is no hope of an early resolution in Aleppo, because stalemate between the combatants is exceptionally complicated and thankless. Whenever one side captures terrain, it quickly discovers it was drawn into a trap and under siege.

This hopeless standoff is the result of Moscow’s refusal to provide the Syrian army and its allies with enough air support to pull ahead, in the wake of President Vladimir Putin talks with Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan in St. Petersburg Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Aleppo_Rebels_ATGM-firings

Erdogan explained that if Assad’s army, along with Hizballah and Iran, defeated the Turkish-backed rebel forces holding Aleppo, he would suffer a serious knock to his prestige and setback for Syrian policy. This was more than he could sustain in the troubled atmosphere in Turkey in the wake of the failed coup against him.

He therefore asked the Russian president to abandon his Bashar Assad, Iran and Hizballah to their fate in Aleppo.

Erdogan was backed up in his request to Putin by a large Turkish military and intelligence delegation which arrived in St. Petersburg the next day to work with their Russian counterparts on setting up a joint military control center in Turkey.

DEBKAfile’s sources disclose the first two tasks assigned the new war room:

1. Russian aerial bombardments over Aleppo would not go beyond keeping the rebels from defeating Syrian and allied forces in Aleppo, but would refrain from supporting offensive action by the latter for routing the former.

2. Turkish air and ground forces would remain in a state of preparedness to ensure that rebel Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish YPG militia never moved out of the town of Manjib, from most parts of which they ousted ISIS, to the town of Jarabulus on the Turkish border.I

ISIS had used Manjib as its primary way station for supplies from Turkey 30km to the north. (See attached map). But to drive the jihadists completely out of the Syrian-Turkish border region, the combined rebel forcesmust advance on Jarabulus and expel ISIS from there too.

However, Turkish officers in the joint command center with Russia made it clear that any Kurdish forces allowed to reach that border would come under Turkish army attack.

The Russian president complied with Erdogan’s wishes on the Manjib-Jarabulus front as well as Alepp

Bangladesh: ISIS pays Italy back for role in Libya

July 3, 2016

Bangladesh: ISIS pays Italy back for role in Libya, DEBKAfile, July 3, 2016

Dhaka_high_powered_Dragunov_sniper_1.7.16

The Islamic State struck the West again on June 1, when it activated a local Bangladeshi cell for a murderous, hostage-taking attack on the Artisan Bakery and O’Kitchen Restaurant, a favorite haunt of foreign visitors near the diplomatic zone of Dakha, the capital. A large contingent of Italian businessmen dining there that night was specifically targeted by ISIS in revenge for the Rome government’s military intervention in the campaign to eject the Islamists from Libya.

DEBKAfile intelligence and counter terror sources note that the long Islamist arm reached into the Indian subcontinent, 7,000km away, to settle its score with Italy, rather than sending its killers by the obvious route from the ISIS capital Sirte in Libya to Italy across 1,200km of Mediterranean Sea. This tactic saved them the risk of running the gauntlet of the Italian Navy boats which are fanned out across the Sidra Gulf to staunch the flow of migrants (an important source of income for ISIS) and intercept terrorists heading for attack in Europe.

Bangladesh is the world’s second largest manufacturing center after China for the major Western fashion houses, netting each year 26.5 Billion USD, 75 pc of its foreign currency earnings. Among the important Italian fashion houses manufacturing in Bangladesh are Prada, Milan, and Benetton.

Italian special operations contingents are the largest Western force operating on several fronts in Libya since early January. They are fighting to capture the key port town of Sirte together with British and US special forces and alongside local Libyan forces.

On April 29, DEBKAfile reported: “ISIS fighters smashed a force of Italian and British Special Ops troops on Wednesday, April 27 in the first battle of its kind in Libya. This battle will result in the delay of the planned Western invasion of Libya, as the encounter proved that European forces are not ready for this kind of guerilla warfare. The sources also said the planners of the invasion were surprised by the high combat skills of the ISIS fighters.”

The Bangladesh attack was therefore not the first contretemps suffered by Italy in its fight on Islamist terror.

Inside Libya, the fighting continues unresolved for lack of air support. The US, Italy, France and the UK cannot agree on which of them will supply air cover for the ground forces battling for Sirte and which will assume command.

In early June, overall command of the campaign was given to NATO. That decision did not break the allied impasse either, because its members remained at loggerheads over respective air force contributions, provision of the logistic intelligence required for aerial operations and, lastly, funding.

Due to insufficient air cover, western and Libyan special forces are stuck in the parts of Sirte they have captured, but cannot advance towards the city’s center or root out the ISIS fighters.

The fact that ISIS was able to operate a terror cell in far-away Bangladesh to strike a counterblow in the battle in Northern Africa, testified to the global scope of the terror organization’s command and communication reach.

Just like the November 2015 Paris attacks, the terrorists were in telephone contact with their masters in the Middle East, once in a while sending pictures of the victims they murdered inside the restaurant.

In the attack, the terrorists killed 9 Italian businessmen, 7 Japanese businessmen, one US citizen, 3 local citizens, and one Indian.

The hostages were executed by beheading with machetes.

The counter terrorism sources report that, just as in the terror attacks in Brussels, Paris and Istanbul, the attackers in Dakha were previously known to local security and intelligence agencies, at least five of the seven terrorists were known to the Bangladesh security agencies, who claimed they were unable to stop them.