With their waxed moustaches, precision-clipped beards and dapper clothes, members of the Mr. Erbil gentleman's club look like the smarter residents of Brooklyn or Shoreditch. But this is Iraqi Kurdistan, just 60 miles from ISIS.
[Note by Tom Gross]
I attach a number of articles below, which may be on interest to those of you who follow military matters.
Before that, something lighter from Iraqi Kurdistan:
And something more serious, also concerning an Iraqi Kurd:
I have linked to Shifa Gardi's reports before. She was a fearless journalist. She died yesterday in Mosul.
* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia
1. “350% increase in women warfighters in the IDF ground arm” (By Or Heller, Israel Defense Magazine, Feb. 23, 2017)
2. “A German clash over Trump’s NATO demands: The German military is in a terrible state” (By Konstantin von Hammerstein, Der Spiegel, Feb. 25, 2017)
3. “Hezbollah forces to remain in Syria until political deal reached” (Tasnim News, Teheran, Feb. 25, 2017)
4. [Iranian-controlled] “Iraqi Nujaba movement ready to join Syrian Army operation to liberate Occupied Golan” (Fars news agency, Teheran, Feb. 25, 2017)
5. “India clears $2.6 billion air defense system purchase from Israel” (By Alexei Danichev, Sputnik, Feb. 24, 2017)
“350% INCREASE IN WOMEN WARFIGHTERS IN THE IDF GROUND ARM”
“350% Increase in Women Warfighters in the IDF Ground Arm”
Following a staff work effort that lasted about eighteen months, the IDF publishes new data, trends, and conclusions regarding the integration of female warfighters in the IDF Ground Arm
By Or Heller
Israel Defense Magazine
February 23, 2017
[Tom Gross adds: some in Israel have criticized this decision to reduce fire-power and use lighter weapons for both male and female troops in some battalions in an effort to accommodate female recruits, saying that Hizbullah and other forces who may attack Israel won’t be doing the same. ]
IDF sources reported a 350% increase in the number of female warfighters serving in the IDF Ground Arm between 2015 and 2016, an improvement in motivation to opt for combat positions among female recruits from the religious sector, and an increase in the recruitment of religious female warfighters into the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps – at present the “Eilat” company is a “gender specific” company and soon the entire “Eitam” battalion will become a “gender specific” battalion enabling religious female warfighters to join its ranks.
As part of the establishment of the new border protection layout, which integrates the border protection mission and commands the various setups, the border protection training school will be established in November, where the personnel of this layout will be trained (surveillance operators, combat intelligence collection operators, trackers, operations center NCOs and light infantry border battalions). The establishment of the new border protection layout provides a glimpse into the data and service characteristics of IDF female warfighters. Last week, the IDF Ground Arm presented, in a briefing to the press held at the Quirya compound, the border protection layout currently being established. The new layout includes the four mixed light infantry battalions (Caracal, Arayot HaYarden, Bardelas and the new 47th battalion), the combat intelligence collection forces, the civilian settlement protection forces, the command centers of the regional brigades and divisions and other elements.
This new layout is being established pursuant to a staff work effort that lasted about eighteen months, during which the IDF attempted to make the necessary adaptations and improvements required in order to enable female warfighters to serve in the ground forces (today, some 1,300 female warfighters serve in ground units), with the emphasis on the female warfighters in the mixed battalions and the combat intelligence collection battalions, which are intended to constitute the core of the new layout. This staff work effort produced various data, trends and conclusions regarding the typical female warfighter of the IDF ground forces.
For example, a comparison between a company of new female recruits in basic infantry training course and a mixed warfighter company indicated that in the mixed company, the number of ‘sick bay’ calls and visits to the medical staff was four times higher. It was further indicated that female warfighters are 5 cm shorter, on average, than male warfighters, in addition to other physiological changes that would require adaptations of the nutrition of female warfighters as early as during the training stage at the new training base for mixed light infantry battalions. The new base is a part of the Sayarim Combat Intelligence Collection School in the Arava region, and is to be opened between August and November (today, the training companies of these battalions are scattered among the brigade training centers of the Golani, Givati and Nahal infantry brigades).
Another adaptation currently under development for the benefit of the female warfighters is a lighter and more comfortable helmet and a combat vest designed specifically to fit the female body. Additionally, a decision was made to discontinue the use of heavy machine guns and MAG machine guns in the configurations carried by the male and female warfighters. These machine guns will only be mounted on the routine security vehicles. The male and female warfighters will continue to carry the Negev machine guns regarded as lighter and more comfortable. The light infantry battalions will adopt the shortened version of the M-16 assault rifle, which is, admittedly longer but lighter than the Micro-Tavor rifle used thus far by the warfighters of the Caracal battalion.
IDF sources admitted that a substantial dropout was recorded about two years ago and about a year ago in two major elements of the new border protection layout: the new light infantry battalions and the female surveillance operator force.
9% of female surveillance operators in active service plus 12.5% of the operators undergoing training dropped out of this demanding job in 2015, but last year the dropout figure decreased to 8% during active service and 5.7% during training. The female surveillance operator layout has grown by 1500% in the last decade. Pursuant to the reconstruction of the operations center infrastructures and the revised leave arrangements, dropout figures decreased by 15% between 2015 and 2016. According to IDF sources, dropout has stopped and decreased in the light infantry battalions as well. “The staff was not suitable for these companies. They had squad leaders and platoon commanders that had hailed from such other brigades as the Golani Brigade and did not know how to deal with the special characteristics of a mixed company,” a senior Ground Arm officer explained. “Today, almost all of the commanders in these companies had previously served in the mixed battalions. Contrary to the American concept according to which the same selection processes are applied to both male and female warfighters, we decided to make adaptations so as to have many more female warfighters relative to the US Army.”
Another officer described the extent to which negative media reports regarding the service conditions affect motivation as early as during the recruitment stage: “A few weeks ago, 35 female recruits at the BAKUM (IDF central recruitment & selection depot) refused to be transported to the surveillance operator course pursuant to negative media reports, despite the increase we had experienced following Operation Protective Edge.” Another element with which the IDF is trying to cope with the fluctuations in motivation is the new unique beret designed for the entire personnel of the new layout by one of the female warfighters – a yellow and brown camouflage pattern.
All of the above notwithstanding, in the coming years, the new layout is not expected to be involved in the primary activities of the world of routine security that keep the IDF busy in the various border sectors. These activities are assigned to the battalions of the regular brigades – the same battalions expected to execute the ground maneuvers in enemy territory during wartime. These battalions, the very core of the combat force of the regular military, will continue to be trained for routine security operations by the IDF regional commands. “Our vision is to establish a training base through which all of the IDF battalions assigned to operational routine security activities will go,” explained the Ground Arm officer. “For the time being, the new layout includes the drivers, the operations center officers and female NCOs for the various sectors, the routine security coordinators and the trackers. The objective is to assign all four light infantry battalions to operational security activities in the Judea and Samaria district by 2018 – just like the mixed battalions of the IDF Home Front Command. Today, these four battalions also have operational plans for fighting in enemy territory near the border. We look at the border threat while planning a few steps ahead. Accordingly, for example, the issue of multicopters is already on our doorstep, as a surveillance asset or as a strike asset, operated by Hamas as well as by Hezbollah, and we are preparing to face this threat, among others.”
THE GERMAN MILITARY IS IN A TERRIBLE STATE
A German Clash over Trump’s NATO Demands: The German military is in a terrible state
U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand that NATO member states pay their fair share has turned into a political hot potato ahead of German elections later this year. But the debate ignores a salient fact: The German military is in a terrible state.
By Konstantin von Hammerstein
February 25, 2017
It was really nothing more than a test. Sigmar Gabriel was standing at the lectern inside the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich for his first appearance at the Munich Security Conference in his new role as German foreign minister. And he looked terrible. He was sick and had cancelled many of his appointments, but nevertheless decided not to forego his speech and the Security Conference. He wanted to toss a fly into the NATO soup.
That morning, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had spoken from the same stage and had used the spotlight to urge NATO member states to fulfil their alliance obligations as agreed and spend the equivalent of at least 2 percent of their GDPs on defense. Germany was one of his primary targets. The country is the clear economic leader in Europe, but Berlin only spends 1.2 percent of its GDP on the military, less even in absolute terms than the United Kingdom, France and a host of other European countries.
Gabriel was well aware of all that, but he said: “We have to be a bit careful here that we don’t over-interpret the 2 percent target.” He then became much clearer: “Maintain perspective, stay focused on the target, but avoid being consumed by the bliss of a new rearmament spiral!” That was the decisive phrase: Rearmament spiral.
Following the careful test balloon launched in Munich, Gabriel dripped a bit more oil into the fire a few days later, warning of “blind obedience” to the U.S. He also took a dig at his cabinet colleague Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, saying that she apparently had a rather “naïve” notion regarding what was possible in Germany.
Just a few weeks after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the debate over military spending has reached the depths of the accelerating German election campaign. Trump himself triggered the debate, having declared several times that NATO is “obsolete” and hinting that the U.S. would make its loyalties dependent on member states paying their fair share.
Ever since the real-estate tycoon’s adversarial speeches in New York, the trans-Atlantic alliance has found itself in a crisis of trust. But for Gabriel, the issue opens up a world of possibilities.
MORALS AND VALUES
Gabriel, after all, is not just foreign minister. He is also the erstwhile head of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). Since the party chose former European Parliament president Martin Schulz as its chancellor candidate a few weeks ago, the party has been revitalized and, after more than a decade of doldrums, finally believes it has a realistic chance of unseating Chancellor Angela Merkel in the September general election.
Gabriel is now using the battle over increased defense spending as a symbol of resistance against the unpopular President Trump, a man who most German voters view with a significant distrust. For the SPD, the debate has great potential: the enemy is clear and, at its core, the debate is about morals and values. It also has the advantage that it pushes Merkel’s conservatives into the Trump camp and puts them in the uncomfortable position of having to insist on spending more money on arms, which has never been politically palatable for a broad swath of the electorate.
The debate has now become so potent that it has slowly begun losing all connection to reality. The actual needs of the German military, the Bundeswehr, hardly play any role at all. Which means the question as to what it would actually mean were 2 percent of GDP invested in the military has gone unanswered. Would it really be a “rearmament spiral” as Gabriel would have it?
The best overview of the state of the German military is provided once a year in a report submitted by Armed Forces Commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels. As an SPD member of parliament for many years, Bartels is a credible voice from the perspective of the Social Democrats. And the image that he paints of the Bundeswehr is dark indeed.
One year ago, he described how the Saxony-based 371st tank battalion, prior to taking on its role as “spearhead” of the NATO Response Force, had to borrow 15,000 pieces of equipment from 56 other German military units. In another example, the 345th artillery training battalion, based just west of Frankfurt, was officially supposed to have 24 armored artillery vehicles at its disposal. In reality, though, it had just seven, of which six were on standby for NATO and could not be used. And the seventh was in reserve for the six on standby. Troops reported to Bartels that they hadn’t been able to carry out training exercises at the site for the last three years.
There is an endless list of such examples: A mountain infantry unit had only 96 pairs of night-vision goggles available instead of the 522 it had been allotted -- of which 76 had to be loaned out to other units. Which meant they only had 20, of which 17 were damaged.
The lack of equipment, Bartels wrote in his most recent report, has led to a system of sharing by necessity. “It is often the case, with Navy units that are returning from a mission, for example, that as soon as they dock in their homeport, pieces of equipment are immediately dismounted from ships and then remounted on those vessels heading out to replace them, such as (radar devices). The components wear out much more quickly due to the frequent mounting and dismounting, such that the process becomes self-reinforcing.”
One can imagine the Bundeswehr as a fire department which, due to a lack of money, has no hoses, too few helmets, hardly any ladder trucks and no oxygen masks. But the department isn’t eliminated entirely just in case a fire breaks out.
Following cabinet consultations back in 2010, then-Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s CDU, rejoiced at the government’s decision to cut 8.3 billion euros from the defense budget by 2014, referring to it as a “unique opportunity” for “realignment.” The German military still hasn’t recovered.
The military had already shrunk in the two decades since the end of the Cold War, from more than half a million soldiers to just 205,000 in 2011. The number of Leopard 2 battle tanks at the Bundeswehr’s disposal likewise plunged during that same time period, from 2,000 to 225. The additional cuts announced by Guttenberg, largely a consequence of the financial crisis, were a step too far. “The national goal of budget consolidation,” Guttenberg said at the time, “is the most important strategic parameter” for the reorganization of the German military.
A STREAM OF NEW EUPHEMISMS
In the future, the structures weren’t going to determined spending needs, but spending needs were going to determine the structures. Classic areas of concern, such as alliance and national defense needs, were no longer seen as central. Operations overseas became the priority, determining personnel, materiel and munitions needs. NATO’s eastern flank was still at peace and, according to the logic of the time, since the boys were in Afghanistan anyway, not as many tanks were needed at home.
The Defense Ministry invented a constant stream of new euphemisms to describe the measures taken to deal with the deficiencies. “Dynamic Availability Management,” for example, shortened to the acronym DynVM, was used to describe a situation when one unit had to borrow tanks from another for exercises. And when just three surveillance drones were acquired instead of the 20 necessary, it was termed “minimum contribution.”
Erhard Bühler still shudders when he is forced to use such terms. As commander of the 10th tank division, he was an immediate victim of the budget cuts. He was told by Berlin one morning that his base was slated for closure and had to give a press conference at noon, still largely in the dark about what was happening.
The lieutenant general is now head of the planning division in the Defense Ministry and thus responsible for the future constellation of the German military. In addition to the German flag, a large oil painting of Prussian King Frederick the Great hangs on the wall behind his desk. He continually pulls graphics out of a file folder showing the decline of the Bundeswehr.
The consequences of Guttenberg’s “realignment,” the graphics make clear, are hollow structures and a military that is slowly wearing out. There is a huge need for new, modern equipment. According to protocol, the army is supposed to have at least 70 percent of large pieces of equipment, such as tanks and armored vehicles, available during operations. In reality, though, it is often much less than that. Other systems, such as night-vision goggles, are often missing completely.
Bühler’s colorful graphics make it clear how the 2010 budget cuts made it impossible for several years to pursue badly needed modernization efforts. Now, it will take several more years before that technology can be delivered to the troops.
With much to-do, Defense Minister von der Leyen has since announced several “trend reversals,” according to which the Bundeswehr is turning its back on Guttenberg’s focus on overseas operations. In the future, national and alliance defense will once again determine structures within the German military. Russian aggression has led to a reinterpretation of the threat levels on NATO’s eastern flank.
Since the seminal Harmel Report in 1967, compiled for NATO by the Belgian Foreign Minister Pierre Harmel, the alliance has viewed effective deterrence as an important partner alongside dialogue and negotiation. Security and the reduction of tensions are not contradictory, the philosophy holds, rather the one is dependent on the other. As such, rapprochement with Russia will only be possible if Moscow takes European military strength seriously. That becomes even more important if the U.S. under Trump withdraws from Europe.
After years of falling, the German defense budget is now climbing again. This year it is slated to rise by 8 percent to 37 billion euros. But even if Germany were to increase its budget to between 65 million and 75 million euros by 2024, thus fulfilling its 2 percent commitment, it would be far from being a “rearmament spiral.” Rather, it would serve to complete the necessary modernization of the German military. It would fill up the hollow structures of today.
Bühler is following the political debate carefully. In his graphics, the lines for the next budget year and thereafter are dotted and drawn in red. And they come to an end in 2021 -- at 1.5 percent.
HEZBOLLAH FORCES TO REMAIN IN SYRIA UNTIL POLITICAL DEAL REACHED
Hezbollah Forces to Remain in Syria until Political Deal Reached: Official
Tasnim News (Tehran)
February 25, 2017
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Lebanese Hezbollah Resistance Movement’s second-in-command, Sheikh Naim Qassem, made assurances that the movement’s military forces will remain in war-hit Syria until a political agreement is reached there.
“The Hezbollah forces have been deployed to Syria to support resistance front,” Sheikh Qassem said in an exclusive interview with the Tasnim News Agency.
The forces will remain stationed in Syria as long as they are needed and they will not return to Lebanon until a political solution is reached in the Arab country, the cleric added.
The Hezbollah official also emphasized that the current situation in Syria is better than ever and there is a good commitment to the nationwide ceasefire there.
He added that the Syrian forces have made major advances against foreign-backed terrorist and now the grounds are provided for reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
Sheikh Qassem had traveled to Iran to attend an international conference on Palestinian Intifada held in Tehran earlier this week with around 700 foreign officials and intellectuals, including 18 parliament speakers, in attendance.
Diplomatic efforts to end fighting in Syria have gained momentum in recent weeks with the announcement of a ceasefire in the Arab country in early January.
The truce, which was negotiated between Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Damascus government and the Syrian opposition, excludes terrorist groups such as Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
Syria has been gripped by civil war since March 2011 with various terrorist groups, including Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL), currently controlling parts of it.
According to a report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.
(IRANIAN-REGIME CONTROLLED) IRAQI NUJABA MOVEMENT READY TO JOIN SYRIAN ARMY OPERATION TO LIBERATE OCCUPIED GOLAN
Iraqi Nujaba Movement Ready to Join Syrian Army Operation to Liberate Occupied Golan
Fars news agency (Iran)
February 25, 2017
TEHRAN (FNA)- Sheikh Akram al-Ka’abi, the leader of Hezbollah al-Nujaba, a major Iraqi Shiite resistance movement fighting the ISIL, underlined his forces’ preparedness to cooperate with the Syrian Army troops to liberate the Golan region occupied by Israeli forces.
Al-Ka’abi said that the ISIL terrorist group is implementing an Israeli-initiated road map under the supervision of the US with the cooperation of Turkey and Arab states of the Persian Gulf in the region.
“And our presence in Syria is aimed at resisting against this plot,” Ka’abi underscored.
He further underlined Iraqi al-Nujaba movement’s full readiness to take part in a war to liberate Israeli-occupied Golan Heights shoulder to shoulder with the Syrian Army soldiers.
A spokesman of Iraq’s Hezbollah al-Nujaba Movement declared in a statement in January that his fighters would fight against the terrorist groups in Syria until driving all of them out of the neighboring country.
“We were the first group (of popular forces) to have arrived in Syria to fight terrorists and we will stay there until the last terrorist leaves the country,” Seyed Hashem al-Moussavi said in his statement.
He reiterated that the Iraqi popular forces fight against the terrorist groups for humanitarian reasons, and said, “The reason for our presence in Syria is only to fight terrorism.”
His words came as Syrian soldiers, the Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and the Iraqi al-Nujaba Movement were about to carry out a joint operation on the Southern outskirts of Aleppo city to liberate the districts of Rashedeen 4 and 5 and then rush to Khan Touman to free the town from Jeish Al-Fatah coalition of terrorist groups.
INDIA CLEARS $2.6 BILLION AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM PURCHASE FROM ISRAEL
India Clears $2.6 Billion Air Defense System Purchase From Israel
By Alexei Danichev
February 24, 2017
India is also negotiating with Russia for long range air defense system S-400 which is expected to be finalized next month.
NEW DELHI (Sputnik) — In a bid to expedite the overhauling of obsolete air defense system, Indian government has approved a budget of $2.6 billion for the acquisition of Medium Range Surface to Air Defense Missile Systems from Israel. Sources told Sputnik that this acquisition for the Indian Army will be in line with ongoing India-Israel LRSAM and MRSAM projects for Indian Navy and Indian Air Force respectively. The system is jointly developed by India and Israel and will intercept aerial threats at range up to 70 Kilometer. According to approved proposal, Indian Army will start receiving the missile system by 2023. A total of 40 firing units and over 200 missiles are proposed for induction in the Indian armed forces.
The project will be completed in India under the guidance of Defense Research Development Organization. Bharat Dynamics is expected to produce the system whereas private sector companies like Tata Power SED and Larson & Turbo are likely to participate for supplying components for the missile system.
“For long range missile systems, we are in talks with Russia for S-400, but in medium range there is a clear gap and threat is actually that, medium range threat is more. All the combat formations that are moving around, they require cover then staging area of the army, consultation areas of the army, tactical assembly areas of the army; they require coverage. Airfields also require coverage. Vulnerable areas and points require air defense coverage. MRSAM is important kind of an acquisition. Equally important is the fact that it will be Make in India product,” says Brigadier Rumel Dahiya (retired), a renowned defense analyst.
India’s air defense has received a major setback in the recent past as there has not been any major acquisition except for some for short range Akash missile system. “This is not sufficient. A long time back, we had taken some air defense missile systems from Russia, that was three decades back,” Dahiya added.
MRSAM will be an important component of India’s Cold Start doctrine. Cold Start doctrine is considered as retaliatory offensive arrangement along western border through which Indian armed forces can hit specific targets of rivals in limited duration. Indian Army had been continuously requisitioning for MRSAM since a long time back to defend mechanized formations operating in the plains and desert regions of the country.