High-Level Leaders of FARC Dissident Groups Killed

Colombian FARC dissident, Iván Márquez, is the most significant remaining leader of the Second Marquetalia.

Colombian FARC dissident, Iván Márquez, is the most significant remaining leader of the Second Marquetalia.


“Although so far no evidence is known in this regard, the deaths of both dissident leaders occurred very close to the border with Colombia…However, the authorities do not rule out any theory.”


Colombia’s continued struggle against dissidents of the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) communist guerrilla group has achieved notable successes of late.  Darío Velásquez, alias “El Paisa,” and Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” were killed in separate shootouts in Venezuela, according to Medellin-based daily newspaper El Colombiano.  Both were high-ranking commanders in the FARC guerrilla group, known as the Second Marquetalia, who continued their struggle against the Colombian state after the broader group signed the 2016 peace accords with the Colombian government.  The outlet reminds readers that the deaths come on the heels of the killing of Seuxis Pausias Hernández Solarte, alias “Jesús Santrich,” another prominent commander of the Second Marquetalia killed recently in Venezuela.  This leaves Iván Márquez alone in his struggle to maintain the relevance of the Second Marquetalia. Although conflict along the Colombia-Venezuela border is nothing new, the intensity and number of actors involved is increasing, according to Columbia’s politically centrist daily El Tiempo.  Numerous groups have flocked to the area for a lucrative slice of Venezuela’s illicit economies.  El Tiempo reports the presence of several Colombian guerrilla groups, drug trafficking groups, and Venezuelan security groups.  The vacuum left by the deaths of Paisa and Romaña is a significant blow to the Second Marquetalia and has created room for other groups to compete for territory.  Further, while the Colombian state claims victory, it is unclear whether Colombian state security forces had a hand in the deaths of Paisa and Romaña.  The possibility that the two were killed by rival groups and not by Colombia’s security forces speaks to the shifting realities of the border area as a corridor for illicit goods.


Source:

“Romaña, El Paisa y Santrich: en 6 meses cayeron tres narcos de exFarc en Venezuela (Romaña, El Paisa and Santrich: in 6 months three ex-FARC drug traffickers fell in Venezuela),” El Colombiano (the major daily of the city of Medellín), 8 December 2021.  https://www.elcolombiano.com/colombia/muerte-de-romana-revela-cruel-guerra-por-coca-en-venezuela-PE16129372

Both Romaña and El Paisa supported Márquez in the creation of the so-called Second Marquetalia—announced in August 2019—to return to arms under the excuse of non-compliance by the government with the agreement.  But with the death of these two former members of the former Secretariat, and the murder of alias Jesús Santrich in May 2021, Márquez is left alone.

Source:  “Las hipótesis sobre la autoría de los ataques a ‘Romaña’ y ‘el Paisa’ (The hypotheses about the origin of the attacks on ‘Romaña’ and ‘El Paisa’),” El Tiempo (one of Colombia’s oldest dailies generally described as politically-centrist), 9 December 2021.  https://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/conflicto-y-narcotrafico/romana-y-el-paisa-las-hipotesis-sobre-quienes-mataron-a-los-disidentes-637796   

The first hypothesis, of which the Colombian Public Force has spoken, is that they died at the hands of another dissident group…second, it has been said that they could have been assassinated by their own men…there is also another possible scenario: that the deaths were caused by Colombian forces…Although so far no evidence is known in this regard, the deaths of both dissident leaders occurred very close to the border with Colombia…However, the authorities do not rule out any theory.


Image Information:

Image:  Colombian FARC dissident, Iván Márquez, is the most significant remaining leader of the Second Marquetalia.
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ivan-Marquez-GoraHerria.jpg
Attribution:  Wikimedia

Honduras Election Likely To Expand China’s Geopolitical Footprint

President-elect Xiomara Castro of Honduras campaigned on opening diplomatic relations with China.

President-elect Xiomara Castro of Honduras campaigned on opening diplomatic relations with China.


“Could the new left-wing Honduran executive repeat patterns that led to situations similar to those before the 2009 coup?…Another question is whether the new Honduran government will bet on strengthening relations with left-wing Latin American governments…Castro also intends to establish relations with mainland China.”


The most recent elections in Honduras could have outsized implications for geopolitics and emerging great power rivalry.  In late November, Hondurans voted overwhelmingly in favor of Xiomara Castro, wife of deposed president Manuel Zelaya, in a vote that broke the Honduran Nationalist Party’s hold on power.  The generally center-left Argentinian daily Clarín reports that the election set a record for participation and votes cast.  The outlet also reports that the post-election violence and accusations of fraud expected by some analysts, based on previous elections, did not come to pass.  The Spanish-language outlet of the British news agency BBC Americas, highlights the similarities and differences between Castro’s left-wing Libre Party and left-wing parties in the past.  It also highlights Castro’s campaign pledge to open relations with China and break relations with Taiwan as a major point of potential friction with profound ramifications.  Xiomara’s promise to open relations with China and end relations with Taiwan would follow a wave of similar announcements in Central America.  After Panama broke relations with Taiwan in 2017, El Salvador and Nicaragua have since followed.  If Castro follows through on her pledge, Guatemala and Belize would remain the only two countries in Central America to recognize Taiwan, tipping the geopolitical balance decisively in favor of China.  Further, Xiomara has pledged independence from her husband and his former administration, whose time in office was marked by close relations with Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, as well as controversial steps to weaken institutions and rewrite the country’s constitution.  Should Xiomara seek to develop similar relationships and pursue similar policies, it will contribute to Latin America’s leftward political trajectory and could be deleterious to the region’s already feeble democracies.

Source:

“Xiomara Castro se encamina a ser la nueva presidenta de Honduras (Xiomara Castro is on the way to being the new president of Honduras),” Clarín (the largest daily in Argentina and generally described as center-left), 28 November 2021.  https://www.clarin.com/mundo/cerraron-urnas-honduras-final-incierto-ex-primera-dama-oficialismo_0_m6V1ox0TE.html 

Fears of fraud, something that the opposition already denounced in the previous elections of 2017…fuel tensions…Current President Hernández managed to get reelected amid accusations of fraud by the opposition and international observers.  That unleashed a wave of protests and state repression that left some thirty dead.

Source:  “Xiomara Castro: en qué se diferencia la izquierda que regresa al poder en Honduras de la que fue derrocada por un golpe en 2009? (Xiomara Castro: how is the left that returns to power in Honduras different from the one that was overthrown by a coup in 2009?),” BBC Americas (the Spanish-language outlet of the British news agency), 1 December 2021.  https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-59486468

Could the new left-wing Honduran executive repeat patterns that led to situations similar to those before the 2009 coup?…Another question is whether the new Honduran government will bet on strengthening relations with left-wing Latin American governments…Castro also intends to establish relations with mainland China.


Image Information:

Image caption:  President-elect Xiomara Castro of Honduras campaigned on opening diplomatic relations with China.
Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Xiomara_Castro_on_August_07,_2007_(cropped).jpg
Attribution:  Wikimedia

Nicaragua’s Ortega Consolidating Dictatorship with Russian and Chinese Backing

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, Denis Moncada, speaks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrob.

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, Denis Moncada, speaks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrob.


“For years, the Russian government has been focused on occupying Nicaragua as a platform for cyber and electronic operations… This agreement is a delivery of the country’s security to the Russians.”


Nicaragua held presidential elections in early November under highly repressive conditions, with seven major opposition candidates imprisoned and hundreds of political prisoners.  Incumbent President Daniel Ortega ran practically unopposed.  Pre-election polls revealed that majorities of Nicaraguans would have voted for an opposition candidate over Ortega if given the chance.  Facing international isolation, a significant element of Ortega’s survival strategy leans on extra-hemispheric actors, including Russia, for support.  Spanish-language digital military journal Diálogo relays that Nicaragua’s National Assembly recently ratified an agreement to permit Russia a larger role in Nicaragua’s cyberspace.  Russia has promised to help Nicaragua monitor its cyber domain, which includes bringing forth evidence that would fall under the country’s repressive “cybercrimes” legislation, reports the outlet.  Most recently, according to popular U.S. Spanish-language outlet CNN Español, Nicaragua announced official relations with China, dropping diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. Facing criticism from much of the international community, the Ortega regime is eager to bolster its hold on power by deepening its partnership with Russia and China.  Further, given that the country’s opposition has used the internet to criticize and to organize itself politically (including in exile abroad), authoritarian great power rivals could ensure Ortega a much greater level of control over the domestic security apparatus.  As Ortega becomes increasingly isolated and desperate, Nicaragua will likely become an important platform for rivals to project power.


Source:

“Nicaragua rompe relaciones diplomáticas con Taiwán y solo reconoce a China

(Nicaragua breaks diplomatic relations with Taiwan and only recognizes China),” CNN Español (the Spanish-language outlet of the popular U.S. outlet), 9 December 2021.  https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2021/12/09/nicaragua-taiwan-china-orix/

The Nicaraguan government decided to break relations with Taiwan and will only recognize China, as announced by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada at a press conference this afternoon…Nicaragua’s announcement leaves just over a dozen countries around the world with official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, including Honduras and Guatemala.

Source:  “Rusia interviene en seguridad informática de Nicaragua (Russia intervenes in Nicaraguan IT security),” Diálogo (a Spanish-language digital military journal), 15 October 2021.  https://dialogo-americas.com/es/articles/rusia-interviene-en-seguridad-informatica-de-nicaragua/#.YWnYwxrMI2y  

For years, the Russian government has been focused on occupying Nicaragua as a platform for cyber and electronic operations…This agreement is a delivery of the country’s security to the Russians…and it will serve to launch, from a closer place in the hemisphere, cyber-attacks or interference in elections.


Image Information:

Image caption:  Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, Denis Moncada, speaks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrob.
Source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/mfarussia/49212557647/
Attribution:  Flickr

Indian Forces Work on Airlift Capabilities in Ladakh

Indian Air Force C-17.

Indian Air Force C-17.


“The effort was a real-time demonstration of the inherent heavy-lift capability of the Indian Air Force.”


Indian defense officials continue to make improvements to roads and other infrastructure in areas near the Indian-Chinese border to facilitate operations in the event of a war with China.  The accompanying excerpted articles provide a look at how Indian forces are training for additional scenarios outside of the improvements in the border areas.  

The article from independent news magazine India Today reports on a recent airlift exercise by the Indian Air Force and Army.  The exercise took place to assess India’s logistics supply chain as the “Indian armed forces are preparing for another winter of enhanced deployment of over 50,000 troops in Ladakh.”  According to the article, the exercise involved C-17, IL-76, and An-32 transport aircraft operating out of the country’s Western Air Command. 

The article from India-based independent English-language news website The Print reports on an exercise carried out by the “Shatrujeet (airborne) brigade” in early November.  The exercise took place in the north of the Union Territory of Ladakh and involved members of the brigade being “inserted to a drop zone at an altitude of more than 14,000 feet.”  The article notes that the soldiers had been acclimated to the change in elevation in Ladakh prior to the exercise and that the exercise took place in order to “validate rapid response capabilities and seamless integration.”  This is important because ground travel is relatively slow up to the Tibetan Plateau where the terrain is vulnerable to rock slides and other obstacles.  Future flashpoints or confrontations with China may require a rapid response capability that only airlift can provide until follow-on forces arrive.


Source:

Abhishek Bhalla, “Operation Hercules: Army, IAF prepare for winter deployment amid Ladakh standoff,” India Today (an independent news magazine), 17 November 2021.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/ladakh-standoff-china-indian-army-air-force-operation-hercules-1877909-2021-11-17

The Indian Army and Air Force carried out a joint exercise to assess their logistics supply chain. This exercise was held at a time when the Indian armed forces are preparing for another winter of enhanced deployment of over 50,000 troops in Ladakh amid continuing tensions with China…

Temperatures have begun to drop and will fall to minus 30-40 degrees during peak winter. The Indian forces are geared up for enhanced deployment in the harsh winter for a second successive year.

The exercise named ‘Operation Hercules’ was undertaken by the Indian Air Force and Indian Army on November 15 with transport aircraft of the IAF being pressed into action.

The platforms utilised for the airlift were C-17, IL-76 and An-32 aircraft, which took off from one of the forward bases of Western Air Command…

Source: “Army conducts airborne exercise in eastern Ladakh to check rapid response along LAC,” The Print (independent English-language news website from India), 1 November 2021. https://theprint.in/defence/army-conducts-airborne-exercise-in-eastern-ladakh-to-check-rapid-response-along-lac/760296/

The Indian Army’s Shatrujeet brigade is conducting an airborne exercise along the northern borders in eastern Ladakh to validate its rapid response capabilities, sources said on Monday…airborne troops of the Army’s Shatrujeet brigade were inserted to a drop zone at an altitude of more than 14,000 feet as part of the exercise, the sources mentioned.

These pre-acclimatised troops along with specialist vehicles and missile detachments were transported through C-130 and AN-32 aircraft from five different mounting bases to validate inter-theatre move, precision stand-off drops, rapid grouping and the capture of designated objectives with speed and surprise, they said.

…The exercise also involved combat free fall jumps and integrated battle drills by airborne forces, mechanised columns and attack helicopters, to validate rapid response capabilities and seamless integration…


Image Information:

Image: Indian Air Force C-17.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IAF-C-17.jpg
Attribution: Public Domain

Russian Airborne Receiving Modernized SVD “Sniper Rifle”

“Reconnaissance and special-purpose subunits are going to acquire some accuracy.  They will fully rearm with the SVDM sniper rifle, which outperforms the classic Dragunov.  The new weapon not only has outstanding accuracy but can also be used with a number of accessories — various sights, a silencer, and additional equipment can be attached to it.” 


The standard-issue infantry Kalashnikov family of weapons are not particularly accurate and have a modest effective range of 300 meters.  Their purpose is to conduct suppressive automatic fire to keep the enemy pinned down. The rifle squad and platoon needed a specialty weapon to engage the enemy from 300 to 800 meters.  The answer was the SVD Dragunov semiautomatic longer-range rifle.  While titled a sniper rifle, it is really a rugged expert marksman’s rifle that routinely engages targets to 800 meters.  Designed in 1963 and combat tested initially in South Vietnam, the SVD is older than most currently serving in the Russian military.  According to a recent article in the pro-government newspaper Izvestia, the Dragunov has now been upgraded and airborne and reconnaissance troops are first in line for the upgrade.  This is not the top-of-the-line professional Russian sniper rifle but seems ideal for rough-and-tumble field soldiering.


Source:

Roman Kretsul and Aleksei Ramm, “Точнее, и не смажешь: войсковую разведку перевооружат на новые винтовки (More Precision, No Lubrication. Tactical Reconnaissance Upgrades to New Rifles. Specialized Sniper Subunits to Get the SVDM),” Izvestia (pro-government newspaper), 7 November 2021.

https://iz.ru/1245135/roman-kretcul-aleksei-ramm/tochnee-i-ne-smazhesh-voiskovuiu-razvedku-perevooruzhat-na-novye-vintovki

Reconnaissance and special-purpose subunits are going to acquire some accuracy.  They will fully rearm with the SVDM sniper rifle, which outperforms the classic Dragunov.  The new weapon not only has outstanding accuracy but can also be used with a number of accessories — various sights, a silencer, and additional equipment can be attached to it.  According to experts, this greatly increases reconnaissance troops’ opportunities to eliminate targets at long range.”

The Defense Ministry has decided to upgrade tactical reconnaissance and special-purpose units with the SVDM sniper rifle…  The move should enhance these troops’ battlefield capabilities. The first consignments have already arrived in the Southern Military District.  The Dragunov sniper rifle (SVD) has served the forces well for half a century and in its class has become a brand, like Kalashnikov for assault rifles. Even a less than expert soldier is sure to hit targets with it at ranges of up to 800 meters.  The Dragunov combines greater firepower and range than an assault rifle with exceptional reliability and relative simplicity of use.  Back in Soviet times the role of sniper armed with an SVD was inserted into the standard complement of a motorized infantry squad.  This gave Soviet infantry a substantial increase in firepower compared to foreign armies.

Russian engineers have been working in recent decades on various options for modernizing this tried and true weapon. The latest modification is the SVDM.  Made of advanced materials, it has improved ergonomics and greater accuracy.

The gun mounts Picatinny rails on which accessories to suit the mission at hand, such as optical or night sights or a silencer may be mounted in minutes.  The SVDM has backup iron sights and a fixed point for a folding bipod.  Many older models of the gun required some disassembly in order to mount the accessories, which is a lengthy process.

“In the army a sniper is actually a low-altitude precision weapon,” military expert Vladislav Shurygin stated.  “The Dragunov sniper rifle means you can deliver accurate fire over medium distances.  In battle it is used to take out important targets.  The sniper usually accompanies the commander and is tasked by him.  A modernization for the Dragunov is further confirmation that this gun was created with future upgrades in mind, and it still has great potential today.”

Albert Bakov, general director of TsNIItochmash [Central Scientific Research Institute for Precision Machine Engineering] told Izvestiya in an interview in 2019 that the Dragunov was so perfectly designed from the outset that in the category of army rifles for shooting at ranges between 500 and 800 meters “it cannot be made any better” — only individual elements can be improved.  You can paddle with it, you can throw it around — and it works fine over ranges of 500 to 800 meters.” The company is now working on larger-caliber rifles.

The Kalashnikov concern is currently upgrading the Chuvakin sniper rifle (SVCh), which should hit individual targets at ranges of up to a kilometer with the first shot. It is designed to take two types of cartridge — the powerful Russian 7.62×54 mm flanged and the NATO 7.62×51 mm rifle cartridge. When it will acquire its final shape and enter serial production is unknown.

Until the Chuvakin is inducted into service, the Dragunov will remain the best sniper rifle option for the regular troops.  There are longer-range and more powerful rifles in existence but they are far more expensive and technically complex, and are intended not for use in battle but for particular types of missions.  These weapons are supplied in limited numbers to special-purpose subunits in the army and the security and law enforcement agencies.

The military has already begun to rearm its marksmen:  Airborne Troops reconnaissance subunits have received the brand-new AK-12 assault rifle.  Outwardly it resembles the classic Kalashnikov, but this is a fundamental redesign.  It has acquired the ability to fire in fixed bursts of two rounds per trigger pull, it has a longer-lasting barrel, additional detachable accessories, and easier switching between shooting modes.  New thermal imagers, silencers, and collimator sights are in production for it, enabling accurate fire at silhouette targets from ranges of up to 500 meters.The new weapons and kit now arriving at the Airborne Troops are radically extending their capabilities.  Izvestiya already reported that the blue berets’ reconnaissance subunits have received the new Arbalet-2 parachute, with which they can jump from altitudes of up to 4,000 meters, or higher if they have oxygen tanks.  The parachute’s special canopy means that it can be steered while in flight, which means that troopers can travel dozens of kilometers while descending, to penetrate behind enemy lines undetected.

Central Asian States Take the Initiative in Security Cooperation

Map of Central Asia.

Map of Central Asia.


“Against the backdrop of countering challenges to security and stability in the region, primarily with the situation in neighboring Afghanistan, the two sides confirmed that the positions of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan completely coincide on this.”


Much of the security cooperation analysis that takes place with Central Asian states often focuses on Russian, Chinese, or U.S. efforts in the region.  While important, this particular scope overlooks how Central Asian states have been increasingly carrying out bilateral security cooperation with each other in recent years.  The accompanying excerpted articles report on recent security cooperation between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and provide insight on how governments in the region are cooperating with each other outside of the influence of other partners.

The article from Central Asia-focused independent news website Fergana Agency reports that the presidents of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan recently signed a “Declaration of Allied Relations.”  The agreement allows for increased cooperation between the two sides in a number of areas, including defense.  Additionally, both governments confirmed they have the same position on “countering challenges to security and stability in the region” in relation to the situation in Afghanistan. 

The first article from Uzbek news website Kun.uz reports on a recent joint military exercise carried out by Kazakh and Uzbek units.  The exercise involved engaging “with an illegally armed group that had broken through the state border” and that Kazakh and Uzbek forces used multiple systems to eliminate the threat.  The exercise marks another example of Central Asian forces conducting bilateral exercises annually for the past several years focused on eliminating a terrorist group.  The majority of Russia-led or China-led joint military exercises in the region involve similar scenarios.

The second article from Kun.uz reports on a November meeting between the defense ministers of both countries.  The article notes that the ministers “discussed the current state and prospects of bilateral military and military-technical cooperation and looked at strengthening it,” signing an agreement at the end of the meeting, which included “a number of measures for defense cooperation.”  While there has been no indication of the bilateral security cooperation between Central Asian governments replacing what takes place with Russia or other partners, it demonstrates growing partnerships where Central Asian states take the initiative.


Source:

“Государства-союзники (Government-allies),” Fergana Agency (independent news website focusing on Central Asia), 6 December 2021.

https://fergana.agency/articles/124124/

Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Qasym Jomart-Tokyaev signed a Declaration of Allied Relations between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Kazakhstan on 6 December…Within the framework of the visit, which took place 5-6 December, 22 documents were signed…including a plan of action to bring trade turnover between the two states to $10 billion in the next five years…

Against the backdrop of countering challenges to security and stability in the region, primarily with the situation in neighboring Afghanistan, the two sides confirmed that the positions of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan completely coincide on this…

Among the signed documents are agreements in the customs sphere, in the prevention and elimination of emergency situations, the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes as well as documents on further cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, energy, communications and defense…

Source: “В Термезе завершились совместные узбекско-казахские учения (The joint Uzbek-Kazakh exercise has finished in Termez),” Kun.uz (Uzbek news website), 25 November 2021.

https://kun.uz/ru/news/2021/11/25/v-termeze-zavershilis-sovmestnyye-uzbeksko-kazaxskiye-ucheniya

The soldiers of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan carried out the main stage of the joint exercise “Hamkorlik-2021” in Termez this week…

According to the plan of the exercise, the combined units of the two countries engaged with an illegally armed group that had broken through the state border with the support of fifty vehicles and three hundred service members.

Fighters, attack helicopters, armored vehicles, artillery, motorized rifle units and unmanned aerial systems were used to eliminate the mock enemy group…

Source: “Главы Минобороны Узбекистана и Казахстана обсудили региональную безопасность (The head of the Ministries of Defense of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan discussed regional security),” Kun.uz (Uzbek news website), 23 November 2021.

https://kun.uz/ru/news/2021/11/23/glavy-minoborony-uzbekistana-i-kazaxstana-obsudili-regionalnuyu-bezopasnost

On 22 November, the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Lieutenant General Bakhodir Kurbanov, met with a military delegation led by the Minister of Defense of Kazakhstan, Lieutenant General Murat Bektanov…the two sides discussed the current state and prospects of bilateral military and military-technical cooperation and looked at strengthening it…

Following the meeting, the ministries of defense signed an agreement, which includes a number of measures for defense cooperation…


Image Information:

Image: Map of Central Asia.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_Central_Asia.png
Attribution: CC BY-SA 4.0

Syrian Kurds Balancing Great Powers To Secure a Future in Syria

Fighters of the YPJ.

Fighters of the YPJ.


“We have good relations with Russia. For the past two years, we have cooperated on the ground within the framework of the [Sochi] agreement. This problem cannot be solved without Russia.” Mazlum Kobane


The accompanying excerpts provide perspectives of Syrian Kurdish leaders about their discussions with the United States and Russia regarding their place in the future of Syria.  The passages also highlight the circumstances they face on the ground, particularly in light of Turkish threats of another operation and demands by the Syrian regime to relinquish their quest for autonomy.  As the final passage summarizes, the Syrian Kurds are “trying to achieve a status for themselves in the future of Syria…by following a remarkable policy of balance between Washington and Moscow.”

The first excerpted article, an interview with Mazlum Kobane, commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), featured in security news site Al-Monitor, covers a range of issues impacting Syrian Kurdish territory.  The first issue is Turkey’s threats to launch another operation into Syria.  Kobane states that without consent from Russia or the United States, Turkey is unlikely to carry out such an operation because both countries have given the Kurds assurances.  Regardless, he takes Turkish threats seriously and prepares his forces accordingly.  Another topic is worsening economic conditions and increasing unemployment in Kurdish-controlled territory.  He claims this diminishes the authority of their de facto administration and that ISIS takes advantage of this to regain ground there.  Therefore, he says, an effective counterterrorism strategy requires addressing the economic situation of the region.  As such, he wants the United States to exempt the Kurdish region from Caesar sanctions to alleviate the declining economy. 

With respect to the negotiations with the Syrian regime, Kobane says that no serious negotiations have taken place so far, although they have engaged in some initial talks.  Kobane expects that Russia will be more proactive in its negotiations with the Syrian regime and play a determinative role.  Kobane notes the SDF’s good relations with Russia and ongoing cooperation on the ground within the framework of the Sochi agreement. He expects Russia will play a critical role in Syrian Kurdish negotiations with the Syrian regime.  To that end, on 23 November 2021, after receiving an official invitation from Russian officials, a Kurdish delegation met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.  According to the second excerpt, a press release by the Syrian Democratic Council, Russian officials reiterated their support and encouragement for Kurdish dialogue with the Syrian regime and discussed possible political solutions to end the Syrian conflict. 

The third article from pro-government Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, analyzes the aforementioned Kurdish delegation’s visit to Moscow.  The article highlights that the statement from Russian officials referenced the territorial integrity of Syria and the protection of the rights of all ethnic and sectarian groups.  The article also points out that Lavrov personally welcomed the Kurdish delegation to highlight to the international community Russia’s attempt to broker a solution between the Syrian regime and the Kurds.  The author of the article claims this role will likely push the Kurds towards Russia even though Kurdish officials have been trying to strike a balance in their relations with the United States and Russia as they try to maintain their current autonomous status and advance their rights within Syria.


Source:

Amberin Zaman,“Syrian Kurdish commander says Russia opposes further Turkish land grabs” al-Monitor (a globally read security news site with regionally based reporting),09 November 2021. https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/11/syria-kurdish-commander-assured-washington-turkey-wont-invade-again

Al-Monitor: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is making fresh threats to launch another military operation against the Syrian Democratic Forces in northeast Syria, and daily there is speculation in the media as to where and when yet another Turkish invasion might occur. Do you believe that Erdogan will follow on his threats? He’s certainly always done so in the past.

Mazlum Kobane: Erdogan has always sought the support of international actors before embarking on a military intervention here. He’s made threats and continues to make threats. He insists he will intervene and will continue to insist. In doing so he is looking to prepare the ground for an operation. However, the existing situation in northeast Syria is different now. The balances have shifted. In the past instances, there were no binding agreements between Turkey and the international powers…But now there are two agreements in place… In my view, unless Turkey gets the approval of either Russia or the United States, Erdogan cannot take such a step. And as far as I am aware there is no such approval.

Al-Monitor: Have Russia and the United States provided you with such guarantees?

Mazlum Kobane: Yes. The United States has given us such assurances. They were relayed to us officially. The United States said they were opposed to, and would not accept, any attack by Turkey against us. The US officials we spoke to… informed us that during the last meeting between Erdogan and President Joe Biden [on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome] that Erdogan was told that the United States would not accept any attack against us. The Russians also told us that they had not made any deals with Turkey…

…Like I said, a Turkish attack does not seem likely in the current circumstances. Besides, the Russians told us that they had told the Turks that they would not accept an attack against us. However, they are unable to determine what Turkish-backed forces might do. They said they would not accept an attack by them either. But it remains to be seen what will happen in practice, on the ground.

Al-Monitor: Are you saying they are not standing as firmly against Turkey as the Americans are?

Mazlum Kobane: No not at all. This is a very critical point and requires proper clarification. The Russians said there was no question of them allowing Turkey to attack but that Turkish-supported rebel groups might attack us without Turkey’s authorization…

Al-Monitor: Economic conditions in Rojava are getting harder by the day. On the one hand, there are the embargos imposed by Turkey and sanctions imposed by the United States on the Assad regime. On the other hand, there is the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most severe droughts in decades and Turkey’s continued suppression of water along with its threats of an attack. Can these factors give the Islamic State a new lease of life?

Mazlum Kobane: DAESH [the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] is active all across Syria. And these unfavorable economic conditions are impacting our struggle against DAESH. Its ability to regain ground is increasingly linked to economic conditions in Syria. There are way too many unemployed people. There is widespread poverty. All such factors diminish the authority of our administration. DAESH takes advantage of this. Therefore, the international coalition forces and all powers fighting against terrorism must take immediate steps to address the economic situation here. Bolstering the economy has become one of the pillars of combatting terrorism. We as the Syrian Democratic Forces say this openly. If we are to fight DAESH effectively we need to prioritize the economy.

…Our demand is that the whole of North and East Syria be exempted from the United States’ Caesar sanctions…

Mazlum Kobane: So far nobody has gone to Damascus for any kind of negotiations. And so far there have been no serious negotiations with Damascus. There have been some contacts but none of those meetings evolved into negotiations.

Al-Monitor: Why not?

Mazlum Kobane: Damascus is not ready for this. However much they claim that there will be no return to the pre-2011 era their mentality remains unchanged. They need to be pressured. Plus, there’s an issue of trust, particularly for Damascus.

Al-Monitor: Are they telling you to sever your ties with the United States?

Mazlum Kobane: Not exactly. They are telling us, “We do not want a state within a state. We do not want an army within an army.”… Our project is autonomy and we are implementing it at this time. However, they want guarantees from us with regard to the aforementioned concerns. Severing our ties with the Americans is not their precondition…

Al-Monitor: Are the Russians sincere in their mediations efforts? Or do they simply want you to capitulate so they can get the lion’s share of the oil pie from the regime as some claim?

Mazlum Kobane: We have good relations with Russia. For the past two years, we have cooperated on the ground within the framework of the [Sochi] agreement. This problem cannot be solved without Russia. I believe Russia could be more proactive and apply more pressure on the regime.

Source: “At an official invitation, “SDC” in Moscow to discuss the Syrian issue and bilateral relations,” m-syria-d.com, (Syrian Democratic Council Official website),23 November 2021. https://m-syria-d.com/en/?p=3302

The meeting was positive, as the two sides discussed the Syrian situation in general and methods to find a comprehensive settlement…

The meeting focused on many common points, the most important of which are the Syrian-Syrian Kurdish dialogue and Moscow’s support and encouragement for dialogue between the “SDC” and the authority in Damascus.

The two sides also talked about the need to work seriously for the participation of “SDC” in the political process and to represent it in a balanced manner in the international paths as a main and active party in the Syrian scene.

Source: Sedat Ergin,“Rusya Suriye’de YPG/PYD üzerinden özerkliğe kapıyı aralıyor (Russia opens the door to autonomy in Syria through YPG/PYD,” Hürriyet (a pro-government Turkish newspaper),26 November 2021. https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/sedat-ergin/rusya-suriyede-ypg-pyd-uzerinden-ozerklige-kapiyi-araliyor-41947615

As it can be seen, the Syrian Kurds are trying to achieve a status for themselves in the future of Syria, where they aim to have advanced rights, by following a remarkable policy of balance between Washington and Moscow, keeping the doors of negotiations with both sides open.


Image Information:

Image: Fighters of the YPJ.
Source: Jakob Reimann, via Wikimedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fighters_of_the_YPJ_stand_atop_a_hill_with_their_flag.jpg, Flickr images reviewed by FlickreviewR 2 | Flickr images missing SDC source of file | Flickr images missing SDC creator |
Attribution: CC-BY-2.0

Russia Develops and Implements Counter-UAV Tactics and Technologies

Pischal Counter-UAV Gun.

Pischal Counter-UAV Gun.

Ratt Anti-UAV System (exterior view).

Ratt Anti-UAV System (interior view).


“Many Russian electronic warfare manufacturers are now developing portable counter-UAV devices, mindful of the requirement for small military teams to be protected against the drone threat from the air. Most of them, like the Pishchal, are in the form of a firearm, which is convenient and what troops are used to.”


There is a consensus in Russian circles of military thought that the ability to counter unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could be decisive in future conflicts.  The excerpted articles from Russian Armed Forces monthly journal Armeyskiy Sbornik and pro-Kremlin daily newspaper Izvestiya discuss Russia’s development of counter-UAV technologies.  Armeyskiy Sbornik describes the theory underpinning Russia’s tactics for countering UAVs.  Russia intends to use both kinetic fires, such as the guns and missiles of air defense systems, and electronic warfare (EW), such as jamming, to counter UAVs.  The article also mentions some of the unique technologies that Russia has developed to further this effort, such as the Pischal counter-UAV gun.  According to military and defense industry weekly Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kuryer, during the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, EW caused approximately 15 UAVs to land, or fly-off course.  The article posits that these EW means and conventional air defense systems could defeat Ukraine’s Turkish-made Bayraktar UAVs.  The article from Izvestiya explains how Russia’s theory of kinetic air defense in conjunction with effective EW is not just theory, and Russia is already implementing it in training.


Source:

Colonel M. Mitrofanov, Lieutenant Colonel D. Vasyukov, and Major V. Anisimov, “Практические Рекомендации Защита Элементов Системы Связи От Беспилотных Летательных Аппаратов (Practical Recommendations for Protecting Elements of a Communication System Against Drones),” Armeyskiy Sbornik (monthly journal of the Russian Armed Forces military and defense industry weekly Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kuryer), September 2021. https://army.ric.mil.ru/Stati/item/343042/

Drones are becoming an increasingly common element of modern military operations and are now accessible not only to regular but also to irregular armed forces and also to terrorist organizations…Experience of countering drones during local conflicts across the world has shown that when they are airborne their data transmission channels are visible to signals intelligence and vulnerable to electronic jamming. The data transmission channels include:

— the operator’s control channel to the drone

— the drone’s channel for transmitting data to its control station

— the satellite navigation channel

Countering drones does not necessarily mean their physical destruction. Electronic jamming can be used to disable a drone’s data transmission channel, also the channel for controlling it. Apart from disabling the control and data channels, you also need to disable the channel that receives the satellite navigation signals. Satellite data is used not only to plot the drone’s route but also by weapons for target acquisition…Russian electronic warfare developers are actively working on ways of countering drones. For example, at the Dubai Airshow in 2019 the Rosoboronexport corporation displayed the design of a layered defense system that included Russia’s latest counterdrone technologies, such as the Repellent-1, Sapsan Bekas, Kupol, Rubezh Avtomatika, Luch, and Pishchal…

Particular attention is also being paid to portable devices for fighting drones. For example, the Luch and Pishchal systems, which can emit electromagnetic signals to disable drones 6 and 2 km away respectively, were displayed for the first time at the Dubai Air Show in 2019. The Pishchal weighs just 3.5 kg and is one of the lightest counter-UAV devices of its class on the market today, so it can form part of a soldier’s personal kit (figure 8).

Many Russian electronic warfare manufacturers are now developing portable counter-UAV devices, mindful of the requirement for small military teams to be protected against the drone threat from the air. Most of them, like the Pishchal, are in the form of a firearm, which is convenient and what troops are used to. They comprise modules for detecting a drone’s radio signals and creating the jamming to disable the control and navigation channels. Among these devices is the “Personal Drone Countermeasures Complex” made by the Special Technology Center company (reference 8), which can disable drone control channels from at least 2 km away and radio navigation channels from at least 10 km. Or the Rex 1 and Rex 2 portable counter-UAV systems made by the company Zala Group Unmanned Systems (reference 9), which also work against drone control and navigation channels. And these are by no means all the developments of our defense sector when it comes to fighting drones.

So, at the present time, we know of the following ways of countering drones.

1. Destroy them using air defense or other fire assets.

2. Destroy their control stations.

3. Capture them (with nets or by intercepting their control channels).

4. Use electro-optical countermeasures (advanced directed-output laser weapons).

5. Electronically jam their control channels, reconnaissance data transmission channels, or their geopositioning systems.

6. Distort the navigation coordinates in the vicinity of a protected site.

7. Conceal protected sites.

8. Create dummy protected sites (deception).

Source: Oleg Falichev, “«Байрактаров»: У России есть все необходимое для приземления турецких беспилотников (Snares for Bayraktar: Russia Has All Necessary Equipment to Force Turkish Drones to Land),” Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kuryer (Russian weekly focusing on the military and defense industry), 1 November 2021. https://vpk-news.ru/articles/64483

The situation in eastern Ukraine has escalated once again. The Ukrainian Armed Forces subunits occupied the village of Staromarivka in the so-called gray zone, where 180 residents ended up hostages; about 40 of them own Russian passports. Trains with tanks and artillery arrive at the closest railway station. One of them had been spotted near Slovyansk, the second one — near Svyate. Positions of Donetsk militia are bombed by Turkish-made Bayraktar UAVs. The situation is again on the verge of a full-scale war…So what should Russia do? It cannot be ruled out that Russia might hold new large-scale military exercises next to the borders with Ukraine to rehearse action against external threats, as was observed at the beginning of this year when, according to Western data, a Russian army numbering about 100,000-120,000 personnel was deployed in the vicinity of the Ukrainian border.

[T]he best option is to create a full-fledged air defense grouping in this area, capable of covering villages and militia without crossing the demarcation line…However, Russia also has other weapons that work without firing…Based on the experience of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, about 15 UAVs were forced to land or were thrown off course with the aid of electronic warfare equipment…The Pantsir-S1 and Pantsir-SM antiaircraft missile and gun systems are also excellent countermeasures against drones. The range of the latter has been increased to 40 kilometers thanks to the upgraded multifunctional aiming station. The range at which it detects and selects targets is substantially greater, and so is its resistance to jamming. However, this weapon, as they say, may be used in case of emergency. The main thing right now is to establish and secure a resilient system for radar surveillance and monitoring…

Source: Alexey Ramm and Bogdan Stepovoy, “На новый маневр: войска отработали борьбу с беспилотниками в горах: Какую тактику отражения атак дронов опробовали на учениях в Крыму и на Кавказе (To New Maneuver:  The Troops Worked Out Combating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the Mountains: They Worked Out Which Tactic To Repel Drone Attacks at Exercises in the Crimea and in the Caucasus),” Izvestiya (large-circulation pro-Kremlin daily newspaper), 3 November 2021. https://iz.ru/1244533/aleksei-ramm-bogdan-stepovoi/na-novyi-manevr-voiska-otrabotali-borbu-s-bespilotnikami-v-gorakh

The Ministry of Defense has concluded a series of exercises in the Caucasus and in the Crimea, at which they worked out and studied Russian air defense capabilities to combat unmanned aerial vehicles in mountain conditions. The war in Nagorno-Karabakh showed that drones are becoming especially dangerous during combat on mountain terrain: it is difficult to detect and shoot them down due to the terrain’s relief. They managed to repel a supposed mass attack of unmanned aerial vehicles through the joint operations of the air defense (PVO) and electronic warfare (EW) forces. In the experts’ words, only the cohesive work of all subunits, which are participating in the engagement, can yield success in the mountains…

The Military Department previously reported that a composite detachment for combating UAVs of Southern Military District 49th Combined-Arms Army’s Mountain Motorized Rifle Formation repelled the attacks of the notional enemy’s drones at Kobu-Bashi Range in Karachay-Cherkesia. It consisted of EW and tactical reconnaissance subunits and crews of Tunguska-M1 [SA-19 GRISON] air defense missile-gun systems and Strela-10 [SA-13 GOLPHER] missile systems.  During the course of the exercises, the PVO subunits managed to destroy all targets, and the EW complexes confirmed their high effectiveness, having used Zhitel jamming stations to jam the drones’ command and control and navigation channels. More than 500 servicemen participated in the maneuvers…

Even simple UAVs gain many advantages in the mountains, which the defending side needs to mitigate, Military Expert Viktor Murakhovskiy pointed out in a conversation with Izvestiya.

“A drone is not visible for radars and optical systems behind mountain slopes,” he explained. “As a result, the UAVs obtain good chances to conduct a surprise attack and the defending side’s response time is reduced.  The Syrian experience has demonstrated that the composite detachments make a good showing on that terrain, which PVO and EW weapons and even snipers with heavy caliber rifles can reach. It is also very important to organize monitoring of the air situation in the mountains…

The Russian Army is prepared to confront the new threat. The PVO system is being improved constantly and new equipment is arriving in the troops. The Military Department has already reported that a new air defense command and control system was employed at the “Zapad-2021” Strategic Exercises. It consisted of all reconnaissance assets and also of air defense systems and complexes, which were involved in the maneuvers. The exercises demonstrated that the new equipment permits the creation of an impenetrable defensive dome over significant territory…


Image Information:

Image: Pischal Counter-UAV Gun.
Source: Vitaly Kuzmin, https://photos.smugmug.com/Military/ARMY-2020-Static-part-3/i-SCHRNzn/0/6a9634f0/X4/Army2020-Static-Part3-090-X4.jpg
Attribution: CC 4.0

Image: Ratt Anti-UAV System (exterior view).
Source: Vitaly Kuzmin, https://photos.smugmug.com/Military/ARMY-2020-Static-part-3/i-N8H53ht/0/f9763ab1/X4/Army2020-Static-Part3-084-X4.jpg
Attribution: CC 4.0

Image: Ratt Anti-UAV System (interior view).
Source: Vitaly Kuzmin, https://photos.smugmug.com/Military/ARMY-2020-Static-part-3/i-dMRnVvJ/0/5487d70d/X4/Army2020-Static-Part3-085-X4.jpg
Attribution: CC 4.0

Developments in Russia’s BARS Reserve System

General Dvornikov inspecting BARS servicemen.

General Dvornikov inspecting BARS servicemen.

Reservists in training.

Reservists in training.


The military organization is making every effort to eliminate the possible consequences of a hybrid war against the Russian Federation and at the same time lacks human resources. One of the measures preventing attempts to disorganize the rear in a possible military conflict with geopolitical opponents of Russia is the creation of territorial defense troops.”


The accompanying excerpted articles from Vologda Oblastprovincial newspaper Krasnaya Sever and Leningrad Oblast-basedonline news site 47 News discuss the operation of Russia’s new reserve system known as the Special Army Combat Reserve (BARS) in some sources, and as the National Army Combat Reserve (BARS) in others.  According to Krasnaya Sever, reservists participating in this program will perform up to eight 3-day training assemblies and a 30-day exercise annually.  The article goes on to explain how the BARS will select, train, and compensate reservists.  The article from 47 News is notable as it mentions that BARS is not unique to the Southern Military District, as first reported, but can now be found in at least one other military district.  This suggests that that BARS may, or has already, become a national program, and not just an experiment in the Southern Military District.

The accompanying excerpted articles from Krasnodar regional newspaper Golos Pravdy and Russianmilitary and defense industry weekly Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kuryer discuss personnel issues with BARS.  Golos Pravdy notes that the Krasnoarmeyskiy Rayon has only been able to fill 15 of its 424 reserve billets.  Valeriy Poludnitsin of the local military commissariat sums up the BARS recruiting effort as: “Unfortunately and despite all our efforts, the numbers wishing to sign up are small.”  Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kuryer suggests developing a special program for university students and another for personnel working in private military companies as potential ways of increasing participation in BARS.


Source:

Olga Burchevskaya: “А ты записался резервистом?! (Did You Sign Up to Be a Reservist?!),” Krasnaya Sever (provincial newspaper of Vologda Oblast), 27 October 2021.  https://www.krassever.ru/article/a-ty-zapisalsya-rezervistom

…It was earlier, in Soviet times, that everyone in succession was called up into the “partisans”: reserve officers and men traveled to military reservist active-duty training at least once in their lives.  Everything changed in the new millennium: now a limited number of citizens are trained in case of enemy attacks according to the principle of “better less, but better.”

The Russian Federation Presidential Edict establishing a human mobilization reserve came out in 2015.  Initially a number of regions tried it out by assembling small subunits.  This year it also came the turn of our Oblast: in August military commissariats were assigned the mission of manning an expanded battalion of reservists (around 500 persons).  Then in September around 100 men signed a contract and set off for three-day training in Karelia…

Not just anybody will be taken as a reservist, they caution in the oblast military commissariat.  According to the statute, this must be a person who has performed conscripted or contract service in the Army and who has a specific military specialty (tanker, motorized rifleman, specialist in servicing equipment and arms).  The age for privates, NCOs, and warrant officers is up to 42 (greater for officers).  Health also is assessed: those registered in health centers (drug rehabilitation, tuberculosis, psychoneurological) will not be accepted in the mobilization reserve, as well as persons with disabilities.  In addition, citizens will be refused have a criminal record.

“The important thing is the desire of the person himself to become a reservist, we rely on him above all.  Then there is screening and selection: a special board confirms the candidate.  After that he signs a contract to be in the reserve: the minimum term of the first one is three years, and after that it can be even less,” KS was told by Lieutenant Colonel Daniil Bugayev, of the Second Department of the Vologodskaya Oblast Commissariat.  “There are eight training sessions with a reservist annually (each for three training days a month), as well as reservist active-duty training (30 days once a year).  That said, an agrarian, for example, will not be called up for training during the harvest; he will be invited when it will be more convenient for him, in the off-season, let’s say, and river transport workers are not put in action during navigation [season].”

A military uniform, three meals a day “like home” (prepared by civilian cooks), and medical services (what if there is a sudden toothache?) — all this is free at state expense.  Average wages and jobs are kept for reservists, plus they are authorized payments along the Defense Ministry line.  Even if they are not called up for three-day training sessions, privates and NCOs will receive from R1,800 to R3,200 under the contract.  They will be paid from R3,000 to R5,200 for attending such training sessions, and from R18,000 to R31,000 (officers up to R45,000) for month-long reservist active-duty training.  Pay and allowances depend on a reservist’s rank and position (plus the area coefficient for Karelia).

Source: “БАРС соберёт на Северо-Западе несколько тысяч резервистов — их готовят для войск территориальной обороны (BARS [Special Army Combat Reserve] Will Assemble Several Thousand Reservists in the Northwest — They Are Being Trained for the Territorial Defense Troops),” 47 News(online news site focusing on the Leningrad Oblast), 17 November 2021. https://47news.ru/articles/203180/

The second intake of the second phase of reservist active-duty training of subunits of the Special Army Combat Reserve (BARS) begins on 22 November in regions where Western Military District troops are stationed.

The Western Military District Press Service informed 47news that plans are to draw several thousand reservists to reservist active-duty training as part of separate subunits formed on the basis of Western Military District military units.

Based on results of reservist active-duty training, citizens who have taken the full combined-arms training course will enter subunits of the territorial defense troops.

During reservist active-duty training, reservists will go through training and improvement of qualification for providing security and defense of strategically important facilities as well as for employing modern arms and military equipment…

Source: “В Красноармейском районе мобилзировано всего 3.5% запасников

(Krasnoarmeyskiy Rayon Mobilizes Just 3.5 Percent of Reservists),” Golos Pravdy (newspaper of the Krasnodar region), 16 November 2021. https://golos-pravda.ru/news/obshhestvo/76981-v-krasnoarmejskom-rajone-mobilzirovano-vsego-3-5-zapasnikov/

Reservists are being mobilized in line with Edict of the President of the Russian Federation Number 370 of 17 July 2015 “On the creation of a mobilization personnel reserve of the Russian Federation Armed Forces.”  The rayon military commissariat reports that according to the plan for this year, 33 officers and 391 private soldiers and NCOs from our rayon should be sent to undergo reservist military training. But to date only 15 people have signed a contract to serve in the reserve.

The acting chief of the mobilization resources planning, assignment, training, and registration section, Valeriy Poludnitsin, said that the commissariat has been campaigning hard among the 1,500 reservists who are liable for military service.  “Unfortunately and despite all our efforts, the numbers wishing to sign up are small,” he commented.  In his view this is due to fear of losing one’s job although the contract makes it possible to maintain it during military drills and assemblies, during which the Defense Ministry reimburses the reservist’s average wage to the employer…And along with everything else, when reservists are called up to assemblies and drills their employers are reimbursed their salary costs. Unemployed individuals receive the minimum wage and also the cost of travel and expenses from home to the military commissariat and back. If necessary, the cost of renting accommodation is paid…

 Contracts to serve in the mobilization reserve are signed with warrant officers, sergeants, and soldiers up to the age of 42. With junior officers up to 47 years of age, and also with senior officers apart from colonels up to 52 years, and with colonels up to 57 years, for a minimum period of three years.

Source: Grigoriy Nokonorov and Igor Rodionov, “Служба возле дома: Из кого формировать подразделения территориальной обороны (Service Close to Home: Who to Form Subunits of Territorial Defense Troops?),” Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kuryer (Russian weekly newspaper focusing on the military and defense industry), 26 October 2021.   https://vpk-news.ru/articles/64394

…The military organization is making every effort to eliminate the possible consequences of a hybrid war against the Russian Federation and at the same time lacks human resources. One of the measures preventing attempts to disorganize the rear in a possible military conflict with geopolitical opponents of Russia is the creation of territorial defense troops…

Time has shown that deployment of territorial defense troops (and such events reflect difficulties of the future mobilization) is fraught with significant problems that have to be addressed.  The first one is changes in the forms of ownership in the country — increase in the share of the private sector, which entails the reluctance of owners to release employees to participate in annual musters, envisaged for reservists…The second problem is related to the demographic situation in the regions where it is planned to assemble forces and means of territorial defense, which mainly involve reservists. Not all regions are able to form the same number of units of territorial defense due to circumstances…The third problem is to increase the efficiency of the acquisition and harmonization of such units. It can be solved through the creation of military commissariats (or units that form the basis of territorial defense troops) in staffs, of a permanent organization core (unit commander and his deputies) directly involved in the selection of personnel, conscription, and coordination of reservists…

In the context of a difficult demographic situation in Russia, the main problem of manning the reserve service is about personnel. How to make the transition from patriotic education at the level of sports, exhibition volunteering, and participation in flash mobs to the practical formation of a youth’s readiness to show their patriotic qualities in more serious situations? It seems reasonable to address male students from higher education institutions who have reached the age of majority.  Currently, more than 4 million people are receiving higher education in the country in 213 nonstate (400,000 students) and 497 state universities (3.6 million people). Students at state universities, both in terms of their number and age, are the most active and controlled force that can either be directed into a destructive direction or involved in the fulfillment of defense tasks…Considering that half of the students in public universities are women and another third of the remaining men are exempt from military service, the remaining number of students who have expressed a desire to serve in the reserve can be considered a resource for recruitment into territorial defense troops. By amending the existing legislation, a mechanism can be envisaged to allow for compulsory service during the first three years of studies through annual mandatory musters, and then conclude a contract for service in the reserve, including in the territorial defense forces…In order to spark interest in service (including in the reserve) among students of draft age, it is possible to envisage mechanisms to reduce tuition fees (for those who study on a paid basis)…

Numerous private security companies, whose employees usually have appropriate health clearance and the right to carry weapons, may also be considered a potential reserve for manning territorial defense troops by allowing their employees to serve in the reserve…It is also possible to envisage the possibility of manning territorial defense troops with reservists from Cossack organizations and with members of military-patriotic clubs that satisfy the set requirements… The country is facing a lack of volunteers and reservists. Taking into account the evolving military-political situation and historical traditions, the country needs volunteers who, if necessary, can defend themselves and the country with weapons in their hands.


Image Information:

Image: General Dvornikov inspecting BARS servicemen.
Source: Russian Ministry of Defense, https://tinyurl.com/2mvuschv
Attribution: CC BY 4.0

Image: Reservists in training.
Source: Russian Ministry of Defense, https://function.mil.ru/images/upload/2019/rezerv_550.jpg
Attribution: CC BY 4.0

Saudi Arabia’s Domestic UAV Program Slow To Get Off the Ground

Personnel from the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing trained with Royal Saudi Air Force Police Wing members in a joint counter unmanned aerial system exercise Jan. 27, 2021 at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Personnel from the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing trained with Royal Saudi Air Force Police Wing members in a joint counter unmanned aerial system exercise Jan. 27, 2021 at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


Saudi Arabia has been very late in using unmanned weapons technologies and has relied on American weapons. The price of this delay has been Iran’s expansion in the region…”


Saudi Arabia’s domestic UAV program continues to develop at what some consider a snail’s pace.  While Houthi-led forces in Yemen have relied extensively on domestically assembled drones, using Iranian technology and foreign-sourced components, Saudi forces have yet to employ any of their domestic UAV technology on the Yemeni battlefield.  Saudi companies have contracted with Chinese and Turkish UAV manufacturers to assemble CH-4 and Karayel drones in Saudi territory, but there is an inherent expectation of a more robust Saudi domestic UAV industry, given the Houthis’ success in employing drones and the importance that Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” development program gives to localizing military industry.  According to the director of the Yemeni think tank Abaad for Studies and Research, Saudi delays in employing UAVs and its reliance on U.S. weaponry has been a critical element in allowing “Iran’s expansion in the region.”

The Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) recently announced that it would begin mass production of the “Sky Guard” UAV, a domestically developed platform that was initially scheduled for production in 2018.  As noted in the accompanying excerpt from the military news website Defense News, Sky Guard is a tactical UAV intended for surveillance and electronic warfare, though it can also carry small munitions.  Sky Guard joins another prominent Saudi domestic UAV project, the Saqr platform, which was first announced nearly a decade ago and went into production in 2017.  Still, there is no indication that Saqr drones have been employed in Yemen or elsewhere.


Source:

Abdulsalam Mohammed (@salamyemen2), Twitter, 1 November 2021. https://twitter.com/salamyemen2/status/1455138763110330369   

Riyadh intends to develop a homemade drone called Sky Guard. Will its effectiveness be tested in the Yemen war? Or is it too early for it to enter military operations?

Saudi Arabia has been very late in using unmanned weapons technologies and has relied on American weapons. The price of this delay has been Iran’s expansion in the region.

Source:  “Two Saudi firms to co-produce Sky Guard drone for operational use,” Defense News (military news website), 20 August 2021. https://www.defensenews.com/unmanned/2021/08/20/two-saudi-firms-to-co-produce-sky-guard-drone-for-operational-use/

The drone was developed in 2015 and displayed in 2017 at Bahrain’s BIDEC event and the Emirati conference IDEX, with an original expected date of mass production in 2018, according to Jean-Marc Rickli, head of global and emerging risks at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy… “The payload is light, 50 kilograms; range relatively short, 150 kilometers; and endurance of 8 hours,” Rickli told Defense News. Sky Guard can also fly at a maximum altitude of 18,000 feet, and be equipped with high-resolution cameras as well as electronic warfare systems. “So this is a tactical UAV mainly used for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes. I don’t know if it has combat experience such as in Yemen,” he said, but if Saudi Arabia wants to export it, proven combat experience would help. Asked whether the system can carry guided munitions, Rickli said: “I don’t know specifically about this drone, but a payload of 50 kilograms — it is enough for transporting bombs.” “As its description mentions: It was designed to be highly adaptable with several subsystem configurations. Thus one cannot exclude that it can be weaponized.”


Image Information:

Image:  Personnel from the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing trained with Royal Saudi Air Force Police Wing members in a joint counter unmanned aerial system exercise Jan. 27, 2021 at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Source: Senior Airman Leala Marquez, https://www.dvidshub.net/image/6513425/joint-force-rsaf-perform-counter-uas-exercise  
Attribution: Public Domain