Redding, California boy becomes pied piper of patriotism.

From CBS News:

California boy becomes pied piper of patriotism

After visiting his grandpa’s grave in Redding, California, and realizing that not every veteran in the cemetery had a flag, 11-year-old Preston Sharp decided to change that. He took on odd jobs and solicited donations to buy flags and flowers for every veteran in his grandpa’s cemetery and beyond.

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“There is nothing strategic about Trump’s Afghanistan policy” by Lawrence Sellin

 

 

There is nothing strategic about Trump’s Afghanistan policy

by Lawrence Sellin, PHD. September 18, 2017

While accepting billions of American dollars in military and economic aid, Pakistan has been slowly bleeding the U.S. to death in Afghanistan through its support of the Taliban, Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups.

It is Pakistan’s role to force the U.S. and NATO out of Afghanistan to pave the way for regional dominance of its closest ally, China.

China is, quite literally, colonizing Pakistan.

Through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China aims to connect Asia, the Middle East and Africa through land-based and maritime economic zones as part of China’s global ambition to overtake the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower.

One element of that effort is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an infrastructure and development project, the backbone of which is a transportation network connecting China to the Pakistani seaports of Gwadar and Karachi located on the Arabian Sea.

Although profitable for China, Pakistan has not fared as well under CPEC:

“After the Free Trade Agreement was signed, Pakistan’s trade deficit with China widened further as exports to China fell to $1.62 billion in 2016-17 from $2.69bn in 2013-14 and imports from China, in contrast showed an alarming increase of 123 per cent, growing from $4.73bn in 2012-13 to $10.53bn in 2016-17.”

Some Pakistani politicians have described CPEC as the Chinese version of the British East India company, which, at its height, had private army of about 260,000 and even the father of capitalism, Adam Smith, found its conquest, subjugation and plunder of the subcontinent distasteful.

According to a recent report, Chinese aspirations in Pakistan are not just about profits, but resemble the colonization of South Asia by the East India Company:

“The plan envisages a deep and broad-based penetration of most sectors of Pakistan’s economy as well as its society by Chinese enterprises and culture. Its scope has no precedent in Pakistan’s history in terms of how far it opens up the domestic economy to participation by foreign enterprises.”

“For instance, thousands of acres of agricultural land will be leased out to Chinese enterprises to set up ‘demonstration projects’ in areas ranging from seed varieties to irrigation technology. A full system of monitoring and surveillance will be built in cities from Peshawar to Karachi, with 24 hour video recordings on roads and busy marketplaces for law and order. A national fibreoptic backbone will be built for the country not only for internet traffic, but also terrestrial distribution of broadcast TV, which will cooperate with Chinese media in the ‘dissemination of Chinese culture’.”

In addition to the already 30,000 Chinese workers in Pakistan, CPEC calls for visa-free entry of Chinese into Pakistan and the establishment of “civil armed forces” to protect Chinese investments and “a coastal enjoyment industry that includes yacht wharfs, cruise homeports, nightlife, city parks, public squares, theaters, golf courses and spas, hot spring hotels and water sports” built for the Chinese under CPEC.

The expansion of the port of Gwadar and its international airport will include a concomitant increase in Chinese residents, estimated to reach 20,000, which may be a prelude to the establishment Chinese regional military facilities. A base in Gwadar at the mouth of the Persian Gulf would complement the Chinese base in Djibouti at entrance of the Red Sea, both strategic choke points.

So, while the U.S. is expending more blood and treasure in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to regulate our progress there by controlling the battle tempo and the supply of our troops, China is successfully pursuing its geopolitical interests in South Asia, which will eventually include Afghanistan.

By choosing the wrong policy in Afghanistan, there is no end to what the U.S. can’t accomplish strategically.

Here’s a hint – you reach the Taliban through Pakistan and you reach Pakistan through China.

 

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq.

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The Strategic Truth About The War In Afghanistan by Lawrence Sellin

 

 

 

The Strategic Truth About The War In Afghanistan

By Lawrence Sellin, Retired Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve

 

The U.S. is actually fighting Pakistan in Afghanistan and, ultimately, the outcome will be determined by the Chinese.

The so-called U.S. “alliance” with Pakistan in the fight against radical Islam is a farce because, long ago, Pakistan decided to use radical Islam as one pillar of its security policy, the others being nuclear weapons and China as its chief geopolitical patron.

The Taliban are simply Pashtun cannon fodder that Pakistan uses to maintain Afghanistan as a client state. President Trump’s 4,000-man troop increase is matched by a greater number of potential Jihadis currently being brainwashed in Pakistani-sponsored Deobandi madrasas and awaiting deployment to Afghanistan.

Pakistan not only controls the battle tempo in Afghanistan, it controls the supply of our troops. In the past, when pressure was exerted by the U.S. on Pakistan for its support of the Taliban and other terrorist groups like the Haqqani network, those supplies were interrupted or convoys were attacked by Pakistani-sponsored terrorist groups operating inside of Pakistan.

That is, the strategic conditions in South Asia make the success of President Trump’s Afghanistan policy, which is, more or less, a continuation of the policy pursued over the last sixteen years, virtually impossible.

In any case, the President’s policy will unlikely affect the direction of events in South Asia, only delay them, while U.S. withdrawal would hasten the inevitable.

Islam, especially its radical manifestation, is the “glue” that holds Pakistan together, an otherwise artificial state composed of ethnic groups that never interacted in any significant way. Since the late 1970s Pakistan pursued a policy of “Islamization” with the proliferation of religious schools and religious political parties. Ethnic separatism was suppressed and Islamic fighters were found to be useful proxies for the Pakistani military and its intelligence service, the ISI, particularly against India and Afghanistan.

But Pakistan has lost control of its “Islamization” process. Ever more extreme and intolerant Salafist groups are increasing and expanding their influence, fueled by Arab Wahhabi money and transnational Jihadi ideologies like ISIS.

The trajectory is, not just a pre-9/11 Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, but a much larger radical Sunni entity that spans the Afghan-Pakistan border, completing the encirclement of Iran and creating a Sunni-Shia powder keg.

It is China, which has made a huge strategic investment in Pakistan, that has the most to lose from regional instability and which also has the greatest influence in Islamabad.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of China’s larger Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), aims to connect Asia through land-based and maritime economic zones. CPEC is an infrastructure project, the backbone of which is a transportation network connecting China to the Pakistani seaports of Gwadar and Karachi located on the Arabian Sea. China is expanding the port of Gwadar and its international airport, perhaps as preludes to the establishment of Chinese military bases near the entrance of the Persian Gulf.

In those respects, the traditionally secular Balochistan, Pakistan’s southwestern province bordering Afghanistan and Iran, has become a strategic center of gravity both because of the increase of radical Sunni groups there and its economic and military importance to China.

There is leverage — potential pain points — that U.S. strategists should consider exploiting.

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Confronting North Korea by changing the dynamics. By James A. Lyons, Admiral USN (ret).

 

Confronting North Korea by changing the dynamics.

Withdrawing U.S. military dependents from the South would signal seriousness

By James A. Lyons, Admiral USN (ret).

 

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

On July 4, North Korea successfully test-fired the equivalent of an intercontinental ballistic missile with the potential to hit not only our regional allies but Alaska as well. Leading up to the latest test, President Trump, regrettably, has followed the path of the five previous administrations, believing that cozying up to China’s communist government would be helpful in reining in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. By now, everyone should understand that will never happen. Let’s be clear: There would be no North Korean nuclear weapons program if it were not for China and Russia. Further, North Korea is the off-site laboratory and test site for Iran’s nuclear program.

Relying on China to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program has not only been a dismal failure, but a serious strategic mistake. Mr. Trump needs to stop listening to the Obama holdovers and other “undercover agents” for strategic advice. We should certainly understand by now that China’s strategic objectives include a nuclear-armed North Koreaas a way to lessen U.S. influence not only in South Korea but, ultimately, throughout the Western Pacific. Never forget — China is seeking total hegemony throughout the first island chain, which includes Taiwan and, eventually, the second island chain, which includes Guam, our main support base.

With those clear objectives, China is not about to hand us a victory on the Korean Peninsula without strong actions on our part. The fact that North Korea’s latest missile test was fired from a 16-wheel, road-mobile, transporter-erector-launcher supplied by China should have been particularly galling to Mr. Trump. According to Japanese reports, there are eight China-supplied launchers in North Korea. To rub salt in the wound, both China and Russia issued a joint statement on the day of the North Korean test, proposing to resolve the problem by having North Korea freeze its nuclear and ballistic missile testing (no dismantlement), provided the United States abandons large-scale joint exercises with South Korea.

 

There is simply no equivalence here. These defensive exercises have been a key component of maintaining peace and stability for the past 50 years. Why would we change? Ending these exercises has been a long-term China objective, which Beijing knows is a non-starter. Further, the fact that both China and Russia were able to issue a joint statement on the day of the test indicates that they most likely had advance notification.

On July 6, left-wing, newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in, following up on his campaign rhetoric, proposed more dialogue with North Korea and said that he is prepared to meet Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. He also extended an olive branch by calling for more economic cooperation and a resumption of family reunions. Regrettably, Mr. Moon doesn’t get it: You don’t reward a totalitarian regime for bad behavior. As we have seen many times, such conciliatory gestures are viewed only as a sign of weakness.

According to a July 7 Wall Street Journal article, the Trump administration plans to give diplomacy and economic sanctions more time to resolve the crisis with North Korea. With China, Russia and Iran ignoring the economic sanctions, though, there will be no change in North Korea’s violation of U.N. sanctions. When speaking in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda, however, Mr. Trump stated that he was considering “some pretty severe things,” which certainly could imply military action. Previously, the president has stated that since China has failed to help solve the problem, we will have to do it ourselves.

As we have seen over the years, successful diplomacy must have strong, recognized military options. It was “peace through strength” that was key to winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Under the current circumstances, without a dramatic change in the dynamics controlling the crisis with North Korea, more diplomatic discussions and potential talks with North Korea like the previous Six Party Talks, will also fail.

To put substance into our past declarations that “all options are being considered,” a dramatic, dynamic change must be introduced into the Korean equation. Accordingly, it is proposed that we plan to withdraw all U.S. military dependents from South Korea. This will not only remove a “hostage force” from the South Korean environment, but would also upset both China and North Korea’s calculations on what further actions are we planning to take. Certainly, it would provide us the freedom to plan a range of military options.

During the time it would take to remove all U.S. military dependents from South Korea, we should begin to massively reinforce our forces in the Western Pacific. This should include two or three attack carrier strike groups as well as four Air Force bomber squadrons, and up to 24 fighter squadrons with accompanying support forces. We should also plan to reintroduce tactical nuclear weapons into South Korea as well as on our forward-deployed submarines. A crash program to provide cruise-missile arsenal ships should also be part of the buildup.

 

Coordination with our allies will need to be factored into our overall planning. In that sense, an expanded military equipment package for Taiwan should also be planned. The unambiguous message that we would be sending is that we will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. It must dismantle its nuclear program or be destroyed.

  • James A. Lyons, U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

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GEDRICH: Coping with NATO Freeloaders

GEDRICH: Coping with NATO Freeloaders

 

 

 

by Fred Gedrich 5 Jun 2017

In a recent gathering of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member country leaders at their Brussels, Belgium Headquarters, U.S. President Donald Trump formally asked those whose governments aren’t fulfilling their treaty defense funding obligations to pay up.

His request for payment is appropriate, although met with scorn and snickers by some European leaders, who seemingly would much rather invest their nations’ valuable resources on matters like climate change than their collective and national defense. The subsequent terrorist attack in London provides another grim reminder of the dangers NATO countries face.

NATO’s purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. The United States, Canada, and several Western European nations created the organization in 1949 to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. It subsequently expanded to 28 member nations and changed its mission after the 1991 Soviet Union collapse.

More than ten years ago all NATO members agreed to spend at least two percent of their gross domestic product (goods and services produced) on defense spending to ensure all of them are at a satisfactory defense readiness level. Currently, only 5 of 28 members are meeting their defense funding commitments. As a result, U.S. taxpayers are shouldering the burden of building up the U.S. military to compensate for other member shortfalls. If NATO is to carry out its mission effectively, each member must invest in its defense at prescribed levels to ensure each can respond to contemporary threats in Europe like Russian aggression and radical Islamic terrorism.

Those threats are very real. In recent years, Putin’s Russia seized parts of the Ukraine and Georgia and is intimidating some other European neighbors as well with its military and hefty nuclear arsenal. And who can forget the recent wanton slaughter of innocent civilians in NATO country urban areas by radical Islamic terrorists such as occurred in Belgium, France, Germany, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States?

How does the NATO funding scheme work? Its most important element is member country readiness, achieved through defense spending of at least 2 percent of each nation’s GDP. The collective GDP for the 28 NATO member nations in 2016 was $38.4 trillion. If all members invested 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending then about $768 billion ($38.4 trillion x 2 percent) would be available for the organization’s common defense.

However, despite repeated attempts by two previous U.S. presidents, Bush and Obama, only a handful of NATO members have met or exceeded their financial defense spending commitments. In fact, as of 2016, only the United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Estonia, and Greece have done so.

The failure of 23 NATO members to meet their defense funding commitments means that those delinquent nations may not be able to meet the minimum manpower, equipment, and support expected of NATO members in the event of a security emergency, which could be devastating for the countries and the alliance. It also means that there is a collective defense funding shortfall of $134 billion among those nations.

Who are the freeloaders?  The 23 include nearly all of the richest Western European nations. Germany – Europe’s wealthiest NATO member with a $4 trillion GDP – is $38.2 billion short on its $80 billion spending bill by only investing 1.18 percent of its GDP on defense. Italy is $23.1 billion short; Spain is $18.8 billion short; Canada is $16.7 billion short; NATO host Belgium is $5.6 billion short; France is $5.5 billion short; and Luxembourg – which has Europe’s greatest average annual income per person at $102,000 – contributed less than .5 percent of its GDP for defense. There may be an excuse for the newest members from Eastern Europe with developing economies for not being able to meet these funding levels, but there is no excuse for the wealthy nations.

How does NATO make up the defense funding shortfall? Like it always does, delinquent member countries rely on the United States to make up the difference. Since the organization’s founding, the United States has served as its chief benefactor. In 2016, the U.S. invested $672 billion in defense spending, $300 billion more than the alliance required, and supplying about 68 percent of NATO’s total resources.

After President Trump’s payment demand, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that “we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.”  She might instead consider taking some of the other European leaders for a trip down memory lane to fully appreciate the sacrifices in blood and treasure Americans have made for European nations during the 20th Century. Here are a few things for them to consider:

  • 521, 925 Americans died liberating Europe during World War I and II.
  • 874,848 Americans were wounded in Europe during World War I and II.
  • 104,366 Americans killed during World War I and II never returned home and are buried in European cemeteries.
  • The United States spent about $130 billion current year dollars rebuilding Europe after World War II through the Marshall Plan.

It is largely because of U.S. efforts and American goodwill that Western Europeans survived Germany tyranny during World War I and II and protected Western Europeans, including West Germany, from Soviet Union domination during the Cold War. In addition, it also allowed Chancellor Merkel’s country to eventually overcome its Nazi and communist (East Germany) past and evolve into a free, self-governing unified country that many currently consider Western Europe’s leader.

If Chancellor Merkel and other disenchanted European leaders truly want to take their fate into their own hands, they might want to first consider meeting their NATO defense spending obligations, because it would enhance their own national security as well as the alliance’s – and give Europeans a pathway for their own self-reliance rather than continued U.S. security dependence.  And it would surely please U.S. taxpayers and President Trump if they did.

Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and national security analyst. He served in the departments of State and Defense.