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Defence`s Feeds

The importance of rapidly updating and modernising a warship's capability as new threats emerge

DefenceIQ - Fri, 27/11/2015 - 06:00
In the age of high cost and shrinking budgets, sometimes the best choice is to modernise, not replace,” says the U.S. Navy’s Captain James Dick, who i
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Transnational threats and violent social movements in the Caribbean

DefenceIQ - Fri, 27/11/2015 - 06:00
This article first appeared in BUCSIS . ISIL has recruits from over 100 countries. Large numbers from Belgium and France but proportionately it also has a significant number from the Caribbean – specifically Trinidad and T
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Stinger - Fri, 27/11/2015 - 00:55

American FIM-92 Stinger Man-Portable Air Defense System
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Latest issue of EDA magazine on cyber defence

EDA News - Thu, 26/11/2015 - 17:35

The latest issue of "European Defence Matters", the official magazine of the European Defence Agency, is now available. 

With cyber defence being the leading topic, the ninth issue of "European Defence Matters" presents the EU, NATO and industry views on cyber defence with a special focus placed on the European Defence Agency's efforts in this area. It also comprises opinions of Luigi Rebuffi, Chief Executive Officer of European Organisation of Security on cyber security. 

In addition to cyber defence topic, this issue also includes an exclusive interview with Mauro Moretti, Chief Executive Officer & General Manager of Finmeccanica and President of the AeroSpace & Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD), who presents his assessment of the European defence and security market. Another highlight is the interview with Etienne Schneider, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy, Internal Security and Defence of Luxembourg presenting a LuxGovSat project. This issue also encompasses an extensive report on this year's EDA Annual Conference "European Defence Matters."

More information:

  • The latest issue of "European Defence Matters" is available here

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

EDA hosts the meeting of MCDC Executives

EDA News - Thu, 26/11/2015 - 16:41

On 20 November 2015, the European Defence Agency (EDA) hosted the Executive Steering Group of the Multinational Capability Development Campaign (MCDC) 2015-16.

MCDC is a US-led fellowship of twenty-four nations and international organisations; its aim is to develop defence capabilities for effective and interoperable global coalition operations.

The meeting focused on subjects of particular interest to the MCDC members, such as countering hybrid warfare, multinational defensive cyberspace operations, federated mission networks, maritime operations, countering unmanned autonomous systems and social media. The executives recognised that some of these could add real value to countering emergent threats within Europe. They also confirmed their commitment for a more structured dialogue in order to develop valuable military capabilities together.

The EDA joined MCDC in 2013 with the twofold objective of sharing the principles of defence capability development in a global context, and ensuring the Common Security and Defence Policy is considered in the group’s discussions.


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Categories: Defence`s Feeds

A Respectable Tom: War and the Thanksgiving Holiday

Kings of War - Thu, 26/11/2015 - 13:53

Forget the tropes on “Pilgims and Indians,” the American Thanksgiving you know is written in the military history of the nation. During the War for Independence, with America as yet fully defined, there were several thanksgiving celebrations called by Congress that were ad hoc and not at all related to one another. They were, furthermore, the legacy of the European celebrations, and often based in religion rather than anything particularly American. By the Civil War, the war that was the ultimate test of the political entity’s survival, the moment had arrived to codify the as yet relatively informal celebrations into a national holiday. In the wake of the victory at Gettysburg, President Lincoln finally yielded to Sarah Hale’s perennial call for the institutionalization of the Thanksgiving holiday. One negative result of the holiday’s Civil War roots was that into the 20th Century the holiday would chafe the former Confederate States. Nevertheless, as the United States came into its own as a world power in the 20th Century, not only a holiday but an iconic menu and setting was created via Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want” painting. Depicting a roast turkey for dinner and the extended family around the table, while this image might not literally replicate the Thanksgiving experience of every American, it represented an ideal that could serve as a touchstone for any American, and as a blueprint for what the military authorities could provide to the troops so as to signify the holiday.

This menu component of the holiday is one of its critical features. According to Priscilla Ferguson’s arguments Thanksgiving has become the most significant symbol of culinary unity in the American melting pot. She argues that the diverse traditions that have combined to create the American menu means that there is no singular American gastronomic culture to which all can relate. While her argument in favor of Thanksgiving notes its importance as an event, and that individual Thanksgiving meals can vary according to region and ethnic background, a persuasive argument can be made that by the 20th Century a singular, iconic menu emerged that is recognized by any American as the Thanksgiving dinner. This may not be the meal that any particular individual may enjoy; however, if on Thanksgiving that meal is served it will be enjoyed as such. And, as mentioned previously, the ability to have recourse to a singular, shared tradition is of great value to the military usage of Thanksgiving. A shared tradition allows for a relative ease in the military’s ability to provide a celebration of this holiday.[1] Interestingly, in the post-Vietnam War period there has been a willingness to diverge from the traditional menu to pay heed to regional tastes.

How did the Revolutionary War create a holiday? Celebratory meals were taken up by the early American military tradition because of the deeper meanings associated with such events. The importance of the feast portion of a holiday celebration is defined in the scholarship on food and dining by the socio-cultural content it conveys. The Clifford Geertz maxim that “men have birthdays, but man does not,” highlights the value of such content which create our lives, both individually and in the groups to which we belong. As Wood explains the phenomenon, “at the macro-social level various forms of feasting serve to link individuals to the wider social fabric through shared understandings of cultural conventions. Thus, [holiday meals and celebrations] to some degree unite peoples and their culinary culture in shared symbolic experiences.”[2] To inspire the martial cohesion necessary to create an army and an entirely new society, holidays played a significant role. Recourse to socio-cultural content had strategic implications as well. The Revolutionary War was the first conflict to rely in equal terms on the relationship between the people, the state and the military which Clausewitz would identify in the Napoleonic Wars. Reflecting this new calculus in warfare, political and military leadership sensibly relied upon standard celebrations to mark the martial calendar.

In part derived from Christian ritual, in part celebrations of the fall harvest, the Colonial thanksgivings which form the popular understanding of the holiday were as likely recognized by fasts as well as feasts. Just a year shy of the Colonies’ declared independence, the new patriot political leaders called for a Thanksgiving fast to inspire sober reflection of the gravity of the mounting tensions with the British in the aftermath of the fighting at Lexington and Concord. Noting that a fast was called by Congress “to implore the Divine Benediction on our country,” Thacher defined the larger importance of the event as a factor in the development of a shared identity for the Colonies: “This is the first general or Continental Fast ever observed since the settlement of the colonies.[3] Called for in the midst of increasing military conflict, it is notable that this was the first such celebration by the Colonies as a unified entity. It can be argued that this event marks the first thanksgiving celebration defined by a unique and integral American identity. In the following year Congress called for another day of thanksgiving. This culturally American tradition was enjoyed again in 1776 by Private Joseph Martin and his fellow soldiers convalescing from small pox inoculation in Connecticut after inoculation against small pox. Martin, a soldier, gave earnest thanks for what was (and remains) of the greatest import to the man in the war, a good meal: “Of the pig and the pies we made an excellent Thanksgiving dinner, the best meal I had eaten since I left my grand sire’s table.”[4]

With yet another thanksgiving celebration in 1777, the Revolution and the War for Independence brought the new country together in its first official national holiday. This one marked the Continental Army’s victory over the British forces at Saratoga in October of that year, which success guaranteed French diplomatic and military support. In recognition of this momentous occasion Samuel Adams led the Continental Congress to declare a national day of celebration and thanks. On 18 December of that year, the first national thanksgiving was celebrated throughout the colonies. Even the soldiers at Valley Forge in 1777 were able to celebrate with a feast. As recorded by a young surgeon, Albigence Waldo, General Washington’s troops dined upon roasted pig.[5]

Of course, not all soldiers dined well on that thanksgiving holiday. Joseph Martin recounts, in sarcastic tones, the slim pickings that comprised the “sumptuous feast” to which his unit was treated: half a gill of rice and a tablespoonful of vinegar. Martin’s ire was with his fellow citizens in civilian life, for he knew full well that while the Army endured near starvation, the citizenry at large was enjoying the abundance the country afforded. His scathing sentiment is displayed when he credits the repast provided to the soldiers to a citizenry that had “opened her sympathizing heart so wide.”[6]  The Revolutionary War, with its near-broken logistics system, was the inspiration for the practice of griping over relative injustices. American sensibilities, even then, favored fairness. Shared harshness could be endured for a common purpose, which explains the paradox of the strengthening cohesion of the soldiers within the army. As between the army and society, however, the growing belief that the one side was suffering unduly inspired the soldiers’ indignation. This sentiment was particularly strong, because the soldiers felt poorly done by for being made to starve in a land of plenty while in noble service defending the terms of the revolution. To alleviate these negative emotions, the soldiers griped.

However, Martin’s prospects had improved by the late years of the war. Returning to an area in New Jersey in which he had served earlier in the war, Martin and several of his fellow soldiers, while searching for a deserter, enjoy the late war hospitality of the locals: “We had a good warm room to sit and lodge in, and as the next day was Thanksgiving, we had an excellent supper.” The next morning their host provided them with toast and cider, the latter of which Martin describes “as good and rich as wine,” as a proper beginning to their day. However, the bounty did not end there, as the host would not allow them to leave until they had shared “a genuine New Jersey breakfast” with him, consisting of buckwheat pancakes “flowing with butter and honey,” and washed down with “a capital dish of chocolate.” Their Thanksgiving continued as they lucked into obtaining lodgings with a family that felt kindly towards the Connecticut troops, “as that section of the state was originally settled by Connecticut people.” Finally, at another house they were again provided for by “the remains of [the] Thanksgiving cheer.”[7] In these celebrations, the sharing of the holiday with extended family that will become the standard was already in evidence in embryonic form.

The citizens who provide for Martin and his comrades were happy to be clear of the British Army and loyalists, heartened by the impending victorious close of the war, and likely harbored a degree of gratitude towards the Continental soldiers. This sharing with strangers, of making them like extended family, precedes the traditions that would accrete to the holiday in later years. However, given the notion of a “Thanksgiving” holiday as it existed then, where the objective was to express gratitude for the blessings one enjoyed, it seems reasonable that sharing one’s good fortune would accord with the spirit of the holiday.

The end of the War of 1812 was celebrated with a day of prayer and thanksgiving. At President James Madison’s urging, Congress resolved to celebrate the second victorious confrontation with the British on April 31st of 1815. As that war is often considered the final act in the War for Independence, it is fitting that its successful conclusion should be marked by what was emerging as an American holiday.

The establishment of a permanent national holiday of Thanksgiving resulted from the decades’ long campaign of Sarah Josepha Hale, a prominent women’s magazine editor. Beginning in 1827, her efforts finally bore fruit in September 1863, when an editorial on the subject struck a chord with President Lincoln and the public in the North. Again, this moment in the holiday’s history was inspired in part by military events: Hale’s editorial appeared in the wake of the Union victory at Gettysburg. This moment was particularly ripe as the victory had a tremendous effect upon popular sentiment regarding the war. Lincoln’s proclamation of that same October declaring the holiday brought the two pieces together:

It has seemed to me fit and proper that [God’s gifts of prosperity and freedom] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.[8]

Thus the creation, evolution, and designation of the Thanksgiving celebration as a national, culturally American holiday were all intimately connected with the country’s wars.

Despite the growing importance of the holiday, particularly for the Northern forces, 1862 was a dismal Thanksgiving year for Billy Yank. Although the Army of the Potomac fared better than the Army of Northern Virginia in the quality and quantity of rations, Union soldiers on campaign in Fredericksburg were known to suffer for lack of food. Bell Wiley, a historian of the Union and Confederate soldier experience in the war, offers the experience of one Massachusetts volunteer whose Thanksgiving meal offered little for which to be grateful: “Yesterday was Thanksgiving at home, but a dismal day for us. Never since I have been in the Army have I seen supplies so short. Now we see soldiers going round begging hard bread.” Things were so bad that Wiley tells that this and other soldiers reported some were found scavenging in the slaughter pens for what meager scraps were left behind, whether that be head, hoof, or tail.[9] Americans, especially Northerners, had, by this time, developed an expectation of the feast that was meant to exemplify this holiday.

Enshrined as a national holiday, Thanksgiving emerged as an event of “family homecoming,” in response to the societal disruption wrought by the massive economic changes in the 19th Century, reconciling the conflict between “individualism and obligation to family.”[10] According to Elizabeth Pleck, the defining feature of the Thanksgiving celebration in the United States is its function as a “domestic occasion.” This is:

a family gathering held in the home which paid homage to the ideal of the ‘affectionate family.’ Such a family was a privatized nuclear one, with a nurturant mother creating a proper home atmosphere…. Although the ideal of the affectionate family was a nuclear one, the domestic occasion was often a gathering of extended kin, a family homecoming…. The domestic occasion was a culturally dominant form, practiced at first mainly by the upper classes and middle classes, which spread throughout society in the 20th Century.[11]

This concept of the holiday squares with the near manic celebration of the holiday within the American military in the 20th Century. Deprived of the actual ability to return home in most cases, military personnel were provided the opportunity for a symbolic homecoming by partaking of the traditional meal. The menu, the specific foods, became totems of home and family for the troop who could not fulfill this “domestic” obligation. The troops were thus able to pay homage to the rites and customs of the holiday. Furthermore, as Thanksgiving was a particular holiday for the extended family, the members of the unit could substitute for these relations. Finally, the family at home would know of the satellite celebrations, and be relieved that at the very least their deployed loved one was enjoying something of the holiday. For these reasons, Thanksgiving became a very important holiday to the American Armed Forces.

Pleck goes on to argue that Lincoln’s role in the creation of the Thanksgiving holiday rooted the celebration in the by then established values of the country: “By having Lincoln as its midwife, Thanksgiving also celebrated the blessings of American nationhood as well as its domestic ideals. Thanksgiving was – and is – a holiday of belief in the national purposes and destiny.”[12] The holiday’s association with the blessings bestowed meant that the wars, and therefore troops, fought to secure them were included as well.

The Spanish American War brought the first appearance of any significant celebration of the holiday in the south since the end of the Civil War. In the face of war, the North and South united against a common external foe. While they were encamped in Savannah awaiting embarkation for Puerto Rico, the Georgia volunteers were treated to a lavish Thanksgiving banquet in 1898 by the ladies of that city.[13] The citizens of Savannah also treated the massing soldiers from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Nebraska to a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving that same year.[14]

During the Progressive Era, Thanksgiving moved into the schools as a means of indoctrinating the children of immigrants into the ways of their new country so that they could go home and be the “Americanizers” of their parents. This is also a time when the Protestant roots of the holiday began to be downplayed. A holiday or celebration started by the nation’s first “immigrants,” it could be shared with the succeeding generations of newcomers.[15] According to Pleck, this linkage to nation, rather than creed, was important to making Thanksgiving America’s holiday:

Yet in the case of Thanksgiving, nationalism was a more significant feature than commerce. In that sense, Hobsbawm and Ranger were correct to draw attention to nationalism as a force in creating new traditions and reinvigorating others. Celebrating the national mission was an important impetus for the invention of Thanksgiving in the early 19th Century and remains a central element in the holiday to this day.[16]

The nationalism angle is confirmed in Etzioni’s formulation of a theory of public rituals. He argues that “holidays serve to socialize members of a society as well as to reaffirm their commitment to values and as such serve to sustain the integration of society.”[17]

Thanksgiving would also mark the end of the first global conflagration of the century. General Pershing celebrated his army in November 1918, declaring ‘victory…was the Thanksgiving gift to the American nation,” and an honorable repayment of the debt owed Lafayette and the French in the Revolutionary War.[18] Another Thanksgiving meal just after the Armistice was uniquely celebrated. William Langer, a soldier in the AEF, recounts the story in the memoir of his unit while his unit was in Verdun, awaiting transport back to the States. Upon agreement with the company cook to delay their meal to 3 or 4 o’clock, the troops were promised a proper turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Just as the men sat down to tuck into the holiday feast, the bugle sounded to call the regiment. All in the company fell out, save Langer: “I was a sergeant and I thought a good soldier. Of course, I should have set a good example in answering the call without complaint. But the war was over and I decided, with the Thanksgiving dinner before me, that for once I would disobey orders.” As time passed and the rest of the company did not return, Langer began to worry, “could the company have entrained to start for home?” His wait was ended at long last when his unit mates returned. And what was the cause of the delay, the explanation for which was difficult to get out of his fellow soldiers? The Regimental Chaplain had chosen that exact moment to deliver a sermon in honor of Thanksgiving and the end of the war in the ruins of the Verdun Cathedral.[19] This turn of events contains the sort of irony particular to military service: the sermon interrupted the meal, one of the few things, besides survival, for which a soldier can be truly grateful.

By WWII, the American holiday, state, and armed forces had reached global maturity. A young lieutenant in Western Europe describes how the Mess Sergeant brought a proper feast to the soldiers on the front lines for Thanksgiving 1944. “A hamburger would have been a treat, but a hot turkey dinner was almost beyond belief.”[20] The commitment to the meal was an institutional requirement. In a government publication meant to explain to the American public the lengths to which the armed forces would go to provide the troops with every comfort of home possible, the declaration of the institution’s commitment to a proper Thanksgiving dinner was its opening salvo. Offering little room for doubt, the publication echoes the essence of the subsistence doctrine: “Thanksgiving turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin… American food for the American soldier in England, Iceland, India, Australia, in Malayan jungle, and African deserts – wherever he is fighting in this global war, the Army endeavors to feed him the food he likes, the food that makes him feel at home.”[21] This commitment was shared across the services, as US Navy Thanksgiving menus from the first half of the century display the familiar gastronomic landmarks of the national meal. Given their druthers, soldiers would assemble a feast of similar fixings on their own as well. Neal Barton records that his unit used their mess fund to put together a traditional feast for Thanksgiving 1941. Reflecting the relaxing nature of the holiday, he writes that “all day long the boys visited the mess hall. Seemed as tho they would eat, go walk it off then start the process all over. Nothing was removed from the tables but dirty or empty dishes.”[22]

The commitment to turkey on Thanksgiving was also codified operationally within the Quartermaster Corps. Per one subsistence publication, “Turkey rations are authorized for all men actually messing with the organization on Thanksgiving….” The exact meaning of this point for the bureaucracy and administration of quartermaster duties is set out in a footnote to the above directive: “The so-called ‘turkey ration’ is merely the garrison ration increased by the excess cost involved when 28 ounces of turkey (undrawn) is substituted for the meat component of the garrison ration. This excess cost is computed by the regional depots on the 15th of October… of each year. A certificate showing the actual number of men present on Thanksgiving… is attached to the ration return.” One hopes the turkey meat was not as dry as the language authorizing it. The recipe for “Turkey, Roast” from the 1941 Manual of Mess Management is equally sparse, but the ingredients and intent give prospects for a decent meal.[23]

In part, these pledges were made to maintain the morale of the American civilian population. There is an almost liturgical quality to them, as if the authors realize they must include certain vital recitations to keep the public happy. World War II was conducted on such a scale that the war could not be fought or won without public support. One very important way to secure this was to make the public feel that the troops were being well cared-for, demonstrating the military’s commitment to them. Although to do so would be a substantial undertaking, no effort or expense would be spared to get it done. Maintaining the link to home, no matter where on the globe the troops might be serving, could be achieved through the Thanksgiving menu, which recalled, at least in general terms, the sense of home. This objective is reflected in the experience of Ann McCaughey, a Red Cross Aide in France, who wrote of her Thanksgiving experience of 1944 that “it was a piece of America that we had transplanted [thousands of] miles across the ocean and set up in the little town of Commercy in France.”[24] For Charles MacDonald, Thanksgiving 1944, was not only a national holiday, but his birthday as well. Escorted to his table in the company mess hall, where he found a plate already prepared for him. As he sat down to eat, the division orchestra broke out into “Happy Birthday.” He writes that “[i]t was only then that I remembered that this was something special; this was my birthday.” As a cake was brought out and his men sang “Happy Birthday” him, he “could not repress a choking sensation,” nor barely “keep back the tears of gratitude.” While the celebration was in itself touching, the event, with its particular emphasis upon the food tokens of a holiday and celebration, was used to signify something of greater meaning; he had earned the respect and admiration of his men.[25]

Blind adherence to this institutional promise to provide a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving could also ruin the promise of this meal, as the grievously put upon Paul Boesch experienced in Germany in the fall of 1944. As was evident from previous experience, he and his fellow soldiers learned again that if Division had set its mind to something, in this case a hot turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day, then that was what was going to happen. It was going to happen even if that meal was more a burden than a blessing. As darkness fell that Thanksgiving evening, with the American units deployed along a hill within range of German artillery, Boesch received unwelcome news from battalion headquarters. The operations officer at the other end was calling to inform him that a hot turkey dinner had been prepared and awaited a carrying party to come pick it up and bring it back to the rest of the unit. Boesch tried to argue against the meal, but was told, “’It’s the General’s orders.’”  The staff officer chided him for failure to follow the faith: “’You want to see the men get a nice hot meal, don’t you?’” This provoked the infantrymen’s sensibilities:

“Well, Jeezus Christ, that’s a fine way of putting it. Of course I want to see them get a hot meal. I want to see them get three hot meals a day and a dry bed every night and a babe to sleep with, but let’s save the turkey until they can pull back where they can enjoy it. Who the hell knows it’s Thanksgiving except some silly bastard in the rear who gets hot meals anyway and just wants a change in diet?”

Attempts to make his case further up the chain of command were fruitless. Poignantly, he argued that the folks back at division headquarters “’have no idea what it means to try to get food to those men, not mention the troubles of trying to eat it.’” Unsuccessful in this particular battle, Boesch was resentful: “What the hell difference did it make when a man ate his Thanksgiving turkey? One day was like any other to us.” His soldiers echoed this sentiment, but orders were orders. The unfortunate but logical consequence of the activity in such close proximity to enemy lines followed. As the meal was being brought to the men the German artillery opened fire. The bulk of the casualties from the barrage were taken by the men bringing the food as they were caught out in the open. For their efforts, “seven men had been wounded and three killed, an awful price to pay for a Thanksgiving dinner that nobody wanted to eat.”[26] While this thesis maintains that, in spirit, the foodways policy chosen for the American armed forces has tremendous potential to positively influence morale and effectiveness, it equally recognizes that even the best doctrines if poorly applied can have disastrous results.

Half a world away from Lt. Boesch’s unit, on a ship operating near the Philippines in the Pacific Theatre, greater command sensibility prevailed. James Fahey’s memoirs tell of how the captain, in his Thanksgiving message to the crew, decided to delay the holiday meal. Operational conditions had been such that the ship’s crew was going to General Quarters with such frequency that to try to cook and serve a Thanksgiving meal would be an effort in futility. He promised them, however, that once the situation changed a turkey dinner would be in the offing. Four days later, just outside of Palau, circumstances had changed: “Today was the first chance we had to have our Thanksgiving Dinner, almost a week late but it was worth waiting for. We really had quite a feed. Turkey, and all the trimmings. It was very good.”[27]

The commitment to Thanksgiving did not wane in the Korean War. By this war, the components of the holiday were firmly established. As it happened, that first Thanksgiving of the Korean War fell during the fateful campaigns into North Korea. In the first example, PFC Herman Nelson’s memories demonstrate that the celebration included a settled menu: “On Thanksgiving Day, 1950, we moved to a new location near Kunu-ri, well north of the North Korean capital of Pyong Yang. We ate our Thanksgiving dinner there with an armored tank company, and it was really good. We had a turkey dinner and all the stuff that goes with it.”[28] Another soldier, writing home, told of his Thanksgiving experience:

Well, here it is Thanksgiving afternoon. We’ve finished eating our turkey dinner and a very fine dinner it was indeed. Every man had all he wanted to it. It’s about time. We had turkey (frozen, shipped from the States) sweet potatoes, corn, stuffing, gravy, olives, pie, and candy. We were very lucky we got all that as we were only relieved from the line yesterday.

Lucky indeed, as he went on to tell that his unit had been treated to hot showers as well. As this was the first such opportunity to shower since late September, these soldiers had much for which to be grateful.[29]

Montross and Canzona’s history of Marine Corps Operations in the Korean War demonstrates that this first celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday in that war included all of the necessary components:

Thanksgiving Day, which fell on the 23d, was celebrated both in Korea and the United States…. It was a tribute to American bounty as well as organizational genius that the troops in Korea were served a dinner which would have done credit to a first-rate Stateside restaurant. The menu, as proposed by X Corps to component units, included… roast young tom turkey with cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes… fruit cake, mince pie and coffee.[30]

Generally speaking, however, the Chosin Thanksgiving experience varied depending on where a unit was in the march north. The campaign presented unique complications to front line food service. As they moved north towards the Yalu River, the units that comprised X Corps had several different experiences of Thanksgiving. In his history of the Marine campaign in North Korea, Edwin Simmons provides photographs to document the celebrations of the units stationed at the bases at Hamhung and Hagaru-ri.[31] One Marine, Lance Corporal Harold Mulhausen, certain that the operation would mean missing the holiday dinner, found otherwise:

On Thanksgiving Day, 1950, the Marines continued to move north toward the Chosin Reservoir….we were pretty upset over the thought of missing our Thanksgiving dinner….To our great joy, next morning the cooks brought the kitchens up to our positions and we had our Thanksgiving dinner after all – turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, and all the goodies. It was delicious and I ate until my belly nearly popped.[32]

Interestingly, there is a contradiction between the official history of the Marine Thanksgiving of 1950 and the experiences of specific units and personnel. In their description of the Thanksgiving for Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Davis’ unit, Montross and Canzona record that “the men of 1/7 belatedly celebrated Thanksgiving on the 24th with a full, hot turkey dinner.”[33] As recounted in Martin Russ’ history of the campaign, according to Davis, the dinner did not go as smoothly as that:

“We were out on the very end of the limb tactically. When the turkeys caught up with us they were frozen solid and the cooks couldn’t figure out how to thaw them. What we finally did was make a mountain of birds around two fired-up field kitchen stoves, then covered the whole affair with two pyramidal tents sealed tight with snow. By morning the birds were thawed enough for the cooks to cut up and cook, which took several hours. We rotated the platoons down from the slopes throughout the day. Lieutenant Lee’s platoon, at the point, didn’t get the word, however; each man had to settle for a cup of reconstituted milk and two slices of fresh bread. I felt bad about that.”[34]

Joseph Owen, a platoon commander in Davis’ battalion, provides an even bleaker picture. Describing the policy initiative that drove the Thanksgiving efforts that year, he suggests in his memoir that the impetus behind it was for public relations purposes, suggesting that “it was especially important” to the military leadership in Tokyo “that the front-line troops be shown enjoying the bounties of Thanksgiving.” As a measure of the hubris he believed had infected General MacArthur’s command, he notes that, despite intense combat with the Chinese forces who had entered the war, they “could afford to give the men not only the traditional meal, but also the day off.” Regarding the meal itself, “we had our dinner in frigid darkness at 2300.” However, even then problems arose:

We sat in the snow and on the big boulders with overflowing trays. We relished the feast before us, but we had not reckoned with the cold. The temperature had sunk far below zero again, and our food began to freeze before we could set a fork into it. The giblet gravy congealed and became an icy coating over the chilled turkey and mashed potatoes. The cranberry sauce became sherbet. The oranges froze as hard as baseballs.

To add insult to injury, Owen and one of his corpsmen were sniped at while they tried to make the best of their dinner.[35]

The celebration of the holiday continued through the conflicts of the late 20th century. And in the first decade of the new century, the tradition did not wane as American troops found themselves abroad again for the holiday. Firmly established, the institutional menu can now take account of changes in tastes, so that troops have enjoyed deep fried and Cajun spiced turkeys alongside the traditional fare. Nevertheless, the iconic meal remains, no better demonstrated in the surprise trip of then President George W. Bush to Baghdad Airport to deliver the main course.

Which event was ultimately rendered thusly:

So, America, when you sit down to eat your turkey dinner today, put aside the myths of your childhood. Your holiday has its roots in the martial traditions and experiences which have formed the identity and ethos of the nation.




[1] Priscilla Ferguson, “A Cultural Field in the Making,” pp. 633-4.

[2] Roy Wood, The Sociology of the Meal, Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press (1995), p. 47, citing Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, New York: Basic Books (1973).

[3] James Thacher, Military Journal, p. 30, 20 July 1775.

[4] George Scheer, ed.,  Private Yankee Doodle, p. 57.

[5] Hugh Rankin, ed., Narratives of the American Revolution, p. 184. Another important wartime thanksgiving was celebrated by General Washington’s troops at Valley Forge, to commemorate the formalization of the alliance with the French in 1778. James Thacher describes this event. In addition to a mass military demonstration by the battalions and brigades with much saluting and many huzzahs, there was a dinner provided by Washington for the senior officers and wives present for the celebration. (Thacher, Military Journal, pp. 126-7)

[6] Scheer, Private Yankee Doodle, p. 100.

[7] Scheer, pp. 251-3.

[8] Book of Days, p. 1055.

[9] Bell Wiley, Life of Billy Yank, p. 226. Interesting to consider, Bell Wiley, a Southern historian, does not discuss Thanksgiving much. Given the holiday’s legal blessing by President Lincoln in 1863, it is not surprising that there is no mention of the holiday in The Life of Johnny Reb. However, the holiday is also largely absent from his companion study of Billy Yank.

[10] Elizabeth Pleck, “The Making of a Domestic Occasion,” p. 775.

[11] Pleck, p. 773.

[12] Pleck, p. 776.

[13] “Spanish American War in Georgia History,” The New Georgia Encyclopedia,

[14] David Ott, “Remember the Maine! Adam County’s Involvement in the Spanish American War,”

[15] Pleck, pp. 778-9.

[16] Pleck, p. 783.

[17] Amitai Etzioni, ”Toward a Theory of Public Ritual,”  p. 47.

[18] “Proud to pay debt, says General Pershing,” The New York Times, 1 December 1918.

[19] William Langer, Gas and Flame, pp. xxiv-xxv.

[20] William Devitt, Shavetail, p. 146.

[21] Eleanor Hoffman, Feeding Our Armed Forces, New York: Nelson (1943), p. 1.

[22] Donald Vining, ed., Diaries of World War II, Barton’s Diary, p. 20.

[23] Subsistence: Conference Bulletins, The Quartermaster School, (1942) p. 21; Manual of Mess Management, p. 132.

[24] Vining, ed., Diaries of World War II, Diary of Anne McCaughey, p. 98.

[25] Charles MacDonald, Company Commander, pp. 76-7.

[26] Paul Boesch, The Road to Huertgen, pp. 170-3.

[27] James Fahey, Pacific War Diary, pp. 237-8.

[28] Richard Peters and Xiaobing Li, Voices from the Korean War, p. 69.

[29] Donald Knox, The Korean War: An Oral History, p. 464.

[30] Lynn Montross and Nicholas Canzona, U.S. Marine Operations in Korea: Volume III: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pp. 143-4.

[31] Simmons, Frozen Chosin, p. 41.

[32] Peters and Li, pp. 99-100.

[33] Montross and Canzona, p. 148.

[34] Martin Russ, Breakout, p. 75.

[35] Joseph Owen, Colder Than Hell, pp. 213-5.

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Seminar on metamaterials for defence applications

EDA News - Thu, 26/11/2015 - 12:02

On 29 September 2015, thirty experts from Ministries of Defence, European Commission, NATO staff, industry and academia participated in an European Defence Agency (EDA) seminar to address the future impact of metamaterials technologies on defence capabilities. The seminar was co-organised by the Capability Technology groups (CapTechs) on Materials & Structures, Technologies for Components and Modules, Radiofrequency Sensors Technologies, and Electro-Optical Sensors Technologies.

Metamaterials are engineered structured materials used principally to control and manipulate electromagnetic fields and acoustic waves. Their properties come both from those of the materials they are made of, as well as from their geometrical arrangements. 

High level experts on metamaterials and defence technologies gathered to discuss on the potentials of metamaterials for different defence applications and related future challenges. In order to raise the awareness for these technologies, background information was provided on current work regarding metamaterials at EU level, on relevant activities in various CapTechs, on defence capability needs and on areas were further research is needed. The discussion focused on metamaterials defence applications, such as metamaterials to enhance the performance of radar antennas, their use as radar absorbers and cloaking, both regarding acoustics and microwave signals. Also the challenges and the way ahead regarding measurements, fabrication or modelling were addressed during the meeting.

The main outcome of the seminar is the identification of radar antennas and absorbers as the most promising defence applications. On the other hand, wide-band tunable surfaces are the most wanted applications of metamaterials, although they are far to be achieved. However, with a view to developing different applications, SMEs and academia need military requirements to better align their research to defence needs. Moreover, industry requires understanding of manufacturing tolerances and their performance in real conditions. These issues, together with the fact that metamaterials technologies are mainly civil driven, make the identification of the right area and right moment to start investing in a major challenge for defence actors. 

For further information, please contact 

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Expert Level Course on European Armament Cooperation

EDA News - Thu, 26/11/2015 - 09:58

From 23 to 27 November 2015, an Expert Level Course on European Armament Cooperation (EAC) takes place in Warsaw, Poland, to further increase knowledge on armament cooperation, and to foster ties among the community.


The course is organised by the European Defence Agency (EDA), the European Security and Defence College (ESDC) and the Austrian Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Sports, and hosted by the Polish Ministry of Defence. It aims at bringing forward various aspects of armaments cooperation at the EU level. Beyond knowledge development, the course serves as a useful networking platform to foster and to harmonise armaments cooperation among the Member States. 

The Expert Level Course constitutes a follow-on to an Awareness Level Module held at the EDA premises from 27 to 29 October 2015. Additionally, in order to attend the courses, it is mandatory to complete an Internet-based Distant Learning (IDL) module offered by the ESDC. 

“The EDA is fully committed in supporting Member States with education and training initiatives. The high number of participants to this edition of the course confirms that we are going in the right direction. This course represents an important tool for the European cooperation in the armaments domain”, says Massimo Guasoni, the EDA Head of Education, Training & Exercise Unit.

The topics brought on the course agenda include e.g. various aspects of cooperative programmes, research & development in cooperative programmes, harmonisation of the European Military Airworthiness, intercultural aspects in international cooperation and others. Several EDA subject matter experts will share their knowledge and experiences with the course participants. 



The European Defence Agency has been working towards establishing a proper training frame in response to the growing needs for harmonised education in the armament acquisition field since 2006. In 2009, the Czech Republic’s EU Presidency supported the creation of a new European armaments cooperation course, providing an EU-wide training platform where a common understanding of a European approach to armaments cooperation could be promoted. The EDA Member States welcomed the initiative and later that year the EDA Steering Board, in the National Armaments Directors configuration, approved the top-level European Armaments Cooperation (EAC) Framework, under which the current course was established.

In 2013, thanks to the initiative of Austria and other like-minded countries, including the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, the course took its current form. It followed the success of the pilot European Armaments Cooperation Course organised in Brussels and Stadtschlaining in 2012.

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Is the Hungarian Counterterrorism Centre (TEK) only a joke?

CSDP blog - Thu, 26/11/2015 - 00:00

Hungary terror suspects are WWII enthusiast, court rules
BBC News 26/11/2015

A court in Hungary has ruled that four men detained as suspected terrorists were in fact World War Two enthusiasts.
The men were arrested after visiting the site of a wartime tank battle at the weekend, carrying old weapons they had found with a metal detector.
News of their arrest drew heightened attention in the wake of this month's Paris attacks in which 130 people died.
But the judge in Budapest said there was no evidence the four men had links to terrorism.
The judge denied a prosecutor's application for the main suspect, known only as Roland S, to be held in custody.
'Looking foolish'
The four men were detained after old weapons explosives were found in their car during spot-checks by Hungary's anti-terrorist police following the 13 November Paris attacks.
The co-ordinated attacks - which were claimed by Islamic State - targeted a series of sites in the French capital.
After the weekend arrests, Hungary's anti-terrorist police chief Janos Hajdu said machine guns, silencers, and even a bomb-making laboratory had been found at the home of one of the suspects
He also added that links to Islamist radicals could not be ruled out.
But the Budapest court said on Wednesday that "circumstances of the case point to the opposite".
The main suspect, it said, had no links with extremists and no criminal record.
It said the man "lives with his mother and stepfather and is a World War Two enthusiast".
The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest says the anti-terror squad have been left looking rather foolish.
All four, however, remain under investigation for unlicensed possession of equipment capable of making explosives.

Hungary seizes live weapons from Brad Pitt World War Z film
Telegraph 3:00PM BST 11 Oct 2011

Nearly 100 live weapons to be used in Brad Pitt's "World War Z" film were confiscated by Hungarian authorities, according to reports.

The weapons included machine guns, rifles and pistols, security officials said.
The weapons arrived from London to Budapest's Ferenc Liszt Airport on Saturday and were discovered at a nearby duty free zone, Janos Hajdu, head of Hungary's Counterterrorism Centre, said. He said he could not confirm they were meant for the film.
"It's possible that all the weapons were brought in for the film, but this would not be allowed by Hungarian law," as the weapons had not been fully deactivated and could easily be used to fire live ammunition, Mr Hajdu said. "This is a very complicated case."
Mr Hajdu said the weapons had been shipped to a Hungarian company, whose representative was being questioned by investigators.
Mr Hajdu explained that in Hungary weapons were considered to be deactivated only if the process "was irreversible," while the weapons seized could still be fired even though screws had been used to fill the end of the barrels.

Xpat Opinion: Terror Police Arrest 'Luke Skywalker' In Budapest

The fearsome ‘terror police’ or TEK of Orbanistan-Hungary on Wednesday raided the oldest technical university in Europe (BME) after an emergency call alerted them to a student roaming the premises armed with a handgun.
The student was arrested and cuffed, as the terror police extracted him from the building. It was later revealed that the student was enacting scenes from Star Wars and was holding a toy gun while being dressed in the robes of none other than Luke Skywalker.

Fidesz officials commented: TEK was just doing its job. Despite this, the affair is one in a chain of embarrasing blunders by the elite swat team.
Just recently, the unit was being laughed at after its captain Janos Hajdu (the PM’s former body guard) tried to contact fake editors of a website, requesting correction of an article. In older news, TEK had confiscated a stash of weapons (actually props) belonging to Brad Pitt, who was about to film in Budapest.

According to Hajdu, the Skywalker incident should not be laughed at, as every call has to be taken seriously. “If it had been a real gun, many would have died that day,” added the hardened veteran.
By Andras M. Badics, published on with the permission of

The New Hungarian Secret Police
Paul Krugman NYTimes Blog

Another Hungary post from my Princeton colleague Kim Lane Scheppele, after the jump.
The New Hungarian Secret Police
Kim Lane Scheppele
Tuesday 17 April 2012

Brad Pitt knows all about the TEK, Hungary’s new counter-terrorism police.
When Pitt was in Budapest last October shooting World War Z, an upcoming zombie-thriller, TEK agents seized 100 machine guns, automatic pistols and sniper rifles that had been flown to Hungary for use as props in the movie. The weapons were disabled and came with no ammunition. But the Hungarian counter-terrorism police determined that they constituted a serious threat.

The dead-pan seizure of movie props made TEK the laughing stock of the world. As David Itzkoff joked in the pages of the New York Times, “If Hungary ever finds itself the target of an undead invasion, its police force should now be well supplied to defend the nation.”
Few have taken TEK seriously. But that is a big mistake. In fact, TEK seems to be turning into Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s own secret police. In less than two years, TEK has amassed truly Orwellian powers, including virtually unlimited powers of secret surveillance and secret data collection.

The speaker of the Parliament, László Kövér, now has his own armed guard too, since the Parliament yesterday passed a law that creates a separate armed police force accountable to the Parliament. It too has extraordinary powers not normally associated with a Parliamentary guard. The creation of this “Parlia-military” gives Hungary the dubious distinction of having the only Parliament in Europe with its own armed guard that has the power to search and “act in” private homes.

About the Parlia-military, more later. First, to TEK.
TEK was created in September 2010 by a governmental decree, shortly after the Fidesz government took office. TEK exists outside the normal command structure of both the police and the security agencies. The Prime Minister directly names (and can fire) its head and only the interior minister stands between him and the direct command of the force. It is well known that the head of this force is a very close confidante of the Prime Minister.

TEK was set up as an anti-terror police unit within the interior ministry and given a budget of 10 billion forints (about $44 million) in a time of austerity. Since then, it has grown to nearly 900 employees in a country of 10.5 million people that is only as big as Indiana.

Why was TEK necessary? When it was created, the government said that it needed TEK because Hungary would hold the rotating presidency of the European Union starting in January 2011. During the six months it held this office, Hungary could be expected to host many important meetings for which top anti-terrorism security would be necessary. But even though Hungary’s stint in the EU chair is over, TEK has continued to grow.

Eyebrows were raised when János Hajdu, Orbán’s personal bodyguard, was appointed directly by the prime minister to be the first head of this new agency. Since TEK’s job also included guarding the prime minister, some believed that Orbán had set up the office to get his trusted bodyguard onto the public payroll. Patronage turns out to be the least of the worries about TEK, however.

TEK is now the sort of secret police that any authoritarian ruler would love to have. Its powers have been added slowly but surely through a series of amendments to the police laws, pushed through the Parliament at times when it was passing hundreds of new laws and when most people, myself included, did not notice. The new powers of TEK have received virtually no public discussion in Hungary. But now, its powers are huge.

What can the TEK do?

TEK can engage in secret surveillance without having to give reasons or having to get permission from anyone outside the cabinet. In an amendment to the police law passed in December 2010, TEK was made an official police agency and was given this jurisdiction to spy on anyone. TEK now has the legal power to secretly enter and search homes, engage in secret wiretapping, make audio and video recordings of people without their knowledge, secretly search mail and packages, and surreptitiously confiscate electronic data (for example, the content of computers and email). The searches never have to be disclosed to the person who is the target of the search – or to anyone else for that matter. In fact, as national security information, it may not be disclosed to anyone. There are no legal limits on how long this data can be kept.

Ordinary police in Hungary are allowed to enter homes or wiretap phones only after getting a warrant from a judge. But TEK agents don’t have to go to a judge for permission to spy on someone – they only need the approval of the justice minister to carry out such activities. As a result, requests for secret surveillance are never reviewed by an independent branch of government. The justice minister approves the requests made by a secret police unit operated by the interior minister. Since both are in the same cabinet of the same government, they are both on the same political team.

TEK’s powers were enlarged again in another set of amendments to the police law passed on 30 December 2011, the day that many other laws were passed in a huge end-of-year flurry. With those amendments, TEK now has had the legal authority to collect personal data about anyone by making requests to financial companies (like banks and brokerage firms), insurance companies, communications companies (like cell phone and internet service providers) – as well as state agencies. Data held by state agencies include not only criminal and tax records but also educational and medical records – and much more. Once asked, no private company or state agency may refuse to provide data to TEK.

Before December 2011, TEK had the power to ask for data like this, but they could only do so in conjunction with a criminal investigation and with the permission of the public prosecutor. After December 2011, their data requests no longer had to be tied to criminal investigations or be approved by the prosecutor. In fact, they have virtually no limits on what data they can collect and require no permission from anyone.

If an organization (like an internet service provider, a bank or state agency) is asked to turn over personally identifiable information, the organization may not tell anyone about the request. People whose data have been turned over to TEK are deliberately kept in the dark.

These powers are shocking, not just because of their scope, but also because most Hungarians knowledgeable about constitutional law would probably have thought they were illegal. After the changes of 1989, the new Hungarian Constitutional Court was quick to dismantle the old system in which the state could compile in one place huge amounts of personal information about individuals. In its “PIN number” decision of 1991, the Constitutional Court ruled that the state had to get rid of the single “personal identifier number” (PIN) so that personally identifiable data could no longer be linked across state agencies. The Court found that “everyone has the right to decide about the disclosure and use of his/her personal data” and that approval by the person concerned is generally required before personal data can be collected. It was the essence of totalitarianism, the Court found, for personal information about someone to be collected and amassed into a personal profile without the person’s knowledge.

With that Constitutional Court decision still on the books and not formally overruled, the Fidesz government is reproducing the very system that the Court had banned by creating a single agency that can gather all private information about individuals in one place again. What, one might ask, is left of constitutional law in Hungary?

One might also ask: Are there any limits to TEK’s power?

The law specifies that TEK operates both as a police and as a national security agency. When it is acting as a police unit, it has the jurisdiction to spy on any person or group who poses a threat of terrorism, along with anyone else associated with such persons. Hungary, like many countries after 9/11, has a broad definition of terrorism that includes, among other things, planning to commit a “crime against the public order” with the purpose of “coercing a state body . . . into action, non-action or toleration.” Crimes against the public order include a long list of violent crimes, but also the vaguer “causing public danger.” In addition, TEK also may arrest “dangerous individuals,” a term not defined in the criminal law. It is difficult from the text of the law itself to see any clear limits on TEK’s powers.

And TEK is very active. On April 7, TEK agents were called in to capture a young man in the small village of Kulcs who killed four members of his family with a machete. And then, in the early morning hours of Friday, April 13, TEK agents conducted a major drug bust in Budapest, arresting 23 people. According to news reports, fully 120 TEK agents were involved in the drug operation, raising questions about whether the drug bust was thought to be part of the anti-terrorism mission of the agency or a rather broad extension of the concept of the “dangerous individual.” Either way, the drug ring looked like garden-variety crime. If that is within TEK’s jurisdiction, it is hard to imagine what is not.

A You-Tube video of the April 13 drug bust, made available by TEK itself, shows what a middle-of-the-night raid by TEK officers looks like, complete with the use of heavy-duty tools to cut open an exterior door.

Given that this is the video that TEK wanted you to see, one can only imagine the activities of TEK that are not recorded for posterity. (It would be interesting to know, for example, why the audio cuts out at certain points in the clip, as well as what happens between the time that TEK breaks open the door and the time the various suspects are seen lying handcuffed on the floor.)

While its videos are crystal clear, TEK’s legal status is blurry, as some parts of its activities are authorized under the police law and others parts are authorized under the national security law. Different rules and standards apply to police agencies and to national security agencies. Moreover, TEK seems to have some powers that exceed those of both police and national security agencies, particularly in its ability to avoid judicial warrants. No other agency in the Hungarian government has both police and national security powers, and it is unclear precisely how the agency is accountable – for which functions, under what standards and to whom. What follows is my best guess from reading the law.

With respect to its powers authorized under the police law, it appears that TEK must act like the police and get judicial warrants to search houses, to wiretap and to capture electronic data when these activities are part of a criminal investigation. When TEK was arresting the machete-wielder and making the drug bust, it was probably acting under its police powers.

But TEK only need judicial warrants when it is engaged in criminal investigations. It doesn’t need judicial warrants when it is using its secret surveillance powers in security investigations. When it is acting as a national security agency, TEK only needs the permission of the justice minister to engage in secret and intrusive surveillance. Of course, given that the permissions and constraints are different depending on whether TEK is acting as a police agency or a national security agency, it would matter who decides whether a particular activity is conducted for police or national security purposes and what the criteria are for determining that it is one or the other. The law does not provide the answer to either question.

Suppose someone believes that she has been spied upon illegally by TEK. What can she do to object? First, if TEK is engaged in secret surveillance or data collection, it is unlikely that people will know that they are a target, given the extraordinary secrecy of the whole operation. But even if one finds out that one is being watched, the remedies are not encouraging.

A person aggrieved by TEK’s actions may complain to the interior minister, and the interior minister must answer the complaint within 30 days. But given that the interior minister is the minister who controls TEK in the first place, this is not an independent review. If the complainant does not like the answer of the interior minister, s/he may appeal to the Parliament’s national security committee, which must muster a one-third vote to hear the petition. At the moment, the 12-member national security committee consists of two-thirds governing party members and one-third members of all other parties combined. If the governing party does not want to investigate a complaint, garnering a one-third vote would mean uniting the whole opposition – or, to put it in more blunt terms, getting the Socialists to work with the neo-Nazis. That is unlikely to happen. Even if the national security committee agrees to hear a petition, however, it would take a two-thirds vote of the committee to require the interior minister to reveal the surveillance methods used against the complainant so that the committee can determine whether they were legal. There is no judicial review at any stage of this process.

TEK operates in secret with extraordinary powers and no one reliably independent of the current governing party can review what it is doing when it uses its most potentially abusive powers. This shocking accumulation of power may explain the Hungarian government’s abolition of a separate data protection ombudsman who would have the power to investigate such shocking accumulation of data. Instead, the data protection officer – a post required by European Union law – has been made a political appointee of the government itself. This is why the EU has launched an infringement action against Hungary for failing to guarantee the independence of the office. Now we can see why the EU may be onto something.

As if the powers of TEK are not enough, though, Parliament yesterday authorized another security service with the power to use police measures against citizens and residents of Hungary. The cardinal law on the Parliament itself contains a provision that gives the Parliament its own military, a Parlia-military.

The Parlia-military is an armed police unit outside the chain of command of the regular military or police structures. Its commander in chief is the speaker of the house, László Kövér, who served as minister without portfolio for the Civilian Intelligence Services during the first Orbán government from 1998-2002. The Parlia-military has the power to guard the Parliament and the speaker of the house, as might be expected. But if the Parlia-military is only supposed to guard the Parliament and the speaker, why does it need the powers that the cardinal law gives it?

The law gives the Parlia-military power “to enter and to act in private homes.” That’s literally what the law says. It is unlikely that the Parliament will want to conduct a plenary session in someone’s living room, so one must then wonder just what the Parliament will do if its armed military enters someone’s home to “act.” In addition to this power, the Parlia-military may also make public audio and video recordings of people. It can also search cars, luggage and clothing. It can use handcuffs and chemical substances (which I assume means tear gas and nothing more, but the wording make it sound like the Parlia-military may use chemical weapons!). The draft law seems to imply that the Parlia-military would have to operate under the constraints of the police law, which would mean that it would need judicial warrants to conduct these intrusive measures. But that is not completely clear. What is clear is that Hungary now suffers from a proliferation of police that are under direct political control.

Until this point, I have thought that the Fidesz government was just attempting to lock down power for itself for the foreseeable future, which was bad enough. But now, with the discovery of these new security services, it seems increasingly likely that the Hungarian government is heading toward the creation of a police state. Actually, it may already be there. But shhhh! It’s secret.

Tag: TEKHungarian Counterterrorism Centre

Shipbuilding constraints drive downsized but potent Russian navy

Russian Military Reform - Wed, 25/11/2015 - 14:55

Official announcements related to naval shipbuilding give the appearance of a Russian Navy that is undergoing a rapid revival. However, the reality is that many projects have faced lengthy delays and cost overruns. As a result, some of the most prominent naval procurement projects have been scaled back, while others have been postponed for years at a time. The delays and cost overruns are the result of a long-term decline in naval research and development, an inability to modernize the shipbuilding industry made worse by Western sanctions, and pre-existing budgetary constraints that have been exacerbated in recent years by Russia’s economic downturn. However, the Russian Navy has developed a strategy that compensates for these gaps by utilizing its strength in submarines and cruise missile technology to fulfill key maritime missions such as homeland defense and power projection in the face of a failure to build an adequate number of large combat ships.

Originally published by CIMSEC. Click here to read the rest of the article.

BAE Systems and SAIC downselected for Marine Corps' Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV)

DefenceIQ - Wed, 25/11/2015 - 06:00
BAE's ACV 1.1 offering was selected by the Marine Corps for the EMD phase (Photo: BAE Systems)
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Excalibur - Wed, 25/11/2015 - 00:40

Indian Excalibur Assault Rifle
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Toward Fragmentation? Mapping the post-Omar Taleban

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) - Tue, 24/11/2015 - 19:45

The Taleban movement has entered its third decade with infighting threatening its – up till now ­– remarkable unity. The killing of Mansur Dadullah during clashes between Taleban factions in Zabul on 12 November 2015 highlighted the scope of this unprecedented discord. Dadullah had been deputy leader of a newly-formed, breakaway faction of the Taleban. That faction, under the leadership of Mullah Muhammad Rasul, is not the only group opposing the new Taleban leader, Akhtar Muhammad Mansur; there are other Taleban heavyweights opposing, if not openly challenging, him. AAN’s Borhan Osman maps the various Taleban factions that have emerged in the wake of the revelation of the death of the movement’s founder Mullah Omar. He concludes, however, that although the rifts have irreversibly broken the historic image of the Taleban as a unified group, they are, so far, a long way from posing an existential threat to the movement.

Sourcing unless specified comes from interviews with interlocutors within or close to the different Taleban camps that AAN has spoken to during the past four months.

The Taleban have long taken pride in a unity which made them stand out from almost all other major political-military groups active during the decades of conflict in Afghanistan. Born in conflict and a key warring party ever since, the Islamic Movement of the Taleban (as it first called itself) has gone through many turbulent times in the 21 years of its existence, but it has always stuck together. This ended in July 2015 when news of its leader’s death became public knowledge.

One day after the Taleban confirmed the death of Mullah Muhammad Omar – when they also announced that his then ‘deputy’ Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur had taken his place – three (active or former) members of the highest decision-making body, the Rahbari Shura (Leadership Council), openly declared their disagreement with the succession. They accused the new leader of having engineered the succession so as to get himself ‘selected’.

Mullah Mansur’s ‘crowning’ as amir ul-mumenin (commander of the faithful) was, in many ways, merely a formalisation of his actual position in the movement. As official deputy to an increasingly mythical (dead or before that secluded) leader, Mansur had already been running the Taleban, albeit in Omar’s name, for about five years – since Omar’s other and more senior deputy, Mullah Abdul Ghani (aka Baradar), had been locked up by the Pakistanis in February 2010.

Mansur has a long record with the Taleban. While not one of the founders of the movement, he had several portfolios when they were in power, most notably Minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism. Very early on in the insurgency, in summer 2003, his name appeared in the 10-member shura announcing the comeback of the Taleban movement. In the following years, he led the insurgency in Kandahar province, a portfolio he kept after 2007 when, according to his official biography, he became one of the two deputies to Mullah Omar. After Baradar’s arrest and several months of confusion, Mansur was appointed by Mullah Omar as his (only) deputy and the news was made known to rank and file through an audio tape, according to Taleban sources AAN has talked to. As chairman of the movement’s Rahbari Shura and because of Omar’s absence from real life, Mansur gradually took over as the movement’s de facto leader. By 2013, he had marginalised a number of his political opponents and was pushing others to the margins.

When Mansur was announced as Omar’s successor on 31 July 2015, it was obvious that all those he had pushed aside would contest his claim to leadership. Moreover, consultations on who should succeed Omar were swift and conducted with a limited and not fully representative circle of leaders. This also made him more vulnerable to dissent.

Dissent goes on air

The three dissidents – two current members (Hassan Rahmani, Abdul Razaq) and one former member (Muhammad Rasul) of the 18 men strong Rahbari Shura represented a wider camp of Taleban who were critical of the way Mansur had propelled himself into the position of amir ul-mumenin. They complained that many important figures in the movement had not been consulted, that the succession had been decided hastily and that Mansur had manipulated the process. The three made their resentment public by phoning Shamshad TV, a private station based in Kabul. That was an unusual and bold venture for members of a movement that, up till then, had been characterised by keeping its internal debates internal. Many more Taleban notables spoke out subsequently, thrusting the movement’s future cohesion into uncertainty. However, had the discord really to do with the way the succession was managed, and therefore, was it completely unanticipated?

It rather seems as if Mullah Omar’s death revealed what had already been an existing power struggle. Until then, however, it had remained mostly out of public sight, but was known to insiders. For those watching the movement closely, the post-Omar rifts only brought to the surface existing fault lines that had been haunting the movement for some years.

Mansur had managed to build up a coterie loyal to himself and manoeuvred it into top positions in the leadership to consolidate his power. He has been doing this probably since 2010, and increasingly since Mullah Omar’s death in spring 2013 (the time all Taleban camps understood their former leader actually died). Therefore, Mansur is accused by his opponents of nepotism and of giving more power to his fellow Ishaqzais in the movement.

Mansur’s opponents accuse him of unjustly removing or demoting Taleban leaders like Mutasem Agha Jan, (the late) Abdul Rauf Khadem and Abdul Qayum Zaker as part of his efforts to build a movement submissive to him. Mutasem Agha Jan had been instrumental in raising funds for launching the insurgency in its early years (2003-2007) and had remained as head of the important financial commission until 2008. During Emirate rule, he served as minister of finance and had been close to Mullah Omar. He was forced out of the movement in 2009 and survived an assassination attempt in Karachi in 2011. The decision to expel Mutasem was taken by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar; he was removed apparently after being accused of embezzling donation funds. However, Mansur’s critics accuse Mansur of having been instrumental in the decision to push out Mutasem .

Abdul Qayum Zaker and Rauf Khadem were  the head and deputy of the Taleban’s military commission, respectively, effectively the two most important military chiefs in the movement. They led Taleban forces during the ‘surge’ of US forces from late 2009 to 2012. Zaker was relieved of his job by Mansur and replaced by a more loyal person, Sadar Ibrahim, in spring 2014. Khadem was effectively ousted, as a bête noire, apparently for promoting Salafism. Khadem became the first known insurgent commander to defect to the Islamic State, becoming its ‘deputy amir for Khorasan’ and launching the organisation’s first cell in Helmand early this year. Almost immediately thereafter, however, in early February 2015, he was killed in a drone attack. Zaker, who remains a Taleban commander (more on him below), still maintains a network of fighters loyal to him in the south, particularly in Helmand, but has declined to join either Mansur or his open opponents.

The opposition to Mansur and the way he has run the movement has created diverse ‘factions’ within the Taleban. This opposition is made up of scattered leaders, but no single person among them is strong or prominent enough to serve as a rallying point. Mansur’s opponents also face the challenge of lacking access to funding of their own to set up a significant rival faction. That leaves them as something even less than a loose alliance. In their objection to Mansur, they not only entertain varied demands, but seem to hold divergent positions on the issue of succession (who should be appointed as leader and how) and exhibit policy differences on important issues, such as a possible political settlement to end the war. (Some favour a political settlement, others are against it. Some are against the presence of the political office in Qatar and others support it as the key channel). Ideologically, the opposition contains both soft and hard-liners, representing a diversity not dissimilar from the mainstream Taleban. Overall, it is difficult to see in them an ideologically distinct current. Thus, the rifts are often more to do with power politics and personal grievances than defined ideological or political stances.

Mapping the factions

Since the discord does not follow a clear ideological line or a unified agenda, one way to make mapping the factions easier would be to divide them by their similarity in stated or perceived positions to the succession issue, levels of opposition, past affiliations and possible future trajectories. Individuals from the first three camps have been in some sort of informal contacts with the people from or close to the Afghan government during the past few years. Those contacts have not had the endorsement – and may have even been to the dismay  – of Mansur. Contacts by members of the fourth group from the Taleban’s political office in Qatar were approved.

  1. The armed opposition: Muhammad Rasul and Mansur Dadullah

Muhammad Rasul (1), the governor of Nimroz during the Taleban regime and a comrade of Mullah Omar from the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s, has emerged as the leader of the only group which has taken its opposition to the level of declaring a rival amir. In early November 2015, Muhammad Rasul appeared amid a crowd of fighters and local residents in Bakwa district of Farah to launch his faction (or as he would probably see it, the ‘true’ Taleban) named the Higher Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. He has since also travelled to Shindand district of neighbouring Herat province, where he held a similar gathering of supporters and sympathisers, mostly from the Nurzai.

Along with Akhtar Mansur, Rasul was a member of the first shura formed in summer 2003 that oversaw the launch of the Taleban insurgency under Mullah Omar’s leadership. In recent years, he has had no known position in the movement. He has been joined by three Taleban commanders and a former governor. Two of the commanders, Mansur Dadullah (who has already been killed) and Baz Muhammad, were appointed as his deputies, while the third deputy is the Emirate-era governor of Kabul Abdul Manan Niazi. The third commander is tribal elder-turned Taleb Raz Muhammad, who is based in Shindand district of Herat province.

The first deputy, Mullah Mansur Dadullah, with his power base among the Pashtun tribe of the Kakar in Zabul, was appointed one of Rasul’s two military deputies. Dadullah was the most powerful commander of the group, but was killed quickly after his position in the dissident faction was made public in a clash with ‘Mansur’s Taleban’ which had been brewing anyway.

Multiple sources from Taleban and local notables suggest Dadullah was killed by Akhtar Mansur’s fighters on 12 November 2015 during an offensive against the dissidents in Zabul. A radio communication between an apparently Zabul-based Taleban commander and a government forces’ member leaked on the internet confirmed that he was dead. Rasul’s men have claimed since that Dadullah was only seriously wounded and is still alive. However, given Dadullah’s habit of staying regularly in touch with the media, which put him in contrast with other insurgency commanders, it seems reasonably to assume he would have come out to disprove reports of his death were he still alive.

Mansur Dadullah was a younger brother of Mullah Dadullah, a brutal Taleban frontline commander during the Taleban regime and early insurgency period. The older brother virtually launched the insurgency with the killing of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) engineerin March 2003 – a shocking indication of what sort of insurgency was to come because the ICRC had always been respected by all parties to the conflict. Dadullah was himself killed in 2007 in a US-led coalition airstrike. Mansur Dadullah, also known as Bakht Muhammad and Mullah Akhtar, took over his brother’s network. He immediately accused both Akhtar Mansur – then in charge of the insurgency in Kandahar and possibly, also, just appointed second deputy to Mullah Omar – and Mullah Omar’s first deputy, Mullah Baradar, of having conspired to have Dadullah killed. Mansur Dadullah was subsequently disowned by Mullah Omar in an audio message in late 2007 after he had been charged with brutally killing two veteran Taleban fighters whom he had accused of spying on his brother. Another possible reason for his expulsion might have been revelations that he had been secretly talking to Western diplomats in Helmand.

Mansur Dadullah was detained in 2008 by the Pakistani government and freed in September 2013 and returned to Zabul in early 2015 to revive a part of his brother’s network. (Some contemporary AAN background reports here and here).

The second military deputy to Rassul, Baz Muhammad Haris (not to be confused with the current shadow governor of Farah, Mawlawi Baz Muhammad) is a Nurzai from Farah province and was once probably the most influential commander in Farah. It seems he had been overseeing drug trafficking in the province and got embroiled in a dispute with other Taleban commanders over the distribution of income in 2012. At that time, Akhtar Mansur supported the commanders who summoned Baz Muhammad and beat him up; this marked the start of the hostility between him and Mansur. Baz Muhammad facilitated the November gathering in Bakwa where the rival faction and amir were officially launched. It was attended by many Nurzais in addition to around 200 fighters. However, according to some Taleban sources, most of Baz Muhammad’s fighters deserted him when they realised their leader would be going to become part of a rival faction.

A third commander, Raz Muhammad, has been chosen as the group’s commander for the ‘south-western region’, a possible reference to Herat, Nimroz and Helmand provinces. Also known as Jawed Nangyal, he is the son of former local militia commander Amanullah Khan, who was killed during fighting with a rival militia commander in his home district of Shindand in 2006.(2) Subsequently, Raz Muhammad, a Nurzai, has led his broader family and relatives into the Taleban movement. He mobilised a couple of thousand people for the gathering in his own home district in support of Rasul on 7 November 2015; these included about 200 armed men as well. Raz Muhammad controls most of the Zerkoh area in Shindand.

Also prominent in Rasul’s faction is Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, an Achakzai from Herat’s Gulran district. He was Mullah Omar’s first spokesman upon his emergence in the mid-1990s and also served as governor for Kabul, as his most prominent position, and governor of Balkh province in 1998 as his most notorious. He was put in charge as the governor of Balkh after the Taleban captured Mazar-e Sharfi when the group massacred thousands of people, mainly Hazaras. Witnesses reported him delivering sectarian anti-Shia speeches and urging them to ‘convert’ to Sunni Islam. In recent years, Niazi has not held a specific position in the Taleban, but ran a private business as a property dealer in Pakistan. He acts as a political deputy for Rasul and spokesman for the group.

A fourth deputy in the rival faction has been announced – Sher Muhammad Mansur who is a little-known commander from a well-known family, that of Nasrullah Mansur, leader of the mujahedin faction Harakat-e Nawin-e Inqilab-e Islami during the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s. His family has denied his acceptance of the position, but nothing has been heard from Sher Muhammad himself. Neither has he been seen in any of the gatherings in support of Rasul. He seems more a symbolic addition to the group so that it looks broadly based and representative of Taleban from various areas – in this case from the southeast. Sher Muhammad is from Paktia and his family and faction played a notable role in the Taleban during both its rule and the insurgency era.

To leave space for expanding the faction into an umbrella organisation for all dissidents, Rasul was named acting (interim) amir in the Farah meeting; the group’s spokesman Manan Niazi told AAN the appointment of a permanent amir (for the whole Taleban movement – as the group insists it has not left the movement but rather represents its legitimate leadership) should involve consultation with a wider base. Altogether, Rasul’s ‘High Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’, as it calls itself, apparently enjoys the support of around a thousand fighters, as each leader – Raz Muhammad, Baz Muhammad and most notably Dadullah (or whoever now takes over his network) ­– has contributed a fighting force of between 200 and 400 men. They are mainly distributed in southern and western parts of the country, namely Zabul, Farah and Herat. Dadullah is also said to enjoy some support in Wardak, closer to Kabul.

Dadullah had long acted as leader of his own group with his own spokesman and tactics and was always an uneasy subordinate to the Taleban leadership. He had initially supported Omar’s son Mullah Yaqub as successor; that prospect was annulled after Yaqub, along with his uncle, Mullah Manan, declared their support for Akhtar Mansur in mid-September. Rasul’s faction has also accused Akhtar Mansur of assassinating Mullah Omar, despite Omar’s son and brother – who initially tilted towards the dissidents – insisting he died a natural death. In early September, Dadullah also appeared in a video in early September in the company of around a dozen of his armed men declaring himself amir ul-jihad (leader of the jihad), a title previously unknown in the Taleban movement. In the video tape, he attacked Mansur as an agent of Pakistani intelligence and asked Taleban fighters to join him in the fight against the Pakistani ‘intelligence cell’. In that video, he also mentioned that he had agreed to an ultimatum from Akhtar Mansur’s commanders to leave the area. Taleban sources on Akhtar Mansur’s side say he failed to abide by that initial two-week ultimatum plus two subsequent deadlines. There had been a build-up of force in Zabul from both sides before the first deadline was agreed.

Dadullah had rooted himself in Khak-e Afghan, Daichopan and parts of Arghandab districts of Zabul province. There, his fighters, together with Central Asian militants who had arrived in summer 2014 from North Waziristan, fleeing the Pakistani military operation there, mutually supported each other. The Central Asians, reportedly mostly Uzbeks from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), had grown hostile to Akhtar Mansur after they settled in Zabul. They pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and openly insulted Akhtar Mansur, according to IMU group’s communication (which AAN has seen). They called him an agent of the Pakistani intelligence services, who had diverged from Mullah Omar’s path and sold Taleban fighters out. The Central Asians had initially arrived in Zabul as family groups (about 400), but most of these families have reportedly fled to other areas, mainly to northern Afghanistan. According to a document AAN saw, the IMU-cum-IS group agreed with Akhtar Mansur’s Taleban to also leave the area by mid-September. That agreement was achieved with the help of local ulama mediating between the two sides and seems to have been separate from the Dadullah/Mansur agreement, although both had the same timeframe.

From February 2015, the foreign militants have taken dozens of people hostage, most of them Shia Hazaras, with the help of Dadullah’s commanders. Some hostages were exchanged for Central Asian militants detained by the government. Others have been beheaded or had their throats slit in killings which were filmed and published, in an effort to push the government for a deal to free remaining Central Asian detainees. One group of eight people was freed on 8 November 2015 by Mansur’s Taleban after they captured the area where the hostages had been held from the foreign militants and Dadullah’s fighters. They found that seven other hostages from the same group had already been killed, their throats cut just a day earlier during the fighting. The victims included two women and a child. This brutal killing stirred an outcry in many parts of the country (see AAN’s account of the mass protests in Kabul here).

The fighting in Zabul looked like a clash that would have happened anyway, regardless of whether Dadullah had joined the new Rasul faction. It resembled more of an offensive by Akhtar Mansur against the Dadullah-IMU/IS alliance than a fight between two Taleban ‘factions’. The offensive took place less than a week after the announcement of Rasul’s declaration of being Taleban amir and was not Mansur’s first massive mobilisation against the Dadullah-IMU/IS alliance. That took place less than a month after he was announced as Omar’s successor in August, before any of the dissidents had taken the shape of a ‘faction’. (See here  for AAN reporting, which includes information about the first escalation in Zabul.) Dadullah’s killing has, however, taken out the strongest and most brutal commander from Rasul’s faction before it had the chance to consolidate – a grave setback for this particular band of dissidents.

  1. Prominent members of the Rahbari Shura opposing Mansur, but not in the Rasul camp

Before Rasul declared his own faction, he had been part of the loudest anti-Mansur group which brought together the largest number of anti-Mansur Taleban notables. With Rasul and Niazi going it alone, this other group still includes some of the most well known Taleban figures. Taleban era interior minister Mullah Abdul Razaq and the regime’s governor of Kandahar, then the emirate’s quasi-capital, Mullah Hassan Rahmani, are leading this group. The two, along with Rasul, were the ones who first publicised their opposition to Mansur’s succession on 31 July 2015. The group also includes the Emirate-era deputy foreign minister Mullah Abdul Jalil and erstwhile governor of the Central Bank Abdul Rahman Zahed. Razaq and Rahmani have served as members of the Rahbari Shura in recent years, and Razaq was also one of the early members of the shura overseeing the initiation of the post-2001 insurgency.

This camp had eyes on Mullah Omar’s son Yaqub as a possible new leader of the movement and tried to pit him against Mansur. Reportedly, they pushed him in a bid to become a rival amir after Mansur had installed himself. Yaqub and Manan’s final choice of joining the Mansur camp delivered a fatal blow to that particular plan. This camp is still waiting, though, and has not declared its support for either Rasul or Akhtar Mansur’s, despite the latter’s persistent efforts to court them. They seem to be continuing to assess the two factions’ trajectory before making a decision.

  1. An eastern front dismantled in favour of Taleban centralism

Another potential dissident Taleban faction could emerge in eastern Afghanistan. There, Anwar ul-Haq Mujahed, son of late mujahedin leader Mawlawi Yunos Khales (usually known as Hezb-e Islami/Khales, as opposed to Hekmatyar’s), founded the local Tora Bora Jihadi Front in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan in 2007. His stated aim was to fight the US-led coalition forces and the US-supported Afghan government; his father had already declared that the jihad was not over in 2005 before his death. However, in less than two years, Mujahed’s group had merged with the Taleban. After the merger, however, the network kept its name and Mujahed kept in touch with his loyalists, to the dislike of the Taleban leadership who did not want a separate entity within the Emirate kept alive. Therefore, Mujahed was removed from his eastern power base in 2009 to serve as shadow governor of Paktia province and then was gradually marginalised.

Since Mansur’s succession, Mujahed became active in the opposition camp, although seeking not to stir up too much public attention. He has reportedly been blaming Akhtar Mansur for marginalising him. Under pressure of the conflict with the Islamic State-affiliated groups in Nangarhar and with resources flowing from Akhtar Mansur, groups formerly loyal to the Tora Bora front had to completely give up any remaining semblance of affiliation to it and become part of the Taleban mainstream. In a meeting of the front’s commanders with Mujahed in Pakistan on 10 October 2015, it was declared defunct, although Mujahed hinted he would “come back to jihad in a new form.” It is difficult to quantify how many fighters once operated under the front’s name, how many of them fully joined the Taleban and how many stayed loyal to Mujahed. A number of the front’s men have reportedly joined the regional IS franchise, the Islamic State Wilayat Khorasan, in Nangarhar.

  1. Leaders of the political office

Another grouping that resigned from their positions (but not from the movement) in protest against Mansur’s leadership, or the way he came to be leader, are three senior members of the Taleban’s political commission. The commission serves as the movement’s outlet for external relations and negotiations, but also helps in fundraising, and had been based in Qatar since 2011, two years before it was formally launched. It was set up on Mansur’s initiative. Its head, Tayyeb Agha, was the first to resign on 3 August 2015, he said, because Mansur’s appointment had been made outside Afghanistan and because Mansur had concealed Mullah Omar’s death. He described both as “historical mistakes” in the letter of resignation AAN saw. Two other founding members of the commission, who were instrumental in facilitating the official opening of the political commission’s office in Qatar in 2013, also resigned subsequently. They were Nek Muhammad and Aziz Rahman. (For their bios see here.)

Tayyeb Agha had been one of the closest men to Mullah Omar during both his government and the initial years of insurgency, first as head of Omar’s office in Kandahar and then, post-2001, as his personal secretary. Nek Muhammad was also close to Mullah Omar when he served as head of the education department in Kandahar. During the insurgency years, he was also head of the Taleban’s ‘Education Commission’. Aziz Rahman was secretary to the Taleban’s embassy in UAE (one of the only three countries to recognise the Emirate as Afghanistan’s government).

The three have not spoken of their opposition to Mansur publicly. However, their resignations did clearly signalise discontent with Mansur’s leadership. They have not supported any other faction either. People close to Tayyeb Agha told AAN he preferred unification of the movement around Mansur than around the leaders of other factions. Agha has also suggested he may embark on an independent peace process using his experience and contacts among both the Taleban and foreign diplomats.

Mansur’s men tried hard to bring Agha back to his job, but after months of unsuccessful efforts, the Taleban website announced his replacement on 21 November. Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai, who served as deputy foreign and deputy health minister during the Taleban, who had been one of most active members of the political office has been appointed as its head. Abdul Salam Hanafi, an Uzbek from Jawzjan, and deputy minister for education during the Taleban, has been named as his deputy.

  1. The Taleban’s counter-surge commander

Qayum Zaker has been one of the longest standing and most talked about rivals of Akhtar Mansur, well before the summer’s leadership crisis. The two jockeyed for the position of vicegerent when Mullah Baradar – the former uncontested deputy leader of the movement – was arrested by the Pakistani government in February 2010. Mansur finally won out over Zaker, and the latter took over as the most important military leader, ie head of the military commission, in charge of managing and running the fighting. He was pushed out of that post, too, however, officially in April 2014 (when he reportedly ‘resigned’), but actually from 2013. Zaker is still said to wield influence on a sizeable number of fighters in the south, especially in his native Helmand province. Estimates about the fighting force loyal to him vary greatly from a few hundred to a few thousand.

After Omar’s death was announced, Zaker was a natural key contender to be the new amir. However, according to people close to him, he never opted for making a bid for himself. He did walk out of one important consultation meeting about whom to pick as the Taleban’s successor in late July, ie before the announcement of Omar’s death. He did so in protest at the dominant proposal being made by other participants to choose Mansur. He has since sympathised with Mansur’s opponents in private. However, after intensive efforts at mediation by influential religious and political Taleban and pro-Taleban figures from Mansur’s camp, he has maintained a tacit disagreement with Mansur’s leadership while also, reportedly, refusing to join any anti-Mansur faction. The Taleban website ran a statement in his name in August dismissing reports of his conflict with Mansur and saying he was not a member of a dissident camp. However, it seems a part of that letter, was spun by Mansur’s media team, or that his position has become more ‘fluid’ since then. Nevertheless, Zaker’s commanders are apparently fighting shoulder to shoulder with Akhtar Mansur’s shadow governor in Helmand against the Afghan government forces there. There has not been any report of a lack of coordination, or infighting, between the fighters loyal to both.

No large-scale infighting on the horizon

The scale of open factionalism in the wake of Mullah Omar’s announced death is unprecedented in Taleban history. However, the rifts are not large enough to amount to a serious threat to the overall operational capabilities and organisational structure of the Taleban movement. The important measurement is not how many pieces have broken away from the movement, but how large and influential they are.

One huge splinter group bent on actively fighting the mainstream Taleban would be a much larger threat to the movement’s cohesion than a handful of small splinter factions, whether they are militant or non-belligerent. Fedai Mahaz, for example, was one of the very first militant groups that split from the mainstream in 2012. It has been aggressively hostile to Akhtar Mansur and the powerful clique around him. It has also been greatly successful in persistently gaining media attention with claims of attacks, such as the 2014 March killing of a Swedish journalist, and leaking alleged secrets of Mullah Omar’s death or even ‘assassination’ in July this year.(3) As it has little, if any at all, footprint on ground, it has failed to tip the balance either vis-à-vis the mainstream Taleban or the Afghan government.

Mullah Dadullah’s network is the only one so far that has got to the point of fighting with the mainstream. That (in)fighting was also partly caused by Dadullah’s having made an alliance with the Central Asian militants, who had run amok after switching their allegiance to IS.

Although the transition from Mullah Omar to Mullah Mansur was not completely smooth, the Taleban have managed to avoid splitting into two or more large rival factions and seem to be surviving their first change of leadership. This fighting season, Akhtar Mansur fared well with the existing structure; the absence of the dissidents was not felt.

Indeed, most of the dissidents had long ago ceased to play any active military or political role in the movement. They can become a force to undermine Akhtar Mansur’s mainstream if they manage to rally larger support, unite against their common enemy and get access to independent funding. They would also need to be able to incite a sufficient number of fighters to turn against their erstwhile brethren in the Taleban mainstream. The coexistence of several factions appears unlikely given how exclusivist the Taleban have always been. Prospects of infighting happening on a larger scale, however, are, for now, not in sight.

On the whole, Akhtar Mansur’s mainstream encompasses the bulk of the fighters and the Taleban’s traditional structures. His Taleban achieved a huge boost which helped maintain the integrity of the movement when he gave the Haqqani network a place in the highest echelons of the hierarchy. Serajuddin Haqqani, the de facto leader of the Haqqani network, was chosen as one of the two deputies to Mansur. Although that does not mean the Haqqanis have given up their operational and financial semi-autonomy, it cemented their bond with the ‘centre’ in a way stronger than had been seen before.

Having won the support of most of the Taleban networks with the hard power (the fighting force), Mansur has long tried and still tries to deftly manage those with a political legacy or credentials. In the initial weeks after his succession, he faced the opposition of one third of the Rahbari Shura. Five members – Razaq, Rahmani, Rasul, Zaker, Mullah Omar’s brother Mullah Manan, Nek Muhammad and the former member Muhammad Rasul – were then denying the legitimacy of his succession. However, Mansur did not appear deeply bothered. He had already fully sidelined Razaq, Rahmani and Rasul, and partially sidelined Zaker. In the meantime, he was extensively, and successfully, negotiating with Zaker and Manan. Nek Muhammad posed no harm as he resigned from all official positions with the movement so silently. According to well-placed Taleban sources, Mansur is now further consolidating his power over decision making by adjusting the mechanism for promoting his legitimacy, ie reshuffling and expanding the whole Rahbari Shura. The expanded structure includes five people from non-Pashtun ethnic groups, Turkmens, Tajiks and Uzbeks. Mullah Abdul Razaq and Hasan Rahmani have been removed from the shura, while Zaker is considered as a non-member for his regular absence from the shura meetings.

Mansur’s Taleban might not be a fully centralised organisation, but this has always been the case with the Taleban movement. Its structure is characterised by an acknowledged and religiously legitimised (4) leadership and defined hierarchical structure, but, one that is permissive for local operational decision-making and fund raising.

Despite the leadership crisis, there has been no sense of let up in Taleban attacks against the government. Indeed, Mansur’s succession was followed two months later by the movement’s temporary capture of Kunduz, the first time the Taleban had control of a city since its defeat in 2001. Such a symbolic gain on the battlefield will have helped consolidate Mansur’s leadership. Should the Taleban under Mansur continue to run the bulk of the insurgency without letting the existing fissures widen, the movement’s military ability will largely remain unaffected.


(1) He is known as ‘Mullah’ Muhammad Rasul, he has not obtained the sort of religious education to qualify as a mullah. He got this title during the Emirate reign when the Taleban used ‘mullah’ loosely for any senior member as an expression of respect, rather than denoting his actual educational background.

(2) Raz Muhamamd Nekzad (his full name) became a Taleb after his father Amanullah Khan Nekzad was killed in 2006 in fighting with another local militia commander, Arbab Basir, who was believed to be close to Ismail Khan, the powerful pre and post-Taleban governor of Herat. Amanullah also fought against Ismail Khan’s forces in 2003 and 2004, leading to him being removed from his governorship to a ministerial position. The sustained fighting made the central government mobilise local militias, some with reported links to the Taleban. Amanullah himself was accused by Ismail Khan’s men as being a supporter of the Taleban.

(3) Fedai Mahaz claims Mullah Omar was assassinated by Akhtar Mansur, but it has given contradictory details about how that happened. The claim was widely circulated by the media a week before the Afghan government announced the news of Omar’s death on 29 July.

(4) Mansur’s leadership has been approved by almost all prominent pro-Taleban Afghan and Pakistani ulama, most of whom are based in Pakistan. Mansur has put increased efforts in keeping the ulama to his side. His picking of Hibatullah Akhunzada, a mullah highly respected by Mullah Omar and many individual Talebs, as his deputy appears to be part of those efforts. Thus, his leadership is religiously legitimised in the eyes of the bulk of the Taleban and its constituency.

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Hearings - Development and Security, particularly in the Sahel region - 30-11-2015 - Subcommittee on Security and Defence - Committee on Development

The Subcommittee on Security and Defence and the Committee on Development will hold a public hearing to discuss the intertwined challenges of development and security and how to address them in a joined-up approach.
Location : Paul-Henri Spaak 5B001
Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP

JDEAL deployable capability: final trainings before delivery

EDA News - Tue, 24/11/2015 - 10:28

The global fight against improvised explosive devices will shortly have a new capability in its arsenal. The Joint Deployable Exploitation and Analysis Laboratory (JDEAL) programme will conduct two courses specifically designed for the set up and technical management of a new deployable capability (JDC) and its equipment. These courses are being conducted under the framework of the JDEAL programme and are taking place ahead of final delivery to Soesterberg (The Netherlands) in mid December 2015.

The courses will be hosted by Spain at the International Demining Centre facilities near Madrid from 23 November until 4 December 2015 and are particularly significant because they represent the first opportunity for Member States to familiarise themselves with the full laboratory and its capabilities.

Firstly, trainees from the thirteen participating Member States contributing to the programme will be instructed by the manufacturer, the Spanish company Indra Sistemas on the process needed to set up the facility. A comprehensive training package on the design, set up, maintenance and dismantling in all operational modes of the JDEAL system is envisaged.

Secondly, practical activities will be conducted for JDEAL related experts on the specific electronics items, tools and adequate skills to manage and operate complex laboratory equipment – providing them with a full insight into the capability.

After the execution of these courses, the laboratory will be packed up and moved to Soesterberg, at which point this deployable capability will be definitely considered to have reached Full Operational Capability (FOC) – after approximately only one year from the start of the initiative.


More information:
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The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015: ‘Offshore Balancer’ and ‘Strategic Raider’?

European Geostrategy (Blog) - Tue, 24/11/2015 - 09:36

With the release of the United Kingdom's 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, Daniel Fiott and James Rogers discuss what the Review means for British power and the UK's partners.

The post The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015: ‘Offshore Balancer’ and ‘Strategic Raider’? appeared first on European Geostrategy.

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SDSR 2015: An overview of the key points

DefenceIQ - Tue, 24/11/2015 - 06:00
The debate about what will be in the UK’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security (SDSR) review is over. It started before the ink was dry on the

MAN KAT 1 6x6 - Mon, 23/11/2015 - 23:35

German MAN KAT 1 6x6 Military Truck
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