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1 octobre 2012 1 01 /10 /octobre /2012 09:40

http://www.defense.gouv.fr/var/dicod/storage/images/base-de-medias/images/operations/afghanistan/120930-afghanistan-desengagement-de-tagab-mission-accomplie/desengagement-de-tagab-mission-accomplie-2/1991774-2-fre-FR/desengagement-de-tagab-mission-accomplie-2.jpg

 

01/10/2012 Sources : EMA

 

Le 30 septembre 2012 dans la journée, les 130 derniers soldats du Battle Group Acier (BG Acier) de la Task Force La Fayette (TFLF) ont quitté la base opérationnelle avancée (FOB) de Tagab, étape importante dans le désengagement de la France en Afghanistan et concrétisation du niveau d’autonomie des forces de sécurité afghanes.

 

Les 130 soldats appartenant au sous-groupement tactique interarmes (sous-GTIA) « vert » du Battle Group Acier ont été désengagés lors de l’opération « Condor Ramscapelle » (du nom d’une bataille où le 16e Bataillon de Chasseurs s’est illustré pendant la grande guerre). Une partie d’entre eux relèveront des éléments stationnés sur la FOB de Nijrab tandis que d’autres rentreront en France dans les semaines à venir. Un détachement de liaison, fort d’une vingtaine de militaires, reste quant à eux sur place pour poursuivre la mission de soutien aux forces afghanes, en particulier pour faciliter la mise en œuvre d’appuis feu artillerie et aérien et pour assurer la liaison avec le détachement US qui est installé sur la FOB.

 

Le succès du désengagement de la FOB Tagab, une manœuvre tactique et logistique compliquée et dangereuse, reposait sur une planification, une organisation et une conduite de la manœuvre rigoureuse et minutieuse. Elle s’est bien déroulée, en parfaite coordination avec nos alliés afghans et de l’ISAF.

 

Depuis la mi-août, ce sont près de 350 militaires qui ont quitté la FOB. 6 convois logistiques ont été nécessaires pour assurer le redéploiement des troupes et de leurs matériels de Tagab vers Nijrab et vers Kaboul, soit près de 200 conteneurs et véhicules.

 

Le 30 septembre dans la journée, le général Eric Hautecloque-Raysz, commandant la Task Force La Fayette s’est rendu sur la FOB pour saluer ce dernier détachement et rendre hommage à tous les militaires français qui se sont succédés sur ce site et combattu notamment dans les vallées d’Alasay et de Bedraou. En effet, les premiers soldats français à s’être installés dans la FOB « Kushtbach » en 2007 appartenaient à une équipe OMLT en charge du mentoring de l’Armée Nationale Afghane. Depuis 2008, ce sont près de dix bataillons qui s’y sont succédés, dont le noyau était constitué par les régiments et bataillons suivants : 8e RPIMa, 27e BCA (à deux reprises), 3e RIMa, 13e BCA, 21e RIMa, 7e BCA, 1er RCP et 16e BC.

 

C’est également une page qui se tourne après plus de quatre années d’engagement continue en Kapisa. Quatre années qui ont permis aux ANSF de monter en puissance puis de s’implanter progressivement dans une zone jusque là occupée par les insurgés, de la contrôler et de favoriser le rétablissement d’un Etat de droit. C’est aussi grâce au courage et à la détermination de nos soldats, engagés jour après jour aux côtés des soldats afghans, dans le cadre du mentoring ou dans le cadre de missions de sécurisation, que les forces françaises partent avec le sentiment du devoir accompli. 56 militaires français ont été tués en Kapisa.

 

Aujourd’hui en Kapisa, les forces de sécurité afghanes, fortes d’environ 4000 hommes, sont désormais capables de planifier et de conduire des opérations de sécurisation et de patrouille de façon autonome. Tous ces progrès ont permis d’aboutir à l’inscription de la province de Kapisa au processus de transition, annoncé par le président Karzaï le 13 mai 2012, symbolisée par la cérémonie officielle de transition le 4 juillet dernier à Mahmud-e Raki.

 

Avec le désengagement de la FOB de Tagab, c’est une étape importante qui vient d’être franchie dans le désengagement des unités françaises ordonné par le président de la République et dans le processus de transfert de la Kapisa aux autorités afghanes.

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1 octobre 2012 1 01 /10 /octobre /2012 09:37

http://www.defense.gouv.fr/var/dicod/storage/images/base-de-medias/images/operations/afghanistan/120930-afghanistan-desengagement-de-tagab-mission-accomplie/desengagement-de-tagab-mission-accomplie-1/1991769-1-fre-FR/desengagement-de-tagab-mission-accomplie-1.jpg

photo EMA

 

01.10.2012 par P. CHAPLEAU Lignes de Défense

 

Les derniers 140 soldats français encore présents dans la FOB Tagab ont quitté le site dimanche. Ces soldats ont rejoint la base de Nijrab, à 17 km au nord, d'où un groupe équivalant est parti pour Kaboul dans le cadre du désengagement des troupes. Dernière base française en Kapisa, où environ 550 soldats français sont encore présents, Nijrab doit elle-même être rétrocédée avant la fin de l'année à l'armée afghane.

 

Six convois, dont un dernier dimanche d'une quarantaine de véhicules blindés, ont été nécessaires pour évacuer le personnel et le matériel de la FOB de Tagab. Le retrait sous haute protection des troupes françaises, avec une imposante couverture aérienne, s'est déroulé jusqu'à présent "sans incidents majeurs".

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1 octobre 2012 1 01 /10 /octobre /2012 07:50

Harrier

 

Sept. 28, 2012 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: US Marine Corps; issued Sept. 26, 2012)

 

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan --- Two AV-8B Harrier II Plus aircraft appear to dot the gray sky, as ground crewmembers prepare for their arrival. The aircraft are more than 46 feet long and have a wingspan of 30 feet 4 inches. They roar through the Afghanistan sky, a symbol of our air superiority.

After a recent insurgent attack at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Marine Attack Squadron 211 endured not only the loss of some of their squadron’s aircraft, but also the tragic loss of their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible. Despite this tragedy, the squadron is pushing forward to complete their deployment in Helmand province.

The Harrier squadron remains fully operational and continues to provide support to ground troops throughout Regional Command Southwest’s area of operations.

“We are used for close-air support for the infantry battalions,” said Capt. Matthew Pasquali, a pilot with Marine Attack Squadron 211, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). “We are providing patrol overwatch, scanning for known improvised explosive device implementing spots and looking ahead of patrols for typical ambush positions.”

This is Pasquali’s fifth deployment and third to Afghanistan. The squadron deployed in May 2012 and has stayed busy throughout their approximate five months in Afghanistan.

“I think we’ve been employed in support of ground operations more than 50 times thus far,” said Pasquali, from Houston, Texas.

With a max speed of 673 mph, the Harrier provides fast air support to coalition forces throughout the area. Armed with a 25 mm five-barreled Gatling gun, the aircraft can do much more than provide reconnaissance.

“If it comes to it, we provide close-air support with 500 pound bombs or 25 mm gun runs,” said Pasquali.

The squadron provides ground units with a precision targeting capability for close-air support, which makes the Harrier squadron a vital piece of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

“The insurgents have no air force,” said Pasquali. “They can attack our friendlies with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire, but we can answer back from altitudes that they can’t attack us.”

Harriers allow a commander the flexibility to operate from ship or shore; providing the ability to conduct fire support, close-air support, aerial reconnaissance or be an aerial escort for other aircraft or troops on the ground.

“Without the Harriers, the Marine Corps would rely on outside sources for fixed wing attack aviation,” said Capt. Tim Otten, a pilot and command adjutant with VMA-211.

Otten said the Harriers are piloted and manned by Marines, which creates a level of familiarity between the air and ground units. This makes operating easier and more efficient.

“We have a better understanding of what is happening on the ground because those are our brothers that we went through boot camp or officer candidate school with,” said Otten, from Norfolk, Va.

The squadron continues to support the ground units with the Harriers when needed. They understand the importance of their mission here in Afghanistan.

“Every Marine knows another Marine that is out on the ground,” said Otten. “This job gives me the unique ability to help Marines. That’s the best part, trying to provide the best support I can.”

While the past several days have been difficult for the VMA-211 Marines, the squadron has overcome adversity in the past. During World War II, the squadron was attacked by Japanese forces destroying seven of the squadron’s twelve aircraft. Despite the losses, the two weeks following the attack VMA-211 continued to take the fight to the enemy. While fighting the Japanese, the squadron fought off several enemy attacks and destroyed four naval warships.

Just as VMA-211 did during World War II, they will push through. The Marines know they have a job to do and intend to complete their mission and continue to provide the close-air support for Marines on the ground.

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1 octobre 2012 1 01 /10 /octobre /2012 07:45

Afghanistan.svg

 

Sep. 30, 2012  Defense News (AFP)

 

KABUL — A senior NATO commander says that 80 percent of Afghanistan is free of violence but warned an insurgency still rages in the south and east, fuelled by fighters coming from neighboring Pakistan.

 

“About 80 percent of Afghan territory and the Afghan population is not affected by security problems or violence,” Lt. Gen. Olivier de Bavinchove told AFP in an interview.

 

“On the other hand, there is a huge contrast when it comes to security between the different regions and districts,” said Bavinchove, Chief of Staff of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

 

His claims contrast sharply with United Nations numbers showing that August was the second deadliest month in five years for Afghan civilians, with a total of 374 — more than 10 a day — killed and 581 injured.

 

Despite that the head of French forces in the country said that the north and west are peaceful, with signs of development and improved governance, and sparsely populated central Afghanistan is almost entirely safe, he said.

 

“Then we have the frontier zones in the east and south of the country, where an insurrection is quite active, very localized most of the time, but which is supported by fighters coming mainly from Pakistan,” he added.

 

“ISAF’s efforts are today particularly focused on these areas.”

 

Kabul accuses Pakistan of failing to stop fighters crossing into Afghanistan from its lawless border areas to support the Taliban, while Islamabad complains Pakistani Taliban are using havens in Afghanistan.

 

Bavinchove meanwhile conceded that insider attacks, also known as green-on-blue attacks, had “really complicated our work. They have undermined the trust that must exist between Afghan and coalition units”.

 

He estimated that only 25 percent to 35 percent of insider attacks were planned by the Taliban and said the rest were down to a lack of education and a society where violence is commonplace.

 

“For centuries, Afghans have been used to settling conflicts with violence, including domestic conflicts,” he said in the interview on Sept. 29.

 

The death of a NATO soldier in a suspected insider attack in eastern Afghanistan on Sept. 29 took the number of ISAF troops killed in such incidents to 52 this year.

 

Bavinchove said that France’s troop withdrawal plans — it has nearly 3,000 soldiers in the country — were going forward “exactly as planned”.

 

France has brought forward the date for its pullout so it will be completed by the end of this year — 12 months earlier than Paris initially planned and two years before the NATO deadline for the vast majority of its troops.

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1 octobre 2012 1 01 /10 /octobre /2012 07:40

Forces armees belgique source mil.be

 

27/09/12 par Julien Collignon - 7sur7.be (belga.be)

 

L'armée belge mettra fin dimanche à sa plus longue mission - près de dix ans - en Afghanistan, la protection de l'aéroport international de Kaboul (Kaia), qu'elle a assurée sans relâche et sans subir la moindre perte depuis février 2003, cédant le relais à un contingent multinational commandé par la Hongrie.

 

Une cérémonie de "transfert d'autorité" est prévue dimanche à Kaboul en présence d'un des responsables de l'état-major de la Défense, le général-major Henk Robberecht, pour marquer le passage du témoin à la Hongrie, qui dirigera le détachement de protection de Kaia, une installation vitale pour les forces occidentales encore présentes en Afghanistan, soit quelque 115.000 hommes, dans le cadre de la force dirigée par l'Otan (Isaf).

 

La décision d'abandonner cette mission - assez statique et devenue à la longue "ingrate" selon les militaires - a été prise en juillet 2011 par le gouvernement belge. Mais il a fallu des mois de tractations à l'Otan pour trouver des pays prêts à succéder à la "compagnie de protection" belge.

 

L'essentiel du futur contingent de protection sera fourni par la Hongrie (230 hommes), qui en assurera le commandement, avec l'appoint du Portugal (deux pelotons, soit 65 militaires environ), alors que la France prendra, en la personne du général Philippe Adam, le commandement de la gestion de l'aéroport lui-même, selon des sources militaires concordantes.

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1 octobre 2012 1 01 /10 /octobre /2012 07:35

ISAF-Logo

 

27/09/2012 Christophe Lamfalussy  - lalibre.be

 

Au total, près de sept mille soldats belges ont défilé en Afghanistan depuis dix ans, au sein de la force internationale d’assistance et de sécurité (ISAF).

 

L’Otan pourrait rester après 2014 en Afghanistan avec une force de 10000 à 20000 hommes, des moyens aériens, des forces spéciales et un soutien technique à l’armée afghane, a estimé mercredi le nouveau chef de la Défense de l’armée belge, le général aviateur Gérard Van Caelenberge, lors d’une rencontre avec la presse belge.

 

La décision n’est pas tranchée, mais elle est en discussion au sein du commandement des forces alliées (SACEUR) alors que les pays membres de l’Alliance atlantique accélèrent le retrait de leurs troupes combattantes avant de céder définitivement le flambeau à Kaboul à la fin 2014.

 

Au total, près de sept mille soldats belges ont défilé en Afghanistan depuis dix ans, au sein de la force internationale d’assistance et de sécurité (ISAF). Ce dimanche 30 septembre aura lieu la première étape du retrait belge, avec la passation des pouvoirs sur l’aéroport de Kaboul. Le général Henk Robberecht doit transmettre les clés de la surveillance de l’aéroport aux soldats hongrois et portugais.

 

Entre le 6 et le 16 octobre, environ 150 soldats belges, qui œuvraient à Kaboul, seront rapatriés en avion vers la Belgique. Le matériel sensible suivra la même voie, via la Turquie, où il sera acheminé ensuite par bateau jusqu’à Anvers ou Zeebruges. Une partie du matériel sera aussi vendu sur place. A noter que les Belges et Français vont aussi échanger leurs containers, qui abritent chambres, douches et bureaux. Les Belges s’installeront dans les containers français à Kandahar; les Français iront dans les containers belges à Kaboul.

 

Le rapatriement, toujours un casse-tête logistique, devrait coûter "entre deux et trois millions d’euros" selon des sources militaires, moins que ce qui avait été annoncé par le ministre de la Défense, Pieter De Crem.

 

Après ce premier retrait, la Belgique conservera ses six F-16 à Kandahar et continuera à former un bataillon afghan ("Kandak") ainsi qu’à épauler les Allemands dans leur PRT de Kunduz, tout en assurant une présence au sein du QG de l’Isaf, soit un contingent d’environ 450 soldats.

 

Les Américains ont de leur côté terminé le retrait des 33000 soldats supplémentaires que le président Obama avait dépêchés sur les lieux, dans l’espoir de porter un grand coup aux talibans. Français et Britanniques se replient graduellement, tandis que les Allemands envisagent de déménager leurs forces de Kunduz vers Mazar-i-Sharif, où l’aéroport est plus grand et mieux équipé. Les forces additionnelles américaines ont forcé les rebelles à se replier dans des zones rurales, mais beaucoup craignent maintenant que ce retrait ne laisse un boulevard aux talibans, particulièrement au Sud du pays, à Kandahar et dans le Helmand. Mais telle a été la stratégie décidée par les alliés de l’Otan à leur sommet de l’Otan à Lisbonne en 2010 : le transfert des responsabilités vers l’armée et le gouvernement afghans, appelé pudiquement "l’Afghanisation".

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30 septembre 2012 7 30 /09 /septembre /2012 12:05

http://www.opex360.com/images/dunford-20120930.jpg

 

30.09.2012 opex360.com

 

L’amiral américain James Stavridis étant appelé à quitter prochainement ses fonctions de commandant suprême des forces alliées en Europe (SACEUR), c’est le général John Allen, l’actuel patron de la Force internationale d’assistance à la sécurité (ISAF), déployée sous l’autorité de l’Otan en Afghanistan, qui devrait lui succéder à compter du début de l’année 2013.

 

Pour remplacer le général Allen, un nom a été cité le mois dernier par le Wall Street Journal et il vient d’être confirmé par le Los Angeles Times. Il s’agit de celui du général Joseph F. Dunford (photo), l’actuel commandant en second de l’US Marine Corp (USMC), qui a été recommandé au président Obama par Leon Panetta, le secrétaire à la Défense.

 

“Le président (Obama) veut quelqu’un qui a un regard neuf sur l’effort en Afghanistan et qui n’est pas un architecte de la stratégie actuelle” a commenté pour le quotidien David Barno, un ancien général de l’US Army actuellement analyste au Center for New American Security, à Washington.

 

Le fait est, le général Dunford, surnommé “Fighting Joe”, n’a jamais servi en Afghanistan mais a commandé le 5th Marine Regiment lors de l’opération Iraqi Freedom en 2003.

 

Le général Dunford aura donc une mission délicate à mener, avec le retrait progressif d’Afghanistan des troupes de l’Otan alors que le nombre d’attaques menées par les insurgés restent à un niveau élevé (3.000 en août dernier).

 

Qui plus est, et comme l’a admis cette semaine le général Allen qu’il devrait donc prochainement remplacer, la multiplication des incidents dits “Green on Blue”, c’est à dire les attaques commises contre l’ISAF par des hommes ayant revêtu l’uniforme des forces de sécurité afghanes, a créé un climat de “méfiance” et pourrait amener “à changer la façon dont l’armée américaine et ses alliés forment et conseillent l’armée afghane et la police.”

 

“Ca me rend fou, pour être honnête avec vous”, a-t-il également déclaré, à ce sujet, dans le cadre de l’émission “60 Minutes”, qui sera diffusée par le chaîne CBS ce 30 septembre. “Elle résonne (cette affaire des attaques Green on Blue, ndlr) partout à travers les États-Unis. Vous savez, nous sommes prêts à sacrifier beaucoup pour cette campagne, mais nous ne sommes pas prêts à être assassinés pour cela” a-t-il ajouté.

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30 septembre 2012 7 30 /09 /septembre /2012 07:00

Giraffe AMB Saab 210x260

 

28 September 2012 army-technology.com

 

The Australian Army has deployed two newly received Counter Rocket Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) Giraffe AMB radars to support its soldiers in Afghanistan, the country's defence materiel minister Jason Clare has revealed.

 

Clare said that the new radars were currently operational with Australian Defence Forces (ADF) at the multinational base Tarin Kot in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan.

 

"The Giraffe radars provide our troops with early detection of attacks from enemy rockets, artillery and mortars, protecting Australian and ISAF forces," Clare said.

 

"This early warning system has been a proven force protection capability for our troops, giving them vital seconds of advanced warning so they can take shelter."

 

Australia had awarded a five-year $86.2m contract to Saab for production and delivery of three Giraffe radars along with field sustainment support services to the army as part of the final stage of the ADF's LAND 19 phase 7A acquisition project in 2010.

"This early warning system has been a proven force protection capability for our troops, giving them vital seconds of advanced warning so they can take shelter."

 

Until now, the country has been operating leased radars for successfully detecting and providing early warning against insurgent fire attacks at Tarin Kot since 28 December 2010.

 

The third and final Giraffe radar under contract is scheduled for delivery to the army in January 2013 and is expected to be used as an Australia-based training support system.

 

Giraffe AMB is a two- or three-dimensional G/H-band multi-role surveillance system, designed to enhance the protection of the Australian and other International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) troops by providing early warnings for incoming rockets, artillery and mortar threats.

 

Integrated on a single ground all-terrain vehicle, the radar facilitates rapid deployment and high mobility and is also capable of conducting operations even in intense clutter and jamming environments.

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29 septembre 2012 6 29 /09 /septembre /2012 22:11

ISAF-Logo

 

29 septembre 2012 par Jacques N. Godbout - 45enord.ca

 

Alors qu’au Canada, les militaires de la Force opérationnelle 4-12 s’apprêtent à se déployer en Afghanistan, une cérémonie de fin d’entraînement à laquelle assistait 45enord.ca et de prédéploiement s’étant d’ailleurs déroulée sur la base de Valcartier, vendredi soir, en Afghanistan, les Forces de la Coalition se préparent à accueillir bientôt un nouveau commandant.

 

Le général des Marinesl Joseph F. Dunford Jr. Remplacera en effet bientôt le général John Allen, qui a dirigé les forces de l’OTAN en Afghanistan depuis la moitié de l’année 2011. Allen deviendra, lui, le commandant suprême des forces alliées en Europe.

 

Le général Dunford deviendra donc responsable de l’effort de guerre en début d’année prochaine alors que nos soldats canadiens seront toujours en Afghanistan en mission de formation et alors que les États-Unis et les autres membres de la Coalition tentent de réduire leur rôle dans ce conflit.

 

Avec ce départ prévu en janvier, le général Allen n’aura été à la tête des forces de l’OTAN en Afghanistan qu’un an et demi, une durée relativement courte pour ce poste. Dunford, quant à lui, n’a jamais servi en Afghanistan.

 

Le général Allen, réputé généralement peu loquace,  a fait part de sa frustration au sujet des attaques mortelles d’initiés par des soldats et policiers afghans qui ont tué 51 soldats américains et de la coalition cette année.

 

« Ça me rend dingue, pour être honnête avec vous », a-t-il dit, dans une interview à l’émission « 60 Minutes » sur le réseau CBS qui doit être diffusée le  dimanche 30 septembre, en parlant de cette question des attaques d’initiées. « Elle résonne (cette question des attaques) partout à travers les États-Unis. Vous savez, nous sommes prêts à sacrifier beaucoup pour cette campagne, mais nous ne sommes pas prêts à être assassinés pour cela. »

 

Allen avait admis plus tôt dans une interview réalisée et diffusée par le Pentagone que la hausse des massacres par des initiés a créé de la « méfiance » et aggravé les inquiétudes parmi les alliés de l’OTAN concernant le maintien de leurs troupes en Afghanistan jusqu’en 2014.

 

« Ils n’ont pas envoyé leurs troupes pour être tués. »,  a dit le général Allen, ajoutant que ces attaques de l’intérieur pourraient « nous amener à changer la façon dont l’armée américaine et ses alliés forment et conseillent l’armée afghane et la police. On se rappelle qu’Allen avait suspendu temporairement les opérations conjointes avec les forces afghanes qui ont repris depuis.

 

Il semble que nos soldats canadiens restent toutefois optimistes. Après leur entraînement et un repos bien mérité, c’est avec enthousiasme qu’ils s’envoleront pour l’Afghanistan,  si  on en croit le reportage de notre collègue Nicolas Laffont :« Après plusieurs mois d’entrainement, nos troupes sont prêtes et enthousiastes de débuter le déploiement et enfin commencer à accomplir leur mission sur le terrain », a déclaré à ce sujet le colonel Roch Pelletier, commandant de la Force opérationnelle 4-12.

 

Plus sensibles aux différences culturelles, le comportement des soldats canadiens susciterait moins l’ire des Afghans et les troupes canadiennes n’ont jusqu’à maintenant pas été victimes d’attaques d’initiés. En outre, les Canadiens sont là uniquement en mission de formation et ne sont pas appelés, comme d’autres membres de la coalition, à faire des patrouilles conjointes avec des soldats ou des policiers afghans.

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29 septembre 2012 6 29 /09 /septembre /2012 17:11

afghanistan-rapatriement-de-materiels-lourds-vers-la-france

photo MinDef FR

 

MOSCOU, 29 septembre - RIA Novosti

 

La Russie espère que l'OTAN utilisera avant tout des avions russes dans le transit de fret vers l'Afghanistan via le territoire russe, a annoncé samedi à Moscou le vice-ministre russe des Affaires étrangères Alexandre Grouchko.

 

"L'aéroport Vostotchny d'Oulianovsk est l'aéroport de base pour la compagnie aérienne Volga-Dnepr (se spécialisant dans le transport cargo-ndlr.) qui possède des avions capables de transporter n'importe quelle cargaison en Afghanistan", a indiqué le diplomate devant les journalistes.

 

La Russie et l'OTAN ont convenu de créer un point de transit à Oulianovsk, ville russe située sur la Volga, à 893 km au sud-est de Moscou après que la Russie a souhaité élargir sa participation dans le transit de fret destiné à la Force internationale d'assistance et de sécurité (ISAF) en Afghanistan en mars dernier.

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29 septembre 2012 6 29 /09 /septembre /2012 07:45

ISAF-Logo

 

28-09-2012 Nouvel Observateur

 

WASHINGTON (Sipa) — La plupart des unités de combat étrangères et notamment américaines en Afghanistan ont repris leur partenariat avec les forces afghanes, près de deux semaines après la décision du commandement américain de limiter ces opérations en raison d'attaques contre les forces de la coalition.

 

Le ministre américain à la Défense, Leon Panetta, l'a annoncé jeudi soir lors d'une conférence de presse au Pentagone mais n'a pas précisé les motifs de ce quasi retour à la normale.

 

En date de jeudi, plus de la moitié des opérations de la force de l'OTAN incluaient des troupes afghanes, selon un responsable américain de la Défense ayant requis l'anonymat. Ce taux était de 90% avant les restrictions décidées le 16 septembre.

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27 septembre 2012 4 27 /09 /septembre /2012 19:04

T62 photo MinDef FR

 

MOSCOU, 27 septembre - RIA Novosti

 

Des unités de l'Otan resteront en Afghanistan après 2014 afin de former et de consulter les forces de sécurité afghanes, a déclaré jeudi à Moscou le secrétaire général adjoint de l'Alliance atlantique Alexander Vershbow.

 

"L'Otan n'abandonnera pas l'Afghanistan et la région après 2014. L'Alliance atlantique y restera pour mener une nouvelle mission en vue de préparer les forces de sécurité afghanes et de coopérer avec elles", a indiqué M.Vershbow, intervenant dans le cadre de la conférence internationale "Russie-Otan: 15 ans sur la voie vers le partenariat".

 

Le vice-SG de l'Alliance a rappelé que l'Otan réduisait les effectifs au sein de la mission afghane et œuvrait pour préparer les forces armées et policières locales à prendre la responsabilité du maintien de la sécurité dans le pays avant fin 2014, date du retrait des troupes étrangères d'Afghanistan.

 

Dans ce contexte, il est important que la communauté internationale apporte à l'Afghanistan le soutien dont il a besoin, a poursuivi M.Vershbow. Selon lui, la Russie et ses voisins du Sud pourraient jouer un rôle clé dans ce domaine, en poursuivant leur lutte contre le trafic humain, de drogue et d'armes ainsi qu'en promouvant la coopération politique et économique régionale.

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27 septembre 2012 4 27 /09 /septembre /2012 17:30

Intrepid-Tiger-II.jpg

 

September 27, 2012: Strategypage.com

 

A recent Taliban raid on a U.S. Marine Corps airbase in Afghanistan put eight AV-8 vertical take-off jets out of action. While the AV-8 is usually employed for ground attack, some of those in Afghanistan were also carrying out electronic warfare (EW). This was done using the new Tiger II EW pod to monitor low power communications (cell phones and walkie talkies) and jam devices used for roadside bombs. A novel feature of the Tiger II is that it can be operated from the ground, freeing the AV-8 pilot to concentrate in flying, and reporting what he sees to the pod operator.

 

For years the marines knew they needed a new electronic warfare pod, one they could use on their Harrier vertical-takeoff jets, helicopters and Shadow UAVs for operations in Afghanistan, and similar operations. There was nothing available, and developing a new one, they were told, would cost billions and take years. So the marines designed and developed their own. By cutting out all the “might happen” stuff and concentrating on what the marines needed right now, the developers were able to get the pod into action earlier this year.

 

Development cost $20 million and took four years. Purchase price for each pod is $600,000. The Intrepid Tiger II communications intelligence and jamming pod weighs 137 kg (300 pounds) and is about the same size as an anti-radiation missile. For the Shadow UAV, the pod components will be reconfigured to fit inside the UAV.

 

The AV-8 squadron was put out of action by losing eight of its ten AV-8s and was returned to the United States. A new AV-8 unit is on the way, but until it arrives there will be less coverage by Tiger II pods.

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27 septembre 2012 4 27 /09 /septembre /2012 07:59

http://www.defense.gouv.fr/var/dicod/storage/images/base-de-medias/images/operations/afghanistan/120926-afghanistan-depart-des-derniers-equipements-air-de-kandahar/depart-des-derniers-materiels-du-detair-de-kandahar-1/1987611-1-fre-FR/depart-des-derniers-materiels-du-detair-de-kandahar-1.jpg

 

27/09/2012 Source EMA

 

Le 21 septembre 2012, les derniers matériels du détachement air français de Kandahar (DETAIR) ont été désengagés vers la France par avion Antonov 124 (AN124), marquant ainsi la dernière étape de la fermeture du DETAIR.

 

Dans la nuit du 20 au 21 septembre, deux conteneurs et plusieurs véhicules (60 tonnes de fret), ont été chargés dans un Antonov 124 à destination de la France. Quelques matériels, comme une ambulance et des groupes électrogènes, ont, quant à eux, été redéployés sur le théâtre.

 

http://www.defense.gouv.fr/var/dicod/storage/images/base-de-medias/images/operations/afghanistan/120926-afghanistan-depart-des-derniers-equipements-air-de-kandahar/depart-des-derniers-materiels-du-detair-de-kandahar-2/1987616-2-fre-FR/depart-des-derniers-materiels-du-detair-de-kandahar-2.jpg

 

La veille, 35 militaires du DETAIR se sont envolés pour la France, laissant derrière eux pour quelques jours, les dix derniers soldats du détachement, "les précurseurs", qui quitteront le site à leur tour le 29 spetembre. A leur départ, le DETAIR français, qui occupait la base de Kandahar depuis septembre 2007, sera définitivement désengagé. L'ex-emprise française est désormais occupée par le détachement belge.

 

http://www.defense.gouv.fr/var/dicod/storage/images/base-de-medias/images/operations/afghanistan/120926-afghanistan-depart-des-derniers-equipements-air-de-kandahar/depart-des-derniers-materiels-du-detair-de-kandahar-3/1987621-2-fre-FR/depart-des-derniers-materiels-du-detair-de-kandahar-3.jpg


Le DETAIR de Kandahar soutenait un détachement d'avions de chasse qui effectuait des patrouilles mixtes d'appui et de soutien aux troupes au sol au profit de l'ISAF. Dans le cadre du retrait, annoncé par le président de la République, 3 Mirage 2000D avaient déjà quitté le territoire afghan (le 5 juillet 2012).

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26 septembre 2012 3 26 /09 /septembre /2012 19:00

http://www.defense.gouv.fr/var/dicod/storage/images/base-de-medias/images/operations/afghanistan/110206-afghanistan-rapatriement-de-materiels-lourds-vers-la-france/afghanistan-rapatriement-de-materiels-lourds-vers-la-france-14/1550200-4-fre-FR/afghanistan-rapatriement-de-materiels-lourds-vers-la-france-1.jpg

photo MinDef Fr

 

MOSCOU, 26 septembre - RIA Novosti

 

Des avions russes pourraient être employés dans le transit de fret de l'Otan vers l'Afghanistan, a annoncé mercredi à RIA Novosti le responsable du bureau moscovite de l'Alliance nord-atlantique Robert Pshel.

 

"A mon avis, il y a une forte possibilité que les transferts soient réalisés par des avions russes. Toutefois, ceci dépend des accords commerciaux appropriés. Mais je tiens à répéter que les chances sont très fortes", a indiqué le responsable.

 

La Russie a fait savoir en mars dernier sa disposition à élargir sa participation dans le transit de fret destiné à la Force internationale d'assistance et de sécurité (Isaf) en Afghanistan. Les parties ont notamment convenu de créer un point de transit à Oulianovsk, ville russe située sur la Volga, à 893 km au sud-est de Moscou.

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26 septembre 2012 3 26 /09 /septembre /2012 18:14

afghanistan-operation-condor-circle-1

photo MinDef FR

 

26.09.2012 par P. CHAPLEAU Lignes de Défense

 

Selon Dominique Chabrol, mon confrère de l'AFP actuellement en Afghanistan, il reste encore en territoire afghan "700 véhicules blindés sur 1 200 et un peu moins de 900 containers sur 1 000 à l'origine".


Le mouvements de retrait de ce matériel se poursuit, coordonné par le Centre multimodal des transports (CMT). Il concerne "un énorme bric-à-brac de dizaines de conteneurs, de tracto-pelle, de 4x4 blindés, d'engins du génie, et même... de tonnes de déchets, de câbles, de matériel informatique usagé, destinés à être retraités sur la base de Warehouse, dans la capitale afghane".


Une fois reconditionné, le matériel destiné à rentrer en France rejoint Abu Dhabi où il est chargé sur des ro-ro de la CMN (Compagnie maritime nantaise) dont les navires ont déjà effectué plusieurs rotations.


Selon mes collègues de Var Matin, l'un des ro-ro, le MN Eider, est attendu à Toulon le 8 octobre, en provenance d'Abu Dhabi où il se trouve actuellement. A Toulon le matériel sera pris en compte par le 519e Groupe de transit maritime (GTM). Ce régiment, basé à Ollioules depuis juillet 2011, est en effet spécialisé dans ke transport logistique militaire par voie de mer.


Une partie des matériels roulants rejoindra certainement Neuvy-Pailloux et la 12e base de soutien du Matériel (BSMAT) où, en avril, j'avais assisté à l'arrivée d'un train de provenance de Toulon chargé de VAB afghans.

30% du matériel serait déjà rentré.

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26 septembre 2012 3 26 /09 /septembre /2012 16:45
26.09.2012 electrosphere
Déployés en territoire afghan, la Rapid Equipping Force (REF, U.S. Army) fabrique rapidement et à la demande des pièces détachées et composants parfaitement adaptés au matériel militaire grâce à des imprimantes 3D et à des machines-outils à commande numérique.
Traditionnellement, les soldats exposent leurs problèmes et besoins particuliers en composants et pièces détachées une fois rentrés « au pays ». Pour peu que leurs requêtes survivent à la machinerie bureaucratique, les armées et les équipementiers leur fourniront des solutions adéquates quelques mois/années plus tard.
L'U.S. Army souhaite vivement que de tels scénarios ne soient plus qu'un mauvais souvenir. D'où l'idée lumineuse du Rapid Equipping Force (REF) : « plutôt que mener le soldat auprès du scientifique, nous menons le scientifique et l'ingénieur auprès du soldat. »
 
Situés près de Kandahar et sur la base aérienne de Bagram, les 20 containers du REF (à 2,8 millions de dollars pièce) peuvent être héliportés ou transportés par camion/bateau. Ces laboratoires mobiles produisent prototypes, composants et pièces détachées (câble et alimentation électriques, batterie pour robot-démineur, élément non-répertorié, etc) grâce à des imprimantes 3D et à des machines-outils à commande numérique.
Les ingénieurs du REF peuvent également télétravailler en atelier avec des ingénieurs militechaux Etats-Unis via l'Internet ou la liaison satellitaire. Ainsi, une très laborieuse téléconférence réunissant le REF, Boeing ou Sikorsky et des mécaniciens d'hélicoptères fraîchement débarqués du théâtre opérations réduit drastiquement les délais de disponibilité d'un composant pour CH-47 Chinook ou UH-60 Black Hawk.


Chaque laboratoire est géré par un ingénieur senior et par un collègue junior plutôt geeket donc plus versé dans des concepts novateurs ou out-of-the box. Afin d'éviter toute dérive routinière et de maintenir un état d'esprit créatif, chaque duo d'ingénieurs est limité à un contrat de quatre mois au sein de ces usines expéditionnaires.
Pour l'instant, le REF est en phase de test et ne deviendra véritablement opérationnel qu'en 2014 c-à-d après le retrait des troupes américaines d'Afghanistan. Toutefois, l'U.S. Army compte également déployer ces merveilles mobiles d'ingéniosité près de localités fortement touchées par des catastrophes naturelles/industrielles du type Katrina ou Fukushima.
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26 septembre 2012 3 26 /09 /septembre /2012 12:09

Taliban attack in Kabul Apr 15 2012 photo @AJELive

 

September 25, 2012:  Strategy Page

 

On September 14th, at Camp Bastion in Helmand province Afghanistan fifteen Taliban, wearing American uniforms, got into the airbase area and destroyed six American AV-8 aircraft and damaged two others. The base is shared by British and U.S. Marine Corps forces. One of the marine units was Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA 211), which normally has ten AV-8s. It's been over 70 years since a marine aviation squadron has suffered such heavy losses in so short a period. That was an earlier version of the same squadron (VMF-211) that was defending Wake Island against Japanese attack. In two weeks VMF-211 lost all twelve of its F4F Wildcat fighters during two weeks of fighting the Japanese (who eventually conquered Wake). Eleven of the other twelve F4Fs of VMF-211 were lost defending Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. VMF-211 had aircraft and personnel replaced and served throughout World War II and after, becoming VMA-211 in 1952. The squadron flew A-4Ms for 30 years and received AV-8s in 2000.

 

During the recent attack in Afghanistan all but one of the fifteen attackers were killed, as well as two marines (including the commander of VMA-211). Some of the attackers wore suicide bomb vests and none apparently expected to survive the operation. The one attacker who survived spoke freely to his captors, providing information that quickly led to the killing or capture of local Taliban who had planned and supported the attack.

 

The Camp Bastion attack was one of the most spectacular Taliban victories in over a decade. It is being studied in detail to discover what went wrong with American security, and fix the defects. Britain controlled most of Camp Bastion and immediately (within 15 minutes) provided ground troops and an armed Reaper UAV to help deal with the attackers. Because the attackers were not detected before they breached the last line of defense the Taliban did not encounter any resistance until they were on the airfield, wearing American uniforms. It helped that they did not move like U.S. troops, or look like them close up (or through binoculars). The attackers were also carrying AK-47s and RPGs, another giveaway. But the U.S. uniforms did cause some confusion and delay and that gave the enemy an opportunity to attack the aircraft.

 

The last time marine aviation units suffered such heavy losses was during the Vietnam War Tet Offensive of 1968. But there the losses were spread over several months. The 211th has the misfortune of twice (2012 and 1941) suffering catastrophic losses in a very short period of time.  

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25 septembre 2012 2 25 /09 /septembre /2012 12:20

RAF-Reaper--photo-UK-MoD.jpg

At Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, a Reaper drone prepares for a training mission

 

24 Sep 2012 By Rob Blackhurst - telegraph.co.uk

 

The unmanned aircraft patrolling the skies above Afghanistan are controlled by pilots sitting in front of screens as far as 7,000 miles away

 

Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan is reckoned to be as busy as Gatwick. Every few minutes the cloudless skies are filled with the roar of a military fighter taking off – hugging the ground to avoid pot shots by the Taliban’s crude rockets before disappearing into the heat haze.

 

In between there is a more persistent sound: the high-pitched whirr of 'drones’ – military aircraft without a human on board – as they head out for 18-hour stints monitoring the vast empty spaces of Afghanistan. This sound, generated by the aircraft’s tail propeller, is a constant white noise for the inhabitants of Kandahar Airfield.

 

It is said the term 'drone’ originated with a 1930s pilotless version of the British Fairey Queen fighter, the 'Queen Bee’. But, with the new generation of insect-like small aircraft, together with its monotonous engine noise, the name has never been more apt.

 


Reaper drone flies over Afghanistan without pilot. Image: GETTY

 

Before 9/11, drones were a new, untried technology. Now it is estimated that 40 countries are trying to buy or develop unmanned aircraft. The United States operates 7,500 drones or, in the official parlance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), making up more than 40 per cent of Department of Defense aircraft. They have been the weapon of choice for the US to assassinate 'high value targets’ – as the military call them – from al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Last year in Libya an American drone identified and attacked the convoy Colonel Gaddafi was travelling in. A few hours later, after fleeing, he was caught by rebels and killed. And since the killing of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s top ranks have been eviscerated by drone strikes, culminating in June in the killing of Abu Yahya al-Libi, the al-Qaeda deputy in Pakistan. In military terms, their success is not in doubt. They have disrupted al-Qaeda by forcing its commanders to abandon telephones (drones can listen in on calls) and avoid meetings, communicating only by courier.

 

But drone strikes have also led to mass protests in Pakistan and spawned numerous campaigns against them. Do they really represent a new, sinister form of battle in which moral judgments are delegated to machines? And does their deadly accuracy ensure that 'collateral damage’ is minimised, protecting civilians in war zones? Or do they encourage trigger-happy pilots, free from risk in their cockpits on the ground?

 

Since 2007 the RAF has operated 39 Squadron, a detachment of five US-built MQ-9 Reaper aircraft at Kandahar Airfield. While America has a sprawling UAV programme targeting Islamic militants everywhere from Pakistan to Somalia, British Reapers have only ever been used as part of the official combat mission against the Taliban over Afghanistan.

 

The vast majority of the 38,500 hours of operations flown by the RAF Reapers have been in intelligence-gathering rather than in attacking targets. Most of the 35 RAF Reaper pilots are based at Creech, an airfield near Las Vegas, where they control the aircraft via satellite as they fly over Afghanistan.

 

An RAF Reaper drone in its shelter at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, armed and ready for a mission (NEIL DUNRIDGE)

 

But the two-second delay between a pilot moving a joystick in Nevada and an aircraft responding in Afghanistan is enough to cause a crash during take-off and landing. Crews in Afghanistan control 'launch and recovery’ through direct contact with antennae on the aircraft. Half an hour after take-off, control of the Reaper is handed to a crew in Nevada; half an hour before landing, it returns to the crews on the ground in Kandahar.

 

Kandahar Airfield is a vast, crowded military camp, full of private-security contractors in new SUVs, soccer pitches, traffic jams, and the 'boardwalk’ – a Midwest-style town square where soldiers carrying automatic weapons visit frozen-yogurt outlets and TGI Friday’s. Far from prying eyes, the Reaper pilots work in a corner of the airfield behind concrete blast barriers to protect them from the sporadic Taliban rocket attacks.

 

Their cockpit is a cabin full of wires and computer servers – a sealed and spotless world without the film of white dust that covers Kandahar Airfield. The crew sit side by side in leather seats as if in a conventional aircraft, dressed in all-in-one khaki flight suits. A technician fiddles with wires on a bank of hard drives. Office carpets cover the floor. Apart from the low rumble of the air-conditioning, it is as silent as a cathedral.

 

A black-and-white screen is filled with the featureless landscape of southern Afghanistan’s red desert. The conventional head-up display is superimposed on the screen, as in any fighter aircraft, giving the details of altitude and pitch that a pilot needs. But, unlike in a conventional aircraft, the pilot can switch the camera view in front of him to see behind or below. He manoeuvres the aircraft with a games console-style joystick. In front of the pilot is a keyboard, next to him a telephone. Reaper pilots can make telephone calls, or email photographs to operational commanders; they can go to the lavatory or get coffee during a flight.

 

A slogan among Reaper pilots is 'no comms, no bombs’: the system is wholly dependent on satellite links working. If there is an IT breakdown, the Reaper’s lost link’ program directs it to land at the nearest air base. Seated next to the pilot, the sensor operator controls a swivelling electronic eyeball on the nose of the Reaper, fitted with infrared sensors for night vision.

 

'We can say to troops on the ground, “Hey, we saw this guy run out of the compound – he’s hiding in the field,”’ Winston, an American former F-16 pilot who has moved to the Reaper, says. 'We can see headlights and engines that are hot from vehicles that have run recently. If a command wire has been placed across the road, the infrared will show the earth a different colour where it has been disturbed – and you can save a convoy from driving over an IED.’

 

Half an hour earlier, via Internet Relay Chat (a kind of instant messaging), the pilots took control back from the crews in Nevada at the end of a mission without a word being spoken. The word ready appeared on the screen in front of us, typed by the pilot in Creech. The pilot in front of us replied, ready. ours. Then yours flashed up on the screen, confirming the handover.

 

Tension fills the cabin as the pilot lines up the Reaper with the runway for landing. No speaking is allowed, since landing the aircraft, with its long, glider-style wings and lightweight body, requires concentration. Sandstorms and 60-knot crosswinds frequently buffet the aircraft, and the margin of error between a safe landing and a crash is only one degree of pitch. As the infrared outline of the hot tarmac looms into view on the pilot’s screen, there is no sense that the aircraft is descending, nor any jolt as the undercarriage retracts.

 

All the sensory instincts a pilot normally uses are missing; he is forced to fly by the instruments. Reaper pilots rely on forward-facing camera and see through the 'soda-straw’ view. As the Reaper nears the ground, the pilot calls out the altitude: '10, 9, 8, 7, 6…’ The only way we know he has landed is when the altitude reading on the head-up display is zero feet.

 

A short walk from the flight cabins are the mess rooms of the huge US Reconnaissance Force Reaper unit that shares facilities and operations with the RAF. On the wall are children’s paintings with messages to Daddy, and vintage Apocalypse Now posters. Small talk is of next week’s squadron barbecue. In this US military milieu, the RAF has colonised a corner with Union flag-covered lockers and photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge. More startling are the 1970s photographs of a thickly mustachioed Burt Reynolds, mirrored in the upper-lip growths of the airmen sitting drinking soda. (It is the end of 'Moustache March’, an annual USAF contest to grow facial hair for charity.)

 

An RAF Reaper pilot at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, controls a Reaper drone, with the help of a sensor operator, to his right (NEIL DUNRIDGE)

 

The RAF crews based at Creech take their place in a four-month rotation in the 'launch and recovery unit’ in Afghanistan. Sitting in the mess are Oz, a bald, middle-aged RAF Reaper pilot who has flown three tours of duty in the Tornado, and DJ, a former Royal Navy helicopter pilot. Both seem too grizzled to be described as PlayStation warriors. Like these two, all the RAF Reaper pilots have been trained to fly conventional aircraft, and most have fought in previous wars.

 

These pilots talk up the similarities with manned aircraft. Although they don’t suffer the exhausting effects of g-force and can’t look out of the window, they admit to flinching when they see something coming towards the aircraft.

'It’s irrelevant where you are physically sitting,’ Oz says. 'You’re attached to the airframe, you’re attached to the view that you see, and you’re attached to the laws of armed conflict.’

 

He reacts with cool anger to suggestions that this mode of war reduces victims to the status of players in a video game. 'It’s a bugbear of mine because I’ve had the accusation levelled that it’s a Star Wars game. It’s anything but. If we act like it’s Star Wars, there are people in the command centre watching us and listening to what we do. The taking of human life is not something to be considered lightly. OK, they are bad guys we are killing, but they are still human beings.’

He also bridles at the suggestion that UAVs leave moral judgments to machines. 'The plane cannot start, cannot fly and cannot release a weapon without us doing it. Human beings are in the cockpit – exactly the same as when I was flying a Tornado. We just happen to be 8,000 miles away from the plane.’

 

The courtly, upright American colonel in charge of Reaper operations, 'Ghost’, arrives, just back from the Kandahar military hospital, where he was visiting an American soldier shot in the leg on the battlefield. His Reapers provided 'overwatch’ while the soldier was evacuated by helicopter. It is common for the squadron to receive texts or emails of thanks from those they have protected. A group of Royal Marines made a trip to Las Vegas last year to thank the pilots in person.'We’ve had Humvees breaking down,’ Ghost says, 'and we’ve provided overwatch. You’re not going to get a good night’s sleep in the middle of the desert in Afghanistan normally, but if you’ve got a Reaper overhead that’s got your back, then you can.’

 

Afghanistan has been the ideal conflict for the Reaper. Unlike conventional fast-jets, which provide intelligence to troops on the ground only for short periods before having to refuel, the Reaper can stay in the air for 18 hours. It can stream real-time video feeds to troops for the duration of a skirmish, allowing them to see the Taliban’s positions on their laptops. And if they are required to fulfil their other major role, killing Taliban forces judged an immediate threat, they can circle for hours above a compound or a village, waiting for a confirmed sighting in the open of their target, before dispatching one of their laser-guided Hellfire missiles. These Taliban fighters won’t even know that they are being watched – at 15,000ft, Reapers usually fly too high to be seen or heard.

 

Stories spill out of the pilots. 'A British vehicle was disabled and the troops had to leave it,’ Oz says. 'The Taliban showed up in numbers. And we provided overwatch for them for hours while they [British troops] withdrew. They were able to withdraw without the fear of being overrun.’ Sometimes the threat of force isn’t enough, DJ says: 'We got called in because US Marines were under fire and were pinned down. We prosecuted [military jargon for 'killed’] two chaps. That broke their fire. The other four scampered, allowing the other Marines to withdraw.’

 

The Reaper pilots insist their high-resolution cameras, as well as the long periods that they can stay airborne, give them more time to weigh decisions before weapons are fired.

 

'On a fast-jet, because of the speed you’re coming in at, you don’t have the fuel and the time to hang around. But we can sit on top of this thing for hours at a time,’ Oz says. 'We have the luxury to pick up the phone and say, look – something just doesn’t look right here.’

 

This recently happened when the RAF Reaper pilots saw what they thought were Taliban insurgents preparing to fire. 'But something didn’t make sense. These guys seemed a bit too casual. So we checked for longer. As soon as these guys hit the road, they suddenly went into tactical column. We suddenly realised they were Afghan National Army. They weren’t the best-disciplined troops until their sergeant was looking at them. The luxury we have is that we can just sit there and say, we’ll just watch this for a few more minutes.’

 

The mantra that the Reaper pilots repeat is 'zero expectations of civilian casualties’. They are forbidden to attack buildings if there are women and children in the area and they avoid targeting property. In Afghanistan village life, Taliban fighters are never far away from women and children.

 

In internal reporting the RAF has dropped the term 'compound’ because it obscures the simple truth that these are houses. As one senior commander told me, 'We’re trying to get it into the guys’ heads that this is not compound no 28, it’s 34 Acacia Drive – so you don’t hit it.’

 

According to Oz, 'We’ll spend hours watching some guy. There have been plenty of times when I’ve had a clearly identified enemy combatant under my crosshairs and I haven’t been able to fire at him because he’s in a village and there are civilians around. If there’s any doubt, we won’t fire. Apart from the tragedy of wounding or killing an innocent civilian, it plays straight into the hands of the enemy for propaganda – it’s a double whammy. You have to wait for your opportunity.’

 

It is curious that civilian casualties from drone strikes receive so much attention, while those caused by conventional attack aircraft, whose pilots are also miles away from their targets, are overlooked. But this is because anti-drone campaigners doubt the MoD’s estimates of civilian casualties.

Reapers have, as of September this year, fired their weapons 319 times and killed four civilians in total since they started operating in Afghanistan, according to the MoD. These civilians died, along with two Taliban 'insurgents’, when two pick-up trucks carrying explosives were targeted by an RAF Reaper in Helmand. A military investigation concluded that this attack had been in accordance with correct procedures and UK rules of engagement.

 

Campaigners complain that the system for counting civilian casualties is flawed because it relies on villagers in remote parts of Afghanistan making the effort to report deaths to coalition forces. They also complain more generally about the secrecy around the Reaper programme, which fuels distrust. Only 40 per cent of drone strikes have been revealed in official RAF operational updates – the others remain classified. And there are no figures of how many 'insurgents’ have been killed (the deliberately vague term includes Taliban and al-Qaeda). The MoD attributes this to the need to not let their enemy know exactly how it is being targeted, and to difficulties in collecting information for an accurate body count.

 

The lengths of deployment for Reaper pilots, split between short stints in Kandahar and three years in Nevada, means that they have more experience of the war in Afghanistan than many of the soldiers on the ground. The terrain and the 'pattern of life’ in the villages they watch for suspicious changes become as familiar as those of their home towns. Often they observe a building for their whole shift and come back the next day to watch the same deserted building for another eight hours.

 

Does it get boring? Winston, the US Reaper pilot, admits, 'The honest answer is yes. You may get information that the unit is going into an area in three days and you’re told, “Don’t take your eyes off that building.” So you will fly in a circle for an eight-hour shift looking at it, and four hours in somebody walks in or walks out. You have no idea who it is. But somebody is watching the feed.’ (The audience for a drone feed can include troops on the ground, commanders in Afghanistan and intelligence analysts thousands of miles away.)

 

At times like this they find ways to relieve the boredom. 'You try and find humorous things. You see kids getting into fights and you’ll watch that, or traffic jams where some guy moves his goats across the road and people get upset.’ The stress of constant operations and long shifts, albeit with rest breaks, has led to fears of burnout among Reaper pilots. The almost limitless demand for 'overwatch’ creates a huge workload: every stream and every suspicious-looking building on a convoy route is checked for IEDs or a potential ambush by Reapers before troops go out on patrol.

 

The usual pattern of war fighting is to spend four months in a war-zone before returning home. But the Reaper pilots at their base in Nevada are commuter warriors: they work five days a week and drive home to their families at the end of their shifts. A tour of duty for them can last years. This changing tempo of war is taking a toll on pilots, even though they are not themselves in harm’s way. According to a survey by the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, nearly half the operators of UAVs have high levels of 'operational stress’ caused by long hours and extended tours of duty.

 


An RAF drone over Afghanistan, armed with two GBU-12 laser-guided bombs and four Hellfire missiles (CROWN COPYRIGHT)

 

The RAF is moving some pilots from three years in Nevada back to three more years on operations in a new Reaper control centre in Britain, where they will also pilot Reapers over Afghanistan. According to a squadron leader with several years’ experience flying the Reaper, 'Six years of permanent ops is something that we’re going to have to pay great attention to. Chronic fatigue could become an issue.’ The effect on pilots of this strange new state of being simultaneously at home and at war has not yet been tested.

 

About four per cent of US UAV operators have developed post-traumatic stress disorder, which some have attributed to the fact that powerful cameras show close-up footage of the targets of drone strikes after they have been killed. 'The cameras are good,’ Oz says. 'A Hellfire missile does have significant effects on the human body, and you should get to see that. If you can’t accept it, you are in the wrong job. But the weirdest thing for me – with my background [as a fast-jet pilot] – is the concept of getting up in the morning, driving my kids to school and killing people. That does take a bit of getting used to. For the young guys or the newer guys, that can be an eye opener.’

 

At sunset at Kandahar we walk on to the flight line to see the angular, insect-like Reapers close up. Two of the RAF Reapers, distinguishable by RAF roundels, are being refuelled and armed with Hellfire laser-guided missiles before being sent out again, two hours after their last mission. 'This is only a small fraction of the Reapers we have here – the rest are in the air,’ Ghost says.

 

The Reapers are sleek, shark-grey and about the size of a light aircraft – 'a Cessna with a missile’, as some of the fast-jet pilots like to call them. They are so compact because they do not need systems to support a human: no air system, pilot’s instruments or ejector seat. If a Reaper is shot down or crashes, the taxpayer loses tens of millions, compared with the hundreds of millions that a conventional jet can cost. And they never risk a pilot being killed or captured.

 

As a Reaper taxis by, I ask the 39 Squadron pilots how they cope with the 'chair-force’ jibes that come from fighter pilots. 'They can say whatever the hell they like,’ DJ says, more than a little testily. 'This is the leading edge of combat. As time progresses there is going to be a bigger appetite for these airframes,’ Oz admits. 'Flying a fighter aircraft was more fun. It was big, it was pointy, it went bloody fast and it carried big bombs. It was sexy. Who wouldn’t want to do that? Twenty-five years later I asked to come to the Reaper because it makes a significant contribution to the war.’

 

A short drive in a battered Land Rover across Kandahar Airfield is the headquarters of 617 Squadron, 'The Dambusters’, which flies Tornado fast-jets over Afghanistan. In the mess-room, where a flat-screen television and piles of DVDs kill time when they are on call to 'scramble’, I ask the pilots whether they would give up their fast-jets for UAVs. With varying degrees of politeness, they decline: 'I’ve no interest in flying Reaper. If I’m flying I want to be airborne,’ one says. But could their jobs eventually be replaced by UAVs? 'Reaper is absolutely the asset for Afghanistan but as soon as you start going up against anyone with a credible air threat we will have to pour money into aircraft that can fight back.’

 

It is a frequent criticism that Reapers work well in Afghanistan, where there is no air force and no accurate surface-to-air missiles, but in a conventional war these slow, fragile aircraft would be easy to shoot down. Though fast-jets such as the Tornado cannot stay airborne for as long, they can travel long distances more quickly. If troops are under fire at the far side of Afghanistan, the battle is likely to be over long before a Reaper arrives on the scene. Nor would Reapers fare well in colder, wetter weather.

 

Already the high rate of UAVs is a matter of concern to military planners. Figures are difficult to verify, but the UK Drone Wars website, run by anti-drone campaigners and using imperfect information, has recorded 14 drone crashes so far in 2012. The Los Angeles Times estimated in 2010 that 38 Reaper and Predator UAVs had been lost in Afghanistan and Iraq.

During the Balkan Wars, experiments with UAVs were abandoned because so many were lost in the bad weather. Fast-jet pilots argue that a crew in the air above the target can always make better judgments than a crew thousands of miles away. 'We can give more an interpretation of what’s going on,’ a Tornado flight commander says. 'It’s hard to put into words, but there is just that feeling of being there. You can see the whole situation and not just the target. The fact that you can look out of a cockpit and say, “There’s a village next to us.” We could be talked into thinking that a couple of men kneeling in the middle of the road at night look dodgy when it’s actually a guy changing a motorbike tyre that’s just had a puncture.’

 

Whatever the counter-claims between Reaper and fast-jet pilots, the arguments in favour of UAVs have been won in the Ministry of Defence. Later this year a new squadron will be established in Lincolnshire to pilot remotely five more Reapers – the first time that drone missions in Afghanistan will be been controlled from British rather than American soil. However, there are practical difficulties to overcome first. It remains unclear where the UK Reapers will be legally able to take off and land when combat operations end in Afghanistan in 2014. Civil Aviation Regulations prevent them from flying in British airspace since reaction times might not be fast enough to avoid collisions.

 

By 2030, the RAF estimates, a third of the force will be unmanned aircraft. An MoD report, 'The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems’, predicts, 'Unmanned aircraft will eventually take over most or all the tasks currently undertaken by manned systems.’ The expensive F35B Lightning II fighter currently on order will be, it predicts, the last RAF fighter with a pilot in the air.

 

The UAV technology under development sounds like science fiction – from bee-size nano drones that can fly through windows to nuclear-powered drones that can fly for weeks without refuelling. Even if these wilder plans never see the light of day, the MoD has been funding the development of Taranis, a long-range jet-powered UAV attack aircraft that will be able to fly across continents.

 

The moral question overshadowing UAVs is whether their use trivialises the business of killing. According to the report 'Armed Drones and the PlayStation Mentality’ by Chris Cole, the director of the Drone Wars website, 'Young military personnel raised on a diet of video games now kill real people remotely using joysticks. Far removed from the human consequences of their actions, how will this generation of fighters value the right to life?’

 

From my experience at Kandahar this vision of teenage warriors seems far-fetched: the Reaper pilots I met were approaching middle age, softly spoken and sober about the life-and-death decisions with which they were charged.

It does, however, seem plausible that risk-free, long-distance strikes using UAVs could insulate the Western public from the human toll of war. If we can kill with such ease while protecting Western lives and avoiding the costs of deploying troops, will the bar be lower for governments to make war? Already, the creep towards a permanent state of war, via drone strike, can be seen. This year alone, the Obama administration has conducted drone strikes against al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. The Ministry of Defence candidly warns of these dangers in its report: 'We must ensure that by removing some of the horror, or at least keeping it at a distance, we do not risk losing our controlling humanity and make war more likely.’

 

These speculations become even more complex with the Frankenstein fear that, as UAVs become more advanced, they will be able to launch weapons without human input. There is a danger of an 'incremental and involuntary journey towards a Terminator-like reality’, the paper warns, and Britain must 'quickly establish a policy on what will constitute “acceptable machine behaviour”’.

 

Drones deliver death out of a clear blue sky. Victims will not have known their fate for more than a fraction of a second. Most of the time they won’t even have heard the Reaper’s engine. Is it possible such powerful weapons will hand a propaganda victory to those they are targeted against?

 

At some point military planners will have to face these issues. But, for the moment, the public is more likely to be swayed by the belief, shared by everyone on the ground in Afghanistan, that the Reaper has saved the lives of hundreds of British troops.

 

For the pilots, misgivings over a new weapon changing the nature of war are nothing new. On the flight line in Kandahar, DJ has to shout over the whine of a fully loaded Reaper about to take off for another long mission. He is dismissive of the angst surrounding unmanned aircraft. 'This goes back centuries. When it was sword versus sword and somebody started slinging an arrow over their head to the enemy – every time there’s an advance in military hardware, the other side says, “Are you playing fair?”’

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24 septembre 2012 1 24 /09 /septembre /2012 22:57

ISAF-Logo

 

sept 24, 2012 Nicolas Gros-Verheyde (BRUXELLES2)

 

Sans tambour ni trompettes, les Grecs vont quitter le théâtre afghan dans quelques jours ou semaines. Le dernier contingent de 54 militaires devrait ainsi regagner le territoire hellène d’ici la fin du mois de septembre. Ce qui signe (presque) la fin de la participation de la Grèce à la mission de stabilisation de l’OTAN (ISAF).

 

Suite de l’article

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24 septembre 2012 1 24 /09 /septembre /2012 12:30

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September 23, 2012: Strategy Page

 

Germany has finally got four of its new Tiger helicopter gunships ready for service in Afghanistan. These ASGARD (Afghanistan Stabilization German Army Rapid Deployment) models include sand filters, additional defense systems, a mission data recorder and communications gear able to deal with systems used by allies. Four more ASGARD Tigers are being prepared. The first four will arrive in Afghanistan before the end of the year.

 

Germany had a lot of problems with its new Tiger Helicopter gunship. German troops in Afghanistan wanted this aircraft badly and delivery has been delayed several times. In addition to the ASGARD upgrades, there were problems with the wiring and a number of less serious shortcomings as well.

 

Tiger is made by European firm Eurocopter, which also manufactures the NH90 transport helicopter. The Germans also ran into a lot of problems with the NH90s, especially when it came to using them in a combat zone. Currently, American AH-64s provide gunship support for German troops in Afghanistan.

 

Four years ago, the German Army received the first of 80 Tiger HAD helicopter gunships. The Tiger slowly entered service seven years ago. The HAD version has 14 percent more engine power and better protection from ground fire. While earlier versions were mainly for anti-vehicle work, the HAD model is more like the current U.S. AH-64 Apache, and optimized for ground support. Development of Tiger began in 1987, before the Cold War ended. So the anti-tank aspect took a while to disappear.

 

The Tiger costs about as much as the AH-64 (about $47 million each). The eight ton AH-64 has been in service for 25 years. The six ton Tiger has a crew of two and a max speed of 280 kilometers an hour. It cruises at 230 kilometers an hour, usually stays in the air about three hours per sortie. It is armed with a 30mm automatic cannon, 70mm rocket pods (19 rockets per pod) and various types of air-to-ground missiles (eight Hellfire types at once). It can also carry four Mistral anti-aircraft missiles.

 

So far, 93 have been delivered to Germany, France (which has ordered 80), Spain (24) and Australia (22). So far Tigers have spent over 42,000 hours in the air.

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24 septembre 2012 1 24 /09 /septembre /2012 08:00

afghanistan-operation-condor-circle-1.jpg

 

23/09/2012 20minutes.fr (AFP)

 

ARMEE - Les troupes françaises en Afghanistan sont sur le départ, alors que la pression des insurgés est toujours forte...

 

Les troupes françaises en Afghanistan sont sur le départ. Depuis le début de l'été, elle se retirent progressivement de leurs bases dans l'est du pays pour se regrouper à Kaboul, où elles rassemblent leur matériel, un coup de force logistique sous pression des insurgés.


L'objectif est de rapatrier 1.500 hommes d'ici la fin de l'année, avant le retrait définitif des soldats français de la force multinationale fin 2013, comme annoncé par le président François Hollande. «On ramène tout ! Tout ce qui est lié aux véhicules de combat, aux transmissions..., ça repart», affirme à l'AFP le colonel Philippe Troistorff, chef d'état-major des forces françaises, sur la base de Nijrab, dans la province de Kapisa.


Les Français laissent derrière eux des «bases fonctionnelles», dans le cadre du transfert de la sécurité aux forces afghanes. «Si on laisse quelque chose, ce sont les structures qui nous ont permis d'y vivre à peu près confortablement: câblages, réseaux d'eau, générateurs, cuisines», précise le colonel.

Aucun incident sérieux

Après leur départ du district de Surobi, près de Kaboul, fin juillet, les troupes françaises quitteront début octobre la base de Tagab, la grande emprise française en Kapisa, qui a déjà été vidée de l'essentiel de ses équipements. Selon l'état-major, le nombre de soldats tricolores en Afghanistan devrait être d'environ 2.550 mi-octobre, contre 4.000 un an auparavant. Et plus de 1.000 d'entre eux devront être rapatriés dans les trois mois.


Le désengagement des hommes et du matériel se fait par le nord du pays, pour éviter la vallée de Tagab, plus proche de Kaboul, mais où les convois seraient plus exposés au harcèlement des groupes d'insurgés. Après plus de dix ans de présence française en Afghanistan, le désengagement, «c'est un gros puzzle. Pour le moment ça se déroule de façon totalement conforme à ce qui était prévu. 50% du désengagement des FOB - les bases opérationnelles avancées - a déjà été réalisé et 30% du matériel est déjà rentré» en France, se réjouit le chef logisticien chargé d'orchestrer le ballet des convois.


Au total, 700 véhicules blindés sur 1.200 et un peu moins de 900 containers sur 1.000 à l'origine sont encore en territoire afghan. Aucun incident sérieux n'est jusqu'à présent venu contrarier le retrait français. Mais la vigilance reste à son maximum.

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21 septembre 2012 5 21 /09 /septembre /2012 12:55

ravitaillement-du-poste-anjiran-en-kapisa-2

 

NEW YORK (Nations unies), 21 septembre - RIA Novosti

 

Moscou demande des explications sur la nécessité de conserver les bases étrangères en Afghanistan après le départ, en 2014, des Forces internationales d'assistance à la sécurité (ISAF), a déclaré jeudi l'ambassadeur de la Russie auprès de l'ONU Vitali Tchourkine.

 

"Les déclarations contradictoires selon lesquelles les troupes étrangères quitteront l'Afghanistan en 2014 tandis que les bases étrangères y resteront ne manquent pas de susciter des interrogations", a indiqué le diplomate russe.

 

Selon lui, si les bases sont conservées alors que la mission antiterroriste est remplie, celles-ci joueront alors un rôle non lié à l'Afghanistan.

 

"Mais si la lutte contre le terrorisme doit être poursuivie, il faudra obtenir la prorogation du mandat par le Conseil de sécurité", a affirmé M. Tchourkine.

 

"De toute façon, la présence militaire résiduelle ne doit pas être utilisée contre les intérêts de l'Iran voisin et d'autres pays de la région", a-t-il souligné.

 

C'est la raison pour laquelle Moscou souhaite engager un "dialogue constructif sur le mandat, l'importance et les missions de la future opération de l'OTAN en Afghanistan", a conclu l'ambassadeur russe.

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21 septembre 2012 5 21 /09 /septembre /2012 12:45

ISAF-Logo

 

WASHINGTON, 21 septembre - RIA Novosti

 

Les soldats américains du contingent de 30.000 hommes envoyés fin 2009 en Afghanistan par le président Barack Obama ont regagné leur patrie, a rapporté la chaîne de télévision CNN se référant à un représentant haut placé du Pentagone.

 

Ainsi, le nombre de militaires américains déployés en Afghanistan s'élève actuellement à 68.000 personnes, soit le niveau de fin 2008. Lancé en 2011, le retrait des troupes américaines devra prendre fin d'ici fin 2014. Des unités de l'Otan resteront dans le pays pour épauler et entraîner près de 350.000 militaires et policiers afghans.

 

Le 1er décembre 2009, le président américain Barack Obama a envoyé 30.000 soldats américains en renfort en Afghanistan. Le contingent US dans le pays comptait alors près de 100.000 militaires.

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21 septembre 2012 5 21 /09 /septembre /2012 12:40

US DOD United States Department of Defense Seal.svg

 

September 21, 2012 U.S. Department of Defense / Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) – defpro.com

 

“This week, the ongoing effort in Afghanistan marked an important milestone: the United States military has completed drawing down the surge forces President Obama committed in December of 2009, reducing our presence by 33,000 troops on schedule. As we reflect on this moment, it is an opportunity to recognize that the surge accomplished its objectives of reversing Taliban momentum on the battlefield, and dramatically increased the size and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). This growth has allowed us and our ISAF Coalition partners to begin the process of transition to Afghan security lead, which will soon extend across every province and more than 75 percent of the Afghan population. At the same time, we have struck enormous blows against al Qaeda's leadership, consistent with our core goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda and denying it a safe-haven.

 

“It is important to underscore that even as our surge troops return home, there are roughly 68,000 Americans who remain in a tough fight in Afghanistan, alongside their NATO and Afghan partners. We are a nation at war. But the international community is also strongly united behind our shared strategy to transition to Afghan security control, which will be completed by the end of 2014.”

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