Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The List 5203

The List 5203 TCB

To All,

A bit of history and some tidbits.



This day in Naval History

Jan. 29

§ 1862—The storeship Supply captures schooner Stephen Hart loaded with a cargo of arms and munitions, south of Sarasota, FL, with cargo of arms and munitions.

§ 1942—USS Quail (AM 15) bombards Japanese troop concentrations at Longoskawayan Point, Luzon.

§ 1943—The Battle of Rennell Island begins when Japanese shore-based aircraft attack Task Force 18 cruisers and destroyers covering the movement of transports toward Guadalcanal. USS Chicago (CA 29) is damaged and sinks the next day.

§ 1944—The battleship Missouri (BB 63) is christened. Built at the New York Navy Yard, her keel was laid on Jan. 6, 1941. After her christening and launching Jan. 29, she is completed rapidly, commissioning on June 11 of the same year, the last battleship to enter active service in the U.S. Navy.

§ 1945—While loading a cargo of depth charges in Lunga Roads, off Guadalcanal, USS Serpens (AK 97) is destroyed by a massive explosion. All but two of the 198 Coast Guard crewmen, plus 57 Army stevedores are killed.

§ 2017—Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois, died Jan. 29 in the Arabian Peninsula of Yemen, of wounds sustained in a raid against al-Qaida.

1784: In a letter to his daughter dated Jan. 26, 1784, Benjamin Franklin expressed unhappiness with the choice of the eagle as the symbol of America. He said he preferred the turkey. This was a time when turkeys were smart birds that lived in the wild and not the stupid things bred for Thanksgiving dinner.

1962: Bishop Burke of the Buffalo Catholic dioceses declares Chubby Checker's "The Twist" is impure and bans it from all Catholic schools, parishes and youth events. It can't be danced, sung about or listened to in any Catholic school, parish or youth event. Later in the year, the Twist will be banned from community center dances in Tampa, Florida as well.

Editor's Note: we fellow Catholics must lighten up and enjoy life for a change.

1998: President Clinton denied having an affair with a former White House intern, saying "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

And today is:

National Peanut Brittle Day


1788 Australia Day

Thanks to CHINFO

Executive Summary:

• Multiple outlets report that the U.K. will allow Huawei to build part of its 5G cellular network despite pressure from the Trump administration.

• USNI News reported on the Navy’s efforts to modify the future USS John F. Kennedy to allow the operation of F-35Cs.

• The New York Times reported on Russia’s expanding influence in Africa.

• Multiple outlets covered Special Operations Command release of its comprehensive review on culture and ethics.

This day in History

· January 29


Jane Austin publishes Pride and Prejudice.


Kansas is admitted into the Union as the 34th state.


William Quantrill and his Confederate raiders attack Danville, Kentucky.


The Supreme Allied Council meets at Versailles.


Violette Neatley Anderson becomes the first African-American woman admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.


The Seeing Eye, America's first school for training dogs to guide the blind, founded in Nashville, Tennessee.


Winston Churchill resigns as Stanley Baldwin's aide.


German and Italian troops take Benghazi in North Africa.


The world's greatest warship, Missouri, is launched.


Riots break out in Johannesburg, South Africa, over the policy of Apartheid.


Thirty-seven civilians are killed by a U.S. helicopter attack in Vietnam.


President Jimmy Carter commutes the sentence of Patty Hearst.


President Ronald Reagan announces that he will run for a second term.


The Soviets issue a formal complaint against alleged U.S. arms treaty violations.


Iraqi forces attack into Saudi Arabian town of Kafji, but are turned back by Coalition forces.


Thanks to Thomas W. Smith

This Week in American Military History:

Jan. 31, 1974: The first of three U.S. Army Ranger battalions since World War II is activated.

Yes, there were post-war Rangers and Ranger units of varying sizes, but the modern battalion-organization is launched in 1974 by Gen. Creighton Abrams, who proclaims: "The Ranger battalion is to be an elite, light and [the] most proficient infantry battalion in the world; a battalion that can do things with its hands and weapons better than anyone. The battalion will contain no hoodlums or brigands, and if the battalion is formed of such persons it will be disbanded. Wherever the battalion goes it will be apparent that it is the best.”

Feb. 1, 1800: The frigate USS Constellation (the first of four so-named American warships) under the command of Capt. Thomas Truxtun defeats the French frigate La Vengeance under Capt. F.M. Pitot in a night battle lasting several hours. The engagement, fought during America’s Quasi War with France, is -- according to Truxtun -- “as sharp an action as ever was fought between two frigates.”

Feb. 1, 1862: Julia Ward Howe's poem "Battle Hymn of the Republic," which begins “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” is published in the Atlantic Monthly. It will become a Union Army ballad.

Today, the ballad is a martial hymn sung in American military chapels worldwide and by descendants of Union and Confederate soldiers alike.

Feb. 1, 1961: The Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) -- the first three-staged, solid-fueled ICBM -- is launched for the first time in a successful “all systems” test.

Minuteman I is the first missile in the still-operational Minuteman family. Minuteman IIIs are still deployed. The name “Minuteman” comes from the famous “minutemen” of America’s colonial militia.

Feb. 1, 2003: The doomed Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) disintegrates upon reentering the earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crewmembers,


• U.S. Air Force Col. Rick D. Husband, mission commander

• U.S. Navy Commander William C. McCool, pilot

• U.S. Navy Capt. David M. Brown, mission specialist

• U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson, payload specialist

• U.S. Navy Commander Laurel B. Clark, mission specialist

• Israeli Air Force Col. Ilan Ramon, payload specialist

• Civilian research scientist Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist

Feb. 2, 1848: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo -- which begins, “In the name of Almighty God” -- is signed by representatives of the United States and Mexico, officially ending the Mexican-American War. According to the Library of Congress, the treaty “[extends] the boundaries of the United States by over 525,000 square miles. In addition to establishing the Rio Grande as the border between the two countries, the territory acquired by the U.S. included what will become the states of Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.”

Feb. 2, 1901: Congress authorizes the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps under the Army Medical Department.

Feb. 3, 1801: Nearly one year to the day after Constellation’s thrashing of La Vengeance, the U.S. Senate ratifies the Mortefontaine treaty, officially ending the Quasi War with France.

Feb. 3, 1961: Two days after the Minuteman I test-launch, the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command (SAC) launches its EC-135 flying command post-- codenamed “Looking Glass” -- in order to maintain seamless and secure command-and-control of U.S. nuclear forces in the event ground-based command-and-control is wiped out in a nuclear attack. “Looking Glass” aircraft will be airborne 24/7 for the next three decades. According to the U.S. Strategic Command (which replaced SAC): “On July 24, 1990, Looking Glass ceased continuous airborne alert, but remained on ground or airborne alert 24 hours a day.” Today, the U.S. Navy's E-6B Mercury is America’s “Looking Glass.”

Feb. 4, 1779: Continental Navy Capt. John Paul Jones takes command of the former French frigate, Duc de Duras, renaming her Bonhomme Richard (after Benjamin Franklin’s pen name). It will be aboard the Richard -- badly damaged and sinking during the famous battle in the North Sea with the Royal Navy frigate HMS Serapis on Sept. 23 -- that Jones refuses a surrender demand, allegedly replying, “I have not yet begun to fight!” It has also been widely reported that when the Serapis’ Captain Richard Pearson inquired as to whether or not Jones had lowered or struck his colors, Jones shouted back, “I may sink, but I'll be damned if I strike!” Incidentally, Bonhomme Richard (the first of five so-named Americanwarships) does sink: But not before Pearson himself surrenders (believed to be “the first time in naval history that colors are surrendered to a sinking ship”), and Jones transfers his flag to his newly captured prize, Serapis. Jones is destined to become “the Father of the American Navy,” though -- in some circles -- it is argued that title belongs to Commodore John Barry.

Feb. 4, 1787: Shays' Rebellion -- a short-lived Massachusetts uprising led by former Continental Army Capt. Daniel Shays and spawned by crippling taxes and an economic depression in the wake of the American Revolution -- is quashed by Massachusetts militia.

Feb. 4, 1944: Kwajalein Atoll is secured by U.S. forces.

Feb. 4, 1945: The Big Three -- U.S. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin -- meet at the Crimea Conference (best known as the Yalta Conference) to discuss among other points what was to become of soon-to-be conquered Germany and the nations the Nazis had previously defeated.

Feb. 5, 1918: U.S. Army Lt. Stephen W. Thompson, a member of the American 1st Aero Squadron, is invited by French aviators to fly in a French Breguet bomber as a gunner on one of their missions. It is on that mission that Thompson shoots down a German Albatross fighter over Saarbrucken, Germany; making him the first American in uniform to shoot down an enemy airplane. Today, the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron traces its lineage back to the 1st Aero Squadron.

Feb. 6, 1899: Nearly 98 years to the day after ratifying the treaty ending the Quasi War with France, the U.S. Senate ratifies another war-ending treaty: this one ending the war with Spain.


Thanks to Doctor Rich

Pretty good description of events leading up to the crash...
The Last Flight of Kobe Bryant


A couple of articles Thanks to The Naval History and Heritage Command
WWII@75: Serpens Explodes

On Jan. 29, 1945, 75 years ago, while loading a cargo of depth charges in Lunga Point, off Guadalcanal, a massive explosion destroyed USS Serpens (AK-97) Serpens was a Liberty ship commissioned in 1943, operated by a U.S. Coast Guard crew. The explosion killed 196 Coast Guardsmen, 57 U.S. Army stevedores, one public health service doctor, and a Soldier ashore hit by shrapnel. Miraculously, two crewmembers on the ship somehow survived. The explosion was the largest loss of U.S. Coast Guard life in a single incident in history. Initially, the cause was thought to have been an enemy attack; after World War II, an internal cause was determined. For more, read H-029-5: A brief history of major U.S. Navy ordnance accidents at the Director’s Corner.

Payback at Balikpapan

Following the Pearl Harbor attack, Japan’s military rolled across the Pacific like an unstoppable tidal wave. The thirst for natural resources, such as oil, was unquenchable. In the blink of an eye, Japan’s empire expanded from the resource-rich Dutch East Indies to the swamps of New Guinea and the Solomons. An early target for the Japanese during World War II was the vital oil port of Balikpapan on the eastern shore of Borneo, one of the largest islands of the East Indies. Balikpapan had an abundance of oil that was unusually pure. The oil was so pure it could be pumped directly into a vessel’s oil bunkers, bypassing the refining process altogether. The Dutch did their best to resist the Japanese advance on Borneo, but it was just a matter of time before the island would fall into enemy hands. Despite the urgency to protect the oil, American warships were spread out from one end of their operating area to the other. Many of the ships were outdated as well, built for World War I. To find out what happened, read the article in the Navy Times.

Project Zebra and a Crash Everyone Tried to Pretend Never Happened

For decades, locals of Elizabeth City, NC, knew nothing about it. However, 75 years ago, a Russian plane loaded with American goods crashed into the Pasquotank River, killing a majority of the crew. The aircraft was a PBN-1 Nomad manufactured by the Navy for the Russians during World War II. The flight was part of a highly secretive lend-lease training collaboration between American aviators and Russian pilots dubbed Project Zebra. “I think it is accurate to say that we did at that point have a beautiful relationship,” said Don Pendergraft, director of the Museum of the Albemarle. “It was an experiment that went very well.” During their time off, the Russians would go into town and buy large amounts of cloth, cigarettes, and French perfume, which was nearly impossible to find in the Soviet Union. On Jan. 11, 1945, the Nomad—heavily loaded with American goods—took off and then crashed almost immediately into the river. Five of the eight on board were killed. For more, read the article in the Navy Times.

Tens of Thousands of Valentine’s Delivered to 104-year-old WWII Veteran

Earlier this month, a resident of The Oaks at Inglewood—an assisted-care facility in Stockton, CA—requested on social media that Valentine’s Day cards be sent to another resident of the facility who happens to be a 104-year-old World War II veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart. Since then, tens of thousands of cards have arrived. “I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” said retired U.S. Marine Maj. Bill White. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. Up until a week or two ago, I was leading a quiet life…now all of a sudden all Hell has broken loose.” The goal of Operation Valentine was just 10,000 cards. In just one day alone, about 14,000 pieces of mail were delivered. White, who is also a veteran of the Korean War, received the Purple Heart for injuries he sustained during the Battle for Iwo Jima. “I’ve been a Marine for 85 years now—30 years active, 55 years retired,” he said. “So, if they feel like it, they could call me back on active duty anytime. I’m still on the list.” For more, read the article in Stars & Stripes.

A lot of information on the USS Missouri on the NHHC Web page of the week.

On Jan. 29, 1944, battleship USS Missouriwas christened. Missouri was launched later that month, and then commissioned on June 11, 1944. Although most remember Missouri as the symbolic end of World War II, she was a highly decorated battleship that earned eight battle stars during her service to the nation—three during WWII and five during the Korean War. Missouri was also the first battleship to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraqi targets at the commencement of Desert Storm. In celebration of one of America’s greatest ships, this week’s Webpage of the Week is the USS Missouri: “Mighty Mo” page located under NHHC’s notable ships. On this page, read a short history, and then explore all the reading material, artifacts, art, and imagery associated with “Mighty Mo.”


Some Daily News from Military Periscope

USA—Trump Unveils Middle East Peace Plan Washington Post | 01/29/2020 President Donald Trump has revealed his Middle East peace plan, reports the Washington Post. On Tuesday, Trump unveiled the proposal in a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The proposal envisions a demilitarized Palestinian state in much of the West Bank and Gaza, which would be connected by a tunnel. Its capital would be Abu Dis, which sits just outside East Jerusalem, reported Reuters. It would recognize Israeli control of most settlements. Construction in settlements would be frozen for four years. The plan grants most of what Israel has asked for, including control of security in the West Bank and recognition of its settlements, said analysts. Netanyahu welcomed the deal, calling it the opportunity of the century. He indicated that he would rapidly move to extend Israeli sovereignty over some 150 settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The Palestinians would be asked to give up claims to nearly 30 percent of the West Bank, reported CNN. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the deal. Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates issued cautious statements encouraging both Israeli and Palestinians to study the proposal, reported the Jerusalem Post.

USA—Army Wins Lawsuit Over Sole-Source Purchase Of Oshkosh FMTVs Army Technology | 01/29/2020 Vehicle manufacturer Navistar has lost a court battle against the U.S. Army and Oshkosh Defense alleging that the service improperly ordered new logistics vehicles from the firm without competition, reports Army Technology. The ruling was issued on Dec. 13 but was sealed until earlier this month, reported Defense News. Navistar and Oshkosh competed for the Army’s program in 2009 for its Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV). Oshkosh was selected for an initial five-year contract. Due to urgent demands, the Army issued a sole-source contract at the end of the initial contract period to buy additional FMTVs. The service awarded another sole-source order last year. Navistar initially filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office alleging that the sole-source acquisition lacked legal justification and that the order should be open to competition. The firm later decided to bring the service to court after it failed to produce documents as part of the protest. In their ruling, the judge found that the most recent contract modification in 2019 did not materially depart from the original contract or constitute a cardinal change to the initial extension of the contract. According to the ruling, under the initial terms of the contract, all competitors were “adequately” made aware that the service could purchase additional vehicles at the end of the initial contract.

USA—Navy Conducts 1st South China Sea FONOP For 2020 Japan Times | 01/29/2020 USS Montgomery has conducted the first U.S. freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea in 2020, reports the Japan Times. On Saturday, the littoral combat ship sailed through waters near the disputed Spratly Islands claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam, said a spokesman for the 7th Fleet. The U.S. Navy conducts FONOPs to protest restrictions on innocent passage rights guaranteed under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCOS), the spokesman noted. China, Taiwan and Vietnam say they require permission or advance notice of foreign vessels engaged in innocent passage through territorial seas in violation of international law, the spokesman said. Chinese naval and air forces tracked, verified, identified and warned the ship away, said a military spokesman quoted by (China).

United Kingdom—Government Set To Allow Huawei Equipment To Be Used In New 5G Networks BBC News | 01/29/2020 The British government has cleared Chinese telecom firm Huawei to help build non-core elements of the U.K.’s 5G network over U.S. objections, reports BBC News. The U.S. objects to the inclusion of equipment from the firm over concerns that it could be used by the Chinese government to commit espionage. In a nod to those concerns, the U.K. will restrict Huawei from supplying equipment for the sensitive, “core” part of the network, and limiting it to supplying up to 35 percent of the network’s periphery equipment. Networks currently operating in the U.K. will have three years to come into compliance with the restrictions, according to a document from the U.K.’s National Cybersecurity Center. Three of the four major network providers have already announced plans to deploy Huawei equipment in periphery elements of their networks. Previously, the U.S. warned that allowing Huawei to contribute to the U.K.’s network could affect intelligence-sharing between the two countries. Legislation to that effect has been proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives, noted the Washington Post. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab denied the decision would affect the ability of the U.K. to share classified data over secure internal networks and with its partners. The new rules must still be debated and approved by Parliament.

Germany—Berlin Bails On Triton UAV Buy Over Airspace Integration Concerns Defense News | 01/29/2020 The German government has cancelled plans to buy MQ-4C Triton uncrewed aerial vehicles from the U.S., reports Defense News. Berlin had been cleared to purchase the Tritons by the U.S. State Dept. in 2018 to fulfill its Persistent German Airborne Surveillance (PEGASUS) program requirements. The project sought to procure an uncrewed signals intelligence (SIGINT) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) aircraft that could freely operate in European civil airspace and carry the ISIS-ZB SIGINT and ELINT payload developed by Hensoldt. The defense ministry decided to cancel the purchase after Italy was forced to issue military rather than civil type certification for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance fleet of Global Hawks that will operate out of Sicily. Without a civil type certification, the UAVs would be restricted to drone-specific airspace corridors. The Triton option had also become “significantly more expensive” than originally expected, a ministry spokeswoman said. Germany now plans to purchase Global 6000 business jets for the program, which are permitted to fly alongside commercial aircraft.

Czech Republic—Military To Send 60 Troops To French-Led Mission In Sahel Defense Post | 01/29/2020 The Czech government has approved the deployment of 60 troops to the French-led Operation Barkhane in Africa's Sahel region, reports the Defense Post. The Czech contingent is expected to begin a 12-month deployment in August or September, the military said on Monday. The proposal must still be approved by Parliament. It is estimated to cost at least US$26 million. The deployment aims to help build Task Force Takuba, an international special operations force to support Malian troops. Estonia has also pledged troops to the French-led task force. Earlier this month, French officials said that Task Force Takuba would reach initial military capability in the summer and would be fully operation in the fall.

Russia—Deal Inked For Mi-38T Helos With Unnamed Buyer Rosoboronexport | 01/29/2020 Russia’s Rosoboronexport arms export agency says it has finalized a deal with an unnamed foreign customer for the new Mi-38T helicopter. The contract, the value of which was not disclosed, was announced on Tuesday. The Mi-38T is a medium-range multipurpose helicopter capable of missions including troop and cargo transport, medical evacuation and search-and-rescue. It can also be fitted with a VIP interior. The helicopter can carry up to 40 personnel; 12 stretchers or 30 seated wounded and two medics; and up to 11,020 pounds (5,000 kg) of cargo in the cargo compartment or on an external sling.

China—China Now World’s 2nd-Largest Arms Exporter, Report Says South China Morning Post | 01/29/2020 A new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) indicates that China has become the world’s second-largest arms exporter, reports the South China Morning Post. China exported between US$70 billion and US$80 billion in weapons in 2017, according to the study, which was released on Monday. That figure puts China behind only the U.S., which exported US$226.6 billion in arms that year, and ahead of Russia, which had US$37.7 billion in defense exports. The new figures are believed to be an underestimate due to the lack of transparency in China, noted Deutsche Welle. New data also enabled the inclusion of Chinese firms in SIPRI’s list of top arms export firms. Four Chinese companies were included in the top 20: Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC), China Electronics Technology Group Corp. (CETC), China North Industries Group Corp. (NORINCO) and China South Industries Group Corp. (CSGC). The firms had combined sales of US$54.1 billion in 2017. China’s arms industry has become increasingly self-sufficient over the past 20 years, with imports falling by 50 percent while exports increased by 208 percent.

South Korea—USFK Warns S. Korean Employees Of Possible Furloughs Bloomberg News | 01/29/2020 The U.S. military has begun warning local employees at facilities in South Korea that they may face furloughs if a new agreement on Seoul's share of the costs of U.S. forces is not reached, reports Bloomberg News. On Wednesday, U.S. Forces Korea issued a statement saying that employees could face administrative furloughs on April 1. About 9,000 South Koreans are employed at U.S. bases on the peninsula. The furlough would not affect non-appropriated fund organizations that receive money from other sources, including restaurants, exchanges and bowling alleys, reported the Stars and Stripes. Affected employees would be placed on "non-paid and non-duty" status and would not be eligible for back pay after funds were restored, U.S. officials said. The Special Measures Agreement governing cost-sharing between the U.S. and South Korea expired on Dec. 31. Several rounds of negotiations have failed to produce an agreement. U.S. negotiators say they have backed away from previous demands for a fivefold increase in South Korean contributions. Seoul has said there remains "quite a big difference in principle" between the sides.

India—Army Begins Drawing Down Internal Security Mission In Northeast Indian Express | 01/29/2020 The Indian army has announced plans to withdraw regular troops assigned to counterinsurgency missions in the northeast, reports the Indian Express. Two battalions have already been pulled back, with the remaining forces expected to leave the region in 18 to 24 months, army chief Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane said on Wednesday. The next drawdown is anticipated after elections in Bodoland in Assam state are completed in June and July, he said. Security in the region has improved, he said, citing the recent surrender of 600 separatist fighters. The move is part of an effort to increase the army's focus on conventional warfare, he said. On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a peace agreement with four factions of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland and the All Bodo Students' Union, which had spearheaded a decades-long separatist fight in the northeastern region, reported the Press Trust of India.

Afghanistan—U.S. Changes Course On Air Force Fleet Defense News | 01/29/2020 The U.S. has decided to cut some of the aircraft it planned to supply to the Afghan air force, reports Defense News. The changes were announced in a December report by the Dept. of Defense that was just made public. The Pentagon’s latest plans call for reducing the number of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to be provided to the Afghan air force from 159 to 53. The U.S. will also supply only 10 AC-208 armed fixed-wing aircraft. The cuts were the result of a review of future operational requirements, the report says. No other details were provided. The U.S. had planned to replace Afghanistan’s aging Mi-17 helicopters with the Black Hawks. The report also indicates that the U.S. could supply CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters for the Afghan Special Mission Wing to fully replace its Mi-17s by the end of 2023, reported Jane’s Defence Weekly. A force of 10 to 15 Chinooks would likely be appropriate, the magazine estimated. The helicopters might be in the MH-47 configuration given the wing’s counterterrorism mission.

Syria—Regime Forces Capture Strategic Idlib Town Syrian Observatory for Human Rights | 01/29/2020 The Syrian military has gained control of the strategic city of Maarat Numan in the northwest Idlib province, reports the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (U.K.). An army spokesman announced the development on Wednesday, reported Al Jazeera (Qatar). Fighting continued along front lines in Khan Tuman, Al-Sahafiyeen and Ikyhar Al-Bazzar. An opposition fighter told Middle East Eye (London) that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the umbrella group dominated by fighters from Al-Qaida's former Syria affiliate, did not commit significant resources to defending the city. At least 147 government troops and their allies and 151 opposition fighters have been killed since the Syrian army launched a campaign to retake rebel-held cities in southern Idlib province and the surrounding areas on Jan. 24, the observatory said. On Tuesday, Turkey constructed a new observation post south of Saraqeb, a town that the Syrian government is also seeking to control. The Turkish Defense Ministry said it would retaliate if any of its military posts in Idlib were threatened by the Syrian offensive, reported the Guardian (U.K.).

Libya—GNA Shoots Down Emirati Drone East Of Misrata Anadolu News Agency | 01/29/2020 Forces backing Libya's U.N.-backed government say that they have shot down an Emirati drone outside of the city of Misrata, reports Turkey's Anadolu Agency. Air defenses downed the air vehicle east of the city, fighters supporting the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli said in a statement. Markings on the drone indicated that it belonged to the United Arab Emirates, reported Reuters. Experts said it was a Chinese-made Wing Loong, which the U.A.E. is known to have supplied to GNA rival Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army, an umbrella of armed groups that supports the Tobruk-based government. The shootdown suggests that Turkish support has improved the GNA's air defense capabilities. U.N. experts have noted that more Turkish-operated drones have been shot down than those flown by Emiratis. A cease-fire has been in place since Jan. 12 but repeatedly violated.

Africa—China, Russia Step Up Efforts To Strengthen Influence In Africa New York Times | 01/29/2020 U.S. officials have expressed concern that China and Russia are expanding their efforts to build influence in Africa, reports the New York Times. Among these efforts are several proposed military facilities, including the possible construction of a Chinese port in Senegal, a U.S. military source told the newspaper. The project is framed as assistance to the Senegalese navy, the official said. Beijing already operates a base out of a major port in Djibouti. Russian officials are considering building of a facility at the port of Berbera in Somaliland, a self-declared state north of Somalia, according to sources from the Defense Dept. Moscow may also have plans to construct a naval logistics facility in Eritrea. Russia has also been deploying private military contractors on the continent, including in Libya, where they fight for eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, and in Mozambique, where they are battling militants who claim to be affiliated with ISIS. The U.S. is currently conducting a posture review that some reports suggest could include withdrawals from Africa. Critics argue such a drawdown would only help China and Russia.

Sudan—11,000 Flee To Chad Amid Political Violence U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees | 01/29/2020 Renewed violence in western Sudan has forced an estimated 11,000 people to flee into neighboring Chad, reports the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Fighting between Arab and African ethnic groups in the Darfur region have been on the rise since December, said a UNHCR spokesman. Food and water are needed and a lack of adequate housing could lead to humanitarian problems, he said, as cited by the Voice of America News. The number of displaced people could reach 30,000 if violence continues, the spokesman warned.

Colombia—U.S. Troops Join Air-Drop Exercise City Paper | 01/29/2020 Colombian and U.S. military personnel have just completed a joint air-drop exercise near Tolemaida Air Base in central Colombia, reports the City Paper (Bogota). On Sunday, approximately 150 Colombian and U.S. paratroopers jumped from U.S. and Colombian transports into the base in the Tolima department as part of the Multinational Strategic Exercise 2020, reported the Army Times. The base hosts the Colombian National Training Center. Around 75 personnel each from the Colombian army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion and the U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, and Divisional Artillery Brigade participated in the drills. Another 40 troops from U.S. Army South also took part. Personnel conducted high-altitude low-opening (HALO) and static-line jumps, according to video of the drills posted by the Voice of America News. Jumps were conducted from two U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules and a Colombian air force C-295 aircraft. After landing, the personnel conducted tactical exercises simulating the securing of an airfield. Three Colombian UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters then extracted the troops.

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