Click on the photos for an alternative American TV version
The Syrian civil war is producing a multitude of remotely-operated, custom-made killing machines — sniper rifles and machine guns which a shooter can trigger remotely with the push of a button.
Remotely-operated guns are common in militaries around the world. The United States has thousands of them mounted on tanks and other armored vehicles. The U.S. Marine Corps is testing a smaller machine-gun robot called MAARS, and other gun-bots have appeared in South Korea, Israel and Russia.
But their adoption by rebel groups is an innovation arising from an intermingling of war, cheap personal computers and cameras. The devices typically use cables to hook up the guns to control stations. Aside from the gun, a complete setup only costs a few hundred bucks worth of off-the-shelf components and some technical skills.
After that, it’s just a matter of swiveling the now-teleoperated gun with a joystick, gamepad or a keyboard and triggering the firing mechanism…
While the weapons are hardly new to the Syrian battlefield, an August report published by the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office listed 20 distinct teleoperated weapons spotted in Iraq and Syria which can be traced to specific armed factions.
The consequences extend beyond the battlefield, as it’s usually only a matter of time before weapons of war filter back to the civilian world.
…It’s hard to see insurgents matching the scale by which states can deploy teleoperated guns. The weapons in Syria and Iraq are custom made, not mass produced. And armies have a lot more money to spend on research and development.
Still, that insurgents are nonetheless crafting their own versions is something the U.S. military should worry about as an emerging matter of fact in modern warfare.
I imagine there are stores retailing drones which can be adapted for geek death squads in just about every country in the world. Add that to the mix.
❝With Washington set to send billions of dollars in fresh aid to Afghanistan despite the military drawdown, the U.S. official in charge of auditing assistance programs says “it’s not too late” to address the fraud and mismanagement that has bedeviled the 14-year effort to rebuild the country.
The military intervention launched after the Sept. 11 attacks has cost the United States $1 trillion, including some $110 billion in aid aimed at rebuilding one of the poorest, most violent and most corrupt countries on earth. To this day Afghanistan relies on foreign aid as it battles an increasingly potent Taliban insurgency.
But John Sopko, who has spent more than three years probing U.S.-funded projects as the special investigator general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said the U.S. government is partly to blame for the misused funds.
❝“What I’m identifying are not just Afghan or Afghan-related problems, they are problems with the way the United States government operates,” he said.
He said the Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development suffer from corruption as well as poor planning, oversight and accountability. He said they often fail to coordinate with one another or measure programs’ effectiveness…
❝Since it was created in 2008, SIGAR has identified more than $1 billion in potential savings to U.S. taxpayers and published hundreds of reports, including 50 audits of reconstruction projects.
“The money that’s been wasted has been wasted,” Sopko said. “But we have still got $10 billion that has been authorized, appropriated but not yet spent. And we’re probably going to put in $6 billion to $10 billion a year, for years to come — because if we don’t, the Afghan government will collapse.”…
❝Sopko said it’s time to “hit the reset button and take a look at what worked and what didn’t work.”
❝The biggest failure of the reconstruction effort, he said, was the outlay of nearly $8 billion since 2001 to eradicate poppies, the main ingredient in heroin and Afghanistan’s chief export. The crop is worth some $3 billion a year and is a key source of income for the Taliban…
SIGAR found last year that the U.S. had spent $7.6 billion on counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan since 2001. Opium production has dropped by 50 percent this year, not because of eradication efforts, but because of drought, pests and other environmental factors, Sopko said.
“Any metrics you give — price, purity, addiction rates, production — the only improvements we have seen have been caused by Mother Nature,” he said.
BTW, Lindsay Graham and John McCain, two of our most backwards Republican warhawks have just proposed that everything we did in Afghanistan and Iraq – should now be done in Syria. Starting with sending in 20,000 American soldiers.
These stupid little minds who bear a significant portion of responsibility for helping an ignoranus like George W. Bush get us into this mess – would perpetuate the same bureaucratic farce, the same incompetence that eight years of Obama hasn’t turned around – all in the name of protecting the United States.
The nation where self-proclaimed good Christians with guns have killed more people than any foreign terrorist cabal.
Click to enlarge — James Nachtwey/TIME
A police officer screams at refugees as they attempt to board a train in Tovarnik, Croatia, Sept. 17, 2015…
From Nachtway’s photo essay, The Journey of Hope.
Is this part of their training?
Only four or five Syrian individuals trained by the United States military to confront the Islamic State remain in the fight, the head of the United States Central Command told a Senate panel on Wednesday, a bleak acknowledgment that the Defense Department’s $500 million program to raise an army of Syrian fighters has gone nowhere.
Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the top American commander in the Middle East, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States would not reach its goal of training 5,000 Syrian fighters anytime soon.
His comments came during a testy hearing in which a succession of senators from both parties criticized the American-led effort in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State, the Sunni militancy also known as ISIS or ISIL…
In May, the Defense Department began its training program for up to 5,400 fighters a year, in what White House officials described as a necessary component of President Obama’s strategy to use local troops on the ground against the Islamic State, combined with American air power.
…General Austin told the Senate committee that many fighters in the first class of 54 graduates of the training program for Syrians were attacked in July by an offshoot of Al Qaeda, the Nusra Front, and either fled or were killed…
He acknowledged that the program was behind schedule, and said that the military was reviewing it. Asked how many fighters were still in Syria, General Austin said that “it’s a small number.” He added, “We’re talking four or five.”…
“So we’re counting on our fingers and toes at this point when we had envisioned 5,400 by the end of the year,” Senator Claire McCaskill said.
Actually, we only need the fingers on one hand – or the toes on one foot.
$500 million for 4 or 5 fighters still in the game. Tell you what, Mr. President. I’ll need more than my social security check. Give me $100 million and I’ll go over and fight as an American civilian senior citizen.
Airfare, new military duds, snazzy firepower – I’d really like one of those $5000 sniper rifles – enough to hire a couple gangbangers to cover my butt.. I could get into action for less than $100K. I’d leave the rest of the money behind to fund education for school kids here in New Mexico. I’d fight for them.
Thanks, Ian Bremmer
Click to enlarge — The body of Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach
This is an image that must not be forgotten. Like the image of a young VietNamese girl fleeing the napalm that burned her body, like the image of an infant alone in the rubble of Nanjing, terrible moments in an uncaring world are critical to history.
I apologize if I have offended anyone.
Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, has been forced to defend his government’s record on refugees after it emerged that a Syrian boy whose body washed ashore in Turkey this week had family in Canada.
Shocking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s s body lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum captured the world’s attention and appeared on the front pages of newspapers worldwide.
His older brother Galip, five, and mother also died while trying to reach Europe.
Reports that Canada had rejected an asylum application by members of the boy’s family quickly made the tragedy a major issue in the country’s federal election campaign and forced the Conservative leader to change his schedule to address the controversy.
In a tearful news conference in British Columbia on Thursday, Aylan’s aunt, Tima Kurdi, described their father Abdullah’s desperate struggle to keep his young sons from drowning after their boat capsized.
Seeing Aylan was no longer alive “he closed his eyes and let him go”, she said, sobbing. “They didn’t deserve to die. They wanted a better life.”
Contrary to earlier reports, Tima, who has been in Canada for 20 years, said she had not sponsored Abdullah and his family as refugee claimants but instead had tried to bring in another brother, Mohammed, and his children.
She said he is currently in Germany after his bid was rejected…
At a campaign stop, Harper…addressed the Kurdi family’s tragedy, calling it blah, blah, blah…
According to the department of citizenship and immigration, Canada has resettled a total 2,374 Syrian refugees, the majority of them through private sponsorship.
The Conservative Canadian government hasn’t done enough. Which is what most thoughtful human beings expected.
Our own government, between a White House consumed with election tactics and a Congress ruled by bigots and white nativists only concerned with turning the clock back to the 18th or 19th Century, will only offer solutions profitable to our own arms industry. Every question must be answered with a gun. Every problem can be solved with a bomb.