Tag Archives: Chuck Hagel

U.S. to close 15 military bases in Europe, as Russia’s presence grows

U.S. European CommandClick map to enlarge

Adam Kredo reports for The Washington Free Beacon, Jan. 9, 2015, that the U.S. military is set to shutter 15 sites across Europe and reduce the number of active personnel stationed in these areas as the result of a wide-ranging restructuring that aims to consolidate some operations on the continent, according to Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

The European restructuring is the culmination of a two-year consolidation plan known as the European Infrastructure Consolidation (EIC) that is reminiscent of a previous decade-long realignment following the Cold War.

The following changes will take effect in the coming years:

  • 15 sites in all will be returned by the United States to their host nations.
  • “Approximately 1,200 U.S. military and civilian support positions will be eliminated, and about 6,000 more U.S. personnel will be relocated within Europe,” said John Conger, the acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations, and environment who manages the EIC plan.
  • The largest force withdrawal will take place across three UK-based bases, resulting in the removal of 2,000 military personnel from the UK. The most major divestment will be made at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Mildenhall base, which is being shut down. In turn, two squadrons of F-35 Lighting II joint strike fighter jets will move to the RAF Lakenheath facility in 2020. About 3,200 U.S. personnel will relocate from RAF Mildenhall, and that will be offset by the addition of about 1,200 people who will be permanently assigned to the two F-35 squadrons slated to open at RAF Lakenheath.
  • Germany, Italy, and Portugal also will be most impacted by the restructure. “Several hundred” U.S. military personnel will be moved to Germany in the coming years, while another 200 will go to Italy. Around 500 military personnel will be removed from the Azores Islands, a move that has sparked protest in Portugal.
  • Up to 1,100 host-nation positions could also be eliminated and approximately 1,500 additional Europeans working for the U.S. could end up being impacted over the next several years, as many of their positions are relocated to other areas that the U.S. needs to maintain for the long term.

This latest realignment follows a series of significant reductions in Europe that have greatly reduced the U.S. military presence there. The Pentagon hopes to save around $500 million annually as a result of the wide-ranging restructure, which comes as the U.S. military battles against widespread budgetary cuts and growing international challenges across Europe and the Middle East.

Defense Department officials insist that the withdrawal and consolidation will not impact U.S. readiness or its ability to bolster allies in the region. Chollet said, “We are consolidating and reducing some existing support infrastructure in order to be more efficient, but we are not affecting our operational capabilities. The EIC adjustments do not diminish our ability to meet our commitments to allies and partners.”

While Pentagon officials have defended the realignment as necessary to cut costs, some critics say that the restructure may send a message of weakness at a time when nations such as Russia are increasing their rogue behaviors. Insiders on Capitol Hill familiar with the shifts warned that the move is likely to embolden rogue leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is counting on the U.S. military to continue its retreat from the region.

A congressional staffer apprised of the changes said the restructure “sends a terrible message to NATO and Putin at a critical time. Further, in a time when readiness is in the absolute pits—they are talking about spending $1.5 billion to close bases. Insane. What if we need to ramp up? What if Putin pushes further west? Or into the Baltics? What if we have to return forces to Europe?”

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel argued that the reductions and movements would make the United States more nimble in the region, saying “In the end, this transformation of our infrastructure will help maximize our military capabilities in Europe and help strengthen our important European partnerships so that we can best support our NATO allies and partners in the region.”

Mackenzie Eaglen, a former Pentagon official and defense expert at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said that the savings being touted by the Pentagon may not actually be reinvested in other theaters: “On paper, the transfer of non-essential property back to host nations in order to free up funds for combat power and missions is usually smart. However, combatant commanders don’t own those funds and therefore the money will not automatically be returned to them for reinvestment elsewhere in theater. Any savings [European Command] reaps will go back to the black hole [Operations and Maintenance] account and be reassigned to another priority altogether and the European commanders will have no say in that regard.”

Furthermore, there is also the risk that continued cuts will begin to impact readiness as potentially key logistics positions are eliminated. Eaglen said, “Those on the front lines still left in Europe—like pilots—still need maintainers, engineers, and myriad other logistics support staff to keep them and their aircraft flying every day. While it’s possible these positions are truly non-essential, Congress and the Pentagon have cut U.S. force structure much too deeply in Europe in their zeal to pivot elsewhere, save money, and stall a needed domestic base closure round.”

With a retreating U.S. military, no wonder Hungary wants no part of NATO’s new Cold War against Russia.

See also:

~StMA

Obama’s ISIL strategy reexamined: air strikes ineffective; weak coalition

One month 4 days after President Obama’s grand announcement of a U.S.-led coalition to combat ISIL/ISIS or Islamic State (IS) “terrorists” (Obama says they’re neither Islamic nor jihadist!), as predicted by analysts, including members of this Consortium (their comments below are colored green), the “counterterrorism” strategy is failing.

Air Strikes

“Every analyst recognizes that attacks from the air may degrade (to a certain extent) the enemy, but not destroy him.” –A. James Gregor

“Well, airstrikes usually don’t amount to much. In the classic reason: You fly in and drop bombs, your aircraft run low on fuel and leave, and the locals declare victory and display pieces of a plane they shot down there because they’re still alive and in charge. Unless some key thing of the enemy’s got specifically attacked and destroyed in the raid, it doesn’t accomplish much….  Unless we concentrate force from the air upon ISIS in order to get them to do something particular (unlikely, since we’d have to kill a lot of them and in a manner not rewarded in the afterlife to reduce their will to fight) somebody will have to go in there and make them stop. Probably our guys, too.” –Anonymous

“Air strikes are useful, indeed essential, but they are only the first step in attacking ISIL…. Air strikes can disrupt communications, slow down movement, destroy supplies and logistical support assets and blunt enemy attacks. They will make the enemy slower to react, weaker at the attack point and less flexible in operations. All of these are desirable, but they cannot retake lost ground or destroy the will of the enemy. Only ground troops can do that.” –rthurs

Islamic State advancesClick map to enlarge

From the Wall Street Journal, Oct. 12 ,2014:

Islamic State militants have gained territory in Iraq and Syria despite weeks of bombing by the U.S. and its allies, raising questions about the coalition’s strategy of trying to blunt the jihadists’ advance while local forces are being trained to meet the threat on the ground.

In Syria, fighters from Islamic State, also known as ISIS, have taken large sections of the city of Kobani in recent days, said Ismet Sheikh Hasan, the defense minister of the city’s Kurdish administration. “Most of the eastern and southern parts of the city have fallen under the ISIS control,” he said. “The situation is getting worse.

This comes despite a week of heavy airstrikes around the city to help local Syrian Kurdish fighters keep Islamic State forces from the city center.

In Iraq, militant forces operating in a swath of territory the size of California have extended their control of the roads and commercial routes in strategically vital Anbar Province, which connects the capital Baghdad to Jordan and Syria.

Anbar, which has critical infrastructure and whose eastern edge lies only about 25 miles from Baghdad’s center, is also in danger of falling wholly under Islamic State control despite weeks of U.S. strikes aimed at weakening the group, local officials say. […]

Neither of the allied forces the U.S. had been counting on for help in the near term—the Iraqi army in the south or Turkish forces in the north—have been of much help, officials say. Iraq’s army has often proven unable to stop Islamic State forces, and Turkey hasn’t engaged in the fight despite its professed desire to halt the jihadists.

Which brings us to . . . .

A Coalition of the Unwilling

“In effect, there is no ‘broad coalition’ anywhere ready to support the ‘new’ strategy….” –A. James Gregor

“Turkey has a formidable army and can be decisive in Syria, but it lacks the political will to do so. Arab countries have some good troops, but lack the logistical base to project power into Syria and Iraq. And most of them are Sunni-dominated and are reluctant to fight other Sunnis.” –rthurs

“It is evident why most of the Arab nations make only modest and hesitant contribution to the “coalition against the network of death.” They have no assurance that the United States will stay the course…. The coalition cobbled together by the President is composed of participants (apparently now including Britain and France) prepared to lend a few aircraft to the bombing missions intended to ‘degrade’ ISIL forces, but there is no rush to supply ground troops essential to the ultimate defeat of the ‘radicals.’ ” –A. James Gregor

Immediately after Obama’s ISIL speech, Arab countries allied with the United States issued a joint communiqué supporting the U.S. strategy and vowed to “do their share” to fight the IS.

That was all lip service.

A day after Obama’s ISIL speech, Mark Sappenfield reported for the Christian Science Monitor that the speech “has been met with only slightly more than a shrug” among Arab countries — not so much because they are ambivalent about IS, but because “intersecting allegiances and strategic aims mean some Arab countries feel they must tread cautiously.”

Turkey: As a neighbor of both Syria and Iraq, Turkey would seem to have the greatest interest in stemming the influence of the Islamic State. But doing so might endanger Turkish national unity by empowering the Kurds, who are angling for an independent state of their own.

Other Arab states: Similar concerns weigh against strong support for the US in Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Defeating the Islamic State could give Iran, the region’s leading Shiite power — more scope to exert its authority.

Syria: Ironically, the Arab government most eager to join a coalition against IS was that of Syria, which Obama had already ruled out as a partner for what he described as terrorizing its citizens. (See Pulitzer-award journalist says Obama admin made up intelligence for war on Syria.) When the country most eager to help you is the one you have sworn to overthrow, that is not a good sign.

Gopal Ratnam and John Hudson write in Foreign Policy, Oct. 13, 2014:

Obama administration insists that it has a large and growing coalition of nations arrayed to fight the Islamic State . . . [but] the alliance may be far less robust than Washington says.

The latest row concerns the key question of whether Turkey, which hosts a sprawling American air base, will let U.S. warcraft fly from it into Iraq and Syria to batter the militant group. U.S. officials said Sunday that Ankara had given the green light. Less than a day later, Turkish officials categorically denied that they’d agreed to allow their bases to be used against the terror group.

[…] Incirlik Air Base, located about 50 kilometers inland from the Mediterranean Sea in southern Turkey, is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing and about 1,500 American military personnel and is key to protecting NATO’s southern flank.

[…] Washington may be consistently misreading its partners and overestimating just how committed they are to the fight. [,,,]Ankara wasn’t the only capital to experience a fit of stage fright after its potential involvement in the anti-ISIS coalition went public.

In September, when Foreign Policy reported details of a secret offer by the nation of Georgia to host a training camp for anti-ISIS fighters, the story prompted a strong public backlash in Tbilisi due to security concerns for the tiny Caucasian nation of 4.5 million. Within 24 hours, Georgian officials denied having made any such offer.

“I categorically rule out any military participation or training base in Georgia,” Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said.

Last month, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said his government opposed terrorism, but expressed annoyance that his country was included in the U.S. government’s official list of anti-ISIS partners without being informed.

[…] Administration officials have said that at least 60 countries are part of the anti-ISIS coalition, but the vast majority aren’t contributing militarily.

In other cases, the United States has boasted about allied commitments of ground troops to fight ISIS, but the offers never materialized.

“We have countries in this region, countries outside of this region, in addition to the United States, all of whom are prepared to engage in military assistance,” Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS last month. He insisted that the United States would not send ground forces but that other countries “have offered to do so.” However, none of the Arab coalition partners, the nations most likely to provide ground troops, have yet to make such commitments in public. (In September, the Times of London reported that Jordan offered to send its Western-trained special forces to combat ISIS in Syria, but the Arab monarchy has yet to confirm the offer.)

The United States has also struggled to explain its relationship with another key player, Iran. The majority-Shiite country has a vested interest in eradicating ISIS from the region but Washington insists it is not coordinating directly with Tehran, though some discussions on the topic have clearly taken place.

“We’re not in coordination or direct consultation with the Iranians about any aspects of the fight against ISIL,” White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice said on Meet the Press on Sunday, using another name for the militant group. When pressed, she noted that “we’ve had some informal consultations” with Iran about regional issues on the sidelines of the ongoing nuclear negotiations in Vienna, but did not elaborate. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, by contrast, said Sunday that the two countries had exchanged messages regarding the fight against ISIS. Outside of Syria, hundreds of Iranian troops have crossed into Iraq to fight against ISIS forces.

[…] During his visit to Colombia on Oct. 10, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that the United States would like to get access to Incirlik as a base from which to launch strikes against Islamic militants, according to the Associated Press.

[…] Turkey wants the United States to get involved but differs on the goals…. Turkey wants the coalition to focus on removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while President Barack Obama wants to keep the focus on the Islamic State and preventing the fall of Baghdad….

[…] The Obama administration’s criteria about what it takes to be considered a member of the anti-ISIS coalition requires little effort on the part of coalition members.

Kerry and Hagel have listed five lines of effort against the terror group: providing military support to the coalition; impeding the flow of foreign fighters; stopping the group’s financing; addressing the humanitarian crisis in the region; and exposing ISIS’s “true nature.”

Given the limited effort it takes to release a statement in opposition to the terror group’s ideology, which technically would merit inclusion in the coalition, it’s little wonder that the United States was able to boast a list of 60 nations. Still, such rosters do little to indicate the depth of commitment any one nation may be offering. Slovakia, for instance, said it won’t send soldiers to the effort, but that it would contribute $25,000 to the International Organization for Migration in northern Iraq — not exactly a game-changing move, but sufficient to merit inclusion on the list.

See also:

~StMA

Independent panel calls Obama’s downsizing of military “dangerous”

Obama Doctrine

Rowan Scarborough reports for The Washington Times that on July 30, 2014, an independent panel appointed by the Pentagon and Congress said Obama’s plan to downsize the armed services is too weak for today’s global threats.

The National Defense Panel called on Obama to dump a major section of his 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and write a broader strategy that requires the military to fight on multiple fronts at once.

It also said the downsizing of U.S. armed forces to fit strategy and budget cuts is a “serious strategic misstep on the part of the United States.” The forces’ numbers spelled out in the 2014 QDR are “inadequate given the future strategic and operational environment.”

Congress authorized the panel of outside experts to review the QDR, a strategy for shaping the active and reserve force. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel appointed the panel’s two co-chairmen:

  • Former Defense Secretary William Perry, who served under President Bill Clinton.
  • Retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, who ran U.S. Central Command during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

The panel also included national security experts who were in the Pentagon when some of the Obama administration budget decisions were being made, including retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright, former Joint Chiefs vice chairman, and Michele Flournoy, who served as under secretary of defense for policy until 2012.

The panel’s report said the past several years of budget cuts and mandated reduction in personnel and weapons have stirred deep unease among allies who would count on the U.S. in a crisis: “Not only have they caused significant investment shortfalls in U.S. military readiness and both present and future capabilities, they have prompted our current and potential allies and adversaries to question our commitment and resolve. Unless reversed, these shortfalls will lead to a high-risk force in the near future. That in turn will lead to an America that is not only less secure but also far less prosperous. In this sense, these cuts are ultimately self-defeating.”

The report calls the defense cuts “dangerous” as “global threats and challenges are rising,” and points to China’s and Russia’s new territorial claims, nuclear proliferation by Iran and North Korea and al Qaeda’s rapid rise in Iraq.

The panel also criticizes Obama’s QDR for reducing the military’s global mission from being able to defeat two enemies nearly simultaneously to defeating one and denying the objectives of a second. The report says the international security environment has deteriorated since the release of the 2014 QDR earlier this year. “In the current threat environment, America could plausibly be called upon to deter or fight in any number of regions in overlapping time frames.

On the two-war requirement, the panel said: “We find the logic of the two-war construct to be as powerful as ever and note that the force sizing construct in the 2014 QDR strives to stay within the two-war tradition while using different language. But given the worsening threat environment, we believe a more expansive force sizing construct — one that is different from the two-war construct but no less strong — is appropriate.”

It proposes a new overriding strategy of taking on and stopping adversaries in multiple theaters of war.

The panel also maintains both the Navy and the Air Force are too small. Cuts in the number of Army soldiers “go too far,” while “The Air Force now fields the smallest and oldest force of combat aircraft in its history yet needs a global surveillance and strike force able to rapidly deploy to theaters of operation to deter, defeat or punish multiple aggressors simultaneously.”

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) said the independent review shows the QDR is more concerned with justifying budget cuts than meeting global security needs: “It is the same conclusion many Americans have already reached. There is a cost when America does not lead, and there are consequences when America disengages. What the president fails to understand — which the report points out — is that a strong military underwrites all other tools our nation has for global influence.”

Click here for the PDF of the Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review 2014.

See also:

~StMA

Non-pilot to be new commander of US Air Force in Pacific

Instead of achievement or performance criteria, the U. S. military under Obama is making personnel decisions based on political criteria of “diversity.”

The latest case in point:

Although all previous Air Force combatant commanders in active large theaters of operation — the Pacific, Europe and Central Command — have been combat pilots, for the first time a non-career pilot has been nominated to be Commander of the U. S. Air Force in the Pacific.

She is Lt. Gen. Lori J. Robinson who, although she’s had more than 900 flight hours, is not a career or combat pilot.

Lt. Gen. Lori RobinsonLt. Gen. Lori J. Robinson

Rowan Scarborough reports for The Washington Times, July 17, 2014:

The White House has picked the first female general to head the Air Force in the Pacific, which will make her the first non-pilot to command air power in such a large theater of operation.

The Pentagon announced this week that Air Force Lt. Gen. Lori J. Robinson has been nominated for promotion to four-star general and as commander of Pacific Air Forces, the Air Force component of U.S. Pacific Command. It is a major combatant command whose air, ground and naval forces have broad responsibility for security in the Asia-Pacific region. Her nomination was sent to the Senate for confirmation.

Officials said pilots historically have commanded Air Force war-fighting components for the Pacific and for U.S. Air Forces Europe; Air Forces Central, which covers the Middle East and Afghanistan; and the 1st Air Force, which is part of Northern Command and protects U.S. skies.

Gen. Robinson is not a career pilot. Her military profession is air battle manager. She has served aboard the Air Force’s surveillance aircraft, the E-3 AWACs and E-8 JSTARS, and she was nominated for a promotion amid a drive for more diversity in the Pentagon.

A retired pilot said there is a reason the Air Force historically has put a pilot in charge of large combatant command Air Forces.

“It is because you make operational decisions that require the understanding of what you are going to ask pilots to execute in combat where the wrong decisions mean the difference between life and death,” the retired pilot said. “Now her vice commander and director of operations will be rated fighter pilots, but still she makes the decisions.”

Rose Richeson, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said, “The Air Force operates across three domains: air, space and cyberspace and provides capability and capacity in five core mission areas: Air and Space Superiority, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Rapid Global Mobility, Global Strike and Command and Control. Lt. Gen. Robinson has demonstrated knowledge and experience across the entire spectrum of these mission areas as well as recent operational application supporting coalition activities for United States Central Command.”

Gen. Robinson is now vice commander of Air Force Air Combat Command, which oversees the service’s fleet of bombers and fighters, and maintains readiness.

In the Pacific, she is replacing Gen. Herbert Carlisle, a career F-15 pilot who is assuming leadership of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

An Air Combat Command spokesman said career air battle managers, such as Gen. Robinson, “principally provide command and control in the battle space and aid combat aircraft in finding, identifying and engaging their targets. They provide pilots with a tactical picture, which increases their capability by enhancing situational awareness. ABMs also provide early warning for inbound enemy aircraft and direct friendly assets to intercept them.”

The Air Combat Command history office and Air Force representatives said all previous Air Force combatant commanders in active large theaters of operation — the Pacific, Europe and Central Command — have been combat pilots.

However, Gen. Robinson would not be the first female officer to command an Air Force component. From 2010 to 2012, Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, a career transport pilot, commanded the 17th Air Force, which was then the Air Force component for Africa Command. She led the air campaign against Libya in 2011. The 17th was disbanded in 2012. Today, a career F-15 pilot commands Air Forces Europe and Africa.

A career navigator heads U.S. Special Operations Command Air Forces. That component operates AC-130 gunships, drones, transports and other aircraft, but does not conduct air campaigns.

Gen. Robinson was nominated amid a diversity push by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and a general focus on women’s issues by the White House. Mr. Hagel has vowed to stamp out sexual assaults in the military and said he is open to studying whether transgender people are permitted to serve.

The military also is preparing to put women in direct land combat units. 

The Navy promoted its first woman this month to four-star rank: Adm. Michelle J. Howard, a surface warship commander, to vice chief of naval operations, the Navy’s second-ranking officer. The Air Force promoted its first woman to four-star rank in 2012, when Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger took over Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The Army’s first female four-star general, Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody, has retired.

To observers, the twin moves to promote a woman to vice chief of naval operations and to place a woman in charge of a major combatant command Air Force means that female officers are destined to be elevated to the six-member Joint Chiefs of Staff, which comprises the four service chiefs, a chairman and a vice chairman.

Women make up 14.5 percent of the active force but only a small percentage of combat pilots, 21 years after the Pentagon lifted the ban on women in those jobs. Of 3,714 Air Force fighter and bomber pilots last year, 85 — or about 2 percent — were women at the rank of lieutenant colonel and below.

See also:

~StMA

Obama ignored advice of military & CIA against Bergdahl prisoner swap

The Obama administration’s release of five senior Taliban terrorists from Guantanoma Bay in exchange for the Taliban’s freeing of U.S. Army deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl not only is in violation of a federal law (Sec. 1035 of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act), the prisoner swap also went against explicit advice of senior U.S. military and intelligence leaders.

Bergdahl prisoner swap

FOX News reports, June 6, 2014:

Senior military officials had advised President Obama not to make the Taliban-for-Bergdahl trade, a senior Defense official told Fox News, likening it to “handing over five four-star generals of the Taliban.”

The claim adds to the picture that is emerging about the tense internal debate over whether to proceed with freeing five hardened Taliban leaders from Guantanamo in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release.

Sources told Fox News earlier this week that the Obama administration largely bypassed the intelligence community to green-light the swap, after such an exchange was first floated several years ago.

The Defense official, in explaining internal military opposition to the exchange, said many in the military considered Bergdahl to be a traitor — a reference to allegations that he deliberately abandoned his post in 2009.

Yet on the other end of the trade were five high-value, sought-after Taliban leaders. The U.S. government’s own records show some of them had ties to top terror figures including Mullah Omar and Usama bin Laden. […]

According to secret documents prepared on the basis of a purported eyewitness account and obtained by Fox News, Bergdahl at one point during his captivity converted to Islam, fraternized openly with his captors and declared himself a “mujahid,” or warrior for Islam. […]

The reports indicate that Bergdahl’s relations with his Haqqani captors morphed over time, from periods of hostility, where he was treated very much like a hostage, to periods where, as one source told Fox News, “he became much more of an accepted fellow” than is popularly understood. He even reportedly was allowed to carry a gun at times. […]

Amid concerns that the Bergdahl trade has created huge security risks, President Obama said earlier this week that the U.S. would be “keeping eyes” on the Taliban members while they spend the next year in Qatar.  At the same time, he acknowledged there’s “absolutely” a risk that the former Guantanamo inmates will try to return to the battlefield. 

Some of them reportedly already have made that vow. NBC reported Friday that Noorullah Noori, one of the freed prisoners, pledged to return and fight Americans in Afghanistan, according to a Taliban commander. 

Worse still, the Obama administration may have paid a ransom for the release of Bergdahl.

Fox News reports that the U.S. paying a cash ransom for Bergdahl was under discussion as recently as December of last year. But according to the Washington Free Beacon, a senior US intelligence official with extensive experience dealing with Bergdahl’s captors, the Haqqanis, believes that cash changed hands as part of the deal.

He said, “The Haqqanis could give a rat’s ass about prisoners. The people that are holding Bergdahl want[ed] cash and someone paid it to them.” A number of news reports on the prisoner exchange mistakenly have used “Haqqani” and “Taliban” interchangeably. The Obama administration might not have paid ransom to the Taliban, but most likely had paid cash to the Haqqanis. The intelligence official explains: Haqqani “benefits zero from the prisoner exchange. … Based on 10 years of working with those guys, the only thing that would make them move Bergdahl is money. We just funded them for the next 10 years is my guess.”

H/t Gateway Pundit and Townhall.

~StMA

The law that Obama violated in releasing 5 terrorists from Gitmo in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl

Note: This post has been significantly revised and updated on June 9, 2014.

kingOn Jan. 15, 2014, Obama told Senate Democrats that when Congress stands in his way, “I’ll act with or without Congress.” (AP)

On June 30, 2009, U.S. Army Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl of the 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, went missing from a remote military outpost in Paktika Province on Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.

He was captured by the Taliban and imprisoned for 5 years — the only U.S. prisoner of war in the Afghan war.

On May 31, 2014, without consulting Congress as required by federal law, in exchange for Bergdahl, the Obama administration released five prisoners from the U.S. detention camp for terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The five men were the most senior Afghans held at Gitmo: Mohammad Fazl, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, and Abdul Haq Wasiq. They were released to Qatar, where they received a hero’s welcome from the Taliban.

House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Buck McKeon of California and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said Obama had “clearly violated laws which require him to notify Congress thirty days before any transfer of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, and to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially mitigated.” (Source: Daily Mail)

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin also said Obama “clearly broke the law. The law says 30-days’ notice. He didn’t give 30-days’ notice.” Obama’s opinion expressed in a signing statement “is not law. The law is on the books, and he didn’t follow it.” (Source: Mediaite)

So which federal law had Obama violated?

Writing in The Washington Times, Florida International University constitutional law professor Elizabeth Price Foley claims that the law is Section 1028 of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which prohibits any funds to be used “to transfer any individual detained at Guantanamo to the custody or control of any other foreign country” unless the secretary of defense certifies to Congress, “not later than 30 days before the transfer.” Sec. 1028 also states that the receiving country will detain the individual appropriately and “has taken or agreed to take such actions as the Secretary of Defense determines are necessary to ensure that the individual cannot engage or re-engage in any terrorist activity.”

But Professor Foley is mistaken. Thanks to alert CODA reader Rich Fueyo, the law in question is actually Section 1035 of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) or H.R. 3304 (read it in PDF here), which was signed into law by Obama on Dec. 26, 2013.

Specifically, Obama’s prisoner swap violated the following:

1. 2014 NDAA, Sec. 1035(a)(1): “The Secretary of Defense is authorized to transfer or release any individual detained at Guantanamo…if the Secretary determines…the individual is no longer a threat to the national security of the United States.”

But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel did not determine that Mohammad Fazl, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Mullah Norullah Noori, Mohammed Nabi, and Abdul Haq Wasiq are “no longer a threat to the national security of the United States.” In fact, Qatar is allowing the five men to freely roam about and expect to return them to Afghanistan in a month.

FOX News reports that while he was in Poland on June 3, 2014, Obama himself acknowledged there’s “absolutely” a risk that the former Guantanamo inmates will try to return to the battlefield.  On June 6, NBC reports that Noorullah Noori, one of the freed prisoners, already pledged to return and fight Americans in Afghanistan.

2. Sec. 1035(b)(1): “Except as provided in subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense may transfer an individual detained at Guantanamo to the custody or control of the individual’s country of origin, or any other foreign country, only if the Secretary determines that actions that have been or are planned to be taken will substantially mitigate the risk of such individual engaging or reengaging in any terrorist or other hostile activity that threatens the United States or United States persons or interests; and (2) the transfer is in the national security interest of the United States.”

But the American people are not told how the release of the five terrorists “is in the national security interest of the United States.” Instead, Hagel said the prisoner exchange was negotiated for humanitarian reasons, “essentially to save his [Bergdahl’s] life.”

3. Sec. 1035(c)(2) states: “the Secretary of Defense shall specifically evaluate and take into consideration the following factors…The security situation in the foreign country to which the individual is to be transferred, including whether or not the country is a state sponsor of terrorism….”

But on March 4, 2014, Treasury undersecretary David Cohen cited Qatar while speaking about state sponsors of terrorism during remarks to the Center for a New American Security. Cohen said, “Iran is not the only state that provides financial support for terrorist organizations. Most notably, Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability. Press reports indicate that the Qatari government is also supporting extremist groups operating in Syria.”

4. Sec. 1035(d): “The Secretary of Defense shall notify the appropriate committees of Congress of a determination of the Secretary under subsection (a) or (b) not later than 30 days before the transfer or release of the individual under such subsection.”

Hagel did not comply with the 30 days requirement.

Professor Foley claims that the Obama administration justifies its noncompliance with the 2013 NDAA in two ways:

  1. It cites Subsection (d) of Section 1028, which permits Congress to be bypassed if transfer out of Gitmo “is in the national security interests of the United States.” However, as explained above with regards to Section 1035 (b)(1) of the 2014 NDAA, the Obama administration has not articulated how, exactly, national security interests demanded the release of these five Taliban leaders.
  2. The Obama administration suggests that Section 1028 is itself unconstitutional. For that matter, when Obama signed the NDAA into law, he issued a statement opposing Section 1028 because he believed it infringed on his power as commander in chief. That being said, it is not up to Obama to decide whether a law is unconstitutional. That is the purview of the Supreme Court. Nor can a President simply ignore a law because he thinks it to be unconstitutional.

The fact of the matter is that while the Constitution does give the president broad power over the military as commander in chief, that power is shared by Congress through various provisions in Article I of the U.S. Constitution, including the power to:

  • “make Rules for the land and naval Forces”;
  • “raise and support Armies”; and
  • “define and punish Offenses against the Law of Nations.”

In 1952, in the case of Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer in which the Supreme Court ruled against President Harry Truman’s seizing of domestic steel mills for the Korean War, Justice Robert Jackson said if a president acts in defiance of Congress, his power “is at its lowest ebb” and courts must scrutinize the president’s claim of power “with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.”

In the case of the Bergdahl prisoner exchange, what has inflamed public opinion goes beyond Obama’s violation of federal law to include:

1. Bowe Bergdahl’s character:

  • He was a deserter: The soldiers who had served with Bergdahl say so, as reported by CNN. He had left behind a note in his tent saying he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life, as reported by the New York Times. An official Pentagon report concluded in 2010 that Bergdahl was a deserter, as reported by the Daily Mail.
  • The Taliban claimed in 2010 that Bergdahl had converted to Islam and was teaching bomb-making to its jihadists. (Source: Jihad Watch)
  • Bergdahl was anti-American and had complained about fellow soldiers, as reported for the Rolling Stone by the late Michael Hastings who died in a suspicious single-car accident on June 18, 2013.
  • According to Fox News (via The Blaze), Bergdahl had written a note expressing a desire to renounce his American citizenship.

2. Bowe Bergdahl’s father, Robert, in a White House appearance with Obama at his side, praised Allah and Islam in Arabic: “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim (In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Compassionate).”

3. At least 7 U.S. soldiers were killed while looking for Bowe Bergdahl (source:  The Daily Beast):

  1. Pfc Aaron Fairbairn
  2. Pfc Justin Casillas
  3. Pfc Morris Walker
  4. Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen
  5. Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss
  6. Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews
  7. Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey

~StMA

Obama: West has no plan to use force in Ukraine

Obama Doctrine

Beginning last November, Ukrainians had protested, demonstrated, and rioted to join the European Union. When the Euromaiden Uprising turned violent, 98 lost their lives and thousands more were injured.

According to Global Research, Infowars, and other sources, the CIA and the EU covertly had supported the Euromaiden Uprising, with the Obama administration spending $20 million a week to fund, arm, and train the protesters.  

On February 28, 2014, Obama urged Russia not to intervene in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. He said, “we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine. Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties — and a military facility in Crimea. But any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing. The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.

Obama’s remarks followed a statement at the U.N. by Ambassador Samantha Power, who called for Russia to stand down and let Ukraine’s citizens determine their own future. Saying that Ukraine’s new government will need help to recover, Power said that the United States “stands with the Ukrainian people.”

A month later, Russia is firmly in control of Crimea where a popular referendum found an overwhelming majority in favor of joining Russia. On March 11, 2014, Crimea’s parliament voted to secede from Ukraine and return to Russia.

The Voice of America reports that on March 25, 2014, speaking at Brussels’ Palais des Beaux Arts after meetings with European Union and NATO officials, Obama said Western powers do not have any plans to try to dislodge Russia from Crimea by force. He believes democracy and the rule of law will triumph in Ukraine, and that over time, if the West remains united, Russia will recognize that it cannot use brute force to achieve its goals.

Obama said that the U.S. and the EU are forming a united front and that consequences for Russia will continue to grow in response to its actions in Ukraine. He said Russia’s energy sector could be the next target of economic sanctions by the United States and the European Union.

Meanwhile, the World Bank said in a report published yesterday that if Moscow’s standoff with the West over Crimea intensifies, the Russian economy could contract 1.8% in 2014 and investors could pull a record $150 billion out of the country.

Obama told reporters in Brussels that NATO needs a regular presence in countries that feel vulnerable to Russia. To that end, NATO would step up its presence in new east European member states bordering on Russia and Ukraine to provide reassurance that the alliance’s mutual defense guarantee would protect them.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Russia has continued to build up military forces along its border with Ukraine, despite assurances it has no intention to invade.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity rating has soared with Crimea’s annexation: a poll published yesterday by the Levada Center, an independent Russian polling agency, found that public support for Putin had risen to 80% during the past week.

I can’t help but wonder how those Euromaiden Ukrainian protesters are feeling today. They should have asked the Syrian “rebels” and the rioters of Egypt’s “Arab Spring.”

~StMA

Obama admin to reduce US military to pre-WWII level

3 days ago, on Feb. 24, 2014, the Obama administration made a bombshell of an announcement.

In a speech outlining the administration’s proposed defense budget, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that after more than a decade of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, US military leaders no longer plan to “conduct long and large stability operations.” It is time to “reset” for a new era (whatever that means), and so the Pentagon plans to scale back the US Army by more than an eighth to its lowest level since before World War II.

What the scaling back will mean:

  • In numbers, that means shrinking American forces by 13%, from 520,000 active duty troops to between 440,000 and 450,000, the lowest manning levels since 1940, before the American military dramatically expanded after entering World War II. The Pentagon had previously planned to downsize the ground force to about 490,000. But Hagel warned that to adapt to future threats “the army must accelerate the pace and increase the scale of its post-war drawdown.”
  • Shrinking the army national guard and reserves by 5%.
  • Reduce the US Navy’s planned fleet of littoral combat ships (LCS) from 52 to 32. LCS is a small vessel designed for coastal waters that faces questions about its reliability. The Navy is required to study developing similar ships with heavier weapons and tougher defenses.

littoral combat ship

  • Massive cuts to the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), the organization that has led the U.S. military’s efforts to combat IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) — a weapon of choice among insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. JIEDDO’s current staff of 3,000 will be reduced to 1,000 by the end of this fiscal year, and further plans could see the number fall as low as 400 down the road.

IED

The proposed military reduction would be carried out by 2017, a senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Under a bipartisan accord adopted in December 2013 to avert automatic spending cuts, the Defense Department will have a $496 billion budget for fiscal year 2015. Other parts of the Obama administration’s proposed defense budget include:

  • While the army will see troop numbers drop, the military’s elite special operations forces will be increased to 69,700 — up from 66,000 currently.
  • Scrapping the Air Force’s entire fleet of A-10 “tank killer” aircraft and retiring the storied U-2 spy plane that dates back to the 1950s.
  • Slowing growth in military pay and benefits — which make up nearly half the Pentagon’s budget — and closing more bases in the United States.

Altogether, Hagel said the reductions would mean a smaller military force that would entail some “added risk” but it would still be able to defeat an adversary in one region while also “supporting” air and naval operations in another.

The Pentagon for years had planned to ensure the army could fight two major wars at the same time but that doctrine has been abandoned. Even under the planned reductions, the US Army will remain one of the largest in the world and the U.S. military’s budget still dwarfs other countries’ defense spending.

The Obama administration’s plan comes amid growing fiscal pressures and after years of protracted counter-insurgency campaigns, which saw the army reach a peak of more than 566,000 troops in 2010. Having withdrawn US forces from Iraq in 2011, Obama has promised to end America’s combat role in Afghanistan by the end of this year.

The proposed cut in manpower along with plans to retire some older aircraft and reform benefits for troops could run into stiff resistance in Congress.

A senior US military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged the political challenge: “We’re going to need some help from our elected representatives to get this budget across the finish line.”

Several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee immediately expressed reservations about the budget proposal. As an example, Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who sits on the committee, said the proposals had the “potential to harm America’s military readiness.”

Lawmakers also have long resisted base closures or any reform of military pay, pensions or other benefits.

Sources: AFP; Weekly Standard; Army News Service.

~StMA

Obama admin. signals U.S. will accept China’s Air Defense Zone

On China’s provocative unilateral declaration of an East China Sea Air Identification Zone (ADIZ), the Obama administration has said/done one thing one day, then another thing another day.

The latest, as of yesterday, December 3, 2013, is that the United States can live with China’s ADIZ so long as China stop insisting that all aircraft, commercial and military, must check with Beijing before flying through the ADIZ.

Expect that the Obama administration’s position on this will change again tomorrow. To quote Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind: “After all, tomorrow is another day!”

CODA commenter 羅針盤 is right: The President of the United States, the most powerful country in the world, is “Chicken Obama.”

The real question is: Since China is now threatening military action against Japan, what will the Obama administration do should war does break out in the East China Sea? Didn’t Biden recently reiterate that the disputed Senkaku (or Diaoyu) Islands are within the territories of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty?

Obama bows to ChinaPhotoshopped image

Dan Lamothe and Yochi Dreazen report for Foreign Policy, Dec. 4, 2013:

Top Obama administration and Pentagon officials signaled a willingness to temporarily accept China’s new, controversial air defense identification zone on Wednesday. Those officials expressed disapproval for the way in which the Asian power has flexed its muscles, and cautioned China not to implement the zone. But they also carved out wiggle room in which the United States and China ultimately could find common ground on the issue, indicating that they may be willing to live with the zone for now — as long as China backs off its demand that all aircraft traveling through it check in first.

“It wasn’t the declaration of the ADIZ that actually was destabilizing,” said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, America’s highest-ranking military officer. “It was their assertion that they would cause all aircraft entering the ADIZ to report regardless of whether they were intending to enter into the sovereign airspace of China. And that is destabilizing.”

That’s a change from just a few days ago, when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden demanded that China take back its declaration of the zone. And it’s another demonstration that China’s recent decisions have forced the United States to tread carefully. On Wednesday, Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing for more than five hours, according to a senior administration official. In brief public remarks midway through the marathon session, Biden didn’t mention the air defense zone at all.

Japan, a vital American ally, has expressed fury over the Chinese move and ordered its commercial airliners not to provide information about their flight paths to the Chinese military. By contrast, the United States made a point of flying a pair of B-52s through it last week, but seems to have accepted that China will keep the zone in place indefinitely. U.S. officials have shifted their focus instead on preventing a potential military clash between Japan and China.

In meetings in Beijing on Wednesday, Biden laid out the U.S. position in detail, reiterating that the United States does not recognize the new zone and has deep concerns about it, a senior administration official said. Biden told Xi that the United States wants China to take steps to lower tensions in the region, avoid enforcement actions that could lead to crisis, and to establish communication with Japan and other countries in the region to avoid altercations, the administration official added. Privately, Biden did not call for the air defense identification zone it to be rolled back — something administration officials had done Monday while Biden was visiting Japan. Instead, the vice president asked the Chinese leader to be careful about how his country operated the zone going forward.

“He indicated to Xi that we are looking to China to take steps as we move forward to lower tensions, to avoid enforcement actions that could lead to crisis, and to establish channels of communication with Japan, but also with their other neighbors to avoid the risk of mistake, miscalculation, accident or escalation,” the official told reporters in Beijing.

Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the United States does not recognize the zone and China “should not implement it.” Administration officials said Biden’s message reflects the White House’s growing concerns that China’s establishment of the air defense identification zone risks sparking a regional crisis. In the long term, the officials said, the United States wants China to eliminate the air defense entirely. With China already patrolling the zone with fighter jets, the officials said the White House was focused on preventing the growing tensions between Japan and China from getting worse. That includes temporary measures like pushing the two countries to establish a hotline designed to ensure that a miscommunication doesn’t lead a clash between the two countries.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, took a measured approach. They said the major issue isn’t the creation of the zone itself, but the way China has handled it and the country’s demand that aircraft entering the zone share their flight plans.

“It’s not that the ADIZ itself is new or unique,” Hagel said. “Our biggest concern is how it was done so unilaterally and so immediately without any consultation, or international consultation. That’s not a wise course of action to take for any country.”

Dempsey expanded on that, saying that the ADIZ the Chinese established isn’t their sovereign airspace, but international airspace adjacent to it. The international norm for such an area, Dempsey said, is for aircraft to check in with the country declaring an ADIZ only if it intends to enter sovereign airspace afterward. Many other countries, including the United States, also have ADIZ areas established.

The remarks open the possibility that if China backs off its demand that all aircraft in the ADIZ share their flight plans, the United States could lighten up on China establishing a zone. That’s unlikely to please Japan, however.

Hagel indirectly addressed that Wednesday. Despite calling China’s rollout of the air-defense zone unwise, he also stressed the United States’ growing relationship with the Chinese military. He advocated for the preservation of security and free shipping lanes for all players in the region, and sent a message to other U.S. allies in the region — including Japan.

“It’s important for China, Japan, South Korea, all the nations in this area to stay calm and responsible,” he said. “These are combustible issues.”

See also:

Crisis Over Senkaku: China declares East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone

SenkakuAgence France-Presse reports that on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, China announced that it has set up an “East China Sea air defense identification zone” that includes the Japan-held Senkaku Islands, which Chinese call Diaoyutai and over which China also claims ownership.

The Chinese Defense Ministry said the zone was created to “guard against potential air threats,” and dispatched its air force jets, including fighter planes, to patrol the new zone.

The outline of “East China Sea air defense identification zone” is shown on the ministry website and a Chinese state media Twitter account — pic.twitter.com/4a2vC6PH8O. It covers a wide area of the East China Sea between South Korea and Taiwan, and includes the Senkaku or Diaoyu islets.

East China Sea Air Defense Identification ZoneI added the English translation

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said Saturday that the establishment of the zone, which China said entered into force as of 10 a.m. Saturday, was aimed at “safeguarding state sovereignty, territorial land and air security, and maintaining flight order. It is a necessary measure in China’s exercise of self-defense rights. It has no particular target and will not affect the freedom of flight in relevant airspace. China will take timely measures to deal with air threats and unidentified flying objects from the sea, including identification, monitoring, control and disposition, and it hopes all relevant sides positively cooperate and jointly maintain flying safety.”

Along with the new zone, the Chinese ministry released a set of aircraft identification rules that it says must be followed by all aircraft entering the area, under penalty of intervention by China’s military.

Aircraft are now expected to provide their flight path, clearly mark their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication in order to “respond in a timely and accurate manner to identification inquiries” from Chinese authorities.

Shen Jinke, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, reported late Saturday that it had conducted a sweep of the area using early warning aircraft and fighter jets. “The patrol is in line with international common practices, and the normal flight of international flights will not be affected,” Shen said.

Four Chinese Coast Guard boats briefly entered Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkakus on Friday, after multiple incursions at the end of October and the beginning of this month further aggravated tensions between Beijing and Tokyo.

Reaction from Tokyo

In Tokyo, Junichi Ihara, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, lodged a protest by phone with Han Zhiqiang, a minister at the Chinese Embassy, according to a statement issued by the ministry. Ihara told Han that Japan can “never accept the zone set up by China,” as it includes the Senkakus. He further said the new zone will “escalate” already fraught bilateral ties over the uninhabited but potentially resource-rich islet chain, branding China’s move “very dangerous.”

Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki plans to summon Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua as early as possible Monday to state Tokyo’s position on the matter.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera in late October said the repeated incursions are a threat to peace and fall in a “gray zone (between) peacetime and an emergency situation.”

A few days earlier, his Chinese counterpart had threatened Japan that any bid to shoot down China’s drones would constitute “an act of war.” That move came after a report said Japan had drafted plans to destroy foreign drones that encroach on its airspace if warnings to leave are ignored.

Sino-Japanese relations have remained icy for more than a year because of the Senkakus dispute, which was revived when Japan purchased three of the five main islets in September 2012, effectively nationalizing the entire chain. Since then, China has regularly sent coast guard vessels to the islets, which lie 400 km west of Okinawa and 200 km northeast of Taiwan.

Reaction from Washington

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Saturday the United States is “deeply concerned” over China’s move to establish an air defense zone over a string of disputed islands in the East China Sea. “We view this development as a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region,” Hagel said in a statement. “This unilateral action increases the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations.”

Hagel said the map will have no effect on how the United States conducts military operations in the area, and that concerns are being conveyed to China “through diplomatic and military channels.” Hagel also said the United States believes that the Senkaku islands are included as part of Japan in the U.S. Japan Mutual Defense Treaty.

In a separate statement, Secretary of State John Kerry urged China to exercise restraint with foreign aircraft that don’t identify themelves inside the air defense zone. “Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident,” Kerry said. “Freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace are essential to prosperity, stability, and security in the Pacific.”

Sources: The Japan Times; Politico

Now we know why Beijing has been making those bellicose saber-rattling threats against the United States. It’s China’s warning to the Obama administration to stay out of the Senkaku territorial dispute. See:

Update (Nov. 25):

Here’s a map showing how China’s newly-declared East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone overlaps with Japan’s (h/t Jim H.). English translations are mine:

Click map to enlarge

ADIZ overlap map

UPDATE (Nov. 26):

U.S. directly challenges China’s air defense zone with B-52 bombers.