Monday, 12 December 2011

Mekong River four-nation patrols begin after attacks

opswarfare came across this news story by chance while looking for another article. Tactical details of the "so-called" joint patrols are not known.
It is not yet clear how they will link up with their Burmese, Lao and Thai counterparts, how far along the Mekong the patrols will go, or if officers from one country will be able to perform arrests in others' territorial waters.
If the details are ironed out, it may point the way towards a similar arrangement for the disputed Spratly islands.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The end of a painful chapter

Al Jazeera
US troops are finally leaving Iraq, a country they invaded for the wrong reasons.

While most eyes turn to Afghanistan, we should not forget the errors committed, when the international community was misled into supporting the war.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Shan State Army - South (SSA-S)

opswarfare embarks on Part 2 of the series on current conflicts in South-East Asia.

Myanmar vs Shan State Army - South
The Shan State Army - South (SSA-S) is one of the rebel groups in Burma/Myanmar. Similar to the previous post on the Karen National Union (KNU), the status is of a low-intensity conflict.

Jane's description of this group below.
Active on the southern border with Thailand, this 'new' SSA became known as the Shan State Army - South (SSA-S) to distinguish it from the original SSA, which was still at peace with the government, and which became known as the Shan State Army - North (SSA-N). 
The objective of the SSA-S is to establish an autonomous Shan State within a federated Union of Myanmar. It seeks to use force to coerce the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) - the military junta that rules Myanmar - into complying with this demand.
Military tactics
With a low-intensity conflict, guerilla tactics are to be expected. According to this report, attacks on the logistics network (in this case, food) is one of the tactics employed. 

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Conflicts in South-East Asia (Updated)

The Uppsala Conflict Data Program website has updated it's map of the world's conflicts in 2010 (PDF).

The updated list for South-East Asia is below
  • Myanmar
    • Gov. vs KNU
    • Gov. vs DKBA S
    • Gov. vs SSA-S
  • Philippines
    • Gov. vs CPP
    • Gov. vs ASG
  • Thailand
    • Gov. vs Patani insurgents
Not many changes from the previous list.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Citizen journalism of another kind

Watch Bad Voodoo's War on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.
A great idea for the soldiers to shoot video footage in Iraq, and pass it back to the PBS Frontline team to edit and create this video.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

NSCS's Addendum to the President's Address

A little belated, but below is the addendum to the President's address by the National Security Coordination Secretariat (NSCS).
(Addendum to the President’s Address)

The Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Teo Chee Hean):

Terrorism remains a persistent threat. Recent terror attacks in Indonesia, India and Norway are clear reminders that acts of terrorism are not exclusively associated with any one sector of the ideological spectrum. “Lone Wolf” terrorists, who act without formal links to an established terrorist organisation, aided by easily available tools and methods propagated by the internet, are much more difficult to prevent. Besides terrorism, the incidence of cyber attacks has escalated over the years and the consequences are becoming increasingly significant.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Behind "The Untold War" with Professor Nancy Sherman

I was "lucky" to have a few hours of spare time between 2 gatherings while out in town. This gave me time to finish the prologue in this book, before deciding to borrow this book at the National Library.

Jump to a few weeks later, and the book is now slightly overdue, with me scrambling to finish it before returning after the end of the long weekend.

Anyway, long story short. I found a common thread between 3 sources on the issue of unwise orders. This book, "The Untold War", the recent sacking of Major General Peter Fuller for his comments on Afghan leaders, and the recent Star Wars Clone Wars episode "The General".

It really is not easy to stand up to an unwise order.
"It is precisely in uniform, and in order to be true to that uniform, that military personnel may have to disobey, question authority, choose not to bow to institutional pressures, if what they are being asked to do violates conscience. To be sure, cases of unwise orders present difficult tests for moral judgment, far harder than outright illegal or immoral orders."

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Discussions on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and contemporary armed conflicts

One of the reports to be presented at the above event is the 3rd report on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the Challenges of Contemporary Armed Conflicts.

New topics raised in the report

  1. the notion and typology of armed conflicts; 
  2. the interplay between international humanitarian and human rights law; 
  3. humanitarian access and assistance; 
  4. IHL and multinational forces; 
  5. new technologies of warfare; 
  6. the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas; 
  7. the Arms Trade Treaty; and 
  8. the conflation of IHL and the legal framework governing terrorism
Updates of existing topics
  1. expert project on the law of occupation
  2. Montreux Document on private military and security companies
I also recently listened in to an enlightening live web seminar on "Challenges to the Application of IHL to Afghanistan", which discussed the following issues
  1. The role of IHL in regulating hostilities, particularly issues related to targeting, status of individuals, and the question of the geography of armed conflict
  2. The current nature of detention operations in Afghanistan, and the legal framework(s) by which these operations are regulated
  3. The state of humanitarian operations, the role of humanitarian actors such as the ICRC, and the challenges of access to vulnerable populations
To listen to the web seminar again (plus see the slides presented), click on the link below.

The audio can also be downloaded as a podcast. Use the link below with your RSS reader.

    Wednesday, 2 November 2011

    Combat Tactical Challenge - Roving security to a warehouse

    The Centre for Army Lessons in the Australian Army publishes a series of Combat Tactical Challenges.

    More details in the link below.

    opswarfare hopes to keep an archive of the scenarios presented.


    Background. You are the SECT COMD tasked to provide roving security to a warehouse within Al Nearhere, currently being used by several non-government organisations (NGOs) to store humanitarian aid. Your platoon has the wider task of providing convoy escort security to the regular aid convoys moving from the warehouse to the outlying areas.

    Sunday, 30 October 2011

    Singapore Armed Forces Donates Motorised Boats to Royal Thai Army

    MINDEF - News

    Nice gesture by SAF, to donate boats to help in flood relief efforts in Thailand. I know I often criticise the SAF, but this is one time where it needs to be complimented.

    Friday, 28 October 2011

    Marine surveillance target acquisition team takes down Taliban in Sangin

    Am trying hard to justify how this video showed the "proper" way to conduct sniper operations. Some concerns below.
    1. was there positive identification of the target?
    2. how was a camera crew allowed to follow a sniper team, especially on an actual operation
    3. there did not seem to be proper employment of cover and concealment
    I suppose most parts of this video was a re-enactment

    Thursday, 27 October 2011

    Combat Tactical Challenge - Presence patrol in an urban area

    The Centre for Army Lessons in the Australian Army publishes a series of Combat Tactical Challenges.

    More details in the link below.

    opswarfare hopes to keep an archive of the scenarios presented.



    You are the patrol commander of a presence patrol in an urban area of Timor Leste. You have conducted similar patrols in your tactical area of operations. Your role on the patrol is to interact with the local community, gauge the mood of the community and to hear of any problems or issues which may be occurring in the community.

    Combat Tactical Challenge - Snap Vehicle Checkpoint

    The Centre for Army Lessons in the Australian Army publishes a series of Combat Tactical Challenges.

    More details in the link below.

    opswarfare hopes to keep an archive of the scenarios presented.



    You are in an overseas country, assisting the local police with peace keeping operations. A snap VCP has been established on one of the sealed single lane roads leading into the adjacent town, approx 3 km from the south eastern edge of the town. This is a rural area with no nearby houses. The town's hospital is approx 4 km away, on the western side of the town.

    Local clans are smuggling illegal wpns from the rural areas into the towns. These wpns are used by the different clans to attack opposition clans. The local clans have avoided initiating contact with ADF units. Reports from the Int Section has been that a dark gray or blue twin cab utility has been used to smuggled wpns into the town.

    Tuesday, 25 October 2011

    Canadian troops test new helmets

    Interesting experimental helmet on trial; One would have thought that the chin guard would interfere with firing a rifle, but the video shows that it is possible to fire with it mounted.

    Tuesday, 18 October 2011

    Surviving the Cut

    Surviving the Cut : Discovery Channel
    This series, already onto its 2nd season, provides an intimate look at the training of various specialised units. opswarfare has just started reviewing Season 1. The first episode features Ranger training.

    The list of episodes for Season 1 can be found here.

    Monday, 17 October 2011

    MINDEF's Addendum to the President's Address

    Been trying to find the actual text of MINDEF's Addendum to the President's Address. Thanks to a fellow forumer from, below is the text. [Source




    1. A secure environment lays the foundation for peace and progress in Singapore. A strong defence safeguards our sovereignty and vital interests and enlarges our political space in the pursuit of a better future for Singaporeans.

    2. This need for stability is especially pertinent given the uncertainties in the regional environment driven by global strategic shifts. The aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis is still unfolding as the US and Europe face considerable economic difficulties. There have been dramatic changes in the Middle East but the ramifications of this “Arab Spring” remain uncertain. The fight against terrorism has not ended even though Osama bin Laden is dead. In our region, we continue to see flashes of tension in the Korean Peninsula and over the South China Sea. The interplay of relations between US and China will continue to have an impact on ASEAN and our region.

    Sunday, 9 October 2011

    Karen National Union (KNU)

    As mentioned in my previous post (long, long ago), on to the first case.

    Myanmar vs Karen National Union (KNU)
    Quick summary & history from a New York Times article

    The Karen union is one of more than a dozen ethnic groups that for decades have sought greater autonomy from Myanmar's central government. Many other groups have signed formal cease-fires with the military leaders of the country since 1988, but the Karen never reached a formal agreement to lay down their arms. 

    The group once had a powerful guerrilla army in Myanmar's eastern border region, but Myanmar Army offensives, coupled with divisions within the organization, reduced the guerrilla group's military presence considerably over the past decade. Most of the group's senior leadership resides in Thailand, while its military bases are mostly located just across the border in Myanmar.
    Military tactics
    This article from Mizzima details some of the tactics employed by KNU troops. A bit difficult to check the authenticity of this article, but still interesting reading nonetheless.

    Hit-and-run tactics are not new for low-intensity conflicts, but some of the points highlighted are worth discussing.

    UAV video feeds are unencrypted?

    Wired magazine reports that a keylogger malware has infected computers at Creech Air Force Base. However, the bigger issue is that video transmissions to ground troops are unencrypted. Hopefully, news of this latest breach will accelerate the introduction of encrypted video streams.

    Postscript: Original source Wired article.

    Sunday, 14 August 2011

    Civil war between Myanmar and Karen National Union

    The world's longest ongoing war - 101 East - Al Jazeera English

    One of the lesser known low-intensity conflicts happening in South-East Asia, the long running civil war between the Myanmar junta and the Karen rebels have not received sufficient limelight, in terms of efforts to move towards peace, or the tracking of human rights abuses.

    Saturday, 6 August 2011

    Marines press the "Reset" button

    "One of the main goals of the exercise is to reacquaint Marines with their basic mission as America’s expeditionary force in readiness. That means getting Marine units out of the barracks and into the field, where they live in tents and have to purify their own water, Davis noted."
    The USMC's reason for existence, amphibious operations, has been watered down.

    Long overseas deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have "degenerated" the Marines (and other Army units) into a pseudo-police force. This blog has previously argued that police or paramilitary forces are more suitable for conducting counterinsurgency operations.

    Another thing. The Marines seem to revel in "doing more with less". This gungho attitude is great, and essential in combat, but the Pentagon should realise how much better the Marines can be with better equipment.

    Tuesday, 2 August 2011

    Combat Tactical Challenge

    "A Combat Tactical Challenge is a combat scenario where the reader is provided with a combat situation that requires them to utilise certain resources to achieve a tactical outcome. Not all considerations for the situation can be provided in this forum, so the reader is given scope to make assumptions when developing a solution."
    A rather interactive method by the Australian Army to discuss lessons learned among soldiers and encourage them to put on their thinking caps. In the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), "thinking soldier" is sometimes used in a slightly negative (or perhaps ironic) manner.

    Using realistic scenarios will make it more engaging for our conscripts, and allow them to feel that SAF is not so "wayang".

    This type of "war games" reminds me of the book, The Defense of Jisr Al-Doreaa, which opswarfare highlighted earlier this year.

    Quite a few acronyms used in the example. opswarfare may need to decode some of them before a proposed solution can be attempted.

    Wednesday, 27 July 2011

    Desert Lions: Canadian Forces Mentors in Kandahar

    "Desert Lions delivers a gritty, candid view of Canadian army mentors working to professionalize the Afghan National Army during the summer of 2010. The Desert Lions are a nine-man team deployed at Combat Outpost Lion in Nakhonay. Eight Canadians have been killed there in the past year. The heat is brutal, the living conditions are primitive and frustrations are numerous. Canadians and Afghans struggle to communicate with one another, but traces of humour abound. Tensions increase dramatically however following a deadly ambush on 22 August. The documentary depicts the immediate aftermath of this attack and its emotional aftershocks in the following weeks."
    It's 1 hour long YouTube video, but worth every minute of your time. The full transcript can be found here.

    Some thoughts below
    1. army reservists fighting in theatre; a progressive idea, especially when the Captain in the unit is a policeman back in Canada; quite sure a policing mindset (as compared to a combat mindset) is useful for counter-insurgency
    2. the raw living conditions really highlight how a long war puts additional pressure on logistics; simple things like laundry and rubbish come into play
    3. language and culture are key; the Canadian Corporal that speaks Urdu and is of Pakistani-origin is able to communicate with the Afghan troops without the need for interpretors, which is extremely important, as you cannot be too reliant on the field translators to provide accurate and truthful translation
    4. the cultural differences, and how the 2 forces adapt, is a lesson on patience
    5. the female commander in Nakhonay, shows that gender equality is alive and kicking in Canada; kudos to them
    6. the push-pull negotiations at the shura is a fascinating look into the tools of the trade used by both sides at the negotiation table; e.g. changing the topic, talking on after the shura, etc
    7. the long discussion between Captain Reintjes and Master Warrant is yet another look into team dynamics, on how the 2 works things out
    8. the reaction to the IED attack was measured and decisive; i.e. change to ops setup (getting engineer assets), and changing the terrain (clearing the vegetation in front of the camp)

    Thursday, 9 June 2011

    U.S. Is Intensifying a Secret Campaign of Yemen Airstrikes

    Drone strikes may seem to be a safe solution for fighting terrorist organisations, but things are never so simple...
    "The recent operations come after a nearly year-long pause in American airstrikes, which were halted amid concerns that poor intelligence had led to bungled missions and civilian deaths that were undercutting the goals of the secret campaign.

    Officials in Washington said that the American and Saudi spy services had been receiving more information — from electronic eavesdropping and informants — about the possible locations of militants. But, they added, the outbreak of the wider conflict in Yemen created a new risk: that one faction might feed information to the Americans that could trigger air strikes against a rival group.

    A senior Pentagon official, speaking only on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that using force against militants in Yemen was further complicated by the fact that Qaeda operatives have mingled with other rebels and antigovernment militants, making it harder for the United States to attack without the appearance of picking sides."

    Tuesday, 7 June 2011

    Corruption and the arms trade: sins of commission

    SIPRI has released its 2011 Yearbook. First chapter is on corruption in the arms trade.
    Studies suggest that corruption in the arms trade contributes roughly 40 per cent to all corruption in global transactions. This corruption exacts a heavy toll on purchasing and selling countries, undermining democratic institutions of accountability and diverting valuable resources away from pressing social needs towards corrupt ends.

    Tuesday, 24 May 2011

    Apache helicopters to be sent into Libya by Britain

    The Guardian
    Yet another escalation of the war in Libya, some interesting developments besides the deployment of Apache helicopters from naval warships.
    Gaddafi forces have shed their uniforms, are using civilian vehicles and hiding armour near civilian buildings, including hospitals and schools.
    The French newspaper le Figaro said their helicopters would be assisted by target identification from French special forces who have been on the ground in Libya since the start of the allied operation there. The UK Ministry of Defence does not comment on special forces' operations.
    The first international Stabilisation Response Team has arrived in Libya, the UK international development secretary Andrew Mitchell has confirmed . He said Britain would continue to provide humanitarian help and medical and emergency food supplies.
    Update (4th June 2011): Video of first Apache strike missions from HMS Ocean

    Monday, 23 May 2011

    Taliban destroy two Pakistan navy P-3Cs

    Flight International
    This latest attack is a little puzzling at first glance. The Taliban does not gain militarily with the destruction of maritime patrol aircraft. The terror angle is also limited, as it was a specific targeted attack on a military facility and not a civilian target.

    The only "victory" that I can think of for now is to show the incompetence of the Pakistan armed forces. They have done it before, with an earlier attack on an army base.

    Monday, 25 April 2011

    Defence cuts & National Service


    An RSIS commentary on why cutting the budget is a bad idea, and why National Service is still needed.

    I must first say that I'm biased on both issues. I think the defence budget is not a sacred cow, and that we are better served by a regular force.

    I do agree with the last point about engaging the public about defence matters, but that point was not fully developed. All too often, we are told that some defence issues are too sensitive or secret to be discussed in public.

    It is too easy for defence planners to hide behind that "shield". One look at the open source material available on some developed countries will show that we are just giving excuses.

    Back to the defence budget. Without number crunching, it is premature to dismiss arguments about budget cuts simply by citing that we live in a different neighbourhood.

    As for National Service, it is precisely because of our unique features (small land mass, lack of strategic depth) that calls for a regular force. We may not want to admit it, but the majority of our standby Air Force and Navy assets are manned by regulars. Turning into a regular force will also mean turning professional.

    Worth more discussion, this debate.

    Thursday, 21 April 2011

    ‘Fighting evil’: Warriors Are Our Achilles’ Heel

    Kings of War
    A long article, but definitely worth reading. The number of prosecutions for war crimes are few and far between. Often brushed off with excuses like the "fog of war" or "self-defence", military tribunals are often reluctant to prosecute soldiers, let alone their commanders.

    Postscript: a special edition of Military Review, mentioned in a comment to the blog post, focuses on ethics in combat.

    Thursday, 14 April 2011

    Doing the simple things right

    "Wohlgethan also complains about the lack of qualified training personnel and that driving instruction is given on Unimog trucks before drivers are deployed to Afghanistan, where they have to learn to drive Dingos in country."
    Sometimes, it's not about the fancy weapons you have. The real issues on the ground may seem trivial, but they are critical for mission success.

    Schwarzbuch Bundeswehr (Black book of the Bundeswehr) by Achim Wohlgethan, a book about the German Army's experience in Afghanistan, highlighted the above issue about using different platforms for training and in theatre. [via Aviation Week's Ares blog.]

    Wednesday, 6 April 2011

    Libya, Cast Lead, and KSK

    Quick post; have been following the 3 developments above, but not enough time to write a coherent analysis.

    Hope to do so soon, but my initial thoughts below.

    Libya - airpower has limits; we seem so forgetful

    Cast Lead - Richard Goldstone's "retraction" has overshadowed the new report on that past conflict.

    KSK - Going back to Guantanamo is a mistake. A terrorism case does not belong in a military tribunal.

    Thursday, 24 March 2011

    Women in combat
    Good to see the Marines being open to this discussion on gender equity. Actually, female soldiers around the world are already serving under "non-combat" vocations like signals, medics, intelligence, etc.

    These vocations are already practically frontline deployments. Hope to see the day when they are allowed to serve in all vocations.

    Tuesday, 22 March 2011

    The perils of the "CNN effect"

    CTV News
    Note: this video predates the UN approval of it's "take all necessary measures" resolution.

    Really glad to see a media company readily admitting that not everything is what it seems, and that it's own presence is potentially affecting the conflict. Some quotes from the clip (This is the only way to document the video until I find a way to save Flash videos).
    "Each day, each battle here, invites different versions of the truth."

    "This is a conflict where credible information is at a premium."

    "What we've a shoot off assault rifles, anti-aircraft guns, even those SA-7 shoulder-to-air missiles. They do it out of paranoia, but mostly just for the cameras."

    Libya conundrum

    Of old wine, new bottles, eggs and omelets: Humanitarian Intervention Redux | Kings of War
    A concise blog post that looks beyond what most mainstream media mistakenly call "enforcing a no fly zone"

    Sunday, 20 March 2011

    Security Council Approves ‘No-Fly Zone’ over Libya

    Security Council Approves ‘No-Fly Zone’ over Libya, Authorizing ‘All Necessary Measures’ to Protect Civilians, by Vote of 10 in Favour with 5 Abstentions

    Operation Odyssey Dawn has begun quickly after UN approval of resolution 1973. A snippet of the text below.
    “Protection of civilians

    “4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council;

    “5. Recognizes the important role of the League of Arab States in matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security in the region, and bearing in mind Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, requests the Member States of the League of Arab States to cooperate with other Member States in the implementation of paragraph 4;

    Monday, 21 February 2011

    Saturday, 19 February 2011

    Finding the Right Tool to Tell a War Story

    Damon Winter in Afghanistan -
    Great set of photos taken by a camera phone. Proof that sometimes the better camera may not be the right camera. But perhaps more importantly, the stark photos show the realities of fighting a war in Afghanistan.

    Friday, 4 February 2011

    1 RCR conducts counter-insurgency operations

    Candid comments on the operational side of things. Also great to see a female officer commanding a combat unit.

    Thursday, 13 January 2011

    Buying Peace?

    Kings of War blog: Department of War Studies, King's College London
    Fantastic idea. Instead of directly thinking about buying shiny new equipment, or planning a shift in doctrine, it would be great if the armed forces of the world are able to start from the basis of how much the change will enable "more peace" (bad English notwithstanding).

    Really needs a paradigm shift (I hate to use this overused phrase), and apt since I'm currently in camp, undergoing reservist training...

    Monday, 3 January 2011

    The Defense of Jisr Al-Doreaa

    Picked up a gem on New Year's Eve at the Central Public Library by chance, while waiting for a dinner gathering that evening.

    Written in the style of The Defence of Duffer's Drift, The Defense of Jisr Al-Doreaa is a great tactical guide book on counterinsurgency. The fictional story in the form of 6 recurring dreams allow a platoon commander to learn 16 lessons, step by step.