News Briefs – January 7, 2019


U.S. airstrike in Somalia kills 10 al-Shabab extremists

The U.S. military says it has carried out an airstrike in southwestern Somalia that killed 10 members of the al-Shabab extremist group.
The U.S. Africa Command statement says the airstrike occurred Jan. 2 near Dheerow Sanle to “diminish al-Shabab’s freedom of movement and to increase pressure on the terrorist network.”
The statement says no civilians were injured or killed.
This is the first reported U.S. airstrike of the year in Somalia. The U.S. carried out at least 47 such strikes last year in the Horn of Africa nation.
The al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab continues to control large parts of the country’s southern and central regions and carry out deadly bombings against high-profile targets in the capital, Mogadishu.
The U.S. has sharply increased the number of airstrikes since President Donald Trump took office. AP

U.S. Army chief of staff makes surprise stop in Kabul

The U.S. Army’s chief of staff made a surprise visit to the Afghanistan’s capital, where he met President Ashraf Ghani to discuss prospects for a peaceful end to the country’s 17-year war, the United States’ longest.
In a statement late Jan. 5, Ghani’s office said Gen. Mark A. Milley supported Afghan-led talks with the Taliban, although the burden of getting the two sides to the table seems to have fallen to Washington’s newly appointed peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Khalilzad has met several times with Taliban insurgents since his appointment in September. They have consistently refused direct talks with Ghani’s representatives, calling the Kabul government U.S. puppets.
Another round of U.S.-Taliban talks is reportedly scheduled for later this month in Doha, Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office. AP

Navy SEAL to plead not guilty to murder charge of ISIS teen

A decorated Navy SEAL is facing charges of premediated murder and other offenses in connection with the fatal stabbing of a teenage Islamic State prisoner under his care in Iraq in 2017 and the shooting of unarmed Iraqi civilians.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher is also accused of posing with the teen’s corpse at his re-enlistment ceremony. His attorney, Phil Stackhouse, says Gallagher will plead not guilty to all of the charges.
The case stands out because of the seriousness of the allegations against an elite special warfare operator and the fact that the prosecution’s case includes the accounts of fellow Navy SEALs, an extremely tight-knit group even by military standards.
Stackhouse said his client is being falsely accused by disgruntled SEALs who wanted to get rid of the demanding platoon leader. AP

Pentagon asked to provide more help on border security

The Department of Homeland Security has asked the military to provide more help securing the U.S.-Mexico border, a defense official said Jan. 6 amid a political standoff over President Donald Trump’s demand for more money to build a border wall.
The acting secretary of defense, Pat Shanahan, has not decided how to respond to the DHS request, but in the past the Pentagon has provided help when asked. At one point last fall there were nearly 5,900 active-duty troops along the border in Texas, Arizona and California to assist border patrol agents and to erect wire barriers. That number now is about 2,350.
The defense official said DHS asked for certain military capabilities, not any number of troops. It will be up to Shanahan to decide whether more troops are dispatched. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the request for assistance has not yet been fully processed.
The troops have been erecting and reinforcing border barriers but are not performing law enforcement tasks or engaging with migrants. Some also have been providing transportation and logistical help as well as medical assistance to troops and to Customs and Border Protection personnel along the border.
Many in Congress, including leading Democrats, have criticized the troop deployments as a waste of money and a misuse of military resources. The current deployment of active-duty troops is scheduled to end Jan. 31 but could be extended.
Separately, there are about 2,200 National Guard troops deployed along the border. AP

U.S. sends troops ahead of possible Congo election protests

U.S. President Donald Trump says military personnel have deployed to Central Africa in advance of possible “violent demonstrations” in Congo over results of the Jan. 6 presidential election.
Trump’s letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says about 80 military personnel and “appropriate combat equipment” deployed to nearby Gabon to support the security of U.S. citizens and staffers and diplomatic facilities in Congo.
Trump’s letter says more military personnel will deploy as needed to Gabon, Congo or neighboring Republic of Congo.
Congo faces what could be its first democratic, peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, but election observers and the opposition have raised concerns about voting irregularities.
The powerful Catholic Church has said its data show a clear winner, angering Congo’s ruling party. AP

Airbus to build additional aircraft on US Gulf Coast

The aerospace industry on the U.S. Gulf Coast received a boost Jan. 5 as Airbus said it will fulfill two new aircraft orders at an expanding manufacturing operation in Alabama.
The European aircraft maker said 120 passenger aircraft ordered by JetBlue Airways and the startup airline Moxy will be built in a new factory near the company’s existing plant in Mobile, Ala.
Construction on the plant will begin later this month, the company said.
JetBlue and Moxy each ordered 60 of the A220-300 aircraft manufactured by Airbus. The plant will be located beside a factory where Airbus already produces the A320 aircraft in Mobile.
The A220, with 100 to 150 passenger seats, used to be known as the Canadian Bombardier C-Series, but Airbus bought the program after Boeing pushed a trade war over it.
Airbus, with nearly 500 employees on the coast, produced its first airplane in Mobile in 2016. The new A220 line in Alabama is in addition to one the company is opening in Mirabel, Canada.
Aside from Airbus, aerospace projects in the region include NASA centers in Louisiana and Mississippi and an extensive military aviation presence in the Florida Panhandle. AP