Tagged: defence

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Confusion surrounds Macron's compulsory military service

Confusion surrounds Macron’s compulsory military service

French president insists all young people will serve after minister suggested scheme might be voluntary

<!–[if IE 9]><![endif]–>French President Emmanuel Macron




Emmanuel Macron made the pledge last year as part of his presidential campaign.
Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/AP

The French government is grappling with how to honour Emmanuel Macron’s controversial election promise to reintroduce compulsory military service for young people.

France’s president said this week that his new “universal national service” would include an obligatory period of between three and six months for all young people, who would take part either in the military or in a form of civic service.

Macron conceded at a meeting of political journalists that the details of the scheme, which could be piloted from 2019, had not yet been decided. He said there would be a financial cost, adding: “I don’t think it would be prohibitive – this is not about recreating massive barracks.”

There has been apparent confusion over the future shape of the conscription scheme, which would involve about 600,000 young people aged 18–21 each year.

The French armed forces minister said last week[2] that the scheme would “probably not be obligatory”. A parliamentary defence committee report on the project, seen by French media, suggests any scheme should be purely voluntary because it is neither possible nor desirable to force young people to take part. But the government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux insisted this week that “it will be universal … and it will be obligatory”.

Macron surprised the country when he announced during last year’s presidential campaign that he wanted to make all young people spend time getting “a direct experience of military life, with its knowhow and demands”.

France[3] phased out compulsory military service between 1996 and 2001. Macron, 40, is the first French president not to have been called up to serve in the army.

When he first announced the idea of bringing back compulsory military service, Macron framed it as part of France’s efforts to prepare for an era of global “turbulence” comparable to the cold war.

But the campaign promise was also seen as a way of playing up a kind of patriotic nostalgia for military service at a time of increasing social divides in France. Some in the French army[4] were concerned that providing young people with citizenship training was not the domain of the armed forces; the French military is currently stretched by operations in west Africa and the Middle East, as well as anti-terrorism operations in France.

Macron’s office has set up a working group to define the new national service, due to report in April this year.

References

  1. ^ France (www.theguardian.com)
  2. ^ The French armed forces minister said last week (www.franceinter.fr)
  3. ^ France (www.theguardian.com)
  4. ^ French army (www.theguardian.com)
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Middle East Governments Are Cutting Their Military Budgets Even As Wars Rage Around The Region

Military spending in the Middle East has fallen over the past year, despite a string of ongoing conflicts across the region, including those in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

According to data published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on February 14, total spending across the region fell to $167bn in 2017, down 4% from $174bn the year before. Measured by a number of other metrics, the fall was even faster. Defence spending on a per capita basis was down 5% to $388 while spending as a percentage of the region’s GDP dropped from 5.73% of GDP in 2016 to 5.4% last year.

These figures don’t capture all the countries in the region – in its Military Balance 2018 report, IISS says it has no reliable information for the defence budgets of a number of likely high-spending countries including Qatar and the U.A.E. However, the direction of travel for the region as a whole is fairly clear.

A member of Free Syrian Army opens fire against PYD/PKK forces during Operation Olive Branch in Jinderes district of Afrin, Syria on February 12, 2018. (Photo: Mahmut Faysal/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In all, eight countries cut their spending in 2017 compared to 2016, including countries with sizeable military budgets such as Algeria, which spent $10bn in 2017, 2% less than the year before, Israel ($18.5bn, down 7%) and Oman ($8.7bn, down 5%). The most significant drop in monetary terms was in Saudi Arabia which slashed $4.8bn from its budget. However, that still meant it spent $76.7bn on its armed forces last year, which was far higher than any other country in the region and indeed the third largest military budget in the world after the US and China.

The largest fall in percentage terms was in Egypt, which reduced its military spending by almost half, from $5.3bn in 2016 to $2.7bn last year. However, this is explained by the devaluation of the Egyptian pound over the period. In local currency terms, Cairo’s military budget actually rose from E£43.2bn to E£47.1bn.

In broad terms, the cuts to defence budgets are a clear sign of the fiscal pressures that governments in the region are under. Despite the instability in many corners of the region, lower oil prices and slow economic growth mean that the days of free spending are in the past and governments are being forced to trim their ambitions.

While most countries scaled back their spending last year, there were a few notable exceptions. Iran’s budget increased slightly in dollar terms by 1% but more in local currency terms, with a 9% lift to IR544 trillion ($16bn) in 2017. Others to increase their spending included Iraq, where Islamic State forces have now been largely defeated but where the security situation continues to be fragile, and Jordan and Lebanon, which are both dealing with the fallout from the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

0

Middle East Governments Are Cutting Their Military Budgets Even As Wars Rage Around The Region

Military spending in the Middle East has fallen over the past year, despite a string of ongoing conflicts across the region, including those in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

According to data published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on February 14, total spending across the region fell to $167bn in 2017, down 4% from $174bn the year before. Measured by a number of other metrics, the fall was even faster. Defence spending on a per capita basis was down 5% to $388 while spending as a percentage of the region’s GDP dropped from 5.73% of GDP in 2016 to 5.4% last year.

These figures don’t capture all the countries in the region – in its Military Balance 2018 report, IISS says it has no reliable information for the defence budgets of a number of likely high-spending countries including Qatar and the U.A.E. However, the direction of travel for the region as a whole is fairly clear.

A member of Free Syrian Army opens fire against PYD/PKK forces during Operation Olive Branch in Jinderes district of Afrin, Syria on February 12, 2018. (Photo: Mahmut Faysal/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In all, eight countries cut their spending in 2017 compared to 2016, including countries with sizeable military budgets such as Algeria, which spent $10bn in 2017, 2% less than the year before, Israel ($18.5bn, down 7%) and Oman ($8.7bn, down 5%). The most significant drop in monetary terms was in Saudi Arabia which slashed $4.8bn from its budget. However, that still meant it spent $76.7bn on its armed forces last year, which was far higher than any other country in the region and indeed the third largest military budget in the world after the US and China.

The largest fall in percentage terms was in Egypt, which reduced its military spending by almost half, from $5.3bn in 2016 to $2.7bn last year. However, this is explained by the devaluation of the Egyptian pound over the period. In local currency terms, Cairo’s military budget actually rose from E£43.2bn to E£47.1bn.

In broad terms, the cuts to defence budgets are a clear sign of the fiscal pressures that governments in the region are under. Despite the instability in many corners of the region, lower oil prices and slow economic growth mean that the days of free spending are in the past and governments are being forced to trim their ambitions.

While most countries scaled back their spending last year, there were a few notable exceptions. Iran’s budget increased slightly in dollar terms by 1% but more in local currency terms, with a 9% lift to IR544 trillion ($16bn) in 2017. Others to increase their spending included Iraq, where Islamic State forces have now been largely defeated but where the security situation continues to be fragile, and Jordan and Lebanon, which are both dealing with the fallout from the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

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Seoul seeks communication, lower military tension ahead of possible North Korea summit

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States may be looking more favorably at diplomatic engagement with North Korea, possibly holding dialogue, as South Korea pushes forward with plans to establish grounds for a rare summit between the two Koreas.

Vice President Mike Pence said in a newspaper interview the United States and South Korea have agreed on terms for further diplomatic engagement with North Korea, first with Seoul and then possibly leading to direct talks with Washington without pre-conditions.

The prospect of talks comes after months of tension between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington over North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, with U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trading insults and threats amid tightening sanctions from the United Nations.

Relations between the two Koreas improved in recent weeks, with Pyongyang agreeing to send its highest ranking delegation ever to attend the Winter Olympic Games, being held in the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang.

Speaking to the Washington Post aboard Air Force Two on his way home from the Games, Pence said Washington would keep up its “maximum pressure campaign” against Pyongyang but would be open to possible talks at the same time.

“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence was quoted on Sunday as saying. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”

Pence had traveled to the Olympics to counter what Washington said was the North’s crude attempts to hijack the Games with a propaganda campaign.

FAMILY TIES

South Korea said it will seek ways to continue engaging North Korea including trying to arrange more reunions for families divided by the Korean War and aim to lower military tensions.

The statement from the Ministry of Unification came after the North Korean delegation concluded its three-day visit which included an invitation for South Korean President Moon Jae-in to travel to Pyongyang for talks.

“(The visit) shows that North Korea has a strong will to improve inter-Korean relations and that Pyongyang can make unprecedented and bold measures if deemed necessary,” the ministry said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam as Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, looks on after North Korea’s Samjiyon Orchestra’s performance in Seoul, South Korea, February 11, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS

The visit of the delegation, which included North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong, intrigued many in South Korea, but also met scepticism about the North’s sincerity and willingness to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“Although many Koreans are welcoming North Korea’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are also significant criticism and concerns both domestically and internationally,” the statement said.

During the visit, Kim Yo Jong had delivered a letter from her brother asking South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang at his earliest convenience. Moon had replied, “Let’s create the environment for that to be able to happen,” according to the presidential Blue House.

Such a meeting, if it came about, would mark the first inter-Korea summit since 2007.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Kim Yo Jong and her delegation spent three days dining with top government officials, watching the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and cheering for the united women’s ice hockey team the two Koreas have fielded at this Olympics.

TOO EARLY TO TELL

On Sunday, U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said it was too early to tell whether a diplomatic detente between the two Koreas at the Games would lead to results, but the move had not driven a wedge between Washington and Seoul.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told a regular briefing Seoul was still in close consultations with the United States over its North Korea policy.

The two Koreas are still technically at war after the 1950-53 conflict on the Korean peninsula ended in a ceasefire and not a truce.

The Unification Ministry said steps regarding the improvement of ties would be led by the two Koreas, but also in cooperation with related countries and the support of the international community.

“Under a strong position for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, Korea will faithfully implement the international sanctions on North Korea, while also adhering to the principle of resolution through peaceful means,” the statement said.

“If there is certain progress to set the conditions for denuclearisation, a full-fledged progress in inter-Korean relations will become possible,” it said, without elaborating.

Reporting by Christine Kim in SEOUL and Matt Spetalnick in WASHINGTON; Editing by Lincoln Feast & Simon Cameron-Moore

References

  1. ^ The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. (thomsonreuters.com)
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Afghanistan conflict: Deadly attack on Kabul military post

Militants have killed at least 11 soldiers in an attack on an army post in Kabul, the fourth major assault in a surge of violence in just over a week.

Sixteen other soldiers were injured in the raid near the main military academy in the west of the Afghan capital.

Four militants were killed, a defence ministry spokesman told the BBC. A fifth was arrested. Islamic State (IS) militants claimed the assault.

Taliban and IS attacks have soared this month, leaving scores dead.

On Saturday an ambulance packed with explosives killed more than 100 people in the Chicken Street shopping area[1]. The Taliban claimed the attack, the deadliest in months.

Marshal Fahim National Defense University is sometimes referred to as “Sandhurst in the Sand” as it is closely modelled on the British officer training academy.

It has been attacked before. In October 2017, 15 military cadets were killed in an explosion outside it[2] as they were leaving by minibus.

That attack was attributed to the Taliban.

How did Monday’s attack unfold?

Several explosions were heard, as well as small-arms fire, as the attack began at about 05:00 local time (00:30 GMT) at the military base in western Kabul.

Two attackers blew themselves up, two others were killed by security forces and a fifth was arrested, defence ministry spokesman Gen Dawlat Waiziri told the BBC.

Four AK-47 assault rifles, one suicide vest and one rocket-launcher were seized, he said.

The president’s spokesperson said none of the attackers had been able to get further than the first gate, Afghan news website Tolo reports.

The attack was carried out by IS, according to the militant group’s Amaq news outlet.

Afghan military institutions are frequently targeted by militants.

Militants change tactics

Secunder Kermani, BBC News, Kabul

Both the Taliban and IS seem now to be focusing their energies on carrying out attacks in Kabul. Government officials say it is a response to progress made by the security forces elsewhere in the country. US air strikes have helped push the Taliban back from some parts of Helmand Province for example.

However, it could also just be that the militants have decided attacking the capital is a more effective way of undermining confidence in the government and attracting international attention than trying to capture and retain territory in rural areas.

The chief of the Afghan intelligence services said on Sunday he believed the upsurge in attacks was a response to increased US pressure on Pakistan. The US and Afghanistan accuse Pakistan of providing safe havens to militants and President Donald Trump recently suspended security aid to Islamabad. Pakistan has denied the claims.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that violence in Kabul is on the rise.

How bloody has the surge in attacks been?

Apart from the ambulance bomb and the attack on the academy, an aid agency and a hotel have been targeted in the past week.

  • • IS said it had carried out a suicide attack on the international charity Save the Children[3], in the city of Jalalabad last week. killing three members of staff and at least two others
  • On 20 January, another attack on a Kabul hotel killed 22 people[4] – mostly foreigners. Six militants stormed the hotel in suicide vests the attack continued for several hours until Afghan troops regained control of the building
  • In October, 176 people were killed in bomb attacks across Afghanistan in one week. The country’s security forces in particular have suffered heavy casualties at the hands of the Taliban, who want to re-impose their strict version of Islamic law in the country.
  • In May, 150 people were killed by a suicide bomb attack in Kabul. The Taliban denied any role, but the Afghan government says its affiliate, the Haqqani group, carried it out with support from Pakistan.

How strong are the militants?

The Taliban control large swathes of Afghanistan – but IS militants hold sway in a much smaller number of districts.

However, both groups have demonstrated their ability to hit targets across the country.

They have often come into conflict with each other, too.

0

Afghanistan conflict: Deadly attack on Kabul military post

Militants have killed at least 11 soldiers in an attack on an army post in Kabul, the fourth major assault in a surge of violence in just over a week.

Sixteen other soldiers were injured in the raid near the main military academy in the west of the Afghan capital.

Four militants were killed, a defence ministry spokesman told the BBC. A fifth was arrested. Islamic State (IS) militants claimed the assault.

Taliban and IS attacks have soared this month, leaving scores dead.

On Saturday an ambulance packed with explosives killed more than 100 people in the Chicken Street shopping area[1]. The Taliban claimed the attack, the deadliest in months.

Marshal Fahim National Defense University is sometimes referred to as “Sandhurst in the Sand” as it is closely modelled on the British officer training academy.

It has been attacked before. In October 2017, 15 military cadets were killed in an explosion outside it[2] as they were leaving by minibus.

That attack was attributed to the Taliban.

How did Monday’s attack unfold?

Several explosions were heard, as well as small-arms fire, as the attack began at about 05:00 local time (00:30 GMT) at the military base in western Kabul.

Two attackers blew themselves up, two others were killed by security forces and a fifth was arrested, defence ministry spokesman Gen Dawlat Waiziri told the BBC.

Four AK-47 assault rifles, one suicide vest and one rocket-launcher were seized, he said.

The president’s spokesperson said none of the attackers had been able to get further than the first gate, Afghan news website Tolo reports.

The attack was carried out by IS, according to the militant group’s Amaq news outlet.

Afghan military institutions are frequently targeted by militants.

Militants change tactics

Secunder Kermani, BBC News, Kabul

Both the Taliban and IS seem now to be focusing their energies on carrying out attacks in Kabul. Government officials say it is a response to progress made by the security forces elsewhere in the country. US air strikes have helped push the Taliban back from some parts of Helmand Province for example.

However, it could also just be that the militants have decided attacking the capital is a more effective way of undermining confidence in the government and attracting international attention than trying to capture and retain territory in rural areas.

The chief of the Afghan intelligence services said on Sunday he believed the upsurge in attacks was a response to increased US pressure on Pakistan. The US and Afghanistan accuse Pakistan of providing safe havens to militants and President Donald Trump recently suspended security aid to Islamabad. Pakistan has denied the claims.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that violence in Kabul is on the rise.

How bloody has the surge in attacks been?

Apart from the ambulance bomb and the attack on the academy, an aid agency and a hotel have been targeted in the past week.

  • • IS said it had carried out a suicide attack on the international charity Save the Children[3], in the city of Jalalabad last week. killing three members of staff and at least two others
  • On 20 January, another attack on a Kabul hotel killed 22 people[4] – mostly foreigners. Six militants stormed the hotel in suicide vests the attack continued for several hours until Afghan troops regained control of the building
  • In October, 176 people were killed in bomb attacks across Afghanistan in one week. The country’s security forces in particular have suffered heavy casualties at the hands of the Taliban, who want to re-impose their strict version of Islamic law in the country.
  • In May, 150 people were killed by a suicide bomb attack in Kabul. The Taliban denied any role, but the Afghan government says its affiliate, the Haqqani group, carried it out with support from Pakistan.

How strong are the militants?

The Taliban control large swathes of Afghanistan – but IS militants hold sway in a much smaller number of districts.

However, both groups have demonstrated their ability to hit targets across the country.

They have often come into conflict with each other, too.

0

Afghanistan conflict: Deadly attack on Kabul military post

Militants have killed at least 11 soldiers in an attack on an army post in Kabul, the fourth major assault in a surge of violence in just over a week.

Sixteen other soldiers were injured in the raid near the main military academy in the west of the Afghan capital.

Four militants were killed, a defence ministry spokesman told the BBC. A fifth was arrested. Islamic State (IS) militants claimed the assault.

Taliban and IS attacks have soared this month, leaving scores dead.

On Saturday an ambulance packed with explosives killed more than 100 people in the Chicken Street shopping area[1]. The Taliban claimed the attack, the deadliest in months.

Marshal Fahim National Defense University is sometimes referred to as “Sandhurst in the Sand” as it is closely modelled on the British officer training academy.

It has been attacked before. In October 2017, 15 military cadets were killed in an explosion outside it[2] as they were leaving by minibus.

That attack was attributed to the Taliban.

How did Monday’s attack unfold?

Several explosions were heard, as well as small-arms fire, as the attack began at about 05:00 local time (00:30 GMT) at the military base in western Kabul.

Two attackers blew themselves up, two others were killed by security forces and a fifth was arrested, defence ministry spokesman Gen Dawlat Waiziri told the BBC.

Four AK-47 assault rifles, one suicide vest and one rocket-launcher were seized, he said.

The president’s spokesperson said none of the attackers had been able to get further than the first gate, Afghan news website Tolo reports.

The attack was carried out by IS, according to the militant group’s Amaq news outlet.

Afghan military institutions are frequently targeted by militants.

Militants change tactics

Secunder Kermani, BBC News, Kabul

Both the Taliban and IS seem now to be focusing their energies on carrying out attacks in Kabul. Government officials say it is a response to progress made by the security forces elsewhere in the country. US air strikes have helped push the Taliban back from some parts of Helmand Province for example.

However, it could also just be that the militants have decided attacking the capital is a more effective way of undermining confidence in the government and attracting international attention than trying to capture and retain territory in rural areas.

The chief of the Afghan intelligence services said on Sunday he believed the upsurge in attacks was a response to increased US pressure on Pakistan. The US and Afghanistan accuse Pakistan of providing safe havens to militants and President Donald Trump recently suspended security aid to Islamabad. Pakistan has denied the claims.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that violence in Kabul is on the rise.

How bloody has the surge in attacks been?

Apart from the ambulance bomb and the attack on the academy, an aid agency and a hotel have been targeted in the past week.

  • • IS said it had carried out a suicide attack on the international charity Save the Children[3], in the city of Jalalabad last week. killing three members of staff and at least two others
  • On 20 January, another attack on a Kabul hotel killed 22 people[4] – mostly foreigners. Six militants stormed the hotel in suicide vests the attack continued for several hours until Afghan troops regained control of the building
  • In October, 176 people were killed in bomb attacks across Afghanistan in one week. The country’s security forces in particular have suffered heavy casualties at the hands of the Taliban, who want to re-impose their strict version of Islamic law in the country.
  • In May, 150 people were killed by a suicide bomb attack in Kabul. The Taliban denied any role, but the Afghan government says its affiliate, the Haqqani group, carried it out with support from Pakistan.

How strong are the militants?

The Taliban control large swathes of Afghanistan – but IS militants hold sway in a much smaller number of districts.

However, both groups have demonstrated their ability to hit targets across the country.

They have often come into conflict with each other, too.