Gen. Jack Keane joined retired US Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis and retired Navy Adm. William Fallon on Tuesday to testify before the new members of the Senate Armed Services Committee – which for the first time includes veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.
During the testimony, the panel questioned the policy path followed by the Obama administration regarding the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as the war in Afghanistan. Gen. Keane told lawmakers that despite efforts to beat back Al-Qaeda, the group has actually grown over the past few years.
“As you can see on the map, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates exceeds Iran and is beginning to dominate multiple countries. In fact, Al-Qaeda has grown fourfold in the last five years,” he said.
“The Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS, is an outgrowth from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was defeated in Iraq by 2009. After US troops pulled out of Iraq in 2011, ISIS emerged as a terrorist organization in Iraq, moved into Syria in 2012. Is it possible to look at that map in front of you and claim that the United States policy and strategy is working? Or that Al-Qaeda is on the run? It is unmistakable that our policies have failed.”
— FoxNewsInsider (@FoxNewsInsider) January 28, 2015
Keane, a Vietnam veteran, helped oversee the initial invasion of Iraq. Following his 2003 retirement, he became one of the most vocal advocates for increasing the number of troops deployed to the war. He was instrumental in the policy of a “surge” of ground troops under Gen. David Petraeus. Keane is also a national security advisor for Fox News.
The retired general told the committee that Al-Qaeda declared war on the United States in the early 1990s and desired to drive the US out of the region and dominate all Muslim lands. He said that as the most ambitious Islamic-based movement, it wants to eventually achieve world domination.
“US policy makers refuse to accurately name the movement radical Islam. We fully chose not to define it and its ideology, and most critically we have no comprehensive strategy to stop it and defeat it,” said Keane.
Some of Keane’s sentiments were echoed by others on the panel who agreed the US needs to more clearly and directly lay out its policy goals and define its enemies.
“[We need to] come out from our reactive crouch and take a firm, strategic stance in defense of our values,” Mattis said during his testimony on Tuesday morning.
“America needs a refreshed national security strategy,” he added, saying that it must look beyond the string of crises “currently consuming the executive branch.” Mattis said the US has been in a “strategy-free” stance in Iraq for some time, and that didn’t begin with the Obama administration.
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A new simulation video shows how the Falcon Heavy, called the “most powerful rocket in the world,” would operate three Falcon 9 first-stage boosters from lift-off to booster recovery.
With a projected ability to lift into orbit over 53 metric tons of mass – equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage, and fuel – Falcon Heavy is still to make its maiden voyage. SpaceX first needs to show a successful landing of its first-stage boosters on a platform in the ocean.
— Steve (@Steve_WYC) January 28, 2015
After the crash-landing earlier in January, SpaceX hopes to recover during the next run. On February 8, a Falcon 9 rocket will send a space weather monitoring satellite into orbit for NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
— delanman (@delanman) January 28, 2015
While most people who commented on the animated video praised the creative design and prospects of space exploration, some still doubted the rocket’s future use and the company’s ability to finish the project.
“If things do not work out with the toy rockets or the toy cars you can just keep releasing engineering porn like this,” Sam Moore said in a YouTube comment, raising suspicion of being a jealous employee of a competing Orbital Sciences Corporation.
RT: Do you think Russia will be blocked from SWIFT, or is this just an idle threat?
Max Fraad Wolff: So far it seems like it is mostly talk. But this has been threatened. We have seen it come up a few times. The rumor mill suggests it came up around comments by VTB Bank and the folks associated with that large Russian bank in and around Davos. Obviously the Russian sanctions were a major conversational piece in Davos most recently. And we have seen the escalation of sanctions.
However, that move – cutting of Russian banks from the SWIFT system, maintained out of Brussels – would make life significantly more difficult for Russian businesses around the world and would likely occasion a very stern response from Russian banks and possibly the Russian government.
RT: We have also heard talk about Russia and China last year discussing plans to launch their own international payment system, possibly as a rival to SWIFT. How realistic is that?
MFW: We have seen more and more agitation from folks who have either passive or long-term structural issues with various Western sanctions and/or Western arrangements, [and they are] discussing alternatives...whether that is discussing alternatives to Fitch, Moody's, or S&P out of the rating agencies, out of the Middle East, and in some cases out of East Asia, North Asia, out of Eastern Europe, out of most recently Russia and Chinese discussion – or hearing about an alternative to SWIFT.
Could you build an alternative interbank payment processing system? Absolutely. If SWIFT gets weaponized against anyone, particularity a large economy – Russia, China, something like that – we would be more likely see people accelerate.
The problem being that you don't want a lot of systems here. Interbank systems are vast when everyone has access to them because it is a universal mode of directional communication and you do more or less want everyone else to be on it.
RT: Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned of a tough response if Russia is cut off. What kind of retaliation do you think he is referring to?
MFW: Well certainly Medvedev is speaking very aggressively there. But let’s be fair and honest here – if you are cut off from SWIFT, your ability to have any kind of normal business flow with the global commerce community is hampered. And so my guess will be that you’re going to see a huge response.
Part of what I think we’re seeing here is Russian authorities pushing back while folks sort of test a possible – what has been referred to, by the way, as the ‘nuclear option' – here. My guess is that cooler heads will prevail, that we won't see Russia cut off from the SWIFT system because it is in very few parties’ long-term interests.
And we should keep in mind two things: escalating sanctions, while it may make folks feel like they are retaliating for things they are upset about, do not actually have a great history of actually doing what folks want them to do. And they do have a history of hurting both the sanctioned and the sanctioner from an economic perspective.
RT: Back in October, SWIFT said it “will not make unilateral decisions to disconnect institutions from its network as a result of political pressure.” Is the neutrality of the system being undermined by political pressure from Washington and Brussels?
WFW: Sure. We’re seeing all kinds of political parties that want to stay out of these disputes and just be commercial and just make their various commercial way in the world by having as many users as possible. Seeing them sort of being shoved and bullied or pushed into these escalating fights, when you're seeing this as a sort of slow simmer that keeps getting the burner, the flame underneath the pot here keeps getting turned up by various retaliations and incidents and responses to incidents. So we’re seeing more and more, let’s call it, more or less neutral commercial apparatuses and parties pushed into the crossfire here. And that probably benefits just about no one in the long-term.
While the drone was airborne, the US government worker – who had reportedly been drinking – lost control of it. He texted his friends, telling them he thought the drone might have crashed onto the White House grounds, and fell asleep. He woke up the next day to find out that his fear had turned out to be reality.
The man, who has not been identified, has been cooperating with the investigation and has not been charged with a crime, the Times reported. Flying a drone is illegal in Washington, DC, due to the sensitive nature of the airspace.
A spokesman for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) confirmed to the newspaper on Tuesday that the Secret Service had questioned a government employee the day before in connection with the drone episode.
“The employee self-reported the incident Monday,” said the spokesman, Don Kerr. “The employee was off duty and is not involved in work related to drones or unmanned aerial vehicles in any capacity at NGA.”
— NGA (@NGA_GEOINT) January 27, 2015
Secret Service investigators were trying to verify the employee’s account of the situation as of Tuesday. They were also examining his text messages and phone records, as well as analyzing video footage from cameras around the apartment where the man said he had operated the drone.
What the incident has revealed, however, is that despite the White House having a radar system to detect flying objects, it missed the drone. This is causing authorities to worry about security risks posed by unmanned aerial vehicles.
The small drone, a DHI Phantom, was detected when a Secret Service agent was patrolling the grounds on Monday morning and saw the drone flying at a low altitude. It crashed onto the lawn where it was recovered by agents.
The drone incident is the latest to raise questions about the security of the White House. It occurred four months after a man with a knife climbed over the White House fence and made it deep inside the building before officers tackled him. In 2011, a gunman three-quarters of a mile away from the White House fired shots that hit the building while one of President Barack Obama’s daughters was home.
The Secret Service’s director, Julia Pierson, resigned in October after a number of security lapses. A critical report released in December found the agency is stretched beyond its limits, is too insular, and is “starved for leadership.” Five agency managers were removed from their positions in January as a result.
Spy agency employee was flying drone that crashed at White House: WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An employee of a U.S.... http://t.co/pcjBkYNs8I
— USA TreNds (@US_trendz) January 28, 2015
In India on Tuesday, President Obama said the United States needs to regulate the drone industry.
"The drone that landed in the White House you buy in Radio Shack," Obama told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
"You know that there are companies like Amazon that are talking about using small drones to deliver packages...There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife. But we don't really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it."
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