Army: ballistic boxers-yes; ballistic cups-no
Col. Bill Cole, US Army, displays a pair of heavy silk protective undergarments, or what some have called “ballistic boxers”, now being tested in Afghanistan. Photo by Larry Shaughnessy/CNN
August 18th, 2011
09:45 PM ET

Army: ballistic boxers-yes; ballistic cups-no

By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer

Not long ago the Army made public its strategy for protecting some of its soldiers' most delicate body parts. They were beginning testing of what some have called "ballistic boxers and cups."

One of the cups being considered is made of stainless steel; another is made from high-molecular-weight polyethylene, a plastic that is lighter than Kevlar but better at stopping bullets.

"They all basically work to slow down the fragments. We are looking to prevent penetration of the genitals," Col. Bill Cole, an Army officer overseeing projects aimed at better protecting soldiers, said in May.

But on Thursday, Cole said that soldiers who have been testing the cups had some complaints.

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Filed under: Military • Security Brief
Will U.S. sanctions really hurt al-Assad?
Top U.S. and European leaders called Thursday for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, shown here during a 2009 interview with CNN, to step down. CNN Photo
August 18th, 2011
09:30 PM ET

Will U.S. sanctions really hurt al-Assad?

ANALYSIS: From Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

At first glance, the economic sanctions announced Thursday by the Obama administration look draconian: freezing Syrian assets under U.S. jurisdiction, banning Americans from doing any business with Syria, banning U.S. imports of Syrian oil or petroleum products, identifying five Syrian state-owned companies that are most involved in Syria's petroleum sector.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters on the sanctions, speaking on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, said the new sanctions "strike at a crucial stream of funding in hard currency for the regime," potentially damaging the regime's ability to carry out its bloody repressions.

(Global Public Sphere blog on 'What it will take to get al-Assad to step down)

At the State Department briefing Thursday, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, "The net effect of the sanctions that we have imposed today is to close the U.S. financial sector to Syria."

But to really hurt the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Obama administration's allies will have to take similar steps.

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Filed under: Assad • Diplomacy • Security Brief • Syria
Army counters negative report on body armor testing
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. David Fresenius holds the ceramic body armor plate that saved his life in Afghanistan last year. The DoD IG had questioned how those plates were tested. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)
August 18th, 2011
08:25 PM ET

Army counters negative report on body armor testing

By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer

A negative report from the Pentagon Inspector General's office prompted the Army on Thursday to show off what is says is "the best body armor that exists in the world today."

The Department of Defense I.G. found that between 2004 and 2006, the Army improperly tested more than 5 million bullet-resistant plates that are inserted into the body armor vests that virtually every soldier wears while in hostile areas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At question was the ceramic and synthetic fiber plates that are inserted into the front, sides and back of the bulky vests that almost all U.S. troops wear when they venture into hostile territory.

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Filed under: Military • Security Brief
August 18th, 2011
01:18 PM ET

Israel attacks focus attention on border insecurity, tunnels and smuggling

By CNN's Mohamad Fadel Fahmy

The attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in the Sinai Thursday have exposed the deteriorating security situation on the Egyptian side of the desert border, and the easy access to weapons in an area renowned for smuggling and lawlessness.
 
Israeli officials said Thursday that while intelligence suggested the attacks were launched from Gaza, they reflected the weakening authority of the Egyptian state in Sinai. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke Thursday of the "expansion of the activity of terrorist forces" in Sinai.
 
Security analysts say it is highly unlikely that the assailants could have carried out the attacks so far from Gaza without using Egyptian soil. The assault on the bus occurred some 180 kilometres south of Gaza, near Eilat on the Red Sea.
 
Egyptian security forces are equally concerned by the situation in Sinai. This week the military and police started an "anti-terror" operation in the northern Sinai, along the Mediterranean coast. The head of security in Northern Sinai, Gen. Saleh al Masry, told CNN that the militant group Takfir-wal-Higra had become active during the revolution that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. He said it had been involved in clashes in the resort town of el Arish last month that led to the deaths of seven people including a policeman.
 
"The terrorists were joined by members of Palestinian factions, and they are currently being questioned by military intelligence. We arrested 12 assailants, including three Palestinians," al Masry said. FULL POST


Filed under: Security Brief
August 18th, 2011
11:18 AM ET

NATO mission shifts in Libya

It is six months since NATO began Operation Unified Protector in Libya, to prevent a massacre in Benghazi. Thousands of air missions later, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi is still in control of the capital, and NATO’s mission has shifted. Now, analysts say, it is providing support to the rebels from the air and sea. CNN's Tim Lister takes a look.


Filed under: Gadhafi • Libya • NATO
August 18th, 2011
10:23 AM ET

Al Qaeda seizes town in southern Yemen

By Hakim Almasmari, Sanaa

Residents of a town in southern Yemen say it has been seized by Islamists connected to al Qaeda.

People in the town of Shaqra contacted by phone said al Qaeda fighters drove out local tribesmen defending the town on Wednesday. They told CNN that the militants now control the harbor at Shaqra and its fishing zone, the main source of income for the town.

Shaqra is a town on the Arabian Sea some 100 kilometres to the east of Yemen’s main port, and occupies a strategic position on the coastal road east toward Oman.

“The attacks happened quickly,” said Abdul Salam Mansoor, a resident of Shaqra. “One hour our government was in control and an hour later militants control everything.”

Government officials in the capital, Sanaa and in Abyan in the south declined to comment on the reports. But a local security official confirmed Sharqa was now in the hands of the Islamists. He said all government buildings in the town had fallen in the hands of the militants. He said that the government was unprepared to fight and that was the reason why the militants took over so quickly. “The government is sending reinforcements to the town and hopes to retake it back soon.”

The tribal militia defending the town had light artillery, but residents said a group of no more than fifty militants was able to seize Sharqa, along with government artillery and equipment. Other residents said there was little fighting and the government had not used air support against the attacking Islamists.

“We are pretty sure the town was handed over to the militants like Zinjibar was in late May,” Mansoor said.

Zinjibar, the provincial capital 35 kilometres away, is still largely in the hands of Islamist militia calling themselves Partisans of Sharia. Yemen’s opposition has accused the government of allowing towns to fall to al Qaeda in an effort to show that the turmoil in the country is being exploited by Islamist extremists.

Mansoor said he would try to leave Sharqa – fearing attacks by militants.

At the end of last month there were several days of clashes around Sharqa between tribal fighters and the militants. “As soon as we controlled the city and kicked out the militants we handed the city to the Yemeni military,” said Mohammed Abu Jalil, a tribal fighter in Abyan.

The southern provinces of Yemen have seen growing activity by Islamist militant groups said to be affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula since unrest began across the country in February.


Filed under: Al Qaeda • Terrorism • Yemen
US's Syria strategy from Libya playbook
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Photo From: AFP/Getty Images
August 18th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

US's Syria strategy from Libya playbook

By CNN Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott

The United States on Thursday called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.   The move has been closely coordinated with European, Turkish and Arab allies and would come one day after al-Assad told the head of the United Nations that military and police operations against anti-government protesters have stopped, according to a statement released by the Secretary-General's office.

The leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom joined U.S. President Barack Obama in calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. (READ Obama's statement)

Senior U.S. officials, diplomats and members of the Syrian opposition point to the next several weeks as a critical timeframe for increasing al-Assad's diplomatic isolation, strengthening sanctions against the regime and for the opposition to announce measures aimed at unifying and streamlining their activities, both inside and outside Syria.

The campaign against al-Assad, which involves intense diplomatic outreach by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and even President Barack Obama himself, is modeled after the one the United States used in Libya, where the Obama administration built international consensus for the NATO mission to protect civilians.

Although nobody is talking about military intervention in Syria, Clinton and Obama have been working with European, Turkish and Saudi leaders to coordinate tougher diplomatic and economic action against al-Assad.On Tuesday, Clinton said the brutality against the Syrian people is "galvanizing international opinion" against the regime.

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