U.S. Troops Hone Cold War Skills

cold war

By Debbie Gregory.

In light of increasing threats from Eastern Europe, the United States Army is focused on relearning Cold War-era skills to confront potential Russian threats.

The adjustments include re-camouflaging vehicles to blend into the terrain, dispersing into smaller groups to avoid sophisticated surveillance drones and the use of netting to hide troop positions.

Senior Army commanders are rehearsing updated tactics and strategies that had been previously used to counter Soviet troops when the Berlin Wall was still standing, although the U.S. Army’s presence in Europe is a far cry from the height of the Cold War, when 300,000 soldiers were stationed there, versus 30,000 soldiers.

Russia’s hybrid warfare combines conventional military might with the ability to manipulate events using a mix of subterfuge, cyber-attacks and information warfare. The U.S. and NATO allies recently positioned some 4,500 soldiers in the three Baltic States and Poland as a deterrent to Russian aggression.

American intelligence is closely watching Russian operations in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and Syria.

The colonels who will more than likely be the next generation of Army generals have spent the bulk of their careers battling Al Qaeda or ISIS.

Col. Clair A. Gill, a 1994 West Point graduate who commands the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Drum, N.Y. was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division when Russia was still considered a threat. An accomplished Black Hawk helicopter pilot, Col. Gill spent most of his career battling Islamic militants. He has acknowledged that it took a while to adjust to preparing to fight more conventional battles.

Col. Gills’ West Point classmate, Col. Patrick Ellis, studied Russian to learn the language of his potential adversary. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Colonel Ellis was deployed multiple times to Afghanistan with specialized Army Ranger units.

Now Colonel Ellis commands the Second Cavalry Regiment in Europe.

“We know when we wake up every morning who the threat is,” Colonel Ellis said. “We’re very focused on the Russian threat.”

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White House Sets New Rules of Engagement for Troops in Afghanistan


By Debbie Gregory.

President Obama has approved new authorities for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in an effort to better use the troops. The new rules give U.S. forces a greater ability to accompany conventional Afghan forces that are fighting the Taliban.

“This makes good sense. It’s a good use of the combat power that we have there,”  he said.

The changes allow an increase of close air support, which could lead to additional airstrikes, and come on the heels of Gen. John Nicholson’s 90-day review.

Since the combat mission officially ended in 2014, U.S. forces in Afghanistan have largely avoided targeting the Taliban.

Since then, the rules of engagement have limited strikes in Afghanistan to protecting U.S. ground troops, targeting al Qaeda or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or protecting Afghan forces when they are in imminent danger of being overrun by the Taliban.

But in the face of a resurgent Taliban and a struggling Afghan military, there has been a push for expanded criteria in the rules of engagement.

Carter pushed back on any notion that expanded authorities mean a change in mission.

“Obviously, our mission is the same, which is to help the Afghans maintain control of the country and to avoid having a counter-terrorism challenge once again from Afghanistan,” he said.

Nicholson’s review also assessed troop levels in Afghanistan. Currently, there are approximately 9,800 U.S. troops there, with plans to drop that force to 5,500 by the end of the year.

Nicholson was largely expected to recommend keeping more troops in the country, but no decision has been made as to whether troop levels will change.

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