Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BLACK JUNE - South Africans helped cover the covert American Bug-out at Balad Airbase

I.S.I.S. Road Warriors - mobile column of ISIS fighters in opening phase of June 2014 campaign in Iraq
Iraq is an excessively militarized country, where virtually every adult male has
access to weaponry.  However the media may characterize the lightning advance of
I.S.I.S.  columns into Iraqi towns and cities, it was not a "cowardly" operation.


Initial ISIS  attacks on Balad  Airforce Base, June 2014  - situation map

On June 24th  the Iranian FARS News Agency, reported that the town of Balad, Iraq had been "recaptured" by Iraqi soldiers.  I take that factoid to mean the town had been swept of I.S.I.S. guerrillas by the Iraqi national army.  No mention was made of any recapturing of the American-built and-equipped fortress which was being prepped for the basing of Iraqi F16s and for the return of U.S. hunter-killer drone fleets. More important was the continued blackout of any news about what was going on inside Balad Airforce Base, which is larger than many American cities.  After the initial, and very brief U.S. media interest in the "besieged" American contractors at the heavily guarded super-base, and their extraction by Iraqi Airforce aircraft,  all went very silent at Balad.  The creepy silence was not due to the base being abandoned, (there are still plenty of Yanks there) but due to the imposition of enhanced secrecy, and the willing collusion of a tame media which is adjusting to the chilling new reality : any attempt to pry into the secret activities of the American Empire is to surrender yourself to lifetime of close surveillance, which is highly destructive of a career in journalism.   

C-RAM  Counter - Rocket, artillery, Missile - deployed to Joint Base Balad


During those few days in early June when U.S. civilian contractors were cowering in protected corners of "Joint Base Balad", waiting for the cavalry to arrive, various U.S. corporations (working under contract to the D.O.D.) issued statements assuring the worried families back home that extraction was imminent.  There was no Internet service available at Balad but a few employees, working for  Sallyport Global, Michael Baker International, Dyncorp, KS International or AMK9,  managed to get out cellphone calls, text messages and Skype video.  A few displayed bravado, claiming that the Iraqi base defence force had fled, but that Americans had picked up weapons and were defending themselves.  Given the immense size of the base it is doubtful that the civilian contractors knew that much about what was really going on around the perimeter, and for 24 hours were feeding off rumours. All U.S.-employed contractors were "herded" into a compact area adjacent to an aircraft ramp to await extraction The truth seems to be that a contingent of White South Africans, all of them dog handlers and all of them with police and military backgrounds, armed themselves and fell in with the base security forces.  The South Africans - to a man - have kept their mouths shut and will continue to be employed among alongside America's secret operators in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraqi Air Force C-130 transport photographed departing Joint Base Balad

After a few hairy days, during which many in Washington held their breath, the American civilians at Balad were airlifted by Iraqi C130s.  (All the White House ever really cared about is that "American civilians" would not become hostages.)  Only one photograph of those evacuees was ever published and no reporters covered the flights or tried to interview the evacuated workers.  In fact hundreds of publications contented themselves with printing American disinformation rather than trying to establish what had really happened.  The single American evacuee who opened his mouth, Anthony Akers of San Antonio, (an ex-Marine with Iraq service) was immediately fired for violating corporate media gag-policy.  It was further alleged that by talking about what he had seen, heard and done at Balad Airbase, Akers "gave out operational security details" that put lives at risk.  This was literally true, because there was, and still is an American security detachment at Balad guarding very sensitive facilities, not least of which is a newly completed Secure Compartmented Information Facility.  Airlift flights by American C17s out of Tinker AFB were already underway into Balad Field more than a month before I.S.I.S. launched its blitzkrieg columns down Iraqi highways. As much as the story is spun that Balad is Iraq's largest airbase, once the U.S. made the decision to deliver F16s and Apache attack helicopters to Iraq, as well as piggy-backing a secret MQ-9 Reaper operations centre to that FMS and basing agreement,  "Joint Base Balad" effectively returned to full American control.

Evacuation by C130 of American civilians from BALAD (Iraq) AIRFORCE BASE - June 13, 2014
This is the only available photo of the Evacuation of American civilian workers
from BALAD AIRFORCE BASE. Taken on June 13, 2014 it was leaked by an employee 
of Sallyport Global.  Only two flights out - and 73 South African personnel were left behind.

On June 25th information attributed to "U.S. intelligence officers" made the situation at Balad Airbase even muddier, as it was intended.  The story written by Eli Lake and Josh Rogin at THE DAILY BEAST,  "ISIS TRIES TO GRAB ITS OWN AIR FORCE" made headlines around the world. More important, it ensured that any snoopy journalists who might have been thinking of hitching a ride into Balad would definitely stay away.  Remember this was only a day after the Iranian news agency declared the town of Balad "recaptured" by the American-backed Iraqi regime.

"In its march to Baghdad, ISIS seized the heavy weapons of a modern army. Now, the jihadists are attacking Iraq’s biggest air base – and could soon be able to attack from the sky."
 The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is threatening to take control of Balad Airbase, Iraq’s largest airfield and one of America’s most important military outposts during its occupation of the country.
Today, Balad still has plenty of vehicles and aircraft on the base that any terrorist group would covet, including Russian-made transport helicopters, surveillance planes, and a fleet of pickup trucks fitted with heavy machine guns. Now, that airbase is coming under fire—and is in danger of falling into the hands of ISIS, according to U.S. intelligence officers, internal reports from Balad, and outside analysts. Reuters reported Wednesday that the base was now surrounded on three sides by insurgents and taking heavy mortar fire."

Map showing extent of Iraqi territory overrun by ISIS fighters mid-June 2014
Typical map showing extent of I.S.I.S. successes during the initial
period of the June 2014 campaign.  (Internet scrape on June 17th)

What I have found of particular interest these past two weeks, are the many hundreds of maps and diagrams which have been created by the world news media to document the swathe of territory captured by I.S.I.S. (ISIL) forces. Almost never does Balad Airforce Base appear. How can that be, given its acknowledged strategic importance?  Well, largely it is due to the level of secrecy that the Americans have imposed on the facility and what their special operators are currently doing there.  If I.S.I.S. could have gotten through the gates, as was alleged in initial news stories, the Islamic black flag would already be flying on the roof of the Balad control tower. Should the White House  be unwise enough to choose to re-invade Iraq,(call it Option -X)  there would be no time available for a traditional build-up of forces outside of enemy borders.  Joint Base Balad is the largest secure facility in Iraq currently available to the Americans, and it would be the entry point for an assault armada in their president ordered one.  As such it will be held, unobserved by media, until such time as propping up the Iraqi government is no longer an option.   

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