Global SITREP for Monday, 18 December 2023 – Forward Observer

Global SITREP for Monday, 18 December 2023

Good morning, and welcome to the Global Situation Report for Monday, 18 December 2023

  1. RED SEA SITUATION DETERIORATES:Over the weekend, numerous vessels were attacked, the unofficial international air defense coalition downed over a dozen drones, and international shipping abandoned the area.
  • Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, and MSC suspended their Red Sea routes.
  • USS Carney and HMS Diamond shot down 15 drones.
  • Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin extended the Ford Carrier Strike Group’s (CSG) deployment into 2024. The Ike CSG moved south into the Gulf of Aden.
  • The U.K. Maritime Trade Operations and U.S. Naval Institute report two drone attacks and one harassment of commercial shipping vessels.

Why It Matters: The U.S. Navy likely continues to shoot more surface-to-air missiles than it can replace in a timely manner. Meanwhile, the Ike CSG is likely moving in range to provide a more robust air defense screen and probably conduct strikes on Houthi launching points. The Ford CSG is likely on standby to support the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group in the event of a non-combatant evacuation of Lebanon. Further deployments to the region will stretch the U.S. Navy and lead to a critical lack of presence in other regions. Attacking the Houthis directly risks a broader Middle Eastern escalation, and maintaining the status quo deteriorates international shipping times. – J.V.

  1. TAIWAN REPORTS EXTREMELY LOW INCURSIONS, SQUEEZE POSSIBLE: Taiwan reported exceptionally low air and naval incursion numbers this weekend despite no bad weather.
  • The last time this scenario happened, China set a new record for naval incursions eight days later and a new record for air incursions the next week.

Why It Matters: China has less than a month of influence before Taiwan’s elections. Military posturing is part of its information warfare operations doctrine. It is likely gearing up for a massive surge in air and naval incursions within the next ten days. This would be intended to demonstrate that they can quickly overwhelm Taiwanese defenses. A sudden increase in aggression on the heels of several high-profile run-ins with the Philippines could draw otherwise neutral neighbors against this apparently imperialistic China. – J.V.

  1. U.S., SOUTH KOREA HOLD SOF DRILLS: American and South Korean special operations units from U.S. Special Operations Command Korea recently held a joint military exercise. The special operations forces (SOF) exercise was notably sparse on published details. 
  • “The event culminated with a full mission profile exercise in an urban-environment training range with the intent of recovering time-sensitive targets in a dynamic training environment,” said the release.

Why It Matters: The U.S. and South Korean militaries continue to hold drills despite ongoing threats from North Korea. While sparse on official details, there are two likely mission profiles. One is the recovery of remnants from a failed North Korean missile launch, which could include satellite parts. The other is aimed at recovering North Korean weapons, which could include chemical, biological, or radiological devices. – M.S.

  1. U.S. PREPARING FOR NEXT PHASE IN ISRAELI GAZA OPERATIONS: U.S. officials are pushing the Israelis to wind down major combat operations within weeks, although the Israelis say current operational tempo should “last more than several months,” according to Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
  • “What you see in terms of the high-intensity ground operations, plus air strikes, today is not going to go on forever. It’s one phase of a campaign… We have an interest in supporting the Israelis in planning for what a transition looks like when they make the decision that major ground operations should end and they’re ready to transition,” a senior U.S. defense official said.

Why It Matters: Israel’s indiscriminate bombing campaign and major ground operations are contributing to destabilizing factors ranging from Iranian preparations for a wider conflict to Houthi missile attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea. The Biden administration is focused on bringing security back to the Red Sea region and broader Middle East, which will be difficult to impossible as long as major combat operations in Gaza are ongoing – which is to say we’re likely to see “several months” of continued risk and escalating events. – M.S.

THAT’S A WRAP: This does it for today’s edition. Thank you for reading. If you know folks who would also like to receive this email, would you please forward it to them? We appreciate you spreading the word. – M.S.

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