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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Russian Operations Assessment 30JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
• The anticipated Russian 2024 winter-spring offensive effort is underway in the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border area. 
• Ukrainian officials continued to deny rumors about the purported dismissal of Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi. 
• Russian forces appear to be continuing to violate the Chemical Weapons Convention to which Russia is signatory. 
• Russian Army General Alexander Dvornikov was reportedly appointed the new chairperson of the Russian Volunteer Society for Assistance to the Army, Aviation, and Navy of Russia (DOSAAF). 
• Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev made offensive and inflammatory comments about Japan while asserting Russia’s rights to the disputed Kuril Islands, likely as part of wider Kremlin efforts to demonstrate Russia’s support of China against the US alliance system in the Indo-Pacific. 
• Senior Russian officials may be intensifying their attempts to frame and justify Russia’s long term war effort in Ukraine as an existential geopolitical confrontation with the West by explicitly equating the US with the Nazis. 
• Russian opposition sources suggested that widespread internet outages in Russia on January 30 may be the result of Russian efforts to establish the “sovereign internet” system.
 • The Kremlin has been intensifying efforts to consolidate control over the Russian information space in advance of the March 2024 Russian presidential election, and these efforts support the development of the “sovereign internet” system. 
• Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Bakhmut and Horlivka amid continued positional engagements along the entire line of contact on January 30. 
• The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported that the Russian defense industrial base (DIB) can produce at least 100 main battle tanks per month and is therefore able to replace battlefield losses, allowing Russian forces to continue their current tempo of operations “for the foreseeable future.”
 • Russian authorities are planning to increase the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia in 2024.

Iran Update 30JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Northern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters clashed in western Gaza City where Palestinian militias have likely infiltrated. The Guardian reported that Hamas is returning to the northern Gaza Strip and rebuilding a system of governance there. 
• Central Gaza Strip: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters, including conducting an airstrike on Palestinian fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades. Palestinian fighters separately mortared Israeli forces. 
• Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued conducting clearing operations around Khan Younis. Palestinian fighters continued conducting a deliberate defense against Israeli forces in western Khan Younis. 
• Political Negotiations: Hamas is considering a new hostage-for-prisoner proposal. Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh will soon travel to Cairo to discuss the proposal. 
• West Bank: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian militias 10 times. Israeli forces killed three Palestinian fighters affiliated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in a hospital in Jenin. 
• Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Unidentified militants launched rockets from Syria into the Golan Heights.
• Iraq and Syria: Iran and Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah are conducting an information operation to distance Iran from the January 28 one-way drone attack that killed three US service members in northeastern Jordan. 
• Yemen: Houthi Defense Minister Mohammad Nasser al Atifi said that the Houthis are prepared for a long-term confrontation with US and UK forces in the Red Sea. 
• Iran: The Iranian Law Enforcement Command Border Guards commander announced that it killed a member of the Baloch militant group, Ansar al Furqan, in Sistan and Baluchistan Province.

Invitation to onboard to Mobile Application Management (MAM)

National Guard and Reserve Teammates, 


Mobile Application Management (MAM) with Microsoft Intune is now available to the National Guard and Reserve!  MAM adds an additional capability for mobile work that allows the use of Army 365 on a personal phone.  With MAM, apps such as Outlook and Teams are local to your device providing you great app performance and the ability to communicate easily on the move.  


A few notes on the usage of MAM: 


  1. Use of MAM is completely voluntary.  You can't be forced to use a personal device for work.
  2. Due to security requirements, we have limited the types of devices that can use MAM.  You must use an iPhone, Samsung, or Google Pixel running the latest operating system.  
  3. Signing a specific user agreement is required. 
  4. MAM is configured for maximum privacy.  
    1. The Army can't see: call history, web history, email content and messages, exact location, contacts, passwords, calendar, personal data such as photos, videos, and chats.
    2. The Army can see:  device information such as operating system, model, device ID, and your Army 365 account information.


To onboard to MAM, use a NIPR/AVD system and go to:  After signing up you will receive additional instructions via email and you will be added to the Army 365 MAM Team. If you require support, please use the Army 365 MAM Team Service Desk channel. 

Iran Update 29JAN2024

Key Takeaways:
• Jordan: Iran and its proxies are advancing an information operation to obfuscate the origin of the January 28 attack that killed three US service members in Jordan. Statements from Kataib Hezbollah before the attack and Iraqi militia actions afterward suggest that the attack came from Iraq.
• Northern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias are continuing to conduct attacks against Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip as they infiltrate previously cleared areas.
• Central Gaza Strip: The IDF reported that the Nahal Brigade (assigned to the 162nd Division) raided a building and seized a weapons cache in an unspecified area of the central Strip.
• Southern Gaza Strip: The 89th Commando Brigade (assigned to the IDF 98th Division) captured Palestinian militia weapons caches and killed five Palestinian fighters in western Khan Younis.
• West Bank: Israeli forces conducted raids, detained “wanted individuals,” and captured weapons during operations in the West Bank.
• Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: LH claimed 13 attacks targeting Israeli forces and border outposts. LH has claimed on average six attacks per day in January 2024.
• Syria: Unspecified militants conducted an attack targeting US forces at al Shaddadi, Hasakah Province, Syria

Russian Operations Assessment 29JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
• The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) denied rumors about the purported resignation or dismissal of Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi on January 29. 
• Russia may be retooling aspects of its air defense umbrella in deep rear areas amid continued Ukrainian drone strikes within Russia. 
• Russia appears to be fueling and seizing on neo-imperialist and nationalist sentiments in Europe in order to drive wedges between Ukraine and its western neighbors. 
• Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a series of economic and technological agreements on January 29 advancing the Kremlin’s efforts to further integrate Belarus into the Union State structure. 
• Russian forces recently advanced near Kreminna and Avdiivka and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area. 
• Russia reportedly deployed more Rosgvardia troops to occupied Ukraine ahead of the March 2024 Russian presidential election.

Russian Operations Assessment 28JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
  • Kremlin officials and mouthpieces continue to set information conditions to destabilize Moldova, likely as part of efforts to prevent Moldova’s integration into the EU and the West among other objectives.
  •  Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergei Naryshkin reiterated that the Kremlin is not interested in any settlements short of the complete destruction and eradication of the Ukrainian state, likely in an ongoing effort to justify the long-term and costly Russian war effort to domestic audiences. 
  • The Kremlin also continues to frame and justify a long-term Russian war effort as part of an existential geopolitical confrontation with the West and Nazism. 
  • Ukrainian Navy Commander Vice Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa emphasized the importance of Ukraine’s ability to technologically adapt and develop as Russian forces continue to adapt to Ukrainian operations in a January 27 Sky News interview. 
  • The Kremlin will likely use the withdrawals of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to continue efforts to expand Russian influence in Francophone Africa. 
  • Unnamed Indian government sources stated that India wants to distance itself from Russia, its largest arms supplier, because the war in Ukraine has limited Russia’s ability to provide India with munitions.  Russian forces recently advanced near Kreminna and Avdiivka amid continued positional fighting throughout the theater. 
  • A Russian source claimed that Rosgvardia is forming the 1st Volunteer Corps with remaining Wagner Group personnel and newly recruited volunteers (dobrovoltsy) following the Kremlin adoption of the law allowing Rosgvardia to form its own volunteer formations in December 2023. 
  • Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov stated on January 28 that Ukraine and Russia will conduct a prisoner of war (POW) exchange in the near future.

Iran Update 28JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
  • Jordan: An Iranian-backed militia conducted a one-way drone attack targeting US forces in northeastern Jordan, killing three American service members and wounding another 25. This attack is part of the ongoing Iranian-led campaign to expel US forces from the Middle East. The Iranian-backed attack highlights the growing prominence of Jordan in Iranian regional strategy. 
  • Northern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces 5th Brigade (assigned to the 143rd Division) located and destroyed a tunnel route. 
  • Central Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces Nahal Brigade (assigned to the 143rd Division) clashed with Palestinian fighters.  Southern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces withdrew the 4th (Kiryati) Brigade and 55th Paratrooper Brigade from Khan Younis.  West Bank: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters in seven locations, primarily around Jenin. 
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Iranian-backed fighters, including Lebanese Hezbollah, conducted six attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
  • Iraq and Syria: The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed responsibility for five attacks targeting US positions in Iraq and Syria.

Russian Operations Assessment 25JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Ukrainian and Russian authorities opened criminal investigations into the January 24 Russian Il-76 military transport aircraft crash in Belgorod Oblast. 
• Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of January 24 to 25.
• The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) reportedly conducted a successful drone strike on a Rosneft oil refinery in Tuapse, Krasnodar Krai on the night of January 24 to 25. 
• Russian forces are reportedly increasing their use of chemical weapons in Ukraine in continued apparent violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which Russia is party. • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated that Russia’s war in Ukraine is “directed against the very existence of Ukraine as a sovereign state.” 
• Russian authorities issued prison sentences in a number of high-profile cases on January 25, including that of imprisoned Russian ultranationalist and former officer Igor Girkin. 
• The Kremlin is reportedly no longer offering pardons to convict recruits and is significantly changing the terms of their service, likely in response to the reduction of the pool of convicts suitable for recruitment into Russian force generation efforts. 
• A Russian insider source claimed that the Russian military command recently replaced the Deputy Commander of the Southern Military District (SMD) and appointed a new SMD Chief of Staff, although ISW cannot confirm this claim. 
• Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Avdiivka amid continued positional engagements along the entire line of contact on January 25. 
• Bloomberg reported on January 24 that labor shortages in Russia have increased wages in civilian sectors enough to compete with relatively lucrative military salaries, likely making military service even less appealing to Russian citizens. 
• Crimean occupation head Sergei Aksyonov signed a decree on January 25 that introduces a “special regime” for entry and exit between occupied Crimea and occupied Kherson Oblast reportedly in an effort to “localize threats to the security of the population and military and other facilities” in occupied Crimea.

Iran Update 25JAN2024

Key Takeaways
• Iraq: The United States and the Iraqi federal government will soon begin negotiations on Iraq's current security arrangement with US-led coalition forces, which could involve US forces withdrawing from Iraq. Iranian-backed Iraqi actors praised the US and Iraqi decision to begin negotiations about the status of US-led coalition forces in Iraq. 
• Yemen: Houthi Supreme Leader Abdulmalik al Houthi falsely claimed that Houthi attacks on maritime traffic in the Red Sea have not significantly impacted maritime trade. Abdulmalik separately reiterated the false Houthi narrative that the anti-shipping attacks have only targeted Israel-linked vessels and further claimed that the Houthis have allowed almost 5,000 non-Israel-linked vessels to freely operate in the Red Sea. 
• Northern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to engage Palestinian fighters throughout the northern part of the strip. CTP-ISW previously assessed that Hamas and other Palestinian militias are reinfiltrating areas that Israeli forces previously cleared. 
• Central Gaza Strip: Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine conducted a combined attack targeting an Israeli supply line. The operation marks the third claimed indirect fire attack targeting Israeli supply lines in recent days. 
• Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued conducting clearing operations in Khan Younis. Palestinian fighters continued conducting a deliberate defense against Israeli clearing operations in western and southern Khan Younis.
• Political Negotiations: US Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns will meet with the Qatari prime minister and the Egyptian and Israeli intelligence chiefs in the coming days to broker a deal for the release of hostages and a pause in fighting in the Gaza Strip. 
• West Bank: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighter four times in the northern West Bank, primarily around Jenin and Tubas. 
• Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, conducted four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. 
• Iran: The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States secretly warned Iran that the Islamic State was preparing to conduct the January 3 terrorist attack in Kerman.

ATIS Learning Launch Update - January 2024

ATIS Learning Launch Update - January 2024 The start of the new year is the perfect time for you to complete any open or incomplete course assignments in the Army Learning Management System (ALMS). Finishing them up now will set you up for success in the coming months when the Army launches ATIS Learning to replace the ALMS. Featuring a more user-friendly design, improved course finding, and better reporting capabilities, ATIS Learning will deliver a more modern look and feel and many functional enhancements. The Army is developing a conditions-based plan for the launch of ATIS Learning. We’re actively working to minimize “offline” time for you during the future transition period and to ensure that your existing enrollment and course completion data are available at launch. We strongly encourage you to complete any current or planned courses by early March to ensure a smooth transition to ATIS Learning. More information will be made available in the coming weeks as timelines and launch details are finalized. Any changes to learner, course manager, or admin requirements will be communicated to you along with updated timelines, frequently asked questions, and other details. Thank you for your cooperation!

Russian Operations Assessment 24JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
• A Russian Il-76 military transport aircraft crashed in Belgorod Oblast on January 24. 
• Russian information space actors are seizing on the Il-76 crash to sow domestic discontent in Ukraine and undermine Western will to continue giving military support to Ukraine. 
• Russian law enforcement authorities are codifying xenophobic profiling methods suggesting that migrants are predisposed to criminal activity against the backdrop of continued conflicts between Russian citizens and naturalized migrants. 
• The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that Ukrainian hackers recently conducted cyberattacks on Russian intelligence and communications infrastructure. 
• NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated during the 18th Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany that recent Russian missile strikes against Ukraine underscore the need to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses. 
• Russian and Chadian officials met in Moscow on January 24, suggesting that Chad may be the Kremlin’s next target among former French colonies on the African continent. 
• The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) controlled Africa Corps published photos on January 24 claiming to show Africa Corps personnel arriving in Burkina Faso. 
• NATO announced on January 24 that the Steadfast Defender 2024 exercises have started and will run until May 31, 2024. 
• Positional engagements continued throughout the theater. • Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov continues efforts to bolster the reputation of Chechen forces. 
• Russian occupation authorities are setting conditions to coerce voter turnout in the upcoming March 2024 presidential elections.

Iran Update 24JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Northern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 215th Artillery Brigade (assigned to the 162nd Division) directed airstrikes to kill many Palestinian fighters in the northern Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours. 
• Central Gaza Strip: Israeli forces destroyed an underground tunnel route 1.5 kilometers from the Israeli border that connects the northern and southern Gaza Strip. 
• Southern Gaza Strip: Palestinian fighters defended against Israeli clearing operations in western, southern, and eastern Khan Younis on January 24. 
• Political Negotiations: Israel and Hamas continued indirect talks regarding a ceasefire on January 24. Hamas demanded a total Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. 
• West Bank: CTP-ISW did not record any clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militias in the West Bank on January 24. 
• Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, conducted four attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel on January 24. 
• Iraq: The United States conducted airstrikes targeting three Kataib Hezbollah facilities in Iraq in al Qaim, Anbar Province, and Jurf al Sakhr, Babil Province, on January 23. 
• Yemen: Houthi fighters fired three anti-ship ballistic missiles targeting two US-flagged ships transporting US military supplies through the Gulf of Aden on January 24 
• Iran: Iranian officials discussed the Israel-Hamas war with senior Russian officials on January 24.

USAREUR-AF RWOW TROIKA Observations as of 12:00 CET, 24 January 2024

CLASSIFICATION: UNCLASSIFIED USAREUR-AF RWOW TROIKA Observations as of 12:00 CET, 24 January 2024 / 06:00 EST, Day #700 DISCLAIMER: The information provided in Troika Observations is for general informational purposes only and is gathered via Russian and Ukrainian open sources of information. The Troika Team makes no implied guarantee regarding the accuracy or reliability of the sources. The Troika Observations are normally published on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. All operational directions below are usually discussed from north to south and east to west. NOTE: There will be no Troika Observations on Friday 26 January as the Troika will be enroute to Garmisch, Germany for the 7th iteration of the Russian Way of War course for Eurasian FAOs and other select personnel. The Troika Observations will resume on Monday 29 January. Troika Insights (1): (1) Russian Adaptation in UAVs - experimentation from duct tape to supervised learning. The following is from a November 2023 Ukrainian Military EW analyst post on Telegram: Son -"Dad, do you honestly make airplanes?" Dad- "Yes son, and today I'll take you to work, we'll glue on grandma's phone and mom's power bank with duct tape, and we'll watch where the airplane flies." Although meant to be humorous and sarcastic, this post was referring to several Shahed 136 (Geran-2) UAVs which were downed by the UAF in November 2023. The UAVs had a 4G Kyivstar SIM Card, a LTE modem, and two flexible antennas secured to the UAV with black duct tape. While the quality of the rigging of these UAVs appeared to resemble a child's grade school science project, these UAVs reportedly maintained strong signal control while flying through several UAF air defense observation posts. In a larger sense, however, the post also encapsulated ongoing Russian efforts to adapt and test new ideas in UAV use in the Special Military Operation (SMO) while attempting to transcend the UAV technological parity between the two sides and find more effective and lethal UAV uses that can be implemented at scale.             "Judgment Night" - FPV UAVs for night attacks. In late November 2023, videos began to appear on the "Sudoplatov" Telegram channel showing RF AF night attacks against unsuspecting UAF forces using FPV UAVs. The RF AF reportedly purchased "budget" light-sensitive cameras "capable of seeing in the dark with minimal lighting," attached them to their kamikaze FPV UAVs, and experimented with conducting harassing strikes against static and moving Ukrainian soldiers, equipment, and vehicles. Later more expensive and better resolution thermal cameras were added, which increased the effectiveness of the attacks. Although these types of night cameras are well behind traditional UAV video cameras in resolution quality, the resolution seemed to be "good enough" for experienced RF AF UAV operators to acquire and engage targets and disrupt Ukrainian night operations. This presents a significant ongoing challenge for the UAF because of its reliance upon the cover of night to conduct the reorganization, relocation, rotation, and resupply of their units, as well as infiltration operations away from the peering eyes of military and commercial grade UAVs that saturate the battlespace in Ukraine by day. Although these UAV night attacks have not succeeded at a large-scale, they continue and the Troika expects to see more of these harassing types of attacks this year as the Russians continue to experiment with improvements to these UAVs, as well as how to deliver them in larger volumes.             FPV UAVs that learn. A bigger concern for both sides is the development of FPV UAVs with machine vision and automatic target acquisition, an advancement that both Ukraine and Russia are reportedly working on in earnest. FPV UAVs of this type have already been tested in small quantities in the SMO and several Russian enterprises are reportedly working on the development and large-scale implementation of this technology. In essence, it combines a commercial type of "supervised machine learning" with an advanced processor that teaches the UAV to "see" what it is doing and make quick decisions based on what it sees. In this case, the UAV is not deciding which target is to be engaged but making its own adjustments enroute to engage an already selected target. This includes allowing the UAV to detect and avoid obstacles or interference enroute to its target. The UAV operator would no longer have to play a FPV UAV version of "Mario Cart" to chase down targets over terrain and obstacles while being subjected to EW interference attempts to sever the signal between the UAV and the operator. In this case, the UAV operator simply must launch the UAV and fly it toward the desired target. Once the target is selected and "locked," the UAV remembers it and continues the flight on its own to engage the target. The advantages of such an innovation in the current situation in Ukraine are numerous. EW domes and other trench EW systems would be rendered mostly ineffective provided the UAV operator selects the target and releases the UAV at a range beyond the effective range of these EW systems. It also increases both the accuracy of hits on moving targets and the flight range of the UAV, as the loss of communication with the operator once the target is acquired would no longer be a concern. Finally, it would eliminate the need for weeks and even months of FPV UAV operator training required to successfully fly UAVs "manually" to the target. The training time varies among the various types of commercial UAVs, with the more sophisticated FPV UAV models requiring more extensive training to achieve operator proficiency. The RF AF has made a significant investment over the past year in recruiting and training UAV operators for its various military grade and commercial UAVs. Based on recruitment ads that came out in late December 2023, those numbers will continue to grow in 2024. This new capability, whether on a new UAV model or on one or more of the various Russian commercial UAV models already being used (e.g., "VT-40," "Ghoul," or "Gadfly"), could create an additional dilemma for the UAF with minimal personnel recruiting or training investment on the Russian side.             From "Beta" to Production at Scale. Ukraine and Russia have been experimenting at length with UAV development and implementation. The Ukrainians were well ahead of the Russians at the outset of the SMO in commercial UAV use, however the Russians learned (copied from) from the Ukrainians to narrow the gap over time. The key to incorporating these experimental UAV ideas and technologies is to be able to develop and produce them at scale. This is where the Russians have the edge. The Russians have fully mobilized their defense industry and have 20+ years of experience developing and producing military grade UAVs - UAVs that include samples of the best of Israeli and Iranian UAV technologies. There are also well-organized and well-coordinated networks across Russia that have been particularly effective in obtaining, producing, and providing very large quantities of various types of commercial UAVs and FPV UAVs to the RF AF over the past year, and that will continue in 2024. Finally, Russia plans to "double-down" on UAV development and production in 2024 with the commencement of the "Unmanned Aircraft Systems" national project. The plan includes allocating 64 billion rubles ( ~$715 million USD) to the project from 2024 to 2026, for a total of 900 billion rubles (~$9.9 billion USD) investment until 2030. That buys a lot of duct tape. *       NOTE: After the 2008 Russia - Georgia war, Israeli UAV companies partnered with Russian companies and produced UAVs in Russia. By 2010, Israeli Aerospace Industries had a $400 million UAV investment transferring UAV technologies to Russia. The earlier Russian-produced Forpost UAV (a copy of the Israeli Searcher II UAVs built on license) was a result of this bilateral cooperation. Israeli - Russian UAV collaboration slowly died after 2015 when Israeli-designed, Russian-produced UAVs which had been transferred to the Assad government in Syria were shot down by Israeli IDF air defenses on Israel's frontiers. General Observations: - Russian missile attacks on Ukraine. The RF Aerospace Forces (VKS) conducted another predawn missile attack on 23 January against several cities in Ukraine, including Kyiv and Kharkiv. According to the UAF, a total of 41 x missiles were launched in multiple directions. These included the following: 4 x S-300/S-400 missiles launched from the Belgorod region of Russia towards the Kharkiv region; 15 x Kh-101/Kh-555/Kh-55 cruise missiles launched from 6 x TU-95M3 bombers near Engels, Russia; 8 x Kh-22 missiles launched from TU-22M3 bombers operating in the Bryansk and Oryol regions in the direction of Kharkiv and Sumy regions; 12 x Iskander-M ballistic missiles launched from Belgorod and Voronezh regions; and 2 x Kh-59 guided missiles launched from 2 x Su-34 aircraft operating out of the Belgorod region. UAF air defenses reportedly successfully intercepted 21 of the 41 x missiles launched. - The Commander of the RF VKS IL-22M aircraft damaged over the Sea of Azov on 14 January reportedly KIA. Information about the death of MAJ Viktor Klimov appeared on the Facebook page of Russian test pilot Alexander Garnaev, who claimed to have studied with MAJ Klimov's father, Ivan Klimov (also a pilot). MAJ Klimov apparently died from shrapnel wounds suffered during the strike against the aircraft. The co-pilot of the aircraft, also injured in the strike managed to crash land the plane in Anapa, Russia. There has been no official confirmation of Klimov's death. - RF AF continues to look for better anti-UAV protection solutions for armored equipment and other vehicles. The Troika has seen these vehicle protection kits develop over time. These kits include range from basic screens, grills and racks ("BBQ grills") on the top of the vehicle, to complete metal cages over the top of the vehicle with metal screens on the sides. In some cases, the metal cages on the top of RF AF tanks are installed with very little space between the cage and the top of the tank, making it not only extremely difficult for the crew to get in and out of the vehicle through the hatches. Additional explosive reactive armor (ERA) bricks are sometimes applied in select locations. This technique is seen in a recent video where a RF AF T-90M tank not only had the top of the tank completely encased in a large metal protective cage installed very close to the top of the tank (to include over the two top hatches), but the surface of the cage was also completely covered in Kontakt-1 ERA bricks, with the exception of the cage part directly above the two top hatches. - New RF MoD two-year contract scheme for Russian prisoners "opting" to serve in the SMO. Copies of a two-year contract signed in December 2023 by a 27 year old prisoner from Dagestan were posted recently on social media by the Russian Human Rights Organization "" The prisoner was arrested in 2020 for distributing narcotics and sentenced in 2022 to a 14-years in a maximum security penal colony. He was released from the penal colony in December 2023, only after signing a multiple page contract with the RF MoD with an extensive list of obligations to fulfill and was immediately assigned to the RF GF 488th MRR. According to relatives of the prisoner, he had previously resisted serving in the SMO when recruited by PMC Wagner and later when the RF MoD came looking for personnel to fill Storm-Z units. Previously, contracts for prisoners serving in PMC Wagner were 6 x months in length, which then increased to one year for prisoners recruited by MoD to serve in Storm-Z units. *       NOTE: There has been various reporting in recent months of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia creating "conditions" in the penal colonies to incentivize prisoners into signing contracts with the RF MoD. Prison officials work closely with the FSB (which has overall authority of the process), the MoD which coordinates recruitment, and the Ministry of Interior which fast tracks required documentation. In the case of the prisoner from Dagestan, his new passport was issued on 15 December 2023, eight days before he signed his two-year contract. Operational Directions. Sloviansk Operational Direction (Belgorod, Valyuki, Kupyansk, Svatove, Kreminna, Lysychansk, Bakhmut, Donbas North): - RF GF 47th TD reinforced itself at Krokhmalne and 5.5 km to the northwest which 153rd TR / 47th TD captured last Saturday, 19 January. 47th TD cut the P-07 road east of Tabaivka, the main road between Kupyansk and Svatove, 25km southeast of Kupyansk, 20 km northwest of Svatove, and 5 km northwest of Novoselivske. This left isolated UAF units defending west of RF GF 1st GTA-controlled Novoselivske, 17 km northwest of Svatove. - Back-and-forth fighting continued Monday, south of Bilohorivka, north-northeast of Bakhmut at Vesele, Spirne, and Rozdolivka between RF GF 2nd Guards Army Corps and UAF. Donetsk Operational Direction (Donetsk, Vuhledar, Donbas South, Mariupol): - On the RF GF 8th GCAA's northern axis to double envelop Avdiivka, 2nd GCAA attacks west toward Stepove have temporarily stopped. Based on recent videos, UAF has spent several days clearing RF GF 15th Motorized Rifle Brigade bunkers, abandoned WIAs, and abandoned stay-behinds. - On Monday, 22 January, RF GF continued to attack south at Kamianka (3 km northeast of Avdiivka) as part of an apparent shallow envelopment of east Avdiivka. - Friday through Sunday, 19 through 21 January, RF GF 87th Rifle Regiment attacked and advanced north in intense fighting to the "Hunter's Lodge," 500m south of Avdiivka's southernmost neighborhood (north of Spartak). UAF controls the area to the northeast in "the Winery," between 87th Rifle Regiment and RF GF 1st Motorized Rifle Brigade ("the Sloviansk Brigade) /1st Army Corps in the industrial area ("the Promka") 1 km southeast of downtown Avdiivka. The fight at the Hunter's Lodge seems to have the UAF's complete attention. - Southwest of Avdiivka, RG GF 9th Motorized Rifle Brigade / 1st Army Corps continued its attacks west towards downtown and northwest toward downtown from Pisky. Zaporizhzhia Operational Direction (Zaporizhzhia, Melitopol, Berdyansk): NSTR South Kherson Operational Direction (Mykolaiv, Kherson, Nova Kakhovka): NSTR Supplemental Observations: - RF VKS aircraft accidentally dropped a bomb in Belgorod Oblast: On 21 January, a RF VKS aircraft accidentally dropped a FAB-250 bomb on a dam near the village of Ionovka, Belgorod Oblast, Russia causing partial destruction of the dam. No casualties were reported.

Russian Operations Assessment 23JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Western states reiterated their support for Ukraine and their commitment to the development of Ukraine’s defense industrial base (DIB) at the 18th Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on January 23. 
• NATO concluded contracts on January 23 for the purchase over 200,000 artillery shells, likely either to allow NATO to send additional aid to Ukraine or to replenish NATO stockpiles. 
• Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces are struggling to compensate for Ukrainian drone and rear-area strikes at the level necessary to break out of positional warfare. 
• Russian forces conducted a series of missile strikes against Ukraine on the night of January 22-23 with a new strike package likely meant to penetrate Ukrainian air defenses. 
• Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and Palestinian National Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al Maliki as part of efforts to deepen Russian relations with Middle Eastern actors. 
• The Kremlin’s domestic policy focus on the “Year of the Family” in 2024 is likely in part meant to address Russia’s ongoing demographic crisis. 
• The Russian Baltic Fleet is conducting a coastal missile exercise likely to posture against ongoing NATO Steadfast Defender 2024 exercises. 
• The Kremlin may intend to use the 2024 Russian presidential election as a referendum on Russia’s war in Ukraine. • The Russian legal system is expanding the prosecution of extortion cases to broadly suppress sources of dissent.
• Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kreminna, Avdiivka, and Donetsk City amid continued positional engagements along the entire line of contact on January 23. 
• Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) government chairperson Yevgeny Solntsev announced on January 23 that a branch of the Russian Nakhimov Naval School in occupied Mariupol will start instructing its first cadets on September 1, 2024. 
• Russian occupation authorities are likely deliberately misrepresenting population statistics in occupied areas to encourage people to relocated to occupied settlements.

Iran Update 23JAN2024

Key Takeaways:
• Northern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias claimed attacks in areas of the northern Gaza Strip where Israeli forces previously conducted clearing operations. The claimed attacks are consistent with CTP-ISW's assessment that Hamas and other Palestinian militias are likely in the early stages of reconstituting their governance and military capabilities in the northern Gaza Strip.
• Central Gaza Strip: Hamas’ military wing conducted a complex attack that killed 21 Israeli soldiers in the deadliest single attack since Israeli ground operations began. The IDF Chief of Staff said that the fallen soldiers were conducting a defensive activity that will allow Israeli residents to return to their homes surrounding the Gaza Strip.
• Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces located an underground weapons production facility that it the largest found to date. Palestinian militias are continuing to execute a deliberate defense against Israeli operations in western Khan Younis.
• Political Negotiations: Israel proposed a two-month pause in fighting in exchange for Hamas releasing over several phases the remaining hostages held in the Gaza Strip. An anonymous Egyptian official told the Associated Press that Hamas rejected the proposal.
• West Bank: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters twice in the West Bank. The IDF detained eight wanted individuals and confiscated weapons.
• Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah claimed three attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Israeli media reported that the IDF Air Force destroyed an unspecified military asset used by Hezbollah but operated by Iran.
•Iraq: The Shia Coordination Framework—a loose coalition of Iranian-backed Shia political factions—discussed Iranian-backed militia efforts to “provoke” US self-defense strikes in a meeting.
•Syria: Israel likely conducted two airstrikes targeting an IRGC weapons storage facility and an Iranian-backed militia truck transporting weapons around Albu Kamal, Syria.
•Yemen: US and UK forces conducted combined strikes on eight Houthi military targets in Yemen. The Houthis are harassing UN operations and personnel in Yemen.
•Iran: Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei criticized Islamic countries for not demanding a ceasefire for the Israel-Hamas war during a meeting with the Tehran branch of the Martyrs’ Commemoration National Congress.

Iran Update 22JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
• The Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces “expanded” ground operations in Khan Younis to “dismantle” Hamas’ military forces in Khan Younis. 
• The Northern Gaza Strip: Hamas and other Palestinian fighters are likely in the early stages of the reconstitution of their military and governance capabilities in the northern Gaza Strip. 
• The West Bank: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters seven times across the West Bank on January 22. 
• Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted nine attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel on January 22. 
• Iraq: The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad for aiding the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force and its militias in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed responsibility for three attacks targeting US positions in Syria and Iraq on January 22. 
• Yemen: The Houthis claimed that they conducted a missile attack targeting an American military cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden on January 22. 
• Iran: The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) held a funeral ceremony in Tehran on January 22 for three IRGC Quds Force officers that Israel killed in Syria. Israel’s strike on January 20 was a response to Iran’s efforts to accelerate its supply of military equipment to Hezbollah, which is using the equipment to support attacks into northern Israel.

Russian Operations Assessment 22JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Russia continues to weaponize its position on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to propagate several long-standing Russian information operations. 
• Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk visited Kyiv on January 22 and announced a new Polish defense package for Ukraine. 
• Footage purportedly showing an altercation between a Russian soldier and Chechen “Akhmat-Vostok” forces in occupied Melitopol, Zaporizhia Oblast, reignited criticism of Chechen forces for their lack of contributions to Russian military operations in Ukraine. 
• An investigation by a Russian opposition outlet suggests that Russian elites may have accepted and internalized the domestic consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine. 
• Russian officials and information space actors are attempting to further rhetorically justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by misrepresenting a decree that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed on January 22 concerning discrimination against ethnic Ukrainians in Russia. Zelensky’s decree does not establish any territorial demands upon Russia, as select Russian ultranationalists falsely claimed. 
• Russian forces made confirmed advances south of Avdiivka and west of Donetsk City amid continued positional engagements along the entire frontline.
• Kyrgyzstan issued a statement against Russia’s continued practice of targeting naturalized migrants as part of ongoing crypto-mobilization efforts. 
• Russian federal subjects continue to establish ties with areas of occupied Ukraine.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Iran Update 18JAN2024

Key Takeaways:
• The Pakistani armed forces conducted cross-border attacks targeting Baloch separatists in three locations near Saravan, Iran. Iranian officials and state media attempted to deescalate after the Pakistani airstrikes.
• The Houthi supreme leader, Abdulmalik al Houthi, stated that US and UK vessels have become legitimate targets for Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. Kataib Hezbollah Secretary General Abu Hussein al Hamidawi said that the group would interpret an attack on the Houthis as an attack on KH in a letter to the Houthi supreme leader.
• Palestinian fighters are attacking Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip where Israeli forces previously conducted clearing operations. This activity is consistent with CTP-ISW's assessment that Hamas is likely reinfiltrating some of these areas.
• Israeli forces destroyed Hamas’ main weapons manufacturing facility in the Central Governorate of the Gaza Strip. Israeli clearing operations are likely one of the factors constraining Palestinian militia's ability to conduct indirect fire attacks into Israel.
• The IDF Givati Brigade (assigned to the 162nd Division) raided an outpost of Hamas’ Southern Khan Younis Battalion in southern Khan Younis City. Palestinian fighters launched multiple attacks targeting Israeli forces in and around Khan Younis City.
• Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters six times across the West Bank. Israeli forces continued raids targeting Palestinian fighters in the Tulkarm refugee camp.
• Lebanese Hezbollah claimed five attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Unspecified fighters launched three rockets into the Golan Heights from Syria as well. 
• Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces Chairman Faleh al Fayyadh, Iranian-backed Badr Organization Secretary General Hadi al Ameri, and State of Law Coalition head Nouri al Maliki discussed efforts to “strengthen national sovereignty” in a meeting. 
• Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani reiterated that he seeks to restructure the presence of US-led coalition forces in Iraq during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 
• Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Akbar Ahmadian discussed the January 15 IRGC drone and missile strikes in Erbil, Iraq, with Iraqi National Security Adviser Qassem al Araji in a phone call. 
• The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed responsibility for a drone attack targeting US forces in Himu, northeastern Syria. 
• The Jordanian Royal Air Force conducted airstrikes targeting Iranian-linked drug smuggling operations in southern Syria.

Russian Operations Assessment 18JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that Russia’s maximalist objectives in Ukraine remain unchanged and that Russia is not interested in negotiations with Ukraine or the West. 
• The battlespace in Ukraine continues to be the center of the technological offensedefense race between Russian and Ukrainian forces. 
• Recent widespread GPS disruptions across Poland and the Baltic region are prompting speculation about the potential operation of Russian electronic warfare (EW) systems in the region. 
• The French Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on January 18 that it launched an “artillery coalition” to strengthen support for Ukraine amid continued Ukrainian statements that Russian forces in Ukraine have superior artillery capabilities. 
• Ukrainian partisans and satellite imagery confirmed that Ukrainian strikes against occupied Crimea in late December 2023 sank a Russian Tarantul-class corvette near Sevastopol. 
• The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reportedly conducted a successful drone strike on Russian military facilities in Leningrad Oblast on January 18. 
• The European Union (EU) Parliament voted to endorse another step in a rule of law procedure that could eventually suspend Hungary’s voting rights after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban vetoed an EU vote for further military assistance to Ukraine. 
• Russia and the Central African Republic (CAR) are in negotiations regarding Russian military basing in CAR. 
• Russian forces made confirmed advances near Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area amid continued positional engagements along the front. 
• Russian officials continue to target naturalized migrants as part of ongoing cryptomobilization efforts. 
• Russian occupation authorities continue efforts to restore logistics infrastructure in occupied Ukraine.

Russian Operations Assessment 17JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
• A Ukrainian intelligence official reported that Russian forces lack the necessary operational reserves to conduct simultaneous offensive efforts in more than one direction in Ukraine. 
• Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev reiterated on January 17 that the elimination of Ukrainian statehood and independence remains one of Russia’s core war aims. 
• Ukraine successfully employed a Ukrainian-refurbished hybrid air defense system (FrankenSAM) for the first time.
• Germany and France announced additional military assistance to Ukraine on January 16. 
• The Russian ultranationalist community will likely concretize xenophobia and insecurities about Russia’s ethnic composition as key shared principles within the community in 2024, as Russian ultranationalists continue to seize on incidents involving migrants and non-ethnic Russian groups to call for anti-migrant policies and express growing hostility towards nonethnic Russians in Russia. 
• The Kremlin’s ongoing attempt to court the Russian ultranationalist community will likely generate increasing friction between the Kremlin’s desired rhetoric and policies concerning migration and interethnic relations and those of Russian ultranationalists. 
• Significant protests erupted in Baymak, Bashkortostan Republic, following a Russian court’s guilty verdict for a prominent Bashkort activist, prompting a swift Russian government response as well as backlash from the Russian ultranationalist community. 
• Widespread Russian milblogger complaints about an Uzbek community leader in Russia prompted the Russian Investigative Committee to open a criminal investigation, suggesting that the Russian government may feel increasing pressure to respond to milblogger demands as the ultranationalist information space coalesces around xenophobic and anti-migrant ideals. 
• The Russian military command continues to convict Russian officers in cases associated with Ukrainian strikes as part of a likely effort to improve discipline across the Russian military. 
• The Kremlin continues efforts to expand Russia’s influence in Africa through the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the MoD-controlled Africa Corps. 
• The threat of US secondary sanctions is reportedly having a large-scale effect on TurkishRussian financial ties. 
• Positional engagements continued along the entire line of contact on January 17. 
• Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence (GUR) Representative Andriy Yusov confirmed that Russian authorities are increasing the size of the Rosgvardia contingent in occupied Ukraine to strengthen occupational control.

Iran Update 17JAN2024

Key Takeaways: 
  • Palestinian fighters are attacking Israeli forces in areas of the northern Gaza Strip where Israeli forces conducted clearing operations previously. 
  • The Gaza Strip is experiencing the longest, largest-scale internet blackout since the Israel-Hamas war began. 
     Israel and Hamas began implementing a deal on January 17 that aims to supply medicine for Israeli hostages in exchange for additional humanitarian flow into the Gaza Strip. 
  • IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said that the likelihood of war in northern Israel is “higher than before” on January 17 while attending IDF drills simulating an offensive in Lebanon. 
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani is attempting to retain some US presence in Iraq by restructuring Iraq’s security agreement, despite pressure from Iranian-backed Iraqi groups to expel US forces entirely. This policy is at odds with Iranian-backed Iraqi actors’ maximalist demands to immediately remove all US forces from Iraq. 
  • The US State Department redesignated the Houthis as specially designated global terrorists on January 17. 
  • The Pakistani government has strongly condemned and warned of possible retaliation for the IRGC strikes.