All Your Drone Base Are Belong to Us

John Brennan’s confirmation for heading up the CIA begins today. He’s been pretty instrumental in strengthening the United States’ counter-terrorism programme, especially the use of drones to eliminate terrorists.

For those drones, the Washington Post mapped out the known bases in Africa and the Middle East from which we operate our drones.

Map of drone bases
Map of drone bases

French Special Forces Seize Kidal

On Tuesday French special forces captured the airport in Kidal, Mali. (Although the use of the term airport is a bit generous.) In an unanticipated move—the Malian army was not informed before the operation commenced—the French retook the last major urban centre that had been under Islamist control. This may well end the first phase of the war in Mali, i.e. the recapture of major cities and towns taken by the Islamists since last year. The next phase will be training the Malian army and securing the towns and cities taken by the French. But there is little indication that the latter task will be undertaken by the French army.

As usual, click the image below for the full-sized version.

The capture of Kidal by airmobile French forces
The capture of Kidal by airmobile French forces

Operation Serval

The tricky part about doing an infographic on a current event, like the conflict/war in northern Mali, is to keep the graphics updated and timely. Alas, I don’t have the necessary amount of time to do that. But, I still do want decent graphics explaining just what is happening.

With Mali, the hard part is that the Islamist/Tuareg rebellion against the democracy-overthrowing military government originally backed by the US in an attempt to beef up that military against the rebellion that then defeated that military is so far away and so foreign to much of the American public that so very much needs to be explained and be made relevant. This piece of mine doesn’t quite do that, but my infographic does attempt to show that France is now fighting a war far from its shores (and largely on its own). It also tries to highlight the fluidity of the ground war, especially around the fighting in and around Konna. Konna is the gateway to the city of Mopti which leads straight to the capital Bamako.

Operation Serval
Operation Serval

Fighter Jets

A large-scale infographic with lots of drawings of fighter jets. That’s pretty much what this is. And that’s cool enough for me. The background is that the US fighter programme for the F-35 is increasingly ridiculously expensive and beyond budget. Some nations, like Canada, are starting to have second thoughts. This post outlines potential options and adversaries.

Not all of these aircraft are really options. For example, the US has banned the export of the F-22 and it is highly unlikely that Canada would purchase the Raptor. Will the Russians ever build the PAK FA? They’ve been trying to build them for years and the aircraft has yet to go into production. Regardless of the likelihood of facing the adversaries or procuring the options, they’re still pretty cool illustrations and side-by-side comparisons.

Fighter jet options and adversaries for Canada
Fighter jet options and adversaries for Canada

Credit for the piece goes to Jonathon Rivait, Mike Faille, and Matt Gurney.

Drone Wars

This is a small interactive piece by the Washington Post that looks at the drone wars being waged by the United States specifically in Pakistan and then Yemen/Somalia. Clicking on a specific date in the timeline brings that date into focus with articles about the attacks in question.

Drone Wars
Drone Wars

What would have perhaps been interesting is a comparison of the number and location of drone strikes between the Bush administration and the Obama administration. Regardless, it illuminates a dark front of our ongoing wars.

Credit for the piece goes to Julie Tate, Emily Chow, Jason Bartz, Jeremy Bowers, Anup Kaphle and Olga Khazan.

Tracking the Royal Navy in World War I

I’ve always liked naval history. So I was pleased when several days ago this movie of Royal Navy ship movements during World War I was released. Using data from navigation logs, it plots the locations of the UK’s naval ships throughout the course of the war and so when played out over time you see the changes in those positions. The screen capture below shows just how much the UK depended on guarding the trans-Atlantic convoys. But also note the UK’s operations on rivers deep inside China.

Escorting the convoys
Escorting the convoys

My only complaint is that I could not find a way to slow it down or pause it once it had started.

Credit for the piece goes to CartoDB and Zooniverse, via the Guardian.

The Enemy Amongst Us

Perhaps the greatest danger now facing NATO and US troops in Afghanistan is the age-old wolf in sheep’s clothing, the insurgent dressed in Afghan Army fatigues. As the graphic below shows, the number of fatalities has been increasing along with the number of attacks. The silver lining in the cloud (to mix metaphors) is that the average lethality of the attacks is on the decline as fewer ISAF soldiers are killed per attack.

The Second Battle of Bull Run or The Second Battle of Manassas. Take Your Pick.

So the battle has two different names, but it was undoubtedly bloody. The Washington Post created an infographic exploring this important battle of the Civil War that led to a bloody Union defeat.

Second Bull Run
Second Bull Run

Credit for the piece goes to Gene Thorp, Brenna Maloney, Laura Stanton, and Don Troiani.