These are the 50 best COVID-19 memes for the week of April 13 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

These are the 50 best COVID-19 memes for the week of April 13

Another week of quarantine, another round of memes. The Tiger King references are slowing down since 99% of the population has already seen it, made fun of it and determined Carol Baskin is actually THE WORST. But the rest of the problems in the world are still very much being leveraged for a little dark humor.

Hope you and your families are staying safe, washing your hands and have plenty of liquor and TP.


1. Stop the throwbacks 

I’m sure them seeing you smiling right after your senior prom before you got to graduate with all of your friends is making them feel super supported. Whatever, we still like seeing who is clearly doing the botox and who had hair way back when.

2. Truth bomb

Turns out there is a right way to load the dishwasher, Steve.

3. Stimulus check 

Nothing to see here, nothing to see.

4. Graphs

We’re okay without the anarchy but the zombies would have at least given us some sports.

5. Make your decision now

You shouldn’t be sick of any of the local places.

6. Natural beauty 

The mascara down to your cheeks look is the new smoky-eye.

7. Part of your world 

Even Michael Scott knows the rules.

8. Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

The good old days.

9. Princess Bride

Another great movie in case you haven’t finished Netflix yet.

10. Sweet Forrest 

Life is like a box of chocolates and a dangerous one at that, especially if you share that with someone who is right next to you.

11. The walls are closing in 

It’s about to be Thunderdome in here.

12. What day is it? 

Best part, neither one of them have on pants. #spiritanimal

13. Prime time 

You’d better chlorox her too!

14. Romeo & Juliet would have been fine

Well, up until they weren’t.

15. Snow White knows

Grumpy is spot on these days.

16. Must be nice

There is no try. Only do or do not.

17. Flashback

We’ll never drink a corona the same again

18. Those coupons!

It’s all a marketing ploy to get more customers in the TP deficit.

19. Casual Friday

Might protect your face but it’s so hard to type with those tiny little t-rex arms!

20. Nature is healing 

This one quacked us up. You’re welcome.

21. Desperate times

It’s like being in a carwash, for dishes.

22. Groundhog Day

Even the super heroes are restless.

23. Commute

Really Homer, we know you aren’t putting pants on to go downstairs.

24. Jacked!

And feed myself pancakes in bed.

25. Live footage

She’s gonna need a whole lotta time at the spa.

26. What a relief

As long as they don’t sneeze, you’re good.

27. My precious

That rocks. (See what we did there?)

28. Double meaning

Not like you were going to get together anyhow…

29. Scrub-a-dub

This hand sanitizer is so moisturizing, said no one ever.

30. Largest piece of the pie

Did I always touch it this much?

31. Even the celebrities are alone 

Hopefully he’ll use this time to write something amazing for us.

32. Never let go Jack

It’s your time to shine and provide comfort.

33. I only had one drink 

Wonder what skills she’ll find out she has after that beverage?

34. Cruise ship 

Samesies. Except not at all.

35. Zoom progression

We call this developing to our surroundings. Also, breaking.

36. Sweet ride 

Making teachers everywhere proud of your newfound independence brought to you by day-drinking during homeschool.

37. Can’t touch this

We know someone will eventually cave for that.

38. Even the emojis are sick 

But do the animals have on masks too?

39. Suntan lines

Cruise this time of year: . Mask lines: priceless

40. Thieves oil please

Sell it all to me!

41. Bring your own lighter

It’s much easier to judge people from a perch.

42. Sneeze? 

Is that you, Rona?

43. Pass the tacos

It’s hard to be in quarantine.

44. Smocked and bows

No, we don’t know where you can buy this.

45. The forbidden flower

Its magic is dying.

46. Sums it up

Everything is fine!

47. Slap your face

Too bad you can’t see your mom to ask her.

48. YouTubers

Time to find a new goal, kids.

49. But tickets were so cheap

Not worth the risk buddy.

50. YESSSS

Well, at least you don’t have to search COVID-19 memes, because we have the best ones right here. Stay safe!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

Joint Task Force 5-0 in Hawaii is helping authorities handle evacuations, provide security, and monitor air quality as Mount Kilauea spews out clouds of toxic gas and lava destroys homes in its path.

About 2,000 residents have been forced to evacuate their homes so far on the big island of Hawaii, but the majority are staying with friends and family, said Lt. Col. Charles Anthony, state public affairs officer. Only a few hundred are in temporary community shelters, he said.


More than 150 National Guard troops have volunteered for active duty to help with evacuations and to man checkpoints in front of the lava flow. Other troops are standing by in case more mass evacuations are needed.

Black Hawk helicopters are conducting aerial surveys to monitor the lava and check on fissures, Anthony said. At least 17 fissures in the Puna district are currently emitting lava and toxic gasses. One lava flow is approaching the Puna Geothermal Plant and Anthony said that situation is being watched closely.

Spc. Donavan Wills, Bravo Co., 227th Brigade Engineer Battalion, directs traffic May 12, 2018 in response to the volcano eruption, at Leilani Estates, Pahoa, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Members of the 93rd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team are monitoring air quality to ensure dangerous gasses do not encroach on populated areas.

In May 2018, Army National Guard Soldiers went door to door in neighborhoods such as the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens to warn residents of the danger and advise them to evacuate in front of the approaching lava flow. Anthony said some residents waited until the last minute.

A member of the Hawaii National Guard observes three lava fissures May 15, 2018, at Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions, Pahoa, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)



“I have no idea how anybody could stay inside that evacuation zone for days on end,” Anthony said. “The amount of gas and smoke and steam … sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid and all is incredibly nasty stuff.”

A lava fissure erupts May 18, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The troops of JTF 5-0 are staged in the town of Hilo, about 15 miles north of the evacuation zone. They go into the evacuation zone for about four hours at a time to conduct roving patrols and help police man checkpoints, Anthony said.

Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Joint Task Force 5-0 commander, and Hawaii Governor David Ige examine an area in Leilani Estates where lava over ran the road, May 08, 2018, Pahoa Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Jackson)

Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara is the task force commander. He is the deputy adjutant general of Hawaii. Some active force officers and Soldiers from the island of Oahu have joined him on the JTF staff, Anthony said. They are planning for contingencies in case the volcano eruption worsens.

Despite the troubles with Mount Kilauea, across most of the island, business continues as usual, Anthony said.

Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Hawaii National Guard deputy adjutant general, and Hawaii Governor David Ige (center), look at an earthquake damaged roadway in Leilani Estates, May 08, 2018, Pahoa Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Jackson)

“It’s just a beautiful, picture-perfect day on a Hawaiian beach,” he said. Then he contrasted it with the situation inside the evacuation zone where toxic fumes kill foliage and hot lava obliterates structures.

“It’s a mix of paradise and a freaking hellscape,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why WWI was once called ‘The War to End All Wars’

Hindsight is a cruel mistress. After Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, nearly every corner of the globe was drawn into a conflict — and the enormous loss of life that ensued was tragic. There were so many participants in the brawl that you couldn’t just name the war after its location or its combatants — after all, the “French-British-German-Austrian-Hungarian-Russian-American-Ottoman-Bulgarian-Serbian War” doesn’t really roll off the tongue (nor is it a complete list). So, the people of the time called it, simply, “The Great War.”

In some rare instances, the war was referred to as the “First World War,” even before the advent of the second. Ernst Haeckel, a columnist for the Indianapolis Star, called it that because it escalated beyond the scope of a “European War” — it was truly international.

Others, however, took a more optimistic approach by calling it, “The War to End All Wars.” As history has shown, this was certainly not the case — but some plucky, upbeat civilians genuinely believed it would be rainbows and sunshine after the dust from the global conflict settled.


You wouldn’t think the guy that wrote about aliens destroying humanity would be such an optimist…

(Illustration by Alvim Corréa, from the 1906 French edition of H.G. Wells’ ‘War of the Worlds.’)

English author H.G. Wells — the genius behind The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds — wrote in an articles to local newspapers that this global struggle, this Great War, would be “The War That Will End Wars” as we know them (full versions of his articles were later transcribed into a book entitled The War That Will End War).

In his articles, Wells argued that the Central Powers were entirely to blame for the war and that it was German militarism that sparked everything. He believed that once the Germans were defeated, the world would have no reason to fight ever again.

We know today that these statements were far from true, but for the people who were living in constant fear mere miles away from the front line, it was the optimism that they needed to keep going. By 1918, the term “The War to End All Wars” had spread all across Europe like a catchphrase and was synonymous with hope for a better future.

He was a eloquent speech writer, but he was a few years too late to come up with the phrase.

(National Archives)

Despite the fact that the phrase had been used in Europe for years, it’s most often attributed to President Woodrow Wilson. This is particularly strange because the President only once used the term — and never did so in any congressional address. Wilson did once refer to the end of the war as the “final triumph of justice,” but he seldom used the phrase for which he later became known.

If there was a single human being who knew war best, it was, without a shadow of a doubt, General of the Armies Eisenhower.

(National Archives)

David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor and British statesman, was a loud opponent to the phrase. Mockingly, he said that The Great “War, like the next war, is a war to end war” — and, of course, he was right. To the shock of absolutely nobody, conflicts persisted around the world after the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.

Wells, who originally coined the phrase, later backtracked on his statements, insisting that he, too, was being ironic. He joined in with everyone else in making fun of his statements — and later claimed it was the “war that could end war.”

In 1950, General Dwight D. Eisenhower put it plainly and finally.

“No one has yet explained how war prevents war. Nor has anyone been able to explain away the fact that war begets conditions that beget further war.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans are building a sustainable training base in Detroit

A 2017 survey named Detroit the worst city for former soldiers, but a new veterans community is celebrating their valuable skills.


Gordon Soderberg spent six years as a member of the U.S. Navy, but he found that his skills would be better served stateside tackling a different issue: natural disasters.

“Military teaches basic skills of being able to mobilize, to get a lot of work with a number of people” says Soderberg. “But for potential disasters that come, [a veteran is] a perfect responder to do that.”

From his work with groups like Team Rubicon and Detroit Blight Busters, Soderberg developed the idea of Veterans Village. Watch the video above to see how it’s helping veterans extend their service.

“Veterans bring an attitude of get the work done. They have leadership skills,” he says. “By having Blight Busters and the blight of Detroit as bootcamp for veterans, we get to help clean up Detroit while training.”

Articles

The US is ‘ready to confront’ China in the Pacific with the world’s most lethal combat plane

Adm. Harry Harris, the head of the US Pacific Command, told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday that the US was “ready to confront” China should it continue its aggressive course in the South China Sea.


China has spent years building artificial islands to bolster its territorial claims in the South China Sea, a resource-rich area through which about $5 trillion in shipping flows each year.

Also read: What the US should have built instead of the F-35, according to a former Navy Commander

The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has recently observed, via satellite imagery, China placing radar outposts and weapons, including antiaircraft and antimissile systems, on the islands in international waters.

Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the head of US Pacific Command. US Navy

In the past, China has unilaterally declared “no sail” and “no-fly zones” in the region, despite a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that its claims to the South China Sea, based on old maps, lacked merit.

China flouting international law has strained relations with the US.

Those ties took another big hit when President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of US foreign-policy tradition and accepted a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and later tweeted about China’s “massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea.”

In response, China flew bombers along the perimeter of its contentious claims in the South China Sea in what it intended as a “message” to Trump, though it has flown the same bombers in a similar fashion before.

Harris characterized Beijing’s activity as “aggressive” and vowed to act against it if needed, Reuters reports.

The USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrolling the eastern Pacific Ocean. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

The US has repeatedly challenged China’s claims in the region with freedom-of-navigation patrols, in which guided-missile destroyers sail near the disputed islands.

In July, Chinese officials warned that these patrols could end in “disaster.”

“We will not allow a shared domain to be closed down unilaterally no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea,” Harris said. “We will cooperate when we can, but we will be ready to confront when we must.”

An F-22 deploys flares. | US Air Force photo

These statements coincide with Harris making public a deployment of F-22 Raptors to Australia. The F-22, a very low observable aircraft, has unique features that make it ideal for piercing through and operating inside heavily contested airspace, like the skies above China’s military installations in the South China Sea.

While Harris maintained that diplomacy was the best way to reach China, he stressed “the absolute necessity to maintain credible combat power,” according to Breakingdefense.com

In August, the US deployed nuclear-capable bombers to Guam in an effort to deter aggression in the region and to demonstrate its commitment to stability and freedom of navigation in the Pacific.

“The US fought its first war following our independence to ensure freedom of navigation,” Harris said. “This is an enduring principle and one of the reasons our forces stand ready to fight tonight.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 7 universally important things to know before any boot camp

Everyone who enters the US military these days will go through basic training. Although each branch of the military (including the Coast Guard) has a markedly different experience in their initial training days, there are things a young would-be troop can know and do to prepare themselves mentally and physically for whatever service they’re about to enter, regardless of gender.

Prepare to fear and then respect the campaign hat, pukes.


Tech. Sgt. Edroy Robinson, 331st Training Squadron military training instructor, observes as new Air Force basic training arrivals prepare to get a haircut May 20, 2015, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar)

Show up with a neat appearance.

Your fellow trainees/recruits will appreciate this. You will appreciate this eventually. You probably know before going that part of basic military training means you will be stripped of your hair and your civilian clothes. You will be given the same haircut as everyone else and wear the same clothes as everyone else. But before that happens, there’s a lot of waiting.

When you get off the bus, you will be tired and maybe dirty from traveling all day. You will feel gross. None of that will matter, though. Your introduction to military service begins with a hurry up and wait that could take most of a day and into the next. You may not see a rack or shower for some time. If you prepared for this, you and those around you will be grateful.

New recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, make their initial phone calls home at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, May 21, 2018.

(MCRD San Diego)

Dress conservatively.

This goes double for Marine Corps recruits. The goal is to not draw attention to yourself, to try to blend in. The whole time you were tired from getting to basic training, the drill instructors/drill sergeants/training instructors/recruit division commanders were watching you. The first thing they notice about you could stick with you for the entire time you’re in boot camp.

Consider a plain-colored tee shirt or other comfortable gear to wear to basic training.

Don’t take it personally.

The men and women in charge of shaping your civilian lump into a part of the world’s best combined-arms fighting force have been doing it for some time. They know exactly what it means to be a part of your entry in the U.S. Military. As a matter of fact, their basic training to teach your basic training was much, much more difficult than your basic training.

Training new recruits is one of the hardest jobs to get and keep in the U.S. military, and those who wear the Smokey Bear hat went through a lot to be there. No one cares more about making you a capable fighter than the person under that hat. If they’re giving you a hard time, there’s a reason for it.

A basic combat training soldier acting as a casualty is carried by members of his squad toward their command post after a simulated attack on their patrol July 20, 2016, during his BCT company’s final field training exercise at Fort Jackson, S.C.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador)

Move like you mean it.

They’re awake before you are and they go to bed after you do. They put all their time and effort into molding you into the shapes of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. The least you can do is act like it means something to you. If you aren’t “moving with a sense of urgency” by the end of the first week, you’re showing total disrespect to everyone around you who is.

(U.S. Navy)

Be in some kind of shape.

Compared to most of the other things you’ll do with your life – especially your military life – basic training is rather easy. But it will be a whole lot more difficult for you if you were so out of shape in your civilian life that you may not hack it as a U.S. troop. But your window for getting in shape doesn’t have to be limited to the eight to twelve weeks you’ll spend in basic military training. If you can show up halfway there, you’ll be doing yourself a real favor.

An Air Force Basic Military Training dining facility.

(U.S. Air Force)

Learn how to address others.

Every branch has different rules for this in basic training, but it’s one of those little things that can show your instructors some respect while opening doors for you – literally. You will have to learn how to refer to your instructors, how to refer to yourself, and how to speak to those in your chain of command. You will have to do this for almost everything from answering questions to eating to going to the bathroom.

Life is so much easier when you know how to respond in these situations.

It gets better.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Do not ever think of giving up.

When you arrive, there will likely be a quick flash where you wonder just what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into. A quick situational awareness check will tell you that there are hundreds of others around you, doing the same thing, probably having the same idea. Everyone else will push past the defeatism and embrace the situation – and you will not be happy until you do the same.

For most people who go through the military, finishing basic training is one of the most satisfying achievements of their lives. For the people that quit, it becomes their biggest regret. The choice is simple.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine remembers Morocco’s amazing food more than anything else

Navy veteran and Food Network Allstar, August Dannehl cooks a four course meal for his fellow vets based on stories from their service. A braised pork belly inspired by the MRE’s feared dehydrated pork product, Chicken Tagine inspired by a training mission in Morocco – these elements provide the backdrop for a holiday celebration between veterans.


Donna’s first visit to Morocco was for a training mission with the Marine Corps. It was on this trip that she and her unit befriended the owner and crew of a small local restaurant. They would eat there so often that their business provided new clothing for all of the servers and their families and when it came to leave, they were made this delicious parting meal.

Chicken Tagine w/ Preserved Lemon and Saffron CousCous

Inspired by Donna’s Service in Morocco

Ingredients
Tagine
8 lg. chicken thighs
2 tbs spice mix
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tbs grated fresh ginger
2 tsp saffron
2 tb tomato paste
2 cups low-salt chicken stock
1 cup castelvetrano olives

Spice Mix
3 ½ tbs sweet paprika
1 tbs garlic powder
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbs ground coriander
2 tbs ground turmeric
1 tbs ginger powder
½ tbs ground cardamom
2 ½ tsp ground allspice

Couscous
3 cups couscous
3 cups low-salt chicken stock
4 tbs. unsalted butter
2 tsp. saffron threads (crumbled)
Also need
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
½ bunch cilantro, leaves

Prepare
Prepare the CousCous by heating the chicken stock, butter and saffron over medium-heat until boiling. Add couscous and reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10-12 minutes (until couscous is tender). Add salt, pepper and drizzle of olive oil to taste. Set aside.
Combine the spices in a dry sauté pan set over low heat, and toast them gently until they release their fragrance, 2 minutes or so. Transfer to a bowl, and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 350. Season the chicken thighs with the salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of the spice mix, along with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large dutch over over medium heat, and sear the chicken in batches, starting skin-side down, until the thighs are browned. Remove all but two tablespoons of the fat in pan, then return it to the heat, and brown the cauliflower and add the chicken.
Reduce heat below the pan, and add the onion, garlic, ginger and saffron. Cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, lemons and chicken stock and simmer until reduced by 1/3. Cover pot and transfer to over for 30 mins.
Serve with on top of couscous with cilantro garnish.

Music courtesy of Jingle Punks
Dramatic Classical Hip Hop – Trent Williamson

Faded-JP – Shota Ike

Articles

Russian jet crashes, ruins military infomercial

A Russian Mig-29K assigned to the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier splashed down in the Mediterranean Ocean soon after takeoff during a planned mission to Syria. The pilot ejected and was recovered by a helicopter.


According to U.S. officials who spoke to Fox News, three Russian fighters took off from the ramp of the Kuznetsov to conduct missions in Syria, but one of them turned around. It attempted to land but crashed in the ocean instead.

British destroyer HMS ‘York’ shadows ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in 2011. (Photo: U.K. Ministry of Defense)

This is bad news for Russia whose deployment of the Kuznetsov was believed by some experts to be an infomercial for their equipment rather than a military necessity. Of course, Putin hopes countries like India and China will buy Moscow’s ships and weapons.

But the Russian product display in the Mediterranean is filled with old gear and compromises. The MiG-29K is the carrier variant of the Fulcrum and is generally considered to be a capable but lackluster aircraft.

Andrei Fomin, chief editor of the Vzlyot magazine, said the planes boast “stealth technologies, a new system of in-flight refueling, folding wings and mechanisms by which the aircraft has the ability to perform short take-offs and land at low speeds.”

MiG-29K of INAS 303 prepares to catch the wire aboard the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya in 2014. (Photo: Indian Navy)

Those short takeoff and in-flight refueling capabilities are vital for Russian carrier-based fighters, since the only Russian carrier is the Kuznetsov which has no catapults. Planes have to take off under their own power with a limited load of fuel and ordnance.

This limits the planes’ range, forcing Russia to keep the carrier close to Syria’s shores for its pilots to have a chance at hitting anything.

So the MiG-29K was a hard sell anyway, one of the reasons that the MiG firm has fallen on hard times since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. And new customers aren’t likely to line up for a plane that just crashed on the international stage.

The crash comes after the Kuznetsov was already being mocked for its massive plumes of smoke on the current mission and frequent breakdowns on previous deployments.

This stands in stark contrast to Russia’s big, flashy military display of 2015. Their navy fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria and sent the footage around the world. Even that display wasn’t perfect. Four missiles fell short and crashed into Iran, killing cows.
MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

In the mid-1990s, U.S. oil company Unocal attempted to secure a gas-pipeline deal with the Taliban, which had seized control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, after a devastating civil war.


It was the United States’ first attempt to forge a partnership with the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which was not recognized by the international community.

Unocal even flew senior Taliban members to Texas in 1997 in an attempt to come to an agreement.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who had served as a State Department official when Ronald Reagan was president, worked as a consultant for the now-defunct company.

Khalilzad, who met with the Taliban members in the city of Houston, publicly voiced support for the radical Islamists at the time. The “Taliban does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran — it is closer to the Saudi model,” Khalilzad wrote in a 1996 op-ed for The Washington Post. “The group upholds a mix of traditional Pashtun values and an orthodox interpretation of Islam.”

Negotiations over the pipeline collapsed in 1998, when Al-Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. By then, the terrorist group, led by Osama bin Laden, had relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan, where it was offered safe harbor by the Taliban.

Suddenly, the Taliban went from a potential U.S. economic partner to an international pariah that was hit by U.S. sanctions and air strikes.

Three years later, the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime after Al-Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that killed nearly 3,000 people.

But now, after waging a deadly, nearly 19-year insurgency that has killed several thousand U.S. troops, the Taliban has regained its status as a potential U.S. partner.

On February 29, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement aimed at ending the United States’ longest military action. The deal lays out a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for various security commitments from the insurgents and a pledge to hold talks over a political settlement with the Afghan government — which it so far has refused to do.

The deal — signed before a bevy of international officials and diplomats in Doha, Qatar — has given the Taliban what it has craved for years: international legitimacy and recognition.

Meanwhile, the agreement has undermined the internationally recognized government in Kabul, which was not a party to the accord.

The architect of the deal was Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, who secured a deal following 18 months of grueling negotiations with the militants in Qatar. The Afghan-born Khalilzad had served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq in the intervening years since working as a Unocal adviser.

“There’s a 20-year bell curve, from 1998 to 2018, when the Taliban went from partner to peak pariah and now back to partner,” says Ted Callahan, a security expert on Afghanistan. But the “changes that have occurred have been less within the Taliban movement and more based on U.S. instrumentalism and war fatigue.”

The extremist group’s transformation to a potential U.S. ally was considered unthinkable until recently.

During its brutal rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban oppressed women, massacred ethnic and religious minorities, and harbored Al-Qaeda.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, fueled the illicit opium trade, and sheltered several terrorist groups.

“U.S. officials are selling the Taliban as a partner when it is anything but,” says Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at a Washington-based think tank, the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, and editor of the Long War Journal. “This is a fiction made up by U.S. officials who are desperate for a deal that will cover the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Radicalized In Pakistan

The Taliban, which means “students” in Pashto, emerged in 1994 in northwestern Pakistan following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first appeared in ultraconservative Islamic madrasahs, or religious schools, in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees. Funded by Saudi Arabia, the madrasahs radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought the Soviets.

The Taliban first appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul.

The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce its ultraconservative brand of Islam. It captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.

Neighboring Pakistan is widely credited with forming the Taliban, an allegation it has long denied. Islamabad was among only three countries — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to recognize the Taliban regime when it ruled Afghanistan.

The Taliban was led by its spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed cleric who was a mujahedin. Omar died of natural causes at a hospital in Pakistan in 2013, with the group’s leadership covering up his death for two years. He was believed to be leading the Afghan Taliban insurgency from within Pakistan.

War-weary Afghans initially welcomed the Taliban, which cracked down on corruption and lawlessness and brought stability across much of the country.

But the welcome was short-lived. The religious zealots enforced strict edicts based on their extreme interpretation of Shari’a law — banning TV and music, forcing men to pray and grow beards, making women cover themselves from head to toe, and preventing women and girls from working or going to school.

The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engage in adultery. Executions were common.

Besides its notorious treatment of women, the Taliban also attracted international condemnation when in 2001 it demolished the 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, a testament to the country’s pre-Islamic history and a treasured, unique world cultural monument.

‘We Were All Scared’

Orzala Nemat is a leading women’s rights activist in Afghanistan. Under Taliban rule, she risked her life by creating a network of underground girls schools across the country. Classes were held secretly in living rooms, tents, and abandoned buildings. The teachers were often older girls or educated women.

Girls attending the classes would often come in twos to avoid suspicion and carry a Koran, Islam’s holy book, in case they were stopped by the Taliban.

“We were all scared,” says Nemat, who now heads a leading Kabul think tank. “They would probably flog us, put us in prison, and punish us [if we were caught].”

Under the Taliban, Isaq Ahmadi earned a living by playing soccer for one of the dozen teams created and funded by various Taliban leaders in Kabul. While the Taliban banned many sports and other forms of public entertainment, soccer and cricket thrived.

“It was a very difficult and dark time,” he says. “There were no jobs, food shortages, and no public services.”

During Taliban rule, the United Nations said 7.5 million Afghans faced starvation. Even then, the Taliban restricted the presence of aid groups in Afghanistan.

The Taliban regime generated most of its money from Islamic taxes on citizens and handouts from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, its only allies. The Taliban failed to provide basic needs and Kabul lay in tatters after the brutal civil war of 1992-96.

U.S.-Led Invasion

The Taliban attracted the world’s attention after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The regime had harbored bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the terrorist attacks. But the Taliban steadfastly refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders for prosecution and, in October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan.

By December, the Taliban regime was toppled with help from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Most Taliban leaders, including Al-Qaeda founder bin Laden, evaded capture and resettled in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the southwestern city of Quetta, where its leadership is still based.

By 2005, the Taliban had reorganized and unleashed a deadly insurgency against foreign troops and the new democratically elected government in Kabul. Despite U.S.-led surges in troops and an escalation in air strikes, international and Afghan forces were unable to stop the Taliban from extending its influence in the vast countryside.

The Taliban enjoyed safe havens and backing from Pakistan, a claim Islamabad has denied. The insurgency was also funded by the billions of dollars the group made from the illicit opium trade.

Today, the militants control or contest more territory — around half of the country — than at any other time since 2001.

Meanwhile, the Kabul government is unpopular, corrupt, bitterly divided, and heavily dependent on foreign assistance. Government forces have suffered devastatingly high numbers of casualties against the Taliban.

Negotiating An End To War

In the fall of 2010, U.S. officials secretly met a young Taliban representative outside the southern German city of Munich. It was the first time the Taliban and the United States showed they were open to talks over a negotiated end to the war.

But in the intervening years, meaningful U.S.-Taliban talks failed to take off, hampered by mutual distrust, missed opportunities, protests by the Afghan government, and the deaths of two successive Taliban leaders.

For years, U.S. policy was to facilitate an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process between the Kabul government and the Taliban. But with the Taliban refusing to negotiate with state officials — whom they view as illegitimate — the peace process was deadlocked.

Controversially, U.S. policy changed in 2018 when Khalilzad was appointed as special envoy for peace and he opened direct negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar without the presence of the Afghan government. Eighteen months later, the sides signed the landmark deal aimed at ending the war.

“The U.S. has been sidelining the Afghan government for years, first by refusing to allow it to be involved with negotiations, then by signing the deal without the Afghan government as a partner,” Roggio says.

“The Taliban maintains the Afghan government is merely a ‘puppet’ of the U.S,” he adds. “The U.S. has done everything in its power to prove this point.”

Road Map For Afghanistan

The prospect of the Taliban returning to the fold as part of a future power-sharing agreement has fueled angst among Afghans, many of whom consider the militants to be terrorists and remember the strict, backward societal rules they enforced when they were in power.

More than 85 percent of Afghans have no sympathy for the Taliban, according to the Asia Foundation’s 2019 survey. Urban respondents (88.6 percent) were more inclined than rural respondents (83.9 percent) to have no sympathy for the militants.

But the Taliban’s adherence to ultraconservative Islam and the Pashtun tribal code has struck a chord with some currently living under the movement’s thumb in rural Afghanistan, which has borne the brunt of the war and where life has improved little. But those ideas are largely alien in major urban centers that have witnessed major social, economic, and democratic gains over the past 18 years.

“The main difference is that the Taliban of today, like Afghans generally, are more worldly in terms of their exposure to media, their increased engagement with various international actors and, at least for the leadership, the greater wealth they command, both individually and as a movement,” Callahan says.

But the Taliban’s “fundamental approach to governing, which is very maximalist and involves the imposition of a uniform moral order, stands in stark contrast to the more liberal norms that have evolved since 2001, mainly in urban areas.”

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, millions of girls have gone to school and continue to study, women have joined the workforce in meaningful numbers, and dozens of women are members of parliament and work in the government or diplomatic corps.

Afghanistan also has a thriving independent media scene in an area of the world where press freedoms are severely limited. Under the Taliban, all forms of independently reported news were banned.

There was only state-owned radio, the Taliban’s Voice of Sharia, which was dominated by calls to prayer and religious teachings.

The independent media have come under constant attack and pressure from the Taliban and Islamic State militants, which have killed dozens of reporters. The attacks have made Afghanistan one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists.

The Taliban has been projecting itself as a more moderate force, pledging not to monopolize power in Afghanistan. But few believe that the militants have changed.

“There is little difference between the Taliban of 1994 and the Taliban of today,” Roggio says. “If anything, the group has become more sophisticated in its communications and negotiations. Its ideology has not changed. Its leadership has naturally changed with the deaths of its leaders [over the years], but this hasn’t changed how it operates.”

Red Lines

The Taliban has said it will protect women’s rights, but only if they don’t violate Islam or Afghan values, suggesting it will curtail some of the fragile freedoms gained by women in the past two decades.

Many Afghan women fear that their rights enshrined in the constitution will be given away as part of a peace settlement with the Taliban. The constitution guarantees the same rights to women as men, although in practice women still face heavy discrimination in society, particularly in rural areas.

But the Taliban has demanded a new constitution based on “Islamic principles,” prompting concern among Afghan rights campaigners. As an Islamic republic, Afghanistan’s laws and constitution are based on Islam, although there are more liberal and democratic elements within it.

Farahnaz Forotan launched an online campaign, #MyRedLine, in March 2018. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan women have joined the campaign to speak about the freedoms and rights they are not willing to give up in the name of peace with the Taliban.

Forotan, a journalist, says she wanted to let Afghan decision-makers know that peace cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights and freedoms of the country’s women.

“Almost everything has changed from that time,” she says, referring to Taliban rule. “We have made a lot of progress. We have a civil society, an independent press, and freedoms. People are more aware of their social and political rights.”

Many Afghans support a negotiated end to the decades-old war in Afghanistan, but not at any price.

“I support the peace process with the Taliban, but only if women’s freedoms are safeguarded,” says Ekram, a high-school student from the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, a relatively peaceful and prosperous region near the border with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

“Under no circumstances do we want a peace deal that sacrifices our freedoms and democracy,” Ekram says. “That wouldn’t be peace at all.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

North Korea blasts US arsenal in fresh propaganda video

A new video that called US forces “perverted animals,” and portrayed them under attack was uploaded on a YouTube account run by North Korean propagandists.


In the video published on Saturday, still photos of an aircraft carrier, reportedly the USS Carl Vinson, and a B-1B bomber can be seen in simulated flames, a patriotic speech was recorded over the footage, under North Korea’s characteristically stern tone.

Also read: The US is considering ‘all options’ to stop North Korea

Additionally, photos of US and South Korean forces were displayed, presumably in their annual joint military exercises that take place this time of year.

uriminzokkiri/YouTube

The narrator in the video declared that “a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier,” and that “the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire,” Japan Times reported.

The still photos used in the video resemble photo packages produced by professional news organizations, such as Reuters. Further, there also seems to be an image that bears some semblance to real-time strategy video games.

Screenshot via uriminzokkiri/YouTube

The same propaganda network was scrutinized in 2013 for a video that placed virtual crosshairs over the US Capitol building and portrayed simulated attacks on New York and Washington.

The video was uploaded shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to South Korea for the first time as the US’s top diplomat, and saying that “the threat of North Korea is imminent.” Much to North Korea’s chagrin, annual military exercises involving 17,000 US troops and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are also being conducted in South Korea.

Though the video’s rhetoric may sound inciteful, North Korea has a storied history of using inflammatory verbiage in their broadcasts, often targeting their southern counterpart and the US.

MIGHTY FIT

Data shows performance divide on Army Combat Fitness Test

It may take up to five years to finalize the standards for the Army Combat Fitness Test as the service struggles to address the performance gap between male and female soldiers on the service’s first-ever gender-neutral fitness assessment.

The Army just completed in late September 2019 a year-long field test of the ACFT, involving about 60 battalions of soldiers. And as of Oct. 1, 2019, soldiers in Basic Combat Training, advanced Individual training and one station unit training began to take the ACFT as a graduation requirement.


So far, the data is showing “about a 100 to a 110-point difference between men and women, on average,” Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com.

North Carolina National Guard Fitness Manager Bobby Wheeler explain the proper lifting technique of the ACFT deadlift event to the students of the Master Fitness Trainers Level II Certification Course, Sept. 25, 2019, at Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alonzo Clark)

Final test-score averages taken from soldiers in the active forces, National Guard and Reserve who participated in the ACFT field test illustrate the performance gap that currently exists between male and female soldiers.

Maximum deadlift: Male soldiers deadlifted an average of 238 pounds; females lifted an average of 160 pounds.

Standing power throw: Male soldiers threw an average of 9 feet; female soldiers three average of 5.5 feet.

Hand release pushups: Male soldiers performed an average of 34 pushups; female soldiers performed an average of 20.

Sprint-drag-carry: Male soldiers completed the SDC in an average of 1 minute, 51 seconds; female soldiers completed the event in an average of 2 minutes, 28 seconds.

Leg tuck: Male soldiers completed 8.3 leg tucks; female soldiers completed 1.9 leg tucks.

Two-mile run: Male soldiers completed the run in an average of 16 minutes, 45 seconds; female soldiers completed it in an average of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.

U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.

(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)

All of the test-score averages are high enough to pass the ACFT, data that contrasts dramatically with that shown on a set of leaked slides posted on U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments in late September. Those slides showed an 84% failure rate for some female soldiers participating in the ACFT field test, compared to a 30% failure rate among male soldiers.

CIMT officials said the slides were not official documents. Hibbard said the field test showed that soldiers’ scores improved significantly between the first time they took the ACFT and after they were given time to work on their problem areas.

Currently, female soldiers at the start of Basic Combat Training taking the ACFT average about “a third of a leg tuck,” Hibbard said.

“If you have 144 women in basic training, the average is .3; by the end of it they are doing one leg tuck,” Hibbard said, who added that that is all that is required to pass the ACFT in that event. “So, in 10 weeks, I can get from a soldier not being able to do a leg tuck on average to doing one leg tuck.”

Hibbard said there are critics that say, “it’s too hard; females are never going to do well on it.”

“Well, we have had women max every single category, [but] we haven’t had a female max all six categories at once.”

Hibbard said the Army would be in the same position if it tried to create a gender-neutral standard for the current Army Physical Fitness Test.

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test, Dec. 19, 2018.

(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

“We would still have challenges, because you have to make the low end low enough that 95% of the women can pass,” Hibbard said, adding that the Army will likely have to make small adjustments to the standard over time as soldiers improve their performance in each event.

“It’s going to be three to five years, like we did the current PT test.”

The Army first introduced the APFT in 1980 and made adjustments over time, Hibbard said.

“Once the Army began to train and understand how to do the test, we looked at the scores and we looked at everybody was doing and we rebased-lined,” Hibbard said.

The next key step for implementing the ACFT by Oct. 1, 2020, will be to have active duty soldiers take two diagnostic ACFT tests and National Guard and Reserve soldiers take one to establish to get a better sense of the force’s ability to pass the test.

“I don’t think it is going to be hard for the Army to pass; what have to figure out as an Army is how do we incentivize excellence,” he said. “The goal of this is we change our culture so that we incentivize and motive our soldiers to be in better physical shape.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This insanely talented sniper was known as ‘The White Death’

Considered the deadliest sniper of all time, Simo Hayha joined Finland’s Civil Guard at the age of 17 and quickly established himself as an excellent marksman. It was here that he honed his skills with the Mosin-Nagant, developing a talent that the Soviets would soon come to fear.


Hayha regularly practiced his warfighting craft by accurately firing his bolt-action rifle 16 times per minute at a target 500-feet away — which is a challenging task.

In 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland in what would become known as the “Winter War,” or the Russo-Finnish War.

Although the Finns were highly outnumbered, they had the home-field advantage and turned to guerrilla-style fighting to defend their territory from the encroaching Red Army.

In the beginning, Hayha found himself fighting against an enemy force of 4,000 with just 31 other men at his side.

Related video: 5 of the most badass snipers of all time – Featuring John Cena

On Dec. 31, 1939, Hayha scored 25 kill shots while dressed in all white to perfectly camouflage himself among the snow-covered terrain. The talented marksman would stalk his targets in freezing temperatures for several hours. Using the surrounding snow, Hayha packed himself deep within the frozen ground to decrease his chances of being noticed.

Hayha preferred using iron sights instead of optic scopes as other snipers had grown to favor. Although it was harder to get a fix on a target, using iron sights helped him avoid detection from light reflected off the scope.

As Hayha tallied up his kills, he was given a nickname that would write him into the history books — “The White Death.”

He tallied 505 kills, the highest count from any significant war. All of the kills were accomplished in fewer than 100 days — meaning he averaging over five per day. Hayha ended up getting wounded in the war; shot by an explosive bullet which nearly took off his lower left jaw.

He survived the wound and continued to live a long life. Hayha passed away in a veteran’s nursing home in 2002 at the age of 96.

Check out Simple History’s video below to learn more about this talented sniper’s record-setting life.