In what would come to be called the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot, 96 Israeli fighters and a squadron of UAVs faced off against 100 Syrian fighters backed up by 19 surface-to-air missile launchers in 1982. It was one of the largest jet battles ever fought.
Israel has a history of fighting with its neighbors, especially from the 1960s through the 1980s. A series of small battles with Egypt resulted in some hard lessons learned for the Israel Air Force after they lost a number of fighters to surface-to-air-missiles.
But the IAF learned their lessons and on Jun. 9, 1982, they attacked 19 Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries deployed near their border. In the first two hours of fighting, the IAF destroyed 17 of the missile batteries with no losses. Then, things really went nuts.
The Syrians sent up 100 MiGs to intercept the 96 F-15s, F-16s, and F-4s that were attacking the SAM sites. The Israelis were flying an E-2C Hawkeye airborne warning and control system aircraft that picked up the incoming fighters. It began feeding instructions to the IAF fighters.
The more advanced Israeli fighters, firing both Sidewinder heat-seeking and Sparrow radar-guided missiles, destroyed 29 of the Syrian Air Force fighters.
One of the Syrian Air Force’s main fighters in the conflict was the MiG-21, like this one flown by the Serbian Air Force. Photo: Wikipedia/claudiu_ne2000
But the IAF wasn’t done. There were still two missile sites they wanted gone. So, they returned Jun. 10. Again, the bulk of the Syrian Air Force lifted off to greet them, and the IAF pounded them into the ground, downing another 35 Syrian aircraft with no Israeli losses.
The stunning victory was due to a number of factors. The Israeli pilots had benefitted from great training and a lot of combat experience, but the Syrians had also screwed themselves.
The Syrians fed their pilots instructions from a ground control station that couldn’t communicated due to Israeli jamming. In an Air Power Journal article, a Western military observer of the battle says, “I watched a group of Syrian fighter planes fly figure-eights. They just flew around and around and obviously had no idea what to do next.”
Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency at the time, trashed the lazy deployment of Syrian missile sites. “The Syrians used mobile missiles in a fixed configuration; they put the radars in the valley instead of the hills because they didn’t want to dig latrines–seriously.”
The conflict between the two countries continued through Jul. 1982. In over a month of fighting, Israel lost only two jets while Syria lost at least 87.
Negotiators are working toward a June 30 deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.
Should the negotiations ultimately fail and the talks fall apart, the Obama administration and any future US president will have what Michael Crowley of Politico describes as an awe-inspiring “plan B” — the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).
According to Crowley, the US has practiced at least three attack runs over the New Mexico desert. These runs have been flown by B-2 bombers and are meant to test the US’ trump card against any attempt to procure a nuclear weapon, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator.
MOP, which is 20 feet long and weighs 15 tons, “boggles the mind,” according to a former Pentagon official who spoke to Politico after watching footage of the tests.
There’s no publicly available footage of the tests, but this footage of a BLU-109 in action gives an idea of how the MOP works. Bunker-buster munitions burst through a target’s defensive layering before the warhead detonates:
The MOP is the world’s largest nonnuclear weapon. Designed to hit hardened targets, bunkers, and locations deep under ground, the MOP hits the ground at supersonic speed after being released from a B-2 bomber. After impact, the bomb can burrow through 200 feet of earth and 60 feet of concrete before detonating.
In the event that negotiations fail, the US is in a position to launch a series of MOP strikes against Fordow, a once secret nuclear facility contained within a hollowed-out mountain and specially hardened against aerial attack. The centrifuges at Fordow are capable of enriching uranium, which could be used for a nuclear weapon.
Destroying Fordow would be a difficult endeavor despite the size and sheer force of the MOP. Politico notes that the total destruction of the facility would likely require multiple B-2s dropping MOPs at the same GPS-designated location to ensure that the bombs would be able to drill through both the side of the mountain and the facility’s hardened shell before detonating.
But the MOP is supposed to be used in exactly these kinds of coordinated strikes. According to The Wall Street Journal, the bomb is designed to be dropped in pairs. The first is meant to clear a path for the second hit, heightening the bombs’ potent penetration capabilities.
Unnamed officials told The Journal that the MOP’s devastation potential is unlike any nonnuclear weapon ever built.
The weapons have been designed by the US to destroy hardened facilities within North Korea and Iran.
Should the US decide to carry out bombing runs against Iranian nuclear sites, the US could run into substantial difficulties.
Russia has announced that it would be willing to sell the S-300 air-defense system, which can hit aircraft at high altitude from a 150-mile range, to Iran.
If Iran were to acquire the S-300s, Tehran would be able to set up a formidable ring of defense around its nuclear sites.
This would make Iranian air defenses much more difficult to overcome, raising the scale and the stakes of any US bombing run against the country’s nuclear facilities.
The MOP is unique for its ability to penetrate enemy defenses, but it is not the largest bomb the US has ever built. That title goes to the T-12 Cloudmaker, a World War II-era bomb that clocked in at over 40,000 pounds.
On Dec. 16, 1944, Adolf Hitler launched an ambitious but badly planned counterattack meant to break the back of the Allied forces and allow the Nazis to dictate the peace terms that would end the war.
Instead, it guaranteed his defeat, but not before forcing hundreds of thousands of soldiers on each side to fight in bitter, near-Arctic levels of cold amidst driving winter storms and winds. Managing a surprise attack with dozens of divisions is no easy feat. Here’s how they did it at the Battle of the Bulge.
In France, German communications were more reliant on the use of radio waves, which could be intercepted. French citizens were also likely to report Nazi movements, providing near real-time intel. On the German side of the border, both of these advantages disappeared.
Despite these advantages, the German troop buildup was a logistical nightmare. Hitler’s plan required 30 divisions, including 12 panzer divisions, and over 1,000 planes be transported to the Ardennes using only trains and horses to limit fuel consumption. In addition to all supplies consumed, Hitler wanted to stage 4.5 million gallons of fuel and 50 trainloads of ammunition for the advance.
All of this buildup had to take place under Allied air attack without the Allies getting wise. Surprisingly, the Germans were mostly successful.
The troop buildup portion was actually more successful than planned with approximately 1,500 troop trains and 500 supply trains carrying 12 armored divisions and 29 infantry divisions to the staging areas for the offensive.
The aerial buildup was less successful. The Germans had 1,250 planes ready before Dec. 16 — 250 less than originally planned.
But the weather turned in the German’s favor in the days before the attack. The heavy fogs that limited reconnaissance flights also grounded most other planes, neutering the Allied air forces and eliminating that advantage.
So, on Dec. 16, the Germans launched their three-pronged attack against what were largely inexperienced and exhausted troops defending the forest. The most combat-ready troops had been moved to other areas to prepare for an Allied invasion across the German borders.
Infantrymen of the 3rd Armored Division advance under artillery fire in Pont-Le-Ban, Belgium. January 15, 1945. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army)
The Germans further complicated the American’s situation by sending thousands of English-speaking German troops behind American lines in captured uniforms and jeeps to commit acts of sabotage and to spy on the American response.
Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff briefing was interrupted that night with word of the German advance, and he immediately pegged it as a massive counterattack with the goal of driving to the Atlantic. He ordered both the 7th and 10th Armored divisions to drive in to help.
Many American units were quickly surrounded and forced to fight against a siege by German units. The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were ordered forward to relieve pressure on the American lines, arriving before the siege was complete.
The 101st was dedicated predominantly to the defense of Bastogne, a city where seven key highways met, making it crucial for the victory or defeat of the German attack. When the Germans requested the 101st’s surrender from Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe and his staff, the general famously responded with “NUTS!” and continued the defense.
For the first week, the Allies fought desperate defensive and delaying actions against the Nazi juggernaut, usually at a disadvantage in terms of numbers, supplies, and equipment.
But the weather cleared on Dec. 23, and Allied air forces surged into the sky to beat back the Luftwaffe and provide support to the beleaguered forces on the ground. Bombing runs broke up German forces in staging areas while strafing by fighters tore through attacking columns.
A few days later, Patton’s Third Army reached the German lines and cut a path through them. Hitler’s bold advance had fallen well short of its goal of the Belgian coast and German units, overextended and undersupplied, began to be rounded up and captured. By the end of January, the Allies had regained the lost ground and were once again marching towards Berlin.
Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs chose a contractor to run its Choice Card program who was previously fired for allegedly defrauding the government after working on a similar contract with the Department of Defense.
The contractor, TriWest, now takes so long to schedule appointments with private healthcare providers that many veterans could shorten wait times by opting for traditional VA care, whose delays Choice was intended to allow veterans to escape.
Choice Card links vets with private doctors, but VA seemingly tried to sabotage the program, fearing it jeopardizes its budget.
TriWest contracts to administer parts of Tricare, the active military’s healthcare system, since 1996. TriWest paid $10 million in September, 2011, to settle charges that it defrauded the government by negotiating low prices with doctors but not passing the resulting savings on to taxpayers.
“Those who overbill Tricare threaten to undermine the health care provided to our men and women in uniform,” Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, said of the legal settlement at the time.
But the standards seem to be lower for care owed to those who formerly wore the uniform of the U.S. military, because VA gave TriWest a contract in September, 2013, to run its Community Care program, a precursor to Choice Card that allowed veterans to use private doctors in some circumstances.
Inspector general reports said that program was run poorly, pointing the blame both at TriWest and the way VA set up their work. Meanwhile, Congress created the Choice Card program to enable any veteran delayed more than 30 days for VA care, or who didn’t live close to a VA facility, to seek private health care services.
VA managers and leaders of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union, which represents most of the department’s employees opposed it, fearing that fewer veterans in the government system would mean smaller budgets and fewer civil service jobs.
When VA leaders claimed budget shortfalls threatened closure of hospitals, they asked Congress to let them re-purpose $3.3 billion originally authorized for the Choice Card program.
When the bill became law anyway, VA gave the Choice Card contract to TriWest and HealthNet, another company that worked on Community Care.
A VA spokesperson said that “in order to enact [Choice] within 90 days, VA held an industry day to try to partner with industry to operate the program. Unfortunately, given the timeline set to roll out the program, VA’s only option was to modify a previously existing national community care contract, which was never intended to handle the scope” of the Choice Card model.
Official data obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation shows that more vets are now waiting months for private care because contractors take so long to schedule appointments.
Consequently, VA bureaucrats and their union will likely get the result they sought: veterans going back into the government healthcare system despite its delays.
Private care doctors aren’t happy with the Choice Card initiative either, because the companies, which also manage payments, have been so slow to pay, causing many private care physicians to refuse veterans, leading to the same result.
A knowledgeable VA source told TheDCNF that after a patient does finally see a private doctor, TriWest takes up to 75 days to get the medical results of that appointment back into the VA system. That makes followup care impossible.
Darin Selnick, an Air Force veteran and former VA official under George W. Bush who now runs Concerned Veterans For America’s Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, said that “TriWest and HealthNet may not have been the best choices,” but much of the failure is because VA “didn’t want it to work.”
Officials at VA “didn’t like the idea of patients going outside,” because “what does any organization want to do? It wants to get more money, more people, more power, it wants to grow,” Selnick added.
Scheduling delays happen because the system has a middleman, Selnick said. What other health care plan has “a system where you have to call a 1-800 number and they set up an appointment for you” with a provider that they select?,” he asked.
Half of all veterans are on Medicare anyway, so the VA should simply pay a small supplement to Medicare providers, instead of creating multiple administrative layers of VA bureaucrats and contractors in between veterans and healthcare workers, Selnick noted, which would purportedly save billions of tax dollars annually.
Those close to the issue believe “the chief problem with Choice is that we’ve had to rely on VA to implement it, and the department is just not very good at implementing things,” a spokesman for the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which designed the Choice Card program, told TheDCNF
The committee never requested a third-party administrator to schedule appointments, the spokesman noted.
Companies involved in the Choice program defend their record. “Overall, TriWest is processing 90% of clean claims from providers within 30 days,” the company explained, adding that it got “exceptional” and “very good” performance ratings for its Tricare work, and saved the military money, but voluntarily entered a settlement on the assumption that more savings were possible.
Hiring people with prior records of failure is a pattern at VA. When hospital directors come under criticism for poor management, VA executives routinely remove them, then reinstate them at another hospital where the poor performance continues.
Only weeks after the Chicago VA fired Deloris Judd from the federal workforce for patient abuse and dishonesty, the Phoenix VA hired her to work on the Choice Card program.
The United States will send two strategic B-1 bombers to the Korean peninsula to take part in joint drills with the South Korean air force, a Defense Ministry spokesperson in Seoul confirmed to EFE on June 20th.
The B-1s will carry out the drills with two F-15K fighters from the Korean Air force, according to the spokesperson, who explained that these maneuvers are scheduled regularly.
The deployment of the bombers from the US Andersen air base on Guam island comes after the death of US student Otto Warmbier, who had been detained by North Korea last year and repatriated last week in a comatose state.
He fell into the coma shortly after his last public appearance during his March 2016 trial in Pyongyang, according to his family, who reported his death in his native Ohio on June 19th.
The North Korean regime maintains that Warmbier suffered an outbreak of botulism for which he was given a sleeping pill and did not wake up again.
The last time the US sent B-1 bombers to the Korean peninsula was on May 29, just hours after the Pyongyang regime test-fired a ballistic missile.
Observers say North Korea uses American citizens arrested there to try and exert pressure for concessions from the United States.
In April 2003, the Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines entered Baghdad, headed for the Iraqi Intelligence Ministry. Sergeant Jesus Vindaña, a radio operator, was relaying orders from his command when a sniper’s bullet tore through his helmet from behind.
His buddies tried to revive him, but the company corpsman declared him dead at the scene.
Except he wasn’t dead — Vindaña’s heart was beating, but it was so weak it didn’t register a pulse.
Nearby, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, was working as a reporter for the cable news network.
Gupta was embedded with “Devil Docs,” a team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and others who operate out of medical tents called “Forward Resuscitative Surgical Suites” in some of the most dangerous combat zones in the world. It was in this FRSS that Gupta found Vindaña – and his pulse.
Luckily for the wounded Marine, Dr. Gupta is a member of the staff and faculty of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. He is the associate chief of Neurosurgery there, and routinely works in its operating rooms.
As the FRSS team worked frantically to save the Marine (who had twice been declared dead already), they asked Gupta for his Neurosurgery expertise, he later recalled in an article on CNN. Turns out, the military didn’t send many brain surgeons to the front-line FRSS units.
They also didn’t have the medical equipment necessary to open skulls during surgery. Not a problem for the resourceful doctor. Gupta borrowed a set of tools from the Marines there and used a Black and Decker power drill to open Vindaña’s head.
Vindaña shows Dr. Gupta the helmet he wore the day he was shot. (CNN/YouTube)
Within an hour, Gupta removed the bullet in Vindaña’s brain and the Marine was in the recovery room.
“In all the years I have worked in hospitals, I have never seen resources mobilized so quickly and health care workers move with such purpose,” Dr. Gupta wrote just three years later. “And, remember, it was a tent in the middle of the desert by the dark of night in the most dangerous place on Earth.”
Vindaña now advocates for health care reform and maintains contact with Dr. Gupta. (CNN/YouTube)
Years after the surgery, Gupta met with Vindaña again in the Marine’s native Los Angeles. The only noticeable remnants of his bullet to the brain was a “slight limp and weakness in his left hand.”
A common misconception is that Daylight Savings Time exists so the farming industry could have more evening hours, but in fact, agriculture has long opposed DST (and for awhile there, they were successful at overturning the practice and returning the United States to “God’s Time”).
DST as we know it was actually instituted in the U.S. in 1918 to support war-fighting efforts, and we were late to the game; the German Empire and Austria-Hungary began DST in 1916, and one by one other countries began to follow suit. It was generally abandoned after WWI, but reinstated during WWII.
Once the war was over, there was no uniformity throughout the U.S. as to whether or not states would adopt DST permanently. It wasn’t until 1966 that Congress legislated DST for 48 states through the Uniform Time Act.
Arizona (save for the Navajo Indian Reservation) does not observe DST because extending daylight hours during summer increases energy consumption; people want the AC on when they’re active. Hawaii also opted out of the Uniform Time Act; because of Hawaii’s latitude, there isn’t much of a difference in the length of days throughout the year anyway.
Check out the video for a quick look at the history of DST in the United States:
Robert O’Neill ate a last meal with his children and then hugged them goodbye — “most likely forever,” he privately thought.
Even his wife didn’t know where he was going.
On May 2, 2011, two helicopters touched down, one crash-landing, under the cover of darkness within an al Qaeda compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The 23-strong team entered a house and crept up the stairs.
A SEAL in front of O’Neill went along a hallway to provide cover, he recalled. When O’Neill entered the bedroom, he saw a man — bearded, tall, and gaunt — standing there.
“I knew it was him immediately,” he said. “He was taller than I imagined.”
O’Neill, a senior chief petty officer in the US Navy SEALs, aimed his rifle and fired twice, he said, hitting the 6-foot-5 figure in the head both times. Osama Bin Laden collapsed. O’Neill shot him again.
Despite his training, which taught him to immediately start gathering intel, O’Neill said he was momentarily dazed by the magnitude of what he had just done.
On July 26, the retired SEAL, in the midst of a lecture series to publicize his memoir, “The Operator,” will come to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to speak about his life and how his experiences can translate to the lives of others.
And, for the first time ever, the gear he wore the night he hunted down bin Laden — boots, helmet, bullet-proof vest, all in desert-camouflage — is on public display, until the end of July.
Navy SEALs in desert camouflage. (U.S. Navy photo)
“This will probably be our biggest event of the year,” said Joe Lopez, spokesman for the non-profit Nixon Foundation.
How did the Nixon pull off the coup before any other museum?
“They asked,” O’Neill, 41, said this week. “They asked, and I said, ‘Why not?'”
Hours after the raid, when then-President Barack Obama announced from the White House that Special Forces had killed bin Laden and that “his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity,” Americans erupted in celebration.
The details of the mission were classified. Retaliation, if members of SEAL Team 6 became known, was possible. Secrecy was paramount.
The initial excitement he felt over firing the kill shots, he said, eventually waned as his name spread through the military community and Washington, D.C.
“The secret was poorly kept,” O’Neill said. “And my name got leaked.”
So in November 2014, O’Neill fully came out and said he indeed was the shooter.
Some fellow SEALs were irked at O’Neill’s position under the spotlight. Several, anonymously, have accused him of breaking the military code by seeking glory or even lying about being the one who killed bin Laden.
The US government won’t confirm the shooter’s identity.
“I don’t really care,” O’Neill said. “I was with the team. The tactics got me to the spot. I just fired the shots. There’s no doubt it was me.”
“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” came out in April. The book, O’Neill said, is about success — how “a guy from Butte, Montana, who didn’t know how to swim, became a Navy SEAL.”
And how that guy, who had never envisioned a career in the military, spent 16 years in uniform because of a breakup with a girlfriend.
“I wanted to leave town so I signed up for the Navy,” he said. “That’s part of the book. Don’t just sit there and sulk. Do something.”
O’Neill went on 400-plus missions, including the 2009 rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and the 2005 mission to save fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell. Those rescues were turned into Tom Hanks’ film, “Captain Phillips,” and Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s “Lone Survivor.”
“When I discuss my missions,” the former special operator said about his appearances, “I tell them why we were good at the missions, how we worked as a team, and how and why we developed these traits.”
O’Neill, a Virginia native, has yet to visit the Nixon Library. But when approached, he quickly agreed.
“This is huge for us,” Lopez said. “We also thought it would be cool to have something he wore that night on display.”
Officials thought a boot would be good. Or maybe a glove. Perhaps, if lucky, his helmet.
Minus a T-shirt donated to New York City’s 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Nixon got to borrow everything.
“My uniform was at my dad’s house,” he said. “So I had it shipped there.”
O’Neill’s gear is mounted on a mannequin inside a glass case, flanked by American flags with a video nearby explaining his non-profit, Your Grateful Nation, which helps veterans, particularly those from the Special Forces, prepare for second careers.
The case is next to the front entrance in the lobby, opposite a wall-length portrait of the 37th president.
“He’s a hero,” said retired Air Force Maj. Terry Scheschy, of Riverside County, who fought in the Vietnam War and, last week, visited the Nixon Library. “To me, this provides a lot of value to the museum.”
Betty Kuo, 42, of Manhattan Beach, came to the Nixon with her family, including her two young children and their cousins. As she was buying tickets, the children saw the SEAL uniform and sprinted toward it.
Kuo joined them.
“It’s good to teach them that we’re safe, but we can’t take that for granted,” she said. “The military keeps us safe.”
Going into the mission, O’Neill certainly didn’t feel safe himself — he had doubts that his team would escape without harm.
“I thought the mission was one-way,” he said. “That’s why everyone was so excited after the mission. We all got out.”
We all know Santa’s making a list, checking it twice… probably with some help from the NSA. Meanwhile, North American Aerospace Defense Command is also making a list and checking it twice to ensure their considerable assets are ready to help ensure that Santa accomplishes his mission safely.
This long-running tradition started by accident during the height of the Cold War. But it’s stuck around, even in the post-9/11 era. According to a 2008 Air Force release, the accident occurred in 1955, when NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense command, or CONAD, got a call from a kid. A newspaper had misprinted a phone number to allow kids to track jolly old St. Nick. Instead of the local Sears store, they got the operations hotline for CONAD.
Colonel Harry Shoup was the director of operations on that Christmas Eve. Tracking Santa had not been something he’d prepared for or had been briefed to do. But when each kid called, he provided them Santa’s position, saving Christmas for the kids by assuring them that Santa was safe and on the job. The next year, CONAD did it again, and did so the year after that. When NORAD took over for CONAD in 1958, they assumed that Christmas Eve duty – and tradition – as well. In 2015, a DOD release noted that over 1500 volunteers helped carry out the mission.
The official web site, www.NORADSanta.org, includes videos, games, music, and a gift shop. There is also a Facebook page for that in this era of social media. And yes, there are apps for tracking Santa on Windows phones, Android phones, and iPhones. NORAD says that starting at 2:01 AM Eastern Standard Time on Dec. 24, they will have video of Santa making preparations for his mission. At 6 AM EST that day, live phone operators will be available at 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out this video of the history of how NORAD got started.
When a Taliban murder-suicide bomber killed two American troops with the 82nd Airborne Division, it particularly hit hard for one family. According to an Army Times report, the solider, Specialist Chris Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, left behind a wife, Britt, who was expecting their first child.
The Defense Department reported that the August 2 attack that killed Spc. Harris also killed Sgt. Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana ,and wounded four other troops. Both Harris and Hunter were with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg.
An online fund-raiser was launched on Aug. 3 on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe.com to help Britt keep a handle on bills and other expenses. As of 9:53 AM Eastern time on Aug. 4, the online fundraiser for Mrs. Harris had raised $35,570 from 782 donors.
The online fundraiser is not the only fundraiser on the way for Britt and her unborn child. According to the VA website, Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance offers a $400,000 death benefit for a monthly premium of $29.00.
While those benefits will kick in, words from the GoFundMe page still apply: “During this time, money should be the absolute least important thing on [Britt’s] mind. If you feel it in your heart to donate to this cause, it would be kindly appreciated.”
The White House is giving the Pentagon greater flexibility to determine the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, in another move by President Donald to shift greater power to his military leaders.
The decision will give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to send more forces into Syria, to assist U.S.-backed local troops as they move to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State group, which has used the city as a de facto capital.
It will also let him adjust the force numbers in Iraq, in the ongoing fight to oust IS from Mosul and stabilize it as the rebuilding begins.
The Pentagon has already been making quiet, incremental additions to the troop levels in both countries in recent months, adding hundreds of Marines in Syria to provide artillery support, and sending more advisers into Iraq to work with units closer to the fight in Mosul. Those moves were done with White House approval, but without any formal adjustment to the longstanding troop caps that had been set by the Obama administration.
Dana White, chief spokesperson for the Pentagon, said Wednesday that Mattis has not made any changes yet to the current authorized force levels.
Under the Obama White House, military leaders chafed about micromanagement that forced commanders to get approvals for routine tactical decisions and personnel moves, and provide justification for any troops sent into war zones. Commanders have argued that they should be able to determine troop deployments based on the military capabilities they believe are needed at any given time.
The new authority will provide greater transparency about the actual number of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria after several years of public confusion about the accurate totals. Under the Obama-mandated caps, the U.S. was limited to 503 officially deployed troops in Syria, and 5,262 in Iraq. The Pentagon, however, has closer to 7,000 in Iraq, and hundreds more than the cap in Syria, but doesn’t count them because they are on temporary duty or not counted under specific personnel rules.
The change, however, could trigger concerns — particularly in Iraq, where there are political sensitivities about the footprint of American and coalition troops and fears about occupation forces. Officials worry that if they publicly acknowledge there are thousands more troops there, it could fuel opposition and problems for the Iraqi government.
decision applies only to the two countries, and so far does not affect Afghanistan, although that change has also been discussed.
“This does not represent a change in our mission in Iraq and Syria to defeat ,” said White, using another name for the Islamic State group. She said the U.S. will continue to work through and with local forces, but giving Mattis the authority to make troop-level decisions will allow commanders to be “more agile, adaptive and efficient in supporting our partners, and enables decisions that benefit unit readiness, cohesion and lethality.”
She added that the the change will allow the Pentagon be more open with Congress and the public.
Professional pain-factory John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back for a sequel. And once again, there’s a whole cadre of well-dressed people who want him dead.
In anticipation of the film’s release on Feb. 10, We Are The Mighty talked to director Chad Stahelski and stunt coordinator and Army vet J.J. Perry about John Wick’s gunplay style, and how they made mag changes cool.