Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

U.S. officials now admit they are hunting al-Qaida in new Afghan provinces, after nearly a decade of referring to the group as “decimated.”


“Al Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated,” President Obama roundly declared at his foreign policy debate with then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. The U.S. Department of State even claimed al-Qaeda was “severely degraded” in its 2016 country report on terrorism.

But the U.S. military is now hunting al-Qaeda leaders in seven different provinces, indicating a high level of growth since the U.S. invasion in 2001, Commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan Army Gen. John Nicholson admitted to reporters yesterday.

Al-Qaeda operations have increased throughout Afghanistan since the end of U.S. combat missions in 2014. The U.S. assisted an Afghan-led operation in 2015 that destroyed the largest al-Qaeda training camp seen in the history of the Afghan war. U.S.-backed Afghan forces raided another al-Qaeda training base Sept. 19. The base was well stocked with weapons, suicide vests, and fake identification.

“The US government and the military has downplayed al Qaeda’s presence for more than six years, despite evidence that al Qaeda has remained entrenched in Afghanistan some 15 years after the 9/11 attacks,” The Long War Journal noted Saturday.

Nicholson indicated al-Qaeda is increasingly taking advantage of the security vacuum in Afghanistan in remote parts of the country. The Taliban have made unprecedented battlefield gains against the U.S.-backed Afghan Security Forces since the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2014. The Afghan forces maintain control over approximately 70 percent of the country, according to testimony by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joesph Dunford before the Senate Committee on Armed Services Thursday.

The Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to use Afghan territory in the years leading up to 9/11 to plan attacks on the U.S. Al-Qaeda recognizes the leader of the Taliban as the true leader of the Islamic world. After the U.S. killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in May, al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri immediately swore his allegiance to the new Taliban leader.

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This building in Stalingrad became the Russian version of The Alamo in World War II

In the Battle of Stalingrad a group of 25 men in a nearly abandoned apartment held off thousands of German soldiers during nearly two months of fighting. Time and time again, the assaulting Nazi forces attacked the building occupied by Junior Sgt. Yakov Pavlov and his platoon.


In the fighting at Stalingrad, Russian and German soldiers clashed in bloody, close-quarters combat. Some buildings held Germans and Russians on different floors for days, fighting the other side through the stairwells.

One of these heavily contested buildings was a four-story apartment building that overlooked the Volga river and had a clear line of fire down two roads intersecting in front of it. Whoever controlled that building could stop nearly any traffic moving within a kilometer of it.

The Russian Army sent a 30-man platoon to take the building from German occupiers, but only four survivors were left victorious. Junior Sgt. Pavlov, now the acting platoon commander, and his three men began constructing defenses of barbed wire and mines while also requesting reinforcements. In the basement of the building, 10 Russian civilians huddled with slim hopes of surviving the battle.

When 21 Russian soldiers arrived, they helped prepare the building for an extended siege. A PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle was placed on the roof, machine guns were placed in every available window facing the main square, mortars were emplaced, and walls were knocked out to facilitate communications between the men.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

Then the Nazis came. Armored and infantry columns would move up the streets to try and take out the building. They were forced to cross “9th January Square,” a wide open space named for Russia’s Bloody Sunday. While the Germans were in the square, the Russians would strike.

The Russian soldiers would open fire with the anti-tank rifle on the roof, piercing the thin turret armor of the tanks. The men found that if they waited until the tanks were within 25 meters of the building, the enemy tanks could not elevate their own guns high enough to retaliate.

Meanwhile, machine gunners would begin firing from the windows, shattering the bodies of German infantrymen. When they had the rounds, the men would begin lobbing mortars out of the building and onto the attacking column.

From Sep. 23 to Nov. 25, 1942, this fighting continued unabated. The Germans would attack at regular intervals and would often keep a few machine guns firing during lulls to keep the Russians from sleeping.

The Germans were devastated in the fight for the building that they eventually marked on their maps as a fortress. Inside, the Russians were sticking to Order 227 which demanded that Soviet soldiers take, “Not one step back!”

They held out until Nov. 25 when a Russian counterattack allowed fresh soldiers to replace Pavlov and his men in the defense of Pavlov’s house. The civilians in the basement were also allowed to evacuate.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

The building was reconstructed after the war. Bricks and materials from the bombed out structure that Pavlov and his men held was used to construct a monument on the corner of the new building.

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That time George Washington’s dentures were stolen from a museum

The Smithsonian Institution is one place you’d think relics from America’s founding were safe. The security there must be pretty good, right? Well, tell that to a pair of George Washington’s dentures.


According to a 1982 New York Times article, the false teeth were discovered missing on June 19, 1981, by a curator who had gone to the basement of the American Museum of Natural History. The lower portion of the dentures turned up in a secure area of the Smithsonian in May, 1982. They were made of gold, lead, elephant ivory, and possibly human teeth — not wood, as many people believe.

“We never made any effort to have the value of the gold appraised,” Lawrence E. Taylor, a spokesman for the Smithsonian said. “It would be minuscule compared to the historic value of the teeth.”

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Wooden tooth jokes are as funny as actual wooden teeth.

According to Smithsonian magazine, Washington needed dentures because he’d lost most of his teeth from a combination of bad genes and worse dentistry practices at the time. This lead Washington to take measures to correct the tooth loss, including purchasing teeth from African-Americans, according to the official web site of Mount Vernon.

That site also notes that Washington was sensitive about the state of his teeth and tried to keep his dental condition a secret. Documents show he was particularly embarrassed to find out that the British had intercepted a letter in which he asked for a set of tooth scrapers to be sent to him in New York. That said, the intercepted letter helped mislead the British as to his intentions, ensuring the success of the Yorktown campaign.

 

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
George Washington

According to a timeline at the official site of Mount Vernon, Washington was down to one tooth when he was inaugurated as the first President of the United States in 1789. That tooth would be removed in 1796, before his term of office ended.

To hear Brad Meltzer describe the heist of the dentures, and to get a quick take on the theft, watch the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Drones are dropping bombs on US troops in Syria, and it’s not clear who’s doing it

Drones are dropping explosives on US soldiers in Syria, and it’s not clear who’s behind the attacks, the head of US Central Command, which is responsible for the region, told lawmakers on Tuesday.


National Public Radio reporter Tom Bowman first reported the attacks on Friday, observing them as he joined a patrol by US soldiers tasked with protecting oil fields in northeast Syria.

“It was a multiday attack on two of the oil fields, the first one since the US mission began last fall to protect the oil fields,” Bowman said on All Things Considered. “There were soldiers from the West Virginia National Guard at one of the fields. And early Wednesday morning, a drone carrying a mortar dropped it near where they were sleeping. No one was injured, and the soldiers quickly drove off the base.”

A drone returned before dawn on Friday and dropped more mortars. “You could see the big circular holes in the ground, pockmarks on the US military trucks and one on one of the oil tanks,” Bowman said.

Sgt. 1st Class Mitch Morgan told Bowman they sprung up when the attack began, mounted their vehicles, and left in two minutes. “As we were going out, they was raining mortars in on top of us,” Morgan said.

Bowman said Army investigators had told him that some of the mortars “were made with 3D printers, which means that obviously someone pretty sophisticated put together these mortars, perhaps a nation-state.”

‘One of my highest priorities’

Questioned on Tuesday about the incidents, US Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of Central Command, said there had been attacks by unmanned aerial systems, or UAS, but disputed some of the details.

“We have reports — I don’t think as many as are in the NPR report — but yes … group 1 UAS, which are the small UAS, they’ll try to find a way to carry an explosive and fly it over.”

“The Russians have had some significant casualties in this regard, as have other nations that are operating there,” McKenzie said. “So yes, it is a problem. We look at it very hard. It’s one of my highest priorities.”

McKenzie said his command was still investigating the perpetrator but pointed to ISIS.

“If I had to judge today, I would say possibly ISIS, but [it’s] probably not a state entity operating the drones,” McKenzie told lawmakers.

ISIS has been defeated on the ground in Syria and in Iraq by a US-led international coalition and local partner forces, but it remains in pockets in both countries. ISIS has long used drones for reconnaissance and to drop explosives on opposing forces, often releasing photos and videos of the attacks for propaganda purposes.

Iraqi forces used US-supplied “jammers” to counter the commercial drones ISIS was using in Mosul during the campaign to liberate that city in 2016 and 2017.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

static.businessinsider.sg

‘One of the things that worries me’

The drone attack in Syria highlights the growing threat that small drones pose to US forces.

In early 2019, Marines used their Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System, mounted on an all-terrain vehicle strapped to the deck of the ship carrying them, to down an Iranian drone that flew within 1,000 yards of the them in the Strait of Hormuz.

McKenzie said Tuesday that such drones were a major concern.

“We aggressively pursue anything that will improve the capabilities, particularly against those group 1 and 2 UAS. That is one of the things that worries me the most in the theater every day, is the vulnerability of our forces to those small UAS,” McKenzie said.

Asked about using artificial intelligence and autonomous systems for defense against drones, McKenzie said he was “aware of some experimentation on that” but couldn’t specify.

“We have a very broad set of joint requirements to drive that, so it’s possible there’s something there,” he added.

Counter-drone systems were also included in Central Command’s unfunded priorities list, which contains funding requests not included in the budget request submitted to Congress.

Enemy unmanned aerial systems “have expanded in size, sophistication, range, lethality and numbers” and are being used throughout Central Command’s area of responsibility,” McKenzie wrote in the list, which was obtained by Business Insider.

Their “low velocity and altitude makes them difficult to detect on radar and limited options exist in effectively defeating them,” McKenzie wrote.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

The letter requested .6 million for systems to “help counter these airborne IEDs and intelligence gatherers.”

Asked Tuesday if his command’s counter-drone needs were being met, McKenzie said he was “convinced the system is generating as much as it can” and that he had talked to Defense Secretary Mark Esper about the issue.

“I own a lot of the systems that are available across the entire United States inventory,” McKenzie said. “I am not satisfied with where we are, and I believe we are at great risk because of this.”

“We’re open to anything, and a lot of smart people are looking at this,” McKenzie added. “We’re not there yet, but I think the Army, having executive agency for this, will actually help in a lot of ways. It will provide a focus to these efforts. This is a significant threat.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea may have actually increased nuclear production

As President Donald Trump touted a new era of diplomacy with the North Korean regime, a classified intelligence assessment appeared to tell a different story, according to several US intelligence officials.

The assessment revealed that, in recent months, North Korea had upped its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites, according to over a dozen intelligence officials cited in an NBC News report published June 29, 2018. The officials said they believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be trying to conceal the secret facilities from the US.


“Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles,” one senior US intelligence official said to NBC News. “We are watching closely.”

According to five US officials cited by NBC News, the North Korean regime was increasing production of enriched uranium, even as relations with the US improved following the 2018 Winter Olympics. And since the leaders of both countries held a summit in Singapore in mid-June, 2018, the Trump administration has already delivered some concessions to the North.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
United Statesu00a0President Donald Trump

Trump halted Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a major joint military drill with South Korea that was scheduled for August 2018. The military exercises have been a point of contention for North Korea, which sees them as a direct threat. The US and South Korea treat the drills as defensive measures.

During the US-North Korea summit, the first such meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, the two men pledged to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” It was a vast departure from 2017 when both Trump and Kim were openly threatening nuclear war. But the broad and nondescript document fell short of a specific plan or goal, and was criticized by foreign-policy experts.

And though North Korea took several steps to indicate it was in the process of dismantling its weapons program, such as blowing up tunnels leading to a nuclear-test site, critics who monitored the development say it may have all been for show.

“There’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” a US official familiar with the intelligence report told NBC. “There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US.”

“There are lots of things that we know that North Korea has tried to hide from us for a long time,” another intelligence official added.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts to North Korea’s latest ballistic rocket test-fire through a precision control guidance system.
(KCNA photo)

The intelligence report may also confirm the theory held by many arms experts: that North Korea possesses a second, undisclosed nuclear enrichment facility. In 2008, North Korea signaled it would curb its nuclear program by televising the destruction of a water-cooling tower at a plutonium extraction facility, only to announce that it would “readjust and restart” in 2013.

The report also calls into question Trump’s claim that North Korea no longer poses as a nuclear threat to the US: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump tweeted in June, 2018, after returning from his meeting with Kim. “Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed and directly contradicted Trump’s claim.

“I’m confident what [Trump] intended there was, ‘we did reduce the threat,'” Pompeo said during a Senate hearing on June 27, 2018. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

When the B-52 is over 60 years old, and a large number of F-15 Eagles are over 30, it seems surprising that the Air Force is looking to replace a plane that won’t even be in service for twenty years until later this year.


However, according to an Air Force News Service article, the Air Force is looking to replace the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, which didn’t achieve its initial operating capability until December 1997 according to an Air Force fact sheet. This plane is an all-seeing eye that looks for and tracks ground targets, using the AN/APY-7, a 24-foot long synthetic aperture radar, according to a Northrop Grumman data sheet.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System is a joint Air Force – Army program. The Joint STARS uses a multi-mode side looking radar to detect, track, and classify moving ground vehicles in all conditions deep behind enemy lines. The aircraft is the only airborne platform in operation that can maintain realtime surveillance over a corps-sized area of the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

So, why is this system, which isn’t even old enough to drink, suddenly planned for replacement? The answer is in the airframe.

The E-8, like the E-3 Sentry, is based on the Boeing 707, a jet that first flew just over 59 years ago. With the exception of Omega Aerial Refueling Services, nobody operates this aircraft commercially.

Furthermore, according to a 2015 FlightGlobal.com report, the E-8s were produced by acquiring second-hand 707s. A September 2016 Air Force report noted that those second-hand 707s had as many as 60,000 flight hours before they had been purchased for conversion.

One JSTARS that had to be written off was built in 1967, according to DefenseTech.org.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct a post-flight systems check on an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Oct. 20, 2016, following a mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. JSTARS uses its communications and radar systems to support ground attack units and direct air support throughout the area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

In other words, these are old airframes and they’ve had a lot of use – even before the Air Force gave the 16-plane fleet over 1 million flight hours collectively (as of this past September). That is an average of 62,500 flight hours per plane — meaning that some of the E-8 aircraft could have in excess of 120,000 total flight hours.

That’s the equivalent of 5,000 days in the air.

What is the Air Force looking towards in replacing the E-8C? The JSTARS recapitalization project is likely to involve a smaller jet. According to a 2014 report by Aviation Week and Space Technology, Northrop Grumman is testing a new JSTARS based off a Gulfstream V business jet.

Boeing’s web site is touting a version of the 737 jet as its entry, attempting to partially piggyback on experience with the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon.

Reports indicate the Air Force plans to start retiring the JSTARS in 2019.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Artillery would be critical in a war with Russia

Senior U.S. Army officials on March 26, 2018, mapped out a plan to dramatically increase the range of the service’s artillery and missile systems to counter a Russian threat that would leave ground forces without air support in the “first few weeks” of a war in Europe.


The Army has named long-range precision fires as its top modernization priority in a reform effort aimed at replacing the service’s major weapons platforms.

“We’ve got to push the maximum range of all systems under development for close, deep, and strategic, and we have got to outgun the enemy,” Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of United States Army Pacific Command, told an audience during a panel discussion on “improving long-range precision fires” at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

Also read: This tank is the backbone of the Russian Army

“We don’t do that right now; it’s a huge gap. … We need cannons that fire as far as rockets today. We need rockets that fire as far as today’s missiles, and we need missiles out to 499 kilometers.”

Currently, Russian air defenses are effective enough to keep fixed-wing aircraft from conducting close-air support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and other support missions vital to ground combat forces, said John Gordon IV, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
An M109 Paladin gun crew with B Battery, 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, Division Artillery, at Fort Bliss, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gabrielle Weaver)

Rand conducted a study for officials at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, concluding that in the first seven to 10 days of a conflict with Russia, “the Russians would have very significant advantage in terms of numbers and all aspects of ground combat.”

“Because of the power and the range and the lethality of these Russian air defenses, it’s going to make all forms of air support much more difficult, and the ground forces are going to feel the effects,” Gordon said.

“It’s certainly going to put a premium on U.S. Army field artillery. It’s going to put a premium on long-range fires to compensate for what will, at least initially, be a significant degradation in the amount of air support — less joint ISR, less CAS, less interdiction, less offensive and defensive counter-air, so all that is going to have an effect on Army operations because of the quality of these Russian air defenses,” he said.

Russia also has a larger number of superior artillery systems than the U.S., Gordon said.

“The Russians take this stuff seriously; artillery has been the strong suit of the Russian Army since the days of the czars,” he said.

“They’ve got a range advantage over us in a number of different areas, particularly cannons,” Gordon said. “Typically, modern Russian cannons have got 50 percent to 100 percent greater range than the current generation of U.S. cannons.”

Related: That time American and Russian tanks faced off in a divided Berlin

Brig. Gen. Stephen Maranian, commandant of the Army’s Field Artillery School, who now leads the newly formed cross-functional team responsible for the long-range precision fires modernization priority, said the Army is looking at hypervelocity, electromagnetics, and “very large-caliber cannon” to improve long-range fires in the long term.

In the shorter term, the service is working on replacing the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATacMS, with the Precision Strike Missile, Maranian said.

ATacMS, which has a range of 160 kilometers, was terminated in 2007, but the Army has since extended the service life of the program.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan
An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round in Mosul, Iraq. (Photo by US Army Spc. Gregory Gieske)

“We expect to see [Precision Strike Missile] prototypes fly within the next fiscal year in 2019,” Maranian said. “From there, hopefully, a delivery of the base missile by early 2023.”

The base missile is going to provide a “huge upgrade from ATAcMs,” increasing the range out to 499 kilometers, the limit of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, he said.

“It’s going to provide 1.5 times the speed, it’s going to be twice the capacity … and it’s also going to have the ability to be even more lethal than the ATAcMs,” he added.

Maranian said the base missile will be able to go after “multi-domain targets — so the ability to hit a ship at sea, the ability to hit moving targets on the land domain, the ability to have sub-munitions that attack heavy armored targets and have effects … and the ability to use sensors to hone in on targets. Those are all aspects of future spirals of this missile that the base Precision Strike Missile will provide.”

In terms of artillery, Maranian said the Army is planning a “dramatic increase to the firepower” that exists in its brigade combat teams.

The Army has been attempting to upgrade its Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers systems. The M109A6 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, just completed its initial operational test and evaluation in March 2018, Maranian said.

More: This armored vehicle sports an anti-aircraft cannon

The Army is relying on the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA, technology to extend the range of the system.

The upgraded, rocket-assisted projectile, which will increase the range out to 40 kilometers, is scheduled to be ready by fiscal 2021, he said.

An upgraded breech, which will help boost the range out to 70 kilometers, will be ready by the fiscal 2023 timeframe, as will be the “incorporation of an autoloader to improve our four rounds in the initial minute, and one round a minute after that, sustained rate to a six-to-10 round a minute sustained rate of fire,” Maranian said.

“That will be the basis of achieving overmatch against any adversary in any theater,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Interview with HISTORY’s Garry Adelman: ‘GRANT’ 3-night miniseries event starting Memorial Day

HISTORY’s six-hour miniseries event, “Grant,” executive produced by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and biographer Ron Chernow and Appian Way’s Jennifer Davisson and Leonardo DiCaprio and produced by RadicalMedia in association with global content leader Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) will premiere Memorial Day and air over three consecutive nights beginning Monday, May 25 at 9PM ET/PT on HISTORY. The television event will chronicle the life of one of the most complex and underappreciated generals and presidents in U.S. history – Ulysses S. Grant.

Grant: Official Trailer | 3-Night Miniseries Event Premieres Memorial Day, May 25 at 9/8c | History

youtu.be

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

Garry Adelman has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg for more than a decade. Seen here holding the first Civil War photo he owned, given to him by his grandmother when he was 17 years old.


Garry Adelman is the Chief Historian with American Battlefield Trust. He is a Civil War expert, published author and the vice president of the Center for Civil War Photography. He appears on the forthcoming miniseries “GRANT” that will air over three consecutive nights beginning Monday, May 25 at 9PM ET/PT on HISTORY.

The American Battlefield Trust has preserved more than 15,000 acres of battlefield land, hallowed ground, where Grant’s soldiers fought.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020

Leaders who lead from the front are very popular, however, even in today’s military there are officers who believe they’re above that. Grant was very hands on, how did he imprint that side of leadership onto his officers?

More than anything he was a product of his time. He would have learned at West Point and his war in Mexico in the 1840s that: Lieutenants, Colonels and Brigadier Generals are expected to recklessly expose themselves to danger at that time to inspire their men. It’s one of the roles of the civil war officers had to do this by possessing unbelievable personal bravery. He was cool under fire and by not being shy to roll his sleeves up to get a job done and remain cool under fire he inspired his troops to do the same.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

Photo by Joe Alblas Copyright 2020

Maintaining order and discipline in the chaos of combat is paramount. Was there anything special about Grant’s training methods that turned raw recruits into warriors?

I’m not aware that Grant trained his troops in anyway, substantially different than other civil war commanders. What Grant did was give his soldiers victory.

“If you follow my example, if you stick to your post and do your duty, if you relentlessly pursued and attacked in front of you – I will give you victory- you will be part of that victory.”

That is the key to grant, more than any particular training he gave them. Again, leading by example and giving soldiers a purpose.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020

When I was deployed to Afghanistan, my platoon had the luxury of having internet maybe twice a month. How did Grant facilitate communication between his troops and their loved ones?

A lot of people don’t realize but to be a great commander in the 19th century, as today, you do not simply possess the skills of strategy and tactics but rather you need to be an excellent communicator, which Grant was. You need to be an excellent administrator, which Grant was, and in the latter manner; Grant was keeping his troops fed, kept his telegraph lines open, by keeping the mail running, Grant kept his troops happy.

Those troops were able to communicate primarily by letter, sometimes by telegraph, to get important messages home and more importantly to receive letters from home – including care packages. Grant accomplished that through the greatly underrated attribute of being organized.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

Photo by Joe Alblas Copyright 2020

Grant’s popularity grew among the civilian population following his victories on the field of battle, how did he feel about becoming a celebrity General?

I think Grant could have done without any of the celebrity he achieved. Some of that allowed him to get certain things done, especially when he became President of the United States. It helped him become President of the United States, however, if Grant could keep a low profile and getting the job done – in this case; winning the civil war – it was all the better for him. An example: He arrived to be the first general to receive a third star since Washington.

He’s going to become a Lieutenant General in the United States Army.

When he showed up to check into his room, nobody recognized him. They didn’t offer him a room, nothing special, until he wrote his name on the ledger then everybody knew he was Ulysses S. Grant. He didn’t go out of his way to make sure people knew that. I think he could have done without every bit of his celebrity.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

U.S. Military R.R., City Point, Va. Field Hospital


Brady, Mathew, 1823 (ca.) – 1896

These battles were brutal to say the least. What kind of medical care did Union troops receive?

Medical care in the Civil War really changed during the civil war. In fact, it is night and day between the beginning of the Civil War and the end of the Civil War.

Let me explain what I mean.

By 1862, both North and South recognized the inadequacies of their medical systems. By 1863, both sides had come to possess many of the systems that save lives today. In other words: Triage, trauma and our modern 911 system were all developed during the Civil War.

When they started asking questions: “What is that ambulance made of? What is in that ambulance? How many of each of those things are in those ambulances? Who stocks the ambulance? Who drives the ambulance? How does the ambulance know where to go with the wounded soldiers?

When they do get to a field hospital, who mans that field hospital? Who does the surgery? It was unbelievable the leaps and bounds these simple systems, created by a guy named Jonathan Letterman, made in preserving life during the civil war.

Let’s say I traveled back in time and watched a Civil War surgery being performed. Most were done with anesthesia, they didn’t bite the bullet and sawed through bone while people were perfectly awake, that was a very rare occurrence.

Nonetheless, I may be horrified by the lack of hygiene. I’d say, “Wash that saw!” and the doctor may stare at me and say, “Why?”

“Well, trust me here, you can’t see them but there are these little things that live on all of us. Some are good and some are bad. If the bad ones go in the wrong place you’re going to get really sick!”

They would absolutely lock me up in an insane asylum.

We now know things that the people of the Civil War didn’t. One thing they did know, though, was how to turn a wound into something they could treat. That’s why amputations are so common. They didn’t know how to treat internal injuries the way we do now, but they could cut something off and tie it off to give some chance of survival.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020

During Grant’s presidency, he installed a network of spies in the South to combat the growing threat of the Ku Klux Klan. How did these spies gather actionable intelligence for, now President, Grant?

During the Civil War when Grant had something to accomplish he rarely went at it in just one way. Rather, he would think of five different ways to go and deal with a particular problem and maybe one of them would stick. In the case of dealing with the Ku Klux Klan, Grant did everything he could in Washington, through legislation, to enforce the rights of these relatively recently freed African Americans.

However, he also appointed someone he thought he could trust; Lewis Merrill, a very active, athletic cavalryman. He employed a large body of spies in order to try to infiltrate and spy on the Ku Klux Klan. [The Klan] was so persistent, Merrill once joked, “Just shoot in any direction and if you hit a white man, he’s probably part of the Ku Klux Klan.”

That’s how pervasive it was.

His employment of spies, including African American spies, helped preserve some of the lives of his soldiers and helped to ultimately mitigate the Klan and the domestic terrorism that ensued.

Al Qaeda is back in Afghanistan

President Grant vetoes the 1874 Inflation Bill, bottling the Genie of Butler.

Paine, Albert Bigelow Th. Nast: His Period and His Pictures (New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1904)

There is a divide between the portrayal of Grant versus the reality, such as the over blown perception of his drinking problem, which could be linked to his post-traumatic stress after the Mexican-American War and isolation in California – was there any real merit to the propaganda?

At one point, yes.

Ulysses S. Grant did in fact have a genuine drinking problem. Call it what you will, but it was really his enemies that took one aspect of him and constantly extenuated that as if it was a constant thing.

For instance, Grant had a drinking problem while out in California long before the Civil War so he must have one contrary to the evidence. If he won a battle, his enemies would still complain that he was a “butcher” because too many people died. Yet, by the time he died, he was loved by everyone – people of the south, the north, black, white, Native American, everybody.

Sadly that didn’t reflect in the 20th century interpretation of Grant. He’s a wildly popular figure who suffered at the hands of historians and only now are people reexamining him under a new light. We’re now more looking more critically at the claims of his drinking, him being a “butcher,” and the other terrible claims.

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Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020

Both Grant and Lee were heralded as both being some of the greatest military minds. Grant mentions to Lee at the Appomattox Courthouse that the two had briefly met beforehand during the Mexican-American War. Were there any other interactions between the two – even if it was just Grant seeing Lee from the edge of the formation?

Certainly not before the war. Grant would, of course, know of Lee when Lee was the commandant at West Point and he was a cadet. Lee, for his part, could not remember Grant from West Point and barely from Mexico. What I don’t think people realize is how much the two worked together in the post-war period to reconstruct the nation. They did correspond and they would meet at least once after that. I find that especially interesting. These commanders that rose to the top of their respective armies because of their skills would, to a certain degree, end up working together to reunite this nation after such a brutal war.

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If you could go back in time and offer Grant one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would tell him don’t change a thing except one: When President Lincoln offers to you to go to Ford’s theater on April 14th, 1865 – accept the invitation. Bring a side arm and the two toughest men to guard the door. With that, maybe the life of Abraham Lincoln could have been spared.

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The 8 most famous manhunts in military history

War is generally about two sides engaging with thousands of troops, but occasionally that power is directed against one guy instead of an entire army. Here are the eight most noteworthy times that the American military went after an individual:


1. Francisco Pancho Villa

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Photo: Wikipedia

In perhaps the most famous manhunt in U.S. military history, Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing led the “Punitive Expedition” to capture Francisco Pancho Villa and his men after they raided Columbus, New Mexico and killed 18 Americans.

The expedition pushed 300 miles into Mexico and pursued Villa from Mar. 15, 1916 to Jan. 12, 1917. They successfully broke up Villa’s gang but failed to capture Villa.

2. Osama Bin Laden

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Photo: Wikipedia/Hamid Mir

The most recent and perhaps most satisfying entry on this list, Osama Bin Laden was the elusive mastermind behind al-Qaeda and the September 11 terrorist attacks. An initial operation to kill him in the Tora Bora mountains failed, but he was eventually found in Pakistan and killed by Navy SEAL Team Six in Operation Neptune Spear.

3. Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

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Photo: Wikipedia

On April 14, 1943, U.S. Navy code breakers learned that the architect of Pearl Harbor, Adm. Isokuru Yamamoto, would be inspecting bases in Solomon Islands and would follow a flight path that would place it just within reach of Air Corps P-38Gs deployed to Guadalcanal.

On orders from President Franklin Roosevelt, 18 planes took off on April 18 and successfully engaged the flight. The Americans shot down two bombers modified to carry the admiral, but his fighter escort made it out alive. Yamamoto’s body was found the next day by a Japanese rescue party.

4. Geronimo

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Geronimo is on the far right, pictured here with family members. Photo: Wikipedia/Arizona Historical Society

Geronimo was one of the most feared Native American leaders when he was finally forced to live on a reservation in Arizona in 1877. But Geronimo was not decisively beaten and lived there on his own terms.

He broke out multiple times, but his departure in May 1885 was quickly followed by a series of raids on nearby farms. The Army committed 5,000 troops to the search for three months but couldn’t find him. Eventually, Geronimo surrendered to the Americans for a chance to see his family again in Florida.

5. Ernesto “Che” Guevara

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Photo: Wikipedia/Oficina de Asuntos Históricos de Cuba

The famous Argentinian revolutionary and college freshman T-shirt icon was a major thorn in the side of the America as he tried to create “two, three, or many Vietnams” in Latin America, according to “Hunting Che” author Mitch Weiss. U.S. Special Forces soldiers trained Bolivian conscripts to hunt Che, and they successfully killed him Oct. 9, 1967.

6. Saddam Hussein

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Photo: US Army

The hunt for the notorious dictator of Iraq kicked off before the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, but Saddam Hussein remained a ghost for months. When he was finally found by U.S. Army soldiers, it wasn’t in a hidden palace or even a well-appointed bunker. Hussein surrendered in a tiny spider-hole near Tikrit where he had squirreled away $750,000, an Kalashnikov, and some chocolate.

7. Manuel Antonio Noriega

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Photo: US Air Force

The manhunt for Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega and many of his subordinates was Operation Just Cause. The initial invasion force on Dec. 20, 1989 crippled the Panamanian Defense Forces and blocked Noriega’s main means of escape but failed to capture the dictator.

The manhunt lasted until Christmas Eve when the dictator sought asylum in the Vatican Embassy in Panama. Under guidance from the Pope, the head of the embassy told Noriega that the Vatican would not grant political asylum or guarantee his safety against demonstrators rallying around the embassy. Noriega surrendered to the U.S. on January 2, 1970 (p. 54).

8. Mohammed Farrah Aideed

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Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines examine a tank belonging to Warlord Mohammad Aideed’s army in 1992. Photo: US Navy Master Chief Photographer’s Mate Terry Mitchell

If you don’t remember the name, think “Black Hawk Down.” Mohammed Aideed was the warlord in control of Somalia’s strongest militia during the U.N. Operation Restore Hope. A U.S. task force supported the nation-building mission which quickly turned violent. The capture of Aideed became necessary for mission security.

The first mission to capture Aideed failed on Jun. 17, 1993. The U.S. sent Task Force Ranger to assist Aug. 28, 1993. A series of raids, including the Oct. 3 raid and subsequent rescue effort depicted in “Black Hawk Down,” netted many of Aideed’s lieutenants, but American casualties made the manhunt too bloody for the U.S. A Nov. 16 U.N. resolution and ceasefire left Aideed in power.

Now: The 11 ways people dodged the Vietnam draft

 

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This how the Army introduced the plastic explosive in the 1960s

Today, plastic explosives are a given. But 50 years ago, they were the latest in demolition technology. One of the most notable, of course, is C4.


Officially, it is called the M118 demolition charge, and was called Flex-X back then. Prior to the introduction of Flex-X, explosives had to be secured to what the engineers wanted to blow up.

C4, though, was more like Play-Doh or used chewing gum in that it could be stuck to whatever needs to go away.

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Composition C-4 demolition charges await use as explosive ordnance disposal technicians conduct demolition operations supervisor training. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

The explosive had some other advantages as well. It could be used underwater, which means that divers could plant it on a pier without having to surface and risk being seen.

The explosive was also very insensitive. The video below shows troops dropping a weight on the Flex-X to no effect. It wouldn’t even go off when shot by multiple rounds from a M14 service rifle or when tossed into a campfire.

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Those two shots from a M14 rifle did not set off the M118 charge. The third wasn’t the charm, either. (Youtube screenshot)

It also took much less time to set up – almost 60 percent less – when compared to earlier explosives, thanks to that Play-Doh/chewing gum consistency. That would save the lives of the engineers, who would spend less time away from cover.

Cold weather had little effect on the explosive’s ability to stick to whatever needed to be blown up. Other explosives needed to be taped or otherwise secured to the target.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the M118 came in a box of 20 charges, each of which had four eight-ounce sheets of C4. A sales sheet from one manufacturer notes that the M118 is intended for breaching, ordnance disposal, demolition, and cutting metal.

The explosive replaced stocks of TNT, dynamite, and PETN in U.S. military stockpiles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUJd_jKeStY
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US forces are quickly cutting off ISIS’ only escape route in Syria

The offensive to destroy ISIS in Syria took a big step forward recently with US military advisers, helicopters, and artillery helping position a force of about 500 soldiers near a strategic damn outside of Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital.


The US military, along with Kurdish forces and the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Foces rebel group, have moved to put a stranglehold on Raqqa with shelling, air support, and ground forces at the last route in and out of the city, according to a press release.

Related: US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

Operation Inherent Resolve, the 68-nation mission to destroy ISIS, flew in fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed rebel group, behind enemy lines to a strategic dam.

“It takes a special breed of warrior to pull of an airborne operation or air assault behind enemy lines,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve told the Times.

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Marines with the 11th MEU train in Djibouti. Leathernecks from the 11th MEU reportedly just deployed to Syria to bolster an assault on Raqqa. | US Marine Corps photo

“Seizing Tabqah Dam will isolate Raqqah from three sides and give the SDF the strategic advantage and launching point needed for the liberation of the city,” said the release. But while the US says they’re mainly backing local forces, they seem poised to take on a more active role with conventional forces fighting ISIS on the ground in Raqqa.

The Pentagon has been considering sending as many as 1,000 ground troops to help take back Raqqa from ISIS, which would signal a reversal of the Obama-era policy to fight ISIS via train and equip methods and airstrikes.

The coalition says they’ve conducted more than 300 airstrikes around Raqqa in the past month.

Raqqa, situated along the Euphrates river in the mostly barren Easter Syria has been ISIS’ main Syrian stronghold since 2014.

The US, Inherent Resolve coalition partners, and local forces have been involved in a massive air and ground campaign to rid the country of the terrorist group while simultaneously carrying out similar operations in neighboring Iraq.

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ISW

A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Self-Care is for grunts as well as gurus

If your idea of self-care is eating paleo and running ultra marathons, I’ve got news for you – you’re missing out.


Self-care goes way beyond the way you feed or train your body: It’s about health at multiple levels. At its core it requires attention to regulating your nervous system – to regularly giving your brain and endocrine system (your body’s network of hormone-producing glands) the chance to calm down and return to normal levels.

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Soldiers from Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), fire high-explosive artillery rounds from their M119A2 Howitzer during Operation Fulton Harvest near Samarrah, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo)

This type of self-regulation is important for your physical and mental performance whether you’re an elite athlete or an everyday person of any age.

Pain isn’t always weakness leaving the body

As a veteran, you know that the military does a great job attaching metrics to physical fitness. Service members are required to pay attention to their physicality, and intensity is emphasized. These are good things in many ways. After all, you can’t see improvement without testing your body’s limits.

However, the military often falls short on the topic of balanced wellness. Many veterans leave their time in service physically broken, with muscular imbalances, and hold fast to the belief that if training is hurting, it’s helping. We might even think that only malingerers, failures, and dirtbags take time to care for themselves.

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U.S. Marines with India Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, participate in a formation run prior to a physical-training competition in Djibouti. The 15th MEU deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry)

I’m not here to suggest that you give up your high intensity training. But I am here to say that the whole point of intensity should be about using it to increase your performance in a smart and productive way.

Whether your goal is muscle growth or cardiovascular improvement, attaining your specific training objectives will be easier when you lower your blood cortisol levels (the stress hormones your body produces).

You can do this by practicing self care and something called “mindful movement.”

But isn’t mindful movement for hippies?

Mindful movement is as useful for grunts as it is for POGs as it is for civilians. Here’s what career infantry officer Maj. Gen. Thomas Jones, USMC (Ret.), has to say about it:

“For many years as an infantry officer, I worked feverishly to build resiliency in combat Marines.  However, and unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was a civilian that I learned that I was missing the central, necessary ingredient…to crafting resiliency: a thorough understanding of the physiology of stress within the body…I learned that mindfulness enabled me to personally address stressors with positive outcomes.”

Mindfulness is a form of self-care, and what it really means is that you’re paying close attention to your breath and body so you can discover how to care for yourself. For example, if you notice that you have really tight hips, you should work to correct the problem instead of ignoring it. This type of awareness is a very calming thing – we can use breath as a vehicle to connect our (sometimes very) disconnected mental and physical selves, and it can let us know how we need to adjust our training or lives to perform more effectively.

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U.S. Army Lt. Charles Morgan, with the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, throws a M67 fragmentation grenade during skills training at Kunduz province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avila)

When we’re busy and stressed, paying attention to the needs of the physical body is one of the first things to go. However, we can benefit tremendously from figuring out when we’re not in a rested state and then working to provide our bodies and minds with opportunities to relax.

Why are mindfulness and self-care so good for me?

When we effectively manage stressed out bodies and minds, our levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are lowered. Lowering cortisol is helpful because it improves our brain’s ability to function and our body’s ability to perform.

Alternately, high levels of cortisol encourage your body to seek out and crave simple carbs and store them as fat. Too much cortisol also impairs upper-level cognition in our brains – making it harder to think clearly, experience empathy, and communicate effectively. It can also degrade our physical performance.

Finding ways to lower our stress – even if only for a few moments – has the opposite effect and is incredibly beneficial to us.

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A soldier from Task Force Iron Warrior waits to land to offer guidance for the medical evacuation training being conducted by soldiers of Hatchet Troop, 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment. While deployed soldiers are focusing not only on maintaining security but also on training to improve skills with partners. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Charles Morgan)

So what does a drop in stress hormones feel like? Think about the last time you enjoyed an activity or training – when you took a deep breath in and you just felt that “Ahhh!” feeling – even if you were working hard and running up and down trails. You may find it while running, skiing, doing yoga, getting a deep tissue massage, or even lifting weights. Some people call it a “click,” or a “shift.”

That moment will look different for everyone, but when you find it, take note.

If I want to practice self-care – where should I start?

The first and most important step to practicing self-care is to commit to managing your time so you can structure a plan for success.

Next look at how what you’re doing on a daily basis makes you feel. Tune into that and take notes for a few days. Do you feel depleted at the end of a day? Energized? Hopeless? Keyed up?

Once you have a read on how you’re doing, begin to expand your skills. If you only know one or two tools to make yourself feel better, the good news is that you have lots of room to grow. Continue to do what you already know you like and benefit from, then learn and add in a couple of new options to your wellness program and nutritional choices.

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U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mark A. Santos, a food service specialist with Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 6, adds seasoning to the hamburger patties for the evening meal outside the new Dining Facility (DFAC) on Camp Delaram II, Nimroz province, Afghanistan June 16, 2012. The DFAC was converted from a former water treatment facility as part of the ongoing process to consolidate and demilitarize the camp. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Pay attention to how you’re treating your body with food. Consider taking fast food and soda out of the options column for yourself. If you don’t want to take them out, then look to add items that taste amazing and are healthy. Instead of restricting, add in.

If you feel overwhelmed as you think about all the training and wellness options out there, consider plugging into an organization or non-profit that can teach you helpful skills. As a veteran, if you can imagine a self-care or mindful movement option, a non-profit probably exists that supplies it.

Self Care Resources

Outdoor Odyssey – Funded weeklong retreats for wounded, ill and injured active-duty and veteran warriors, designed to craft a definitive plan for the future with the support of a team.  Designed and operated by those who have been there!

Outward Bound – OIF/OEF veterans can enjoy all-expenses paid week-long trips rock climbing, dog sledding, sailing, and more, as they learn the value of compassionate leadership.

Ride for Recovery

Team RWB Athletic Camps – Learn how to rock climb, practice yoga, or run trails.

Sierra Club Military Outdoors – Power ski, ice climb, whitewater raft and more alongside fellow veterans in some of America’s most stunning backcountry.

Just Roll With It Wellness Retreat – This free three-day retreat teaches self-care and mindfulness practices, gives you the opportunity to connect with other veterans interested in physical and mental health, and includes a travel stipend.

Semper Sarah Health Coaching – Need an individual environment to learn self-care? Tap into the skills of a former Marine-turned-health pro.

 

About the Author

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Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.

 

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Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

The M1 Abrams was the best tank in the world for a long time – and its Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom combat record backed it up. But lately, Army officers are warning that other tanks are catching up, including Russia’s T-14 and T-90, the British Challenger 2, and the Israeli Merkava IV.


Yeah, the Israelis have designed their own tank. According to waronline.org, the Merkava came about after the Israelis were unable to buy the British Chieftain main battle tank due to concerns from diplomats. Lessons learned from the 1973 Yom Kippur War were also applied to the tank’s development. What emerged was something that protected its crew, had good firepower, and a lot of ammo storage. In fact, the crew protection aspect was heightened by a decision to put the engine at the front of the tank.

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A tank crew in an M1A2 Abrams belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division completes tank gunnery qualification at Presidential Range in Swietoszow, Poland, January 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke, 4th ID MCE Public Affairs/Released)

The latest version of the Merkava is the Merkava 4, with a 120m main gun and capacity for up to 48 rounds, according to Army-Technology.com. It also has a 60mm mortar – a unique weapon among tanks – as well as three 7.62mm machine guns. The tank, though, is slow, with a top speed of 29 miles per hour according to militaryfactory.com.

We’re familiar with the M1 Abrams. It has a 120mm main gun with 40 rounds, a .50-caliber machine gun, and two 7.62mm machine guns. It is very tough (recall that in Desert Storm, this tank deflected T-72 main guns rounds fired from 400 meters away), but it is also fast – with a top speed of 42 miles per hour.

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Crew training in both of these tanks is really a wash. The American Abrams crews are probably among the best in the world. So are the Israelis (in fact, during the Yom Kippur War, vastly outnumbered Israeli tanks held the line against a much larger Syrian force in the Battle of the Valley of Tears).

So, which tank wins? Much will depend on which tank’s “game” is being played. If the Merkava is defending, it has the edge. This will be particularly true if the terrain forces a unit with Abrams tanks to come right at the Merkavas.

But if the fight is a mobile fight, then the Abrams’ speed will give it the edge.