How Americans are saving the Syrian War's severely burned children - We Are The Mighty
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How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

On an especially cold winter afternoon in 2016, in the dark depths of the Syrian war, Yazen was quietly playing in Al-Bab, Syria, when a bomb ripped through his family home.

More than 80% of his tiny body caught flame and melted, including his lungs, propelling the child into a coma, from which he did not awake for six months. Yazen lost his ability to speak and requires a machine to help with his breathing.

But it was the traumatic plane ride from Istanbul to Los Angeles several years ago that gave Yazen and his mother, Kawthar — a schoolteacher from the Syrian city of Homs — their first glimpse into the generosity of America’s front-line medical workers.

The breathing machine voltage was not compatible with the aircraft. Thus, very quickly, Yazen’s tracheotomy filled up with fluid and he could not breathe. The airline staff made an emergency announcement appealing to any doctors on board. An American anesthesiologist came forward, and a Jordanian nurse volunteered to translate to the petrified mother. The doctor requested that the deeply distraught Kawthar move to a different part of the plane so she could not see the horrors that soon unfolded.

The doctor put a tube in Yazen’s trach hole and sucked all the saliva himself and spat it out continuously so that the boy’s airway would not be blocked. He did this for the entire 13-hour flight, as the passengers prayed and cheered for the child in his fragile fight for life.

“The way we were supported, immediately I knew that we were in the right place,” Kawthar said softly. “People are kind to us when we walk in the streets. Nobody stares at my son like he is different.”

Like many Syrian war survivors, Kawthar requested that only her first name be published due to security concerns.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
Manal and Ayesha, in the pink hoodie, with their mothers. Photo by Hollie McKay for Coffee or Die Magazine.

As Yazen was immediately whisked away to a hospital upon landing, the heroic doctor remained anonymous. Social media posts by the Burnt Children Relief Foundation (BCRF), which brought Yazen and many others to the US for emergency surgery, have fallen on deaf ears.

Yet this doctor remains akin to an angel. He saved Yazen’s life. Dozens of surgeries later, the 10-year-old boy — doll-like with his delicate features and wide ebony eyes — is full of light and wisdom. Without a voice, he makes a heart shape when asked about his experience so far in the US.

Then there is Hamama, who came to the US for a second lease on life in 2016.

The first thing you jarringly notice is her face — roasted raw, unrecognizable. A gaping hole where her nose used to be; prosthetic eyes that cannot weep when emotions engulf her. But what you remember most is the softness of her hands — a glimpse of the innocent girl that existed before a bomb descended on her family’s home in the Homs countryside around five years ago.

In an instant, Hamama’s entire family, her memories, her eyesight, and her face were gone. But since coming to the US several years ago, the former shell of a human being has learned to put back together the pieces of a broken existence — one shard at a time.

Under the guidance of US-based, all-volunteer advocacy group the Burnt Children Relief Foundation, or BCRF — with the support of the US State Department to maneuver the visa complexities — more than a dozen Syrian children have had the opportunity to come to the US for lifesaving surgical care. Some live in Texas where they are treated at Shriners Children’s Hospital in Galveston, and others reside on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Each child is a window into a world of front-line medical workers and a kind of generosity that they never knew was possible.

BCRF was formed in 2014 as the war in Syria escalated to unfathomable levels. Hospitals became the target of the bombing campaign led by the Bashar al-Assad regime and his Russian counterparts. According to the nongovernmental organization Physicians for Human Rights, there have been at least 595 attacks on more than 350 separate medical facilities. Some 930 medical personnel have also been confirmed killed in the brutality. And the bloodletting continues inside the once beautiful country — the so-called “Cradle of Civilization.”

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
From left to right, Hamama, Anwar, Yazen, and Musa at Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, Texas. Photo by Hollie McKay for Coffee or Die Magazine.

This March marked 10 years since pro-democracy protests filled the streets of the southern Syrian city of Daraa. Those initially peaceful demonstrations, and their demands for democratic reforms, rapidly led to a harsh and violent crackdown by the regime. Outside agendas also swarmed into the theater of war, igniting one of the modern world’s worst humanitarian crises: a dire situation further exacerbated by the international community’s inability, or unwillingness, to act.

The past decade has been characterized by cruelty, death, destruction, displacement, and poverty. Chemical weapons have crushed medical facilities and civilians. Sexual violence, torture, and war crimes have permeated almost every inch of the wracked land.

But as so often with wars, it is civilians — especially children — who are most tragically caught in the crossfire. Indeed, terrible burns have become analogous with Syria’s conflict as bombs indiscriminately target schools and homes.

According to the UN, the war has either killed or wounded hundreds of thousands of Syrian children. UNICEF reported that the number of children showing manifestations of psychosocial anguish doubled last year as they continue to endure the shock and horror of combat, and living amid tangled buildings and the tattered tents they now call home.

For most Syrians, who were merely trying to get by and feed their families when adversity struck, there is a painful sense that they will never see justice or accountability for what was done to them. International tribunals are notoriously arduous, bloated bureaucracies that seldom prosecute. Yet coming to America for critical surgery marks a small victory against the tyrants that tore their lives apart.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
War damage in the Syrian city of Aleppo in March 2013. Photo by Foreign and Commonwealth Office via Wikimedia Commons.

Manal, now 14 and undergoing a multitude of surgeries in California, views herself as one of the lucky ones.

“I didn’t feel anything until I woke up,” she recalled. “And then everyone told me I was burned.”

But if given a choice to turn back the clock and not be caught in the hail of bombings that ravaged her homeland, Manal said she wouldn’t do it.

“I’ve learned a lot. It is making me more brave and made me feel other people’s pain, a feeling only people in this situation would know. I feel their pain and I want to help them,” she said politely, her body stoic and erect. “This has made me more determined to achieve my goals in life. I want to be the voice for other people. I want to be a doctor to help the society.”

But it is when she starts to reflect on the calamity that is Syria that Manal’s resilient face gives way to a plethora of deep-rooted angst. She weeps for the children left behind who can’t get the help she has enjoyed; the burned stumps where her hands used to be scoop up tissues as the weeps turn to guttural sobs.

“There are so many children like me,” Manal continued, grief catching in her throat. “And no one is helping them; please help them because they deserve a better life.”

Her mother, Nisreen, cries for what this war has become.

“I used to want to stay in my country,” she whispers between silent whimpers, her body trembling. “But I don’t want to be there anymore. I am so happy to be here. No one could help us in Syria. But whatever I can say now about my country, it means nothing. It is a drop. The situation is a disaster and no one can help with that.”

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
A destroyed neighborhood in the Syrian city of Raqqa in August 2017. Photo by Mahmoud Bali, Voice of America, via Wikimedia Commons.

While unfathomable numbers of children have been horribly seared in Syria, BCRF can only accommodate the most relentless burn cases. And of the severe, the file is large — more than 1,650 linger on the list. Not a single day passes in which BCRF chairwoman Susan Baaj isn’t flooded with new cases, desperate pleas, and requests.

“I used to watch all the videos and images of the bombs falling and hospitals decimated,” recalled Baaj, a Syrian American businesswoman and philanthropist in Southern California. “I just started to feel helpless, and I am a results person. I need to see results, and I wanted to see something happening here.”

And Musa, whose charred face is wrapped in a plastic shield and his skin sheathed in a suit and gloves, appears far too tiny for his 8 years. He speaks in a tempered staccato, the elastic moment of silence in between sentences punctured by the haunting sound of this small child’s heavy breathing.

“I like America better,” he said. “There are more toys here.”

Musa was just 4 when he was hit from the skies in the Syrian city of Raqqa; his skin cooked in such a way that doctors have since questioned if the bomb was laced with some form of phosphorus or a similar chemical. Musa’s baby sister was immediately killed. According to Musa’s mother, Sabrine, the boy’s injuries were a result of an old diesel heater exploding as the bomb landed.

“The situation for children in Syria is very dire,” Sabrine said, her eyes darting to the heavens as she speaks. “We’re all just very tired of this.”

Still, Musa wants to go home someday. He wants to go back to school, which was reverted to online learning at the outset of the global pandemic more than a year ago. And he already knows what he wants to be when he grows up.

“A policeman,” Musa enthused, a smile contorting his flushed face.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
People searching through the debris of destroyed buildings in the aftermath of a strike by Syrian government forces, in the neighborhood of Jabal Bedro, Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 19, 2013. Photo by Aleppo Media Center.

Similarly, Anwar — who is also 8 — wants to be a police officer. He highlights that he met some men in blue in Texas. Anwar, who hails from the once ISIS-ridden parcel of De-Azor, was just 3 when his body was blistered into oblivion. He has no memories of Syria or the beloved siblings he left behind in the throes of conflict.

“I am a burn victim,” he uttered when asked what he wants to share about himself. “And thank you to the American people.”

Baaj also views BCRF’s visa policies as an important model, especially during a time of large-scale debates over immigration, refugee numbers, and Americans’ needs.

Contrary to most other resettlement programs, the foundation permits only one family member — which must be a woman — to travel with the burned child. The US government does not grant them permanent residency, only a visa for the needed treatment period — which usually ranges from six months to two years. After the visa expires, the child must be repatriated with their surviving family abroad, most often to Turkey or Syria.

Yet for the mothers who accompany their children for treatment, the journey still comes at a high personal cost — leaving behind their loved ones and the rest of their children for months, sometimes years.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
The author, right, with Hamama. Photo by Hollie McKay for Coffee or Die Magazine.

In the case of Anwar’s mother, Khatoon, she has seven other children with whom she has had to part for an unknown period. But she vividly remembers the morning her baby boy was burned. She remembers leaving the house on a frosty morning to attend a funeral, only to return to find the house a mere pile of smoldering ruins.

Her husband had already rushed the injured Anwar to the Turkish border, and for three months she wandered the war-wracked streets until they were reunited.

“He used to cry a lot, and he wasn’t able to look at himself in the mirror. Sometimes he still gets sad, but he never complains,” Khatoon said, her eyes wet. “I miss my other children, but I had to come here for Anwar. I would tell any parent in this situation, don’t give up on your children.”

The mothers leaned in, quietly confessing that culturally there is still a lot of stigma surrounding severely wounded children in their homeland. Sometimes they are deemed too costly for struggling families, and abandoned. Then there is the fear of ostracizing due to their appearances — which many of them shared when coming to the US. But they experienced the exact opposite.

“I thought it was going to be weird and scary. At first, I was scared with everyone looking at me,” noted Ayesha, who just turned 9 and was scorched when she was just 4 in Idlib. “But I learned here, never judge a book by a cover. Be kind and don’t judge.”

Ayesha’s memories of Syria are fractured. She relives a feeling of constant exhaustion, of feeling unsafe, and then those moments before the injury. Her thoughts shift to the aftermath, the vision of displaced persons flooding over Turkey’s border and back into Syria, even while the conflict peaked.

“Never give up,” she added while scrolling through her toddler photographs — evidence of the life “before.”

“Even when you think hope is lost, it is going to be back in you.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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11 things I learned about Star Trek after enlisting in the military

Watching Star Trek as a kid was awesome. Space battles, morality plays, explosions… everything about it was what a budding young nerd needs to ensure he doesn’t get a date until after high school.


How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
We are all Martin Prince.

But when you grow up and enlist in the real military, you start to notice a few things you never considered when you watched the shows for the first time.

1. Almost everyone is an officer. And enlisted people don’t fare well.

Only in the old Star Trek movies did we ever see enlisted Starfleet personnel.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
The guy hanging on for dear life? Enlisted. The people who save the day? Officers.

When we do see enlisted people, they’re usually running away or struggling to survive.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
Sick call is not gonna be packed with enlisted people tomorrow.

2. There was only one main character who was enlisted.

Chief Miles O’Brien was the only main character – who was also enlisted – in any series that warranted a spot in the credits. It still didn’t get him his due respect. Captain Sisko once told him to do something that would take two weeks. He ordered O’Brien to do it in three days.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
No complaints. Just Jameson. Sounds like a maintainer to me.

As a matter of fact, the chief is always working, even when others are just hanging around. He doesn’t even get credit, recognition, or even a thank you. It’s so egregious, there’s even a Tumblr cartoon about it.

3. There are definitely Starfleet hair regs.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

4. The entire crew of the 2009 movie were grossly unqualified.

They pretty much went from Starfleet Academy to being the ranking officers on the Enterprise. This is like an entire crew of O-1s being tasked to command an aircraft carrier. And Captain Kirk made it into the academy because he lost a barfight. If that’s the criteria, there’s a fleet of Marines ready to go to Annapolis.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
Pictured: Starfleet Entrance Exam

Everyone in Starfleet should be dead.

5. Captain Kirk was probably not the best captain ever.

Someone actually calculated how many people die under Kirk’s command in Star Trek: The Original Series. Kirk lost 12 percent of the crewmen who served with him. If the USS Gerald Ford lost 12 percent of its crew in five years, that would be almost 600 sailors.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

That captain would likely not be eligible for promotion. This still doesn’t settle one of the Internet’s first controversies: the Picard vs. Kirk debate. Captain Picard lost two ships (almost a third), and Kirk only lost the one, but he took out a bunch of Klingons in the process. Picard also rammed his into another ship, without giving the crew time to escape.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

It’s okay. Those yeomen knew what could happen when they enlisted.

6. Starfleet ships explode really easily.

Every space battle will toss around a few crewmen.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
It’s okay, he was probably enlisted.

7. Federation ships are really easy to fly.

Literally anyone can fly these ships. Imagine a random Marine taking control of the USS Gerald Ford. You’d probably just abandon ship right away to save time. On Star Trek, if a helmsman goes down, just a few buttons will keep the Enterprise flying.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
For the uninitiated, that’s the ship’s counselor taking the helm.

8. At least there are some PT standards.

The only overweight officer was Scotty, played by James Doohan – who is a national hero, so shut your mouth.

See Also: The actor who played Scotty on Star Trek was shot six times on D-Day

Besides, he didn’t put on weight until he was much older, so those Federation PT standards must also be adjusted by age. It should be noted that he and Uhura are the only living red shirts.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
Tough Scotsman.

9. Hand to hand combat is much slower in the future.

Sure, I was in the Air Force, but anyone who’s seen a bar fight knows the stuff hits the fan pretty fast. Much faster than they fight on Star Trek.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
Has this ever worked in real life?

It’s also much slower in the past. Every time a Star Trek crew goes back in time the fighting never seems to get any more intense. When Kirk went back to the 1960s, it took longer for an Air Force officer to pass out than it took to punch him in the face.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

10. Klingon warriors are also not that good at fighting.

Every time the Klingons attack the Enterprise (or any Star Trek crew) they really come up short. In “Generations” they attacked the Enterprise and made the ship’s shields useless. And they STILL lost. Also, they tend to be disposable.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
Running into the laser. Good idea.

Dunning-Kruger in full effect in this barfight.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

11. OPSEC is OPtional.

The captain of the Enterprise routinely goes to the ship’s bartender for advice on the latest missions.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

Forget that she’s 500 years old, she’s never been in Starfleet and her biggest enemy is an immortal who is not restricted to the limits of space and time. It just seems like a bad idea to tell her everything.

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This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

Deploying to a war zone is a risky proposition, even for the most highly trained commandos like SEALs. While on deployment in Iraq in 2007, retired Senior Chief Mike Day and his team set out on the crucial mission to locate a high-level al Qaeda terrorist cell in Anbar province.


Related: This retired Navy SEAL shares 100 deadly skills

While running point on the raid, Day was the first to enter a small room defended by three terrorists who opened fire.

Related video:

He managed to take one of them down as he started taking rounds himself. He kept firing, and dropped another terrorist who detonated a grenade as he went down.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

Dazed and confused, the skilled operator switched to his sidearm and started re-engaging the insurgents, killing the rest. Day had been shot a total 27 times, 16 found his legs, arms, and abdomen. The last 11 lodged into his body armor.

Nevertheless, Day remained in the fight and cleared the rest of the house before walking himself to the medevac helicopter located close by.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
“I was shot both legs, both arms, my abdomen. I mean you throw a finger on me, anything but my head I got shot there” — Day stated. (Source: CBN News/ Screenshot)

Day lost 55 pounds during his two weeks in the hospital, and it eventually took him about two years to recover from his wounds.

After serving in the Navy for over 20 years, Day now serves as a wounded warrior advocate for the special operations community.

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All stateside commissaries aim to have curbside pickup by the end of the year

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of aspects of daily life. Social distancing, restricted occupancy and wearing masks became commonplace. As these restrictions begin to lift in the summer of 2021, one COVID-driven change looks to be sticking around.

Col. William C. Bentley, III, Marine Corps Base Quantico commanding officer, picks up his Click2Go commissary order (Defense Commissary Agency)

Implemented as a way to minimize interaction and reduce the spread of COVID-19, curbside pickup has become a convenient way for consumers to shop. Whether its your weekly groceries or a new TV, ordering online and having your purchases brought out to your car from the store is extremely convenient. For some people, it saves time in their hectic schedule. For others, it’s a workaround to prevent social anxiety. Whatever the reason for using it, curbside pickup is now offered at many grocery, retail and dining locations across the country.

For service members at stateside installations, curbside pickup at the commissary will be here by the end of the year. Called Click2Go, the online ordering/curbside pickup program has seen great success and has customers calling for further expansion. Over the last two years, Click2Go has been rolled out at 11 bases: Fort Belvoir, Fort Eustis, Fort Lee, Oceana Naval Air Station and Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey; Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; and Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Florida.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
McGuire Air Force Base Commissary assistant store manager Ashley Moats delivers a Click2Go order (Defense Commissary Agency)

In 2020, Defense Commissary Agency officials said they expected the number of Click2Go sites to grow to 60 in the next two years. After Bill Moore took over as DeCA Director and CEO, the projection changed. “I want to dramatically increase the number of stores with the service,” Moore said last fall. “I am driven on getting e-commerce to more locations, and I’m hoping we can get a lot more in a very near-term approach.” A fast-tracked rollout aims to introduce Click2Go to all 236 stateside commissaries by the end of the year. Overseas commissaries are expected to receive the program shortly thereafter.

Moreover, Click2Go itself has seen a number of improvements. To better serve customers, the commissary has added online payment options, more product information, improved user interface, featured sales and promotions, and mobile-friendly options like viewing order history. “Perhaps the most significant enhancement is online payment,” Moore said of the updates. “You place your order and pay online, and then it’s simply a matter of driving up to the curbside delivery area of your commissary to have your groceries loaded into your vehicle—that’s a streamlined process our customers expect in this information age.”

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
(Defense Commissary Agency)

The Click2Go rollout schedule will be available on the Defense Commissary Agency website. Although the necessity of stateside commissaries has come under Congressional scrutiny in recent years, modernization efforts like Click2Go aim to keep the benefit on bases for the foreseeable future.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
Rushane Edwards, a Click2Go picker, moves through the Fort Eustis commissary with a collection cart (Defense Commissary Agency)

Featured photo: CLICK2GO call box stands in the parking lot of the Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, Commissary April 2, 2019. The program started in 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by D. P. Heard)

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7 signs humans will lose the robot wars

While DARPA and other research institutions declare a robotic revolution, the real geniuses like Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates are letting us know the robotic revolution is really going to be a robot war. While watching videos of robot fails may make humans feel safe, we shouldn’t. The robots are coming and the robots will win.


How? Here are 7 ways robots are preparing for war:

1. They’re reproducing.

Björk_AIFOL_MoMA-robots-reproduce Photo: Wikipedia/sashimomura

The video above is from the University of Cambridge where a robotic “mother” is creating “children.” The robotic arm was given the task of constructing robots from building blocks with motors and glue, designing her own children to move as far across the table as possible. With such simple tools, her children are still relatively harmless. But once she gets chainsaws and gatling guns to attach to them, we’re all in trouble.

2. They’re evolving.

The worst part of the University of Cambridge study isn’t even that researchers are letting robots create robots, it’s that they’re trying to make them evolve. The mother is supposed to keep track of which of her children was most successful and then create the next generation with the best traits of the last. So, even if we beat the robots back in the first few battles, we’ll be facing more effective robots in each skirmish.

3. They can mimic humans.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Steve Jurvetson

DARPA has created a robot that can learn human tasks, especially cooking, from watching Youtube. If this programming is put into those creepy robots with the human skin, we’ll never know if a chef is a human making dinner for humans or a robot making humans for dinner.

4. They’re working in teams.

While the internet naively believes the Robo World cup is adorable, they couldn’t be more wrong. This “World Cup” is actually a training regimen where the robots are learning teamwork and “multi-agent collaboration.” This is according to the reports of the human collaborators own reports.

5. They’re learning.

Not only do the robots work in teams in the world cup, they also learn how to move their own bodies and better navigate through space. Even worse, the crackpots at DARPA are encouraging people teach robots how to navigate disaster areas. This would allow robots to navigate the ruins of the cities they destroy. Above, a robot has learned to do laundry without any direct human controls.

6. They’re becoming more mobile.

We always thought the robot wars would take place in the urban jungle, but the robots are preparing for a war in the actual jungle by practicing running through the woods. AlphaDog, the Marines Legged Squad Support System, pioneered the way for robots to run through the woods but even bipedal robots like the Atlas have found their way into the forest. At least we can still hide behind our city walls.

7. They can now open doors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52P7jD4PaQU

Except no, we can’t. Robots have learned to open doors. No word on when they’ll learn to kick them in while screaming, “Your democracy is here!” Luckily, this is still limited to certain robot types.

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The Army is offering $5K bonuses to join new training brigade

The U.S. Army is authorizing $5,000 bonuses to woo top-performing troops into a new training brigade as the service once famous for shouldering the burden of America’s wars works to meet the growing demand for advisers in places ranging from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and Africa.


The plan recognizes the new reality of America at war: Army soldiers are more often training and building local security forces rather than doing the fighting for them on foreign soil. It replaces what has been a hodgepodge of programs over the past dozen years with projections for five new, permanent, fully-trained brigades that can be deployed around the world as professional advisers.

“It’s a recognition that this is an enduring requirement for the conventional Army,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, told The Associated Press in an interview.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
A Marine assigned to Task Force Taqaddum (TF TQ) advises and assists designated Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Anbar Province to enable ISF to degrade and defeat Da’esh (an Arabic acronym fro ISIL) and support the Mosul counterattack. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson/Released)

“Most times we’re falling in on existing institutions that are probably failing, and bringing them up to a certain competency level so they can secure themselves. And we’ve got to be able to do that on a large scale.”

The new program and its signing bonuses also illustrate how the Trump administration has endorsed the Obama administration’s emphasis on working “by, with and through” local forces.

That policy emerged from the deadly and tumultuous years after the 2003 Iraq invasion, when as many as 160,000 American troops were on the ground battling insurgents while struggling to transform a rag-tag mix of often ethnically-opposed Iraqi troops into a functioning fighting force.

U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011. Less than three years later, the Iraqi security forces largely collapsed as Islamic State militants seized control of large swaths of territory. U.S. troops then returned to Iraq, training, advising and enabling the Iraqis to oust IS from the country.

Also read: Here’s how the Army is assisting Iraqi forces in the fight for Mosul

The $5,000 bonus got final authorization on May 3 and is expected to be available beginning in June. The Army has chosen a colonel to lead the first training brigade and he will travel to a number of military posts in the coming weeks to recruit soldiers for the unit. Joining is strictly voluntary.

Since it’s a new program, Abrams acknowledged some soldiers may be reluctant to shift away from current career paths by taking a chance on something they fear may fail or lose support over time.

“There is natural apprehension in the field: ‘Is this a flash in the pan?’ It’s not a flash in the pan,” Abrams said. “The chief is committed and the Army senior leadership is committed, I’m committed. This is going to be an enduring capability.”

The challenge, he said, is getting mid-grade non-commissioned officers to sign up. That’s where the bonus will help.

Of the 529 soldiers in the brigade, 360 will be officers who don’t qualify for the bonus. The rest will be enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers who can earn the extra money.

The objective is to fix some problems created by the current training programs. In Iraq and Afghanistan, chunks of combat brigades have been deployed to serve as trainers and advisers to local forces, often leaving the remainder of their units back at home. Right now, for example, portions of three brigades are in Afghanistan and Iraq.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
U.S. Army and Iraqi soldiers cross an intersection during a routine security patrol in downtown Tal Afar, Iraq (U.S. Navy photo)

“It separates the leaders from those they lead, and it degrades (unit) readiness significantly,” Abrams said, adding that Army leaders have expressed frustrations over breaking units apart to staff the mission.

The plan calls for a military assistance training academy to be created at Fort Benning, Georgia. About 90 civilian and military staff members are being recruited. The first class will begin in October.

Members of what is being called the new Security Force Assistance Brigade will go through a training course of six-to-eight weeks. Almost 200 will receive 16 weeks of intensive language instruction. Others will get an eight-week language course.

More reading: SEAL Team 6 is experimenting with sensory deprivation chambers to learn languages faster

The first brigade could be ready to deploy by the end of 2018, Abrams said, but there has been no decision on where they will go. Iraq and Afghanistan are the most likely locations, he said.

As more brigades are created, they would deploy to other areas of the world. While the Army initially conceived of one base in each geographical military command around the globe, it’s more likely they’ll simply be sent where most needed.

The Army will select soldiers for the second brigade in about a year. All five brigades will be created by 2022.

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The Army Air Corps once bombed Oklahoma

In 1943, although B-17s had been used regularly in daylight bombing raids over Europe, nighttime bombing was still a relatively new concept to the U.S. Army Air Corps. Tactics were being developed in a hurry to satisfy the increasing demands of the war, and pilots were being trained at a rapid clip.


It was against that intense backdrop that four B-17s took off one night from Dalhart Army Airfield in Texas. The target was in Conlen, Texas, a mere 20 miles from Dalhart Airfield. It was supposed to be marked with four lights at each corner, creating an “X-marks-the-spot” for the student aircrews to hit. Instead, a young navigator led the bomber formation 40 miles in the other direction, to Boise City, Oklahoma.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

At zero-dark-thirty, the bombers approached their target, not realizing it had taken them twice as long as it should have to get there. The townspeople were asleep by this time, and the town’s lights were out — except for the four lights around the Cimmaron County Courthouse.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
You can probably imagine what happened next.

The crew in the lead bomber, thinking they reached their target, let fly a couple of sand-filled training bombs over the population of 1,200. They hit the town butcher’s garage, taking out its roof. The next plane’s drop fell just short of a Baptist Church. The third and fourth bombers’ bombs narrowly missed hitting some of the town’s fuel stores.

The sheriff immediately called the base at Dalhart. Dalhart radioed the wayward planes to ask them to ensure they were on target. The crews ensured Dalhart that they were over the training target and were not bombing civilians, which led to an argument between the bomber crews and Dalhart’s tower. That’s when an electric company engineer shut down the town’s electricity, hiding it from the bombers. In all the bombers dropped six training bombs on Boise City.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
As if a town of 1,200 didn’t already know they were bombed by the Air Force.

The crews returned to Dalhart immediately. The navigator was (understandably) fired, while the rest of the crew were faced with a choice: go right into combat as soon as possible or face a court martial. It was a big decision: The Eighth Air Force casualty rate for all of World War II in Europe was a whopping 41 percent, with 26,000 killed in action. These crews would later fly in formations over Berlin.

Fifty years after the bombing, the citizens of Boise City erected a memorial to the event, complete with concrete crater and WWII-era training bomb.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

 

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5 times troops made headlines for the wrong reasons

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
Pfc. Robert Preston’s helicopter being removed from the White House lawn | Wikimedia


This article by James Clark and Michael Lane Smith was originally published on Task Purpose, news and culture site for the next great generation of American veterans.

For anyone who has worn the uniform, there’s a fundamental truth of service that never makes it into the commercials and recruiting ads: It can be boring as all hell.

Sometimes, either due to good intentions gone awry, frustration, or someone drank too much, service members and veterans make some bad decisions. In many cases, this ends with a hangover or a moment of public embarrassment. Occasionally, these choices lead to sprains and maybe a broken bone or two, like when a Marine decided to jump three stories onto a stack of mattresses.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
YouTube

But sometimes, someone does something so dumb and outrageous that it makes the news. Here are five of those moments.

1. The soldier who stole a puppy to save it from being neutered

In early June 2015, U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Duvel of the Missouri National Guard was caught on video stealing a mixed-breed puppy from the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri with his fiancée, according to ABC affiliate KSPR News.

Having heard from a veterinary hospital that it is unhealthy for dogs to be neutered within the first year of their lives, the couple wanted to make sure this puppy was protected from such an operation. After being denied the opportunity to adopt the puppy, the couple thought the best course of action was to take him anyway.

“Really, the criminal part never really came in mind at all to be honest,” Duvel told KSPR with a seemingly amused grin. “It’d gotten pretty serious so it was pretty much past the point of dropping off some money and saying I’m sorry.”

Presumably Duvel’s chain of command didn’t appreciate seeing “guardsman steals puppy” in the news either.

2. The drunk soldier who defected to North Korea

On the night of Jan. 4, 1965, U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins crossed the heavily mined Korean demilitarized zone 10 beers deep and defected to North Korea.

According to Business Insider, Jenkins decided to get drunk and then defect because his unit was being ordered to lead increasingly provocative patrols, and he heard they might be heading to Vietnam. His time in North Korea involved 24-hour surveillance, making it more akin to imprisonment than defection.

Instead of continued service in the military fighting communism, Jenkins spent the next 40 years learning the works of Kim Il-Sung by heart, teaching English to presumed spies in training, and acting in movies as the villain. Needless to say, Jenkins quickly regretted his decision.

In a 2005 interview on “60 Minutes,” Jenkins described being constantly watched and told when to eat, sleep, and even when to have sex. According to Jenkins, the North Korean government eventually brought him an abducted a woman from Japan to teach North Korean spies Japanese, and before long, they were married. Not exactly the most beautiful love story, but it did yield the pair two daughters.

Upon being freed in 2004, Jenkins reported for duty in Japan and was swiftly court-martialed, receiving a significantly reduced sentence for the almost four decades of internment in North Korea. He now sells crackers at a historical museum in Japan.

3. The soldier who landed helicopter on the White House lawn

In the early hours of Feb. 17, 1974, U.S. Army Pfc. Robert Preston buzzed commuterson the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in a stolen Huey, and then approached the White House, landing briefly before Maryland State Police arrived in two choppers of their own.

Preston led them on an aerial chase, leading one officer to say afterward that he was “one hell of a pilot.” He proceeded to hover near the Washington Monument, nearly colliding with it, before returning to the White House, where he hovered 100 meters away on the South Lawn.

After taking shotgun and submachine gun fire, Preston put the Huey down and attempted to escape on foot, but was tackled and arrested. President Richard Nixon, who was in the middle of the Watergate scandal, was not at the White House during all of this.

Even though he led two police choppers, and scores of other law enforcement personnel on a high speed chase, broke a host of laws and military regulations, Preston only served six months in the military stockade, before receiving a general discharge.

4. The drunk Marine who set off the fire suppression system in a hangar

At about 1:45 a.m on May 23, 2015, a Marine drunkenly triggered the foam-based fire suppression system at an Air Force hangar on Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Marine Corps Times reported that it’s unclear how the Marine entered the hangar, what specific punishment he may have faced after his arrest, and just what his level of intoxication was.

5. The British soldier who stole an armored vehicle, crashed it, stole another

In February 2009, an 18-year-old British soldier went for a drunken joy ride, stealing not one, but two armored vehicles before running a military police patrol off the road, reported Daily Mail.

German authorities said that the unnamed soldier was “highly intoxicated” when he stole an armored command car, swerved through the entrance at Hoehne Barracks in Northwest Germany, before careening off the road minutes later, reports the Daily Mail.

Astonishingly, the soldier crept back on base, which was now on high alert, and stole another armored vehicle — a tracked ambulance this time — and sped off again. A military police patrol tried to stop him, but was forced off the road before the driver crashed the second vehicle into a tree.

We all got the giggles when we read this,” British Army spokesperson Helga Heine told The Local in 2009. “But stealing a vehicle is a serious offense and it will be dealt with accordingly.”

A German police officer told Daily Mail: “Apparently he muttered something about wanting to see green fields and trees.”

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New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Recent investigations show that the Department of Defense has issued thousands of other-than-honorable discharges to veterans with mental health and behavioral health diagnoses.


U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and seven other senators introduced legislation to change that.

On April 3, Murphy, veterans, and advocates for veterans held a press conference in Connecticut and called upon Congress to take action.

“I can’t stand the idea of a veteran risking her or his life for this country, suffering the wounds of battle, and then being kicked to the curb as a result of those wounds,” Murphy said. “But that is exactly what has happened to tens of thousands of men and women who have fought and bled for our country.”

“This is common sense,” Murphy added. “We are breaking our promise to those who served.”

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
In 2014, 6 of the 20 veterans per day committing suicide were users of VA services.

Murphy said there is also a stigma that comes with an other-than-honorable discharge that is a heavy burden for veterans to live with. “A lot of these so-called offenses are very minor,” Murphy said.

The legislation Murphy helped introduce would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health and behavioral health services to diagnosed former combat veterans who have been other-than-honorably discharged. The bill would also ensure that veterans receive a decision in a timely manner and requires the VA to justify to Congress any denial of benefits that they issue to a veteran.

Up until recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Murphy said, denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to former combat veterans who received OTH or Bad Paper discharges.

The VA has reversed course on the matter, Murphy said, adding that now it’s time for Congress to act to ensure mental health and behavioral health services are provided to these veterans.

Since January 2009, the Army has “separated” at least 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, said Murphy.

“These soldiers who fought for our country suffered serious mental health problems or traumatic brain injury as a cost of their service. And we turned our back on them,” Murphy said, adding that they also return home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But instead of being directed to the care and treatment they need, they’re being given other-than-honorable discharges or so-called “bad paper discharges,” disqualifying them from VA care, especially the mental and behavioral health services many of them desperately need, said the senator.

Murphy’s strong support for the bill was echoed by Blumenthal, who is a sponsor but was not at Monday’s press conference.

“This bill will make crystal clear that all combat veterans should have access to the full array of mental and behavioral health care they need and deserve,” Blumenthal said. “We cannot wait for a crisis to provide essential mental health to veterans suffering from the terrible invisible wounds of war.”

He said 20 veterans per day are lost to suicide.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
Chiefs and chief selects do pushups for the 22Kill Challenge aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). 22Kill is a veterans’ advocacy group that brings awareness to the daily veterans’ suicide rate. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tristan Lotz/Released)

One of those in attendance at the press conference Monday was Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran from New Haven who developed PTSD as a result of his military service.

In 2014, Monk and four other plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit because they were issued OTH discharges. They won the suit, which was brought on their behalf by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and the Pentagon agreed to upgrade their discharges to honorable.

Another veteran to speak Monday was was Tom Burke, president of the Yale Student Veterans Council and a U.S. Marine corps veteran.

In 2009, Burke was a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan.

It was when he was in the Helmand Province that he witnessed deaths of many young children who were killed by an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade. One of Burke’s responsibilities was to cart away the dismembered bodies.

“I began smoking hash,” Burke said, adding that in a matter of weeks he was charged for misconduct for his drug use and was told he would be kicked out of the Marines.

Burke said he “tried to commit suicide a few times.”

He said he was later locked in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently given an OTH discharge later in 2009.

In 2014, Burke said he applied for an honorable discharge, but was denied.

Burke tells his story often, these days, not to elicit empathy for his own case, but to try and draw attention to the bigger issue of the thousands like him who are being denied benefits.

“Veterans are dying,” Burke said. “These aren’t men and women who are trying to take advantage of the system.”

Margaret Middleton, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, said veterans need relief.

Under the current system, a veteran trying to get an honorable discharge often “requires the expertise and cost of an attorney and lengthy research,” something that veterans returning from combat shouldn’t be forced to endure, she said.

Murphy concluded: “Our veterans made a commitment to our country when they signed up. I introduced this legislation to make sure that the VA keeps its commitment to help veterans with mental and behavioral health issues. I won’t stop fighting until they get the care and benefits they deserve.”

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Marine captain writes stinging op-ed: ‘We lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan’

An active-duty US Marine captain wrote a stinging op-ed for the Marine Corps Gazette, going through all the problems he sees with the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps in addition to recent failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The biggest problem, according to Capt. Joshua Waddell, is “self-delusion.”

“Let us first begin with the fundamental underpinnings of this delusion: our measures of performance and effectiveness in recent wars,” he wrote. “It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
U.S. Marines huddle behind walls as they receive instructions about their next move after a M1A1 tank eliminates the Iraqi insurgents in a house the Marines were receiving fire from in Fallujah, Iraq. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

The active-duty infantry officer, who served with and lost Marines under his command with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, in Afghanistan, didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. He said it took several years for him to accept that, with the goal of improving the system.

A case in point, he says, is a comparison of the US military with other adversaries.

The Pentagon’s budget dwarfs the combined defense spending of the next 10 countries. The Army and Marine Corps are arguably the best-trained fighting forces in the world. The Air Force has the most high-tech aircraft and weaponry, while the Navy maintains nearly 20 aircraft carriers — far more than adversaries like Russia and China that have only one each.

These stats should mean the US military is unstoppable, but the budget, talk of being the best in the world, and other claims it makes don’t square with measures of effectiveness, Waddell writes.

“How, then, have we been bested by malnourished and undereducated men with antiquated and improvised weaponry whilst spending trillions of dollars in national treasure and costing the lives of thousands of servicemen and hundreds of thousands of civilians?” he wrote.

Waddell continues:

“For example, a multibillion-dollar aircraft carrier that can be bested by a few million dollars in the form of a swarming missile barrage or a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of rendering its flight deck unusable does not retain its dollar value in real terms. Neither does the M1A1 tank, which is defeated by $20 worth of household items and scrap metal rendered into an explosively-formed projectile.

“The Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization has a library full of examples like these, and that is without touching the weaponized return on investment in terms of industrial output and capability development currently being employed by our conventional adversaries.”

His article isn’t just a critique; Waddell offers several solutions to get the military out of the “business-as-usual” mindset that looks good in PowerPoint briefs but doesn’t translate to success on the ground.

While military leaders typically complain to Congress that constrained budgets have a “crippling” effect on the military, Waddell says the military should work more efficiently with the money it has. He gives an example of a nation already doing this: Russia.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
World Military Balance 2016

Moscow’s military budget is about $52 billion, versus Washington’s proposed defense budget of $583 billion. Yet with far less money, Russia has been a consistent thorn in the US’s side in Syria, Ukraine, and now Afghanistan. That’s not to mention Moscow’s success in cyberwarfare.

“This is the same Russian military whom the RAND Corporation has estimated would be unstoppable in an initial conventional conflict in the Baltic states, even against the combined might of the NATO forces stationed there,” Waddell wrote. “Given the generous funding the American people have bequeathed us to provide for the common defense, is it so unreasonable to seek an efficient frontier of that resource’s utility?”

Waddell’s critique includes a call to fix inefficiencies between the Defense Department getting gear to war fighters, as some have to buy things they need because they don’t get there before they deploy. Waddell also calls for an audit of the Marines to see whether there are redundant efforts among contractors.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
A squad automatic weapon gunner provides security during a break in his squad’s patrol in Southern Shorsurak, Helmand province, Afghanistan. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga

“There is no reason we should be paying twice for the same work or, as is often the case, paying government personnel for work that they have instead outsourced to more capable contractors for tasks within the government worker’s job description,” he wrote. “I would be willing to bet that a savvy staff officer with access to these position and billet descriptions as well as contracting line items could save the Marine Corps millions of dollars by simply hitting Control+F (find all) on his keyboard, querying key tasks, and counting redundancies.”

It’s unclear how much of an effect this op-ed would have on any changes. The Marine Corps Gazette is read mostly by senior Marine leadership, but whether that translates to taking this captain’s advice in an institution that is resistant to change is an open question.

“I have watched Marines charge headlong into enemy fire and breach enemy defenses with the enemy’s own captured IEDs in order to engage in close combat,” Waddell wrote. “This same fighting spirit from which we draw so much pride must be replicated by our senior leaders in leading comprehensive reform of our Corps’ capabilities and in creating a supporting establishment truly capable of fostering innovation.”

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This stunning video shows how fast a railgun can shoot

The Navy has been testing a railgun that could see deployment on the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt and her sister ships. The goal is to get the railgun to not only be able to fire its projectiles to a range of 110 nautical miles, but to increase the rate of fire to as many as ten rounds a minute.


The long range is only one of the many advantages. Another is improved safety. Gunpowder can be very volatile, as a number of British battlecruisers found out at Jutland and at the Denmark Straits. The battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) also found out about how bad a gunpowder explosion in the wrong place at the wrong time can be.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
The British battlecruiser HMS Hood was sunk when her magazines exploded in the Battle of the Denmark Strait. (Wikimedia Commons)

The approach also saves money, and provides for more ammo capacity. The gunpowder is expensive to safely store, has to be purchased, and it takes up spaces in the ship. All of those factors end up making the ship design more expensive.

The railgun testing is slated to take place over the summer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in Virginia. One of the big issues will be to quantify how much electrical power will be needed to send the rounds downrange.

Forget what you saw in 2009’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” when an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer took out the Decepticon Devastator. Only the Zumwalt-class destroyers have the electrical power capacity to use a railgun.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children
U.S. Navy photo

Another is addressing the issue of barrel wear – largely because it is sending the mail downrange at Mach 6.

Dr. Tom Beutner of the Office of Naval Research notes that the barrel wear issue is being fixed, saying, “They’ve extended the launcher core life from tens of shots’ core life when program started to something that’s now been fired over 400 times and … we anticipate barrels will be able to do over 1,000 shots.”

Watch the video of the Navy testing the railgun’s autoloader below:

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This chart proves there are already way more contractors in Afghanistan than US troops

President Donald Trump said he plans to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan in a speech August 21 and continue the longest-running war in American history.


Currently, there are about 9,800 US troops stationed in Afghanistan and more than 26,000 contractors.

The Pentagon defines a defense contractor as “any individual, firm, corporation, partnership, or other legal non-federal entity that enters into a contract directly with the DOD to furnish services, supplies, or construction.”

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US defense contractors versus US troops deployed to Afghanistan in last decade. Image by Skye Gould via Business Insider.

This also includes intelligence analysis, translation and interpretation, as well as private-security contractors — who began taking over roles once held by uniformed soldiers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The defense industry has also made incredible profits since 2001, including nearly $100 billion in Afghanistan since 2007.

The graphic above compares the number of US troops and defense contractors in Afghanistan over the last decade.

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Top secret files detail how drone strikes target terrorists — and how they go wrong

Newly unveiled British intelligence documents detail how the National Security Agency worked with its British counterpart when carrying out drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan and how they targeted terrorists, The New York Times reports.


The documents, released to the Guardian newspaper by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and shared with The New York Times, also detail how often those strikes go wrong.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

The documents also reveal that US forces conducted a strike in 2012 to kill a doctor, identified as Khadim Usamah, who the US believed was surgically inserting explosives into potential Al Qaeda operatives.

Britain’s military has carried out drone strikes in war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, but the documents suggest that British intelligence also helped guide strikes by the US outside of those zones.

Drone attacks carried out by the US have been heavily criticized in the past, and prompted thousands to protest against their use. Critiques say that drone attacks are not specific enough and often end up killing a lot of civilians.

Outcries against the use of drones were renewed when President Barack Obama disclosed in April that two Western aid workers who were held hostage by Al Qaeda had been killed after a strike against the terrorist group in Pakistan.

Instances in which civilians have been killed and uncertainty about drones’ accuracy in hitting their target has led to increased public scrutiny of the use of drones. In the case of the hostages who were killed, intelligence officers were unaware they were present at the time of the strike.

Meanwhile, an Algerian terrorist who had been reported dead by the Pentagon after a strike appears to still be alive, according to the Times. And American officials only learned a few days after an attack in Yemen that they had killed the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Officials argue that missiles fired from unmanned aircrafts are the most precise way to target terrorists. But for the shots to be as precise as possible, the documents highlight the importance of surveillance and eavesdropping in order to determine not only the exact location, but also whether everyone in a strike zone poses a threat. The documents also detail how that use of technology is flawed.

How Americans are saving the Syrian War’s severely burned children

The British Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) guide to targeting outlines the importance of identifying whether a phone is used by one or more people, as tracking smartphones is often used to identify a target. Because of the obvious flaw in targeting people only by the location of their smartphones, the agencies also try to identify terrorists by voice and physical appearance.

The guide also says that whether a call was terminated right after a strike is a good way of knowing whether it hit its target.

Amid a parliamentary investigation into whether the UK was part of unmanned aerial vehicle strikes (UAV) in Yemen, British defense minister Mark Francois said “UAV strikes against terrorist targets in Yemen are a matter for the Yemeni and US governments,” according to the Times.

But the new documents suggest that the country provided intelligence for different American strikes, including one in Yemen.

The NSA and CIA both declined to comment to the Times. But the GCHQ said in a statement that it expects “all states concerned to act in accordance with international law and take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties when conducting any form of military or counterterrorist operations.”

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