Here's how to get real about the ISIS threat - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

ISIS has made alarming gains in Iraq and Syria over the past week.


On May 17, ISIS fighters took Ramadi, a city just 70 west of Baghdad, after a battle in which the jihadist group advanced into the city behind a wave of suicide bombers. Capturing Palmyra, a former Assad regime bastion in Syria, proved easier, as a collapsing Syrian military essentially vacated the city in the face of the ISIS advance.

And an 11-month US-led bombing campaign hasn’t prevented ISIS from taking and holding additional territory. This week, ISIS has looked formidable, while the US’s strategy has seemed particularly ineffective and aimless. On May 21st, reports began circulating that ISIS controlled half of Syrian territory.

But such claims about ISIS’s degree of territorial control obscures how and why the group has been successful so far — and how it might eventually be defeated. ISIS doesn’t really “control” half of Syria.

As these maps from the Institute for the Study of War demonstrates, ISIS has a sliver-shaped core of direct administrative control, insulated by hundreds of square miles of desert where the jihadist group and other militant forces maintain a degree of operational capability.

There are gradients of ISIS control in Syria, and understanding them hints at how the group can be successfully countered.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

“ISIS’s fighters are likely clustered in key defensible terrain,” Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria conflict analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider. Cafarella explained that ISIS focuses its efforts and manpower around the populated and strategic areas along the Euphrates river.

“There’s little actual human terrain in close proximity to ISIS in eastern Syria that ISIS does not already control,” she said. “Beyond that is the vast Homs Desert, where ISIS has been able to operate with impunity.

“But it’s too inhospitable for any military to decisively hold and of low enough strategic value that is can’t be considered an exclusively ISIS-governed area.”

As Cafarella says, the desert in the east of the country is at least “maneuverable terrain by really all military forces.”

The issue is that ISIS currently has free reign there — the Assad regime, for instance, doesn’t have on the ground intelligence, the capacity, of perhaps the willingness to discover and then bomb ISIS convoys traveling across Syria’s desert east.

“We still don’t have the ground partner necessary to contest ISIS-held terrain inside of Syria in any meaningful sense,” says Cafarella.

In Syria, ISIS has a small core area of control, a wider area of operational freedom, and no real ground-level counter-force pressuring the group.

What it doesn’t have is an administrative entity that actually comprises half of the country’s territory.

In other areas, over-emphasis on ISIS’s territorial control can have an even more distorting impact on the group’s actual reach. In Libya, it’s been frequently reported that ISIS rules over territory, with The New York Times reporting in March that ISIS had a foothold in Sirte, along the Mediterranean coast. On May 21st, Reuters reported that ISIS had captured the city.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

In reality, ISIS doesn’t really control any territory in Libya, or at least not in the same sense as in Iraq and Syria.

“The places they’re said to be in control of are heavily contested,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “It hasn’t captured cities and imposed an administrative structure.”

The idea that ISIS has territorial control in Libya “directly feeds into ISIS propaganda,” says Gartenstein-Ross. It shows that the “caliphate” has spread beyond Iraq and Syria, and that he group can fight and hold territory far beyond its center of power. An exaggerated sense of ISIS’s Libya capabilities may have been part of what convinced the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram to pledge allegiance to ISIS in March.

Understanding the nature and extent of ISIS’s territorial control is especially important amidst growing criticism of the US’s strategy against the group. Gartentstein-Ross explained that ISIS has adjusted its own battlefield approach, opting for small-scale attacks over vulnerable large-scale mobilizations. Furthermore, the group is only opening fronts against forces they are relatively certain they can defeat, like the Iraqi military.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo Credit: Vice News/screenshot

“They’re using smaller and more mobile units that are better at evading the air campaign,” says Gartenstein-Ross.

ISIS’s tactics are adjusting to the US’s now 11-month-old air campaign, but this doesn’t mean the group is invincible. ISIS took Palmyra because the Syrian regime fled, and it took Ramadi because the Iraqi Security Forces aren’t a viable or a competent fighting force.

On the other hand, ISIS has an apparent unwillingness to contest areas held by battle-hardened Iranian-supported Shi’ite militia groups in both Iraq and Syria, and has made little progress against Kurdish forces in either country.

So even as the group expands, it’s clear that it isn’t on an inevitable victory march across Iraq and Syria.

“I don’t think their capability should be overstated vis a vis the full range of their opponents,” says Gartenstein-Ross.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Here are Gary Johnson’s answers to 11 questions posed by the military community

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: Business Insider)


Editor’s note: Earlier this summer, Military One Click devised a military/veteran-centered questionnaire and sent it out to the Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and Trump campaigns as part of #militaryvotesmatter. As they receive responses from those campaigns, WATM will publish them, unedited and in their entirety.

This questionnaire was devised and compiled by Bianca Strzalkowski, a freelance writer and Marine Corps spouse. Follow her on twitter, @BiancaSki.

What key policy positions does your party hold that made you choose to be affiliated with it?

Fundamentally, Libertarians believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, and respect for the rights of individuals to make their own personal choices, provided those choices do not harm others. And in foreign policy, we are very hesitant and skeptical when it comes to intervening in the affairs of other nations when there is no clear U.S. interest at stake. We are not isolationists, but we err on the side of nonintervention unless intervening is necessary to protect and defend the U.S. and its citizens.

In your opinion, what do you think are the leading issues facing today’s military members?

There are many issues facing today’s military men and women. First, they need and deserve a Commander-in-Chief who will not send them into harm’s way as part of a vague foreign policy that has too often involved intervening in conflicts with no clear outcome or U.S. interest. Our military must be second to none and invincible as a national DEFENSE. But it must be used judiciously with clear congressional authorization, rules of engagement that do not put our troops at unnecessary risk, clear objectives, and clear U.S. interests at stake.

Likewise, when we ask our military members to put their lives at risk for our freedoms, we must give them concrete assurances that their families will receive the support they need and deserve. And they must know that when they leave the military, our commitment does not end. The transition to civilian life is not easy and presents unique challenges. From the GI Bill to medical treatment to emotional support, I believe we have a moral obligation to treat the members of the military as we would our own families.

What experience, if any, do you have with the military and veteran communities?

I did not serve in the military. However, my father is a World War II veteran, and in his older years, has been a patient in the VA health care system. Also, as Governor of New Mexico, I had many opportunities to work with the veterans’ community — and it was an honor to do so.

In 2014, it came to light that veterans were facing dire issues in trying to navigate the Veterans Administration’s system, to include long wait lists to access healthcare. What actions would you take to find solutions to these problems?

It is an inexcusable disgrace that the VA system has failed so many veterans. There can be no short-changing or equivocation in meeting our obligations to those who serve, and making them suffer at the hands of a failed bureaucracy must not happen. We all know there are many dedicated, caring health care professionals in the VA system. The failure is at the top and in the bureaucracy.

First, we must broaden the health care options through vouchers or a similar mechanism by which veterans can go outside the VA system to private providers if doing so will allow better and timely care. However, for the many for whom the VA system remains the most accessible and convenient care, and for whom the VA has unique capacities to serve the needs of veterans, we must also fix that system. As Governor, my greatest satisfaction came from applying common sense business practices to improve state services. It was amazing how many times simply asking the right questions and applying obvious solutions could easily resolve problems caused by the bureaucracy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the VA.

Unemployment among military spouses continues to be a financial readiness issue for service members’ families with reported jobless rates being between 12 – 26 percent. What resources would you devote to lowering those numbers?

The most important priority for improving employment opportunities for military spouses is to create an economic environment in which there is robust demand for whatever skills they have to offer. As long as job-seekers dramatically outnumber jobs, the realities of military life will present challenges in that competitive marketplace. Frequent relocation, “single parent” responsibilities and other factors common among spouses create obstacles, and we must face that fact.

At the same time, I believe there are a great many employers who are anxious to help support our military families. There is much government at all levels can do to simply help connect military spouses with those employers. The Presidency is a powerful voice and can be used to lead that effort.

Many veterans choose entrepreneurship as a post-military career option because of the skills they learn in leadership. How will your administration support small business ownership for this population?

Almost without exception, my speeches include my belief that entrepreneurship is the key to America’s future. I am an entrepreneur myself, having started in business as a one-man “handyman” and growing that business into a construction company with more than 1,000 employees. Thanks to technology, never before have entrepreneurial opportunities been greater — and military members enter the game with the right skills to succeed. My highest priority as President will be to create a level playing field, end crony capitalism and otherwise remove obstacles to small business ownership and success. I know what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and my policies will, across-the-board, be intended to maximize entrepreneurial opportunities.

Military kids move on average every 2-3 years, and the average child may relocate 6-9 times during an academic career, according to DODEA. In turn, they face issues such as losing credits upon transfer or transitioning into a curriculum that varies from their previous schools. What policies could your administration explore to help military children have a more successful foundation for their education?

As Governor, and if elected President, removing the shackles from education innovation was and will remain one of my passions. I firmly believe that education entrepreneurs will revolutionize — for the better — the ways in which our kids learn, if only they are allowed to do so. Federal mandates, outdated public school restrictions and lack of flexibility have made it difficult, if not impossible, for educators to fashion educational opportunities that meet the needs of individual students.

Clearly, the children of military families do face unique circumstances. However, accommodating those circumstances should not be difficult if we abandon the one-size-fits-all approach that has burdened U.S. schools for decades.

To me, the first step toward creating flexibility is to remove the Federal Department of Education as a stifling force. If allowed to do so, the states will become laboratories of innovation, and obviously, those states with significant military populations will adapt to the needs of that population.

There are few, if any, problems with credit transfers, varying curricula, etc., that cannot be readily addressed if teachers, local schools, and parents are allowed to do so — with common sense and creativity.

What in your professional experience has prepared you to take on the role as Commander-in-Chief?

In business, and even more so, as Governor, I succeeded by seeking the smartest and most qualified counsel I could find. I thoroughly enjoyed digging into problems and challenges, understanding them, and making informed decisions. I think my record speaks to my success in doing that. Perhaps even more important, I would bring to the job of Commander-in-Chief a clear vision of what our military should be asked to do — and what it should not be asked to do. I am a skeptic when it comes to deploying military force, meaning that I will do what it takes to defend this nation, but I will approach any such deployment by asking the tough questions and leaving no doubt in my mind that putting our military men and women in harm’s way is absolutely necessary. And I will never put those men and women in harm’s way simply to pursue a political agenda.

Military families entrust the Commander-in-Chief to make critical decisions that dictate the fate of their service member. What do you want them to know about what kind of leader you will be for their service member?

I am a leader to whom the decision to use military force will be the most serious decision I will make. The members of our military will not be sent into war simply to replace a government we don’t like. They will not be asked to “rebuild” nations who have defied rebuilding for hundreds of years, and they will not be asked to somehow resolve conflicts in other nations that we simply cannot resolve. Members of the military take an oath to protect and defend this nation. That is precisely what they will be asked to do. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And if and when I do make that decision to send the military into harm’s way, I will ensure that they will go without the burdens and dangers of politically-correct restrictions, that they will have the resources and support they need, and that their mission will be clear.

Under the Obama Administration, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden started Joining Forces – an initiative focused on the employment, education, and wellness of service members and their families. If elected, will your administration continue this program? Why or why not?

Joining Forces is precisely the type of public-private partnership that a White House can encourage and promote with great effect — provided the commitment is real and the effort maintained. When the initiative was announced, Ms. Obama and Dr. Biden made it clear that the intent is that it will continue beyond their husbands’ tenures. That is as it should be.

What is the most effective way for voters to get to know you before Election Day?

Take the time to examine my record as Governor and my “record” as a person. I am an athlete, an adventurer who thrives on accepting and meeting challenges, an entrepreneur, and a public figure for whom hypocrisy is the cardinal sin. You can keep track of our campaign at JohnsonWeld.com, and on our various social media platforms.

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Russia and China are developing drones that could make stealth aircraft obsolete

The U.S. and its allies continue to invest heavily in the F-35 and other stealth-capable aircraft. But Russia and China are rapidly developing systems that would negate the benefits that stealth offers.


Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
China’s Divine Eagle drone. Photo: Youtube

According to Zarchary Keck writing in The National Interest, both Beijing and Moscow have begun development of unmanned aerial vehicles that have the goal of finding, detecting, and possibly even eliminating enemy stealth aircraft.

China’s stealth detection drone, called the Divine Eagle, is believed to be specially built to counter stealth aircraft while they are still far from the Chinese mainland.

Popular Science notes that the drone’s “long range anti-stealth capabilities can be used against both aircraft, like the B-2 bomber, and warships such as the DDG-1000 destroyer … the Chinese air force could quickly intercept stealthy enemy aircraft, missiles and ships well before they come in range of the Mainland.” 

The Divine Eagle features multiple different radar systems, including X/UHF low band radar systems, according to Popular Science. These systems could be used to track stealth aircraft like the F-35 at long distances, as most stealth technology is created to avoid high band radar systems, thereby eroding one of the key advantages of the fifth-generation plane.

The Divine Eagle has apparently undergone multiple redesigns which sought to limit the plane’s infrared signature — something that would help ensure the drone’s own purported stealth capabilities.

Russia has been working on its own stealth-detection drone. Flight Global writes that the Russian military subcontractor KRET debuted a stealth drone prototype at the MAKS air show in Moscow in August.

The unnamed drone, Flight Global notes, will also come outfitted with UHF and X-band radar systems that could be used to detect stealth aircraft. Additionally, the drone is outfitted with an electronic warfare system that would both cloak the drone and make it difficult to target with air-to-air missiles.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo: US Air Force Randy Gon

If such Chinese and Russian systems are ultimately proven effective, the U.S.’ reliance upon stealth technology will need to be radically evaluated.

At the same time, both Chinese and Russian claims of the technology’s status should be viewed with some skepticism.

Chinese military technology is often based on designs stolen from U.S. and other allied countries, which calls Beijing’s domestic research and development capabilities into question. Additionally, rampant corruption throughout the Chinese military may undermine the country’s ability to fight or develop advanced technologies.

Russia also faces serious challenges to its military ambitions. Large-scale economic problems throughout the country — the partial result of EU and U.S. sanctions stemming from Russia’s aggressive policies in Ukraine — have limited Russia’s military procurement. Already, Russia is cancelling the construction of most of its planned next-generation tanks and may have be scrapping of plans for a fifth-generation bomber. Any new stealth drone could face similar funding hurdles.

Still, the potential rise of anti-stealth drones should worry the U.S., as it could expose an over-reliance on stealth technology that suddenly has far less tactical and strategic worth.

Some in the Pentagon already feel that way. In February, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert gave a speech in which he called out the potential limitations of stealth technology.

“You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated,” Greenery said. “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable. You get my point.”

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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The Pentagon wants to buy mortar rounds that grow plants

In what sounds like a page straight from the script of a Tim Burton film, the Pentagon has issued a solicitation to industry seeking biodegradable ammo that could also plant seeds.


No, this is not a Duffleblog post.

The solicitation, posted on the Small Business Innovation Research web site, states that the plan is to eventually replace “low velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; shoulder launched munitions; 120mm tank rounds; and 155mm artillery rounds” with biodegradable versions with the intention of “eliminating environmental hazards.”

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
The US Army’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. | US Army photo

“Components of current training rounds require hundreds of years or more to biodegrade [and] civilians (e.g., farmers or construction crews) encountering these rounds and components do not know if they are training or tactical rounds,” the solicitation states. “Proving grounds and battle grounds have no clear way of finding and eliminating these training projectiles, cartridge cases and sabot petals, especially those that are buried several feet in the ground. Some of these rounds might have the potential corrode and pollute the soil and nearby water.”

The Pentagon is asking for biodegradable rounds that can also plant “bioengineered seeds that can be embedded into the biodegradable composites and that will not germinate until they have been in the ground for several months.”

The intent is to use the seeds to “grow environmentally friendly plants that remove soil contaminants and consume the biodegradable components developed under this project.” Furthermore, these plants supposedly will be stuff that animals can eat safely.

It is unclear how this RD effort improves combat readiness.

Past efforts to use “green” technology have proven very expensive. According to a July 2016 report from the Daily Caller, the Navy’s “Green Fleet” used biofuel that cost $13.46 per gallon on USS Mason – and the biofuel in question was only about 5.5 percent of the total fuel taken on board. Regular fuel cost $1.60 per gallon.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Armando Gonzales

This is not to say some “green” programs have been duds. The Defense Media Network reported in 2013 that the Army’s M855A1 5.56mm NATO round for the M4 carbine, M16 rifle, and M249 squad automatic weapon had turned out to be comparable to a conventional 7.62mm NATO round, like those used in the M14 rifle or M240 machine gun.

Still, the best that can be said for the “green technology” push is that the results have been very spotty.

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US admiral says he’d nuke China if the president orders him to

The US Pacific Fleet commander said July 27 he would launch a nuclear strike against China next week if President Donald Trump ordered it, and warned against the military ever shifting its allegiance from its commander in chief.


Admiral Scott Swift was responding to a hypothetical question at an Australian National University security conference following a major joint US- Australian military exercise off the Australian coast. The drills were monitored by a Chinese intelligence-gathering ship off northeast Australia.

Asked by an academic in the audience whether he would make a nuclear attack on China next week if Trump ordered it, Swift replied: “The answer would be: Yes.”

“Every member of the US military has sworn an oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the officers and the president of the United States as commander and chief appointed over us,” Swift said.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Adm. Scott Swift, commander of US Pacific Fleet, talks to Hawaii region chief selects and chief petty officers. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak.

He added: “This is core to the American democracy and any time you have a military that is moving away from a focus and an allegiance to civilian control, then we really have a significant problem.”

Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown later said Swift’s answer reaffirmed the principle of civilian control over the military.

“The admiral was not addressing the premise of the question, he was addressing the principle of civilian authority of the military,” Brown said. “The premise of the question was ridiculous.”

The biennial Talisman Saber exercise involved 36 warships including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, 220 aircraft, and 33,000 military personnel.

It was monitored by a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Type 815 Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence vessel from within Australia’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

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China’s Type 815 Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence vessel ship. Photo from Commonwealth of Australia.

Swift said China had similarly sent an intelligence ship into the US exclusive economic zone around Hawaii during the Pacific Fleet-hosted multinational naval exercise in 2014.

China had a legal right to enter the American economic zone for military purposes under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — or UNCLOS— which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations sailing the world’s oceans, he said.

Governments needed to engage with Beijing to understand why the Chinese did not accept that the United States had the same access rights within China’s exclusive economic zone, Swift said.

“The dichotomy in my mind is why is there a different rules-set applied with respect to taking advantage of UNCLOS in other EEZs, but there’s this perspective that there’s a different rules-set that applies within another nation’s (China’s) EEZ? ” Swift said.

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This NBA star talked about what made his USO tour so memorable

Ray Allen, a 10-time NBA All-Star, recently participated in a USO holiday tour with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. On this tour, the athlete, along with other celebrities, visited service members in Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Germany.


Now back in the states, Allen has spoken about much the trip meant to him, both as the son of an Air Force metals technologist and as a retired athlete.

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NBA Legend Ray Allen meets with service members during a troop engagement at Incirlik Air Base, Dec. 5, 2016. (Photo: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

One of the topics Allen touched on during an interview with Sports Illustrated was the way military terms pop up in sports discussions, even though they don’t really fit:

In the NBA, often times we’ll be in the locker room and we’ll talk about “going to war” and “going into battle” and “being in the foxhole,” all these terminologies that we equate with being at war. I have such a greater appreciation for the conflicts going on around the world, now I try to not use those terms out of respect.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
NBA legend Ray Allen, left, fires an M240 machine gun at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area during this year’s USO Holiday Tour, Grafenwoehr, Germany, Dec. 8, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

Allen also told SI about how a comment from Dunford helped him appreciate the military’s expeditionary mindset, and how service members are constantly working to make sure that conflicts rarely come to American shores:

One of the things that General Dunford said that resonated with me was, “We’re over here at war, my job is to make sure that we have all away games.” So when I got back on U.S. soil, I thought about how privileged we are.

While speaking to USA Today, the NBA player took a moment to discuss how different life is in a combat zone, but that being there with professional warfighters made him feel safe:
“I (felt) more protected than I’ve ever felt in my life, being on that tour. I had some bad guys with me. Guys who knew how to handle weapons, that had been in combat. I’m looking to my left and right, and I’m like ‘I’m safe, I feel good about where I am, because these guys know what they’re doing.’ And that’s what I want to tell everybody, any athlete, from the NBA to baseball to football…join up with the USO and take a tour. It’ll give you a greater perspective on war, it’ll give you a greater perspective on the people that are fighting the war.”
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An FBI translator married the ISIS terrorist she was investigating

Rogue FBI translator Daniela Greene stole off to Syria and married the Islamic State terrorist she was supposed to investigate.


Federal records state that Greene, who had a top secret security clearance, lied to the FBI about her reason for traveling to Syria. She also told her ISIS husband he was under investigation, CNN reports.

The man’s name is Denis Cuspert. He started off as a German rapper and eventually moved to Syria to join the Islamic State, adopting the name Abu Talha al-Almani.

Greene joined him in Syria but quickly realized she had made a terrible mistake and fled back to the U.S. It’s not clear how she traveled into Syria or how she managed to escape from deep inside the country.

John Kirby, a former State Department official under the Obama administration, told CNN that in order to enter ISIS territory in Syria, Greene likely would’ve needed the authorization of top ISIS leaders, as ordinary people risk “getting their heads cut off.”

She was immediately arrested upon returning to the U.S., at which point she served two years in prison and was released the summer of 2016.

Since she no longer works at the FBI, she’s taken a job as a hostess at a hotel lounge.

Her story has never been told until now.

The trouble began when she was assigned to monitor Cuspert due to her fluency in German. Cuspert had converted to Islam in 2010 and ended up in Egypt and Libya in 2012.

In 2013, he made the jump to Syria and later appeared in a 2014 video in which he pledged allegiance to ISIS .

Although it’s unclear how the relationship between Greene and Cuspert formed, Greene completed an FBI travel authorization form, saying she was traveling to Munich for vacation. Instead, she flew to Istanbul, Turkey, and went to a city close to the Syrian border, at which point a third party brought her over the border.

She then married Cuspert.

Before she left Syria, she told an unidentified person in the U.S. what a horrible mistake she had made.

“Not sure if they told you that I will probably go to prison for a long time if I come back, but that is life. I wish I could turn back time some days,” she wrote on July 22, 2014, to the unidentified person.

The Pentagon thought it had killed Cuspert in an airstrike in October 2015, but Cuspert in fact survived.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Trump’s new national security adviser could undo early foreign-policy changes

President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, is considering shaking up the White House’s foreign-policy team, giving him more latitude to access and control the Department of Homeland Security and other defense agencies, The New York Times reported Wednesday night.


Citing two anonymous officials, The Times said McMaster could undo changes the Trump administration made during its first days in office.

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Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster in 2014 (U.S. Army photo)

Among those changes under consideration, according to The Times:

  • Bringing the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back into a cabinet-level committee.
  • Rejoining the Homeland Security Council with the National Security Council. Their initial separation was seen as a way to limit the power of Michael Flynn, who resigned as national security adviser last week.

It was unclear whether McMaster would attempt any changes that would affect the standing of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was given a seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee. That move alarmed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers because of Bannon’s lack of experience in foreign policy.

With Flynn out of the picture, McMaster, who has bipartisan and military support, may head both security councils. But one senior official who supported Bannon’s role told The Times it wouldn’t change under any reorganization.

Additionally, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said this week that while McMaster had full autonomy to organize his staff, Trump would have to approve any changes to Bannon’s status.

Related: Here’s how McMaster differs from Flynn on Russia

Critics of Bannon’s seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee have been calling for his removal. Mike Mullen, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed “grave concern” over Bannon’s position.

“Given the gravity of the issues the NSC deals with, it is vital that that body not be politicized,” Mullen said in an NPR interview published on Wednesday.

“Bannon’s presence as a member of that body politicizes it instantly,” he said.

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Every Coast Guard officer begins their career on this former Nazi sailing vessel

The U.S. Coast Guard is involved in a variety of missions since it began service in 1790 as the Revenue-Marine. It has destroyed pirate forts, landed Marines on beaches around the world, and recently captured over $1 billion dollars in cocaine. It requires a lot from its members.


And, for nearly 70 years, the U.S. Coast Guard has trained all of its academy cadets on a 295-foot sailing vessel commissioned by the Nazis, ridden on by Adolf Hitler, and originally named for the man who wrote the Nazi Party anthem.

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Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer Telfair Brown

The ship, now called the USCGC Eagle, has an amazing history.

Launched in 1936 as the SSS Horst Wessel, the vessel was always destined to be a training ship. The Nazis made her the flagship of the training fleet of the Kriegsmarine, the navy.

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Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

Hitler is believed to have rode on her only one time, but legends persist in the Coast Guard about where Hitler may have napped while on board. A sailor on the Horst Wessel in World War II, Tido Holtkamp said in a BBC interview that Hitler’s boots had nails that scratched the deck, but everyone was too afraid to say anything.

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Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

She served in this role for three years, but was sidelined at the start of World War II in 1939. For a few years, she was a dormitory for Hitler Youth. In 1942, the ship was pressed back into service with a complement of anti-air guns but they weren’t very effective. Hotkamp remembers an American bomber attempting to destroy the ship, but it only survived because the bombs missed.

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Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

The ship was captured by the British in 1945. In 1946, Allied commanders splitting up the captured spoils of war reportedly pulled the names of captured ships from a hat. A Russian commander pulled the Horst Wessel, but a U.S. officer eager to bring home the tall ship convinced him to trade it.

The ship was sailed across the Atlantic by a mixed crew of Germans and Americans. In American, she was rechristened the USCGC Eagle. It is the sixth cutter to bear the name.

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Photo: US Coast Guard

When the Revenue Cutter Service — a prelude to the modern U.S. Coast Guard — began training cadets, it had no physical building to train them in. Instead, it took it’s first class of nine cadets and trained them on the USRC Dobbin, a cutter. In 1932 the academy received a permanent shore facility, but it has continued to use a sailing ship as a major part of the training process for potential officers. Since 1946, the vessel cadets have trained on has been the USCGC Eagle.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory Mendenhall

Training for emergencies is important when taking a nearly 80-year-old ship across the ocean.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo: US Coast Guard

Today, the training vessel also operates as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S., visiting friendly ports in the U.S. and around the world.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer Sherri Eng

It has visited Kiel, its original homeport, a few times throughout history. She’s due to return next year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of her trip to America.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo: US Coast Guard Public Affairs Specialist Bobby Nash

A few presidents have been photographed on board the Eagle. The first was President Harry Truman.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

President John F. Kennedy toured her and later gave a speech on deck.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

Future president Lyndon B. Johnson was there for the speech by Kennedy.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

More historical photos of the Eagle can be seen at the Coast Guard’s website. To keep up with the USCGC Eagle today, like the ship’s Facebook page.

NOW: That time the Coast Guard captured 18 ships, and 8 more surprising stories from its history

OR: 24 historic photos made even more amazing with color

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Suing the president and other forms of military professional suicide

The headlines lit up today with the news that Army Captain Nathan Michael Smith (sounds like a cross between a Revolutionary War icon and a Christian pop music star) has sued President Barack Obama, who also happens to be Smith’s commander-in-chief, because he believes that the war against ISIS is unconstitutional and illegal.


“To honor my oath, I am asking the court to tell the president that he must get proper authority from Congress, under the War Powers Resolution, to wage the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” Smith wrote.

As reported by The New York Times, the White House has countered that its position is legitimate because the Islamic State used to be a Qaeda affiliate in Iraq during the Iraq War.

Regardless of how this plays out on other fronts, one thing is for sure: Smith, an intelligence officer currently stationed in Kuwait, won’t be making major. There are few things those sitting in offices along the nice part of the E Ring in the Pentagon hate more than a smarty-pants zealot junior officer getting all constitutional-law on them and making them look like they don’t have any control over their people.

So, basically, Smith has just committed professional suicide, which got us here at WATM thinking about a few other effective means to terminate active duty pronto:

1. Snort heroin but claim you ate a couple of poppy seed bagels

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

This one’s good because you’ll most certainly pop positive on your command’s next whizz quiz, and you’ll be processed for an “other than honorable” discharge, which — depending on your legal team — can show you the door in a hurry. The beauty of the poppy seed excuse is it induces just the right amount of doubt that you’ll be thrown out without all the associated ick of being a scumbag druggie . . . just some of it.

2. Have classified information found in your home

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

This happens to aviators more than any other warfare specialty. Here’s the usual scenario: A pilot packs his flight gear, including his kneeboard, after his last hop in a squadron right before a PCS move. He fails to notice that a couple of the briefing cards clipped to his kneeboard are labeled “SECRET NOFORN.” During the move one of the packers stumbles across the card, and she winds up showing it to one of her neighbors at the apartment complex who happens to work at the local NCIS office.

Or these days you can have secret stuff found in your private email account . . .

Nice knowing you, Classified Breach Maverick.

3. Have a messy breakup with someone under you in the chain of command

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

Notice we didn’t say “have an intimate relationship with someone under you in the chain of command.” Relationships aren’t the problem. Breakups are. So if you’re already involved with someone doing things that you shouldn’t be, keep it going. And if you can’t keep it going, creep away with the attention of a GI easing out of a German minefield (cause if you don’t it’s not your legs that are going to get blown off).

“Hell hath no fury . . .” and your CO will see that you’re thrown out in a hurry, but only after your photo is splashed on the front page of Military Times.

4. Talk to the press without running it by your PAO

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
(Photo: U.S. Army)

He who dies with the most Facebook friends wins, right? Well, there’s no better way to get people to think you’re all kinds of awesome than getting quoted in the paper or having your face on the news. And speak your mind about foreign policy and national security; it’s a free country.

Actually, if you do this you’ll be hammered after your CO gets a call from the guy or girl in the chain of command above him. And let’s just say you’re next eval or fitrep won’t be the vehicle that launches you to the next rank, more like one that launches you out the door.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

Staff Sgt. Andre Hayes, a 374th Civil Engineer Squadron journeyman, holds his daughter during the holiday tree lighting ceremony at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Nov. 24, 2015. The lighting of the tree signals the beginning of the holiday season.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Airman 1st Class Delano Scott/USAF

Members of Florida Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment play members from Florida Air National Guard’s 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron in a friendly “Turkey Bowl” football game at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 26, 2015. The Army National Guard team won the game 42-35. The 1-265th is from Palm Coast, Fla., and the 290th JCSS are stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo: USAF

Members from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron perform prefight checks before leaving to refuel F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Royal Norwegian Air Force and the Republic of Singapore air force over Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Dec.1, 2015.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb/USAF

ARMY:

A soldier, assigned to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, fires an M240B machine gun while conducting battle drills, part of Operation Atantlic Resolve, at Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, Dec. 2, 2015.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Behlin/US Army

A soldier, assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, conducts airborne operations during the U.S. Army Civil Affairs Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)’s Operation Toy Drop at Drop Zone Nijmegen on Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 3, 2015.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Pfc. Darion Gibson/US Army

A soldier, assigned to 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, conducts a team live-fire training event at Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 3, 2015.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman/US Army

NAVY:

Burial at sea: WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (Nov. 28, 2015) Cmdr. Joseph Coffey, a chaplain aboard the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), leads a prayer during a burial-at-sea ceremony. Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/USN

Replenishment-at-sea: WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (Dec. 1, 2015) Sailors organize cargo pendants on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during an ammunition offload with Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8). Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke/USN

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 1, 2015) Sailors exercise in the seaside gym aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower is currently underway with embarked Carrier Air Wing 3 conducting the Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA) and Final Evaluation Problem (FEP) phase of their pre-deployment schedule.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Casey S. Trietsch/USN

MARINE CORPS:

Cpl. Taylor Giffard, a ground signals operator with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, acts as an opposition force during a mission readiness exercise for 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 24, 2015.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Sgt. Owen Kimbrel/USMC

On the prowl: Cpl. Marvin M. Ernest, a power plant mechanic assigned to Marine Tactical Electronic Squadron 2, performs a turn-around inspection on an EA-6B Prowler on Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Dec. 1, 2015.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Lance Cpl. Jered T. Stone/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Chief Petty Officer Ty Aweau, a rescue swimmer at U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego, jumps into the beautiful southern California water from his MH-60 helicopter during training.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Petty Officer Rob Simpson/USCG

Petty Officer 1st Class Daryk Brekke offloads toys from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter at Kalaeloa Airport in Oahu, Hawaii, as part of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. The USCG works with Marine Corps Recruiting every year to deliver presents to disadvantaged children for the holidays.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle/USCG

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Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Retired US Navy Admiral William McRaven had an esteemed 37-year military career — which included leading the assassination of Osama bin Laden — but it was a night from Navy SEAL training’s Hell Week that taught him the power of a leader.


In 2014, McRaven gave the commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin, breaking down the 10 biggest lessons he learned in the six months of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) training in his early 20s, and how they were universally applicable.

Now the chancellor of the University of Texas system, McRaven has released “Make Your Bed,” a short book expanding upon these principles he spoke about a few years ago.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven makes remarks during his retirement ceremony. | DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp

In it, he recounts his night in the Tijuana mud flats, where he and his fellow SEAL candidates had virtually every inch of their bodies covered in mud, the experience made worse by a brutally cold night.

Hell Week comes during week three of the six month-long BUD/S training, and is meant to weed out early the candidates who are not ready to become SEALs. According to SOFREP, only about 25% of candidates make it through the week’s intense trials of physical and mental endurance.

One of the trials involves various exercises in expanses of cold, neck-high, clay-like mud.

As McRaven remembers, on this particular day, he and his fellow candidates had spent hours racing each other in boats, paddling through the mud. Now they were standing in it during a suddenly chilling night. To make it worse, it was only the halfway mark of Hell Week. Doubt was setting in among all the young men.

“Shaking uncontrollably, with hands and feet swollen from nonstop use and skin so tender that even the slightest movement brought discomfort, our hope for completing the training was fading fast,” McRaven writes.

From the edge of the flats, an instructor with a bullhorn tried to lure the candidates to comfort. The instructors, he said, had a fire going and had plenty of hot soup and coffee to share. Furthermore, if just five of the candidates quit, the rest of the guys would be given a break. Taking this offer meant ending your SEAL training.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
BUD/S trainees covered in mud during Hell Week. | Department of Defense photo

A student next to McRaven started walking through the mud toward the instructor. McRaven remembers the instructor smiling. “He knew that once one man quit, others would follow,” McRaven writes.

Then one of the candidates started singing. It was raspy and out of tune. Even though it sounded terrible, other students soon joined him, including the one who was on the verge of quitting.

The instructor began yelling at them, demanding that they stop. “With each threat from the instructor, the voices got louder, the class got stronger, and the will to continue on in the face of adversity became unbreakable,” McRaven writes. He remembers that behind the facade of anger, he could see the instructor smiling at the turn of events.

McRaven realized that all it took was one person to unite the entire group, when many of them were on the verge of abandoning their goal.

Interestingly, former Navy SEAL platoon commander Leif Babin writes in his book “Extreme Ownership,” that he learned a similar lesson when he was one of the Hell Week instructors. When the instructors switched the leaders of the best and worst performing boat race teams, they were amazed to see that the formerly worst team rose to the top under new leadership, while the formerly best team suddenly dropped in the rankings under its new poor leader. It was proof to Babin that, “There are no bad teams — only bad leaders.” One exceptional person can change the entire fate of a group.

The night in the mudflats stuck with McRaven during his maturation as an exceptional leader, one who would rise to the highest rank in the Navy, lead all of America’s special operations, and oversee the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

“If that one person could sing while neck deep in mud, then so could we,” McRaven writes. “If that one person could endure the freezing cold, then so could we. If that one person could hold on, then so could we.”

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This is what happens when a hero Army veteran tries to save a CVS

No good deed goes unpunished. Ask Joe Morici, an Army veteran who attempted to stop two suspects from robbing a Beltsville, Maryland CVS on February 26, 2015.


The two attempted to rob the pharmacy managed by Morici, whose seven years of Army service included a tour in Afghanistan. He told the cashiers to call 911, helped an elderly man exit the store, and then locked the front door to prevent the two robbers from leaving. When they ran into the door, Morici confronted them. Chick Hernandez, an eyewitness, told Fox 5 News how Morici called their bluff.

“Joe got one of them,” Hernandez said. “The kid, he said to his partner, ‘Shoot him.’Then Joe said, ‘I’ve been in the military far too long. You don’t have anything.'” Morici was right. All they had was a screwdriver.

“I don’t really know that they didn’t really have one,” the former soldier said. “I just kind of assumed.” He wrested the tool from the men, but they eventually escaped. The real trouble started when Morici’s boss arrived on the scene to terminate Morici’s job because of his actions.

Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat
Joe Morici (right)

“My boss, when he came in to deliver the news, he was sick to his stomach,” Morici said. “He didn’t have a choice.”

In a statement to FOX5, CVS said it would “not comment on specific security procedures or polices as we do not want to undermine them.”

Morici received many job offers since news of his firing went public. He also applied for the Prince George’s County Police Department.

A status on Morici’s Facebook page reads:

“First I want to thank everyone who’s supporting me from all over the country! This has officially gone national. I got a phone call from Fox today and they want me to join them this Saturday on Fox and Friends. To everyone who’s supported by posting and sharing and all the kind messages I’ve been receiving I again say THANK YOU!”

If you would like to let CVS know how you feel about their policies, email them using this online form.

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