Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn't The Biggest Threat To Iraq - We Are The Mighty
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Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq


Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded US troops during the 2007-2008 surge in the Iraq war, believes Iran-backed Shia militias are a bigger threat to Iraq than the Islamic State militants they are fighting.

“The foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran,” Petraeus told Liz Sly of The Washington Post.

Iran’s military mastermind, Qassem Suleimani, has played pivotal roles in the deployment of Iranian assets against the Islamic State (aka Islamic State, ISIL, Daesh) in Iraq. Suleimani was present during the successful siege of Amerli in August, and he is on the frontlines of the battle against ISIS in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown.

“Yes, ‘Hajji Qassem,’ our old friend,” Petraus said to Sly. “I have several thoughts when I see the pictures of him, but most of those thoughts probably aren’t suitable for publication in a family newspaper like yours.”

Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and especially during the time Petraeus-led the surge, Suleimani directed “a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq,” as detailed by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker.

“Iran and its Iraqi proxies have been carving out a zone of influence in eastern Iraq for well over a decade,” Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute, wrote recently. “And this zone,” as Knights said US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey recently noted, “is expanding.”

To assist in the siege of Tikrit and further military operations against ISIS, Iran has moved advanced rockets and artillery systems into Iraq, The New York Times reported this week.

These systems are introducing a new level of sophistication into the Iraqi warzone and could further inflame sectarian tensions as the artillery is often imprecise and has the potential to cause collateral damage.

“The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East,” Petraeus said. “It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State.”

Last month, Suleimani gloated: “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.”

And Suleimani’s Iraqi allies — such as the powerful Badr militia led by commander Hadi al-Ameri — have allegedly burned down Sunni villages and used power drills on enemies.

Ali Khedery, who served as a special assistant to five US ambassadors and a senior adviser to three heads of US Central Command between 2003 and 2009, noted that the “fundamental identity” of the Shia militias was “built around a sectarian narrative rather than loyalty to the state.”

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

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These patriotic teens are telling the stories of war vets before they’re lost forever

Recently-released data from Department of Veteran’s Affairs shows that on average, 492 World War II veterans die each day.


So a couple of California teenagers have taken it upon themselves to tell these stories before they’re lost.

Rishi Sharma of Agoura Hills, California, has set up the website Heroes of the Second World War. At the time of writing this article, he has interviewed, recorded, and published 360 interviews.

On his website, Rishi states “These men are my biggest heroes and my closest friends. I am just trying to get a better understanding of what they had to go through in order for me and so many others to be here today and to get a better appreciation for how good I have it.”

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Photo via GoFundMe

After just over 14 months, he has traveled all over the country and sits down with each WWII veteran for the interview. He sends the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project some of the videos. With the veteran’s permission, he posts videos on Heroes of the Second World War’s Facebook page.

He doesn’t profit off the project, nor will he ever. He has a GoFundMe page that he uses to pay for the expenses of travel, maintaining the non-profit, and production costs. Currently, he is just shy of his initial goal.

(YouTube, SoulPancake)

Meanwhile in North Texas, Andy Fancher has launched a YouTube series to also share the stories of veterans.

In his video series “Andy Fancher Presents,” Andy has published many videos highlighting the life of the veteran. He goes in detail about their service, life after the military, and the impact of battle.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Photo via NBC5 Dallas Fortworth

His series doesn’t focus specifically on World War II, but he does get into the mindset of the people he interviews. The stories get emotional. He told NBC5 Dallas-Fort Worth, “I realized that I didn’t have much of a strong stomach. I’ve teared up a lot behind the camera.”

To watch his series, check out the video below.

(YouTube, Andy Fancher)

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From shoot to BOOM! This is the deadly science behind the RPG

What started as a way for Soviet ground troops to take out German tanks in World War II has since turned into a global weapons phenomenon: The rocket-propelled grenade.


Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

Related: This is how the Sabot round turns enemies into a fine mist

While the original anti-tank technology was meant to have a one-off use, the modern RPG is a reloadable weapon, with a shaped-charge explosive used by militias and official military forces alike.

“The Russians were extremely impressed by the panzerfaust,” said Will Fowler, an explosives expert, in the video below. “It was the basis for their RPG-2 program which went on to the now-famous RPG-7.”

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
With varying degrees of celebration.

When an RPG is fired, it leaves the barrel at 383 feet per second. An additional rocket fires and deploys stabilizing fins as the shell spins toward a target.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

The RPG’s cone shape forms a jet of explosive energy outward when the shell strikes its target. That’s where the weapons gets its armor-penetrating power.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

The RPG is a simple, cheap, and efficient system that can completely destroy a soft-skinned vehicle and can cause grievous harm to some up-armored ones.

Troops who encounter an RPG round in combat are lucky to survive to tell the tale.

“When I was in Iraq, the RPG was a deadly weapon,” Staff Sgt. Matthew Bertles, a U.S. Army M240 gunner, told the show Weaponology. “An RPG struck my 240, blew me back, destroyed our vehicle, and injured me.”

Watch the history of the RPG in the video below:

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ISIS is about to lose its biggest conquest in the Middle East

As Iraqi security forces continue the push to liberate Mosul, terrorists with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant find themselves trapped in the city’s west, a Pentagon spokesman said Feb. 7.


Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Members from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This flag symbolizes the efforts of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve composed of U.S. Army Soldiers, U.S. Marine Corps Marines, U.S. Navy Sailors, United States Air Force Airmen and coalition military forces. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro/released)

“At this point, ISIL fighters are stuck in Mosul,” the Defense Department’s director of press operations, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters.

With Iraqi forces closing in and bridge access to eastern Mosul severed, the terrorists in the western quadrant are unable to resupply and reinforce, he said.

“The fighters who remain in west Mosul face a choice between surrendering or annihilation, as there’s not a place to retreat,” Davis said.

It is nearly impossible to cross the Tigris River, which separates east and west Mosul, since access to the five bridges that spanned the river is closed off, Davis pointed out.

“Without the ability to resupply or reinforce, [ISIL] is in a situation there where their loss is certain,” Davis said.

The coalition continues its strikes in support of the shift to western Mosul operations, he said, noting since the push for Mosul began in mid-October, the coalition has conducted 10,850 strikes in support of operations to liberate the city.

“We know going into western Mosul that they are more dug in there; they have had more time to place encampments and firing positions [and] fighting positions,” Davis said, adding ISIL used its best fighters in eastern Mosul.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
821st Contingency Readiness Group Airmen wait for approaching MH-47 Chinooks at Qayyarah Airfield West, Iraq, Nov. 17, 2016. The 821st CRG is highly-specialized in training and rapidly deploying personnel to quickly open airfields and establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations in austere, bare-base conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

The strikes, he said, have destroyed vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, buildings and facilities, tunnels, boats, barges, vehicles, bunkers, anti-aircraft artillery, and artillery mortar systems.

Iraqi security forces are back clearing eastern Mosul, Davis said, pointing out they have disrupted raids, uncovered sleeper cells, and found terrorists in “spider holes.”

In addition, approximately once a day, Iraqi security forces are encountering small unmanned aerial vehicles that are dropping hand grenades, he said.

Davis pointed out tests have confirmed the presence of the skin irritant sulfur mustard from samples recovered from Mosul University, a central location in ISIL’s chemical weapons program.

ISIL is surrounded in the Syrian city of Al Abab on multiple axes, Davis said.

“We continue to conduct strikes, in fact there were just some strikes earlier today in Al Bab by the United States and the coalition in support of the Turkish operations,” he said.

Meanwhile, the fight to liberate the key city of Raqqa continues and a third axes, an eastern axis, kicked off in the last day, Davis said. The new axis adds to the northwest and northeast efforts where isolation is either in progress or complete.

The coalition has conducted bridge strikes south of Raqqa along the Euphrates to restrict ISIL’s ability to move fighters and equipment, he said.

“It further isolates [ISIL] fighters so that they’ll have to take their chances with either fighting or dying or surrendering to the SDF or using what narrow window they have of escape they have right now, which is really only in this direction [to the southeast], toward Deir ez-Zur,” he said.

In addition, the Syrian Democratic Forces have cleared an additional 48 square kilometers along two axes Feb. 6.

The coalition is taking steps to further limit ISIL’s ability to maneuver across Syria, and will continue to degrade, dismantle and militarily defeat the terrorists, Davis said.

The coalition has delivered 2,310 munitions since Nov. 5 in support of the SDF, he said.

“In the past 24 hours, we conducted an additional six strikes with a total of eight engagements using 18 munitions in support of SDF operations to isolate Raqqa,” he said.

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This is how the 1/9 Marines became ‘The Walking Dead’

In the annals of Marine Corps history there are many famous units and numerous famous men. There are tales of valor and loss.


But one unit truly exemplifies these traditions through its actions and its enduring nickname: the Walking Dead.

Through nearly four years of combat in Vietnam, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines earned its place in Marine Corps history.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Lance Cpl. Spencer Cohen, rifleman with 1st platoon, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, traverses a path for his team through rocky terrain during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa, March 29. (Photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda)

The 1st Battalion first arrived in Vietnam in June 1965 as part of the troop increase and escalation that year as U.S. forces took over most combat operations from the South Vietnamese. By August they were involved in offensive combat operations as part of Operation Blastout — a search and clear mission.

More missions continued throughout 1965 and into 1966. In their first year in Vietnam the Marines of 1/9 would conduct hundreds of company-sized or larger missions. The Marines of the 1st battalion, as part of a greater effort by the 9th Marine Regiment, also developed the SPARROW HAWK concept. This was essentially a heliborne quick reaction force that could be called in to help win a fight in which Marines on patrol had found themselves. The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines then rotated out of Vietnam for a few brief months beginning in October 1966.

When the unit returned in December 1966 the operations tempo greatly increased. The 1st battalion Marines started 1967 with the anti-climactic Operation Deckhouse V. From there operations picked up in the 9th Marines tactical area of responsibility. This area just south of the Demilitarized Zone became known as “Leatherneck Square” for the high number of Marine casualties. The Marines there swore the wind, rather than blowing, made a sucking sound. It was in this area that the 1st Battalion 9th Marines became the legendary Walking Dead.

The battalion participated in three phases of Operation Prairie within Leatherneck Square. Casualties were heavy as the Marines conducted search-and-destroy missions. In less than a month through mid-1967, Marine casualties during Prairie IV were 167 killed, and over 1,200 wounded.

In July, 1/9 participated in Operation Buffalo, a clearing mission up Highway 561. On the first day of the operation, July 2, the Marines of A and B companies encountered strong NVA resistance. The fighting was bitter. The NVA used flamethrowers to burn the vegetation and force the Marines into the open. An NVA artillery round wiped out the entire company headquarters for B company.

Soon the commander of 1/9 sent in C and D companies to relieve the battered Marines. With significant support they were finally able to force the NVA to break contact. The battalion suffered 84 Marines killed and 190 wounded. The next day only 27 Marines from B company and 90 from A company were fit for duty.

A combination of the remnants of Companies A and C several days later was able to get some payback on the NVA, inflicting 154 enemy killed. By the middle of July Operation Buffalo came to an end. Almost immediately the men of the 9th Marines were back in action as part of Operation Kingfisher in the Western portion of Leatherneck Square. This operation drug on until the end of October 1967. The sporadic but intense combat saw another 340 Marines killed and over 1,400 wounded in Leatherneck Square.

January 1968 found the battalion reinforcing the infamous Khe Sanh Combat Base just south of the Demilitarized Zone and west of Leatherneck Square. The Marines at Khe Sanh not only held the base but also fought in the hills surrounding it. Just over a week before the Tet Offensive began on January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese began laying siege to Khe Sanh. Some 6,000 Marines, including 1/9, would endure daily shelling and close-combat for 77 days before being relieved. In all, 205 Americans were killed and over 1,600 wounded defending Khe Sanh. A further 200 Marines died in the bloody fighting in the hills surrounding Khe Sanh.

The lifting of the siege was hardly the end for the Walking Dead though. Immediately upon relief of duty from the defense of Khe Sanh they began Operation Scotland II to clear the area nearby. Following the conclusion of Scotland II, the Marines of 1/9 returned to the Con Thien area and took part in Operation Kentucky. This action would last until near the end of 1968.

In early 1969, the 1st battalion, as part of the larger 9th Marine Regiment, launched Operation Dewey Canyon, the last major Marine Corps operation in Vietnam. During this time the Marines swept through the NVA controlled A Shau valley and other areas near the DMZ. In a heroic action on February 22, 1968, then-Lt. Wesley Fox earned the Medal of Honor. The Marines suffered over 1,000 casualties during the operation. The entire regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their extraordinary heroism during Operation Dewey Canyon.

The Walking Dead — along with the rest of the 9th Marines — redeployed from Vietnam in the summer of 1969 to Okinawa.

The name “the Walking Dead” was originally used by Ho Chi Minh talking about the Marines in the A Shau valley. Later, after the 1st Battalion suffered extraordinarily high casualty rates, they used the term to describe themselves. Of a standard battalion strength of 800 Marines, the battalion had 747 killed in action with many times that number wounded. They also were in sustained combat operations for just short of four years. Both of these are Marine Corps records.

The unit was disbanded in mid-2000, reactivated for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, then was disbanded again in 2015.

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This is what your next MOPP suit could look like

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Soldiers train in classic MOPP gear just before Desert Storm in 1991. (Photo: U.S. Army)


For over 20 years, American warfighters have worn the Joint Services Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) on the battlefield and during training for their CBRN protection. But its days are numbered. Brought into service in the 1990’s and now nearing the end of its shelf life, the JSLIST will be replaced by the Uniform Integrated Protective Ensemble, Increment 2 (UIPE II) in the very near future. What will UIPE II look like? That’s not certain at the moment, but there are some new technologies and advancements that are likely to have an impact:

  1. Better materials – Anyone who has worn the JSLIST remembers the black powder residue that coated your skin and uniform after taking it off. That’s because it had layers of activated charcoal that consisted mostly of carbon. Nowadays, carbon beads are all the rage and can provide adequate protection at a lighter weight.
  2. Lamination of materials – A recent breakthrough in research proved that removing the air gap between layers of materials can lower the thermal burden on the soldier by a large margin. Picture this…future CBRN suits will most likely be layers of materials. So if you have an outer shell, a carbon bead layer, an aerosol barrier, and a comfort liner sewn together in one suit, the thin layers of air in between those materials will heat up. But laminating them together squeezes out all the air and ends up making the soldier cooler. And not just a little, but a lot. That’s huge.
  3. Undergarments – Using the same concept as lamination, undergarments can keep the warfighter cooler than an overgarment by removing the air next to the skin. Research has shown that wearing an undergarment as close to the skin as possible reduces the heat stress. It will take some getting used to, but the UIPE increment 1 suit consists of an undergarment under the duty uniform and is being fielded now.
  4. Conformal fit – Once again, getting rid of all that air brings the temperature down, so a closer fitting uniform with less material reduces the thermal burden on the warfighter while also reducing the potential for snagging on surfaces as he does his mission.
  5. Better seams and closures – Contamination doesn’t get through a suit unless it has a path and those paths are almost always along seams and closures. Seams and closures are frequently the weakest points that allow particles to get through, but several advancements will counter that.
  6. Omniphobic coatings – Have you ever seen that video of ketchup rolling off a dress shirt? Well, it’s out there and it works. Now think of how effective that concept can be for chemical agents. If 50% of the agent sheds off the uniform and falls to the ground before it has a chance to soak into the suit, that’s half the contamination that can reach the trooper. Omniphobic coatings are still in their early stages of development, but they could be game changers when matured.
  7. Composite materials – Just because you can make a suit out of one material doesn’t mean you should. Future suits will have different materials in different areas, like stretchy woven fabrics in the torso (where body armor is) and knit materials that offer less stretch but more protection in the arms and legs.
  8. Overall lower thermal burden – Here’s where the money is. Almost all of these factors contribute to the one big advantage everyone who’s ever worn MOPP 4 wants to hear – less heat stress – which equates to warfighters being able to stay in the suit and do their jobs longer with a lower chance of being a heat casualty. Break out the champagne.
  9. Flame resistance – Because catching on fire sucks. Most uniforms these days have flame resistant coatings or fabrics, but therein lies the challenge. When you add up all the other technologies, the big question is how do you do it all? How do you coat a suit with omniphobics and flame resistance while also laminating composite materials, making it conformal fitting and lowering the thermal burden while also providing an adequate level of CBRN protection, which is the most important aspect of all? Really smart people are working on that.
  10. A family of suits – Common sense tells us one size does not fit all. The DoD has a history of procuring one suit for everyone, like the JSLIST is now fielded to all warfighters. But slowly that has been changing. Everyone has a different job to do while wearing CBRN suits. Some warfighters need a low level of protection for a short period of time while others need more protection for longer periods. A family of suits instead of one is the answer.

MOPP 4 sucks. It’s just a basic tenet of warfighting. We embrace the suck and drive on, but with the progress CBRN suits have made recently, we won’t have to embrace quite as much suck as before.

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This friendly fire incident hamstrung the P-38

The P-38 Lighting was a superb long-range fighter in all theaters of the war. The plane is best known for the “Zero Dark Thirty” operation of the Pacific Theater – the shoot-down of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto by Capt. Tom Lanphier.


But the P-38 didn’t get there right away.

In fact, given its ground-breaking design, it was going through a lot of teething problems.

According to AcePilots.com, one of the biggest problems was compressibility. The P-38 was one of the first planes to deal with it due to its high speed (up to 420 miles per hour), especially when they dove.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
This P-38 compressibility chart is taken from a USAAF P-38 pilot training manual. Pilots of early P-38s (ones without the 1943 dive flap retrofit) were advised against steep dives as compressibility would force the plane to dive more steeply as well as immobilize the controls, a situation that could prove fatal if initiated below 25,000 feet. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

What would happen is a shock wave of compressed air would form, keeping the plane’s elevators from working. The P-38s would be caught in a dive, and unable to pull out until they got to lower altitudes.

As a result, German fighters knew that diving was a way to escape. One pilot who had a close call was Air Force legend Robin Olds, who described his incident in an episode of “Dogfights.”

After a lot of work, Lockheed designed some flaps that would help address the issue by changing the airflow enough so the elevators would be able to function.

A number of kits were put together to be installed on P-38s in the field, but those destined to go to England never got there, hamstringing the P-38s there.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Douglas C-54 Skymaster. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The reason?

A Royal Air Force pilot mistook the United States Army Air Force Douglas C-54 Skymaster cargo plane carrying the kits for a Luftwaffe Fw 200 Condor maritime patrol plane. Given the Condor’s reputation, they were prime targets. The C-54 was shot down, and the kits were lost.

As a result, the P-38s went into combat unable to pursue a German fighter diving to escape the “Fork Tailed Devil” and fight another day.

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Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq


The reasons why individuals join the US military are as diverse and unique as each person serving.

But, whatever the reasons for why someone joined the military, service members can bond with each other over both the negatives and positives of serving in the armed forces.

In a recent Reddit thread, military members responded to the question, “What is your favorite part of being in the military?”

Predictably, the answers varied greatly, from the steadiness of pay in the military to the sense of belonging to something greater than the individual. We’ve collected our favorite answers below.

For Reddit user terrez, the greatest part of being in the military was the opportunities to see and experience things he would never have had the opportunity to otherwise:

Got to live in Japan, a place I never thought I would see I person. So that’s pretty neat. Occasionally an f16 will be doing loopdy loops and stuff over the flight line (idk why) and it’s like a quick little air show.

This point of view, the fact that the military is an eye-opening experience, was echoed by LordWartooth:

I would honestly have to say, both sarcastically and seriously, that my favorite part of being in the military has to be the eye opening experience about life in general. When you see senior field grade officers who can barely read, or senior enlisted whose uniforms could be painted on, considering how tight they are, and you know that they have found success in life, then I should know that consistently aiming to be better than that will take me where I want to be in life, in the military or outside of it.

Reddit user Esdarke quickly agreed with LordWartooth’s point:

Absolutely this. If nothing else, the military will teach you about yourself.

I for one have resolved to be less of a d— to people. Because now I’ve seen what happens when everyone acts like a YouTube comments section and nobody needs that in their life.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg

And for some, serving in the military was made worth it simply for the camaraderie and diversity that it fostered in the ranks. StonehengeMan writes of his favorite part of being in the military:

The people in the military.

All kinds of backgrounds – but we all work together as one (mostly). The sense of camaraderie and purpose.

Sorry if that comes across as a little earnest but it’s the people you work with that get you through the really bad days and who let you enjoy the good days even more 🙂

This sense of family that the military fosters was a common theme for the Reddit users. User Asymmetric_Warfare noted that the military imbues service members with a support system, adventure, and experiences that someone fresh out of high school might never otherwise experience:

For me first and foremost it has been mentoring my joe’s and watching my junior enlisted soldiers grow and mature and become NCO’s themselves.

Being able to call my deployment buddies up at any time any place anywhere with any issue and they will be there for me and vice a versa.

Making friendships with the people you deploy with that are stronger then your own familial bonds to your siblings and family back home.

Going to war, realizing a lot of sh– back home is just that, white noise, definitely puts life into perspective after.

Being stationed in germany at 18 years old, Donor Kabab’s, them crazy foam parties in Nuremburg. All those lovely German single ladies…I miss you Fräulein’s.

 

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
US Army by Spc. Michelle U. Blesam

And of course, for some, the best part of joining the military are the practical and concrete benefits that the organization imparts. As zaishade writes:

Not worrying about my finances: I don’t have to worry about being laid off tomorrow, or not making enough to cover rent and groceries. As much as I like fantasizing about my separation date, whenever I go visit civilian friends and family I’m reminded of how much the common man still has to struggle.

Reddit user jeebus_t_christ echoes the practical benefits of joining the military by writing simply: “Free college.”

And ultimately, as Reddit user ChumBucket1 notes flippantly, “Blowing shit up and shooting machine guns never got old.”

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Chinese Navy carries out brazen heist of American UUV

The People’s Liberation Army Navy stole an American unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) conducting oceanographic research Thursday in plain view of a U.S. Navy vessel about fifty miles from Subic Bay in the Philippines.


According to a report from the Washington Examiner, the brazen heist took place in international waters as the oceanographic research vessel USNS Bowditch (T AGS 62), a Pathfinder-class ship.

The BBC reported that the vessel responsible for the heist was ASR-510, identified in Combat Fleets of the World as a Dalang III-class “rescue and salvage” ship. The Chinese vessel apparently came within 500 yards of the Bowditch, lowered a small boat and seized the littoral battlespace sensing (LBS) glider.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Daniel Braun, left, Eric Sanchez and David Barney, Systems Center Pacific engineers at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), perform pre-deployment inspections on littoral battlespace sensing gliders aboard the Military Sealift Command oceanographic survey ship USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60). Each glider hosts a payload suite of sensors that will measure the physical characteristics of the water column as the glider routinely descends and ascends in the ocean. The gliders will be deployed during an at-sea test aboard Pathfinder Oct. 22-Nov. 5. (U.S. Navy photo by Rick Naystatt)

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, “Bowditch made contact with the PRC Navy ship via bridge-to-bridge radio to request the return of the UUV. The radio contact was acknowledged by the PRC Navy ship, but the request was ignored.  The UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law.”

According to a 2010 Navy release, the LBS glider can operate for up to eight months on a lithium battery. The data gathered by these gliders assist in everything from special operations to mine warfare to anti-submarine warfare.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) — Navy file photo of the T-AGS 60 Class Oceanographic Survey Ship, USNS Bowditch. Her mission includes oceanographic sampling and data collection of surface, midwater and ocean floor parameters; launch and recovery of hydrographic survey launches (HSLs); the launching , recovering and towing of scientific packages (both tethered and autonomous), including the handling, monitoring and servicing of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs); shipboard oceanogaphic data processing and sample analysis; and precise navigation, trackline maneuvering and station keeping to support deep-ocean and coastal surveys. There are 5 ships in this class. (U.S. Navy photo)

This is not the first time the Bowditch has been involved in a maritime incident with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Globalsecurity.org noted that a week before the 2001 EP-3 incident in which a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 Finback collided with a U.S. Navy electronic surveillance plane, a Chinese frigate came very close to the unarmed vessel. The Bowditch, which is manned by a civilian crew, also was involved in incidents in 2002 and 2003.

China claims ownership of the South China Sea, marking its claims with a so-called “Nine-Dash Line.” An international panel rejected Chinese claims earlier this year in a case brought by the Philippines. The Chinese boycotted the process, and have since armed a number of artificial islands in the disputed region. Shortly after the ruling was issued, Chinese forces rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the disputed waters.

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The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
The aftermath of the explosion inside the Brussels metro. | Twitter


At least 34 people were reported killed and dozens more wounded after explosions ripped through Zaventem Airport and a metro station in Brussels on Tuesday morning.

The attacks came days after Saleh Abdeslam, a suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, was arrested in the Belgian capital, which is also the de facto capital of the European Union.

Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said on Tuesday that the Brussels attacks were in line with an “iceberg” theory of terrorist plots.

That theory purports that, just as for every iceberg seen above water, the underlying mass of a terror network and its plots are not immediately visible — or, “for every attacker, there are usually three to four additional people who helped facilitate the plot.”

“That the eight attackers in Paris used more explosive belts than ever before seen in the West suggests a sizeable European terrorist facilitation network,”Watts wrote for War on the Rocks in November.

He added: “The iceberg theory of terrorist plots suggests we should look for two, three, or possibly four dozen extremist facilitators and supporters between Syria and France. This same network is likely already supporting other attacks in the planning phase.”

Belgian officials have long been aware of the existence of an ISIS-linked terrorist cell in Brussels, believed to be centered in the district of Molenbeek. Belgium’s interior minister, Jan Jambon, has called Molenbeek “the capital of political Islam in continental Europe,” and multiple suspects have been arrested there in connection to the Paris attacks.

Outside Belgium, at least 18 people have been detained across Europe since November for their alleged roles in the Paris attacks, The New York Times reported last weekend.

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View from exterior of Zaventem Airport | Instagram

‘Considerable planning and coordination’

Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels bear a shocking similarity to the methods employed by ISIS in Paris on November 13, experts said. Those attacks are believed to have been coordinated by ISIS’ external operations wing, using multiple attacks across the city to overwhelm the police and evade capture.

Just as the Paris attackers planned their assault for at least three months prior to the attack, experts believe the attacks that rocked Brussels on Tuesday morning were most likely months in the making, the timing driven more by a desire to act before being disrupted than by revenge for Abdeslam’s arrest.

“Twin coordinated attacks on Belgian transport sites. Maybe revenge for Abdelslam, but planned and prepped ages ago,” ISIS expert Michael Weiss, author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” tweeted on Tuesday.

Will McCants, author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” agreed.

“Plots like this take weeks or months to put in motion,” McCants told Business Insider on Tuesday. “If the attackers are associates of Abdeslam, then they probably moved up the timetable of a preexisting plot to avoid capture.”

Significantly, traces of explosives were found in a Brussels apartment rented by the terrorists weeks before they carried out the terrorist attacks, The New York Times reported, suggesting the existence of a makeshift bomb factory in the heart of Belgium’s capital.

Terrorism expert Mia Bloom, professor of communication at Georgia State University and author of two books on terrorist-recruitment methods, told Business Insider “a plot of this caliber requires considerable planning and coordination.”

“It is likely that Abdeslam’s cell has been plotting this prior to his arrest (there was a substantial arms cache found),” Bloom said.

She added: “Coordinated attacks (multiple attacks in the same location, happening around the same time) tend to require the most planning. While it’s impossible to know for certain, in my humble opinion, it is highly unlikely that these attacks took only a few days.”

Geopolitical and security analyst Michael Horowitz largely echoed this sentiment in a statement to Business Insider.

“I think that more than a retaliation, the attacks (likely planned months ago), were in reaction to it: The cell was likely concerned that Abdeslam would talk and his capture eventually lead to dismantling of their own cell.”

JM Berger, coauthor of “ISIS: The State of Terror,” said in an email to Business Insider that while it was “very early to draw any major conclusions,” it was “certainly possible this attack had already been planned and the timetable was moved up after the arrest.”

A sophisticated ‘foreign infrastructure’

Analysts say the terrorist network’s ability to evade law enforcement after the Paris attacks long enough to plan and execute a major attack in the heart of the EU, even if its timeline was disrupted by Abdeslam’s arrest, is testament to the deep networks jihadists have consolidated across Europe.

The CT [counter-terrorism] federal police are actually very good,” Ben Taub, freelance contributor for The New Yorker on jihadism in Europe, tweeted on Tuesday. “It’s a numbers issue. Can’t keep up. Networks too deep.”

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This commando unit was a real-world ‘Rogue One’ searching for Nazi superweapons

In the hours after Paris was liberated from the Nazis in 1944, three Allied vehicles — two French tanks and an American Jeep — slipped into the city on a dangerous, top secret mission carrying an intelligence agent and a handful of nuclear scientists.


The operatives were members of a special detachment of the Manhattan Project called the “Alsos Mission.” They were hand-picked to scour the recently-liberated countryside for intel on a German nuclear superweapon.

In 1938, German physicists Otto Han and Fritz Strassman were the first to split the atom, putting the Nazi Reich far ahead of the Allies in developing nuclear weapons. And with the development of the V-1 and V-2 rockets, the threat of a long-range destructive superweapon was very real.

The U.S. needed to know just how far along the Nazis were and they needed specific skills – in this case, nuclear scientists – to understand and determine their progress.

In the upcoming Star Wars film “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the Rebel Alliance recruits Jyn Erso to work with a team led by Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor to steal the schematics of the Imperial superweapon, the Death Star. Erso’s unique skills and connections as a criminal are what make her the right choice.

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And her covert op looks a lot like the clandestine work of the Alsos Mission, says a noted intelligence historian.

“Essentially, these are spy movies at heart,” says International Spy Museum curator Dr. Vince Houghton, in an exclusive interview with WATM. A U.S. Army Armor veteran and historian, Houghton admits he’s also a huge Star Wars fan.

“The backbone of all the movies are spy issues, whether it’s stealing the plans for the original Death Star, or stealing the plans for the second Death Star which turns out to be a big Imperial deception operation,” he says.

Teaming up a unique skill set with a commando group is exactly what the Alsos Mission did in WWII. It was formed in 1943 to gain intel on Axis technological progress. American para-intelligence soldiers and scientists moved with the Allied lines — and sometimes even behind enemy lines — to capture enemy atomic weapons scientists and records, Houghton says.

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The Alsos Mission dismantling a German experimental nuclear pile at Haigerloch, Germany April 1945 (U.S. Army photo)

“That’s actually probably the most direct lineage for Rogue One,” he added. “You’re looking at a superweapon – in the case of the Alsos mission, a German atomic bomb would be a superweapon.”

The Alsos Mission was a little-known part of the Manhattan Project that coordinated foreign intelligence. Their mission was to gather information about the development of atomic weapons abroad while preventing foreign powers from making progress. They did it on the bleeding edge of the Allied advance.

“They’re trying to find secret information and doing it right under everyone’s noses,” Houghton says.

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Col. Boris Pash, commander of the Alsos Mission in Europe (U.S. Army photo)

The mission’s first action came in Italy after the Italians surrendered to the Allies. A unit of American, British, French, and Italian researchers were to enter Rome right behind the Allied lines. They captured prominent Italian scientists and secured university laboratories, Army history documents show.

A month after the Normandy landings in June 1944, the Alsos Mission was in France and had to fight its way across the country and into Belgium and the Netherlands in the search for French and German scientists and their labs.

Of special interest to the team was 150 tons of missing Uranium ore – which were never found.

The nuclear labs in France were finally discovered on the hospital grounds in Strasbourg, along with intelligence indicating other nuclear sites inside Germany. The Army’s extensive review of the Manhattan Project shows the team discovered that Nazi scientists were unable to enrich Uranium and thus did not have a nuclear weapon.

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Replica of the German experimental nuclear reactor captured and dismantled at Haigerloch.

Once inside Germany, Alsos operatives captured prominent scientists and their research, and destroyed processing plants, removed experimental technology and nuclear material, and – most importantly – kept all of it out of the hands of the Soviet Union.

“It’s because no one was really paying attention to them,” says Houghton. “Everyone was paying attention to the conventional forces, so they were able to move around Europe and capture up all these scientists and all this nuclear information. They’re able to eventually determine that there was no German bomb, but they were very worried at first. The rumor persisted well into the later days of the war.”

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is in theaters Dec. 16th. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.

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This presidential nominee’s campaign was tanked by a tank

In the 1988 presidential campaign, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee for President, had a problem: he needed to look credible as a commander-in-chief during a time when Democrats were being criticized for their defense policies.


Throughout the 1980s, the Reagan Administration had been pushing through a major peace-time military build-up.

According to CQ Researcher, a large portion of the Democrats in Congress had opposed that build-up in the 1984 elections. That caused the perception that the Democrats were being weak on defense, which led to Reagan’s 49-state landslide.

Dukakis had been among those who were critical of the buildup, the mainstays of which — the B-1B Lancer, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, and a host of other weapon systems – are in service today (with a few exceptions).

 

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An E-2C Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft flies over the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zackary Alan Landers/Released)

Worse, according to a 2013 article in Politico, during the month of August, Dukakis had gone from leading Vice President George H.W. Bush by 17 points to trailing him, and one big reason was that 54 percent of Americans felt that then-Vice President Bush would do a better job on national security, while only 18 percent thought Dukakis would.

To counter that, Dukakis went on a swing that discussed defense, but one event was marked by defense workers jeering him. Then, he went on a visit to a General Dynamics plant in Michigan where he planned to ride in an M1 Abrams tank, a key part of the buildup that Democrats had criticized.

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Aerial drone image of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew. (Dept. of Defense image)

 

However, to do the ride, Dukakis was told he had to wear protective headgear. He did so, and ended up sealing his fate.

Within a week, the photo of Dukakis in the helmet had become a joke (think Kushner in his vest), but the worst was to come when operatives with Bush’s campaign developed an attack ad. Using 11 seconds of footage, they highlighted Dukakis’s opposition to the Reagan buildup and foreign policy.

Dukakis, who had already been trailing, and already saw 25 percent of Americans less likely to vote for him, was now in freefall. He eventually lost the 1988 election by seven million votes.

You can see a video by Politico on the infamous tank ride below.

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World War III nearly started when the Soviet premier was banned from Disneyland

When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited America in Sep. 1959, the trip was meticulously planned. One day of the trip was devoted Hollywood and filled with visits to movie studios, a lunch with Hollywood icons, and a tour to Disneyland.


Walt Disney was going to show Khrushchev around the park himself. He even planned to show off his navy for the Soviet premier.

Unfortunately, the Disneyland visit was canceled due to security concerns among city leaders and State Department planners. The Americans seemed to hope that tours of 20th Century Fox Studios and a lunch event filled with movie stars would keep the premier from complaining about Disneyland.

But the 20th Century Fox President Spyros P. Skouras put the Soviet leader in a bad mood. Skouras made jokes about an old quote of Khrushchev’s that said that communism would bury capitalism.

Khrushchev was enraged by the Fox president’s comments and said, “If you want to go on with the arms race, very well. We accept that challenge. As for the output of rockets –well, they are on the assembly line. This is a most serious question. It is one of life or death, ladies and gentlemen. One of war and peace.”

And then the enraged Khrushchev was told he wouldn’t be able to visit the happiest place on earth. Instead of enjoying his time with Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe and Shirley MacLaine, he gave an angry speech asking why he couldn’t go to Disneyland.

“What is it?” Khrushchev asked. “Do you have rocket launching pads there? I don’t know. What is it? Is there an epidemic of Cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken hold of the place that can destroy me? And I say, ‘I would very much like to go and see Disneyland.’ For me, such a situation is inconceivable.”

Despite the rocky events in Los Angeles, Khrushchev’s visit was a success. By the end of the trip, Americans’ perception of the leader had improved and journalists were reporting positively on his interactions with U.S. citizens.

Khrushchev and President Dwight Eisenhower had a summit at Camp David where they agreed on the need for peace and planned for Eisenhower to tour the Soviet Union.

This goodwill between the leaders was reversed in May 1960 after an U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, and the Cold War dragged on for decades.

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