We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS' mysterious and reclusive leader - We Are The Mighty
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We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader


The world knows little of the Islamic State terror group’s brutal leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but a new article from counterterrorism expert Will McCants provides one of the most extensive accounts yet of his background.

McCants, director of the Project on US Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution, wrote an upcoming book on the Islamic State — aka ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh — and researched Baghdadi’s life to explain his rise to become one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.

Since Baghdadi became the self-proclaimed “caliph” of ISIS in 2014, he has only appeared in public once, at a mosque in Mosul, Iraq. He was rumored to have died in an air strike earlier this year, but ISIS subsequently released a statement from him along with proof that he was still alive.

Even with new information about his life tricking out in the press, Baghdadi — aka Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Al-Badri — remains a mysterious and reclusive figure.

Here’s what we know now about his background, as laid out by McCants in his Brookings essay:

  • Baghdadi was raised in a lower-middle-class family in Iraq. His relatives claimed to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • His father taught at a mosque. When Baghdadi was a teenager, he led neighborhood children in Quran recitations.
  • Baghdadi’s family had ties to late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Two of his uncles were involved with Saddam’s security services, and two of his brothers served in the military under Saddam. One died during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
  • Members of Baghdadi’s family were also thought to be Salafis, who follow a strict form of Islam that has been associated with ISIS’ extreme interpretation.
  • Baghdadi was thought of as a quiet type, but when he read the Quran, his “quiet voice would come to life” and he would pronounce “the letters in firm, reverberating tones,” according to McCants.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader

  • He was also known for having a temper. Once, when he saw women and men dancing together at a wedding, he got upset and forced them to stop.
  • Even in his youth, Baghdadi developed a reputation for being pious and following a strict interpretation of Islam. His nickname was “The Believer,” and one of his brothers told McCants that Baghdadi “was quick to admonish anyone who strayed from the strictures of Islamic law.”
  • Baghdadi wasn’t a strong student in high school, but he went on to earn a doctorate degree in Quranic studies. He reportedly wanted to study law for his undergraduate degree, but his grades weren’t good enough, so he studied the Quran instead.
  • He became a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that seeks to establish Islamic states across the Middle East, but his views were more extreme than those of many of the others in the group. Baghdadi was reportedly drawn to the extremists, including his older brother, who wanted to overthrow un-Islamic rulers.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
Photo: Youtube.com

  • Outside his religious studies, Baghdadi was fond of soccer. He was the star of a soccer club at a mosque at which he taught, and people compared him to the famous Argentinian player Lionel Messi. (This fits with an interview published earlier this year with a man who said he knew Baghdadi before he became ISIS’ “caliph.”)
  • Baghdadi is thought to have two wives and six children. McCants reports that the caliph’s first wife, Asma, was the daughter of Baghdadi’s maternal uncle.
  • He was initially involved with al-Qaida, which sent him to Syria after he was released from his detainment at the US-run Camp Bucca in Iraq in the early 2000s. There, he was tasked with “ensuring that AQI’s online propaganda was in line with its brand of ultraconservative Islam,” according to McCants. Today, ISIS is known for its online propaganda that’s highly effective at recruiting young people to join the terror group.
  • After ISIS broke away from al-Qaida, he was put in charge of religious affairs in some areas of Iraq. He became valuable to ISIS because the group needed religious scholars to establish legitimacy.

This telling of Baghdadi’s background suggests that his radicalization began long before he was imprisoned at Camp Bucca in the early 2000s. Although he was captured as a “civilian detainee” while he was visiting a friend who was wanted by American authorities, it’s clear Baghdadi had already begun forming his extremist ideology by this point.

These details water down the notion that Baghdadi was radicalized while in American detention.

And Baghdadi likely knew what he was doing.

“For the ten months he remained in custody, Baghdadi hid his militancy and devoted himself to religious instruction,” McCants wrote.

He was also able to meet and befriend ex-Baathists who would later join him in ISIS. The group’s leadership is now thought to be made up largely of former Saddam loyalists, but that doesn’t mean Baghdadi isn’t devout or that he’s just a religious figurehead for the organization.

McCants concluded: “The bare facts of Baghdadi’s biography show an unusually capable man. … Although the New York Times recently reported that he himself is making arrangements for a succession in the event of his demise by devolving many of his military powers to subordinates, his blend of religious scholarship and political cunning won’t be easily replaced.”

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

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Russia plans to build 100 of its most advanced Armata tanks

The Russian deputy defense minister said Aug. 24 at a military technical forum that Moscow plans to build 100 T-14 Armata battle tanks.


“The designed models are currently undergoing operational testing,” Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet. “We have a contract for 100 units that will be supplied before 2020.”

TASS also acknowledged that Moscow previously said it would make 2,300 T-14s by 2020, which The National Interest and other analysts dismissed as “ridiculous,” given the high cost of the tank.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

Since it was unveiled in 2015, the T-14 has received a lot of hype and has worried many westerners — some of which is deserved.

The T-14 is part of the Armata Universal Combat Platform, which is is based on a single chassis that that can be used for a variety of Armata armored vehicles — not just the T-14 tank.

This interchangeable platform, according to Globalsecurity.org, includes “standard engine-transmission installation, chassis controls, driver interface, unified set of onboard electronics, [and] life-support systems.”

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

The T-14 comes with a high velocity 125mm cannon that also fires laser-guided missiles up to 7.4 miles away, while the US’ M1A2 SEP V3 Abrams’ main gun only has a range of about 2.4 miles.

It’s equipped with a revolutionary unmanned turret and armored hull for the crew, The National Interest said, and it’s even one step away from becoming a completely unmanned tank, able to be operated by crews at a distance, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, previously told Business Insider.

The T-14 also sports the new Afghanit active protection system, which has a radar and electronic system that disrupts incoming guided missiles, The National Interest said.

The APS can also jam laser guided systems and even has interceptors that can take out RPGs, missiles, and possibly kinetic rounds — although the latter has been questioned by many analysts, The National Interest said.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
A Russian T-72B3. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Vitaly Kuzmin.

While the T-14 has strong layers of defense and reactive armor, “no tank is invincible, it is only more survivable,” Michael Kofman, a CNA analyst, told Newsweek. “It’s somewhat unclear how effective these defensive systems are against top-down attack missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin, which is expensive but effective.”

“It’s important to remember that the Armata platform is still a prototype undergoing field trials and not a completed system …  There is still a debate in Russia on what its capabilities should be and the initial serial production run of 80-100 tanks is doubtfully going to be the final variant, so we should reserve judgment,” Kofman told Newsweek.

While the T-14 is impressive in many respects, Russia’s main tank for years to come, given the high cost of the T-14 and even the T-90A, will probably still be the T-72B3, Kofman told The National Interest.

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94-year-old reveals the most terrifying thing he saw while fighting behind Nazi lines

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
Photo: i.imgur.com


A 94-year-old World War II veteran held a Reddit AMA, with the help of his grandson, in which he provides a startling look at his time serving behind Nazi lines as an intelligence staff sergeant.

John Cardinalli, who was sworn to secrecy for 65 years following the end of World War II, has taken to Reddit to explain his time with the US Office of Strategic Services. The OSS was the forerunner of the CIA, and it was dedicated to coordinating espionage and intelligence gathering behind enemy lines during WWII.

Cardinalli was unable to tell his story until the FBI and CIA declassified his mission in 2008. Now, realizing the historical importance of his role, Cardinalli has written the book “65 Years of Secrecy” about his roles during the war.

In the AMA, Cardinalli explains of how he joined the OSS in the first place:

I got into the OSS while in the infantry in North Carolina and I saw a sign that said “Men Wanted for Hazardous Duty, Need to know Morse Code, and must speak a Foreign Language, which I am fluent in Italian”. There is more to the story of how I actually was accepted, it is all in my book. I am not trying to push my book, but it has everything in there. It is available on Amazon “65 Years of Secrecy by John Cardinalli.”

Cardinalli described his exact role:

My role was an agent behind enemy lines collecting information and radio back to allied forces. I was a master at Morse Code, which is how most of our communication was done.

He also briefly explained how the OSS teams functioned behind enemy lines:

I worked with a small team that were grouped in twos. The code name who was in charge of all these teams was named “The Dutchman”. There is a lot to this, but basically, but the groups all had a task and a name. For example, we had a “married couple” named jack and jill. Yes, I was in Holland and spent a lot of time hiding in windmills which were strategically chosen along Rhine River.

Cardinalli also shared the scariest thing he ever experienced:

Battle of the Bulge. Our team completely split up, by ourselves, with just radios to communicate. Everyone was completely on their own for 2 days.

The Battle of the Bulge was one of the last German offensives in Western Europe against the Allies, during which US forces sustained the brunt of the assault. It was the largest and bloodiest battle that the US took part in during WWII.

Despite the amazing adversity that Cardinalli had to fight through during WWII, he also admits that he never missed a chance to lightheartedly poke fun at his fellow team members:

One of my team members needed a hair cut and I told him I was the best Italian Barber in the military. I never cut hair in my life. I cut his and he looked like a dog with mange. He literally almost shot me.

Cardinalli also shared his advice for those thinking of joining the military:

If one was going to join the military, go into intelligence.

More from Business Insider:

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

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Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills

The territory controlled by the ISIS is vast and spreads across wide areas of Iraq and Syria. To date ISIS has proved resilient in the face of American airstrikes, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Iranian-backed Shia militias, battle-hardened Syrian rebels, Asad regime forces, and even other jihadist groups.


We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
Institute for the Study of War

In 2014, ISIS surprised the world with a string of military victories in Iraq, even threatening the central government in Baghdad before American and Kurdish intervention. The swath of territory under their control has not shrunk by much since then.

So how can a paramilitary organization with no recognized trading partners maintain an economy, infrastructure, and sustained military campaigns on multiple fronts? By any means necessary, it appears. Some bloggers suggest Turkey is funding them, or the U.S. government, or even payday lenders. The reality is much more simple and ISIS remains one of the most well-funded paramilitary terrorist organizations ever, with an estimated net worth of $2 billion.

Here are ISIS’ 10 main sources of funding:

1. Oil Smuggling

ISIS captured oil wells all over Iraq and in Northern Syria in 2014. With refined gasoline running near $7.50 per gallon across the border in Turkey, any relief from those kinds of prices is a welcome relief, even if that cheap oil comes from a group like ISIS. The terror group controls 80,000 of Iraq’s total 3 million daily barrels of oil, but the area of oil fields under their control is the size of the UK. In Syria, ISIS controls sixty percent of total production capacity and is selling oil at a rock-bottom $25 per barrel. As of October 2015, the market price of oil was $43. Cross-border smuggling of cheap crude oil earns ISIS and estimated $1.5-3.6 million each day, maybe as high as $800 million each year.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader

2. Donations from Angel Investors

ISIS is a fundamentalist Sunni Islamist group. Their ideology is close to the Wahhabi brand of Islam espoused by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It shouldn’t come as a surprise there are wealthy oil magnates in the Gulf’s Sunni monarchies, like Qatar, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates who share ISIS’ core beliefs and are willing to send money to help them. Experts believe angel investors in Qatar are sending the largest portion of individual investments. Their interests may lie more in the overthrow of the regime of Bashar al-Asad, whose government supported Shia muslims in Syria. This income source comes to the tune of $40 million over the past two years.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader

3. Organized Crime

Calling ISIS “thugs” isn’t just a way of demeaning those who fight, work for, or otherwise support the group. As the only form of law enforcement in the areas under its control, ISIS has a “massive” organized crime operation. It demands large sums of money from those in its territory. Anyone who wants to start a business, withdraw from their bank account, or just be alive are taxed on almost every aspect of daily life. These taxes also extend to dams, granaries, and even oil fields. These taxes can be as high as ten percent per transaction. They’ve even been known to take necklaces and earrings off of women.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
It’s really weird that they pose like this.

4. Looting Banks and Museums

When ISIS captured Mosul in 2014, it famously looted the central bank, cashing in on a large amount of money. It also loots smaller banks as it swarms through new territory under its control. In Mosul alone, ISIS took over 12 branches. All told, experts believe $1.5 billion was captured by the terror group in the past two years.  Bank robbery plays a part, but the terror organization will also loot museums and sell valuable artifacts through towns on the Turkish border with Syria. 1/3 of Iraqi archeological sites are under ISIS control and the looting of these sites for artifacts to sell on the black market is the group’s second largest income source.

5. Hostages and Kidnapping

Capturing Westerners and other foreigners is a major source of income for ISIS. Knowing full well the group will fulfill its word to brutally murder those it captures, hostages for profit earns ISIS an estimated $12 million per month, and at least $20 million in 2014. American journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff were held by ISIS for ransom, but because ransoming the men would have been illegal, their families didn’t pay and the two were beheaded. France is known to have paid $14 million for four captured journalists. For locals, the price is $500 to $200,000.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader

6. Illegal Drugs Sex Trafficking

An Iraqi in Qatar told Newsweek nearly 4,000 women and girls from the Yazidi minority in Iraqi were forced into marriage or sold for sex. There are many more women from other minorities. Girls as young as 14 are forced to either convert to Islam and be wives or be sold into slavery. Reports of cocaine and methamphetamine use are rampant, but more reliable reports indicate ISIS grows marijuana on the outskirts of major cities for sale in Turkey. ISIS is also known to smuggle cigarettes and alcohol, all of which is strictly forbidden under their brand of Islam.

7. Bitcoin

Bitcoin is not a regulated currency, and Israeli intelligence agencies acknowledged they know ISIS is using the currency for fundraising efforts in the United States.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader

8. Fake Foreign Aid

Unregistered charities worldwide provide ISIS with a method of laundering money from various sources and donors, turning the money into “humanitarian aid.” Fighters will coordinate dropoffs of the aid payments through international data messaging services like Kik and WhatsApp. $11 million of fake aid came to ISIS through Qatar since the start of Syrian Civil War in 2011.

9. Internet Cafes

In Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS territory, there were less than 20 internet cafes in the city before the rise of ISIS. Since then, the number has grown to more than 500. According to Syrian activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently the city is now dependent on expensive satellite internet connections controlled by the militants.

10. Fines for Breaking Sharia Law (al-Hisbah)

The terror organization charges steep fines for breaking strict Islamic laws, for everything from smoking tobacco to arriving late to the mosque for prayers. As brutal as the group’s methods are, people living under ISIS rule can now pay fines to avoid torture or execution. Even actual crimes like theft and fraud can be mitigated with payments in Syrian currency.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader

ISIS burns through cash, spending on military hardware, equipment, infrastructure, safe houses, mass transportation, food, and its own high-quality media center, al-Hayat (the life) and a magazine called Dabiq, not to mention tens of thousands of fighters operating in the fieldNo matter how much the group spends, it makes an estimated $6 million from these sources every day. There may be no limit to how much the group can expend in its effort to further its ideology.

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This is why the US-led coalition called Amnesty report on Mosul ‘irresponsible’

The US-led coalition said July 12 that an Amnesty International report accusing its forces of violating international law during the fight against the Islamic State group in Mosul is “irresponsible.”


The report released July 11 said Iraqi civilians were subjected to “relentless and unlawful attacks” by the coalition and Iraqi forces during the grueling nine-month battle to drive IS from Iraq’s second largest city. It said IS militants had carried out mass killings and forcibly displaced civilians to use them as human shields.

War is not pleasant, and pretending that it should be is foolish and places the lives of civilians and soldiers alike at risk,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a coalition spokesman, told The Associated Press.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
Women and children wait at a processing station for internally displaced people prior to boarding buses to refugee camps near Mosul, Iraq, Mar. 03, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne)

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “total victory” in Mosul on July 10, but clashes along the edge of the Old City continued into the following evening.

In all, 5,805 civilians may have been killed in the fight for western Mosul by coalition attacks, Amnesty said, citing data from Airwars, an organization monitoring civilian deaths caused by the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria.

Amnesty said the fighting generated a “civilian catastrophe.”

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

IS swept into Mosul in the summer of 2014 when it conquered much of northern and western Iraq. The extremists declared a caliphate and governed according to a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law. The militants rounded up their opponents and killed them en masse, often documenting the massacres with video and photos.

US-backed Iraqi forces have gradually retaken much of that territory, but at a staggering cost, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.

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This is what happens when the ‘Mother of Dragons’ channels Mad Dog Mattis

In the latest episode of Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen has finally done it. She’s managed to pull off her version of one of “Mad Dog” Mattis’s signature moments — albeit after some serious military blunders and at least one close call.


Early on in the episode “Eastwatch,” Daenerys gave a speech that boiled down to “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f#ck with me, I’ll kill you all.”

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
James Mattis, then a Marine general, speaks to Marines in Iraq. (USMC photo)

Well, Randyll Tarly and his son Dickon f#cked with the Mother of Dragons and became crispy critters as a result. The demonstration was effective – in essence, the Breaker of Chains is telling Westeros that they can have “no better friend, no worse enemy” than her.

Not so well-known, though is the fact that Jon Snow is obeying another teaching from “St. Mattis of Quantico.”

In 2010, Mattis famously said:

In this age, I don’t care how tactically or operationally brilliant you are, if you cannot create harmony — even vicious harmony — on the battlefield based on trust across service lines, across coalition and national lines, and across civilian/military lines, you need to go home, because your leadership is obsolete. We have got to have officers who can create harmony across all those lines.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader

Jon Snow has demonstrated this multiple times throughout the series. He’s managed to stitch together numerous alliances over six-plus seasons – to the point that he now has a coalition of Northerners, Free Folk, Knights of the Vale, and is now carrying out a special operation with the Westerosi version of the “Dirty Dozen.”

Now, for a case of the stupids.

Arya Stark is falling for an “AF is low on water” gambit being run by “Littlefinger” Baelish. Unless Arya can keep calm and ask why Littlefinger wants her to have that specific document, it looks like the Stark girls are headed for trouble – and we could see a fight between Brienne and Arya that is for real.

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Here’s why it’s a good thing the US military is getting rid of the M14

The M14 is one of the worst DMRs in history, and should have never been adopted by the military.


That’s a powerful statement, but a mostly objective one.

While the M14’s design originated from what General Patton dubbed “The greatest battle implement ever devised” — the M1 Garand — by the 1950s it was already outdated. Military small arms development had seen unparalleled growth throughout World War II and this growth continued into the Cold War.

Listen to the WATM podcast to hear our veteran hosts and a weapons expert discuss the M14 and its replacement:

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While Russia was hurriedly developing its first true assault rifle, the AK-47, NATO was still hung up on the concept of a battle rifle. Though this makes perfect sense in retrospect.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
Private 1st Class Carlos Rivera, a squad designated marksman with Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, scans his sector while providing security in the district of Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, July 30, 2012. (Photo: US Army)

Experience in WWII and the frozen hell of Korea hammered home the importance of increased firepower without sacrificing range, reliability or power. Hundreds of soldiers reported the smaller M1 Carbine and its light .30-caliber cartridge were ineffective against winter-coat-wearing Chinese and Korean human wave attacks, but the .30-06 M1 never suffered this problem. Interestingly, post-war investigations suggested the M1 Carbine’s light weight and high cyclic rate of fire were more responsible for this lack of stopping power than the cartridge itself — meaning, most soldiers simply missed their targets because of the gun’s recoil.

This is a lesson the Army forgot when it pressed a select-fire .308 rifle into service only a few years later.

Enter, the M14.

The one thing the M14 has going for it, is its method of operation. It’s a long-stroke, piston-driven action that’s very similar to the most prolific, assault rifle in history: the AK-47. Like the AK, the M14’s action can tolerate debris and fouling better than the direct-impingement M16. While the rifle’s hard-hitting 7.62x51mm NATO round is vastly superior to the M16’s 5.56mm at defeating light cover and the dense foliage found in South East Asian jungles, it also makes the rifle very tough to control.

On a side note, carrying a combat load of 7.62 isn’t much fun, and doesn’t offer the average infantryman nearly as much firepower as the same weight in 5.56 rounds.

But that’s not what makes the M14 so awful. It’s the design itself – especially for the role it has been shoehorned into: the Designated Marskman Rifle. The vaunted DMR bridges the gap between the M4 and dedicated sniping weapon systems like the M24. Infantrymen from every branch fielding a DMR in combat have nothing but praise for the guns’ performance in the vast expanses of Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, if soldiers love the gun, it must be pretty decent, right? Sure, so long as the rifle is clamped into a very heavy, expensive chassis and the soldier carrying it never drops it, or touches the handguards. Seriously, disturbing the gun’s bedding – the way it’s glued into a stock — doesn’t just shift point of impact, it reduces overall accuracy. Therein lies the biggest problem with the M14: accurizing the rifle and holding on to that accuracy.

Accuracy is a measure of consistency when it comes to rifles. Given that a DMR must, by definition, extend the effective range of a squad, its DMR needs to reliably hit targets beyond the reach of the infantryman’s standard rifle or carbine. Yet, according to military standards, acceptable accuracy from the M14 is 5.5 inches at 100 yards – a full inch larger than the M16’s standards. While the M14’s 7.62mm round is great for this, the gun is not.

Camp Perry shooters have long since abandoned the M14 because of the difficulty in accurizing the rifle compared to the M16 – and they aren’t alone. The Army noticed the problems and prohibitive costs associated with maintaining M14s in country, which lead to the solicitation of a replacement rifle to meet new specifications for the Semi-Automatic Sniper System program.

Funny thing, the Army decided the M16 was more accurate, and more easily tuned into a sniper rifle – except for the caliber. Which is why the M14 EBR’s replacement, the Mk-11, is built off an AR-10: the 7.62 big brother of the M16.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
Cpl. Scott P. Ruggio, scout sniper, Scout Sniper platoon, Headquarters and Support Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires his MK-11 sniper rifle in the first stage of a three-day platoon competition in Djibouti March 25. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

In all fairness, the Global War on Terror presented a combat theater the U.S. military wasn’t prepared to fight in. Plus, the M14 wasn’t meant to be a sniper or DMR platform when it was developed in the 1950s. Even still, Armalite had been producing civilian and military AR-10 rifles since the late 1950s, and could have just as easily been pressed into service.

Better yet, since the AR-10 shares it’s method of operation with the M16, advancements on one could likely be applied to the other. And, the guns shares the same manual of arms, so no additional training is required for soldiers transitioning from one to the other.

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Here’s why North Korea’s latest type of missile would be a nightmare to stop

On Sunday, North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan for the first time since US President Donald Trump took office.


South Korean officials told Reuters that the missile, a land-based adaptation of the submarine-launched KN-11, doesn’t have the range to strike the US but has another trait that’s just as troubling, if not more: solid fuel.

Related: Mattis threatens ‘overwhelming’ response if North Korea ever uses nukes

North Korean missiles usually rely on liquid fuel and have to be gassed up similar to how you’d fill up a car.

North Korea, like many nuclear powers, mounts its nuclear-capable missiles on trucks.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Road-mobile missile launchers can hide easier, launch from almost anywhere, and take an enemy by surprise — but liquid fuel complicates all that.

To launch a liquid-fueled missile, a giant convoy of military trucks must drive out to a location, fuel up the rocket with the multiple types of fuel for the different stages of launch, and then fire away. This requires dozens of trucks and associated military personnel. Such a large-scale deployment is much harder to conceal from a vigilant foe.

“Liquid-fueled missiles are more vulnerable to tracking and preemptive strikes. Solid-fueled ballistic missiles are not fueled on site and therefore pose more of a threat, because solid-fueled ballistic missiles require less support and can be deployed more quickly,” Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation policy and a North Korea expert at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider.

With a missile like the one tested on Sunday, North Korea could simply park a truck and let it fly.

That’s exactly what the video of its latest launch shows:

“Another striking feature of the test was the transport erector launcher that was used to launch the missile. Images indicate that it ran on treads rather than wheels,” Davenport said. “This allows North Korea to move its missiles through more difficult terrains.”

To counter such a sneaky launcher, an adversary would have to spend extensively on surveillance and recon technology.

So while North Korea remains without an ICBM to directly threaten the US mainland, its successful launch of a solid-fueled missile means it has developed a destabilizing technology that could strike US military bases, South Korea, or Japan with a moment’s notice.

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ISIS chief Abu al-Baghdadi may still be at large

As the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate collapses across Iraq and Syria under unrelenting pressure by the US-backed coalition, the whereabouts of the group’s chieftain, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remain a mystery.


Since fleeing the group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa in May, various reports over recent weeks allege the terrorist leader either has been killed by Russian or coalition forces or is still at large in the group’s redoubts in central Syria.

The impetus inside the White House and Pentagon to kill or capture al-Baghdadi has seemingly been lukewarm at best compared to the hunt for al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, which ended with the Navy SEAL raid on the terrorist leader’s Pakistani hideout in May 2011.

We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader
Former President Barack Obama and members of the national security team receive updates on Operation Neptune’s Spear, a target and kill operation against Osama bin Laden in the White House Situation Room, May 1, 2011 (White House photo)

The defeat of the terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL, along with the death of its emir, has been the clearest objective of President Trump’s national security and foreign policy strategy, and one that critics claim has been heavy on rhetoric and little else.

What remains unclear is how the Trump White House plans to carry on the fight against Islamic State once al-Baghdadi is no longer in the picture.

US military officials have reiterated that al-Baghdadi’s death remains a top priority for the American-led coalition battling Islamic State. However, coalition commanders and Pentagon officials also claim that the Islamic State chieftain has been effectively sidelined from any command-and-control role over the group’s operations in the Middle East and across the globe.

The Islamic State leader “is somebody who we would like to see dead,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters July 17.

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Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

US and coalition-led operations to kill or capture Baghdadi and other Islamic State leaders are integral to the mission to dismantle and destroy the terrorist group and its affiliates worldwide, Capt. Davis said during a briefing at the Pentagon.

“Leadership strikes are important,” he said of the coalition’s operations to hunt down the upper echelon of Islamic State, starting with al-Baghdadi. Such missions provide the “moral authority or imperative” to American and coalition forces fighting to curb Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.

But the Pentagon spokesman made clear that while the hunt for al-Baghdadi may be morally essential, his loss will mean little on the battlefield.

“Militarily speaking, he is already irrelevant,” Capt. Davis said.

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ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. (Image from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.)

Those comments echo those of Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said al-Baghdadi’s death would create “disarray in the enemy’s ranks” and upend efforts by Islamic State to hold onto its territorial gains in the Middle East.

“We’re not here to help him through his midlife crisis. We’re here to give him one,” the Pentagon chief said.

Top Islamic State leaders, including al-Baghdadi, reportedly began fleeing Raqqa for Deir-e-zour and Madan en masse in May ahead of the coalition’s operation to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa, which had been the group’s self-styled capital in the country since taking the city three years ago.

Since his departure from Raqqa, unconfirmed reports of the Islamic State leader’s demise have permeated across a number of media outlets over the last several weeks.

Russian news outlets, citing defense officials in Moscow, had reported al-Baghdadi’s demise months earlier, saying he had been killed during Russian airstrikes on Islamic State positions outside Raqqa in May.

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DoD photo from Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo.

Most recently, members of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — which has a strong track record for accuracy in the chaotic Syrian struggle — claimed they had irrefutable evidence al-Baghdadi had been killed in counter-terrorism operations in the Deir-e-Zour area in eastern Syria.

Those claims were upended by reports from Kurdish intelligence officials who said al-Baghdadi remains alive.

“It is not about Baghdadi necessarily, there are other leaders waiting” who are former Iraqi military under Saddam Hussein, Lahur Talabani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s intelligence services, told Reuters July 17. “Do not expect the game to be over anytime soon for the Islamic State.”

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The Army ROTC program is using Hollywood to train future officers

“The Princess Bride” is a cult classic – one of Robin Wright’s early roles, combined with a young Cary Elwes along with Mandy Patankin and Andre the Giant.


While it’s a satirical look at medieval fairy tales, could it play a role in training future combat leaders in the U.S. Army? Believe it or not, the answer may be “Yes.”

The proof is on Youtube, where the Army ROTC has a channel with dozens of videos of classic movies that hold a lesson for this generation of leaders.

As part of a course labeled MSL 101, Lesson 10, the “Battle of Wits” scene is used to discuss critical thinking. At the end of that video, a card comes up for about four seconds, asking, “What did you think of the clip?” The card goes on to ask, “What processes do you use when you are considering a situation/dilemma when you alone must make the decision?”

Here is that video:

 

Other videos used in that lesson plan include two clips from the Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons in the “Looney Tunes” collection.

 

“The Big Bang Theory” also is mined for clips:

 

“Top Gun” adds one as well.

 

Stick around – there are two major productions that really get mined to illustrate lessons.

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How a prostitute turned pirate queen defeated 3 navies at once

Ching Shih was born around 1775 in China and became a prostitute in Canton, a province in southwest China, before marrying a pirate leader, taking over his fleet, and growing it until it was able to destroy a combined fleet of Chinese, British, and Portuguese navy ships as well as Dutch mercenary vessels.


Then she accepted amnesty from the Chinese government and walked away with her ill-gotten fortune and a title as Chinese nobility.

Ching attracted the eye of Zheng Yi Sao — a pirate leader with a fleet of a few hundred ships — when she was 26 years old and working as a prostitute. Zheng became smitten with her and either proposed to her in the brothel or ordered her abducted in a raid. (Both stories have been passed forward in the years since the incident.)

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Ching Shih (Illustration: Public Domain)

Either way, Ching agreed to marriage with a couple of specific requirements, the most important one being that she gain some control over the fleet and a share of its profits.

For the next six years, Ching and Zheng managed the “Red Flag Fleet” together. But Zheng died in a tsunami, leaving Ching in the dangerous position of being a woman atop 600 ships and their crews of outlaws.

Ching quickly struck an accord with Chang Pao, Zheng’s lieutenant and former slave who was granted control of the fleet. Ching and Chang built a new power structure for the Red Flag Fleet and grew it quickly.

Ching focused on the business dealings of the fleet and Chang led the troops in combat. They employed shallow-bottomed boats that attacked coastal villages and conducted raids in rivers while larger junks, the premiere war-fighting and commerce ship in the area at the time, raided merchant shipping and fought the Chinese navy.

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The Chinese Junk Keying. (Illustration: Public Domain)

The really revolutionary part of their partnership was Ching’s economic foresight. She extorted protection payments on a larger scale than most others and she formed a network of farmers, fisherman, and spies to keep the fleet well supplied and informed. Eventually, Ching took over control of the entire Red Flag Fleet from Chang.

The criminal network grew until it consisted of over 1,700 ships and 80,000 pirates. The bulk of the ships were still in the Red Flag Fleet, but many ships were assigned to subordinate commanders who ran the Black, White, Blue, Yellow, and Green fleets.

This massive force posed a serious threat to the Qing dynasty, which ordered a fleet constructed to destroy the pirates. Instead, Ching led the combined fleets out and easily dispatched the government forces.

Ching even captured about 63 of the Chinese ships, more than she lost of her own vessels, and pressed most of the crews into service with her own forces. She won the battle so hard, she came out of it with more forces than when she started.

Unsurprisingly, the emperor took his loss personally and ordered the Chinese navy to challenge her fleet. He enlisted the aid of the British and Portuguese navies in the effort and hired Dutch mercenaries to assist.

For the next two years, Ching’s fleets fought their way through the enemy forces, still gaining power and loot despite the ships arrayed against them.

But the writing was on the wall. The dangerous business would hove to end sooner or later, and Ching wanted her and her pirates well set up for it. Some articles on Ching also point to a conflict between the Red and Black Fleets for what happened next.

The emperor offered an amnesty to draw away many of the pirates working in his territory, and Ching herself took him up on it. But, like when she married Zheng, she required a few additional incentives.

First, nearly all of her workers, from the pirates who engaged in combat to the farmers who supplied them, were to get off without punishment. Second, the government had to provide money to help the pirates transition to shore life.

Third, Ching was to receive a title in the Chinese nobility.

The government caved, and Ching got her list. At the young age of 35, only nine years after escaping a brothel in Canton, Ching was made a member of the nobility and sat on a massive fortune. She opened a gambling house and brothel in China and settled into a semi-quiet retirement.

Chang, meanwhile, wanted to keep his life on the seas and got command of 20 government ships in the deal.

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This is actual WWII footage of a tank duel

While everyone talks about D-Day, what’s often forgotten is that getting past the Atlantic Wall was only the first step. The Allies had to fight their way out of Normandy and into the rest of France — not to mention across Germany.


This wasn’t easy. Germany had some very well-trained troops who were determined to put up a fight. One of the places where the Nazis held up the Allies was Villers-Bocage — a village to the southwest of Caen, a major objective of the initial staged.

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This version of the M4 Sherman could take on the German Tiger tank on even terms and win. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to Battle of Normandy Tours, on June 13, 1944, a force of British tanks from the famous 7th Armoured Division — also known as the “Desert Rats” — headed towards Villers-Bocage. At that village, a company of German Tiger tanks, under the command of Michael Wittman, fought the British force of Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks.

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A German Tiger in Sicily, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

When all was said and done, Wittman’s force had destroyed 27 Allied tanks, according to WarfareHistoryNetwork.com. The Germans had also killed, wounded, or captured 188 Allied troops.

This video shows some of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Villers-Bocage. Warning: It does show some of the consequences of when armored vehicles are destroyed.

History, YouTube

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This is how military working dogs see the dentist in the combat zone

In a deployed environment, adequate medical care is crucial to ensuring that people can execute the mission. Our airmen need to be physically and mentally healthy or the mission could suffer. The 386th Expeditionary Medical Group boasts a medical clinic, physical therapist, mental health team, and dental clinic as just some of the available services paramount to keeping our airmen mission ready, and in the fight.


But what do you do when an airman needs medical attention and isn’t a person?

This was a riddle that Army Capt. Margot Boucher, Officer-in-Charge of the base Veterinary Treatment Facility had to solve recently when military working dog Arthur, a military asset valued at almost $200K, was brought to her clinic with a fractured tooth.

“Arthur was doing bite training, bit the wrong way and tore part of his canine tooth off, so he had a fracture to the gum line on one of his strong biting teeth,” explained Boucher, a doctor of veterinary medicine with the 358th Medical Detachment here. “The big concern with that, in addition to being a painful condition, is that they can become infected if bacteria were to travel down the tooth canal.”

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Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf

Boucher, a reservist deployed from the 993rd Medical Detachment of Fitzsimons Army Reserve Center in Aroura, Colorado, is employed as an emergency room veterinarian as a civilian. While she is well-versed in the medical side of veterinary medicine, she knew she wasn’t an expert in veterinary dentistry. In order to get Arthur the care he needed, Boucher reached out to her Air Force counterparts here at the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group for help.

“In this environment, I’m kind of all they’ve got,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Brent Waldman, the 386th Medical Operations Flight Commander and dentist here. “I’ve done four or five of these on dogs, but I don’t do these often. I felt very comfortable doing it, because dentistry on a human tooth versus a dog tooth is kind of the same, if you know the internal anatomy of the tooth.”

Waldman performed a root canal on Arthur, a Belgian Malinois. This procedure involved drilling into the tooth and removing soft tissues, such as nerves and blood vessels, to hollow the tooth out, according to Waldman. After the tooth was hollowed out, and a canal was created, it was filled and sealed with a silver filling. The procedure for Arthur was the same that Waldman would do on a human patient.

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Army Capt. Margot Boucher (left), the 358th Medical Detachment officer-in-charge of the base Veterinary Treatment Facility, observes Air Force Lt. Col. Brent Waldman (center), the 386th Expeditionary Medical Operations flight commander and dentist, as he performs a root canal on a military working dog. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly.

“The reason why you do a root canal is because the likelihood of there being an infection or other issue with that tooth is significantly decreased,” said Waldman, who is deployed from the 21st Medical Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. “This is crucial for a military working dog because without his teeth, Arthur may be removed from duty.”

Military working dogs are trained to detect and perform patrol missions. The patrol missions can involve biting a suspect to detain them or protect their handler. This is why dental health is crucial to a military working dog.

“Those canine teeth are their main defensive and offensive tools,” said Waldman. “A dog with bad teeth…It’s like a sniper having a broken trigger finger.”

While Waldman had experience doing dental procedures on military working dogs, he still needed the expertise Boucher had in veterinary medicine.

“Typically when we collaborate with human providers, we’ll still manage the anesthesia and the medical side of the procedure,” said Boucher, who has four years of experience as a vet. “Usually if they are unfamiliar with the anatomical differences, we’ll talk them through that and familiarize them with the differences between animal and human anatomy, but in terms of dentistry, it’s very similar. The procedure is the same, but the tooth is shaped a little differently.”

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Army Pfc. Landon Kelsey (right), a 1st Armored Division military working dog handler, places his hand on his MWD, Arthur, as Air Force Lt. Col. Brent Waldman (left), the 386th Expeditionary Medical Operations Flight commander, performs a root canal procedure. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly

Prior to the procedure, Boucher conducted pre-anesthetic blood tests to make sure 6-year-old Arthur didn’t have any pre-existing conditions that anesthesia would complicate. During the root canal, Boucher watched Arthur closely, and monitored his heart rate and blood oxygen saturation while making minor adjustments to his sedation as needed.

The procedure was successful, and Arthur returned to his deployed location with his handler a few days after. Were it not for the inter-service and inter-discipline teamwork of Boucher and Waldman, Arthur and his handler may have had to travel back to the United States to get the medical care needed.

“It’s a great service to be able to do,” said Waldman. “If we couldn’t do this, Arthur and his handler would have probably had to be taken out of theater, to a location where they had the capability to do this procedure. It saved a ton of time to be able to do this here, and get Arthur back to protecting our war fighters.”