ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul - We Are The Mighty
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ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

A major Islamic State group counterattack July 7 along the northern edge of Mosul’s Old City neighborhood has pushed Iraqi Army forces back some 75 meters (82 yards) and is threatening recent gains in other Old City fronts, an Iraqi military officer said.


The officer said the attack was launched just after noon July 7 and estimated it was carried out by 50 to 100 IS fighters. A doctor at a medic station said he received more than a dozen wounded Iraqi soldiers.

Both men spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Iraqi security forces have retaken almost all of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — from IS militants who overran it in 2014.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Photo from DoD.

In late June, IS counterattacks on the western edge of Mosul — neighborhoods retaken months earlier — stalled the push by Iraqi forces to go deeper into the Old City as they forced a reallocation of Iraqi ground forces, coalition surveillance, and air support.

Unlike the July 7 attack, the late June counterattack was launched from outside Mosul, most likely from Tal Afar, an IS-held town some 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of Mosul.

The counterattacks underscore the extremist group’s resilience in Iraq, despite significant territorial losses and months of heavy fighting with Iraqi forces backed by US air power.

The pockets of IS-held Mosul now measure less than a square kilometer.

Also on July 7, The UN’s migration agency suspended operations in two camps — the Qayara air strip emergency site and the Haj Ali camp — near Mosul hosting nearly 80,000 displaced Iraqis due to sporadic violence and exchange of gunfire.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
An Iraqi federal police takes a break before another day’s offensive to liberate and secure West Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

IOM spokesman Joel Millman said the security situation prevented six water-tanker trucks from entering the Haj Ali camp, where temperatures reached the low 50s Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in recent days.

Humanitarian groups have repeatedly suspended operations in and around Mosul due to security concerns since the fight to retake the city from IS began last October.

In April, the United Nations suspended operations in the same area due to security threats along the road south of Mosul’s western half.

In February, the UN suspended operations in eastern Mosul weeks after the area was declared fully liberated as IS attacks continued to inflict heavy civilian casualties.

In both instances, the UN resumed operations within a matter of days.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Tom Clancy used this wargame for ‘Red Storm Rising’

Tom Clancy’s 1986 novel Red Storm Rising is arguably his literary tour de force. Following on the heels of 1984’s The Hunt for Red October, it cemented Clancy’s status as the inventor of the techno-thriller genre. Despite being a massive best-seller, Clancy never won a Pulitzer Prize or Nobel Prize for his contributions to the field of literature.

In Red Storm Rising, “Dance of the Vampires” featured a Soviet attack on a NATO carrier force centered on USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and the French carrier Foch (R99). In the book, the Nimitz was badly damaged by two AS-6 Kingfish missiles, while the Foch took three hits and was sunk.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

There was little understanding of how new technology like the Tu-22M Backfire would play into a war.

(DOD painting)

But how did Clancy manage to make that moment in the book so realistic? The answer lies in a wargame designed by Larry Bond called Harpoon. Bond is best known as a techno-thriller author of some repute himself, having written Red Phoenix, Cauldron, and Red Phoenix Burning, among others. But he designed the Harpoon wargame, which came in both a set of rules for miniatures and a computer game. (Full disclosure: The author is a long-time fan of the game, and owns both miniature and computer versions.)

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

Alas, poor Foch, you were doomed from the start.

(U.S. Navy photo)

At WargameVault.com, Larry Bond explained that while the end result had been determined, what was lacking was an understand of two big areas: How would all these new systems interact, and what would the likely tactics be? As a result, they ran the game three times, and it was not a small affair: A number of others took part, resulting in each side’s “commander” having “staffs” who used written standard orders and after-action reports.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

A simulated massacre of Tu-22M Backfires off Iceland also shaped the plot of ‘Red Storm Rising.’

(U.S. Navy)

Each of the three games had very different results, but the gaming helped to make Red Storm Rising a literary masterpiece of the last 20th century. Incidentally, Harpoon further shaped Red Storm Rising through a scenario called the “Keflavik Turkey Shoot” – a gaming result that convinced Clancy to include the Soviet Union taking Iceland in the early portions of the book.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

While she sits in reserve today, at the time of ‘Red Storm Rising,’ USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) was the latest and greatest in naval technology.

(US Navy photo)

Bond released a collection of those scenarios, and some other material into an electronic publication called “Dance of the Vampires,” available for .00 at WargameVault.com. It is a chance to see how a wargame shaped what was arguably the best techno-thriller of all time.

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This is what battle was like for airmen during World War II

 


The Air Force today takes a ribbing from the other services for being soft, so it’s easy to forget that historically their mission has been one of the most dangerous. This was on display in World War II when Allied aircrews were tasked with bombing Nazi-occupied Germany and Imperial Japan.

In this clip, a World War II Royal Air Force veteran discusses what it was like flying bombers to Berlin through a wall of flak so thick that, as he describes it, it sounded like driving a car through a hailstorm. He also tells of the mission where their bomber was chased down by German fighters and forced to crash land.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This US warship just teased Beijing in latest South China Sea maneuvers

A U.S. destroyer reportedly put China’s extensive claims to the South China Sea to the test October 10th.


The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee challenged China’s “excessive maritime claims” near the Paracel Islands by sailing close to but not within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese-occupied territories, Reuters introduced, citing multiple U.S. officials.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) transits the South China Sea before a replenishment-at-sea with fleet replenishment oiler USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104). (U.S. Navy Photo By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kryzentia Weiermann/ Released)

The Trump administration conducted two other freedom-of-navigation operations in May and August, challenging China’s claims to the Spratly and Paracel Islands. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in May, and the USS John McCain followed suit a few months later.

The U.S. has also conducted bomber overflights in the South China Sea, putting additional pressure on China.

The latest operation comes at a time when President Donald Trump is urging China to rein in North Korea to ensure stability on the peninsula. While China calls for dialogue, the president has made it clear that now is not the time for talk.

Many in the Trump administration have acknowledged that while North Korea is a serious short-term threat, China remains the greatest challenge to U.S. hegemony in the world.

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Here’s what it costs to fight ISIS (so bring your wallet)

Operation Inherent Resolve, the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, is now a year and a half old and has cost $6.2 billion. The Pentagon is asking for another $7.5 billion to continue the fight. The cost of the war against ISIS is relatively cheap (s0 far) when compared to the Iraq War, which came to almost $2 trillion over the eight years it was fought.


ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 2nd/11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) cautiously advance into a bunker area as they conduct a raid on the Hateen Weapons Complex in Babil, Iraq. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Edward Martens )

The war against ISIS isn’t going to get any cheaper, especially especially in light of the fact that it’s spreading to other countries like Libya and Afghanistan. Combating their forces on the ground will require more air power and more special operations units backed up by all the necessary logistics commands.

As of March 9, 2016, U.S. and coalition aircraft launched a total of 10,870 air strikes, with nearly twice as many in Iraq than in Syria. The strikes have hit a total of 21,501 targets, mostly buildings and ISIS fighting positions.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

The average daily cost of the operation is $11.5 million. The most expensive ops belong to the U.S. Air Force, a whopping 69 percent of the total cost.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

 

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9 ways to give Vietnam vets the welcome home they never received

The non-profit Vietnam Veterans of America was founded on the motto: “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”


The group is passionate about supporting their own because after they came home from fighting a war their country sent them to fight, they were largely unsupported and even treated with hostility.

Vietnam vets don’t need to hear “thank you for your service” as much as, “welcome home.” So whether you know someone who served in southeast Asia or happen to pass one on your way to work, here are 9 actions you can take to give them the welcome home they never received:

1. Listen to them and learn their stories

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp1AKwf1YB8

Taking the time to learn and understand the experiences a veteran goes through helps you to understand them and appreciate their sacrifices on much more personal level.

2. Write them a letter

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Photo: Guudmorning!/flickr

Giving a letter to a Vietnam veteran expressing your appreciation and support of what they sacrificed is something they can read on their own time and keep as a reminder that America ultimately cares about their era of service.

3. Give them a surprise welcome back

For extra effect,  do this on the anniversary of the day they returned home from the war. Check around at local veteran organizations; you may be able to be part of a larger homecoming celebration, like the one in this video.

4. Perform community service together

Having an experience of serving together, no matter how small, is a shared experience you will both appreciate.

5. Organize a reunion for them

This may take a lot of planning, but coordinating an event that brings together Vietnam veterans who served together is going above and beyond showing how much you appreciate their service.

6. Organize their photos / records / awards into a scrapbook or shadowbox

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Photo: Evert Barnes/flickr

Many vets have their memories in boxes or in storage somewhere. Ask to take them and display them so they will not be damaged but also displayed in an honorable way.

7. Give thanks by really helping them out

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/InSapphoWeTrust

Ask if there is are any errands and chores you can do or to get to know them more, or see if there is anywhere you can go (museum, hike, etc.).

8. Have a memorial for the fallen

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Photo: TimothyJ / flickr

By visiting a memorial with them or having one of your own together, show them you honor the fallen and will never forget them.

9. Invite them to speak at a school class or social function

Having a veteran speak in a history class or at a social community event is a great way to educate the younger generation and your community about the services and sacrifices service members make.

To all Vietnam veterans, welcome home from WATM.

SEE ALSO: Here’s how Hollywood legend Dale Dye earned the Bronze Star for heroism in Vietnam

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6 reasons Communists were the ultimate movie villain

The 1980s were a great time for movies. Hollywood could make any movie about anyone anywhere and it could feature this one built-in, believable villain: Communists.


No matter what the story was about, Commies could be counted on to try and stop American heroes from saving the day. They were the greatest gift to villainy since the handlebar mustache.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Which lets you know who the most evil men are.

Not only did we get an all-purpose, worldwide villain, we got a bad guy every red-blooded American could cheer on to take down. A Communist movie villain was the perfect foil for any hero.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Unless that hero spent most of the series fighting Nazis.

Sure, they weren’t all bad. Most Communist citizens probably just wanted to get on with their lives. But when their governments were bad, they were spectacular. There are many reasons for this.

1. Any wacky plan the Reds came up with was believable.

Whether they were doing something practical like creating a super quiet submarine or something stupid like trying to embarrass the United States by making Rocky Balboa fight Ivan Drago, we believed they would. Because they’re evil, right? Whatever it takes.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

In a way, we legitimately believed they would make that plan, because why not? We’re the center of the Universe and they’re trying to be number one, so they had to constantly one-up America in every way. The Russians are the people who built an actual doomsday device, after all.

2. There was nothing you could do about them.

Because what are you really going to do about it, start a nuclear war? Shut up.

We can’t have an all-out war, that would end civilization as we know it. So America just had to foil all of their insane little plots one by one, or hatch some harebrained scheme of our own, and you knew it would never go too far.

The CIA and KGB would just pretend it never happened.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYh9_QmNwRA

If you’re not familiar with the movie “Firefox,” it was about a jet built by the Russians that could fly six times the speed of sound and had weapons that could be controlled WITH YOUR MIND. Spoiler Alert: Clint Eastwood straight up STOLE IT from a Russian air base, shot down the second prototype, killing the pilot and the Russians didn’t do sh*t.

Only in the Cold War.

3. It made for interesting alliances.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Everyone’s least favorite Bond, working with the Muj.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend right? The U.S. intelligence community didn’t realize what they were building or how far Osama bin Laden would go with his new network. The entertainment community had no idea either, so we got to see Britain’s most popular spy working with the Afghan Mujahideen.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
The end of Rambo III then (left) and now (right)

Also, Rambo: America’s greatest movie fighting force dedicated the third act of his saga to the Mujahideen. Ouch. Talk about regretting the morning after…

4. It was cathartic.

After spending more than a decade with the struggle and subsequent stigma of the Vietnam War — coupled with the Détante-era perception that the U.S. was somehow losing the arms race, along with every other problem that plagued America – something had to give.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

A win against some commie scum was a welcome respite from the drudgery of real-world geopolitics, especially if you could do it with your high school classmates — which was apparently the mid-80s Gen-X American Dream.

5. The stakes were really high.

The contest is so much more satisfying to win when there’s something on the line. We’re only talking about world domination here.

6. No one could accuse you of being racist.

Being PC is difficult. Let’s face it, we all want to be respectful. There’s just a lot to keep straight.

Being part of a worldwide ideology, bent on taking over the Free World, Communists weren’t limited to Russia. They could be Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese, Korean, African, or Latin American.

Anyone could be a Commie, it didn’t matter what color their skin was, every Communist was red.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

This also worked for Nazis, Fascists, and pretty much anyone James Bond ever faced — who were all thoroughly evil. Hollywood needs a bad guy, and the Communists were the perfect fit. In America’s current politically correct culture, you can’t use an entire race or religion as the villain, even if Aaron Sorkin says it’s their turn.

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The first U.S. planes fly combat missions from a foreign ship since WWII

The Second World War saw extensive international cooperation amongst the allied militaries. US and UK aircraft and aircraft carriers conducted joint operations in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. In fact, the British even loaned an aircraft carrier to the U.S. Navy during WWII. Renamed USS Robin, HMS Victorious launched American aircraft into combat alongside her compliment of British aircraft. Despite continued partnerships in fights against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the 21st century, American warplanes have not flown combat missions from a foreign aircraft carrier again until now.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
American pilots of VF-3 pose aboard HMS Victorious/USS Robin (U.S. Navy)

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest vessel that the Royal Navy has ever put to sea. The 65,000-ton warship is the pride of the British fleet. Still, she is smaller than the Nimitz-class carriers sailed by the U.S. Navy. As such, her flight deck still requires a ramp to launch aircraft. This, however, is exactly the kind of operating environment that the F-35 Lightning II was designed for.

Capable of short-takeoffs and vertical-landings, the F-35B is flown by the Royal Air Force and Navy as well as the U.S. Marine Corps. Marine F-35Bs trained aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018 to validate interoperability. However, the assignment of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) to the Queen Elizabeth marks the first combat deployment and sortie of American warplanes from a foreign carrier since WWII.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
US and UK F-35Bs aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth (Royal Navy)

The 10 F-35Bs from VMFA-211 are joined by 8 F-35Bs of the RAF’s 617 Squadron, the famous “Dambusters.” It is the largest deployment of the F-35 to date.

On June 22, 2021, the Ministry of Defence announced that an undisclosed number of US and UK F-35Bs flew combat missions against ISIS from HMS Queen Elizabeth. The missions were flown in support of Operations Shader and Inherent Resolve. The MoD did not specify the locations of the missions or the targets that were struck. Also on June 22, the Marines announced that the blended air wing began combat operations on June 18.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
A U.S. Marine F-35B conducts carrier qualifications aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth (U.S. Marine Corps)

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the lead ship of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group 21. British Secretary of State for Defence described the carrier strike group as, “the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation.” The seven-month, 30,000-mile mission will take it to 40 countries through the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The carrier strike group includes a U.S. destroyer and a Dutch frigate and is expected to transit the South China Sea as a show of force.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
An F-35B launches from the HMS Queen Elizabeth in the ship’s first operational use of embarked air power (MoD)

Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Zachary Bodner

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Russia is bringing back the world’s largest surface combatant

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Russia is in the middle of a massive overhaul of it’s aged, but still dangerous navy. | Photo by Mitsuo Shibata via Wikimedia Commons


Developed in the late 1970s, Russia’s Kirov-class battle cruisers are the largest and heaviest surface-combat ships in the world — and they’re coming back with advanced weaponry, according to Russia’s Tass news agency.

At more than 800 feet long, with a displacement of around 25,000 tons, the Kirov dwarfs any navy ship short of an amphibious assault ship or aircraft carriers. But only one, the Pyotr Veliky, is still in service.

Russian media says that another aging Kirov-class hull, the Admiral Nakhimov, is being fitted with Russia’s newest antiship, antiair, and surface-to-surface missiles.

Russia intends to return the Admiral Nakhimov to its fleet in 2019, at which time the Pyotr Veliky will be docked to undergo the same upgrades.

These include missiles of the Kalibr variety that recently hit targets in Syria from the Caspian Sea, Zircon hypersonic missiles, which are slated to be ready by 2020, and a “navalized” version of Russia’s S-400 missile-defense system, according to Foxtrot Alpha.

To accommodate these missiles, Russia plans to overhaul the ship’s vertical-launch systems. That contract alone is worth 2.56 billion rubles, or $33.5 million, NavyRecognition.com notes.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Aerial starboard view of the foredeck of a Kirov-class ship shows four single 30 mm Gatling guns (in purple), two pop-up (lowered) SA-N-4 SAM launchers (in red), 20 SS-N-19 cruise-missile launchers (in green), 12 SA-N-6 SAM launchers (in blue), and one twin SS-N-14 antisubmarine warfare/surface-to-surface missile launcher (in yellow). These weapons systems will be updated by 2020, Russia claims. | US Navy photo

As with all Russian military expenditures, outsiders have trouble imagining how the struggling petro-state will pay for them.

Though the Russian navy has hit several setbacks before, the Kremlin seems hell-bent on revitalizing its navy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Saudis want a nuclear program of their own

The US recently opened talks with Saudi Arabia to potentially allow the Gulf country to enrich and process uranium within its borders, a move that could be driven by the growing threat of Iran.


Early March 2018, Energy Secretary Rick Perry led a delegation in London to discuss the conditions of the potential nuclear deal, Associated Press reported.

It’s possible the deal, which could allow US firms to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, may waive a US government prerequisite — called a 123 Agreement— that ensures countries agree to the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
United States Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The talks come as President Donald Trump focuses on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the country’s role as a threat in the Middle East.

Despite the 2015 Iran Nuclear deal, which significantly reduced the country’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, some officials are concerned that Iran’s facilities could still lead to the creation of nuclear weapons.

Also read: For first time in 70 years, Saudi Arabia may grant Israel access to airspace

As the world focuses on Iran, Saudi’s nuclear ambitions continued to expand, leading experts to draw connections in the timeline of Iran and Saudi Arabia’s heightened nuclear ambitions.

Saudi Arabia sees an opportunity to get on par with its nuclear nemesis Iran

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Experts say Saudi Arabia’s renewed push towards nuclear power is linked to Iran’s growing threat in the Middle East.

“It is hard not to draw conclusions regarding Saudi Arabia’s interest in nuclear power given how much it views Iran as a regional threat,” Lydia Khalil, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute, told Business Insider.

Khalil points to Saudi Arabia’s desire for a modified 123 Agreement with the US as evidence of the kingdom’s close eye on Iran’s nuclear program.

“Iran’s ability to enrich uranium for energy has impacted Saudi Arabia’s decision in that they argue that they should be treated no differently than other countries,” Khalil said.

In 2011, a Saudi prince expressed concern over Iran’s nuclear capabilities and said the kingdom could consider its own nuclear weapons if both Iran and Israel eventually had nuclear weapons. That stance was reportedly reiterated by officials in 2012.

Khalil explained that if the Saudi-US deal did not include crucial restrictions on uranium enrichment as typically required with American-brokered deals, the nation certainly has the capacity to pursue nuclear weapons “as any determined country would.”

Related: Saudi Arabia is paying $15 billion for this advanced anti-missile system

Additionally, without putting clear restrictions on enrichment towards weapons in place, Saudi Arabia could weaken nonproliferation protocols throughout the region, opening up the possibility for a nuclear arms race.

“Given [Crown Prince] Mohammed Bin Salman’s unpredictable foreign policy and domestic policy decisions of late and his current unilateral hold on power — who knows where this can all lead in the future.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban returns American and Australian hostages in prisoner swap

An American and an Australian who were held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for over three years were freed Nov. 19, 2019, as part of a prisoner swap.

The State Department said in a statement on Nov. 19, 2019, that the American Kevin King, 63, and the Australian Timothy Weeks, 50, were “successfully recovered” in the morning and were in the custody of the US military.

The department added that both men would soon be reunited with their families.

Weeks and King were teachers at the American University of Afghanistan in the capital of Kabul and were kidnapped at gunpoint outside the university in August 2016. The two men were held hostage for over three years.


In 2017, the Taliban released a propaganda video showing the two men in black robes and looking disheveled. In the video, the men discussed their time in captivity and urged their governments to negotiate with the Taliban to secure their release.

In a statement in 2017, the Taliban said King was “gravely ill” and needed urgent care.

The State Department said the Taliban released the professors as a “goodwill measure.” The department added that the Taliban intended to release 10 Afghan prisoners, and the Afghan government intended to release three Taliban prisoners as part of the exchange.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

Pictures taken in 2014 by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security that officials said showed Anas Haqqani, left, a senior leader of the Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, and Hafiz Rashid, another commander.

(National Directorate of Security)

The men released as part of the swap were senior members of Haqqani network, which is linked to Al Qaeda.

“We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement,” the State Department said.

Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said that the Australian government was “profoundly relieved” by the agreement and thanked the Trump administration and the Afghan government for their assistance.

“We regard this release as one of a series of confidence-building measures that are taking place in Afghanistan,” she said.

Payne added that Weeks’ family had “asked for privacy” but conveyed that they felt “relief that their long ordeal is over.”

According to The Washington Post, the Afghan government initially said the pair appeared to have been kidnapped by a criminal gang. The Pentagon and Navy SEALs also unsuccessfully attempted to rescue the two men in a botched mission in eastern Afghanistan.

The US had kickstarted talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in September 2019 but abandoned talks after a Taliban attack in Kabul killed a US soldier.

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

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The famous Civil War surrender painting isn’t at the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex. It houses treasures of American history like Rockwell illustrations, Lincoln’s top hat and even an Apollo 11 moon rock. However, despite the institute’s best efforts, one piece of iconic American history does not reside at the Smithsonian.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
Peace in Union on display (Miguel Ortiz)

Nearly every American schoolchild has seen the painting of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. The image has graced the pages of American history textbooks for generations. The original 9’x12′ canvas is not at the Smithsonian, though. It doesn’t even belong to the Smithsonian. Rather, the painting belongs to the Galena Historical Society in Galena, Illinois and is on display at their Galena & U.S. Grant Museum.

On April 9, 1895, “Peace in Union” (no, it’s not called “Surrender at Appomattox”) was finished and signed by artist Thomas Nast. Nast was commissioned by Chicago newspaperman and former Galena resident Herman Kohlsaat to paint the historical event.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
“General Grant on the Battlefield” depicts Grant’s arrival at Chattanooga (Miguel Ortiz)

Nast was a German-born caricaturist and editorial cartoonist. He has been called the “Father of the American Cartoon” for creating the modern version of Santa Claus and the political symbol of the elephant for the Republican Party. His work also popularized the images of Uncle Sam, Columbia and the donkey of the Democratic Party.

Upon his commissioning, Nast began two years of intense research on the surrender and the people who were present. He read up on Grant’s generals to portray them as accurately as possible in his painting, and it shows. Some show relief in their tired faces for the end of the long and bloody war. Others show reverence for Grant and his leadership that brought the conflict to a close. Still others show contempt for Lee and his confederacy of rebels and traitors.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
The first Union to flag to fly over the Vicksburg courthouse after the siege ended (Miguel Ortiz)

Of course, the focus of the painting is the exchange between Lee and Grant. Per his reputation, Lee changed into his best uniform for the surrender at the courthouse. Grant, fittingly, had on a worn jacket and scuffed boots straight from the battlefield. Aside from the significance of the event portrayed, details like these make “Peace in Union” one of the greatest works of art in American history.

Representatives from the Smithsonian have tried at least three times to convince the Galena Historical Society to sell the oil painting to them. Every visit to the small Illinois town has been unsuccessful though. No amount of money will allow the people of Galena to part with “Peace in Union.” Although Grant and his family lived in Galena for only a year before the start of the Civil War, he would consider it home for the remainder of his life and the town of Galena is extremely proud of that fact.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
The flag that was reportedly flown from the USS Lawrence at the Battle of Lake Erie (Miguel Ortiz)

Along with this national treasure, the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum hosts other artifacts of American history. Another article from the Civil War, the museum houses the first Union flag raised over the courthouse of Vicksburg, Mississippi when the siege ended on July 4, 1863. Grant gave the honor of raising the flag to the men of the 45th Illinois who brought the flag home to Galena as a souvenir. Another flag in the museum is said to have been saved from the USS Lawrence at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. It was reportedly given to Hezekiah Gear for his service in the war and brought to Galena when he moved there later in his life. To see these pieces alone, a trip to Galena is well worth your time.

ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul
(Galena & U.S. Grant Museum)
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The cast of ‘Star Trek’ goes to the White House to say thanks to troops and families

On July 19, the stars of Paramount’s “Star Trek Beyond” joined First Lady Michelle Obama in hosting more than 100 service members, veterans and their families for an advance screening of the upcoming film.


The screening was a part of the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative. The cast dropped in as part of their publicity blitz for the movie’s July 21 premiere. This was an exceptional screening for the cast, as the Star Trek franchise has always held members of the military and their families in high esteem.

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Have you ever seen anyone so happy?

The previous Star Trek film, “Star Trek Into Darkness” was dedicated to The Mission Continues, an organization dedicated to helping troops as they return home from war. It featured cameos from several veterans dressed as Starfleet officers in the film’s final scenes. Members of the cast also showed the first film of the Star Trek reboot series to active-duty service members in Kuwait.

At the White House, Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, and Karl Urban were humble in their brief introductions to the film and the First Lady. The actors joked that the veterans made better actors than the Hollywood stars.

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In her remarks at the screening, the First Lady highlighted the important role that military families — especially the children of service members — play in allowing active duty servicemen and women to do their jobs. She ended with the Vulcan salute and a heartfelt “May the force be with you!” (wrong movie, of course) to the delight of the crowd.

 

For the cast, the screening was a small way to thank service members and their families. They also seemed a little star struck themselves; Urban interrupted Pine’s speech with an excited “We just met the first lady!” Pine referred to them as “a bunch of 8-year-olds” while touring the White House.

Pine, Pegg and Urban stuck around after the showing for photo ops and to say thank you to the veterans and their families.

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Simon Pegg with Coast Guard veteran and WATM contributor Mary-Elizabeth Pratt

“Star Trek Beyond” premieres in the U.S. on July 21.

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