New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult - We Are The Mighty
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New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

A report released Aug. 19 from a Washington, D.C.-based think tank tracked how North Korea reacts to annual military exercises conducted by the U.S. and South Korea.


The result? Kim Jong Un is using the drills as an excuse to act out.

The study conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies doesn’t say exactly that, but what it found was a pattern of behavior during the rule of Kim Jong-Il, and another quite different reaction after the younger Kim Jong Un took the reins of power.

“The study shows that annual joint exercises do not provoke North Korea despite such claims in the media and from North Korea,” Victor Cha, CSIS Korea Chair and former director for Asian affairs at the White House’s National Security Council, told the Wall Street Journal.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
U.S. Soldiers set up a support by fire line alongside their Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Soldier counterparts when reacting to enemy contact during a platoon live fire training blank iteration on Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, near the DMZ, Republic of Korea, March 21, 2015, during joint training exercise Foal Eagle 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

But the younger Kim says the annual war games are a provocation, and the cantankerous dictator routinely flies off the handle and issues wild  threats and warnings in the days leading up to the exercises.

His father, on the other hand, did not respond to the drills the same way. Tensions surrounding joint exercises like Foal Eagle, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, and Key Resolve are significantly more potent since the elder Kim suffered a stroke in 2008.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
U.S. Soldiers move a casualty toward a designated casualty collection point (CCP) with their Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Soldier counterparts near the DMZ, Republic of Korea, March 21, 2015. The training was conducted during joint training exercise Foal Eagle 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

On top of determining a pattern of behavior around U.S. military exercises, the study also uncovered other key findings.

The first is that the exercises have no lasting impact on relations between North Korea and the United States. When the six-party de-denuclearization talks were still held regularly, the games didn’t change the timing or agenda of the talks.

The report also says that the North “compartmentalizes” its response to the annual war games versus other ongoing issues with the U.S. or South Korea.

Cha also told the Wall Street Journal Kim Jong Un uses the games as a way to spin a yarn to his people that the U.S. military is the destabilizing force on the peninsula and the Korean regime under his leadership is the only bulwark against American aggression.

The report should be welcome news for the U.S. military, who maintain an extensive presence on the Korean Peninsula and have since the end of the Korean War.

“It’s not the exercises,” Cha said, “but the state of diplomacy in the weeks prior that will tell them whether North Korea will do something big in retaliation.”

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DARPA designed a kit to make any plane or helicopter a drone

Move over, Jennifer Garner, there is a new ALIAS that’s more awesome than the show you were on for five seasons. This one, though, has been developed by DARPA, not JJ Abrams.


According to a report from Voactiv.com, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has unveiled the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System. This system, already tested on the Cessna C-208 Caravan, the Sikorsky S-76 and the Diamond DA-42, took about six months to develop through Phase 2 of the program.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
A three-man Iraqi aircrew from Squadron 3 fired an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Caravan at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base. (Photo: courtesy Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs)

Two versions of ALIAS were competing for the development contract. One was from Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, the other was from Aurora Flight Systems. Both versions involve the use of a tablet computer (like an iPad or Kindle Fire) to fly the plane.

“In Phase 2, we exceeded our original program objectives with two performers, Sikorsky and Aurora Flight Sciences, each of which conducted flight tests on two different aircraft,” DARPA program manager Scott Wierzbanowski said in a release.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
The Queens Helicopter Flight S-76 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

DARPA selected Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky’s version for Phase 3 of the ALIAS program. Their version of ALIAS can be installed under the cabin floor, not taking up any space in the aircraft or helicopter, while quickly connecting to the flight systems of the plane or helicopter. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and NASA have all expressed interest in this system.

For a sneak peek at one way this system could work, here is a video released by Aurora Flight Systems:

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This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War

Mark Bowden is one of the greatest investigative reporters of our age.


“Black Hawk Down,” his exhaustive work on the experience of U.S. troops in Mogadishu, brought renewed attention to the oft-forgotten story. It also resulted in the film, which remains a favorite of the military-veteran community.

His most recent book, “Hué 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam,” is just as exhaustive and compelling. The book is a master work, five years in the making.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Mark Bowden signs books while visiting the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

The Battle of Hué was the longest and costliest fight of the entire Tet Offensive. On the morning of Jan. 31, 1968, a coordinated attack from 8,000 North Vietnamese Army Regulars, Viet Cong infiltrators, and Vietnamese civilians quickly captured much of the city in a single night.

American and South Vietnamese troops were woefully outnumbered in Hué. Facing the Communist forces there were the ARVN 1st Infantry Division and 200 of their American and Australian advisors at the MACV compound. By the time the sun came up that day, the Communists controlled the city south of the Huong River – except the MACV compound.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
A view from a Marine machine gun position on the outer Citadel wall of Hué City during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The Marines from MACV would have to go on the offensive, fighting their way across the river to rescue the brilliant and highly-respected ARVN General Ngô Quang Truong and what remained of his 1st Infantry. Then they had to expel the Communists from the area.

Hué would become a case study in urban combat, the first time since the Korean War the Marines would fight in a city like that. The battle lasted almost a month, turning 40 percent of the city’s buildings to rubble and costing the lives of 380 ARVN troops, 147 Marines, 74 U.S. Army soldiers, 8,000 Communists, and more than 5,800 civilians.

It was also the turning point in American popular support for the war.

Bowden’s book covers the history of the war until that point, especially from 30,000-foot view from the White House and General William Westmoreland’s MACV Headquarters. What’s truly unique and fascinating about Bowden’s style is the personal narratives that drive the history of the story.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara was the architect of early Vietnam War strategy.

“Hué 1968” is a gripping tapestry of nonfiction storytelling, with personal stories of people on the ground woven into the history and politics of the war. The enemy is no longer a nameless, faceless mass of targets; the NVA and VC are characters in the story of the war in Vietnam, with names, families, and lives. With these stories comes the understanding of why the McNamara doctrine of “limited warfare” would never have worked against the Vietnamese.

The book gives the eyewitness account of a young Vietnamese girl who turns on the southern regime and becomes a Viet Cong operative just as much as it follows the junior enlisted Marine radio operator Jim Coolican, who was stationed at the MACV compound. Personal narratives from every side of the conflict continue like this throughout the book.

Bowden traces the details of a young VC as he traverses the Ho Chi Minh trail and moves to infiltrate the city. He even painstakingly documents the “logistics miracle” – as one U.S. Navy captain called it – of the Tet Offensive’s movement of men and weapons into South Vietnam.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
NVA and VC soldiers assault the city of Hué in South Vietnam, January 1968.

If you know the history of the Vietnam War, you know what’s coming in the Tet Offensive and it keeps you turning pages. No matter how familiar you are, you get to see the war from all sides – the NVA, the VC, ARVN leadership, American troops, American leadership, even Ho Chi Minh and North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap’s points of view are covered in remarkable detail.

The fall of Hué was the most successful attack of the entire Tet Offensive and even then the city was retaken by Feb. 24. Both sides bought into their own propaganda. The Communists believed that the South was ready to rise against the despotic Thieu regime and expel the Americans — they just needed a hand to get started.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Viet Cong forces climb on an abandoned U.S.-built Marine Armored Vehicle during the Battle of Hué.

The north came to depend on that uprising for the long-term success of the Offensive. The Americans and South Vietnamese were caught off guard because they thought the enemy was weak and could not launch an attack on that scale, let alone capture a city like Hué.

Until the Tet Offensive, a majority of Americans believed the war was going well and believed government officials who used statistics and body counts to insist that American involvement could soon come to an end. Body counts weren’t the metric used by the Communists. For the north, their success was defined by killing or wounding as many Americans as possible, destroying the ARVN, and inciting a popular uprising in the South.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Marines hold a Viet Cong flag they ripped down from the provincial headquarters in Hué.

The United States claimed a military victory in Hué but Hanoi would never be intimidated by a limited war. The prolonged violence and media bias against the war after the Tet Offensive eroded public support for it as well.

The U.S. began a strategic withdrawal from Vietnam the next year and left completely in 1973. South Vietnam fell to the Communists just two years later. Hué was just the beginning of the end.

Mark Bowden is an award-winning author and correspondent for The Atlantic. He is also a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. Filmmakers Michael Mann and Michael De Luca (who produced the 1995 heist movie “Heat”) purchased the rights to “Hué 1968” and plan to turn the book into a miniseries.

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US pushes ‘enhanced deterrence’ approach to North Korea

North Korea and the U.S. flexed their military muscles April 25 as Pyongyang marked the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army — without testing a nuclear weapon or conducting a major missile test.


Instead, amid soaring tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the nuclear-armed North carried out large-scale, live-fire drills in areas around the city of Wonsan on the country’s east coast, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said.

The Yonhap news agency said the drill, which involved 300-400 artillery pieces, was overseen by leader Kim Jong Un and was thought to be the “largest ever.”

Some observers had anticipated the regime would test an atomic bomb on the occasion.

The massive live-fire drills came the same day a U.S. guided-missile nuclear submarine arrived in South Korea and as diplomats from the United States, Japan, and South Korea gathered in Tokyo for a trilateral dialogue aimed at discussing measures to “maximize” pressure on the North over its nuclear and missile programs.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. Described as ‘nuclear-capable’, its first test flight was on Feb. 12, 2017. (Photo: KCNA/Handout)

Kenji Kanasugi, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told reporters that the three countries had agreed to further cooperate in their effort to take “resolute” actions against nuclear provocations by the North.

Also read: The tension between North Korea and the US is not good

Kanasugi said the trio also shared the recognition that China — North Korea’s largest trade partner — had a “significant” role to play in reining in Pyongyang’s saber-rattling. He did not elaborate.

South Korea’s envoy on North Korean nuclear issues, Kim Hong-kyun, warned that Pyongyang’s failure to discontinue its missile and atomic tests will be met with “unbearable” punitive sanctions, and that the three countries will seek to “maximize” pressure against the reclusive state.

This could come in the form of tightened oil exports to the North by China, something reports in Chinese state-run media have alluded to in recent days.

Kanasugi is scheduled to meet his visiting Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, special representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, on May 3. In meeting with Wu, Kanasugi said he will discuss the possibility of China cutting off its supply of oil to North Korea.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
One of the most threatening things in the North’s arsenal is its powerful conventional artillery, with hundreds of these 170mm Koksan guns threatening South Korea. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)

The three envoys said they would “continue to work very closely with China” and “coordinate all actions — diplomatic, military, economic — regarding North Korea,” Joseph Yun, special representative for North Korea policy from the U.S., told reporters after the meeting.

“We really do not believe North Korea is ready to engage us toward denuclearization,” Yun said. “We make clear among ourselves that denuclearlization remains the goal and we very much want North Korea to take steps toward that.”

Meanwhile, the USS Michigan — one of the largest submarines in the world — arrived at the South Korean port city of Busan “for a routine visit during a regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific,” U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement.

The vessel, which began service as a ballistic missile sub but was converted to a land-based attack vessel in the early 2000s, can carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles and embark up to 66 special operations personnel, according to the U.S. Navy.

The move came less than three weeks after the U.S. launched a barrage of 59 cruise missiles against a Syrian military target in response to a chemical weapons attack by that country’s regime.

That strike was also seen by some as sending a message to Pyongyang that military action remains a credible option for Washington in dealing with the North.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

The Michigan may have been what U.S. President Donald Trump was referring to in an April 11 interview with the Fox Business Network in which he described powerful submarines that were to link up with a U.S. “armada” — led by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier — that was heading toward the region.

“We are sending an armada, very powerful,” Trump said. “We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That I can tell you.”

Related: Here is what a war with North Korea could look like

On April 23, the Maritime Self-Defense Force held joint drills with the Carl Vinson and its escort vessels in the Western Pacific as the carrier strike group made its way toward the Sea of Japan.

The Trump administration had in recent days faced criticism over the strike group’s whereabouts after officials had portrayed it as steaming toward the Korean Peninsula when it was, in fact, still thousands of kilometers away.

The carrier group’s last reported location was in the Philippine Sea on April 23.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
The USS Carl Vinson sails during a training mission in the Pacific on July 17, 2016. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D’Andre L. Roden)

The North has called the moves “undisguised military blackmail” and a dangerous action that plunges the peninsula into a “touch-and-go situation.”

“If the enemies recklessly provoke the DPRK, its revolutionary armed forces will promptly give deadly blows to them and counter any total war with all-out war and nuclear war with a merciless nuclear strike of Korean style,” the North’s ruling party newspaper Rodong Shinmun said April 24. DPRK stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

International concern that the North is preparing for its sixth atomic test or a major missile launch has surged in recent months as the Kim’s regime butts heads with Trump.

Speaking to a gathering of United Nations Security Council ambassadors in Washington on April 24, Trump pushed for more pressure on the North, saying that maintaining the status quo was “unacceptable” and the council should take action to tighten the screws on Pyongyang with additional sanctions.

Further reading: How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

Trump said the North “is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not.”

“People have put blindfolds on for decades, and now it’s time to solve the problem,” he added.

Also April 24, the White House confirmed reports that it would host a briefing on the North Korean nuclear issue for all 100 U.S. senators. Press secretary Sean Spicer said the briefing would be delivered by four top administration officials: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Potential ranges for North Korea’s ballistic missile program. (Center for Strategic and International Studies/Missile Defense Project)

While administration officials often travel to Capitol Hill to speak with Congress about policy issues, it is rare for the entire Senate to visit the White House.

Earlier April 24, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, threatened military strikes on the North if Kim orders attacks on any military base in the U.S. or in allied countries, or tests a long-range missile.

“We’re not going to do anything unless he gives us a reason to do something. So our goal is not to start a fight,” Haley said on NBC’s “Today” when asked if the U.S. is seriously considering a preemptive strike against the North.

However, when pressed on what would prompt a U.S. military response, Haley appeared to draw a line in the sand.

“If you see him attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile. Then obviously we’re going to do that,” she said. “But right now, we’re saying, ‘Don’t test, don’t use nuclear missiles, don’t try and do any more actions’ and I think he’s understanding that.”

North Korea has kicked its weapons programs into overdrive over the last 16 months, conducting two nuclear blasts and a spate of new missile tests.

In one particularly worrisome development for Japan, the North conducted a near-simultaneous launch of four extended-range Scud missiles in March as a rehearsal for striking U.S. military bases in the country.

Experts who analyzed photographs of the drill told The Japan Times at the time that the hypothetical target of those test-launches appeared to be U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture — meant as a simulated nuclear attack on the base. The exercise showed the North’s first explicit intent to attack U.S. Forces in Japan, they said.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
The largest part of the military is the Korean People’s Army Ground Force, which includes about 1.2 million active personnel and millions more civilians who are effectively reservists. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)

In the event of conflict on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. troops and equipment from Iwakuni would likely be among the first deployed.

Also April 24, the U.S. State Department announced that Tillerson will chair a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss North Korea. That meeting is widely seen as an effort to drum up support for increased pressure on the North.

“The DPRK poses one of the gravest threats to international peace and security through its pursuit of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other weapons of mass destruction as well as its other prohibited activities,” the State Department said in a statement.

“The meeting will give Security Council members an opportunity to discuss ways to maximize the impact of existing Security Council measures and show their resolve to respond to further provocations with appropriate new measures.”

Analysts said the White House was taking a multipronged approach to the issue as it ratchets up pressure on Pyongyang.

“Clearly, the Trump administration is looking to employ a swarm-tactic approach to apply pressure on North Korea through a combination of levers,” said J. Berkshire Miller, a Tokyo-based international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.

Miller, however, said that while this might look as if it was a new way of tackling the nuclear issue, it differed little from the approach taken by Trump’s predecessor.

“While it may appear that Trump has a newly defined approach to the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, the reality is that his administration is still largely following the path of the Obama administration through an ‘enhanced deterrence’ approach,” Miller said.

“The pace and scope of joint exercises with South Korea and Japan may be increasing — as are political consultations — but there still has been no demonstrable change in the U.S. approach, except the loose talk and uncoordinated planning, as evidenced by the USS Vinson deployment flap.”

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US defenses get pressured by North Korean missile advances

North Korea’s newly demonstrated missile muscle puts Alaska within range of potential attack and stresses the Pentagon’s missile defenses like never before. Even more worrisome, it may be only a matter of time before North Korea makes an even longer-range ICBM with a nuclear warhead, putting all of the United States at risk.


The Pentagon has spent tens of billions to develop what it calls a limited defense against missiles capable of reaching US soil. The system has never faced combat or been fully tested. The system succeeded May 30 in its first attempted intercept of a mock ICBM, but it hasn’t faced more realistic conditions.

Although Russia and China have long been capable of targeting the US with a nuclear weapon, North Korea is seen as the bigger, more troubling threat. Its opaque, unpredictable government often confounds US intelligence assessments. And North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has openly threatened to strike the US, while showing no interest in nuclear or missile negotiations.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

“We should be worried,” said Philip E. Coyle III, a former head of the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office. North Korea’s latest success, he said, “shows that time is not on our side.”

US officials believe North Korea is still short of being able to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to fit atop an intercontinental missile. And it’s unclear whether it has developed the technology and expertise to sufficiently shield such a warhead from the extreme heat experienced when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere en route to a target.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said July 5, “We’ve still not seen a number of things that would indicate a full-up threat,” including a demonstrated ability to mate a nuclear warhead to an ICBM. “But clearly they are working on it. Clearly they seek to do it. This is an aggressive research and development program on their part.”

Davis said the US defensive system is limited but effective.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
The THAAD missile system. | Lockheed Martin photo

“We do have confidence in it,” he said. “That’s why we’ve developed it.”

The Trump administration, like its recent predecessors, has put its money on finding a diplomatic path to halting and reversing North Korea’s nuclear program. While the Pentagon has highly developed plans if military force is ordered, the approach is seen as untenable because it would put millions of South Korean civilians at risk.

But diplomacy has failed so far. That’s why US missile defenses may soon come into play.

The Pentagon has a total of 36 missile interceptors in underground silos on military bases in Alaska and California, due to increase to 44 by year’s end. These interceptors can be launched upon notice of a missile headed toward the United States. An interceptor soars toward its target based on tracking data from radars and other electronic sensors, and is supposed to destroy the target by sheer force of impact outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Sometimes likened to hitting a bullet with a bullet, the collision is meant to incinerate the targeted warhead, neutralizing its nuclear explosive power.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
A long-range ground-based interceptor launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. DoD photo by Senior Airman Robert J. Volio

This so-called hit-to-kill technology has been in development for decades. For all its advances, the Pentagon is not satisfied that the current defensive system is adequate for North Korea’s accelerating missile advances.

“The pace of the threat is advancing faster than I think was considered when we did the first ballistic missile defense review back in 2010,” Rob Soofer, who is helping review missile defenses, told a Senate Armed Service subcommittee last month. Beyond what US officials have said publicly about the North Korean nuclear threat, he said the classified picture “is even more dire.” Soofer didn’t provide details.

The escalating danger has led the administration to consider alternative concepts for missile defense, including what is known as “boost phase” defense. This approach involves destroying a hostile missile shortly after its launch, before the warhead separates from the missile body and decoys can be deployed. One proposed tactic would be to develop a drone capable of long-endurance flight and armed with a solid-state laser to destroy or disable a missile in flight.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

These and other possible new approaches would add to budget strains already felt in the missile defense program.

President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would cut $340 million from missile defense programs intended to deter a potential strike by North Korea, Iran or other countries. The Republican-led Congress has taken the first steps in rejecting the reduction. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R- Texas, the House Armed Services Committee chairman, declared last month that he was “astonished” Trump would propose trimming missile defense.

Thornberry’s committee voted last week to provide about $12.5 billion for missile defense in the 2018 fiscal year that begins in October, nearly $2.5 billion more than Trump’s request. The Senate Armed Services Committee also called for millions more than Trump requested. The full House and Senate are expected to consider the committees’ legislation, and the boost in missile defense money, later this month.

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These Combat Tracker teams were America’s secret weapon in Vietnam

As American forces became embroiled in the conflict in Vietnam it was quickly apparent to commanders that they were fighting a war for which they were not prepared.


The guerrilla warfare and hit-and-run tactics of the Viet Cong were difficult to counter, especially for conventional forces. Luckily, our allies, the British, had already developed a tactic that they had used to great effect in Malaya.

Facing a communist insurgency of their own, but with limited resources, the British had developed specialized teams to track the enemy through the jungle and destroy them. This tactic was so effective the British would employ it against insurgencies all across the empire.

Knowing the French tactics had been insufficient, and not wanting to meet the same fate, Gen. Westmoreland sent observers to the British Jungle Warfare School in Malaya to see if the tactics could be adopted by American forces.

Impressed by what they saw the Americans made a deal for the British to train fourteen teams, to be known as Combat Tracker Teams, at the British Jungle Warfare School. Due to British neutrality, the soldiers to be trained traveled on official government passports and used only British gear while in training so as to maintain secrecy and low-visibility.

The basic organization of the Combat Tracker Teams consisted of two to four sections of five-men. The section was composed of a team leader, a visual tracker, a cover man, a radio operator, and a dog handler with a well-trained Labrador retriever. Not typical for combat operations the Labs were highly-effective in Vietnam. They were effective trackers, quiet in the field, and, most importantly, due to their even-temperament could more easily change handlers – a prized-quality for an army rotating men out of country, but often heart-breaking for their handlers.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Australian soldiers helped Americans train for combat tracking tactics in Vietnam. (Photo Bryan Campbell via Flickr)

The teams were in for intense training once they arrived in Malaya. For the dog handlers training was three months long, for everyone else it was two months. The cadre consisted of British and New Zealand SAS as well as Gurkhas, who usually played the enemy to add to the realism. Wash out rates were high.

The initial address to the trainees was often quite shocking to them. They were told the problem with the American army was that it was more focused on rank than knowledge. And that by the time they were done, they would feel more at home in the jungle than the North Vietnamese themselves.

After surviving the grueling training, the first teams returned to Vietnam in 1967 to be assigned to combat units. The team assigned to the 101st Airborne Division was told they must go through the division’s finishing school before they would be allowed in the field. Part-way through the first day it became obvious to the cadre that the trackers knew more than they could possibly teach them and they were passed through the course on the spot.

According to their group’s website, once in country, the Combat Tracker Teams were to “reestablish contact with the ‘elusive enemy’; reconnaissance of an area for possible enemy activities; and locate lost or missing friendly personnel.”

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Americans in Vietnam adopted a tactic used by the British for decades during their insurgent wars throughout the empire. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Once the troops hit the ground, they knew why their trainers had pushed them so hard – keeping up with a dog in the jungle while staying absolutely silent, as well as being alert and constantly ready for action is very hard work.

But that work paid off for the Americans. It was common to hear from the grunts about how the enemy could just “melt back into the jungle.” And that was where the trackers came in. Pushing out well ahead of the line infantry units no detail was too small for either the visual tracker or the working dog to pick up.

John Dupla, a combat tracker with the 1st Cavalry Division, said “we were taught to develop a sixth sense, utilizing methods Native American scouts used, such as looking for broken twigs and turned over leaves and rocks.”

Depending on the conditions and situation either the visual tracker or the dog handler and his lab would lead the team. Always right behind him was the cover man. Since the point person’s attention was focused on searching for trails and clues the cover man became his lookout, providing protection.

Although the unit’s mission was often not to directly engage the enemy, sometimes it was unavoidable. As one combat tracker related “if you got into something, you shot your way out.” Ideally, the trackers would locate the enemy and call the infantry behind them into the fight.

However, as the Viet Cong became aware of the effectiveness of the trackers they sought ways to counter them. Retreating groups would often send a contingent off in a different direction to draw the trackers away from the main force and into an ambush. One Combat Tracker Team lost their visual tracker and cover man to enemy snipers in this manner.

In a further effort to disrupt the trackers, and a sure sign of their effectiveness, the North Vietnamese put out bounties on their heads. The fear they struck in the enemy gave the trackers great pride.

Despite their effectiveness many American commanders simply did not understand how to properly employ the trackers. Their small size and the secrecy of their training meant few in the infantry understood how they operated. They were sometimes thought of as scouts and to simply walk point for a larger formation.

The program was disbanded in 1971 as American drew down forces in Vietnam. The trackers were broken up and folded into their parent infantry units. Veiled in secrecy and lacking the notoriety of Special Forces the legacy of the Combat Tracker Teams quietly faded away.

There is no doubt though that the Combat Tracker Teams were effective, saved lives, and made life much harder for the enemy.

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Top 6 tactical holiday gifts

From a spin on the traditional gift of socks to the ultimate knife and shades, here are six gifts perfect for military, police and fire professionals, as well as folks that love to spend their spare time shooting, hunting and in the great outdoors.


New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Gerber Short Stack | Gerber

Gerber Short Stack

Gerber Short Stack is perfect for go bags, gun cases AND Christmas stockings.

It’s an innovative, field-expedient weapons maintenance tool- specifically for the M4 – that goes wherever your rifle does.

You need your gun to work, and that means you need to take care of it. This is the perfect stocking stuffer for soldier, cop, or civilian with an AR-15.

Related: Inside a Navy SEAL’s world record flight

Whether you are stuffing a stocking for someone whose daily job requires going into harm’s way, or for someone who has invested in a quality weapon, Gerber Short Stack is a great choice.

Launched about five months ago, the tool is priced at $54.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Gatorz Wraptor | Gatorz

GATORZ Shades

For tactical folks, New Year’s Eve is a chance to play hard after working hard. After being over served bourbon, shades may be in order the next day.

With a host of GATORZ shades to choose from, RockStars or Wraptors are two particularly solid choices. Virtually indestructible and ultra comfortable, they are ideal for just about everything, from skydiving to riding motorcycles.

Related: American Sniper widow Taya Kyle outshoots NRA champion

How robust? The frames are made from the highest-grade material available – 7075 Billet Aircraft Aluminum – that’s right, aircraft materials! The lenses are made from highly impact-resistant polycarbonate. In addition to strength, they provide 100 percent UV protection and extremely sharp and clear vision.

Made in the US, the Wraptor Tactical Black Frame with Grey Polarized Lens is available for $180.

 

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Princeton Tec Tactical Headlamp | REI

Tactical Headlamp

How about tucking some tactical light in a stocking? The Princeton Tec Tactical Quad Headlamp is available at Rei for $39.95. This tactical headlamp has four LED bulbs with 60-lumen output that operate in high, medium, low and flashing modes –great for signaling.

It is also waterproof to about three feet. The LEDs can throw a wide beam of light about 115 feet. The headlamp can be adjusted to where you want your beam and it fits comfortably over a hat.

Related: F-35 fighter pilots are gearing up for the new planes virtually

Colored interchangeable lenses are key and this one has four. The red lens helps preserve night vision while providing good illumination. For hunting, the green lens can help increase your visibility and safety.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Titan Flashlight | Surefire

Titan Flashlight

How about lighting up more than a tree this Christmas?

The new ultra compact Titan Plus flashlight by Surefire is a next-level key chain providing light at professional standards. It fits in the palm of your hand and easily in a pocket. About three inches long, it is designed to be discreet and smart.

Powered by readily available AAAs, it also comes with a rechargeable battery that gives it around seven hours use.

It weighs a mere 2 ounces, so it is light enough to carry anytime. It’s available for $99.99 at Surefire flashlights.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
CXU Socks | 2XU

CXU Socks

Tactical professionals need to maintain their fitness. Socks can be boring, but these are for the serious athlete.

As their name suggests, CXU Compression Socks for Recovery are specifically designed to aid recovery from training hard. They feature super strong compression fabric throughout the sock for enhanced circulation. They’re also designed to help clear blood lactate after crushing it.

The socks are priced from $34.95 to $49.95.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Half Face Blades | Facebook

Half Face Blades

For folks making who love to get out hunting, an amazing knife is always a great gift.

Half Face Blades, founded by a veteran who served in Navy SEAL teams, is a company that makes knives and tools. These blades are so coveted, they are nearly impossible to get a hold of.  However, you can email the knife maker, put someone you love on the wish list, and get notified when they become available.

Here’s the great news – there’s a two-day Christmas auction for charity that gives you a chance to grab one. Up for grabs are two knives – each is giraffe bone with one orange with black liner and the other black with orange liner. There are carbon fiber pins and spine work with stainless lanyard tube. They both also come with a leather sheath.

Bidding ends at noon on Dec. 23.  To place a bid or put a loved on the list to receive a knife email INFO@HALFFACEBLADES.COM.

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The Coast Guard could have the solution for a bigger US Navy

With the push for a 350-ship Navy as a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, many wonder how the U.S. can expand its surface fleet quickly and without breaking the bank.


The Coast Guard may have an answer — or at least a starting point for the answer — with its Bertholf Class National Security Cutters. A Dec. 30, 2016, release from Huntington Ingalls noted that a ninth cutter of what was originally planned as an eight-ship class had been ordered.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter Bertholf

However, at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, Huntington Ingalls displayed a model of the FF4923, also known as the Patrol Frigate. Using the same basic hull and propulsion plant as the Bertholf-class cutters, the FF4923 adds a lot more teeth to the design.

According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” a Bertholf Class cutter carries a Mk 110 57mm main gun, a single Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, and some .50-caliber machine guns. Not bad for a patrol ship — and roughly comparable to the armament suite on a littoral combat ship.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
A closer look at the biggest visible difference (aside from the paint job) of the FF4923 as opposed to the Bertholf-class national security cutter: The 76mm gun and 16-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System. (Photo by Huntington Ingalls)

The FF4923, though, offers a 76mm gun, a 16-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, two triple Mk 32 torpedo tubes, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, two Mk 141 quad mounts for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, and a half-dozen machine guns. In this ship, the Mk 41 VLS would only use RIM-66 SM-2 missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs.

The 76mm gun, incidentally, offers the option of using guided rounds like the OTO Melara’s Vulcano for surface targets and the DART round against aircraft and missiles.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57) at Pearl Harbor. The FF4923 patrol frigate displayed at SeaAirSpace 2017 could be a true replacement for these vessels. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Logico)

This is not the only offering that Huntington Ingalls has made. According to an April 2012 report from DefenseMediaNetwork.com, in the past, HII offered the FF4921, which used a Mk 56 Vertical-Launch System for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile that is best known for its use on Canada’s Halifax-class frigates, and the PF4501, a minimal-change version of the Bertholf.

Even if the United States Navy doesn’t order some of these Bertholfs with teeth, export orders could find American workers very busy – even after the larger-than-planned Bertholf Class order for the Coast Guard is fulfilled.

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The US used this cartoon turtle to prepare kids for nuclear war

Bert the Turtle was created in 1951 by the U.S. Federal Civil Defense Administration to teach young children how to prepare for a nuclear blast.


The cute little turtle was designed to make the frightening prospect of nuclear war more bearable.

Bert the Turtle gets a lot of flak today for supporting tactics that seem flimsy, like telling people to hide under a picnic blanket when the flash from a nuclear detonation reached them:

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
GIF: youtube/nuclear vault

But surprisingly small things have been shown to reduce damage in a nuclear blast. The military found that white paint reduced damage to structures and began repainting nuclear bombers. A survivor of the Hiroshima bomb reported that wearing two pairs of pants saved her legs from radiation while her torso was severely burned.

So maybe the turtle was on to something, even if this is a very optimistic depiction of what it would look like when civil defense workers came to rescue you after a blast:

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
GIF: youtube/nuclear vault

No fire, no panic, and the bike is still in working order, eh, Bert?

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These 9 military actions changed America . . . and the world

Had the Confederates won the Battle of Gettysburg, it’s possible that there would have been another Union victory down the road and the war would’ve ended the same way . . . but who knows? The fact is, Gettysburg turned the tide of the Civil War, gave Lincoln an opportunity to end slavery, and kept the country together. It’s safe to say the world would have turned into a vastly different place had there been two separate Americas.


Several times in history, the American military has taken action had huge ripple effects across the planet, sometimes immediately, sometimes decades later. Here are 9 examples:

1. Valley Forge

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

Historians point to Saratoga as the big turning point in the Revolution because it not only wiped out Burgoyne’s Army in the north but convinced the French that maybe those American peasants had a chance after all. Still stinging from their defeat in the French and Indian War ten years earlier, France’s King Louis XVI threw was all too eager to crash the North American party and make the American Revolution a global fight so the American Army entered its winter camp outside Philadelphia on a winner’s high.

But that soon changed. Undersupplied, tired, frozen, and starving, the Continental Army was on the verge of breaking every day for several long months in the winter of 1777-1778. It was the first time American perseverance to be free was put to the test and had the Colonials broken and run, there might not be an America at all. At Valley Forge, the bonds with the French were greatly strengthened, Von Stueben’s drill was perfected (making the Continental’s a real Army), and Washington, whom some wanted to replace with Horatio Gates, survived to go on to be the father of the greatest country ever.

2. The Battle of New Orleans

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

Andrew Jackson’s beat-down of the British in 1815 wasn’t the biggest battle of that war, but it kicked the last European invaders out of North America for good and propelled Jackson to the White House to be President for eight years. Jackson expanded the powers of the Presidency, made trade agreements with several European countries, opened trade agreements with Asia, and founded the modern Democratic Party. But his actions also led directly to the forced removal and relocation of nearly 50,000 Native Americans from the South to the Midwest on the Trail of Tears. None of that would have happened without his success at the Battle of New Orleans.

3. Winfield Scott’s March to Mexico City

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

It wasn’t much of a military action, but General Winfield Scott marched into Mexico City in 1848 to end the Mexican War and effectively made Texas and California US territories. Imagine what the USA would look like today if those two giant states were still part of Mexico. But those acquisitions also had a dark side. President James K. Polk was obsessed with westward expansion and once he had California, he needed routes for settlers to get there, which fueled the flames of slavery and (arguably) set the stage for the Civil War and Indian Wars.

4. The Second Battle of the Marne

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

WWI was a pivotal moment for the United States because it was the first time the nation deployed soldiers overseas to fight in another country’s war. Although America had been involved in power projection during the Spanish-American War, WWI was a whole new ballgame and established the U.S.A. as an international force to be reckoned with. In particular, the Second Battle of the Marne River in France was crucial to the Allied victory. That defeat was the beginning of the end for Germany just 100 days later.

5. The Battle of Midway

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

In June 1942, the war in the Pacific was supposed to be a “holding effort” while the war in Europe was America’s primary focus and demanded most of the nation’s resources. But the Japanese had different plans and attacked the U.S. Garrison at Midway Atoll, which ended up being a big mistake. When it was over, four Japanese aircraft carriers had been sunk and a crippling number of aircrews were lost. Japan was unable to mount effective offensive operations after Midway and its domination of the Pacific was on a downward spiral from that point on.

6. Normandy (Operation Overlord)

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Landscape

Invading Europe in 1944 was by far the greatest invasion ever attempted. Failure would have resulted in a Nazi Europe, probably to this day.  You could argue the Battle of the Bulge was just as important, but no military endeavor in the history of the U.S. was so ambitious and critical as the invasion and liberation of Europe. The entire continent (and arguably the world) would not look anything like it does today if the Allies had failed at Normandy.

7. Hiroshima

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

America is the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon against another nation. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima from the Enola Gay vaulted the world into the nuclear age and started the Cold War.

8. The Pusan Perimeter

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
(AP Photo, File)

In August 1950, the combined U.S. and U.N. Forces in Korea were backed into a corner by the invading North Korean Army between the cities of Pusan and Taegu. Despite constant attacks, the Pusan Perimeter never collapsed and by September, the Allies were on the offensive while MacArthur was invading at Inchon. If the perimeter had collapsed, it’s possible that we still would have prevailed, but who’s to say? All that is certain is that the perimeter didn’t break and South Korea is today a strong democracy with the ninth largest economy in the world. Imagine Kim Jong Un with twice as much land and resources as he has now.

9. The Invasion of Iraq

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

It’s only been thirteen years since the U.S. invaded Iraq and only time will tell the total effect of that action, but it’s safe to say that if Saddam Hussein were still around (even allowing that he wasn’t a very nice guy), the American military would be in better shape, AQI and ISIS would never have formed, Iran’s influence across the region would be less of a threat, and the domestic political landscape wouldn’t be so chaotic.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”

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Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

Amid rising tensions on Israel’s northern border, the IDF is launching its largest drill in close to 20 years, with tens of thousands of soldiers from all branches of the army, simulating a war with Hezbollah.


The drill, dubbed “Or Hadagan” (Hebrew for “the Light of the Grain”), will start on Sept. 5 and end on Sept. 14, The Times of Israel reported. Named after Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad, the exercise will see thousands of soldiers and reservists and all the different branches of the IDF – air force, navy, ground forces, intelligence, cyber – drilling the ability of all branches to coordinate their operations during wartime.

According to military assessments, the northern border remains the most explosive, and both sides have warned that the next conflict would be devastating for the other.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
IDF Officers practice urban warfare. Photo from IDF.

While the primary threat posed by Hezbollah remains its missile arsenal, the IDF believes that the next war will see the group trying to bring the fight into Israel by infiltrating Israeli communities to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.

The ten-day drill will focus on countering Hezbollah’s increased capabilities, and also include simulations of evacuating communities close to the border with Lebanon, The Jerusalem Post reports.

Israel last held an exercise of such magnitude in 1998, a drill that simulated a war with Syria and was led by Meir Dagan.

“The purpose of the drill is to test the fitness of the Northern Command and the relevant battalions during an emergency,” a senior IDF officer told Haaretz. In the drill scenario, the cabinet tells the armed forces to vanquish Hezbollah – “as I understand it, the state in which Hezbollah either has no ability or desire to attack anymore,” said the officer.

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These 4 aircraft were the ancestors of the powerful SR-71 Blackbird

The SR-71 Blackbird is the arguably the most popular and easily recognizable airframe ever used by the U.S. Air Force. It maintains the speed record it set back in 1976 (even with a broken engine). The Blackbird’s missile evasion technique is legendary; it simply flew faster than the whatever was chasing it.


Not one SR-71 was ever shot down.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

It could take a full photo of the entire country of North Korea in seven minutes and fly across the entire United States, lengthwise, in just over an hour.

Not bad, but that capability didn’t happen overnight. The Air Force actually developed more than one supersonic plane for its reconnaissance and strike missions.

1. XB-70 Valkyrie

Only 2 of North American Aviation’s B-70 bombers were ever built, and the program only lasted for the five years between 1964 and 1969. The Valkyrie was a six-engine bomber, capable of flying Mach 3, designed to outrun enemy interceptor aircraft with speed and altitude. At the time, interception was the only defense against bombers.

Surface-to-air missiles changed the game.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
The XB-70 is shown climbing out during take-off. Most flights were scheduled during the morning hours to take advantage of the cooler ambient air temperatures for improved propulsion efficiencies. The wing tips are extended straight out to provide a maximum lifting wing surface. The XB-70A, capable of flying three times the speed of sound, was the world’s largest experimental aircraft in the 1960s. (NASA photo, 1965)

The XB-70 was still fast enough to fool radar, but its limited range and expense made the B-52 a more economically efficient choice for production. Though short-lived, the Valkyrie did blaze a trail for the structural dynamics that would be so crucial to the SR-71.

The last XB-70 is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

2. Lockheed A-12 “Archangel” or “Oxcart”

Not to be confused with the later naval stealth fighter proposal dubbed the A-12 Avenger II, the A-12 Archangel was a recon aircraft developed by Lockheed for the CIA between 1962 and 1967. The defense giant’s “Skunk Works,” the nickname given to its Advanced Development Programs department, developed the A-12 for the CIA’s Oxcart Operation.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
An A-12 in flight. This aircraft was lost over the South China Sea on June 6, 1968.

Oxcart was the agency’s effort to replace the U-2 spy plane after it became increasingly susceptible to Soviet SAMs. They were wildly successful – the planes boasted a host of new technologies designed just for the program. They were built with titanium to handle hypersonic speeds (strangely obtained from the Soviet Union).

Though designed to fly over Cuba and the USSR, the Lockheed A-12 never executed that mission. It flew over North Vietnam and North Korea during the Pueblo Crisis.

The North Vietnamese were able to track the A-12 via radar, and routinely launched missiles at it. It never took a direct hit from a SAM but did get debris from an exploding missile lodged in its fuselage.

Since the A-12 was never going to fly over the Soviet Union and the use of satellite photography was on the rise, the program was scrapped almost as soon as it had begun. The A-12s were either stored in Palmdale, California, or sent to museums.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
A-12s in storage in Southern California. (CIA photo)

The A-12 could fly higher and faster than the SR-71, but the Blackbird’s side-looking radar and cameras could see enemy territory without penetrating their airspace.

3. M-21 Drone Carrier

The M-21 variant of the A-12 was designed to carry the Lockheed D-12 Drone. This variation had a cockpit for the drone’s launch control officer who released the autonomous drone which was mounted on the back of the M-21 airframe.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
Modified A-12 (codename M-21) carrying D-21 drone (Project Tagboard – CIA photo)

The D-21 was launched from the back of the A-12. Once its mission was complete, the drone would eject the data it collected at a preprogrammed point and then self-destruct. The ejected data was caught in mid-air by a C-130.

This program was canceled in 1966 when a drone collided in midair with its launcher. The M-21 crew all bailed out, except for the LCO. From then on, the D-21 would be launched from under the wing of a B-52.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
A B-52 carrying a D-21 reconnaissance drone and rocket booster. This photo was taken by a crewman in the tail of a tanker aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

4. Lockheed YF-12

The YF-12 was a twin-seat version of the A-12. Designed to be an interceptor, the YF-12 set the speed records that would only be surpassed by the legendary SR-71. It also has the distinction of being a publicly announced aircraft, which had benefits of keeping the A-12 a secret because the public couldn’t tell the difference.

New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult
The YF-12 (U.S. Air Force photo)

The cost of the Vietnam War kept the YF-12 from the Air Force inventory. And by the time the funds were available, the YF-12 wasn’t necessary to defend the mainland U.S., so the program was scrapped.

The aircraft did successfully test the AIM-47 Falcon missile, which was the predecessor to the Phoenix missiles. The YF-12 also tested how AWACS could command bombers in a tactical environment, which later helped the development of the B-1 Bomber.

The YF-12 also tested how engine inlet performance affected airframe for NASA, as well as issues related to propulsion interaction, boundary layer noise, heat transfer under high-mach conditions, and altitude hold at supersonic speeds – all necessary to develop the SR-71, not to mention the Space Shuttle program.

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ISIS is so worried about the coming Mosul invasion they’re cutting off the Internet

A top Pentagon spokesman said Aug. 3 that U.S. and coalition pressure against the ISIS stronghold in Mosul, Iraq, has taken such a toll on militant commanders that they’ve cut off most communications from the city, including Internet access for civilians there.


Army Col. Chris Garver, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve which is battling ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Libya, told reporters that morale among the ISIS fighters and the civilians being held in Iraq’s second largest city is cracking.

“We know that [ISIS] has started cutting off Internet access and really access to the outside world for the citizens inside Mosul,” Garver said. “We know that they’re afraid that Iraqi citizens inside Mosul are going to communicate with the Iraqi Security Forces.”

“We’ve seen that fear in ISIS in Ramadi, and in Fallujah and we’re seeing those indicators inside Mosul as well,” he added.

It’s so bad, Garver said, that ISIS leaders are ordering the execution of local militant commanders in Mosul for “lack of success or failure on the battlefield.”

The crumbling situation for rebel forces inside Mosul comes as U.S., Iraqi and Syrian Democratic forces continue to squeeze ISIS in the east of Iraq and to the north in Syria, with nearly half of the critical junction town of Manjib, Syria, taken from ISIS and troops flowing into the newly recaptured Q-West airfield near Mosul.

Top defense officials have hinted the assault on Mosul could launch as soon as the fall and could deal a crushing blow to ISIS worldwide.

“We know that [ISIS] considers Mosul one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate … and clearly all eyes are focused on Iraq,” Garver said. “So not only would it be a significant physical loss, but the loss of prestige … their reputation as they try to manage it is going to take a big hit when Mosul does fall.”

Garver added that commanders believe there are about 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul, with the net tight enough that only small numbers of fighters can get in but not convoy-loads of them.

“At the heyday we saw 2,000 foreign fighters a month coming through Syria,” Garver said. “Now we have estimates of between 200 and 500.”

As Iraqi forces build out the Q-West airfield to support troops there, the noose will tighten around the city and the takedown will begin, Garver added.

 

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