These are President Obama's criteria for targeted killings - We Are The Mighty
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These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings

In 2013, the Obama Administration drafted what became known at “the Playbook,” an 18-page drone strike policy guideline laying out how the President orders a targeted killing of an enemy combatant abroad. A few days ago, the administration released a redacted version of the policy as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.


These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
An MQ- Reaper remotely piloted aircraft performs aerial maneuvers over Creech Air Force Base, Nev., June 25, 2015. The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cory D. Payne)

The Presidential Policy Guidance (or PPG, the official name of Obama’s “playbook”) first place an emphasis on capturing the enemy, instead of raining death from above. If capturing the terrorist (referred to in the PPG as the “HVT,” or High-Value Terrorist) is not “feasible,” the policy outlines the steps to be taken to designate an HVT for “Lethal Action.”

1. We know who we’re supposed to be killing

According to the PPG, only “an individual whose identity is known will be eligible to be targeted.”

2. They’re definitely up to something

The strike will be approved if the “individual’s activities pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.”

3. We definitely know where the person is

U.S. forces have to know with “near-certainty” that an HVT is present.

4. Only lawful combatants are hit

The attacking drone operator has to have “near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed.”

5. REDACTED

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
President Barack Obama attends a meeting on Afghanistan in the Situation Room in the White House. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

6. Capture isn’t a feasible possibility

This rule actually only means that capture isn’t feasible at the time of the operation. So this really just means the U.S. could capture the HVT or just wait and kill it later.

7. The HVT’s host country is no help

The government where the terrorist lives isn’t going to do anything about it, so we have to handle it ourselves.

8. We really just have to kill this person

“No other reasonable alternatives to lethal action exist.”

At this point, number five might be glaring at you, but there’s not even a hint at what the redacted criterion might be. Even the 2013 PPG summary memo released by the White House left out this factoid and any glimmer of its contents.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Since Obama took office, there have been 373 drone strikes abroad, with an estimated 4,000 killed. (Up to 966 of those deaths were civilians.) Four Americans have been killed by such drone strikes, but only one – the 2011 targeting of American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki – was a planned target.

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The last soldier killed in WWI died one minute before the war ended

Sergeant Henry Gunther was actually a private the day he charged a German machine gun nest for the last time in World War I. He had just been busted down in rank for criticizing the war in a letter he wrote home, and he wasn’t happy about it.


Luckily for millions of other soldiers and civilians in Europe, everyone knew the Armistice would come into effect on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

This is why so many question why Sgt. Gunter charged a German machine gun nest at 10:59 that same day.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
A memorial to Gunther built on Nov. 11, 2010 at his gravesite in Baltimore.

Gunther and his unit came across a German position north of Verdun on Nov. 11, 1918. As they took cover from the machine guns, they received word that the war would be over in less than an hour.

That’s when Sgt. Gunther charged the position with a fixed bayonet.

The Germans fired a number of warning shots and tried to yell at Gunther – in English – to stop.

But Gunter wasn’t the only troop to die in that last hour of World War I. Some 3,000 men died in that short time. Some historians even speculate that Gunther was ordered to charge the machine guns.

Even though so many others died around the same time, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force General John J. Pershing declared that Gunther would be known as the last man killed in action in the war.

Sergeant Henry Gunther was engaged before the war started and just secured a job as a bookkeeper in the Baltimore area before he was drafted in 1917.

After his death was recorded at 10:59, his fellow troops moved his body and buried him near where his company was posted. His remains were moved to the United States in 1923.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
A man in WWI-era French uniform stands beside a memorial stone at the spot where Henry Gunther fell on Nov. 11, 1918. The stone was unveiled by the French government as part of a 90th anniversary event in 2008. (Photo by American War Memorials Overseas)

On Veteran’s Day 2008, a memorial was constructed on the site where he was killed in Chaumont-devant-Damvillers, France.

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This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.


That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.

This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.

The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings

During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings

Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.

It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.

And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.

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8 amazing Medal of Honor recipient war stories recited by 1 man

In 2014, actor Steven Lang took a trip around the world to tell the stories of America’s bravest troops to their brothers in arms — a one-man road show that artfully recounted the stories of eight servicemembers from World War II, Korea and Vietnam who were bestowed with America’s highest honor for valor.


During the trip — which saw Lang perform in front of troops in Afghanistan, at bases in the U.S., and aboard ships at sea — Lang documented his time before the audience and tells that story in his new film Beyond Glory.

Combining the intimacy of stage with state-of-the-art computer graphics, Beyond Glory is a synthesis of cinema and theater, giving moviegoers the experience of watching a live performance from the best seat in the house.

Lang brings alive the heroism, bravery, and courage of past war heroes in a way few artists have been able to capture on stage.

Written by Steven Lang and produced by James Cameron, Jon Landau, Jim Carpenter and Ross Satterwhite, Beyond Glory is set for release October 4.

Watch the trailer:

Gravitas Ventures, YouTube
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10 things to look forward to about military retirement (and 5 things not to)

Taking off the uniform and retiring is fraught with fear and uncertainty. Luckily, you’ll live. It might not seem like it sometimes after spending so much of your life in the military, but with a little persistence and patience, everything will be fine.


First, 10 things you can look forward to:

1. Higher pay

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings

This is what everyone gets excited for and it’s a good deal after you get through the searching, preparing, and interviewing processes. It takes time and can cause night sweats wondering where you’ll end up after retirement, but if you play your cards right and land a decent job then your net pay can increase by about 50 percent. It’s not Easy Street, but it’s Easier Than Before Street.

2. Stability

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Cpt. Angela Webb)

This is a double-edged sword. Some people like the nomadic lifestyle the military gives us and actually struggle with sitting still in one place. We enjoyed seeing new places and wondering where we’ll be sent next. So when that train stops, it’s hard for some people to deal with. Others can’t wait to put down roots in a community and never move again. It’s nice to finally have an address that doesn’t change and no chance of another deployment order.

3. PT on your time

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly leaps over a gutter during training at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. He is training to be a part of the Paralympic track and field team for the 2016 Paralympic Games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

If you hated early morning PT then good news … you can hit the gym at whatever time you like. Leave work early and go for an afternoon run? Why, yes, I will thanks.

4. Networking

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
(Photo: Starbucks)

This can be fun or a pain depending on how you look at it. Networking is always a good idea, especially if you’re a professional. If a post-military job doesn’t work out and you want to try something else, you have to know people who can help. So now you have a valid excuse to get out there and mingle.

5. Health insurance

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
(Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam)

While your co-workers at your new job are complaining about co-pay, premiums, and Obamacare, you’ll be comfortable in knowing Tricare and/or the VA system is cheap and effective … okay, now that I read that back it sounds kinda ridiculous. However, if you happen to be in an area that has a good military hospital and your family doesn’t have any major medical issues, the money you save on healthcare can be significant. I’m probably one of the few people who has nothing bad to say about the Army healthcare system, but I live outside Ft Belvoir (huge hospital) and have not had anything significant to deal with.

6. Hobbies

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
(Photo: Wikimedia)

Never had time for one before? You do now. And if your hobby is hanging out with family, even better. Build a drone, write a novel, or hike the Grand Canyon finally.

7. Joining the “old farts” organizations

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
Army vet, actor, and American Legion member Johnny Jenkinson. (Photo: We Are The Mighty)

The American Legion, VFW, IAVA, and everyone else will try to get you to join their club. These groups do good things for the collective good of the military but they’re honestly not for everyone. As soon as I retired I joined my local outpost but just never really connected with them on a personal level. But I continue to pay my dues and support them because those organizations are great advocates for the veteran community.

8. Running into old friends again

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings

The American military is the biggest fraternity in the world. I live in DC and during any given month an old friend has to come here for one reason or another and we invariably get together, have a few drinks and enjoy Reason Number 9 to look forward to retirement …

9. Reliving old tales

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo.

Over and over and over again. And history seems to change with each telling of the tale.

10. Facial hair

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
Gen. George Crook. (Photo: Civil War archives)

Come on … you know you want to grow that sweet goatee.

Now, five things not to look forward to:

1. Loss of camaraderie

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain during an Adaptive Sports Camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

You take the uniform off the soldier, but not the soldier out of the uniform…or something like that. The people you served with are what makes the life special. They had your back and you had theirs and it’s hard to find that camaraderie in the civilian world.

2. Lack of respect from young bucks

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov

Get it through your head that your former rank doesn’t mean anything when you get out. Even if you were a general officer, you’re Mister Jones now, so when some brazen E4 cuts in front of you in line at the PX because he’s in uniform, get over it.

3. Not being able to do what you did on active duty

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings

This is more of an age thing, but the days of running 5 miles in body armor or going on a drinking binge the night before a Company run are over. Long walks through the neighborhood are the routine now. And naps.

4. Going to the bottom of the list of priorities

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
(Photo: Greenbrier Historical Society)

Whether you’re picking up a prescription or trying to get on a MAC flight, retirees are the last priority for everything. In an instant, you go from priority one to priority none.

5. Dental insurance

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
(Photo: Department of Defense)

For some strange voodoo reason, Delta Dental is 4 times more expensive than any of the dental insurance plans of the civilian companies I’ve worked for since retiring. Weird.

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

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Move over Amazon, the Army also wants to deliver supplies with drones

At the start of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, two of the villains were arguing about taking on a high-risk mission.


“Send the droid,” one of them says.

Well, if the Army has its way and a new prototype unmanned plane enters the arsenal, “send in the droid” could have a whole new meaning for todays soldiers and other troops.

Over the last few months, the Army has begun preliminary tests on a new prop-driven drone dubbed the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Picatinny Arsenal.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
(Photo from Malloy Aerospace)

The service realizes resupply convoys can be vulnerable to attack. An Army Research Laboratory release from earlier this month noted that 60 percent of the combat casualties in 2013 occurred during resupply missions. Yet, the resupply of troops is crucial — especially in the heat of combat.

During the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu, for example, helicopters re-supplied the Rangers who were protecting the crash site of Super Six-One at substantial risk.

Had the JTARV prototypes been available, instead of sending manned choppers, a drone could have delivered 300 pounds of ammo and gear (like night-vision devices, grenades, and MREs) without risking a downed crew.

Time to get the supplies? About a half-hour.

See if Domino’s can beat that!

Improved versions of the JTARV could haul even more supplies – about 800 pounds – and take them further, with a total range of 125 miles. This could be very useful for long-range reconnaissance patrols or for resupplying remote outposts like those once manned by soldiers in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.

The JTARV is a combined project from SURVICE Engineering Company and Malloy Aerospace. Malloy is a British company which is best known for making the Hoverbike. The Hoverbike is, in essence, a one-person helicopter that can travel about 92 miles, and looks like a very primitive version of the speeder bikes used in Return of the Jedi.

SURVICE Engineering is a Maryland-based defense contractor that has supported research and development for the Pentagon. Located near Aberdeen Proving Ground, SURVICE Engineering has been involved in supporting the development of technology for land combat forces.

The Marine Corps has already been in the unmanned cargo delivery game for a while. An unmanned version of the Kaman K-Max helicopter was used for re-supply missions from December 2011 to May 2014 during Operation Enduring Freedom. The K-Max has a range of 267 miles and can deliver up to 6,000 pounds of cargo while flying at speeds of up to 115 mph.

Boeing has also been developing the H-6U Unmanned Little Bird for this mission as well, trying to leverage the proven track record of the OH-6 Cayuse scout helicopter and the AH-6/MH-6 Little Bird choppers used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (the Nightstalkers) in American military service.

The H-6U’s case is also assisted by the widespread ownership of the MD 500 series of helicopters across the globe for both civilian and military applications. This means that spare parts are readily available (not a small consideration for military operations). The H-6U would be faster with a top speed of 175 miles per hour, but could only haul about 1,500 pounds of cargo over the same 267 mile range.

Things are changing, but the one thing that remains the same is the need for the troops to be resupplied. But instead of asking for volunteers, soon a general’s response may well be, “Send the droid.”

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7 principles of parenting from a Marine Corps drill instructor

Master Sergeant Chris Lopez is a former Marine Corps drill instructor, combat vet, and father of 3. But if you think he gets in his kids’ face, Full Metal Jacket-style, every time their common sense goes AWOL, you have a major malfunction. Because, getting 90 recruits to do whatever he wants? Easy. Getting one 4-year-old to pick up his socks? Hard. You can’t treat a toddler the same way you treat a grunt because the toddler is going to beat you in a screaming match every time.


That said, Lopez has a core set of principles that are equally applicable on the parade ground as the playground. You bet your ass he has an opinion on modern day, “let them feel their feelings” philosophies on discipline — and it’s not what you think.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
Flickr

1. The goal is self discipline

“When we get a batch of new recruits, we don’t know what degree of structure they’ve had in their lives. We try to set a baseline. Your basic function is to bring the heat, to stress them out, and to be an enforcer,” says Lopez. Fortunately for your kid, you’re intimately familiar with exactly how much structure they’ve had in their lives, so you don’t need to bring any heat right off the bat (newborn infants are notoriously hard to train, anyway). The long-term goal, says Lopez, is to make sure that your kids are doing the right thing when there’s nobody there to supervise them — not doing the right thing just as you’re about to take away the iPad.

2. But sometimes you need “imposed discipline”

Speaking of iPads, Lopez has found the one that belongs to his son is a useful tool when he’s displaying a lack of self-discipline. He doesn’t make the kid drop and give him 20. Rather, “We do the timeout thing but it’s usually after some verbal warnings. We don’t do corporal punishment. We go with things my kids are more attached to; if he’s not listening and being polite and it gets to the point where we have to punish, he doesn’t get it back until tomorrow. That’s when it hits home. To me, it’s the same effect as when I was a child and it was like getting spanked.”

3. Where empathy meets strategy

Speaking of punishment, Lopez isn’t so hardass that he goes all R. Lee Ermey on toddlers. “All 3-year-olds want to do things that are dangerous. I try not to let it get to point where it becomes a tantrum with my son. I’ll change the channel. If I tell him to stop doing something, and he won’t do it, I’ll explain why again and I’ll divert his attention. You can punish them, but they’re not going to understand why. It’s a rough one to identify before you get unreasonably upset, So I’ll remove both of us from the situation.” Childhood Development And Empathy Queen Dr. Laura Markham would be impressed.

4. The difference between punishment and correction

Lopez isn’t trying to bounce a quarter off his kid’s Elmo sheets. “The way we do it in our household is as close to the way the Marine Corps does it,” he says, “We don’t believe in the zero defect mentality, where as soon as you make a mistake you’re punished. I’m a firm believer that there’s a difference between punishment and correction. If your child makes an honest mistake it’s not a big deal. It’s not as big a deal as they know the right answer and do something bad.”

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
Giphy

5. Being afraid of mistakes is worse than making them

“I don’t believe in physically doing something to somebody, or making them go out and digging a fighting hole. I believe in education,” says Lopez. “Allow your children — or the guys that you’re leading — to make those mistakes. That’s where you’re going to get your best ideas. If you’re constantly critiquing [recruits] on how to do things, they’re never going to learn to solve the problems themselves.” That’s easy for him to say — he’s never seen your kid dig a fox hole.

6. “Because I said so” isn’t a reason

Kids are like soldiers, in that they only get the benefit from the how’s and why’s of rules once they can follow them. “As training progresses, the explanations start happening more,” says Lopez of his recruits. “The more you explain why you’re making them do what they’re doing, the more buy in, and the more efficient they are in doing the task. The goal is to be as patient as I can, and explain things as well as I can, without me saying ‘Because I said so.'”

7. How to go from major to dad

“Any drill instructor will tell you, it’s very intoxicating.” says Lopez. “You have 90 kids who want to be a Marine. They’re going to run over every other recruit to prove that to you. It’s very difficult to go from 90 recruits doing everything you want them to do, to home, where you have to wait a half hour for your toddler to pick up their socks and shoes.”

Some guys hit the gym, and some hit the bar, but for Lopez, he has one trick that takes him from Big Daddy on the base to Private Dad at home. “When I was an instructor, I’d use audiobooks like a reset button. It gave me something to focus on other than work, so I could go back and be the normal person I am. Being a drill instructor you’re not going to act the way at home that you do to the recruits.” What works best? James Patterson? Deepak Chopra? Being A Chill Father For Dummies? “Anything by Mark Twain. I’m actually listening to James Joyce right now. The Portrait of An Artist As A Young Man.” Pvt. Daedelus, reporting for duty.

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’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ captures courage while avoiding politics

When the trailer for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi dropped, netizens were quick to dub it “Bayghazi,” a portmanteau of the location of the now-infamous embassy attack and the name of director Michael Bay. But the film deserves more credit than that for a number of reasons, but mostly because it manages to celebrate the human elements of an otherwise overly-politicized event.


“We all think we know Benghazi,” Bay says. “But we all only really know so much. There was a great human story in Benghazi that was never told. It’s an inspirational movie, even though it’s tragic.”

The movie is a faithful retelling of the events on the ground during that day in the Libyan port city, as written in journalist Mitchell Zuckoff’s book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, which he co-authored with the surviving security contractors who were on the ground. The way Zuckoff writes the story in the book lends itself to Michael Bay’s directing style.

“The book, when I read it, it was an amazing human experience,” Michael Bay says. “It’s my most realistic movie. I think it opens eyes to what they really go through. It’s a collection of 36 Americans coming together, figuring out how the hell to survive. It starts at 9:42 and we follow the waves and the adrenaline and the ebbs and flows for 13 hours.”

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
(Paramount Pictures)

The movie is rife with commentary, damning of the military’s failure to act in support of the CIA annex in any way. Fighter planes remain motionless on flightlines while bureaucrats make late night phones calls to plan meetings, but the movie is inspirational, thanks to its exceptional cast. With the help of the real military veterans-turned CIA security contractors who were on the ground in Benghazi that night, they all deliver exceptional performances.

“There’s such a responsibility in this particular story,” says John Krasinski, who plays Jack Silva, one of the CIA contractors and former Navy SEAL. “Not only because it’s so highly politicized, but also because it’s so intense and is a story not really being told. For me, there was a great responsibility to make sure we told it right, especially since it’s about these six guys who are the definition of heroes.”

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
(Paramount Pictures)

The real-life defenders of the Americans in Benghazi, the members of the annex security team who were on the ground, are unanimous in what they hope audiences will take away from the film: The truth.

“They got it right,” says Marc “Oz” Geist, one of the contractors at Benghazi. “When you watch the movie, you’re seeing the guys, you’re seeing the team,” Kris “Tanto” Peronto adds. “They did an excellent job. That shows a lot of work.”

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings

“You have a group of people who overcome what most would consider insurmountable odds,” Geist continues. “There are positives that comes from that. It’s not a negative thing. You’re gonna have troubles, you’re gonna have things go bad. We lost four people and that’s tragic, but that’s not the defining moment. The defining moment is that we never lost because we never quit.”

The film has all the hallmarks of its director’s signature style: slow shots of dialogue between characters contrast fast-paced action with explosions; a weak leader gets usurped when the “right thing to do” becomes apparent, even though it isn’t “by the book;” and what starts as a rescue turns out to be an epic battle for survival. Yet all of it is a faithful retelling of the Benghazi story, seconded by the guys who were there that night, right down to the funny one-liners of comic relief (called “Tantoisms” by the Benghazi team).

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
(Paramount Pictures)

The portrayals of the team are realistic and intense. Anyone who’s ever met Navy SEALs, Marine Scout Snipers, Army Rangers, or any other special forces operators will recognize the personalities portrayed on screen by Krasinski, James Badge Dale (“Rone”), Pablo Schreiber (“Tanto”), David Denman (“Boon”), Max Martini (“Oz”), and Dominic Fumusa (“Tig”).

“It’s about the human spirit and the will to win,” the directors said. “No one ordered them to go. They volunteered and they volunteered at the drop of a hat. At a time when there’s so much crap going on in the world, you are appreciative that people like this exist.”

 

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is in theaters today. Follow the film on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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The invasion of Mosul begins…

Iraqi Security Forces launched their counter-attack yesterday to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to a statement released by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials.


These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
U.S. forces based at the Q-West airfield have been helping Kurdish and Iraqi forces prep the battlefield for an eventual invasion of the country’s second largest city. (Photo from U.S. Department of Defense)

“The United States and the rest of the international coalition stand ready to support Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga fighters and the people of Iraq in the difficult fight ahead,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a separate statement. “We are confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from ISIL’s hatred and brutality.”

According the the BBC which has a reporter embedded with Kurdish Peshmerga troops, the invasion kicked off in the early morning hours Oct. 17 with sporadic skirmishes along the roads to the east of the city. Iraqi forces pushed north from the so-called “Q-West” air base recently captured from ISIS and where U.S. forces have been helping the Iraqis establish a logistics base for operations to take Mosul.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, OIR commander, said the operation to regain control of Mosul will likely continue for weeks and possibly longer. But it comes after more than two years of Islamic State oppression in Mosul, “during which they committed horrible atrocities [and] brutalized the people” after declaring the city to be one of their twin capitals, the general said in the statement.

The coalition can’t predict how long it will take for the ISF to retake the city, Townsend said, “but we know they will succeed — just as they did in Beiji, in Ramadi, in Fallujah and, more recently in Qayyarah and Sharqat.”

Mosul is still home to more than a million people — despite hundreds of thousands reportedly having fled the city since 2014 — according to United Nations estimates.

The OIR coalition will provide “air support, artillery, intelligence, advisors and forward air controllers,” Townsend said in the statement, adding that the supporting forces “will continue to use precision to accurately attack the enemy and to minimize any impact on innocent civilians.”

During the past two years of ISIL control in Mosul, OIR efforts have expanded to include a coalition of more than 60 countries, which have combined to conduct tens of thousands of precision strikes to support Iraqi operations, and trained and equipped more than 54,000 Iraqi forces, the general said.

“But to be clear, the thousands of ground combat forces who will liberate Mosul are all Iraqis,” Townsend said in the statement.

Carter, in his statement, called it a “decisive moment” in the campaign. Townsend said it’s not just a fight for the future of Iraq, but also “to ensure the security of all of our nations.”

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Can ‘The Punisher’ outmatch ISIS in the Philippines?

While the world focuses on Syria and Iraq, the menace of Islamic State is quietly expanding into Southeast Asia.


Eight thousand miles from the Middle East frontline, the Philippines has become the region’s main transit hub for Jihadists traveling to Syria, complete with a network of terror training camps.

Not that this is widely known – even by those living in the country. Contrasting against strong-armed efforts in Malaysia and Indonesia, the Filipino government – preferring to label terrorists as ‘criminal gangs’ or ‘bandits’ – has appeared weak.

Until now, that is. Enter the new president: Rodrigo Duterte.

Known as “Duterte Harry” or “the Punisher” after allegations of vigilante killings to cut crime in the city of Davao, where he served as mayor, the President’s pledges include dumping a hundred thousand gangsters’ corpses in the Manila Bay. Gangs, bandits or terrorists – the growing number with affiliation to Islamic State warrant his immediate focus.

Myriad Militant Problem

Terrorism is nothing new to the Philippines. Separatists, Communists, Islamists have all utilised the southern island of Mindanao and the surrounding Sulu Sea archipelago as a remote safe haven for decades.

Today’s is a myriad militant problem riddled with competing interests, egos and continual splits.

The plethora of rival groups plays into the hands of more entrenched and radical elements with a global agenda and deeper financing. Islamic State has taken up where Al-Qaeda left off in building links to militias such as Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Justice Movement.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
Bangsamoro Justice Movement, led by Usman Basit (tauntingly unmasked), is among local groups allied to Islamic State.

Islamic State’s motive in the region is clear. The Philippines is the only immediately viable launch pad for its Southeast Asia aspirations. Obtaining a foothold here would facilitate a satellite province, or wilayat, endorsing the Islamic State’s objective of a “borderless sphere of influence in Asia.”

Quite how this ambition plays out will be determined in part by a political decision looming June 30 on autonomy for the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao.

Amidst all the infighting, groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been supporting the legal process to create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

The aspiration for the Bangsamoro Basic Law has significantly reduced terrorism in Mindanao. For now, the region’s separatists are likely to resist ties to Islamic State for fear it could derail progress toward autonomy. Any failure to enact the law, however, is almost certain to trigger a resurgence of attacks and a search for scale.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings

Islamic State has demonstrated an ability to seize opportunities offered by regional extremist conflicts. It operates by first requiring a proposal detailing the local militia’s governance strategy. The next stage is identifying a collectively chosen leader.

Among its quarrelsome Filipino members – whose rival leaders have on occasion ordered their men to shoot at each other – this is likely to be the biggest sticking point in any affiliation with IS.

Nevertheless, the potential rewards for both side are big enough to motivate solutions. The porous nature of maritime routes into Malaysia and Indonesia, and a lack of security around the Mindanao islands, offers Islamic State extensive supply and logistical routes.

Despite declarations to the contrary from the Philippine government and security agencies, Islamic State has already made in-roads to some of the local jihadist groups in Mindanao.

Black Standard

A stronghold of conservative Sunni Islam, the Mindanao people are largely impoverished, long politicised, disenfranchised and aggrieved. They’re a Muslim minority in a country that is 87% Roman Catholic. Parts of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago once belonged to the Islamic Sultanate of Sulu, founded in 1405 – a reference point not lost on Islamic State’s recruiters. The Black Standard synonymous with al-Qaeda and now Islamic State has been seen with the words ‘Islamic State of Mindanao and Sulu’ on several videos and social media pages of Filipino extremists this year.

The area is fertile ground for Islamic State’s efforts to spread its Salafist ideology, and can become a base for further allegiances across Southeast Asia. Such ties are already taking root, as demonstrated by the attacks on Jakarta in January, the arrest of suicide bombers during planning phases in Kuala Lumpur the same month, and the ongoing internment of suspected jihadists across Malaysia since the middle of last year.

Should the Bangsamoro Basic Law pass on June 30, turning the region historically referred to as Bangsamoro, or ‘region of the Moros,’ into a politically autonomous province, then Islamic fundamentalism will be championed by lawful separatism. It should help to slow the local aspirations of Islamic State.

Failure to ratify, on the other hand, could be a catalyst for resurgent separatist terrorism. As in the past, Mindanao could become a total no-go zone for the government. Without doubt, this would serve to benefit the plethora of radical jihadist militants and their aspirations, including Islamic State.

The new President has expressed support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law and wants to move toward federalism to bring peace to Mindanao.

If he can achieve this, the Punisher would warrant a new name: the Peacemaker.

But such rational thinking might be too much to expect. This is, after all, a president who publicly entertained rape fantasies and called Pope Francis a ‘son of a whore’ after the papal entourage tied up traffic in the already-busy streets of Manila last year. His unapologetic stance toward the Vatican, though distasteful toward many of his Catholic constituents, may be an indication of his refusal to back down from the more existential threat posed by Islamic State.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
Phill Hynes

The authors of this report are Phill Hynes and Hrishiraj Bhattacharjee, analysts at ISS Risk, a frontier and emerging markets political risk management company covering North, South and Southeast Asia from its headquarters in Hong Kong.

 

 

Check out more in-depth reporting and analysis from Frontera News here.

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That time 621 Brits rammed a suicide ship into a Nazi fortress

In 1942, a group of British commandos and sailors launched a daring raid to cripple the Nazi drydocks at St. Nazaire, France — the only facility in the northern Atlantic that could handle repairs to Germany’s largest battleships.


The raid consisted of 18 vessels and 621 British servicemen who ran a destroyer loaded with explosives into the Nazi-held docks.

The drydock at St. Nazaire — often called the Normandie docks after the French passenger ship Normandie that the docks were originally constructed to support — was the only facility capable of repairing the legendary German battleship Tirpitz if it was damaged.

The Tirpitz was a strategic target for the British.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
The HMS Campbeltown as it was being converted to resemble a German warship for the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: Royal Navy)

Britain’s audacious plan was dubbed “Operation Chariot.” It called for the HMS Campbeltown, a former U.S. destroyer that was traded to the United Kingdom, to sail straight down the river approach to Normandie.

When it reached the target, the ship would ram the drydock at full speed.

The Campbeltown had a 4-ton bomb nestled in the hull that would be set to go off in the early morning hours after the ramming.

Fifteen motor launches — 112-ft. long wooden boats with little armor or firepower — along with a motor torpedo boat and a motor gunboat provided a 17-ship escort for the Campbeltown.

These ships were supposed to provide some cover for the destroyer and evacuate the sailors and commandos after the mission.

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British Motor Torpedo Boat 74 before it took part in the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: Royal Navy)

The entire convoy left England on March 26, 1942. Only a few senior officers believed the mission had any chance of success, and even those thought that there was little or no chance that any of the men would make it home alive.

The fleet sailed down to the entrance to the waterways and turned east for the final five-mile trip upriver. As they turned, the commander ordered the fuzes on the bombs be lit. The men had approximately eight hours until their ship would blow sky high.

A Royal Air Force bombing mission was supposed to distract the defenders for as long as possible, but cloud cover caused the crews to not drop their bombs for fear of causing French casualties. Instead, the circling planes just alerted the Germans that something was going on.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
British commandos rush with scaling ladders. (Photo: YouTube/993ti)

The Campbeltown had been modified to make it appear a little like a German ship, and it flew a German flag. But the camouflage job wasn’t particularly good.

The first few German defenses let the ships pass unmolested, but the flotilla quickly came under scrutiny.

Initially, British signallers using a stolen German code book were able to provide the right responses to challenges, but the Nazis got wise to the ruse and opened fire on the British.

Dozens of artillery emplacements and machine guns on both banks of the river started shooting the Campbeltown as other machine guns concentrated on the smaller ships.

The motor launches were quickly engulfed in flames as rounds pierced the external fuel tanks on the wooden decks and turned the boats into raging bonfires.

The Campbeltown proceeded upriver even after the helmsman was killed. The man who stepped up to replace him was also killed.

Finally, the scientist who had designed the bomb in the Campbeltown’s hold stepped up and steered the ship forward.

The commandos and sailors silenced as many German guns as they could, but survivors said the ship was still alight with the fire and sparks kicked up by the constant volleys hitting the Campbeltown.

Despite the fierce fire, the Campbeltown was able to strike the dock and ran aground on its lip.

St. Nazaire, Zerstörer "HMS Campbeltown" The HMS Campbeltown sits on the lip of the Normandie dock after crashing into it. (Photo: German army archives)

The surviving commandos spilled off of the ship and rushed to their assigned targets, setting bombs on the pumping house, the winding houses, and the caissons that made the drydock work.

Despite the commandos wounds and fatigue, they got the job done, knocking out the dock’s infrastructure.

But when they arrived back at their pickup point, nearly all of the motor launches were sinking or on fire. The commander gave the order for the men to disperse into small groups and attempt to fight their way to the Spanish border, 350 miles away.

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British prisoners are escorted by German troops in the final hours of the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: German army archives)

Most of the men were captured or killed during the attempted escape through the French city. The Germans treated the British fighters well, probably in honor of their bravery for having attacked a fortress at 10 to 1 odds.

Only 227 British troops made it out. Five fought their way to France, and 222 made it to safety on the surviving boats.

The prisoners left in the town were dismayed to see that the Campbeltown did not blow up on schedule. At 10 a.m., hours after the bomb was set to blow, the ship was covered in German soldiers.

Some of them were walking with their French girlfriends on the ship’s decks.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Sam Beattie, one of the mission commanders who later received the Victoria Cross for his actions, was being mocked by a German officer for trying to break the docks with a flimsy ship when the bomb blew. Then the bomb went off.

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
The remains of the HMS Campbeltown sit in the Normandie dry dock after a bomb in the ship’s hull rendered the docks unusable. (Photo: YouTube/993ti)

The resulting damage killed most of the men nearby and did so much damage to the dock that it wasn’t operable again until 1947.

The mission resulted in the award of five Victoria Crosses and four Croix de Guerre, Britain and France’s highest awards for valor. Another 80 awards were given to the men who carried out the raid.

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China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings
Screenshot CCTV News/YouTube


The largest naval exercise in the world is underway in the Pacific, and to show the world that it means business, China officially commissioned its fourth vessel of a new model of guided-missile destroyers on Tuesday.

Equipped with advanced weapons that can engage other ships and submarines, the independently developed Yinchuan will be China’s most advanced guided-missile destroyer in service. The ship will be able to engage in all manner of operations, including aerial defense, anti-sea operations, and antisubmarine missions.

The Yichuan, at more than 150 meters long and nearly 20 meters wide, has an estimated load displacement of 7,000 tons.

Although the unveiling was met with fanfare and a parade, Chinese military expert Cao Weidong told China Central Television that the Yinchuan was inferior to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in terms of size and munitions capabilities.

But other unnamed experts, according to China.org.cn, have speculated that the Yinchuan would outperform the Japanese Atago-class, the South Korean Sejong the Great-class, and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The Yinchuan is the fourth ship in its class to be unveiled by China to date.

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This triple amputee has taken Hollywood by storm

These are President Obama’s criteria for targeted killings


Specialist Bryan Anderson’s first question when he came out of a seven-day coma and saw his mother was, “What are you doing in Iraq?” But his mother wasn’t in Iraq.  She was at his bedside at Walter Reed Medical Center.

A week before Anderson had been on his second combat tour, once again serving as an Army MP this time charged with training members of the Iraqi police. His unit had to travel the streets of Baghdad in up-armored Humvees to get to the various police stations around the city, and they were getting hit by IEDs on a daily basis.

“It wasn’t a matter of if we’d get hit, but when we’d get hit,” he said.

Anderson’s exposure was increased by the fact that the unit commander liked his squad. “He knew we knew what we were doing,” he said. “So our mission became to take him wherever he wanted to go to do whatever he wanted to do.”

And his CO wanted to see everything. “He was ‘Capt. America,’ as we called him,” Anderson said. “I get what he was trying to do – lead by example – but at the time we viewed it as he was putting our lives in danger because he was going out to the same Iraqi police stations every day.”

Although they tried to stay unpredictable with their routes and times, there were only so many police stations and so many ways to get to them.  The odds caught up to Anderson on October 23, 2005 at 11 o’clock in the morning. He was driving the last of three Humvees in a slow-moving convoy when an IED triggered by a laser beam exploded next to him.

“I had both my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel and one leg curled under the other because we were only doing, like, five miles per hour, which is why we’re all still alive,” Anderson explains. “The IED was set for a vehicle traveling 30 miles an hour, so instead of going through the passenger compartment the explosion took off the front of the Humvee.”

But although the detonation didn’t happen as the insurgents had planned, the toll on Anderson’s body was substantial.  “I saw smoke, fire, and sparks coming through my door,” he said. “And then it was pitch black because there was so much smoke.”

The soldier riding shotgun jumped out before the vehicle stopped with shrapnel in his wrist and hip. The gunner got what Anderson called the “Forrest Gump wound” – shrapnel to his butt – and he jumped out of the turret.

Anderson tried to get out of the Humvee but couldn’t, unaware of his wounds. The two others busted the bolts off the driver’s side door and pulled him out of the wreckage.

“All I could see was my friends running back and forth like they’d just seen a ghost, and I knew something was wrong,” Anderson said.

He tried to use his right hand to swipe the flies away from his face, and noticed that his index finger tip was missing. He turned his hand over and could see shattered bones and torn ligaments.

As he was looking at his right hand a fly landed in his left eye. He went to swipe it with his other hand, but “whiffed,” as he put it. His left hand was gone.

Then he looked down. His legs were gone. He couldn’t process what he was seeing. “There’s no way that just happened,” he thought to himself. “I’m dreaming.”

“Then I got this weird feeling, like, ‘Oh, man, my mom’s gonna kill me,” he said.

Then he looked up at the soldier who was attending to him and asked, “Do you think I’m ever going to get laid again?”

It took the medevac helicopter 12 minutes to get to the scene. Anderson was having trouble breathing because his right lung had collapsed with the concussion of the bomb. The shock was wearing off a bit, and he described the initial pain sensation as a “burning all over, like putting on too much Icy Hot.”

The helo landed in what Anderson described as “an impossible place.” Once they were airborne he passed out.

He awoke seven days later to see his mother standing over him, saying, “You had an accident.”

Anderson considered his injuries and thought to himself, “Really?” Fortunately his entire family was there along with his mother – his identical twin brother, his sister, his aunts and uncles. “That gave me enough strength to say screw it,” he said. “One day at a time, right?”

He spent 13 months at Walter Reed, six weeks in-patient and the rest living at the Malone House as he did physical therapy. For the first four months he had a good attitude, sort of what he called a “wait and see” outlook. But then he fell into deep depression. “I’d look at myself as a triple amputee and ask, ‘What am I possibly going to be able to do?'”

He had panic attacks and flew into uncontrollable rage. He didn’t sleep for two weeks. Then one day he was sitting by a reflecting pond near the Malone House talking to his twin brother who asked him if he was listening to music. Anderson replied that he wasn’t. His brother gave him a CD of a mutual friend’s band.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI5N_D5mpR0

“I was listening to the chorus of this one song,” he recounts. “The words got to me: ‘Life’s been less than kind. We’ve all been hurt; we’ve all been sorry. Take a number, stand in line. How we survive is what makes us who we are.’ For some reason that just resonated with me, and at that moment I felt like I’d grabbed the first rung of the ladder to pull myself out of this hole.”

The second rung was an impromptu trip to Las Vegas. “I was able to just be a dude for the first time in a long time,” he said. “I had fun, and that forced me to think about what’s in front of me. It made me live in the moment.”

When he got back to Walter Reed he mediated at the reflecting pond again, and it struck him that he had two choices: He could roll over and die or he could go live his life.

“At that moment I made the decision to start figuring out what I could and couldn’t do,” he said. “And it turns out there’s not a lot I can’t do.”

Anderson started skateboarding and snowboarding again. And, after being profiled in Esquire magazine and receiving a couple of offers, he decided to head to LA to pursue an acting career, something he’d always wanted to do.

His first gig was as a stunt driver in “The Dark Knight.” On the set he befriended the movie’s star, Heath Ledger. “He was a skater,” Anderson said. One day he mentioned to the actor that it was intimidating to talk to him with his Joker makeup on. Ledger replied, “You realize I could say the same thing about you, right?”

Anderson’s next role was in “The Wrestler” in which he has a brief scene handing Mickey Rourke one of his prosthetic legs to use as a weapon against an opponent.  After that he played a wounded Navy SEAL accused of murder on “CSI: New York.”

Following a couple of episodes of “All My Children,” a cameo in “The Wire,” and an episode of “Hawaii Five-O” he landed a part in “American Sniper.”

“I was standing next to Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper thinking, ‘This is crazy,'” Anderson said.

The first scene he was in had no script. “Bradley Cooper told us, ‘Clint likes to do things natural,’ and he told us to just say whatever we wanted. Nobody was talking, so I just wound up taking the lead and telling the story about how my right hand was saved the day I was hit because I reached for a cigarette.”

Anderson’s plan for a future in Hollywood is pretty simple: “More parts,” he said.

Whatever happens he’s going to leverage the main lessons his life since that tragic and fateful day in Iraq has taught him: “Nobody’s going to make you happy. You have to do that yourself,” he said. “And take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.”

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