Wil Willis knows a thing or two about weapons. He was born into a military family, served as an Army Ranger for four years, then transferred to the Air Force to become a pararescueman for another ten years. Since his time in service, he’s found ways to utilize the skills he learned on active duty as both an entertainer and an instructor.
Now an actor and writer, Willis is perhaps best known for his work on Forged in Fire, a competition series where world-class bladesmiths compete to create iconic edged weapons from history. He also teaches veterans and members of the first responder community about tactical combat casualty care.
So, yeah, he’s kind of bad ass.
U.S. Marine Weston Scott met up with Willis to connect over a past-time they both love: hitting the road on two wheels.
In this episode of “Paving the Way,” Willis and Scott hang out in their favorite Los Angeles garage working on their bikes and chatting about what it means for them to ride.
“I don’t do anything illegal. It’s not out of control. But I definitely am more aggressive than a lot of other riders. I ride every day.”
His riding style might be “fast and loose” but Willis insists it helps him slow down.
“I think being left alone with your thoughts can be scary sometimes, especially when you’re talking about a transitional period. I’ve got through it a bunch of times. Everybody’s had rough times. For me, getting back on the back was a way of slowing everything down in my mind. I do believe there’s something spiritual I get out of riding.”
Check out the episode above to find out more about why Willis rides every day, but Scott sums it up nicely: “It’s just good for the soul.”
Don’t worry, destroying North Korea will wait long enough for you to take a bathroom and memes break. Here are 13 of the funniest military memes floating around, here just in time to help you relieve yourself before the Super Bowl of war:
Minutes after Tate Jolly arrived at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, a mortar hit the compound where an ambassador and another American had been killed and dozens more were trapped.
The Marine gunnery sergeant was one of only two U.S. troops with a small task force that rushed to respond to what quickly became clear was a coordinated attack on the U.S. State Department facility.
It was a remarkable mission. The closest military backup was hours away, which later led to fierce debate about how U.S. troops should be postured to protect Americans and diplomatic posts overseas.
“There was no one even remotely close to being able to go and get them in North Africa,” a source familiar with the operation planning said. “The nearest airplanes were hours away and the nearest ground troops a day away or further.”
The source spoke under the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the Sept. 11, 2012, incident, which remains a topic of controversy in Washington seven years later.
The scene was chaotic when the team arrived, and they quickly tried to restore order. There were nearly 30 panicked people who needed to be evacuated quickly, but the compound was under fire from multiple sides.
“Unfortunately, it was not a whole lot of offense; it was a whole lot of just holding guys off as long as they could to try and get out,” the person familiar with the mission said.
Jolly, who declined a request for an interview, would ultimately be awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism there. The soldier with him, Master Sgt. David Halbruner, received the Army‘s Distinguished Service Cross. The valor awards are exceeded only by the Medal of Honor.
Little has been known about the Jolly’s actions in Benghazi. There was no public ceremony when he received his valor award and, until recently, his name has not been publicly tied to the mission in media reports.
His hometown paper in North Carolina,the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, recently reported that the 36-year-old who’d graduated from high school about 90 miles north of Charlotte was the Marine who’d gone above and beyond to save other Americans. Jolly recently retired as a master sergeant.
According to testimony, public documents and the person familiar with his actions, Jolly was calm in the face of deadly chaos. He and Halbruner are credited with saving numerous lives that day.
With a rifle strapped to his back amid an onslaught of mortars and machine-gun fire, Jolly tended to the wounded, at one point throwing a man onto his back and shuffling him down a ladder amid a barrage of enemy fire. He helped some get back into the fight and provided vital care to others with life-threatening injuries.
Here’s how then-Gunnery Sgt. Jolly helped get other Americans to safety during a situation that caused a years-long political firestorm thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.
A Delta Force Marine
Jolly, an infantry assault Marine, was assigned to a Delta Force detachment in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack. It’s rare, though not unheard of, for Marines to join the elite Army special-operations teams.
The Marine had deployed to Iraq twice before joining the secretive counterterrorism force, spending about five years carrying out clandestine missions before the Benghazi attack and another five after, according to information about his career obtained by Military.com.
He racked up more than a dozen total deployments with Delta Force.
The Navy Cross Jolly received for his actions in Benghazi was his fourth valor award. He has two Bronze Stars with combat “V” devices — one of which he earned for undisclosed reasons during his time with Delta Force, and a second from a 2004-2005 deployment to Ramadi, Iraq.
Jolly also earned a Navy Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device and a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during that deployment.
(Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)
According to his award citations, Jolly repeatedly braved enemy fire in Ramadi to help take out an enemy sniper who had ambushed a government center. He received the Navy Commendation Medal for risking his life to destroy roadside bombs when an explosive ordnance disposal team couldn’t reach his unit.
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Jolly was about 600 miles away from Benghazi in Tripoli — roughly the same distance between Chicago and Washington, D.C. Since Jolly and Halbruner were some of the only troops in-country, the operation was coordinated not by U.S. Africa Command, but the CIA.
Team Tripoli, made up of Jolly, Halbruner and five others, arrived in Benghazi at about 1:30 a.m. That was about four hours after the attack began, and two since Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens had last been seen alive.
The team was led by Glen Doherty, a Global Response Staff (GRS) security officer and former Navy SEAL, who was later killed. He was Team Tripoli’s medic.
The plan, according to the person familiar with the mission, was to leave the airport and head to the hospital, where they believed Stevens was being treated. When they found out Stevens had died, the first ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979, the team headed to the consulate to bolster the diplomatic security personnel and GRS, a group of private military contractors who were fending off the attackers.
“It could’ve gone really, really bad,” said the source familiar with the mission. “It could’ve become 30 American hostages in North Africa. There were seven shooters going in to protect people who don’t shoot for a living.”
By the time they arrived, Sean Smith, a State Department foreign service officer, had also died. It was still dark, just after 5 a.m., according to a congressional timeline of the attack. Within minutes, the first mortar hit.
The attacks continued, with one witness estimating there were as many as 100 insurgents spotted surrounding their location in 20- or 30-man groups. It was a skilled enemy, one of the troops there later told members of Congress.
“It’s not easy … to shoot inside the city and get something on the target within two shots — that’s difficult,” the witness testified. “I would say they were definitely a trained mortar team or had been trained to do something similar to that.
“I was kind of surprised,” the service member added. “… It was unusual.”
They were there a matter of hours, but at times witnesses said the team feared they wouldn’t make it out alive. It began to “rain down on us,” one of them told lawmakers.
”I really believe that this attack was planned,” the witness said. “The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries.”
In total, six 81-millimeter mortars assaulted the annex within a minute and 13 seconds, a congressional report on the attack states. Doherty and Tyrone Woods, another former SEAL with the GRS, didn’t survive.
Dave Ubben, a State Department security agent, and Mark “Oz” Geist, another GRS member, were badly hurt. The men were defending the compound from the rooftop, determined to make it look like they had a lot more firepower than they actually did.
“There was a lot of shooting, a lot of indirect fire and explosions,” the source with knowledge of the response said. “It was just guys being really aggressive and doing a good job at making it seem like their element was bigger than it was, like they were less hurt than they were.”
Ubben — who’d testified before a federal court in 2017 that he took shrapnel to his head, nearly lost his leg, and had a grapefruit-sized piece of his arm taken off — was losing blood fast. Geist also had a serious arm injury that needed immediate attention.
Jolly and Halbruner were determined to save them. Amid the fight, they were tying tourniquets to the men’s bodies.
Ubben is alive because Jolly helped move him from the rooftop to a building where diplomatic personnel were hunkered down. Gregory Hicks, who became the acting chief of mission after Stevens died, later described how the gunny did it during a congressional hearing.
Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens.
“One guy … full of combat gear climbed up [to the roof], strapped David Ubben, who is a large man, to his back and carried him down the ladder, saved him,” Hicks said.
Jolly and Halbruner also went back out to the rooftop to recover the bodies of the fallen.
“They didn’t know whether any more mortars were going to come in. The accuracy was terribly precise,” Hicks said. “… They climbed up on the roof, and they carried Glen’s body and Tyrone’s body down.”
It was for Jolly’s “valorous actions, dedication to duty and willingness to place himself in harm’s way” to save numerous unarmed Americans’ lives that he earned the Navy Cross, according to his citation.
Bracing for the worst
That attack was traumatic for many of the civilians trapped inside one of the buildings, according to the person with knowledge of the operation. They’d lost their ambassador and another colleague, and they had no experience being caught in a life-and-death combat situation.
Once Jolly and Halbruner brought the injured men in from off the rooftop, the diplomatic staff helped treat their wounds, according to the source familiar with the situation. It gave them a mission as the onslaught continued outside.
As the sun came up, the remaining team members worried that terrorists would overtake the facility. First believed to be the work of the Benghazi-based Ansar al-Sharia group, the attack was coordinated by several networks in the region, including al-Qaida affiliates.
Throughout the night, the Americans had the advantage of night vision, the person familiar with the mission said. In the daylight, it could quickly become an even playing field.
Surprisingly though, it got quieter. They gathered inside one of the buildings and formed an evacuation plan to move the diplomatic staff to the airport and eventually out of Benghazi.
“[They had to talk about] things like, ‘What happens if they came under attack on the way out? Do you know where to go if you are separated from the group or are being shot at?'” according to the person familiar with the plans.
They prepared for the worst: that as the convoy left the compound, they’d be ambushed, everyone would panic, and the terrorists would take hostages. But they made it to the airport without issue and, by 7:31 a.m., the first plane with survivors took off for Tripoli.
“Who would’ve thought seven people could go into Benghazi and get more than 25 people out? Especially without traditional military support?” the person familiar with the mission said. “… But you can do a lot if you’re determined and have no other choice.”
The Defense Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later faced a host of criticism over their response to the attack. Critics called it too slow — a congressional investigation finding that despite President Barack Obama and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta clearly ordering the military to deploy response forces, none were sent until almost eight hours after the attacks began.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton honor the Benghazi attack victims at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony held at Andrews Air Force Base on Sept. 14, 2012.
(State Department photo)
Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked to explain why he hadn’t dispatched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from Italy. He told lawmakers it would’ve been “the wrong tool for the job.”
The Marine Corps, the nation’s go-to crisis-response force, has been particularly responsive in the aftermath of the attack. Since there aren’t enough amphibious ships to stage Marines everywhere they’d like to be at sea, they’ve set up land-based crisis-response forces built to respond to emergencies quickly. Those units include up to 2,200 personnel, along with aircraft and logistics capabilities.
Those units are now based in Europe, the Middle East and Central America. Those assigned to Africa and the Middle East have fielded several State Department requests to evacuate embassy personnel or shore up security when intelligence has indicated a high risk for attack.
The Marine Corps and State Department have also bolstered the number of embassy guards placed at diplomatic posts around the world, standing up dozens of new detachments that previously did not have military personnel.
It was a tragedy to see a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed in Benghazi but, sadly, it sometimes takes an awful situation to get the attention of those in charge of policy, the person familiar with the response said.
“It was a bad situation, but a lot of priorities changed after this tragedy that would otherwise never have gotten fixed.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
During tests that concluded on September 1, US Marine Corps F-35Bs proved their ability to multitask in the exact kind of way they would need to while breaching an enemy air-defense zone.
The Marines at Edwards Air Base, California, completed multiple tests of AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles in complicated air-to-air and air-to-ground scenarios, but the highlight of the test involved a 500-pound laser-guided bomb.
An F-35B successfully dropped the 500 pounder and supported it with onboard sensors to hit a ground target while simultaneously shooting down an unmanned F-16 drone with the AIM-120.
“This was a phenomenally successful deployment that was made possible by the close coordination between the JSF Operational Test Team, US Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and industry,” Lt. Col. Rusnok, the officer in charge of the testing said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.
This test exemplifies the “multi-role” aspect of the F-35, functioning as a fighter jet and a bomber in the same moment. This test also likely means that the Navy, Air Force, and any other partner nations flying the F-35 variants will have this capability too.
Furthermore, it’s much like what future F-35 pilots could expect when breaching enemy airspace, in that they’d have to deal with multiple threats at once.
Should an F-35 be detected, which would be difficult, air defenses as well as fighter planes would immediately scramble to address the threat. So for an F-35, multitasking is a must and now, a proven reality.
“My dad’s name is Chad J. Simon, he was a staff sergeant, and I can’t say I can remember anything about him, I just wonder if he was the one who taught me how to tie my shoes,” said Dylan, who lost his father when he was too young to remember. Also on the boat were three sisters, Alexis, Starr and Kylee, who lost their dad, Spc. Grant Dampier.
Camp Hometown Heroes is a non-profit organization dedicated to counseling kids ages 7 through 17 who’ve lost loved ones while serving in the military. According to Dylan, the week-long camp is raising money to spread the organization to other locations where it can continue to serve kids for free.
Why you should follow: Mat Best and the boys at Article 15 Clothing bring laughter in a way only veterans and active military personnel can relate to. They shoot anything that goes bang and make awesome videos.
Why you should follow: Stay up-to-date with the U.S. military’s most-trusted* news source (If you aren’t aware, Duffel Blog is a parody news organization offering pitch perfect satire on military and veterans issues).
Guam’s first line of defense from an incoming North Korean ballistic missile could very well be MQ-9 Reaper drones. This sounds very counter-intuitive, since ballistic missiles go very fast, and the normal cruising speed of the MQ-9 Reaper is 230 miles per hour.
But according to a report from DefenseOne.com, the secret was not in what the drones could shoot or drop, but instead in what the drones could see. In a June 2016 multi-lateral exercise involving Japan, the United States, and South Korea, two MQ-9 Reapers equipped with Raytheon Multi-Spectral Targeting System C were able to give Aegis ships armed with SM-3s more precise targeting data on the ballistic missile.
The Missile Defense Agency is hoping to reduce the number of drones needed by adding a targeting laser to the Reaper.
According to the Raytheon web site, the Multi-Spectral Targeting System, or MTS, is a combined electro-optical/infra-red system that also adds a laser designator. Various versions of the MTS have been used on platforms ranging from the C-130 Hercules cargo plane to the MQ-9 Reaper. The United States military has two general versions, the AN/AAS-52, or the MTS-A, and the AN/DAS-1, the MTS-B. The Air Force is also buying another Raytheon MTS system, designating it the AN/DAS-4.
One possibility to improve these airborne eyes could center around a jet-powered version of the Reaper called the Avenger. According to the General Atomics web site, the Avengr has a top speed of 400 nautical miles per hour, and can stay airborne for as many as 20 hours, depending on the version.
The Avenger could have the option of not just watching a launch, but maybe even hitting an enemy missile. According to a 2015 report from BreakingDefense.com, the Avenger could also carry the HELLADS, a high-energy laser system. Earlier this year, the Army tested a high-energy laser on the AH-64 Apache, combined with Raytheon’s MTS.
Since 2010, The Warrior Games has allowed wounded warriors from each military branch to compete in Olympic style games each year. This year’s games are being held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. from June 19-28. By utilizing the therapeutic power of sports, the games enable wounded, ill, and injured service members to showcase their athletic abilities.
Here are 25 photos that show why this event is one of the most inspiring in the world.
1. The Warrior Games are attended by senior government and military leadership such as former Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta (center) and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno.
2. There is an elaborate opening ceremony complete with the lighting of the cauldron to mark the beginning of the games.
3. Warrior athletes make up 6 teams including Army …
4. Air Force,
5. Marine Corps,
6. Navy / Coast Guard,
7. Special Operations Command (SOCOM),
8. And British Armed Forces.
9. The crowd is packed with family, friends, and caregivers of the competitors.
10. You are literally watching the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors taking place.
11. It’s also chance to see the long standing rivalry between military services.
12. Events include archery …
13. Wheelchair Basketball,
14. And Cycling.
15. Then there are Field events such as seated shot put, standing shot put, seated discus, and standing discus.
16. There’s track and field …
18. Sitting Volleyball,
20. And Wheelchair Rugby.
21. There’s even exhibition games that dignitaries and Olympic champions will play in, like Prince Harry of Wales and 3 time Olympic gold medalist Misty May Treanor.
22. Beautiful medals are awarded to competitors.
23. Individual competitors can rack up medals.
24. And the team with the overall best performance is awarded the ‘Chairman’s Cup.’
25. No matter what the result, there is a powerful spirit of camaraderie.
To learn more about the games, visit the Warrior Games website here.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said the review, commissioned by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Jan. 26, would study the two aircraft “apples to apples” to determine whether the 4th-generation Super Hornet can fill the shoes of the brand-new F-35C.
Davis noted that the Marine Corps owns a significant portion of the program’s institutional wisdom as well.
“I probably have the most experienced F-35 pilots in the department of the Navy on my staff right now,” he said.
Mattis’ directive, aimed at finding ways to shave cost off the infamously expensive Joint Strike Fighter program, dictates that the review assess the extent that improvements can be made to the Super Hornet “in order to provide a competitive, cost-effective fighter aircraft alternative.”
Davis said that F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin and Super Hornet maker Boeing would have opportunities to make their case for the aircraft.
However, he said, he expects the study to validate the need to have the technologically advanced F-35C deployed aboard carriers in the future.
“I think it will be a good study, and my sense is we’ll probably have validated the imperative to have a 5th-generation aircraft out there on our nation’s bow,” he said.
If F-35Cs are taken out of the picture as a result of the review, attrition rates of the 4th-generation Super Hornet may become an issue, Davis said, suggesting such a move would limit the aircraft’s ability to deploy in some situations.
“We’re not going backward in time, we’re going forward in time,” he said. “The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, we’re deployed, naval and expeditionary, and we want to make sure our Marines and our sailors have the very best gear in case something bad happens. And that’s 5th-generation airplanes.”
Chinese media touted the mobilization of a “far-reaching, anti-ship ballistic missile” Jan. 10, 2019, specifically highlighting its ability to target ships in the South China Sea.
China’s DF-26 ballistic missile has reportedly been mobilized in northwestern China, according to the Global Times, citing state broadcaster China Central Television. The weapon, commonly described as a “carrier killer,” is an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear warheads to targets on land and at sea.
The report from the Global Times notes that the activation of the DF-26 comes just “after a US warship trespassed into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands (Paracel Islands) in the South China Sea on Jan. 7, 2019,” a reference to a legal freedom-of-navigation operation conducted by destroyer USS McCampbell.
“We urge the United States to immediately cease this kind of provocation,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in response, accusing the US of having “gravely infringed upon China’s sovereignty.”
The USS McCampbell.
“We will be on high alert and will closely monitor the air and sea situation to strongly defend our sovereignty and security,” the ministry spokesman added.
September 2018, a Chinese destroyer attempted to intercept a US warship during a freedom-of-navigation operation in the Spratly Islands, risking a collision. It was the Chinese navy’s most aggressive response to US actions in the South China Sea to date.
The DF-26 missiles mobilized in the northwest regions are far from the South China Sea, but Chinese military experts assert that it has the range to cover the contested waterway. “Even when launched from deeper inland areas of China, the DF-26 has a range far-reaching enough to cover the South China Sea,” an anonymous expert told the Global Times. The missile is believed to have a range of about 3,400 miles.
That expert added that missiles fired from the interior are harder to intercept because they can realistically only be intercepted in the terminal phase.
Amid Chinese bravado, there remains skepticism about the DF-26 missile’s ability to serve in an anti-ship role. The weapon was previously nicknamed the “Guam Killer” or the “Guam Express,” as it offers China the ability to strike Andersen Air Force Base, a key US base in the Pacific, with force.
The article in the Global Times reflects an aggressive tone that is becoming more common in Chinese discussions.
Recently, a retired Chinese admiral suggested sinking two US aircraft carriers, which would end the lives of roughly 10,000 American sailors. “What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” Rear Adm. Luo Yuan said. “We’ll see how frightened America is.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
James Bond has long been the most famous “secret agent” out there. Everyone knows James Bond, and it is rare to meet someone who hasn’t seen at least one of the films. Like with most films of that kind, there are a lot of issues with the character and storylines in general. Take for instance the fact that they call him a “secret agent” when he is in fact an Intelligence Officer. Add to that he doesn’t have a line manager, but instead somehow reports directly to the head of MI-6. Then there is the reality that a “license to kill” doesn’t really exist. Despite these tiny issues with details, the films are actually quite good. However, there are many reasons that James Bond truly is the worst spy ever, even if he is a fictional character. Here are the top 007 reasons:
He carries a gun on airplanes
He walks on and off commercial flights with a shoulder holster on and is never once stopped by security. He strolls through the airport fully armed and no one seems to notice or be bothered by the fact that an armed man in a suit is boarding a flight. Even if he has it in his bag instead, it is still never questioned. In reality, he probably would have received a weapon when he arrived at his destination, not carry it on an airplane with him.
He constantly destroys or loses his equipment
He is regularly issued with equipment, weapons and vehicles that are worth millions. However, he never returns any of it, at least not in the same condition he gets it. You would think when given the highest levels of technological advancements in “spy gear,” weapons and cars, one would be inclined to take extra special care of it all.
He is always being captured and/or beaten up
Despite the fact that he is a highly trained intelligence officer, who is supposed to be aware of his surroundings at all times and the number one rule of intelligence is “never get caught,” Mr. Bond is constantly being captured by the baddies he is after. Even if he isn’t being captured, he is getting beaten up by any number of people associated with whichever villain he is chasing. Where is all that training he meant to have?
He never follows orders
The intelligence world does leave some wiggle room to think on your feet, but a big part of it is also following the orders you are given. James Bond never does that. It doesn’t matter what anyone says or tells him to do, he does the opposite. He always feels that he is in the right and he does his own thing at all times, no matter the consequences.
He travels under his own name
Anyone who knows anything about intelligence knows that they absolutely never travel using their own identity whilst on operations. That is part of the whole point of what they do. However, James Bond who is supposed to be one of the best, always travels under his own name and with his own documents.
He always draws attention to himself
One of the biggest parts of intelligence training is how to never get noticed. For someone who is supposed to be a spy or secret agent or intelligence officer, depending on what you like, he draws an awful lot of attention to himself. He drives expensive cars, wears ridiculously expensive suits and stays at five-star hotels. Not to mention the fact that he is always blowing things up and firing his weapon in highly public places.
Everyone knows who he is
The number one reason James Bond is the worst spy ever: Everyone knows exactly who he is. Every bad guy, every hotel receptionist, every bartender knows his name. He walks into a bar and is greeted with, “Good evening, Mr. Bond.” Plus, they know exactly what he drinks! Villains know his reputation and that he has a license to kill. They all know him on sight. To top it off they all know his 00 code number … His secret code number. The number of times an adversary uses 007 is absolutely astounding. This alone is enough to make James Bond the worst spy ever.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tackled several of the world’s most sensitive issues during a whirlwind trip aimed at preventing Afghanistan from falling back into chaos, easing Kurdish-Iraqi tensions that could allow Islamic State to revive, and isolating Iran as much as possible.
Unsurprisingly, Tillerson was welcomed in Afghanistan and India, where President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to foster a growing partnership as part of his recently announced policy for the region. His reception was more muted in Pakistan, which is under increasing pressure to crackdown on extremist groups and eliminate their safehavens.
Those stops on the five-day, six-nation trip epitomized the diplomatic tightrope that Washington faces, along with the risks in dealing with them face to face. Likely mindful that insurgents attacked Kabul’s international airport hours after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited a month ago, the stops in Kabul and Afghanistan lasted just hours, and neither involved an overnight stay.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani went to Bagram Airbase to meet with Tillerson, whose visit was not announced in advance, to discuss how to deal with the Taliban insurgency that has resulted in what US military officials have called a stalemate.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.
Faiz Mohammad Zaland, an Afghan analyst who attended a number of conferences with Taliban officials abroad, welcomed Tillerson’s proposal for Afghanistan to draw the Taliban into the peace process, as long as the group renounces terrorism and violent extremism.
“We’ve made clear to the Taliban: You will never achieve a military victory,” Tillerson told a news conference Oct. 26. “Do you want your children and grandchildren fighting this same fight?Because that’s the way it’s going to be if you don’t find a different way to go forward.”
Akbar Agha, an ex-Taliban official, told VOA the Taliban want a change in the system of government and insist on a pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan at a time the US and its allies have been beefing up their presence.
In Islamabad, Tillerson was greeted by a low-level Foreign Ministry official and then taken to meet separately with the civilian government and the military, underscoring the difficulty of putting together a united policy when each side has different priorities. There has been strong speculation for years of ties between Pakistan’s intelligence service and extremist groups, and the military’s primary focus is on tense relations with India.
And while the US repeatedly has said it feels that having Pakistan play a positive role is key to success in Afghanistan, there are signs that Islamabad is hedging its bets by growing closer to China – which has undertaken mutually beneficial, multi-billion-dollar development projects in the country – and bolstering relations with Russia in case Washington were to cut back on aid.
Former Pakistani Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said the low-key welcome shouldn’t be seen as a slight, saying then-President Bill Clinton was given similar treatment when he visited in 2000.
“The meetings were important, the welcome was not,” Naqvi said.
Tillerson described his talks in Pakistan as “frank and candid.”
“We probably listened 80 percent of the time and we talked 20 percent,” Tillerson said. “We put our expectations forward in no uncertain terms. We’re going to chart our course consistent with what Pakistan not just says they do, but what they actually do.”
The two sides reportedly exchanged lists of terrorists they want apprehended or eliminated, and they are seeking help in pursuing them.
The reception for Tillerson was much warmer in India, which is clearly happy about the US plan for the country to play an enhanced role in Afghanistan – where it earlier stepped in to provide air transport of Afghan produce and other goods when Pakistan closed border crossings – and the rest of the region.
“He must be very tired, but the good part was that his last stop is a country that is a close friend,” said Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swarah. “It is said visiting a close friend’s place cures you of tiredness. I hope Secretary Tillerson is not feeling tired any more.”
After wrapping up his first trip to the region, Tillerson said his goal had been to expand on Trump’s new policy and what role is envisioned for each country.
“What we’ve received in the region is enormously positive over the South Asian strategy,” he said. “People have said this is the first time we’ve seen a strategy.”