U.S. Army‘s senior leadership has ended an agreement with Orbital ATK Inc. that spanned two decades over the XM25 25mm airburst weapon, a move that could put the troubled weapon system’s future into jeopardy.
Nicknamed “the Punisher” and designed by Orbital ATK and Heckler Koch, XM25 has long been the Army’s attempt to field a “leap-ahead” weapon designed to give infantry units a decisive edge against enemies hiding behind cover.
The XM25 has stirred excitement in the infantry community, but the complex system has also been plagued by program delays that have made it a target of Pentagon auditors.
The latest trouble for the program came when the Army canceled its contract with Orbital ATK just one month ago.
“On April 5, 2017, the Army terminated the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) contract with the prime contractor (Orbital-ATK) after it failed to deliver the 20 weapons as specified by the terms of the contract,” an Army spokesman told Military.com in a May 5 email.
“Despite extensive negotiation efforts, the contractor failed to provide an acceptable alternate resolution to the Government.”
The announcement follows reports that Orbital ATK filed a lawsuit in February against Heckler Koch in the Minnesota U.S. District Court seeking damages in excess of $27 million, according to a report by Reuters.
In the complaint, Orbital said it was seeking damages for breach of contract over the XM25 semi-automatic weapon system, which Orbital and Heckler Koch started developing more than 20 years ago.
Orbital said in the filing that Heckler Koch had failed to deliver 20 additional prototypes of the XM25 weapon systems, as contracted, and that its failure to do so meant the Army had raised the possibility of terminating its contract with Orbital, Reuters reported.
Heckler Koch has rejected all claims in the suit, according to the news agency.
Military.com reached out to both Orbital ATK and Heckler Koch for comment but did not receive a response by press time.
It’s unclear what the future is for XM25, but Army weapons officials appeared unsure of its status this week at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2017 Armaments Systems Forum.
Following a presentation from the Army’s Project Manager Soldier Weapons, an audience member asked why the XM25 did not appear on any of the briefing slides covering the Army’s near-term, mid-term and far-term small arms programs.
Lt. Col. Steven Power, who runs Product Manager Individual Weapons, said, “The XM25 is still managed by my office” and then gave a long pause before adding, “I can’t speak right now about the status of that program.”
Power said, “I have been informed that it is not really my place to provide information ahead of other stakeholders.”
Col. Brian Stehle, head of Program Manager Soldier Weapons, said, “There is a requirement within the Army to have an air-burst, direct-fire capability within our formation. The Army is reassessing the actual requirement itself, and we are pursuing material solutions.”
The service has considered taking the XM25’s fire-control system and joining it to a weapon that shoots a 40mm air-burst grenade, a technology Army ammunition experts are developing, according to service sources who are not cleared to speak to the press.
The XM25 is an offshoot of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program the Army began in the mid-1990s to increase the effectiveness of soldier firepower.
It features a target acquisition/fire control system that allows soldiers to identify a target, determine the range, and program the ammunition to explode above or near targets out to 600 meters.
But the stand-alone weapon has suffered from a barrage of criticism from both auditors as well as from military units.
In September 2016, the Defense Department’s Inspector General’s Office released a follow-on report to a March 2014 audit and concluded Army officials “could have managed the schedule, affordability, and quantity requirements of the XM25 program more effectively.”
The service has repeatedly delayed the weapon’s initial production decision and failed to justify a basis of issue plan, the document states.
“Specifically, Army officials removed procurement funding from the XM25 budget, which extended the engineering and manufacturing development phase by 2 years,” it states. “Additionally, Army officials contributed to the initial production decision delay by placing a hold on the XM25 capability production document.”
But while the IG said the service’s decision to extend the development effort and XM25 research caused costs to climb between February 2013 and March 2016, it failed to specify actual dollar amounts.
Indeed, the report was heavily redacted, with blacked-out figures for not only cost increases but also quantities, including how many XM25s the Army intends to field as part of its basis of issue plan.
Problems with the program started Feb. 2, 2013, when the XM25 malfunctioned during its second round of operational testing in Afghanistan, inflicting minor injuries on a soldier.
The Army halted the operational testing when the XM25 experienced a double feed and an unintentional primer ignition of one of the 25mm high-explosive rounds, Army officials said at the time.
The warhead did not detonate because of safety mechanisms on the weapon. The service removed all prototypes from theater to determine the problem’s cause.
The XM25 had completed one 14-month battlefield assessment and was in the early stages of a second assessment when the double feed and primer ignition occurred during a live-fire training exercise.
According to PM Individual Weapon officials, the XM25 has not had any similar malfunctions since changes were incorporated into the weapon and ammunition, the audit states.
In March 2013, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment refused to take the XM25 with them for a raid on a fortified enemy compound in Afghanistan, sources familiar with the incident said.
After an initial assessment, Ranger units found the 14-pound XM25 too heavy and cumbersome for the battlefield. They were also concerned that the limited basic load of 25mm rounds was not enough to justify taking an M4A1 carbine out of the mission, sources said.
There’s no limit to the amount of vitriol the military-veteran community can muster for actress Jane Fonda. Now 80, the actress is the subject of a new HBO Documentary film, Jane Fonda In Five Acts. Since the film covers her 50-year career, it could not avoid a discussion about her anti-war activism during the Vietnam War.
Her experience with war and the U.S. military before the Vietnam War was limited to her World War II-veteran father, actor Henry Fonda, and her work as “Miss Army Recruiter” in 1954. It was a famous photograph of her sitting on a Communist anti-aircraft gun in North Vietnam in 1972 that earned her the eternal scorn of veterans and the nickname “Hanoi Jane.”
To this day, the actress says she is confronted by veterans of the Vietnam War who are still angry about her visit to the enemy in 1972. If you need further proof, look at the Facebook comments on this article — yes, the one you’re currently reading.
In a meeting with television critics in Beverly Hills, Calif. on July 25, 2018, she talked about how she came to her anti-war beliefs and what led her to sit on that anti-aircraft gun. She says she didn’t know much about the war or what was happening in Vietnam. She told the group she met some American soldiers in Paris who told her what was going on and it infuriated her.
The actress said before that meeting, she “didn’t even know where Vietnam was,” but “believed that if there were men fighting, they were ‘on the side of the angels.'” While she doesn’t regret her visit to North Vietnam, she does regret the photo and the effect it had on the men and women fighting in the war and their families, she told Variety.
“What I say in the film is true: I am just so sorry that I was thoughtless enough to sit down on that gun at that time. The message that sends to the guys that were there and their families, it’s horrible for me to think about that. Sometimes I think, ‘Oh I wish I could do it over’ because there are things I would say differently now.”
The actress says she uses the confrontations with Vietnam War veterans as a chance to apologize and explain, to talk to them with what she calls, “an open mind and a soft heart.”
China’s defense minister met his Russian counterpart in Moscow on April 3, 2018, to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia,” according to the Associated Press.
“I am visiting Russia as a new defense minister of China to show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation,” China’s new defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, said, according to CNN.
“The Chinese side has come [to Moscow] to show Americans the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia … we’ve come to support you.”
The two defense ministers met for the seventh Moscow International Security Conference, according to Russian state owned media outlet TASS.
“To my memory, this is the 1st time in many years that a senior Chinese military leader says [something] like that publicly,” Alexander Gubev, a Senior Fellow and Chair of Russia in Asia-Pacific Program at Carnegie Moscow Center, tweeted on April 4, 2018.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also met in Moscow on April 5, 2018, where they expressed the same sentiment of a forged “strategic partnership” against a “unipolar” world dominated by the US, the Associated Press reported.
In the last year, Russia and China have held joint naval drills in the South China Sea and the Baltics, as well as joint missile defense drills, according to the AP.
China and Russia have long supported each other’s positions on North Korea and Syria at the United Nations, and Beijing increased its support for Moscow after the West imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, CNN reported.
In a kind of odd man-versus-nature moment, a Russian navy boat was attacked and sunk by a walrus during an expedition in the Arctic, the Barents Observer reported Sept. 23, 2019.
The Altai, a tugboat of the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet, sailed to the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Arctic carrying researchers from the Russian Geographical Society.
“The polar latitudes are fraught with many dangers,” the research group posted in a recent press update.
One of those dangers is apparently walruses, a monstrously large animal that can weigh up to a few thousand pounds and can be quite ferocious when threatened.
To get ashore from the Altai, the researchers and other expedition participants had to rely on smaller landing craft.
The Altai sitting offshore as a landing craft appears to move in.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
During one landing, the “group of researchers had to flee from a female walrus, which, while protecting its cubs, attacked an expedition boat,” the Northern Fleet said.
The navy added that “serious troubles were avoided thanks to the clear and well-coordinated actions of the Northern Fleet servicemembers, who were able to take the boat away from the animals without harming them.”
The Barents Observer reports that a drone was being operated in close proximity to the walruses. It is unclear if this is what triggered the aggression.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
While the Russian military makes no mention of any equipment losses, the Geographical Society had a bit more to say on what happened.
“Walruses attacked the participating boat,” the research group explained. “The boat sank, but the tragedy was avoided thanks to the clear actions of the squad leader. All the landing participants safely reached the shore.”
This wasn’t the Russian navy’s first run-in with walruses.
This past May, photos believed to be from 2006 surfaced online of a large walrus napping on top of a Russian submarine.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In late February 2018, amid a marked thaw in tensions between North Korea and South Korea during which the prospect of diplomacy looked brighter than ever, Bolton wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal called “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.”
In the article, Bolton argued that North Korea had given the US no choice and must be attacked before it perfected its fleet of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. In his article, Bolton never mentioned South Korea, which is in range of North Korea’s massive installation of hidden artillery guns.
Experts estimate that thousands would die in Seoul, South Korea, the capital of a democratic, loyal US ally, for every hour of fighting with North Korea.
“It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” Bolton said to conclude his article.
After South Korean diplomats said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had expressed willingness to give up his country’s nuclear weapons, Bolton dismissed it as a trick.
“The only thing North Korea is serious about is getting deliverable nuclear weapons,” he told Fox News. Bolton frequently appears on Fox, Trump’s favorite news station, to talk about North Korea in his characteristically hawkish way.
Bolton’s Twitter feed is a constant stream of reminders of links between North Korea’s weapons programs and those in Syria and Iran.
Bolton believes, not without evidence, that North Korea could become an exporter of dangerous technologies that could threaten US lives.
Trump already had a North Korea hawk — Bolton is a super hawk
McMaster isn’t exactly a dove on North Korea. McMaster is believed to have pushed the idea of striking North Korea, though perhaps in ways designed to prevent all-out war.
In November and December 2017, persistent reports came out that Trump’s inner circle was weighing such a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea. But by the new year, military and administration officials had started to pour cold water on the notion.
After the littoral combat ship USS Freedom sustained major engine damage July 11 because a seal malfunction allowed seawater to seep in, the commander of Naval Surface Forces quietly ordered all LCS crews to observe a stand-down, halting operations to review procedures and engineering standards.
“Due to the ongoing challenges with littoral combat ships, I ordered an engineering stand-down for LCS squadrons and the crews that fall under their command,” Vice Adm. Tom Rowden said in a statement. “These stands down allowed for time to review, evaluate and renew our commitment to ensuring our crews are fully prepared to operate these ships safely.”
The reviews were completed by Aug. 31, Navy officials announced Monday, adding that every sailor in each LCS crew with a role in engineering will observe retraining.
The training, officials said, will take place over the next 30 days. During that time, leadership of the Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, will review the current LCS training program and recommend any other changes they see fit.
The school’s engineers will also supervise current and future training efforts. They will develop a knowledge test and specialized training for LCS engineers, to be deployed to them by Oct. 5. A separate, comprehensive LCS engineering review is being conducted by the commander of SWOS, Capt. David A. Welch, and is expected to take between 30 and 60 days.
“From there, more adjustments may be made to the engineering training pipeline,” officials with Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.
The Freedom, the first of its class made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Marinette Marine, returned to its San Diego homeport Aug. 3 to address the damage it sustained to one of its diesel propulsion engines, which Navy officials said will require an engine rebuild or replacement.
It remains unclear what caused another LCS, the USS Coronado, to be sidelined with damage to one of its flexible couplings assemblies Aug. 29.
Upon its return to Pearl Harbor Sept. 4, the Coronado was met by a group of maintenance experts sent by Rowden to inspect the ship, officials said. The experts investigated the ship’s engineering program, but no information has been released about the cause of the problem or whether it might be related to previous engineering casualties.
“A preliminary investigation will provide an initial assessment and procedural review of the situation, and any shortfalls will be addressed quickly to get the ship fixed and back on deployment,” officials said.
The Coronado, so far the only trimaran-hulled Independence-variant LCS made by Austal USA to suffer an engineering casualty, had been just two months into its maiden deployment.
The Freedom and the Coronado are the third and fourth littoral combat ships to experience engineering casualties inside a 12-month span.
Last December, the LCS Milwaukee broke down during a transit from San Diego and Halifax, Nova Scotia when a clutch failed to disengage when the ship switched gears. The ship had to cut short the transit in order to be towed to Joint Base Little Creek, Virginia, for repairs.
In January, the LCS Fort Worth was sidelined in Singapore when it broke down in what officials said was a casualty caused by engineers failing to properly apply lubrication oil to the ship’s combining gears. After eight months in port in Singapore for repairs, the Fort Worth departed for its San Diego homeport in August.
Citing military sources with knowledge of the J-20’s development, the South China Morning Post reported that the jets that entered service didn’t feature the engine China custom-built for the platform but used an older one instead.
The Posts’ sources pinned the jet’s troubles on a test in 2015 in which the custom-built engine, the WS-15, exploded — something they attributed to China’s inability to consistently build engines that can handle the extreme heat of jet propulsion.
“It’s so embarrassing to change engines for such an important aircraft project several times … just because of the unreliability of the current WS-15 engines,” one of the sources told the Post. “It is the long-standing core problem among home-grown aircraft.”
How an old engine makes the J-20 fight like an old fighter
The older engine, the WS-10B, is basically the same kind used in the J-11 and J-10 fighters in 1998 and 2002.
Without the new engine, the J-20 can’t supercruise, or fly above the speed of sound, without igniting its afterburners like the U.S.’s F-22 and F-35 can.
“Afterburners do make any fighter much easier to detect, track, and target using Infrared and Electro-Optical systems at closer ranges when in use,” Justin Bronk, a combat-aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.
Experts have assessed that the goal of the J-20 platform is to launch long-range missiles at supersonic speeds, but they won’t perform as well if they can’t fire at such speeds, Bronk said.
“The major drawback from not having the ability to supercruise in this case would be having to choose between using a great deal of fuel to go supersonic or stay subsonic and accept shorter effective range from the fighter’s missiles and an inferior energy position compared to a supercruising opponent,” he said.
A senior scientist working on stealth aircraft who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of their work previously told Business Insider that the J-20’s design had a decent stealth profile from the front angle but could be exposed from others.
According to Bronk, the older engine may exacerbate that problem.
Did they even really deploy the thing?
A U.S. Air Force affiliate researching the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force told Business Insider that an analysis of imagery suggested the service’s 9th Brigade traded its Russian-made Su-30s for J-20s, but they disputed whether the jet was operational in the way Western militaries use the word.
“The aircraft and its pilots and maintenance group need to master the type before it can be sent on a ‘real’ mission, not a training mission,” said the researcher, who spoke on condition of anonymity because their employer’s report has not been released.
The researcher said that even for planes that aren’t stealth and as radically different as the J-20, that could take up to a year, adding that the new WS-15 engines most likely won’t be added until 2020.
So while China claims it has become the only nation other than the U.S. to field a fifth-generation stealth jet, at the moment it looks as if it’s hardly stealth, hardly fifth-generation, and a long way from the field.
Not every country in the world can afford to buy and operate the latest and greatest armored war machines available on defense markets today, like the M1A2 Abrams or the Leopard 2 main battle tanks.
Some countries opt to refrain from maintaining a fleet of tanks at all, and others, like Paraguay, choose to use refurbished armored steeds from conflicts long past.
As crazy as it may sound, the backbone of the Paraguayan military’s sole armored squadron consists of a humble handful of M4 Sherman medium tanks and M3 Stuart light tanks. Both of these vehicles were last fully relevant when Allied forces marched across Europe on their path to victory against the Axis scourge.
Paraguay received its small complement of Shermans in 1980 from Argentina, while the Stuarts were donated by the Brazilian government in the 1970s. By the time the small South American nation received these second-hand vehicles, however, they were already obsolete and outclassed, unable to stand up to anti-tank weaponry or even other armored vehicles anymore.
But in recent years, the Paraguayan army has decided to reactivate its fleet of Shermans and Stuarts, “modernizing” them by installing new engines and replacing the M4’s small battery of .30 caliber Browning M1919 medium machine guns with .50 caliber M2 ‘Ma Deuce’ heavy machine guns.
The Sherman was born of a need for a medium-sized tank that was easy to mass produce and deploy overseas in large numbers, swarming larger and more heavily-armored German tanks during WWII. Cheap to produce, and pretty reliable if treated well, the Sherman was a fairly potent killing machine in the hands of tank commanders who knew what they were doing.
The Argentinian military received 450 Shermans from Belgium in the 1940s, putting them through a series of upgrades over the next 30 years that would see these old tanks get larger guns and new diesel engines. A small selection of these Shermans were passed on to Paraguay, though it’s unclear whether or not the examples donated were modernized or left in their original configurations.
According to Ian Hogg in his book, “Tank Killing,” the Stuart, wasn’t exactly very effective at all in engaging German armor. Though it was one of the few light tanks capable of firing high-explosive shells, it was better utilized as a high speed reconnaissance vehicle by British forces throughout the African theater during WWII, with its turret removed to cut down on weight.
Brazil picked up its Stuarts from the United States in WWII, actually shipping them overseas for combat in Italy as part of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. Upon the end of the war, these tanks were returned to South America by ship and were upgraded in the 1970s. During that decade, Brazil donated 15 Stuarts to Paraguay.
Paraguay can afford to use these older machines in place of newer heavy tanks mostly because the country hasn’t seen much war over the past 40-odd years. Currently, the military claims these modernized Shermans and Stuarts will only be used for training purposes, though the endgame of the training is highly suspect, considering that the vehicles in question aren’t fit for combat against a decently-armed enemy.
It is possible, however, that these old fighting machines could be eventually used in the long-standing counterinsurgency effort Paraguay has been embroiled in against guerrillas since 2005. Though their hulls would likely be easily destroyed by small anti-tank weapons like the M72 LAW, the armor would still be able to stand up to small arms like pistols and rifles.
Even if Paraguay never uses its tanks in combat, its geriatric fleet will still work in a pinch should the need arise — at least against unarmored and under-gunned enemies.
USA Best Selling Author Jason Kasper just released his newest book series, Shadow Strike. Enemies of My Country is his tenth book in four years since walking away from the Army to pursue writing.
In 2016 Kasper released his first book, Greatest Enemy. Despite his relative success since beginning a new journey and his quite obvious talent for story-telling – he didn’t set out to be an author. The military was always it for him. He was the young boy playing GI Joes and then a 17-year-old signing up for the Army before he’d even graduated high school.
“I enlisted in a ranger contract and went to basic and infantry training. It was towards the end of our infantry training for a job qualifier that 9/11 happened,” Kasper shared. He described a quiet and somber scene where recruits who’s families worked in the World Trade Center or lived in New York City were pulled out and then everyone else was told of the attack.
After those events, there was no slowing down. Kasper attended Airborne school and was picked up for the Ranger Regiment and assigned to 3rd Ranger Battalion. He’d deploy to Afghanistan in 2002 and took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then, he was picked up for West Point. It was a dream realized.
He completed his four years and became an Infantry Officer. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne for three years and did another deployment to Afghanistan. Not long after that, he found himself in Special Forces Selection and eventually became a Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg. There were many deployments and he found himself leading a team.
“That was the high water mark of my career. I had the perfect storm of guys and missions, it couldn’t have gotten any better,” Kasper shared. Despite his happiness and success, he walked away from it all. “I got out and made the full-time transition to writing.”
Leaving after all of those years of active duty service was easier for him than you’d think, he said. But he didn’t always want to do it, it just happened. “I found it by accident at West Point where I sort of went into war withdrawal. I went from being a ranger to a rigid academic environment,” Kasper explained. To make up for what he was missing, he went all in on adrenaline sports. Skydiving and base jumping, which wasn’t legal. He started writing about his experiences.
“Those descriptions became longer and longer and I began to relieve those experiences of standing at the edge of a building and looking down. I was reliving the rush as I was writing. That’s where I kind of wanted more of that,” he said.
Jason Kasper developed a protagonist and wrote the first scene. “After that, I was completely jacked. Adrenaline was flowing and I was like ‘Man, I want more of this’. After that, I was a closet writer for about 10 years,” he said with a smile. He had one book ready to go when he began his terminal leave in November of 2016. “That day, I hit publish on Amazon.”
Despite how good it was, he was pretty terrified when it was go-time. “It was pretty daunting, I am not going to lie … I committed fully and there was no backing out,” Kasper said. “The only people who said I was crazy were people who’d never been in the military themselves… Everyone I went to war with and my command, they were and are incredibly supportive.”
The publishing house he writes for is a veteran-owned business, making the fit even smoother for Kasper. “The founder is an author and Navy veteran and he built the company from the ground up by hiring both veterans and military spouses as employees,” he explained. “Severn River Publishing has a great portfolio of mystery and thriller authors, many of which served in the armed forces or law enforcement prior to starting their writing careers.”
Four years in, he’s found his grove. His tenth book and new series starter, Enemies of My Country, is riveting, from start to finish. Kasper truly has a talent for weaving words that come alive off the page. Reviews for his new book are steller, one on his website saying “…this book slaps you with a weapon, helmet, and body armor, and screams ‘You’re coming with me!’ Buckle up and enjoy the ride.”
So, what’s it about? “David Rivers is an elite-level assassin. He’s an expert in the art of violence. Honing his skill first as a Ranger, then as a mercenary, and now as a CIA contractor conducting covert action around the world,” Kasper explained. “But in his secluded mountain home in Virginia, David Rivers lives a double life. There, Rivers is known as a caring husband to his new wife, and the doting father to his young daughter.”
It isn’t long before the character discovers a sinister plot, this time against his own country, hometown and his much-loved family. “The Enemies of My Country kicks off a ten-book series outline that will take David to the world’s most dangerous corners, as he uncovers a sinister conspiracy with global implications. The second book is in the works now, and will be released later this year,” Kasper said.
From the start of his writing and still today, Kasper gives a portion of all of his sales to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. For the new series, he matched every dollar for preorders. “We ended up getting a little over $4,000 prior to the launch,” he shared.
Although there are still those who can’t believe this Green Beret walked away with only nine years left until full retirement benefits, he’s never looked back. “I am a pretty domesticated suburban dad right now,” Kasper said with a laugh. He shared his happiness at home with his wife, child, new baby coming and his two cats. “It’s about as manly as it gets. I kind of took a hard right from the military but it’s been great.”
Despite leaving the thrill and excitement of serving, Kasper has found his new purpose and that same rush he once craved. Writing one page at a time.
To learn more about Jason Kasper and his thrillers, click here.
Navy veteran and Food Network Allstar, August Dannehl cooks a four course meal for his fellow vets based on stories from their service. A braised pork belly inspired by the MRE’s feared dehydrated pork product, Chicken Tagine inspired by a training mission in Morocco – these elements provide the backdrop for a holiday celebration between veterans.
Christopher Allen’s time in the Air Force eventually brought him to the beautiful and isolated island of Guam for a stint as an Air Traffic Controller. It was in this exotic local that he was served chorizo for the first time, and it changed his life forever.
Yukon Chorizo Hash w/ Quail Egg and Yuzu Vinaigrette
Inspired by Chris’ service in Guam
2 lbs yukon gold potatoes (washed and peeled)
2 lbs fresh Mexican chorizo
1 jalapeno (seeded, stemmed and diced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 lg. spanish onion (diced)
4 quail eggs
3 tb yuzu juice
zest from 1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
parsley (chopped) for garnish
Add potatoes to a large pot, fill until covered with cold, liberally salted water and bring to boil. Once boiling, par-cook potatoes until almost fork tender (about 15 mins).
Meanwhile, heat 2 tbs of olive oil on medium heat – add onion, garlic and jalapeño. Meanwhile, squeeze chorizo out of their casings and set aside. Once onion is translucent(about 5 mins) add chorizo and sauté (should look like ground beef).
Once potatoes are par-boiled, remove, cool (but don’t rinse), chop into same size and shape as onion and add to the chorizo mixture. Cook through, adding salt and pepper to taste and letting potatoes and aromatics incorporate flavors from the chorizo spices.
Prepare the vinaigrette by adding yuzu and lemon zest to a boil and adding 4-6 tbs of olive oil while whisking vigorously. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When ready to serve, fry quail egg in olive oil over medium low heat for 2 mins, take off heat, cover and serve over chorizo mixture in a ramekin. Garnish with parsley and top with yuzu vinaigrette.
Thousands of troops will be spending the holidays at the US-Mexico border supporting border patrol agents as they deal with the arrival of large migrant caravans.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has approved a Department of Homeland Security request that will extend the mission for active-duty troops at the border into 2019, according to multiple news outlets. The “border support” mission, previously known as Operation Faithful Patriot, has officially been extended past the original Dec. 15, 2018 end date to Jan. 31, 2019.
There are currently 5,600 active-duty troops serving at the US-Mexico border. These service members are in addition to the 2,100 National Guard personnel that deployed to the border in 2018. Troops at the border spent Thanksgiving there, and now it seems they will also be spending Christmas and New Year’s at the southern border.
U.S. Marines with the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, place concertina wire along the California-Mexico border at Andrade Point of Entry in Winterhaven, California, Nov.30, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Valetski)
It is unclear how many troops will be affected by the extension. Earlier reports suggested that only around 4,000 troops would remain at the border.
US military personnel at the US-Mexico border started the deployment erecting barriers and running razor wire, but following a clash near the San Ysidro point of entry, during which border agents used tear gas and other means to disperse migrants that rushed the border, some troops have begun conducting riot control training in coordination with Customs and Border Protection.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
They’re surrounded, targeted by constant bombardments and slowly strangled of supplies and reinforcements for months so fighters for Daesh (aka ISIS) might reasonably have abandoned Mosul and tried to slink off into the night.
That’s what happened June 2016 in the battle to recapture Fallujah, when Daesh fighters were relatively quickly routed, and hundreds were killed by U.S. aircraft when their fleeing convoy was spotted in the dark with infrared targeting systems.
Everyone in the anti-Daesh coalition hoped for a similar retreat by demoralized terrorists that would separate them from the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians still cowering in Mosul’s byzantine old city, on the west bank of the Tigris River.
But Daesh’s fighters are not abandoning Mosul, which, with the Syrian town of Raqqa, forms the twin-capitals of the self-proclaimed Islamist “caliphate.”
They are falling back on defensive positions prepared for two years in the densely congested side streets and alleyways of the old city, gathering Iraqi civilians close as they can as “human shields” and apparently preparing for a last, desperate stand.
“The toughest and most brutal phase of this war, and probably the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced or even read about in my 34-year career,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve says.
A veteran of six combat tours, Townsend calls the fighting in Mosul “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”
The tragic byproduct has been an alarming spike in civilian casualties, including a U.S. strike against a reported ISIS truck bomb on March 17 that may have collapsed a nearby building and killed as many as 200 civilians gathered there by Daesh.
On a recent trip near the frontlines of the Battle of Mosul, Townsend found a possible explanation for Daesh’s determination to stage an apocalyptic fight to the death in the old city.
“Every movement has a well-spring or some home turf where it finds support, and in recently talking to Iraqi and coalition commanders and listening to their intelligence assessments, I heard about neighborhoods supporting ISIS that I remembered from being a brigade commander in Mosul 10 years ago, when those same neighborhoods were sources of support for Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Townsend, speaking recently to defense reporters by phone from Baghdad.
If the Shiite-led Iraqi government fails to reach out to those and other neighborhoods and towns of disenfranchised Sunnis after the fighting stops, he noted, then Daesh’s expulsion from Mosul will likely prove a fleeting victory.
“What’s important after ISIS is defeated is that the government of Iraq has to reach out to these groups of people and make sure they feel like they have a future in the Iraqi state,” said Townsend.
A Pivotal Moment
With roughly three-quarters of Mosul recaptured and Daesh finally on the verge of losing its grip on Iraqi territory, the campaign against them is poised at an important inflection point.
Counter-insurgency experts have long understood that the actions of the Iraqi government and the various factions involved in the fighting the day after Mosul is recaptured will largely determine whether the group is defeated, or, once again, rises from the ashes of sectarian conflict.
The complex nature of the battlespace, combined with the anti-Daesh coalition’s sprawling nature, promises to complicate the transition from urban combat to whatever comes after.
The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is weak and has struggled to cope with the demands of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the fighting in Mosul.
The territorial demands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to the north, and possible acts of retribution against Sunni civilians by thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen to the west of city, cast a dark shadow over the aftermath.
A continued spike in civilian deaths by U.S. and coalition air forces could further alienate the overwhelmingly Sunni population of Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province.
And hanging over the entire anti-Daesh campaign is the question of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq after the group is expelled, and whether that engagement can be leveraged to help achieve the long-sought national reconciliation among Iraq’s feuding Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni factions.
Perhaps no U.S. military officer of his generation better understands this difficult terrain, and the momentous challenges ahead, than retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan and at U.S. Central Command.
He is widely credited with crafting and executing the counterinsurgency doctrine that pulled Iraq back from the abyss of sectarian civil war in 2007-2008 and decimated Al Qaeda in Iraq.
“The military defeat of ISIS is only the first step. The much more challenging task is to use all elements of American and coalition power to help achieve political solutions that will avoid once again creating fertile ground for extremists, and thereby avoid the rise of ISIS 3.0,” Petraeus told [Breaking Defense] in a recent email. “Our success in that mission will determine whether the U.S. military has to do this all over again in five years.”
Sectarian Civil War
After U.S. and Iraqi military forces and the Sunni tribes of Anbar Province routed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) beginning in 2006-7, the remnants of the terrorist insurgency eventually went underground, only to rise Phoenix-like from the fires of Syria’s civil war.
That brutal conflict pitted a minority regime of Alawites, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against a majority Sunni population.
Meanwhile, after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, the Sunni tribes in western Iraq, which had turned against AQI in the “Anbar Awakening,” grew restive under the iron-fisted and openly sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who headed the Shiite-majority government in Baghdad.
A former AQI lieutenant named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had spent time in a U.S. detention facility in Iraq, realized that between weak Shiite-led governments in Damascus and Baghdad lay a swath of territory inhabited by millions of rebellious Sunnis.
From that strategic insight, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born, and in one of the most improbable military offenses in history, its terrorist army captured territory in Syria and Iraq and proclaimed a “caliphate” in land stretching between its twin capitals.
When the Obama administration reluctantly deployed aircraft and troops back to Iraq to defend a Baghdad government on the verge of collapse, it wisely used that leverage to help nudge out the sectarian Maliki and encourage the more moderate Abadi.
Since then Abadi has promised to lead “national reconciliation” by reaching out to Sunnis liberated from Daesh rule, and draw them back inside the government tent. He has often struggled, however, to control a fractious coalition government with many hardline Shiite politicians with close ties to Shiite Iran.
Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy and former senior Middle Eastern analyst for the CIA, worries about Abadi’s ability to bring the country together.
“I think Abadi is a very good man who wants what’s best for Iraq, to include a pluralist government, corruption reforms, and democracy. The problem is Abadi is not particularly good at building coalitions, and the Iraqi government is fragmented and paralyzed by this ongoing sectarian civil war,” he says. “Frankly, Nelson Mandela would have a hard time stabilizing Iraq at this point. So the United States needs to leverage the influence it has gained by helping fight ISIS to empower Abadi in his reconciliation efforts. And they must include limiting the activities of the Shiite militias.”
Reining in Militias
The key to Iraq’s future may lie with the Shiite-dominated militias called Popular Mobilization forces.
A number of these militias have direct links to Iran and they have been difficult for the Iraqi government to control. According to Human Rights Watch, Shiite militias involved in the battle of Fallujah last summer committed atrocities against Sunni civilians, including torture and summary executions.
In the operation to recapture Tikrit they reportedly burned hundreds of homes of Sunni civilians they accused of colluding with Daesh. If something similar happens after Daesh is expelled from the much bigger and more populous city of Mosul, the swamp of Sunni grievance is likely to rise once again.
Sheikh Jamal Al-Dhari is a Sunni tribal leader who has lost more than 70 family members in Iraq’s sectarian wars.
“The ‘Anbar Awakening’ showed that the way to defeat Al Qaeda is to work with the Sunni tribes, but our efforts to take part in the anti-ISIS fight have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Baghdad government,” he said in an interview.
Now Shiite-dominated Iraqi Security Forces and possibly U.S. airpower have inadvertently killed hundreds if not thousands of Sunni civilians in Mosul, he noted, and thousands of Shiite militiamen have captured Sunni majority villages to the west of the city.
“We fear that the use of excessive force will cost the lives of thousands of more civilians, creating hardships and hard feelings that will only set the stage for the next ISIS, or worse.”
To avoid Kurdish or Shiite forces fighting each other and mistreating liberated Sunni civilians, U.S. battle planners created separate corridors into the city.
“The U.S. military worked very hard to insure that neither the Peshmerga nor the Popular Mobilization forces would be involved in the close-in fight in Mosul, and that has been mostly successful,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.
“But the main reason we’ve seen civilian casualties increase is that ISIS is being much more aggressive in using civilians as human shields. Their backs are now against the wall in Mosul’s old city, and they seem to be preparing for a last stand.”
When the dust of battle finally settles over Mosul, the most important decision confronting the Trump administration will be whether or not to keep a residual U.S. force inside Iraq to continue advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces, and helping coordinate counterterrorism operations.
If the U.S. military packs up lock-stock-and-barrel and leaves once again, many experts believe it will only set the stage for “son of ISIS” to fill the vacuum.
“Only if U.S. forces remain in Iraq to secure the peace will we achieve a major military victory over ISIS,” said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
The U.S. can leverage that presence not only to empower Abadi’s national reconciliation agenda, he said, but also to eventually find a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.
In “On War” [ Carl von] “Clausewitz said that the art of war was using tactical victories to achieve strategic ends,” said Jeffrey.
“We need to use the victories in Mosul and Raqqa to achieve the strategic end of a stable Middle East that is not dominated either by ISIS or Iran.”