ISIS initiated the attack on the An Tanf garrison with a vehicle bomb and between 20 to 30 ISIS fighters followed with a ground assault and suicide vests, officials said.
Coalition and partnered forces defended against the ISIS attack with direct fire before destroying enemy assault vehicles and the remaining fighters with multiple coalition airstrikes, officials said.
In southern Syria, officials said, vetted Syrian opposition forces focus on conducting operations to clear ISIS from the Hamad Desert and have been instrumental in countering the ISIS threat in southern Syria and maintaining security along the Syria-Jordan border.
The leader of a close US ally is turning to rival Russia for submarines, arguing that if his country were to buy American submarines, they would probably “implode.”
President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte lashed out Aug. 17, 2018, after the US warned the Philippines against purchasing Russian Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines. He accused the US of selling its ally only hand-me-down weapons that endanger the lives of Filipino troops, according to local outlet Rappler.
“Why did you not stop the other countries in Asia? Why are you stopping us? Who are you to warn us?” Duterte asked Aug. 17, 2018, at an event in his hometown of Davao.”You give us submarines, it will implode.” He asserted that the US sent his country “used” and “rusted” North Atlantic Treaty Organization helicopters, claiming the poor condition of the platforms led to the deaths of local forces.
“Is that the way you treat an ally and you want us to stay with you for all time?” he asked. “You want us to remain backwards. Vietnam has 7 submarines, Malaysia has 2, Indonesia has 8. We alone don’t have one. You haven’t given us any.”
Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar.
Duterte’s latest outburst was triggered by a warning issued Aug. 16, 2018, by Randall Schriver, the US Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.
“I think they should think very carefully about that,” he said, referring to the Philippine government’s interest in acquiring Russian submarines. “If they were to proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to do [in our] alliance, and I think ultimately we can be a better partner than the Russians can be.”
“We have to understand the nature of this regime in Russia. I don’t need to go through the full laundry list: Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK,” he added, “So, you’re investing not only in the platforms, but you’re making a statement about a relationship.”
An interest in Russian weapons systems has strained relations between the US and a number of allies and international partners in recent months. As Duterte pursues an independent foreign policy often out of alignment with US interests, the Philippines has increasingly looked to develop defense ties with Russia. The country is looking to Russia for submarines as it looks to modernize its military.
“For a nation with maritime territory specially island nation, its national defense is incomplete without (a) submarine,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in early 2018, according to the Philippine Star.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“That’s All, Brother” is the name of a WWII Army Air Corps Douglas C-47, the first in a long line of 432 planes which led the air drop of paratroopers in the early morning hours of D-Day, June 6, 1944. After D-Day, it also flew in Operation Market Garden, the relief of Bastogne, Operation Varsity, and more. It was sold to civilians after the war and sold up to sixteen times before 2008.
A civilian non-profit named Commemorative Air Force (CAF), a Dallas-based organization dedicated to preserving military aviation history, has since found “That’s All Brother” in a Wisconsin Boneyard. The all-volunteer CAF currently showcases its 160 restored aircraft to the public via airshows and reenactments and seeks to add “That’s All Brother” to its fleet through a Kickstarter Campaign.
Mission Albany, the nighttime paratroop assault, was the first step of Operation Neptune, which itself was the first part of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of France during World War II. Mission Albany dropped 6,928 paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division into occupied France. The men in “That’s All Brother” were the first to drop in.
This isn’t an unprecedented event. Similar planes of historical value have since been found and restored to their WWII-era glory. One such plane was “The Snafu Special,” which also flew on D-Day, participated in Operation Market Garden, and was sold to a civilian airline in Czechoslovakia after the war. This is the first time such a restoration effort has been made through crowdsourcing on Kickstarter, however.
A pledge of $300 or more earns a backer a limited edition brass “cricket,” used for nighttime identification by Airborne troops dropped on D-Day, supplied by the original company in England who supplied the U.S. Army for Operation Overlord, manufactured in the original factory, on the original machines, using the original dies.
The CAF is also looking for the names of men from the 101st, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment who flew into France on “That’s All, Brother”
To learn more or donate to the effort to restore “That’s All, Brother,” see CAF’s campaign page on Kickstarter.
As summer camps wind to a close and kids make their final splashes at the pool, parents have one thing on their minds: back-to-school shopping.
But when you add up the cost of all the items on your kids’ classroom supply lists, backpacks, clothes and shoes, back-to-school is expensive! The following is a list of discounts to help military families get the kids off to school in style while staying within your budget.
1. Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School Brigade
Operation Homefront partners with Dollar Tree to collect school supplies for military children as part of their Back-to-School Brigade. Dollar Tree stores put out collection barrels from July 5 through August 11, and then Operation Homefront volunteers distribute them to military children at events throughout the country during the back-to-school season. Click here for more information and to find programs in your area.
2. Tax-Free Shopping Days
For a few days each year, some states offer a “sales tax holiday” right around back-to-school time when shoppers can buy specified items tax-free. This is a great way to save on back-to-school necessities like clothes, shoes, and other school supplies. To see if your state participates in the sales tax holidays, click here.
3. Clothing and Accessories
By the time summer is over, the kids have either outgrown all their school clothes or worn them ragged from vacation and camp. Update their wardrobe with new clothes and accessories using military discounts at Banana Republic, Claires, eBags, New York and Company and Old Navy. If you’re mall shopping, be sure to ask for a military discount in every store you stop in. Some malls, like the MacArthur Center in Norfolk, Virginia, offer military discounts in many of their stores. And outlets like Tanger Outlets offer discounts and free coupon books.
No back-to-school wardrobe is complete without new shoes. So take advantage of the military discounts offered by Payless and Rack Room Shoes.
5. Classroom Supplies
Most schools now expect parents to help stock classroom supplies like pencils, crayons, notebooks, folders, scissors, glue, and binders, as well as necessities like tissues and hand sanitizer. Find these supplies and use military discounts as Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabric and AC Moore.
6. Backpacks and Lunch Bags
Looking for backpacks and lunch bags? Pottery Barn Kids has an adorable collection of both, and they offer a 15% in-store military discount.
7. Tutoring and Test Prep
Does your child need a little extra help with homework and studying?Tutor.com, where expert tutors are online 24/7, offers free tutoring for military families.
Do you have older kids getting ready for college testing? eKnowledge donates their SAT and ACT College Test Preparation Programs to service members and their families. You pay only a minimal price per standard program to cover the cost of materials, processing, distribution and customer service.
If you’re looking to buy a computer or other necessary electronics, check out the military discounts offered by Dell.
Need tech support? My Nerds offer military discounts as well.
AT&T Wireless, Boost Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular and Verizon all offer military discounts, so if you’re in the market for new cell phone plans to keep in touch with your active student, you have a great variety to choose from. (Some offer military discounts on devices and accessories as well.)
10.Exchange Price Match Policy
Don’t forget that the Navy Exchange (NEX), the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) and the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) all offer price matching. That means if you see a lower price for the same item at another store, bring proof to the Exchange and you can buy that item for the competitor’s price.
The “knife-hand” is the multi-tool gesture of the military. Actually, you can think of it as a Swiss army knife – pun intended.
The knife-hand is used in a plethora of ways ranging from administrative to instructional and even to gauge anger, according to Terminal Lance creator Maximilian Uriarte. “Never, anywhere in the Marine Corps, have I ever seen the knife-hand so flagrantly used. I always took note, however, that the higher the knife-hand is on the drill instructor, the more pissed off he is.”
Perhaps the reason the knife-hand commands so much attention is because they’re deadly, according to Duffel Blog. Here are six videos showing knife-hand devastation:
1. A Marine demonstrates the knife hand knockout on his curious buddy.
2. Another Marine nearly hits the deck after a knife hand attack.
3. This guy takes two hits but is still able to walk.
4. It’s a good way to stop friends’ annoying shenanigans (if you know what you’re doing).
5. This nice couple practices their knife hands in front of their kids.
Current selective service rules say all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants) have to register for the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. This is not joining the military but registering with the government to be available in a time where conscription would be necessary.
“Every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft,” Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee .
The Supreme Court’s 1981 decision in Rostker v. Goldberg upheld Congress’ decision to exempt women from the draft, saying “training would be needlessly burdened by women recruits who could not be used in combat.”
In order for women to be drafted, Congress would have to update the provisions of the Selective Service Act of 1948.
From the start of the Hermit Kingdom’s missile quest, the country likely imported the fuel from China, its largest producer. It is currently made by a number of countries, including Russia. But UDMH was the cause of the worst ICBM disaster in Russian history, the Nedelin Catastrophe.
In 1960, the second stage engine of a Soviet R-16 ignited at Baukonur Cosmodrome, killing 150 people.
A Soviet Field Marshal ordered that repairs be made to the fuel tanks of the rocket without draining the propellant. Right before the launch, an errant communications signal set off the second stage of the rocket, igniting the propellant in a gigantic fireball.
The fire from the fuel reached a temperature of 3,000 degrees. Field Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin, who ordered the rocket repairs in the first place, was among those incinerated.
UDMH is also responsible for the one of the worst ICBM disasters in American history. The liquid fuel in the missile silo of a Titan II rocket exploded near Damascus, Arkansas, after its tank was punctured by a falling tool. That was in 1980.
That tank was filled with Aerozine 50, a mix of hydrazine and UDMH.
Luckily, only one airman was killed at Damascus. The United States has since stopped producing the chemical and uses stable solid fuels, something that will take the North Koreans another decade to do on their own.
The New York Times reports that there are no known efforts to disrupt North Korea’s ability to obtain UDMH. State Department officials and North Korea experts believe that the North could produce the fuel domestically if its supplies from abroad were cut off.
Each year, USAA and the NFL award one person with the Salute to Service Award. This year, the winner is Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Sports and Entertainment. Cannon leads all business operations of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United of Major League Soccer, Atlanta Falcons Stadium Company, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, PGA TOUR Superstore and Mountain Sky Guest Ranch.
Salute to Service is a year-round effort spearheaded by the NFL and USAA to Honor, Empower and Connect our nation’s service members, veterans and their families. The Salute to Service Award presented by USAA recognizes the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community who have gone above and beyond to honor the military community.
A United States Military Academy graduate and former U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant, Cannon was captain of both the football and wrestling teams at Ramapo High School in Wyckoff, New Jersey, earning All-State honors in football and All-County honors in wrestling. He lettered two years in wrestling at the United States Military Academy and scored a perfect score on every Army Physical Fitness Test for four years. Leading into his senior year, he was selected to lead Cadet Basic Training and later earned the position of Cadet Regimental Commander for 4th Regiment, placing 1,000 cadets under Cannon’s leadership.
Cannon, who graduated with honors and received his bachelor’s degree in economics from West Point, passed U.S. Army Ranger School and officer training before being assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment along the West German-Czech border. He was on the border when the Cold War ended in 1989.
We Are The Mighty had the chance to sit down with Steve and talk about him winning this award, his military service and his commitment to military service members and veterans in Georgia.
WATM: This isn’t your first time being recognized. Last year, you were a finalist, too. Other than your prior service, what motivates you to help your fellow veterans and what does winning the Salute to Service award mean to you?
SC: Well, it is personal to me. I lost my brother to PTSD. I serve on the board of TAPS, which is a network of people that takes care of those who are left behind. I also had a West Point classmate, John McHugh, who made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. I am on the board of the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund which was set up in his honor. So far, we raised over $28 million to help take care of children of the fallen.
It has been 30 years since I have taken off the uniform, but we still have obligations to help those who served.
WATM: Tell us about the USO tour the Falcons went on (the first NFL team to ever do that). What about that tour do you think really resonated with the military?
SC: It was amazing that we got to do it. Going over there to Iraq, in harm’s way in 110 degree heat and seeing all the soldiers there really was amazing. We took our coach (Dan Quinn), several players and a couple of cheerleaders. It really gave us perspective to see how our troops were over there.
We were really blown away by how grateful they were to us. They were really happy we came all the way out there, but the gratitude they had toward us for coming was so impressive. I mean, we were the ones who were grateful. Here these men and women are out here protecting us, and they are thanking us for being there? It was really humbling. And, it speaks more to the Falcons franchise. Four out of the last five winners of the Salute to Service award winners were from the Falcons. I am really proud of that.
WATM: You and the Falcons raised $250,000 to help homeless veterans in Georgia. As a veteran yourself, what do you tell people about homeless veterans and what advice do you give on how to help them?
It is a big problem here in Atlanta, and I am often troubled that so many can go from serving in the military and they fall through the cracks and go to sleeping under a bridge. When you see veterans under a bridge in the wintertime, you have to do something.
Veterans Empowerment Organization (VEO) is a group that is doing amazing work in Georgia to tackle that problem. They do everything from getting out from under those bridges, giving comfort, helping them find jobs and helping address any mental health concerns. We were proud to partner with them. It’s the right thing to do.
WATM: Tell us about your time in the service. How did serving in the military shape your career path?
After I graduated from West Point, I was an artillery officer and got to go to Ranger School. But then I ended up being stationed in Europe during the Cold War. I was doing border patrol duty and I was right on the Czechoslovakian border when the Iron Curtain came down. To be right there, at that point in history was pretty amazing. But being a lieutenant, I learned that it was about service to the organization first. I wasn’t going to go anywhere telling people I was the boss and they had to do what I said. I had to serve first and that’s what led me to make the decisions I did. And I still do. The importance of servant leadership is a lesson I will take with me always. I have been a CEO (for both AMB Sports and Mercedes Benz USA before that) and a lot of the decision making steps I make come from the time in service.
WATM: Last question. You are a West Point guy. How do you feel now that Army finally has the upper hand on Navy in football?
SC: [Laughs] It feels good for once. Things are finally correcting themselves like they should. There was that 14-year span where things didn’t go so well, but to win four out of the last five means a lot, especially when talking to Navy guys. A few of them got really high and mighty during their win streak so it’s good to finally have the upper hand.
The annual Salute to Service Award is presented during Super Bowl week and recognized at the NFL Honors awards show the night before the Super Bowl. Teams submit nominations in October, which are evaluated by a panel of judges based on the positive effect of the individual’s efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment. Steve Cannon will officially receive the award during the NFL Honors broadcast on Saturday night. USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other financial services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in Cannon’s honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches. The NFL Foundation will match USAA’s donation of $25,000, which will be donated to Cannon’s military charity of choice and Atlanta Falcons’ owner, Arthur M. Blank, will also match with a $25,000 donation from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.
The other finalists this season for the Salute to Service Award were New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona and NFL Legend/San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch.
The US Army has purchased two Iron Dome defense systems, Defense News reports. The missile defense systems are short-range counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons systems that have been repeatedly tested by Hamas rockets fired into Israeli territory. The system’s radar detects incoming projectiles and tracking them until they get in range for one of the Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles to strike.
Israel has said the system intercepted 85 percent of the rockets fired in a 2012 Gaza operation. One expert assessed that Iron Dome is effective, but not as high as Israel has claimed.
It’s unclear how or where the US is planning to deploy these systems, but Defense News reported that they’ll be used in the military’s interim cruise missile defense capability. A delivery date — and the cost of the system — are not yet known.
Read on to learn more about the Iron Dome system.
The Iron Dome is a counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons system that can also defend against helicopters and other aircraft, as well as UAVs at very short range, according to its Israeli manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Ten of the systems are currently in use in Israel.
Iron Dome has different variants — the I-DOME is fully mobile and fits on a single truck, and the C-DOME is the naval version of the system. The US version, called SKYHUNTER, is manufactured by Rafael and Raytheon.
Iron Dome can operate in all weather conditions and at any time; one launcher holds 20 intercept missiles at a given time. The system uses a radar to detect an incoming projectile. The radar tracks the projectile while also alerting the other system components — the battle management and weapons control (BMC) component and the launcher — of the incoming threat. It also estimates where incoming projectiles will hit and only focuses on those threats that will fall in the area the system is meant to protect. Rafael boasts that this strategic targeting makes the system extremely cost-effective.
The system only targets rockets predicted to land in the protected zone, allowing ones that miss to pass by.
Trails are seen in the sky as an Iron Dome anti-missile projectile intercepts a rocket.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems builds the Israeli Iron Dome defense system; the two US systems will be built by Rafael and Raytheon. Many of the components of Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles are made by Raytheon in the US.
Israel uses the Iron Dome to intercept rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It’s had the system in place since 2011.
The US is purchasing two Iron Domes, called Skyhunter in the US, for its interim cruise missile defense capability. It’s unclear when the systems will be delivered, and how and where they will be deployed, but Defense News reported that parts of the system may be integrated into the Indirect Fires Protection Capability program.
The Phalanx close-in weapon system (CIWS) is comparable to the Iron Dome, but instead of missiles, it rapid-fires bullets against incoming threats at sea and on land. The system is manufactured by Raytheon and employs a radar-guided gun that’s controlled by a computer and counters anti-ship missiles at sea. On land, the Phalanx is part of the Army’s C-RAM system. It’s used on all Navy surface combatant ship classes.
A Phalanx close-in weapons system (CIWS) fires from the fantail of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the Atlantic Ocean, June 7, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch)
Defense News reported on Aug. 12, 2019, that the US had purchased two Iron Dome systems, although it’s unclear how much the Department of Defense paid for them, or where or how they will be deployed.
While the system has been very useful for Israel against more rudimentary Hamas- and Hezbollah-launched projectiles, it would be less so against weapons like hypersonic missiles, which can maneuver midflight.
When Meredith Willcox learned some Veterans had issues with comprehension because of COVID-19 masking policies, she did something about it.
Willcox, of Kirksville, Missouri, is the 95-year-old grandmother of a health provider at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital. She used the internet and her sewing skills to make specialized masks to help Veterans with significant hearing loss.
“Hearing aids are wonderful tools,” said Laura Jacobs, an audiologist at Truman VA and Willcox’s granddaughter. “We use them to treat hearing loss in our Veteran patient population.
“The VA offers our Veterans state-of-the-art hearing devices that utilize Bluetooth technology. Our devices are the best of the best in hearing aids. However, even with extremely high-quality aids, some of our Veterans have such significant hearing loss that this technology isn’t enough for them to comprehend speech.”
Meredith Willcox, a 95-year-old grandmother from Kirksville, Missouri, displays some of the specialty hand-sewn masks she donated to Truman VA’s Audiology team.
Reading lips impossible with standard mask
Jacobs said that in extreme cases, some Veterans must rely on a combination of hearing aids and visually reading a speaker’s lips to understand conversations. This is extremely important during clinic visits with their providers. However, because clinicians must wear a mask, reading lips has been impossible ― that is, until now.
“After mentioning this issue to my grandmother, she went online and learned how to make masks that incorporate a clear mouth covering,” Jacobs said. “So far, she has made 40 specialized face masks for our clinic. I’ve always known that she was an amazing person. However, for her to take the ball and run with it as she’s done with these masks. Well, let’s just say I’m extremely proud of her!”
In the photo above, Jacobs wears one of her grandmother’s handmade masks while caring for a Veteran with profound hearing loss.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Truman VA has received an outpouring of support from the mid-Missouri community.
“I can’t put into words what it means to have this level of support,” said Patricia Hall, medical center director of Truman VA. “So many have come forward at a time of extreme uncertainty. I believe without a doubt that their generosity and support helped our team get through these dark times.”
“We truly appreciate everyone’s generosity,” said Ron Graves, Chief of Voluntary Services at Truman VA. “I especially want to thank Veterans United Home Loans. They provided daily meals for our front line staff for almost three straight months. They also made sure to use area businesses to help stimulate our local economy. I thought that was an amazing gesture.”
“There are too many individuals to name who have made reusable cloth face masks for our Veterans, visitors and staff,” Graves said. “But just to show you the level of support we’ve received in this area, Quilts of Valor, Central Missouri Mask Makers and Hanes Brands, Inc., together provided us with more than 3,000 donated cloth masks.”
Heather Black, LPN, Truman VA’s own Betsy Ross, displays just a few of the 623 masks she’s sewn for Truman VA Veterans, visitors and staff.
Nurse sewed over 600 masks…on her breaks!
Graves said Truman VA staff also should be recognized. Housekeepers, warehouse employees, frontline staff and other support personnel ― all have been important in the fight against COVID-19. However, he acknowledged one individual for going above and beyond in support of her colleagues and the Veterans that receive care at Truman VA.
“Heather Black, a nurse in Specialty Care Clinic, donated 623 hand-sewn masks,” Graves said. “She works full time on-site. She brought her sewing machine to work and makes masks before and after her shifts. Also, during her breaks. How can you not be awed by such dedication?”
“For those individuals who have made masks for us, provided meals or in any other way supported us throughout this global pandemic, we truly appreciate your efforts,” Hall said. “Each one of you has made such a positive impact on our team, and we thank you!”
American troops have started to draw down from Iraq following Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State group last year, according to Western contractors at a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq.
In Baghdad, an Iraqi government spokesman on Feb. 5 confirmed to The Associated Press that the drawdown has begun, though he stressed it was still in its early stages and doesn’t mark the beginning of a complete pullout of U.S. forces.
Dozens of American soldiers have been transported from Iraq to Afghanistan on daily flights over the past week, along with weapons and equipment, the contractors said.
An AP reporter at the Al-Asad base in western Iraq saw troop movements reflecting the contractors’ account. The contractors spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations and declined to reveal the exact size of the drawdown.
“Continued coalition presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need and in coordination with the government of Iraq,” coalition spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon told the AP when asked for comment.
Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said, “The battle against Daesh has ended, and so the level of the American presence will be reduced.”
Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for ISIS.
Al-Hadithi spoke just hours after AP reported the American drawdown — the first since the war against ISIS was launched over three years ago.
One senior Iraqi official close to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said 60 percent of all American troops currently in-country will be withdrawn, according to the initial agreement reached with the United States. The plan would leave a force of about 4,000 U.S. troops to continue training the Iraqi military.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
A Pentagon report released in November said there were 8,892 U.S. troops in Iraq as of late September.
The U.S. first launched airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq in August 2014. At the time, the military intervention was described as “limited,” but as Iraq’s military struggled to roll back the extremists, the U.S.-led coalition’s footprint in the country steadily grew.
“We’ve had a recent change of mission and soon we’ll be supporting a different theater of operations in the coming month,” U.S. Army 1st Lt. William John Raymond told the AP at Al-Asad.
He spoke as he and a handful of soldiers from his unit conducted equipment inventory checks required before leaving Iraq. Raymond declined to specify where his unit was being redeployed, in line with regulations as the information has not yet been made public.
The drawdown of U.S. forces comes just three months ahead of national elections in Iraq, where the indefinite presence of American troops continues to be a divisive issue.
Al-Abadi, who is looking to remain in office for another term, has long struggled to balance the often competing interests of Iraq’s two key allies: Iran and the United States.
While the U.S. has closely backed key Iraqi military victories over IS such as the retaking of the city of Mosul, Iraq’s Shiite-led paramilitary forces with close ties to Iran have called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The prime minister has previously stated that Iraq’s military will need American training for years to come.
The Iraq drawdown also follows the release of the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy that cited China’s rapidly expanding military and an increasingly aggressive Russia as the U.S. military’s top national security priorities.
“Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last month in remarks outlining the strategy.
Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December after more than three years of grueling combat against the extremists in a war Iraqi forces fought with close U.S. support. In 2014, at the height of the Sunni militant group’s power, ISIS controlled nearly a third of Iraqi territory.
While ISIS’ self-styled caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria has crumbled and the militants no longer hold a contiguous stretch of territory, in Iraq, the group continues to pose a security risk, according to Iraqi and American officials.
ISIS maintains a “cellular structure” of fighters who carry out attacks in Iraq aimed at disrupting local security, U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. James Glynn told reporters during a Pentagon briefing last month.
Glynn pledged continued support for Iraq’s security forces, but acknowledged U.S.-led coalition “capabilities” in Iraq would likely shift now that conventional combat operations against the group have largely ceased.
There were some 170,000 American troops in Iraq in 2007 at the height of the surge of U.S. forces to combat sectarian violence unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion of the country to oust dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. troop numbers eventually wound down to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.
The dandelion is the flower of the military child and when I learned this, as a military parent, I was disappointed. Why would they pick such an ugly flower (or is it a weed?) to represent military kids? When I looked at dandelions, I saw the problem they caused in my yard, but there is more to a dandelion’s story. When you look past the nuances in the yard you can see a bigger picture.
The next summer as we prepared for our PCS and as the dandelion flowers transitioned from flowers to puffs of seeds, I would watch them blow in the wind and the realization of why the dandelion was chosen to represent my military kids dawned on me. It suddenly made so much sense.
Photo: Tessa Robinson
Dandelions are made up of three main parts: The flower (seeds), the stem and the roots. They are tough, can survive almost anywhere and are constantly moving and starting over. One summer I decided to tackle my dandelion problem head on. It was an endless battle, but through my struggle I learned so much about this tough flower. The new dandelions that had just arrived in the spring were easy to remove from the dirt. Their roots were barely beneath the surface, as if they hadn’t decided if they should stay or be ready to move on to a new patch of land. But when I encountered a dandelion that had made it through a few seasons, not only was the dandelion on its own a tougher challenge to remove, but its roots were deep into the ground making it even more difficult. Each one seemed to also have a group of friends surrounding it. The landscape around one dandelion was changed not only by making its mark in the yard, but also by adding to its journey by bringing others in along the way.
Military kids often have to form new friendships fast. Just as quickly as they find friends, they are uprooted from all that is familiar to them. They learn to say goodbye and continually start over. It is a part of the life they lead. As we try to move forward at each assignment and build our roots and networks, we can’t forget the friends we made. We talk about friends from different assignments or those who have moved on before us. And while the friendships were special for a season, we always knew they were only for a season. At least for right now.
A few weeks after arriving at our new assignment our two year old, who had never experienced a PCS, said he was ready to go back home. He had been on vacations before and that is what this move across the country felt like, but now he was ready to go back to what was normal and familiar. We tried to explain to our son that this was our new home until it was time to move again. I don’t think he understood all the implications and challenges, but as military kids seem to do, naturally, he let the words slide off his back and began to make his new life in our new home.
Photo: Tessa Robinson
Dandelion seeds don’t have any say on where the wind will take them when it is time to venture on. And just like military kids who are along for the ride, they go where their parents and the military take them and find a way to be resilient and start all over again. They put down roots, create new friends, find routines and then a strong wind blows and they get to do it all over again.
And as painful as it is sometimes to watch them toss in the wind, when the dust settles and they find their footing and begin to bloom at each new location you see the beauty that a military life gives. It doesn’t change the pain of saying goodbye to friends. It doesn’t make the tears go away or the fear of being a new kid at school go away. Somehow, through it all they keep pushing forward. It is the only life they have known and despite their choice, they are stronger for it.
Could they have picked a more beautiful flower to represent military children? Of course, there were a lot of different options before landing on a weed. But if you compare a dandelion and a military child the similarities are uncanny. And now when I see dandelions in my yard, I smile and think of how beautiful, tough, and adaptable my children are.
But on Dec. 2, Saleh flipped his allegiance by offering to turn a “new page” with Houthi rival Saudi Arabia. He called the Houthis a “coup militia,” which they saw as the ultimate betrayal and the reason for his assassination.
Yet Saleh’s death is just the latest incident contributing to turbulent conditions in Yemen.
The Saudi-backed government first faced rebel Houthis in the 1990s
According to UNICEF one child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes like hunger and disease,
The United Nations has tried to broker peace agreements on several occasions, but with little success. In May, the UN’s envoy for Yemen told the security council that a peace deal was urgently needed, but confessed a deal was “not close” to being accepted by the warring sides who refuse to compromise.
In November, Saudi Arabia partially relaxed its crippling blockade to let aid deliveries through, but it had little effect on the country’s starving residents.
Relations deteriorated even further this week
On Dec. 2, former President Saleh offered to mediate the conflict and “turn a new page” with the Saudi-led coalition in exchange for stopping air strikes and ending the blockade that has crippled the country, according to the BBC.
However, Houthi rebels, who had formed an unlikely alliance with Saleh, saw the move as a “coup” against “an alliance he never believed in,” the BBC added.
Last weekend, a convoy Saleh was traveling in came under deadly fire from Houthi rebels. His death was confirmed on Dec. 4.
What happens next?
With Saleh dead and his allied forces facing an intensified battle with Houthi fighters, the future of war-torn Yemen is uncertain, and hopes of putting an end to the bloody civil war look bleak.
According to analysts, the Saudi-led coalition’s fight against the increasingly brazen Houthis will likely intensify, Al Jazeera reported.
Joost Hiltermann, International Crisis Group’s Middle East program director, told Al Jazeera that the breakdown of the Houthi-Saleh alliance will “increase fragmentation and conflict by adding layers of revenge.”
Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi celebrated Saleh’s death as a victory against the Saudi-led coalition in which “the conspiracy of betrayal and treason failed.”