Look, video games are awesome and military video games are doubly so. But video game companies are not even trying to capture real deployed life. As they continue bragging about their realistic sound effects and HD graphics, here are 9 features that would actually help gamers get a real combat experience.
1. Make players rehearse a mission four times and then send them on a different one.
The player is briefed on a mission to capture or kill a high-value target. They have to watch a rehearsal on a sand table, then practice in an open field, and finally they assault some fake buildings with their squad to be sure everyone is on the same page.
They climb onto the birds but halfway to the target are diverted to capture an undefended dam before terrorists can blow it up. The player’s squad defends it for three days against nothing before returning to base. A friendly engineer squad then blows up the dam.
2. All calls for fire take at least 10 minutes and miss the first three times.
Artillery units rarely hit their target on the first try in the real world and even airstrikes have trouble getting it right a lot of times. Yet video games which allow a player to call in an airstrike always show rounds cascading down on the exact spot the player asks for.
Instead, the player should have to adjust fire over three or four iterations before actually killing anything. They should also have to wait at least 10 minutes from the first call until the fire mission is fired and rounds begin falling on the target.
3. Random mistakes by other members of your team.
Every once in a while, a squad mate should get their gear stuck on a door handle, trip on their own rucksack strap, or slip on a wet spot in the ground and fall. The player has to decide whether to help their buddy or continue firing at the enemy while attempting to stifle their laughter.
4. Include a 40-lb haptic bodysuit that punches you when you’re shot.
When the player is going into battle, they’re usually wearing a hoodie, some boxers, and a fine layer of chip crumbs. But soldiers wear 40 pounds of armor plus whatever other gear they’re carrying at that moment. So, players should be given a vest that weighs as much as the armor.
As an added bonus, motors and weights could be used to punch the player where their character was just shot. And they could carry an 8-pound controller.
5. Your inventory always includes at least 3 items you’ll never use.
The player should have a limited inventory space, some of which is taken up with “just-in-case” items that never get used. It could be gas masks, backup batteries, whatever. If the player tries to throw them away, the items show up on later patrols as booby traps.
6. Weapon misfires
Anytime the player crawls through mud or sand, it should increase the chance that their weapon misfires. Every 100 rounds without a cleaning should increase the chance of a misfire as well.
7. Can only level up after passing a PT test and reciting random facts from memory
After the player completes a few missions while exhausted from the countless rehearsals in the heavy bodysuit, overcomes misfires at critical moments, and has proven their ability to carry around useless equipment, they should be given the opportunity to level up.
To get selected for the higher level, they just have to score in at least the 80th percentile on a physical training test and recite the muzzle velocities of at least three weapons. Otherwise, the player is sent back to the tent to study. It doesn’t matter what their kill-to-death ratio is. Side note: KTD ratios are not a thing either.
Most members of the military will be familiar with the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, which follows the story of the men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in WWII. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks after their 1998 success, Saving Private Ryan, the miniseries has been praised for its drama and storytelling.
Using leftover props and costumes from Saving Private Ryan, and with the consulting help of surviving Easy Company veterans, Hanks and Spielberg strove to bring the stories of Easy Company to life. However, Band of Brothers did take some artistic license for the sake of storytelling and presented some glaring historical inaccuracies as a result.
A serious WWII history buff could point out dozens of small mistakes in Band of Brothers like the inaccuracies of a German Jagdpanther at Bloody Gulch, the wearing of the 101st Screaming Eagle patch during the Battle of the Bulge, or the anachronistic headset worn by a C-47 pilot taking off from England. However, this article will focus on 6 inaccuracies that actually changed important historical details or rewrote a person’s story.
A German Gebirgsjäger officer with his Edelweiss badge displayed on his headgear. (Photo posted by user SprogCollector via wehrmacht-awards.com)
Edelweiss – Part Three Carentan
During this episode, Private Albert Blithe is sent forward of Easy Company to re-establish contact with Fox Company during a night movement. Moving quietly through the darkness, he rounds a tree and is startled by a German soldier behind an MG42 machine gun. Lt. Dick Winters emerges from the darkness, further startling Blithe, and informs him that the German is dead. Lt. Lewis Nixon joins them and identifies the German as a Fallschirmjäger, a paratrooper. He further identifies a flower on the German’s uniform as Edelweiss, saying that it only grows high up in the Alps and is meant to be the mark of a true soldier.
Gebirgsjäger, German and Austrian mountain troops, wore Edelweiss badges, not flowers, on their uniforms as a symbol of pride in their mountaineering and soldiering skills. As such, it is highly unlikely that a paratrooper would adopt a symbol that held so much importance to mountain soldiers. It can be likened to U.S. paratroops taking great pride in their distinct bloused jump boots. Later in the 20th century, many a nose was broken at Fort Benning by paratroopers who caught a non-paratrooper wearing bloused jump boots.
Shooting POWs – Part Two Day of Days
This episode serves as the catalyst for the many rumors about Ronald Speirs shooting German POWs on D-Day. In it, Don Malarkey jogs away from a group of prisoners being watched over by Lt. Speirs and another Dog Company paratrooper when he hears automatic gunfire from behind him—the implication being that Speirs executed the prisoners. In later episodes, the rumors evolve from Speirs shooting a few prisoners, to shooting eight, shooting twenty, and even shooting a drunk sergeant for refusing to go out on patrol.
In a video interview, former Dog Company trooper Private Art Dimarzio recalled capturing three Germans on D-Day with Speirs and a sergeant. “The LT called us together in a bunch and he said, ‘…you take one,’ they were all laying in a ditch, ‘I’ll take this one, and sarge you take that one.’ And we paired off and we shot the three of them.” DiMarzio also noted that, a few hours later, they came upon another group of Germans, all of whom Speirs shot. This account is entirely plausible given the orders issued to the paratroopers by General Maxwell Taylor, commander of the 101st Airborne Division.
“Take no prisoners,” Malarkey recalls General Taylor telling them. “If you were to take prisoners, they’d handicap our ability to perform our mission.”
Hitler’s suicide – Part Nine Why We Fight
The episode opens stating that it is April 11, 1945 in Thalem, Germany. A string quartet of German civilians plays Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp Minor. Around them, other civilians clear up the rubble of their battered city under the supervision of U.S. soldiers while Easy Company soldiers look down from a damaged apartment building. The rest of the episode flashes back to Easy Company’s initial invasion of Germany before returning to the Thalem apartment where Captain Nixon informs the men that Hitler is dead.
Assuming the men have not been sitting in the same apartment listening to the same string quartet for nineteen days, this scene is anachronistic as Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. It is unclear why this error was made or why it persisted from the HBO television release to the home video release, since a simple edit to the opening statement could make it April 30, 1945. This is an extreme oversight for such a big budget production.
Lt. Dike – Part Seven The Breaking Point
Part Seven focuses primarily on Easy Company First Sergeant Carwood Lipton as he works to maintain the unit’s morale and combat effectiveness during the Battle of the Bulge. However, his efforts are hindered by their new commander, Lt. Norman Dike. Dike is rarely seen around the men, leaving them to go on walks or make phone calls at Battalion HQ. His behavior earns him the nickname “Foxhole Norman”. During the attack on Foy, Dike becomes paralyzed by fear and panics under pressure, sending a single platoon exposed on a doomed flanking mission. His poor leadership results in the deaths of many Easy Company men before he is relieved by Lt. Speirs and is eventually killed during the attack.
Firsthand accounts show that Dike was not a well-liked officer during his command of Easy Company, but he was by no means the cowardly and ineffective officer that was portrayed on screen. During the attack on Foy, Easy Company trooper Clancy Lyall saw Dike get shot in his right shoulder. Omitted from the on-screen depiction, this wound inhibited Dike’s decision-making and caused him to panic. Furthermore, Dike won two Bronze Star Medals for valor earlier in the war; one in Holland for organizing a hasty defense against, “superior and repeated attacks”, and another at Bastogne where, “…he personally removed from an exposed position, in full enemy view, three wounded members of his company, while under intense small arms fire.”
Finally, Dike was not killed at Foy. He survived his wound and became the aide to General Taylor. Dike remained in the Army for the remainder of the war, served in Korea, and eventually attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves. He also went back to Yale and earned his law degree. He worked as a U.S. Commissioner in Japan, practiced law in New York City and Washington D.C., and was even employed by the CIA for a time. He died in Rolle, Switzerland on June 23, 1989.
Master Sergeant Albert Blithe and his wife Kay. (Photo from findagrave.com)
Private Blithe — Part Three Canretan
Episode three begins with Private Albert Blithe just after D-Day when he rejoins Easy Company after the confusion of the drop. Following the fight to take Carentan, he is struck with a case of hysterical blindness. After recovering, Blithe returns to Easy Company. Following his encounter with the dead German, Blithe admits to Lt. Speirs that he didn’t try to find his unit on D-Day; instead, he hid in a ditch out of fear. Speirs tells him that he’s already dead and that he must accept that in order to function as a soldier should, “without mercy, without compassion, without remorse.”
Blithe follows Speirs’ advice and fights ferociously during the German counterattack at Bloody Gulch. After the battle, Blithe finds a dead German that he shot and removes the Edelweiss on the German’s uniform. Blithe takes the Edelweiss for himself and places it on his uniform, completing his character arc. A few days later, he volunteers to investigate a farmhouse during a patrol where he is shot in the neck by a German sniper. The episode ends saying that Blithe died from his wounds in 1948.
Blithe’s depiction is mostly true. He was stricken with hysterical blindness and he was shot by a sniper whilst investigating a farmhouse. However, Blithe was shot in his collarbone. He recovered from his wounds and was sent back to the states. He remained in the Army and fought with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in Korea. After his second war, Blithe was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Taiwan. In December 1967, while on active duty in Germany, Blithe attended a ceremony in Bastogne commemorating the Battle of the Bulge. Upon his return to Germany, Blithe felt nauseous and was taken to the ER at Wiesbaden Hospital. He was diagnosed with a perforated ulcer and died in the ICU on December 17 after surgery. Blithe had attained the rank of Master Sergeant and was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
The other men of Easy Company never found out what happened to Blithe after he was wounded at the farmhouse. They assumed he succumbed to his wounds and the producers of the show did no further research. Having spent more than 20 years in the Army over the course of three wars, Blithe deserves more credit than he is given in Band of Brothers.
Winters displays the surrendered sidearm of the German Major. (Photo from We Stand Alone Together, Credit to HBO)
The surrender — Part Ten Points
The last episode of the miniseries follows Major Dick Winters and Easy Company during the last few months of the war. After the official German surrender, Winters meets with a German Colonel who offers Winters his Luger pistol as his formal surrender. Out of respect for a fellow soldier, Winters allows the Colonel to keep his sidearm. The German is surprised by Winters’ gesture and gives him a crisp salute in return.
In reality, the surrendering German was a Major like Winters. The sidearm that he offered as his formal surrender was a Walther PP (a long-barreled version of James Bond’s famous Walther PPK), which Winters accepted and kept until his death in 2011. In an interview for HBO, Winters showed the pistol and recounted the German’s surrender:
I was assigned this Major and when he walked in, he presented me this pistol and offered his personal surrender, which naturally I accepted gratefully. So that would be the end of the war for his men and this is basically the end of the war for my men. And the significance is that, it wasn’t until later when he had given me this pistol and I got a chance to look at it carefully that I realized, this pistol had never been fired. There was no blood on it. That’s the way all wars should end: with an agreement with no blood on it. And I assure you this pistol has never, never been fired since I’ve had it and it will not be fired.
Winters’ powerful and insightful words about the surrender make the scene in Band of Brothers feel like a missed opportunity. The real-life exchange between the two Majors and the impression that the symbolic pistol left would have been more impactful than the surrender shown on screen.
After the series premiere, Winters told Hanks that he wished the production had been more authentic, hoping for an “80 percent solution.”
Hanks responded, “Look, Major, this is Hollywood. At the end of the day, we will be hailed as geniuses if we get this 12 percent right. We are going to shoot for 17 percent.”
Band of Brothers is a well-made and fitting tribute to (most of) the men who fought in Easy Company during WWII. As with most Hollywood productions, the history was adapted for dramatic effect and series structure. Certain stories and experiences were modified or folded into other characters for the sake of storytelling, but the show as a whole is still one of the best portrayals of WWII to date. In the case of the aforementioned stories and experiences however, their true history deserves to be told, learned, and remembered.
The first head of Britain’s secret service — which would one day be called MI6 — carried a swordstick, drove a personal tank, and would sometimes stab his wooden leg with a pen just to see how people reacted.
No one actually knows which British agent was the one who came up with the idea, but the book “Six: The Real James Bonds 1909-1939” notes that his fellow spies made so much fun of him that he had to be transferred to another office.
His name was — no joke — Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming and his agents lived by the motto, “Every man his own stylo.”
The truth was, British spies were searching for the perfect invisible ink during World War I and thought natural fluids were the ideal. The major issue with using semen to write letters? The smell eventually becomes very distinctive.
Cumming ruled that agents abroad using this method of secret messaging ensure their ink was fresh for every letter.
The book details an agent in Copenhagen, a Maj. Richard Holme, who apparently kept a ready supply on hand.
“…his letters stank to high heaven and we had to tell him that a fresh operation was necessary for each letter.”
In “Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink,” Kristie Macrakis writes that Cumming began inquiring about the use of bodily fluids as invisible ink as early as 1915 and told Walter Kirke, Deputy Head of Military Intelligence that he thought the best invisible ink was indeed semen.
Semen does not react to the iodine vapor test, a method that then turned all known invisible inks brown. This was particularly attractive to the spy agency, but unfortunately (for spies — not for those concerned with hotel cleanliness) heat develops semen ink and it appears in ultraviolet light.
At first, concentration camp guards during the Nazi regime of World War II were male. However, with the introduction of female guards to Auschwitz and Majdanek, a new era began and German officials soon learned that these incoming women were quite good at their jobs. By the end of the war, more than 3,500 women acted as camp guards, making up almost 7 percent of all Nazi guards employed.
With no special training or particular background, these women either volunteered or were recruited through shrewd marketing techniques. Mostly young women and unmarried, or possibly married to a man who worked in the camp. Many felt they were doing their duty to their country.
1. Maria Mandl
Maria Mandl was one of the head guards at Auschwitz, despite her gender, and was known for her cruelty, which aptly earned her the nickname “The Beast”. It’s supposed that she had her hand in up to half a million deaths. While she was unable to climb the ladder in her field to the very top as a woman, she had absolute control over all the female prisoners and the rest of the female employees. She was only forced to answer to one man. Her tactics vary, but tales of her behavior resonated with prisoners.
Many say she would stand at the entry gate and, if any inmate happened to look over at her, that individual would be taken away, never to be heard from again. She also put together an orchestra at the camp and, after regular work hours were over, the prisoners would be forced to march in time to the music. The orchestra often coincided with executions.
After Auschwitz was liberated, Mandl fled to Bavaria. After her capture, she underwent interrogations, and showed high levels of intelligence. She was turned over to Poland, and was sentenced to death by hanging.
2. Irma Grese
Grese was one of Mandl’s inferiors, who also worked at Auschwitz and served as a warden for female prisoners. Her reign, however, was short and she only made it to the age of 22 before being executed for her war crimes. This was still plenty of time for her to earn her own nickname, just like “The Beast” — her boss. Grese became known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz”.
She managed to earn the second-highest rank available to females, and routinely participated in picking which of the prisoners would go to the gas chamber.
Greece’s actions are immortalized in a memoir that was written by one of the camp prisoners. It says that Grese loved to terrify the women in the camps, and that she specifically picked women who were remotely beautiful, sick, or weak.
During her trial, witnesses said she would allow half-starved dogs to attack prisoners; she also enjoyed shooting prisoners and would beat them to death with a whip. In addition, Grese also had several love affairs at the camp, one of which resulted in a surprise pregnancy; she then entrusted one of the prisoners to give her an abortion. After the war was over, she had hoped to pursue a career in acting.
3. Hermine Braunsteiner
Braunsteines was the first Nazi war criminal extradited from the United States. Working at Majdanek, she was known as the “Stomping Mare”.
Her most infamous actions include lifting children by the hair to throw them onto trucks headed to the gas chambers, hanging young girls, and stomping women to death. She became known for her crazy tantrums and could be expected to lash out with a riding whip at the slightest provocation.
As the Soviets approached, Braunsteiner fled to Vienna, then remained jailed for a year. She was later granted amnesty and lived in Austria, under the radar, until she met an American on vacation. They married, moved to Canada and then later to the United States.
No one knew of her past and she became known as a friendly housewife. A Nazi hunter and a reporter ran across her in Queens and exposed her actions. While her husband said he knew of her work, he did not know exactly to what extent her cruelty ranged.
4. Margot Dreschel
Dreschel headed to Poland in 1942 for the new Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp. She headed up all the camp offices and soon became known as a horrific sight for most prisoners. She often disguised herself as a doctor and went to conduct indoor selections within the camp. With a trained dog in tow, she would make all prisoners undress, take their shoes and then make them stand for hours, naked.
She frequently went to and from various camps to help with the selection of women and children for the chambers. She fled the camp after Germany’s surrender, and while in the Russian zone, several former prisoners abducted her and took her to the Russian Military Police. She was executed by hanging within the month.
5. Ilse Koch
Koch worked at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and later at Buchenwald. She is mostly known for her participation in an experiment during which she picked out prisoners with tattoos to be murdered and then skinned. The skins would then be used for study, as one of her colleagues was writing a paper on the relation between tattoos and criminality.
She was arrested in 1943 by the Germans for charges of enrichment and embezzlement, then acquitted in 1944; however, she was arrested again by the U.S. in 1945.
The trial process was not easy, though. During her first trial, she announced that she was eight months pregnant, from one of her many affairs. She was given life in prison and then served two years, before her sentence was lessened to four years, due to lack of evidence. However, she was re-arrested and tried again. Witnesses stated they saw her with human-skin lampshades made from the tattooed skin.
She was delusional and thought that her victims were coming back to harm her. Eventually, Koch committed suicide in her jail cell at the age of 60. Her son, who regularly visited her after being born in prison, was shocked by the news. Now, her body rests in an unmarked grave.
When armchair historians discuss naval aviation during the Vietnam War, the focus usually turns to the F-4 Phantom. That’s the multi-service plane flown by the Navy’s only aces of the war — Randall “Duke” Cunningham and Willie Driscoll.
One plane, though, probably deserves more attention than it’s earned.
The RA-3B Skywarrior decked out in camouflage and displaying its various reconnaissance package options. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
That plane is the A-3 Skywarrior – often called the “Whale” due to its size. It certainly was big – more than 76 feet long, and with a 72-foot wingspan and a maximum takeoff weight of 82,000 pounds.
The A-3 had a range of 2,100 miles and could carry 12,800 pounds of payload.
While the Skywarrior did some bombing missions early on, it shined in the electronic warfare and tanker missions. The Navy turned 85 planes into KA-3B tankers, and 34 were also given jamming pods to become the EKA-3B.
The KA-3B could carry a lot of av gas. (Photo from Wikimedia)
These planes not only could pass a lot of gas to the planes in a carrier’s air wing, they helped to jam enemy radars, blinding them to an incoming attack until it was too late.
Other Skywarrior variants included the RA-3B reconnaissance plane, the ERA-3B electronic aggressor platform, and the EA-3B electronic intelligence version.
As a tanker, the KA-3B and EKA-3B didn’t just enable planes to strike deeper into North Vietnam. These tankers also gave planes gas to get back home – in some cases after suffering serious damage. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that as many as 700 Navy and Marine Corps planes may have been saved by the Whale’s tanker capabilities.
That statistic might be the most important. When an EB-66E bomber was shot down during the Easter Offensive of 1972, it resulted in a massive rescue effort to retrieve the lone survivor, Lieutenant Colonel Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, that resulted in the loss of five aircraft, with 11 Americans killed in action and two more captured.
The last A-3 variants, EA-3Bs, managed to see action during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 with VQ-2 before they were retired. E-3 airframes, though, flew in private service as RD for avionics until 2011.
After feeling slighted by President-elect Donald Trump’s accepting a phone call from Taiwanese president Ing-wen Tsai, the Beijing sent a little message of its own.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army sent an H-6 Badger bomber, a plane in the inventories of both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy, on a mission over the South China Sea to assert China’s claims in the maritime hot spot.
The bomber, which can carry nuclear weapons or long-range missiles, is a copy of the Soviet-era Tu-16 Badger, a medium bomber now out of service in Russia and the former Soviet Union.
Around the time the bomber’s flight hit the news, the Daily Caller reported that Trump demanded that the Chinese “play by the rules.”
“They haven’t played by the rules, and I know it’s time that they’re going to start,” the president-elect said during an event in Des Moines, Iowa, where he introduced Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his pick to be ambassador to China.
The Chinese Badger flew a path covering the so-called “Nine-Dash Line,” a demarcation of the country’s claims in the South China Sea. China’s claims were thrown out by a panel from the International Court of Justice, which issued a stinging rebuke.
It should be noted that China boycotted the process.
The Chinese military has built bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea, notably at Scarborough Shoal. From those bases, they have flown J-11 Flankers, a knockoff of the Su-27.
The Chinese have backed up their claims aggressively, resulting in close calls for Navy planes on some occasions.
One incident in May 2016 involved an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane from the United States Navy. In 2014, a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close call with a J-11 that came very close.
The Department of Defense criticized China in the wake of these incidents.
Concern about an accident is very valid – in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback collided with an EP-3E on a surveillance mission. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, while the J-8 crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei.
The EP-3E crew was detained for ten days by the Chinese until a diplomatic solution was reached.
Taiwan is pursuing a two-pronged upgrade to its armed forces as people on the island worry about recent shows of force by powerful rival China during a political stalemate.
Last week, the Taiwanese navy signed a memorandum of understanding with two local companies to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against a stronger adversary, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price is not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.
Taiwan’s ambition to design its own submarines stems partly from China’s pressure against other governments to avoid selling the island any arms.
Last week the Taiwan president called the submarine project “the most challenging aspect” of a broader plan to foster an independent local defense industry, per a local media report.
Taiwan now operates two Dutch-designed Hai Lung submarines, bought in the early 1980s, and two Guppy II-class submarines dating back to 1946. China has the world’s third most powerful armed forces overall, with Taiwan in 19th place, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database.
The navy has not fixed on a number of submarines to develop as part of the agreement signed Tuesday, the defense ministry spokesman said.
“Because in the past, Taiwan has the technology to build boats, we hope to make use of this domestic industry,” said senior Taiwan legislator Lee Chun-yi. “We hope we can use the construction (of submarines) to encourage domestic industries, and there’s a definite help for Taiwan’s defense sector.”
Separately, U.S. President Donald Trump may approve a sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan in the first half of the year according to media reports from Washington.
“Without speaking to any specific cases, we can say that under long-standing U.S. policy, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are … based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs,” said Sonia Urbom, spokesperson for The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which unofficially represents U.S. interests in Taipei.
“Defensive arms are helpful for Taiwan’s security,” Lee said. “We hope for them and welcome them. We also all hope the United States can have a closer military dialogue and that the United States will approve this package as soon as possible and let Taiwan process it as soon as possible.”
Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said Monday the government would urge Washington to make the arms sale.
The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama stopped an arms sale to Taiwan in December. Some analysts expect Trump at least to unblock it. The United States may sell advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in the next package, news reports from Washington say.
“I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as urgency,” said Ross Feingold, Taipei-based analyst with an American political consultancy. “The time has come to make a decision and the Obama Administration decided to punt, and now the Trump Administration is following up in a reasonable and appropriate time frame.
“A better question would be what’s going to come next because we are simply approving things that were on the table and under discussion already,” he said.
Chinese officials fume when other countries, especially the United States, sell weapons to Taiwan. Taiwan is looking to Trump because he risked China’s anger by speaking to Tsai by phone in December and his staff has taken a tough line against Beijing’s military expansion at sea.
China temporarily cut off some exchanges with the United States in 2010 when Obama approved a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan. After Washington announced a $1.83 billion package in 2015, China formally protested to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Some see Obama’s decision to stop an arms deal in December as a goodwill gesture toward China, and say approval by Trump would risk China calling off any cooperation with the United States on containing North Korea.
People in Taiwan have been particularly on guard since the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the only ship of its type in the Chinese navy, sailed around Taiwan in December and January. Taiwan is just 160 kilometers away from China at its nearest point.
This month China flew 13 aircraft east of Taiwan, near Okinawa. Taiwan’s defense ministry is also watching as Beijing builds military infrastructure in the disputed South China Sea.
“China is doing some activities in the South China Sea recently, and even though they’re not always directed toward Taiwan, in the Pacific region it’s stronger and stronger, so people in Taiwan feel that without the ability to resist we will be diminished in terms of bargaining position,” said Ku Chung-hua, a standing board member in the Taipei-based political action group Citizens’ Congress Watch.
Taiwan frets because the Communist leadership claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island despite opinion polls showing most Taiwanese oppose China’s goal of eventual unification. The two sides talked regularly from 2008 to 2015 but stopped after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year.
Tsai takes a more guarded view of relations with China than her predecessor and Beijing is seen using military displays as well as diplomatic and economic measures to pressure Taiwan back into talks. China has not renounced the use of force, if needed, to reunify with the island.
Taiwan’s parliament would need to allocate money separately for a U.S. arms package, but the China threat is marshaling public support in favor, analysts say. The existing military budget for this year comes to $10.24 billion, or 2.05 percent of the Taiwan GDP.
“With the cross-Strait situation not only stagnant, but in some respects deteriorating, this is as good a time as any both to garner domestic support within Taiwan to purchase weapons and to hope for a sympathetic ear in Washington,” said Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with American think tank The Stimson Center.
The US Marine Corps just set forth its vision of a battle plan to take on growing threats around the world — and it calls for small “Lightning carriers” armed to the teeth with F-35s.
The 2017 Marine Aviation Plan acknowledges the burgeoning “missile gap” between the US and adversaries like China, who have a number of “carrier killers” — long-range precision weapons specifically designed to hit land bases and aircraft carriers before they can hit back.
While the US Navy is working on the MQ-25A Stingray as an unmanned refueling system to extend the range of its carrier aircraft, the Marines seem ready to press ahead with a similar concept in “Lightning carriers.”
Basically, the Marines will already have enough F-35Bs to equip several of their smaller amphibious assault ships, sometimes known as helicopter carriers, while the Navy waits on their F-35Cs to sort out carrier-launch issues for its larger, Nimitz-class carriers.
“While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier, it can be complementary, if employed in imaginative ways,” reads the plan. The Marines refer to one such creative use of the smaller carriers as a “Lightning carrier,” or an amphibious assault ship with 20 F-35Bs and an “embarked, organic aerial refueling capability” to extend their range.
The Marines plan to further reduce reliance on land and sea bases with “mobile forward arming and refueling points” that employ decoys and deception to confuse the enemy and keep US aircraft spread out and unpredictable.
The F-35B with its stealth, unparalleled intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, plus extended range, can match the long range missiles fielded by Russia and China and help the Marines secure land and sea bases by allowing them to see first, and if need be, shoot first.
Additionally, the F-35 won’t just increase capabilities, but if acquired faster to replace the aging F-18s and Harriers in the Marines’ fleet, it could save $1 billion, according to the US Naval Institute.
But the Marines aren’t just waiting on the F-35B to save them. The service has big plans to network every single platform into a “sensor, shooter, electronic warfare node and sharer – able to move information throughout the spectrum and across the battlefield at light speed.”
With upgraded data sharing and command and control abilities, every asset from boots on the ground to satellites in the sky will work together to provide decision-quality information to war fighters, whether they’re on carriers, land bases, or taking a beach.
While China cements its land and sea grab with militarized islands in the South China Sea, the Marines’ aviation plan takes on a new urgency. The plan details how the first F-35B squadrons will deploy to Japan and the US’s West Coast.
Turning conventional wisdom on its ear, one former Army Drill Sergeant has built a multi-million dollar apparel business by uniquely applying military operational techniques and culture.
During his time on active duty, Dan Alarik was deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo. Following his overseas duty, he served as a drill instructor at Fort Benning — a tour that changed his life in a very unorthodox way. Alarik pooled money with a few of his friends and they started to make t-shirts for the various units stationed there. In 2009 he had enough success that he decided to separate from the Army after 13 years and move back to his hometown of Chicago to start a t-shirt company.
Alarik’s vision for what he called “Grunt Style” was very clear. He wanted to bring the best parts of his Army experience — especially the elements of patriotism and service — to the rest of the nation.
As the company grew, Alarik took two bold steps: He moved the business out of his apartment and into an office space and he hired an employee — a fellow vet. From there growth was rapid. The company outgrew the office within five months and moved to a bigger space that they, in turn, outgrew five months after that.
But, as any entrepreneur knows, rapid growth can hobble a startup as much as the absence of it unless there’s a sound strategy behind it. And that’s where Alarik leveraged his military pedigree.
He modeled Grunt Style after the most effective military units he’d been part of during his time on active duty. The company is organized into two platoons: Maneuvers (marketing sales, and design) and Support By Fire (production and fulfillment).
And, more importantly in terms of being true to his business vision, Alarik has populated that military-themed organization with veterans. Seventy percent of his 100-plus employees are vets. (Also of note, manpower-wise, is that his wife, Elizabeth, is the chief financial officer.)
“I had my own challenges with fitting into office culture right out of the Army,” Alarik said. “From the beginning, one of my goals was to make Grunt Style feel familiar to vet employees. Not only do I love working with people who are patriotic and proud, there’s a strong business case behind that idea.”
Another military best practice that Alarik has put in place is pushing responsibility and authority to the lowest level possible. For instance, on the shop floor, “sew leaders” (the title given to front-line manufacturing personnel) work with very little oversight. He also instituted a “battle buddy” program for new hires that ensures the onboarding process is smooth and tackles any issues quickly.
“A paycheck is important, but for vets a job is more than that,” Alarik said. “They joined the military, for the most part, to be part of something bigger than themselves, something of consequence. That’s how we want them to feel about Grunt Style.”
“I knew when I met Dan that I wanted to be part of Grunt Style,” said Tim Jenson, COO and first sergeant. “It feels like ‘home’ working alongside people that get each other and work towards a common goal.”
The result of Alarik’s strategy is a $36 million business with a large facility complete with multiple warehouses for designing, printing, and packaging product. And every shirt comes with what the company calls a “beer guarantee.”
“What that means is if you’re not satisfied you can return a shirt for whatever reason — even if it’s soaked in beer — and we’ll give you a refund,” Alarik said.
And Alarik isn’t done yet. He recently launched “Alpha Outpost,” billed as “the best monthly subscription box for men.” Each month subscribers are mailed a box of interesting items around a specific theme. Previous themes have included “BBQ and Chill” (knives, grill gloves, spices, cookbook), “The Medic” (first aid equipment), and “The Gentlemen” (silk tie, flask, leaded glass).
Companies that struggle with hiring and retaining veterans can learn from Grunt Style’s approach. Alarik has found that the best way to get the most from veterans is not trying to force them into a corporate culture but rather to create a military-friendly environment where they can quickly assimilate and immediately make meaningful contributions to the company.
Three years from now, soldiers could be wearing a new ballistic head protection that resembles a motorcycle helmet as part of the Soldier Protection System under development at Program Executive Office Soldier.
The Integrated Head Protection System features a base helmet with add-ons such as a visor, a “mandible” portion that protects the lower jaw, and a “ballistic applique” that is much like a protective layer that attaches over the base helmet.
The base helmet on the IHPS will be similar to the polyethylene Enhanced Combat Helmet that some soldiers are already wearing. Eventually all deploying soldiers will get the IHPS with the base helmet, which is the standard configuration. Other soldiers, vehicle gunners in particular, will also get the mandible portion and the ballistic applique as well, known as the turret configuration, Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, the product manager for Personal Protective Equipment at PEO Soldier, in an Army press release.
The visor portion on the IHPS provides ballistic protection to a soldier’s face but doesn’t provide any protection against the sun. So soldiers wearing it will need to wear darkened sunglasses underneath the visor if they are in bright environments.
PEO Soldier has authorized soldiers to wear a special type of sunglasses the can transition from clear to shaded lens with a press of a button.
Brown said the goggles will be available for units to be able to requisition as part of the Soldier Protection System.
“If we are able to drive the price down, the Army could eventually make a decision to include that on the list of items that we carry for deploying soldiers,” Brown said.
Brown said the IHPS will likely be available to deploying Soldiers sometime between 2020 and 2021.
A Jordanian police officer shot five people, including two U.S. security trainers, at the King Abdullah Training Center in Amman, Jordan on November 9th. Though not the dictionary definition of a “Green-on-Blue” attack, it does show a rise in these types of insider attacks against U.S. personnel. A Green on Blue attack is how NATO describes attacks on NATO and Coalition forces in Afghanistan by Afghan security forces. It’s important to remember that U.S. and Jordan have a long history of cooperation that predates 1991’s Operation Desert Storm.
Green on Blue attacks, by their nature, are difficult to predict. They are damaging to morale, unit cohesion, and international relations. They sap public support for training missions from the people of the United States and cause a loss of credibility for U.S. allies. As the U.S. begins to increase its presence in Iraq to combat ISIS, the shift in Green on Blue tactics is troubling, considering the already-strained U.S. training missions in Iraq.
There are 91 incidents of Green on Blue attack in the Afghan War so far, with 148 Coalition troops killed and 186 wounded. 15% of all Coalition casualties in Afghanistan were Green on Blue attacks in 2012. Security measures were put in place to ensure NATO forces have overwatch when these attacks are likely to occur. The Long War Journal blog keeps a tally on Green on Blue attacks.
April 8, 2015
An Afghan soldier kills a U.S. troop and wounds two more at the governor’s compound in Jalalabad. U.S. troops kill the gunman.
January 29, 2015
One Afghan soldier, a Taliban infiltrator working security, kills three U.S. security contractors and wounds one more at Kabul International Airport.
Sept. 15, 2014:
An Afghan soldier shoots at ISAF trainers in Farah province, killing a trainer and wounding another and an interpreter before being killed.
Aug. 5, 2014:
An Afghan fires on US officers at a key leader engagement at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul City. U.S. Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene is killed and 16 ISAF personnel are wounded. The attacker was killed by Afghan soldiers.
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Chuck Hagel, and the U.S. assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, Heidi Shyu, participate in singing the congregational hymn during a military funeral in honor of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene. Greene is the highest-ranking service member killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller)
June 23, 2014:
Two U.S. military advisers are wounded when an Afghan policeman shoots at them as they arrive at the Paktia provincial police headquarters in Gardez. The attacker is killed in return fire. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack.
Feb. 12, 2014:
Two US soldiers are shot and killed with four wounded by two men wearing Afghan National Security Force uniforms in eastern Afghanistan. Several civilians are also wounded by crossfire. The two are killed by Coalition troops.
Oct. 26, 2013:
A member of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) wounds two NATO troops in a firefight at a base on the outskirts of Kabul; the Afghan soldier is shot and killed during the clash. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack and appears to be a result of a dispute between Australian and Afghan troops.
Oct. 13, 2013:
A member of the Afghan National Security Forces kills a US soldier in Paktika province and wounds another. The Afghan escapes.
Oct. 5, 2013:
A local security guard kills a senior ISAF member in southern Afghanistan; the gunman is killed following the incident.
Sept. 26, 2013:
An Afghan soldier shoots at ISAF troops in Paktia, killing an American soldier and injuring several others. The attacker is then shot and killed. The Taliban claimed the attack.
Sept. 21, 2013:
An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier shoots up ISAF special forces in Paktia province, killing three and injuring one. The attacker is shot and killed.
July 9, 2013:
A “rogue” ANA soldier fires at Slovakian troops at Kandahar Airfield, killing one and injuring at least two more. The attacker was captured by Afghan forces. He later escapes from a detention facility and joins the Taliban.
June 8, 2013:
ANA soldiers kill two US soldiers and a civilian adviser in Paktika and wound three other Americans. One of the attackers is killed and another captured.
May 4, 2013:
An ANA soldier kills two ISAF troops in an attack in Western Afghanistan.
April 7, 2013:
An ANA soldier fires on Lithuanian soldiers in an armored vehicle at a post in the village of Kasi, wounding two Lithuanian soldiers. The attacker is captured and handed to the Afghans.
April 7, 2013:
Afghan Local Police fire on a US outpost after US troops attempted to arrest a Taliban commander visiting the ALP. No one is hurt.
March 11, 2013:
An Afghan Local Policeman fires on US Special Forces at a military base in Wardak province, killing two and wounding eight. The attacker and two Afghan policemen are killed.
March 8, 2013:
Three ANSF soldiers in an ANSF vehicle drive onto a US military base in Kapisa province, and fire on US troops and civilians, killing one civilian contractor and wounding four US troops. The three attackers are killed.
Jan. 6, 2013:
An ANA soldier fires on British and Afghan troops at Patrol Base Hazrat. He kills one British soldier and wounds six more. He is shot by Afghan security forces while fleeing. The Taliban take credit.
Dec. 31, 2012:
Two ANA soldiers fire on Spanish troops as they patrol in Herat province; no one was killed or injured in the incident.
Dec. 24, 2012:
An Afghan policewoman kills a US civilian adviser inside the Interior Ministry building. The shooter is captured.
Nov. 11, 2012:
An Afghan soldier fires at British troops in Helmand province. One British soldier is killed and one wounded. The Afghan shooter is wounded.
Nov. 10, 2012:
Two Afghan soldiers fire at Spanish troops from the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Badghis province. The two Afghan soldiers are captured; one wounded. One Spanish soldier is wounded.
Oct. 30, 2012:
An Afghan policeman shoots and kills two British soldiers in Helmand province. The policeman escapes.
Oct. 25, 2012:
A “trusted” Afghan policeman kills two US soldiers at a police headquarters in Uruzgan province. The attacker escapes to join the Taliban.
Oct. 13, 2012:
An employee of the National Security Directorate kills a US soldier and a US State Department employee in a suicide attack in Kandahar province. Also killed in the attack were the deputy NDS chief for Kandahar and three other Afghans.
Sept. 29, 2012:
An Afghan soldier shoots at Coalition forces in Wardak province. One US soldier and a civilian contractor are killed and two US soldiers were wounded. Three other Afghan soldiers are also killed with several others wounded.
Sept. 16, 2012:
An Afghan soldier fires on a vehicle inside Camp Garmser in Helmand province; six NATO troops and a foreign civilian worker are wounded in the attack.
Sept. 16, 2012:
Afghan policemen open fire on a group of Coalition soldiers in Zabul province, killing four and wounding two. The attacker is killed in an exchange with several other Afghan policemen wounded.
Sept. 15, 2012:
A member of the Afghan Local Police fires on a group of British soldiers in Helmand province, killing two and wounding two. The attacker was killed in a firefight.
Aug. 28, 2012:
An Afghan soldier shoots and kills three Australian soldiers in Uruzgan province. Two more Australian soldiers were wounded in the attack.
Aug. 27, 2012:
An Afghan soldier kills two ISAF soldiers in Laghman province. The attacker was killed by ISAF soldiers.
Aug. 19, 2012:
A member of the Afghan Uniformed Police turns his weapon on a group of ISAF soldiers in southern Afghanistan, killing one soldier and wounding another.
Aug. 17, 2012:
An Afghan Local Police officer kills a Marine and a Navy Corpsman and wounds an ISAF soldier during a training exercise on an Afghan base in Farah province. He was killed in the ensuing firefight.
Aug. 17, 2012:
An Afghan soldier shoots and wounds two NATO soldiers in Kandahar province; the attacker is killed.
Aug. 13, 2012:
A policeman wounds two US soldiers in Nangarhar province. The attacker flees.
Aug. 10, 2012:
Three US Marines are killed and one wounded in an attack in Helmand province. The attacker was captured.
Aug. 10, 2012:
Three US soldiers are killed and one wounded in an attack by an Afghan Local Police commander and his men in Helmand province. The Afghan police commander flees.
Aug. 9, 2012:
US troops kill an Afghan soldier who was attempting to gun them down at a training center in Methar Lam district in Laghman province; two US soldiers are wounded.
Aug. 7, 2012:
Two Afghan soldiers kill a US soldier and wound three others in Paktia province before defecting to the Taliban.
Aug. 3, 2012:
An Afghan Local Policeman wounds one ISAF soldier at a base in Panjwai district in Kandahar province.
July 23, 2012:
Two ISAF soldiers are wounded in an attack in Faryab province. The attacker is killed by ISAF troops.
July 22, 2012:
A member of the Afghan National Police (ANP) kills three civilian trainers who worked for ISAF in Herat province, wounding another. The attacker is killed.
July 5, 2012:
Five ISAF are wounded by an Afghan soldier in Wardak province.
July 1, 2012:
Three British military advisers are killed and another ISAF member is wounded in an attack by an Afghan Civil Order policeman in Helmand province.
June 18, 2012:
An ISAF soldier is killed by “three individuals in Afghan Police uniforms” in the south.
May 12, 2012:
Members of the Afghan Uniformed Police kill two British soldiers and wound two more in Helmand province.
May 11, 2012:
An Afghan soldier kills a US soldier and wounds two others in Kunar province. The attacker flees to the Taliban.
May 6, 2012:
An Afghan soldier kills one US Marine and wounds another in the Marjah district of Helmand province. The gunman is killed by return fire.
April 26, 2012:
An Afghan commando kills a US Special Forces soldier and an Afghan interpreter in Kandahar province. The Commando is killed by returned fire.
April 25, 2012:
An Afghan Uniformed Policeman wounds two ISAF soldiers in Kandahar province.
April 16, 2012:
An Afghan soldier attacks ISAF soldiers in Kandahar province; no casualties or injuries.
March 26, 2012:
An ISAF service member dies after a shooting in eastern Afghanistan. He was shot by an alleged member of the Afghan Local Police. The attacker was killed by return fire.
March 26, 2012:
An Afghan soldier kills two British troops and wounds another ISAF service member in Helmand province. The attacker is killed by return fire.
March 14, 2012:
An Afghan interpreter hijacks an SUV, wounds a British soldier, then attempts to run down a group of US Marines. The attacker crashes his truck and sets himself on fire.
March 2, 2012:
An Afghan soldier attacks ISAF soldiers at Camp Morehead in Kabul; no casualties.
March 1, 2012:
An Afghan soldier and a teacher open fire on NATO troops in Kandahar province, killing two and wounding two more, before being killed in returned fire.
Feb. 25, 2012:
An Afghan policeman guns down two US military officers in the Interior Ministry in Kabul before escaping.
Feb. 23, 2012:
An Afghan soldier kills two US troops in Nangarhar province.
Feb. 20, 2012:
A member of the Afghan Uniformed Police kills an ISAF soldier in southern Afghanistan and wounds two.
Jan. 31, 2012:
An Afghan soldier kills an ISAF soldier in Helmand province; the Afghan commander says it was an accident, but the shooter was detained.
Jan. 20, 2012:
An Afghan soldier kills four ISAF soldiers in eastern Afghanistan. According to AFP, the attacker shot and killed four unarmed French soldiers and wounded another 15 at their base in Kapisa.
Jan. 8, 2012:
An Afghan soldier kills an ISAF soldier and wounds three others in southern Afghanistan. The attacker is shot and killed by another US soldier.
Dec. 29, 2011:
An Afghan soldier kills two ISAF soldiers in eastern Afghanistan. The dead are two non-commissioned officers of the French Foreign Legion. The Taliban claimed the attack.
Nov. 9, 2011:
Three Australian soldiers are wounded when an Afghan soldier shoots them at an Australian base in Uruzgan province.
Oct. 29, 2011:
An Afghan army trainee fires at a forward operating base in Kandahar province being used to train ANA troops. He kills three Australian soldiers and one interpreter, wounding at least nine others.
Aug. 4, 2011:
An Afghan soldier kills an ISAF soldier while dressed as a policeman in eastern Afghanistan.
July 16, 2011:
An Afghan soldier kills an ISAF soldier in southern Afghanistan after a joint patrol. The attacker runs away.
May 30, 2011:
An Afghan soldier kills an ISAF soldier in southern Afghanistan. The two were in guard towers. The Afghan flees the scene.
May 13, 2011:
Two NATO soldiers mentoring an Afghan National Civil Order brigade are shot and killed inside a police compound in Helmand province.
April 27, 2011:
A veteran Afghan air force pilot opens fire inside a NATO military base in Kabul, killing eight and a contractor.
April 16, 2011:
A newly recruited Afghan soldier who was a Taliban suicide bomber detonated at Forward Operating Base Gamberi in Laghman, killing five NATO and four Afghan soldiers. Eight other Afghans were wounded, including four interpreters.
April 4, 2011:
An Afghan soldier opens fire on ISAF vehicles in Kandahar province
April 4, 2011:
An Afghan Border Police officer in Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, shoots and kills two US soldiers, then flees. ISAF reports on April 7 the attacker was killed when he displayed hostile intent after being tracked down in Maimana.
March 19, 2011:
An Afghan hired to provide security at Forward Operating Base Frontenac in Kandahar province shot six US soldiers as they were cleaning their weapons, killing two and wounding four more. The attacker was killed by three other US soldiers.
Feb. 18, 2011:
An Afghan soldier fires on German soldiers at a base in Baghlan province, killing three and wounding six others. The attacker was killed.
Jan. 18, 2011:
An Afghan soldier shoots two Italian soldiers at a combat outpost in Badghis province, killing one and wounding the other before escaping.
Jan. 15, 2011:
An Afghan soldier argues with a Marine in Helmand, threatens him, and later returns and aims his weapon at the Marine. When the Afghan soldier fails to put his rifle down, the Marine shoots him.
Nov. 29, 2010:
An individual in an Afghan Border Police uniform kills six ISAF soldiers during a training mission in eastern Afghanistan; the attacker is killed in the incident.
Nov. 6, 2010:
Two US Marines are killed by an Afghan soldier at a military base in Helmand province. The shooter flees to the Taliban.
Aug. 26, 2010:
Two Spanish police officers and their interpreter are shot dead by their Afghan driver on a Spanish base in Badghis province. The shootings set off a riot outside the base; shots were fired at the base and fires were set. Officials say 25 people were wounded. The attacker was shot dead by other Spanish officers.
July 20, 2010:
An Afghan soldier kills two US civilian trainers at a training base in northern Afghanistan. One NATO soldier is wounded. The attacker dies.
July 13, 2010:
An Afghan soldier kills three British troops in Helmand province. The attacker flees to the Taliban.
Dec. 29, 2009:
An Afghan soldier fires on NATO troops preventing them from approaching a helicopter. He kills a US soldier and injures two Italian soldiers before being injured by NATO troops’ return fire.
Nov. 3, 2009:
An Afghan policeman shoots and kills three UK Grenadier Guards and two members of the UK Royal Military Police; six other British troops are severely wounded alongside two Afghans. The incident occurred while the soldiers were resting after a joint patrol.
Oct. 28, 2009:
An Afghan policeman fires on American soldiers during a joint patrol in Wardak province, killing two and injuring two more before fleeing.
Oct. 2, 2009:
An Afghan policeman kills two American soldiers in Wardak province.
March 27, 2009:
An Afghan soldier shoots and kills two US Navy officers in Balkh province. According to theMilitary Times, the attacker also wounded another US Navy officer. The attacker then fatally shot himself.
Oct. 18, 2008:
An Afghan policeman standing on a tower hurls a grenade and fires on a US military foot patrol as it returned to a base in Paktika province, killing one US soldier. The U.S. returns fire, killing the policeman.
Sept. 29, 2008:
An Afghan policeman fires at a police station in Paktia province, killing one US soldier and wounding three others before being shot himself.
In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.
Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.
Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.
Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.
The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.
The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.
Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.
But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.
While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.
“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”
He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.
The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.
And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.
Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.
The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.
“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”
But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.
“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”
What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.
Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.
“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”