Even if you haven’t watched “The Mandalorian” on Disney Plus, you’ve undoubtedly seen all the Baby Yoda memes, fan art, and backordered holiday gifts.
As soon as the adorable green creature appeared on the Disney Plus Star Wars series “The Mandalorian,” everyone — including yours truly — wanted a piece of Baby Yoda. Despite Disney being slow on the uptake for Baby Yoda merch, there are still many great holiday gifts for fans of the fuzzy adult-baby though some are only available for pre-order and will arrive in spring 2020. This means some of the gifts below will an extra surprise when Baby Yoda arrives in the mail.
Here are 11 Baby Yoda gifts for fans of “The Mandalorian”:
In addition to hundreds of classic Disney movies, old shows, and original programming, Disney+ is the only place to see the Child in action. From day one of Disney+, “The Mandalorian” has been a hit both with audience and critics. If they don’t already have Disney+, now’s the time to get it for them.
At a little under four inches in height, this Funko bobblehead of the Child will fit nicely on a desk, bedside table, or even on the front dash of your car. This is available for pre-order right now and is expected to arrive May 13, 2020.
This 10-inch plush toy is a soft and cuddly incarnation of Baby Yoda, and even comes in special packaging that’ll look like the crib from the show. This item is available for pre-order and won’t arrive until April 1, 2020.
They’ll be able to bundle up like Baby Yoda in this cozy sweatshirt. The crew neck and ribbed hems will give them that classic sweatshirt silhouette, but the Baby Yoda print is super topical and relevant for 2019.
Politicians: Let’s use the military to fight the coronavirus!
Military: uhhhh ok.
Many of us who served have participated in humanitarian missions around the world and at home. Whether it was big disasters at home like Hurricane Katrina, unrest like the Los Angeles riots of 1992 or the massive tsunami in 2004 to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and famines in vast corners of the world, the United States military is usually there to provide assistance or security.
With the COVID-19 outbreak paralyzing most of the country and reports that it could possibly get really ugly, politicians have been throwing out many plans to help Americans, prevent the spread of the virus, and how to act if the worst-case scenario happens.
This past Sunday, during the Democratic primary debate, former Vice President Joe Biden threw out his plan to utilize the military to fight the outbreak.
“I would call out the military now,” Biden said. “They have the ability to provide this surge that hospitals need. They have the capacity to build 500 hospital beds and tents that are completely safe and secure. It’s a national emergency, and I would call out the military. We’re at war with the virus.”
His lone debate opponent (fellow veteran Tulsi Gabbard, anyone?) Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders echoed Biden’s call and said he would mobilize and deploy National Guard Units to combat the outbreak. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has started a plan to use the New York National Guard to create or build upon facilities so up to 9,000 more hospital beds could be ready if needed.
This talk brings up the images we have seen in the movies. When a monster attacks, a terrorist plot happens or a cataclysmic disaster happens, the military comes in, sets up shop and gets to kicking ass.
We have even seen in movies like Outbreak and Contagion where the military is either on the forefront or very involved in epidemic operations.
For all that talk and imagery we have, the Pentagon is a bit more restrained on how exactly the military will be involved.
“The Department of Defense is ready, willing and able to support civilian authorities to the greatest extent possible at the direction of the president,” Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said, “We just want to make sure that the conversation that we have is informed by the facts of what is possible and what is not and what those trade-offs are.”
The big issue is beds and field hospitals. The military can set up big tents to accommodate many potential patients. These tents can go anywhere from a couple of dozen to housing hundreds. The issue though, is if the military is prepared to handle coronavirus patients. The military trains and is prepared to handle trauma and casualties from war and natural disasters. Outbreaks, on the other hand, might not be the military’s strong suit. Do they have the medical personnel and support staff to handle the potential of thousands of infected patients?
The Navy has two hospital ships, but are limited in size, geography (they can only be close to the seaboards obviously) and are configured to deal with mass trauma and not infectious diseases. Being in an open sickbay might not be the best place for a large group of people that need to be treated in isolation.
National Guard units would be the units that would be used to help with any outbreak containment and treatment efforts. Active duty would be prohibited (as many of us know) by the Posse Comitatus Act. Right now, there are less than 1,000 Guardsmen mobilized (mostly in New York). If the virus spreads, there will be more mobilized, but the trade-off will have to be weighed. Many Guardsmen also work as police, firefighters and first responders, and that would be a huge loss to the town they are leaving.
While there are no plans yet to use the National Guard for law enforcement purposes, we keep hearing about curfews, lockdowns, shelter in place and Marshall Law (sorry Rubio) means that the military might have to consider they will be utilized as an auxiliary police force.
With all that’s been said, we do have to factor in two things. The first is that the military might not even be needed. This might all blow over or civilians might be able to take care of the outbreak without the need for much or any military assistance.
The second factor is that our military is really good at being adaptable. Time and time again, the United States military gets served a sh*t sandwich, and they adapt and overcome those situations. If the coronavirus spread does require a massive response from the military to help civilians, I think the men and women in uniform will do everything they can to make sure they can help as many of us as possible.
Hollywood war movies are usually comprised of strong and versatile trope elements like the wise seasoned soldier, the good decision makers, and the flawed protagonist who needs a solid character arch before the credits roll.
There’s also the cast of characters that are considered the weaker links, or they’re just so naïve audiences sigh with relief when they die off.
So here’s our list of newbie boots we wouldn’t want taking point on patrol with us.
1. Conrad Vig (“3 Kings”)
He’s the funny, goofy guy who also talks too much and no one takes him seriously until you get annoyed by his presence.
Great movie, but bad karate kick. (Image via Giphy)
2. Corporal Upham (“Saving Private Ryan”)
He stops himself from saving a fellow brother because his fear got the best of him, but to add insult to injury, he gave up an easy kill shot and let the German soldier off the hook. Unacceptable!
Unfreaking believable. You had him, Upham! (Image via Giphy)
3. Gardner (“Platoon”)
We knew this over-weight character was going to perish sooner rather than later — no way his stature meets physical regs. No squad wants the guy who can’t hold his own weight — literally — on their team.
China’s “insatiable appetite” for seafood is straining the limited abilities of South American countries to enforce their maritime boundaries, according to a Dec. 13, 2018 article in Dialogo, a website run by US Southern Command.
Countries on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts have been affected, and most of the illicit fishing activity in those areas is done by Chinese vessels.
Juan Carlos Sueiro, fisheries director for Peru at the ocean conservation and advocacy organization Oceana, told Dialogo that Peru and Argentina saw “the largest congregation of these vessels in the world.”
“It’s not that they can’t fish in international waters, but their close presence generates controversy. For example, Oceana already identified vessels entering into Peruvian waters without a license or with duplicated ID,” Sueiro said.
Chinese vessel RUNDA 608 was detained on Oct. 6, 2018, in Peruvian territorial waters while fishing illegally.
“Refrigerated fishing vessels can be found in international waters to transfer their captures, fuel, and supplies,” he said, adding that transshipment activity, which can launder profits from illegal fishing, had also been detected.
Officials and experts have said rising demand for fish and increased competition over dwindling stocks could spark new conflicts. Many of them have pointed specifically to China.
Fishing stocks around China have shrunken dramatically. But Beijing has expanded its distant-ocean fishing fleet, and those vessels have been involved in disputes as far afield as Argentina — where the coast guard has fired at and sunk them — and in Africa, where Chinese firms are building fish-processing facilities.
In a September 2017 article, retired US Navy Adm. James Stavridis and a coauthor said that Beijing was spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to subsidize its long-range fishing fleet and that its coast guard often escorts those ships while they fish illegally.
“As such, the Chinese government is directly enabling and militarizing the worldwide robbing of ocean resources,” they said.
In September 2018, US Coast Guard Cmdr. Kate Higgins-Bloom wrote that “the odds that a squabble over fishing rights could turn into a major armed conflict are rising.”
Countries overplaying their hands with fishing and fisheries enforcement in contested waters and increasingly aggressive responses to illegal fishing are two ways that conflict could develop, Higgins-Bloom wrote. She added that “political leaders of rising powers will feel enormous pressure to secure the resources their citizens demand — even if it means violating international norms and rules.”
Indonesia has blown up boats caught fishing illegally, including a Chinese vessel, and the country’s fisheries minister has said what Chinese fishing boats “are doing is not fishing. It is transnational organized crime.”
“There’s no need to worry [about conflicts with other nations] as we have government vessels protecting us,” a Chinese fisherman said in September 2017, after the expiration of a fishing ban in the South China Sea.
Chinese icebreaker Xue Long conducts operations at an ice-flow camp in the Arctic.
The Arctic, where retreating ice has increased interest in commercial shipping and resource extraction, could also become a venue for that competition.
“I think the Chinese are very interested in the potential protein sources, the fishing stocks,” in the Arctic, Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in late 2018.
Nine countries, including China, and the EU signed an agreement in late 2017 prohibiting commercial fishing in the central Arctic for 16 years to allow study of the region — a deal meant to ensure there’s sufficient information to fish manageably “when these decisions have to be reached,” Conley said.
“We’re seeing anecdotal evidence of fishing stocks traveling north to get to cooler waters,” Conley added. “China certainly wants to ensure that … they’re not excluded from” those fishing grounds.
‘Confronting the Chinese voracity’
US Coast Guard officials have said they are on good terms with their Chinese counterparts when it comes to fisheries enforcement, though they are paying attention to what’s going on in the northern Pacific Ocean.
Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 that the Coast Guard has “a good, functional working relationship” with China, describing an incident when the two services cooperated to stop a high-seas drift-netter, which uses massive nets to scoop up fish without regard to limits on what species can be caught.
“We identified that ship and responded with a Coast Guard cutter. It was a few hundred miles off the nearest mainland in that part of the world. The Chinese came out. It was a Chinese flagship, very cooperative,” Schultz said. “We had a Chinese ship-rider on our Coast Guard ship. We turned that ship over to the Chinese for prosecution.”
In South America, however, “the fight is not easy,” even with cooperation among countries in the region, Dialogo cautioned in the Dec. 13, 2018 article.
“China clearly intends to exploit regional seas, and many species already suffer the consequences,” the article adds. “Confronting the Chinese voracity for marine resources requires a regional commitment that can’t wait.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In following the grand tradition of “if one is good, then two must be great” thinking, Israel’s Silver Shadow firearms manufacturer is marketing this double-barreled AR-15 for sale in the United States. Check out this double-barrel rifle no one asked for that the military will never, ever use.
But just because the military won’t ever use it doesn’t mean civilians won’t try to have fun with it. After all, this isn’t the first time someone thought two barrels was better than one.
Besides, it works for shotguns, right? Why not AR-15s?
Originally marketed as an AR variant under a company named Gilboa, Silver Shadow makes this line of double-barreled weapons here in the U.S., where the 16-inch barrel, twin-trigger rifle is legal for civilian use. The twin trigger is how the company avoids the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ definition of a machine gun.
Each barrel of the Gilboa Snake has its own independent gas block and tube, meaning it can fire multiple rounds with each trigger without the delay and recoil of the weapon cycling between trigger pulls. It also has two separate ejection ports, so hot brass can go down the shirt of the person laying prone to your left and right.
Everything else about the rifle is made with standard AR-15 parts and it still fires the 5.56mm NATO round. Most importantly (in the unlikely event someone were to use the rifle in combat), the weapon also utilizes two standard magazines, one feeding into each barrel.
How to zero the Gilboa Snake
Zeroing the weapon requires zeroing both barrels independently of each other and then zeroing them relative to one another. Then you need to zero them together, as shown in the video below.
Firing a double-barrel AR
The guys over at Guns and Ammo got their hands on an early version of the rifle a few years back and demonstrated firing it at a range.
Jocko Willink’s podcast “Jocko Podcast” hits hard, talks openly and bluntly about real topics and is unapologetic for every bit of it. These are the stories that need to be told and heard, especially by the military community. Tuning in requires headspace because the content flowing through your ears is so completely captivating that the monotonous life dragging on the other side of your ear buds becomes unimportant.
With well over 200 episodes, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Instead of going for an all-time must listen to list, we opted for our top five out of our recent listening history.
#221 Jonny Kim
In this episode, Jonny Kim — United States Navy lieutenant, physician and NASA astronaut — tells story after story, unimaginable events that are scattered throughout his young life that had every right to break him but didn’t. Kim’s outlook on these pivotal moments are completely inspiring, humbling and exactly why he’s accomplished all that he has.
He talks eloquently and intelligently through failed endeavors and perspective gained that we’re sitting here wondering how in the world he doesn’t have his own book already, let alone motivational speeches written from his comments.
Another unbelievable point in Kim’s story is the unplanned paths that led him to become a Navy SEAL, Doctor and Astronaut. Instead, he speaks clearly on specific events that shaped his journey and have led him to the next chapter in an already remarkable life.
#219 Ruth Schindler
Stories of the Holocaust are fading in both media, airwaves, and from the survivors themselves as time passes on. In this episode, like many others, Willink reads excerpts from the guest’s book and discusses passages in depth. Ruth Schindler’s book, “Two Who Survived” is the dual story of both her and her husband’s separate experiences as Auschwitz Holocaust survivors.
Reminding ourselves of both the magnitude and depth of the horrors experienced less than 100 years ago is critical to ensure nothing remotely close ever occurs again.
#118 Dan Crenshaw
Texas Congressman and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw’s interview details a lot about the grit and determination of a warrior. From losing an eye in combat to running a successful first-time congressional campaign on a shoestring budget, this man knows how to push ahead.
Fun fact, Willink was one of Crenshaw’s BUDS instructors and the two discuss the dynamic in this episode. The interview goes on to discuss the differences in each’s paths to becoming a SEAL and how each approached life before and after. He’s on in episode #222 too.
#192 Sean Parnell
Leadership. Willink wrote an entire book dedicated to its ins and outs. This episode with Sean Parnell, author of “Outlaw Platoon,” talks a great deal about various seasons and types of leadership as the book is read throughout the episode.
Combat forges men in ways known and unknown to those undergoing its transformation. Who emerges on the other side says a lot about what’s in a man’s heart, in his soul. Jarring experiences and the forging of a seasoned soldier make up quite a bit of the air space in this episode. It’s a long talk, but well worth every minute.
#115 Dakota Meyer
Like we said up top, make headspace when you’re listening. The reading from Dakota Meyer’s book “Into the Fire” is emotional and vivid. There’s a refreshing amount of honesty going on when Meyer discusses his separation from the Marine Corps, PTSD and finding a new path after service.
This episode tops a lot of charts for good reason. Meyer’s book describes events surrounding a single choice- the choice to head in the direction everyone was trying to escape to look for his team. Revisiting the events of a single day in such detail will have you holding on to every word, analyzing every detail alongside Willink and Meyer in awe.
Honestly, there’s no wrong choice when listening. Pick up anywhere and you’ll find motivation, strength and zero bull. It’s American, it’s raw, it’s real.
The moment a troop gets his or her DD-214, they start to feel that bittersweet freedom settle in. Sure, they can enjoy the little things in life, like sleeping in until 8 am, and go more than a single day without shaving, but life is never the same. Saying your goodbyes to the brothers and sisters you’ve earned is the hardest.
Every now and then, however, a troop won’t find themselves alone — a comrade will join them in the civilian world.
It’s a true sign of friendship when those veterans who fought together are now cruising the local bars as a unit, just like they did when they were still in.
It’s not uncommon for veterans to make friends with other veterans, but this one goes out to the buddies that endure the suck and venture into the civilian world, shoulder to shoulder.
It’s always good to have someone to embrace the new suck with.
Their goals and interests are aligned
Friendships in the military are formed by sharing suffering, but brotherhood is formed when two can talk to each other about things outside of work.
If both veterans share plans of doing something, like attending college to get a degree in criminal justice, they’ll do it together. They’ll probably be roommates through it all, too.
You’ll need someone with a tolerance for BS as low as yours.
They can’t relate to civilians
The civilian-military divide is real. Not only do civilians have a hard time understanding what being in the military is really like, the troops also lose touch with what civilians are up to.
Trends in pop culture don’t have any real effect on people who’ve been in a desert for 12 months without internet access. The only people veterans can relate to are the other troops who also skipped whatever viral joke is currently big.
No one will lie for you like the guys that covered for you when you were “at dental.”
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
Their friendship circle is closed enough
There’s an upper limit on good will for most veterans. Keeping track of all the niceties you’re socially obligated to upkeep gets exhausting. The only thing you need to do to maintain a strong bond with another veteran is show up with beer.
An easy test of a friendship is if both can sit and drink a beer in silence without feeling awkward.
It’s hard to impress veterans when sh*t like this was just called “Tuesday.”
They know how to keep things interesting
Veterans are rarely boring. A civilian friend may come over for a beer and talk about mundane crap, but veteran stories are always filled with foul, disgusting, and down-right hilarious details.
This isn’t even a skill that’s shared among the troops that served together. Veterans have mastered the art of enjoying the little things in life — you’ll never find a better storyteller.
Get out with your brother and you’ll never have to bother the prior service recruiter.
They promised each other they would
The military has bred us to be creatures of commitment. If we say something in passing, we’re going to keep our word — no matter how insignificant or nearly impossible it seems.
Years down the line, one veteran will turn to the other and say something along the lines of, “I promised you that I would, didn’t I?”
Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde’s short life spanned the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, from the euphoria over the fleeting early successes to the current doubts about the new strategy to break what U.S. commanders routinely call a “stalemate.”
When Conde was six years old, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Taliban had been defeated and the Afghan people were now free “to create a better future.”
He was seven years old when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities.”
When Conde was 12, then-President George W. Bush was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to declare that “the Taliban is gone from power and it’s not coming back.”
In 2009, when Conde was 13, then-President Barack Obama said he would “make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”
He sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, with a timeline for their withdrawal.
Obama wanted the withdrawal to be complete by the time he left office, but he left behind about 8,500 U.S. troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban and a new enemy — an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-K.
August 2017, when Conde was 21, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that discarded “nation building” in favor of a plan to drive the Taliban into peace talks and a negotiated settlement.
Trump acknowledged that his initial impulse was to pull U.S. troops out completely, but he agreed to boost troop levels from 8,500 to about 14,000.
The presence of U.S. troops would now be conditions-based and not subject to artificial timelines. “We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” Trump said.
Late April, 2018, the Taliban announced the start of its 16th annual spring offensive.
On May 1, 2018, when Conde was 22, he was killed by small-arms fire in the Tagab District of Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. A second U.S. soldier was wounded.
Conde, of Loveland, Colorado, served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), of 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. His unit was expected to return to Alaska at the end of May 2018.
Also on May 1, 2018, the Trump administration took official note of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan by granting political asylum to former Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force, who had been training in the U.S.
Through her lawyer, she had successfully argued to immigration authorities that the chaos in Afghanistan, and death threats against her and her family, made it impossible for her to return.
On the same day that Rahmani won asylum and Conde was killed, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks devastated the Shash Darak district of central Kabul in what Afghans call the “Green Zone.”
Two suicide bombers had slipped past the estimated 14 checkpoints surrounding the district, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews reported.
The first set off a blast and the second, reportedly disguised as a cameraman, joined a pack of reporters and photographers rushing to the scene and triggered a second explosion.
At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed. A 10th journalist was killed on the same day in an incident in Khost province. (Short biographies of the 10 journalists can be seen here.)
Mattis put on spot over attacks
In response to May 1, 2018’s events, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, echoed what other commanders and Pentagon officials have said so many times before during America’s longest war.
They mourned the loss of a valorous soldier and the victims of the bombings. They said the strategy of increased airpower and the buildup of Afghan special forces is showing progress. They pledged to stay the course.
At a session with Pentagon reporters May 1, 2018, Mattis said the Taliban are “on their back foot.”
The recent terror attacks show that they are desperate, he said.
“We anticipated they would do their best” to disrupt upcoming elections with a wave of bombings aimed at discouraging the Afghan people from voting, Mattis said.
“The Taliban realize the danger of the people being allowed to vote,” he added. “Their goal is to destabilize the elected government. This is the normal stuff by people who can’t win at the ballot box. They turn to bombs.”
At a welcoming ceremony on May 2, 2018, for the visiting Macedonian defense minister, Mattis was challenged on how he could point to progress amid the wave of bombings and a recent series of watchdog reports on widespread and continuing corruption in Afghanistan.
“The message from this building has consistently been that the situation is turning around, that things are improving there,” Mattis was told. “How do you reconcile this difference?”
“First, I don’t know that that’s been the message from this building. I would not subscribe to that,” Mattis said. “We said last August NATO is going to hold the line. We knew there would be tough fighting going forward.
“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for and more importantly what we stand against,” he added.
“The Afghan military is being made more capable. You’ll notice that more of the forces are special forces, advised and assisted, accompanied by NATO mentors. And these are the most effective forces,” Mattis said.
“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people but, unfortunately, once in a while they get through because any terrorist organization that realizes it can’t win by ballots and turns to bombs — this is simply what they do. They murder innocent people,” he said.
For the long run, “We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the NATO mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” Mattis said.
Nicholson’s two-year plan to end the ‘Forever War’
“Actions like this only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Nicholson, who doubles as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said after the bombings May 1, 2018, and the death of Conde.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with our Afghan partners in defeating those who would threaten the people of this country, whose cries for peace are being ignored,” he said.
Like many of his troops, the 60-year-old Nicholson, a West Point graduate, has served multiple tours in Afghanistan. When he was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell as commander, he would go back to Afghanistan for the sixth time.
Since 9/11, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service” in 36 years in uniform, he told the Senate.
Nicholson is the son of Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, also a West Point graduate, and is distantly related the legendary British Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (1821-1857), who fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War.
Early on in his command, Nicholson was at the forefront on the military advisers who convinced Obama to approve the expansion of the air campaign against the Taliban and IS-K. In February 2017, he began arguing for more troops to partner with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.
Mattis later signed off on what was essentially Nicholson’s plan. And Trump, in coordination with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, authorized it in an address to the nation in August 2017.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)
In a video conference from Kabul to the Pentagon in November 2017, Nicholson said it would take about two years to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan under government control and drive the Taliban into peace talks.
“Why 80 percent? Because we think that gives them [the Afghans] a critical mass where they control 80. The Taliban are driven to less than 10 percent of the population; maybe the rest is contested,” Nicholson said.
“And this, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance, meaning they’re living in these remote, outlying areas, or they reconcile — or they die, of course, is the third choice,” he said.
Nicholson’s remarks contrasted with a simultaneous report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.
In his foreword to the IG’s quarterly report, Acting IG Glenn Fine said, “During the quarter, Taliban insurgents continued to attack Afghan forces and fight for control of districts, and ISIS-K terrorists launched high-profile attacks across the country.”
Fine added, “Internal political tensions increased in Afghanistan, and corruption remained a key challenge to governance despite positive steps by Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Justice Center.”
Fine also said that maintaining the accuracy of future IG reports made available to the public is becoming more difficult, since key statistical measures are now being classified.
“When producing this report, we were notified that information that was previously publicly released regarding attrition, casualties, readiness, and personnel strength of Afghan forces that we had included in prior Lead IG reports was now classified,” Fine said. “In addition, we were advised that ratings of Afghan government capabilities were now classified.”
The strategy — what strategy?
In announcing the strategy for Afghanistan in August 2017, Trump made clear that he was doing so with grave misgivings.
“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he said.
The skeptics are many. “Why would anybody call this a strategy? We declared we wanted to win, but we didn’t change anything fundamentally that we’re doing,” retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told Military.com.
The focus now, as it has been for years, is on building up the Afghan military into a more effective force capable of holding and administering territory retaken from the Taliban, he said, “but that army assumes the existence of a functioning government.”
“We are creating a military that assumes the existence of a state that does not exist,” said Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.
“What it boils down to is that we can’t decide what we want,” Dempsey said. “The only consensus we have on Afghanistan is that we don’t want to lose.”
In her analysis of the Trump administration’s strategy, Brookings Institution scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that the president basically had three options — “full military withdrawal, limited counterterrorism engagement, and staying in the country with slightly increased military deployments and intense political engagement.”
“The option the Trump administration chose — staying in Afghanistan with a somewhat enlarged military capacity — is the least bad option,” Felbab-Brown said.
“Thus, the Trump administration’s announced approach to Afghanistan is not a strategy for victory,” she said.
“Staying on militarily buys the United States hope that eventually the Taliban may make enough mistakes to seriously undermine its power,” she said. “However, that is unlikely unless Washington starts explicitly insisting on better governance and political processes in the Afghan government.”
Watchdog reports contrast with claims of progress
The goal of better governance is dependent on an Afghan military as the enabler, but the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said May 2, 2018, that the number of Afghan soldiers and police has declined sharply in the past year.
In a report, SIGAR said that the combined strength of the military and police dropped nearly 11 percent over the past year, from about 331,700 in January 2017 to about 296,400 this January, well below the total authorized strength of 334,000.
“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told reporters.
At the end of January 2018, insurgents controlled or had influence over 14 percent of the Afghanistan’s 407 districts, SIGAR said, while the Afghan government controlled or influenced 56 percent. The remaining districts were contested, SIGAR said.
The report also noted the significant increase in the air campaign: “The total of 1,186 munitions dropped in the first quarter of 2018 is the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and is over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.”
In addition, the report indicated that Nicholson’s plan to bomb drug production centers and have the Afghan military interdict shipments in an effort to cut off Taliban funding was having little effect.
“From 2008 through March 20, 2018, over 3,520 interdiction operations resulted in the seizure of 463,342 kilograms of opium. But the sum of these seizures over nearly a decade would account for less than 0.05% of the opium produced in Afghanistan in 2017 alone,” SIGAR said.
Since 9/11, the U.S. has invested more than $850 billion in the war and efforts to bolster the Afghan government, but a recent drumbeat of reports from SIGAR and the Pentagon Inspector General’s office have highlighted widespread and continuing corruption.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2018, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called on Army Secretary Mark Esper to justify a $50 million contract that SIGAR charged was used to buy luxury cars such as Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for Afghan officials and pay for $400,000 salaries for no-show jobs.
“Please tell me that a senator 20 years from now is not going to be sitting here and going, ‘How in the world are taxpayers paying for Alfa Romeos and Bentleys?’ ” McCaskill said.
‘We’ve kind of been going about it wrong’
As of March 2018, there were roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to U.S. officials.
Of the 14,000, about 7,800 of these troops were assigned to NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.
The 7,800 number reflects an increase of 400 personnel from the deployment of the Army’s first Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, to Afghanistan.
In February 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a report on what those troops can be expected to accomplish this year that was at odds with the upbeat assessments of Mattis and Nicholson.
“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency” and the “unsteady” performance of the Afghan military performance, the DNI’s report said.
Afghan troops “probably will maintain control of most major population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain,” the report said.
Mattis and Nicholson have singled out the SFAB as a key component in reforming and refining the operations of the Afghan security forces.
The SFAB concept takes specially selected non-commissioned and commissioned officers, preferably with experience in Afghanistan, and assigns them the train, advise and assist role in place of conventional Brigade Combat Team units.
Before the deployment, Army 1st Sgt. Shaun Morgan, a company senior enlisted leader with the SFAB, told Stars & Stripes that there were no illusions about the difficulty of the job ahead.
“So, we’ve been kind of going about it wrong for a while, I think,” Morgan said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to get on the right foot toward getting it right.”
Previously in Afghanistan, “we couldn’t get it through our heads that we weren’t the fighters,” Morgan told Stripes in a reference to the role of U.S. troops as partners and advisers to the Afghans who were to take the lead in combat.
“I think the bosses decided maybe this is the right shot, and it just makes sense to me,” Morgan said.
The Afghans also were under no illusions on the continuing threats posed by the Taliban and other insurgents, and the risks they take to go about their daily lives.
Shah Marai Faizi, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in the Kabul bureau, was among the nine journalists killed in May 1, 2018’s suicide bombings in Kabul. He was the father of six, including a newborn daughter.
In 2017, Shah Marai wrote an essay titled “When Hope Is Gone” that was read in part on the Democracy Now cable program.
“Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity,” he wrote. “I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five, and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects, and I don’t see a way out.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.
Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.
Entering Shok Valley
The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.
The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.
Combat breaks out
After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.
Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.
The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.
“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”
The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.
Three-story explosion and sniper warfare
As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.
“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”
The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.
Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.
Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.
Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.
Planning to leave
American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.
Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.
Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.
Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.
Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire
Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.
Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.
Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.
One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.
After the battle
Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.
In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is said to be anxious about his summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore in June 2018.
Citing sources familiar with the preparations, The Washington Post reported May 22, 2018, that Kim was less concerned about meeting Trump than he was about what might happen at home in Pyongyang while he’s gone.
Kim is apparently concerned that the trip to Singapore may leave his government vulnerable to a military coup or that other hostile actors might try to depose him, sources told The Post. The Kim dynasty has ruled North Korea since the country’s inception following the armistice in 1953.
“The notion that Kim is secure in his power is fundamentally wrong,” Victor Cha, a director for Asian affairs for the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, wrote in a 2014 opinion column.
“Dictators may exercise extreme and draconian power like Kim, but they are also pathologically insecure about their grip on the throne,” Cha said. “All of the public speculation about coups or interim leaders would feed the paranoid impulse of a dictator to correct that perception as quickly as possible, even if it were misplaced.”
Trump has also expressed some trepidation about the summit after North Korea changed its tone in recent days. North Korea started to raise its voice again after US and South Korean forces conducted routine joint military exercises, and the country took a comment from the US national security adviser, John Bolton, as a potential threat.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Trump weighed in on May 22, 2018, saying there was a “very substantial chance” the planned summit with Kim “won’t work out.”
He added: “That doesn’t mean that it won’t work out over a period of time, but it may not work out for June 12.”
Despite apparent doubts on both sides, South Korean President Moon Jae-in remained optimistic during a press conference at the White House.
“Thanks to your vision of achieving peace through strength, as well as your strong leadership, we’re looking forward to the first-ever US-North Korea summit,” Moon said in an opening statement directed at Trump.
“And we find ourselves standing one step closer to the dream of achieving complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and world peace.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s one of the most persistent myths in the U.S. Military. I was even told it in basic training a mere 11 years ago, almost 90 years after the .50-caliber M2 was first designed. It goes like this: Weapons firing a .50-caliber round can be aimed at equipment, but not people. So, if you need to kill a person with a .50-cal., you have to aim at their load-bearing equipment (basically their suspenders).
Look at this. War crimes at night. What is wrong with troops today?
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Barney)
But, uh, really? The U.S. has and deploys a weapon in an anti-personnel role that can’t legally be fired at people? And we’ve just been hoodwinking everyone for a century?
That’s… surprising, if not unbelievable. That would require that every enemy in World War II never brought war crimes charges against the U.S. If you assume that the rule was put in place after World War II, when a lot of modern war crimes were defined, then you still have to assume that no one in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, or Afghanistan protested the illegal American actions.
And, even more odd, militaries brag about their top ranged sniper kills. Five of the top six longest-range kills, at least according to Wikipedia right now, were made with .50-cal. rounds (Number six was made by Carlos Hathcock with a machine gun, because he’s awesome). Since all of those snipers were targeting individuals, if you accept this premise, aren’t they war criminals?
Extremely accurate war crimes, huh, buddy?
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Conner Robbins)
Uncool, Wiki editors — do not list war crimes made by war heroes. Let the military justice system do its work without your amateur meddling…
The actual rules for weapons in combat ban specific categories of weapons, like poisonous gasses or plastic landmines, and weapons that cause more unnecessary suffering than they provide military advantage.
If that sounds vague, that’s because it is. Nations occasionally argue about what weapons cause unnecessary suffering, but the militaries involved would typically rather keep all their options open, and so combatants usually decide that any given weapon is fine.
Look at this guy and his belt-fed war crimes. Horrible.
(U.S. Army Spc. Deomontez Duncan)
Shotguns came under some serious contention in World War I. The U.S. brought them over the Atlantic to clear German trenches, and they were ridiculously effective. Germany complained that the weapons, which often left their troops either blown in half or with pellet-filled guts, caused unnecessary suffering. America just pointed out that Germany was already using poisonous gasses, and so they should screw off.
This is the target that the .50-cal. is best for. It can pierce light armor at decent ranges unlike 5.56mm or 7.62mm rounds. So, if you have a limited supply of the ammo, you want to hold it for the vehicles. The command is thought to have grown from simple ammo conservation to belief of a war crime.
But no, if it’s an enemy combatant, you can legally kill it with any weapon at your disposal, as long as you don’t damage civilian structures or intentionally cause undue suffering. You don’t need to aim a .50-cal at their suspenders, belt buckle, or buttons.
Are you struggling to meet Army weight standards or need to improve your run time to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test or Army Combat Fitness Test? Maybe you just signed up for the Army Ten-Miler and would like to improve your performance.
Did you know there is a world-class team of experts at an Army Wellness Center near you with access to cutting-edge technology just waiting to help? No need to hire a personal trainer, your AWC offers free services and programs to help you meet your fitness goals.
Last year, AWCs served 60,000 clients and achieved a 97 percent client satisfaction rating, according to the Army Public Health Center’s 2018 Health of the Force report. Program evaluations of AWC effectiveness have shown that individuals who participate in at least one follow-up AWC assessment experience improvements in their cardiorespiratory fitness, body fat percentage, body mass index, blood pressure and perceived stress.
Making improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and body mass index are particularly important because increased levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and decreased levels of body mass index are associated with decreased musculoskeletal injury risk.
Megan Amadeo, Army Wellness Center Project Officer, Army Public Health Center, assists U.S. Army Capt. Zachary Schroeder, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, Army Public Health Center, with putting on the new K5 metabolic testing unit May 9, 2019, as part of his training to compete in the Army Ten Miler in October 2019.
(Photo by Graham Snodgrass)
“The types of assessments provided at an AWC are world class,” said Todd Hoover, division chief for Army Wellness Center Operations, Army Public Health Center. “If a client is interested in losing weight, AWCs provide an assessment called indirect calorimetry or simply metabolic testing. The test involves a client breathing into a mask for 15 minutes. After the test we can measure, with an extremely high accuracy, the total number of calories an individual needs to lose, gain or maintain weight. The information provided from this test is often the difference between someone reaching their goals or not.”
There are currently 35 AWCs located at Army installations around the globe offering programs and services to soldiers, family members, retirees and Department of Army civilians, said Hoover. AWCs are known for being innovative in the use of testing technology for health, wellness and physical performance.
Hoover said the best client for an AWC is a soldier who is not meeting APFT/ACFT performance standards. Those with low or high body mass index plus poor run times are the highest risk populations. These individuals are the majority at risk for musculoskeletal injury, which account for more than 69 percent of all cause injuries in the Army.
One of the AWC’s newest pieces of gear is a portable metabolic analyzer called the Cosmed K5. This system measures how well muscles use oxygen during any type of strenuous activity. From this measurement, AWC experts can determine how efficient the body is at using oxygen to produce energy and identify the exact threshold or intensity level an individual should train at to improve performance.
“Essentially the devices provide the most accurate measurement of aerobic performance,” said Hoover. “From the testing, we can precisely advise a soldier or family member the exact training intensity for them. What this means is there is no guessing. This is an exact physiological representation of the individual’s needs for a particular activity. It doesn’t get better than this.”
U.S. Army Capt. Zachary Schroeder, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, Army Public Health Center, runs with the new K5 metabolic testing unit May 9, 2019, as part of his training to compete in the Army Ten-Miler in October 2019.
(Photo by Graham Snodgrass)
AWCs are built on a foundation of scientific evidence, best practice recommendations and standards by leading health organizations to include the American College of Sports Medicine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, said Hoover. As a result, clients of AWCs receive highly individualized health and wellness services to improve overall health-related factors as well as enhanced performance through effective coaching strategies.
An article summarizing the effectiveness of the AWC program was recently submitted to the American Journal of Health Promotion, which recognized their success by selecting the article as a 2018 Editor’s Pick.
“The staff academic and credentialing requirements surpass industry standards,” said Hoover. “This means that each AWC health educator has completed advanced education plus achieved national board certification in related fields for delivering health promotion programs.”
AWC health educators also undergo more than 320 hours of intensive core competency training prior to seeing their first client, said Hoover. Basic health coaching requires an additional 80 hours of training.
The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.
Brazil has had a decent aerospace industry centered on Embraer, a conglomerate that made everything from airborne radar planes to trainers. However, that industry has gotten a little too full of itself lately. They think one of their trainers can replace the A-10.
But we digress. We’re not here to cyberbully a wannabe A-10 to the point that Selena Gomez has to consider making an aviation version of 13 Reasons Why, despite how much fun it would be to really make said wannabe feel really bad about itself. Even though it should… but again, we digress.
The fact is, the P-51 Mustang could arguably fly circles around the A-29, but the A-29 makes for a decent trainer.
No, we are here to take a look at this plane, which is already giving honorable service in the fight against terrorism. It’s been dropping bombs on al-Qaeda and the Taliban for a bit. It’s in service with over 14 countries.
The Super Tucano boasts a top speed of 229 miles per hour (the P-51 Mustang could hit 437). It can carry rockets, bombs, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, air-to-air missiles, and gun pods for use against enemy forces. The plane also boasts a maximum range of 2,995 miles. Currently, 205 Super Tucanos are in service around the world.
The United States Air Force is one of 14 countries using the Super Tucano.
While the winner of the OA-X competition has yet to be determined, the Super Tucano does have a decent track record as a trainer and light attack plane. Learn more about this Brazilian A-10 wannabe in the video below.