Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating (fill in the blank). No, seriously this is a quiz. We’re guessing you were likely too drunk to remember what one of your most loved holidays is actually about… aside from celebrating tequila and tacos with your favorite group of friends. This year, with Corona (not the beer) in the way, it’s looking more like “Cinco de solo”. But fear not, we’re here to ensure your celebration is just as awesome with these handy at home hacks.
Not all tacos are created equal. They come soft, hard, and even puffy (we’re being totally appropriate here). It’s time to step up your taco game and step out of your comfort zone. Considering the fact that there’s literally nothing else to spend your money on, go big and get multiple styles to create a taco spread that’ll make your homies seriously jealous.
Do the salsa
We’re not talking about the dance… although, why not? Another crucial component of your feast is getting the delicious dip just right. And you’ve got options. Tomatillo, poblano, ancho are all words you need to get familiar with if you’re going to go all in. Feeling fruity? (again, completely appropriate) Try going for a pineapple-mango combination. Whatever you do, don’t you dare cheap out on a jar of pre-made tomato sauce masquerading as salsa.
Should you cut the cheese?
Good question. Research has shown us that this is a highly debated topic that is actually dependent upon what you’re stuffing your taco with. Queso fresco, cotija, queso de Oaxaca, or your standard-issue cheddar all have variations of saltiness, creaminess, and melt factor. One could even go as bold to say “no cheese” and bank heavy on your flavor profile.
Friends don’t let friends…
Friends don’t let friends drink solo on Cinco de Mayo. Yes, this applies even to social distancing parties. In case you live under a rock, there are plenty of apps for you to connect virtually and make it work. Do us a solid and let us know how you got creative with distance drinking games.
Step up your game bro
The stocks may be down, but alcohol sales sure are solid. By now you’ve likely demolished that “emergency stash” and shifted way into the realm of stay-at-home-mom level drink making. Now is your time to shine cupcake. With your designated set of friends, take the time to get creative and conjure up some amazing cocktail recipes for everyone to tray and vote on this holiday. Try setting some ground rules and a pre-set shopping list for everyone to grab beforehand. Take turns making each other’s cocktails and vote on the best.
Make it weird
If it were normal again, this day would be full of crazy taco creations to try at restaurants all across the land. Doing something “weird” is even better when it’s in the privacy of your own home. Cue the next few suggestions: radishes, nopales, fruit, kimchi, and the dessert taco. What we’re saying is- make it a competition between friends and make your best “take”, then deliver one to each of your friends and facetime everyone at dinner time to vote on who did the best.
Whatever you do, do it with as much humor and delicious new methods as humanly possible. It’s a heavy world out there and at least for 24 glorious hours, we can all have a little fun celebrating the Mexican army’s victory over the French empire. Cheers.
A deafening explosion followed the commands as a 155mm artillery round exited the tube of an M777A2 during Operation Swift, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
Troopers from the Field Artillery Squadron “Steel,” 3rd Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” conducted a gun raid to provide supporting fires for Operation Swift — a series of artillery and airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Makhmour Mountains.
Operation Swift was the first artillery raid conducted in support of Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, and demonstrated the Coalition’s capability to provide dynamic fires in support of the Iraqi Security Forces.
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment execute nighttime fire missions with an M777A2 howitzer during a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“Doing the first artillery raid, having never air assaulted a howitzer in theater, was a great experience,” said 1st Lt. Aaron Palumbo, platoon leader. “It taught us just how light we could personally pack and helped us identify the feasibility of transporting a Howitzer with rotary-wing assets,” said Palumbo.
High explosive charges echoed across Camp Swift night and day as the fire direction center meticulously choreographed the fire missions with airstrikes on multiple ISIS weapons caches and hiding spots throughout the mountains.
“It felt as if we were moving mountains before the mission,” said Palumbo. “Now, we have identified friction points and know how to execute future missions with increased lethality.”
The barrages of artillery fire were intended to destroy resources of ISIS fighters and send a message that no enemy location was safe from the lethality of the entire coalition force.
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment load and elevate an M777A2 howitzer during nighttime fire missions for a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“It was interesting being part of the first artillery raid, and doing an artillery mission in combat like we would during home station training,” said Spc. Deavon Shafer, ammunition team chief.
During the onset of Operation Swift, Steel troopers both observed coalition aircraft dropping ordnance on known ISIS positions, and reinforced those fires with their own M777A2 howitzer that was air assaulted into position.
The artillery raid was a proof of concept to pass onto future artillery units in theater and a demonstration of the partnership between the ISF and Brave Rifles Troopers in the fight to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS in Iraq.
When not firing, they trained with the 3rd Federal Police Division soldiers at Camp Swift on the unique weapons systems of both units and conducted artillery training with soldiers of the 12th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi FEDPOL Artillery Battalion.
A trooper with the Field Artillery Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, connects a sling leg from an M777A2 howitzer to a CH-47 Chinook before executing a gun raid mission with Ira-qi Security Forces in Iraq, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“The training felt the same as training we do internally — we learned something new,” said Spc. Kevin Mahan, M777A2 gunner.
Operation Swift was the first of its kind in theater and will not be the last.
“Task Force Steel executed the artillery raid in conjunction with fixed wing airstrikes to mass joint fires in the Makhmour Mountains and continue the physical and psychological degradation of ISIS,” said Maj. Simon Welte, squadron executive officer. “Our operational tempo remains high against ISIS and this raid serves as another example to our ISF and Kurdish Security Force partners that we are committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS in Iraq.”
Brave Rifles Troopers are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, working by, with and through the Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition partners to bring about the lasting defeat of ISIS. Brave Rifles Troopers will eventually be replaced by soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne,” 101st Airborne Division, and the Steel Sqdn. has paved the way for future missions.
Bastogne soldiers will continue to provide support to the ISF and deliver massed fires utilizing a variety of firepower to defeat ISIS’s combat power and ideology.
Kailua business owner Kate Reimann won the Female Founder Veteran Small Business Award at the virtual Women Veterans Summit presented by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services on Friday, June 19. She takes home the grand prize, a $15,000 grant for her business, Rogue Wave.
A military spouse and mom of two, Reimann is the founder and CEO of Rogue Wave, making compostable beach toys using plastic made from plants, not petroleum. The idea struck while she and her family lived in Alexandria, Virginia, and became fully formed after they moved to Kailua, Hawaii, where she registered her business and began 3D printing prototypes. Her husband, a colonel in the US Air Force, is stationed at Hickam AFB.
Reimann’s five-minute pitch was viewed and voted on by over 150 virtual attendees and judges nation-wide. The pitch competition was part of a two-month endeavor, which began with a 60 second video submission in April. Over 100 female veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs submitted, and Reimann was chosen as one of 12 semi-finalists. Those semi-finalists had 2 weeks to secure the top 3 finalist position based on popular votes.
Reimann moved from the bottom three to the top three within the two-week voting period for a shot at the grand prize ,000 grant, sponsored by StreetShares Foundation and the Sam Adams Boston Brewing Company. Reimann gave her pitch at 5 am Hawaii time (11 am EST) in her living room, lit by lamplight, before the sun came up.
“It was such an honor to make it to the final three and truly humbling to know that people really believe in the Rogue Wave mission. I’m humbled and so, so excited for the future of this business,” Reimann said.
The pitch centered on the destructive nature of conventional oil-based plastics and the need to re-envision our materials economy. Reimann intends to use the funds to promote the compostable beach toys and raise awareness on plant-based alternatives.
“The other two founders have really strong – and really important – businesses. But I think the results show that people are ready for alternatives and recognize the urgency of our situation – we need an alternative materials economy now.”
Rogue Wave has started manufacturing and is taking pre-orders.
Rogue Wave makes certified compostable beach toys using plastic made from plants, not petroleum. Founder, Kate Reimann, military spouse and mom of two, was inspired to make better products using better materials after a day at the beach with her family – and she’s not stopping at the beach.
Veterinarians assigned to Camp Lemonnier and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa conducted Canine Tactical Combat Casualty Care training to joint-service medical and operational personnel deployed here Aug. 18, 2018.
The training, which included canine anatomy, primary assessments and CPR, is designed to provide handlers and nonveterinary providers the capability to provide basic first aid until definitive veterinary care is available.
Base veterinarian Army Capt. (Dr.) Richard Blair facilitated the training to personnel from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force medical and law enforcement fields. Blair said that while the focus of the training was aimed at medically trained personnel, people from other military occupations were welcome to attend.
“In a mass casualty situation where military working dogs may be injured, anyone with this kind of training in their back pocket would be extremely helpful.” Blair said. The training combined classroom and practical hands-on applications. Artificial dogs were used as training aids, and participants simulated CPR, intravenous catheter insertion and tracheal intubation.
Veterinarians assigned to Camp Lemonnier and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa conduct Canine Tactical Combat Casualty Care training to joint-service medical and operational personnel deployed to Djibouti, Aug. 18, 2018. The training is designed to provide interoperability for medical personnel to provide first aid in a mass-casualty scenario involving military working dogs.
(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo)
Army Maj. (Dr.) Steven Pelham, veterinarian for Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa civil affairs, said military working dogs are an integral weapon for today’s fighting forces and that combat casualty care training is an important part of readiness.
“These dogs detect explosives that would go undetected. They save people from getting injured or killed,” Pelham said. “The number of lives one dog can save is worth the medical care we can give them to keep them in the fight.”
Navy Cmdr. Mark Thomas, emergency medical facility officer in charge, attended the training and said that the cooperation between medical personnel and the veterinary units is a valuable partnership that can improve the level of care in an emergency.
“Having our people trained in canine combat care as well as utilizing the veterinarians in our facility gives us an interoperability that allows for better coverage for anyone [including military working dogs] who may be injured in a mass casualty situation,” Thomas said.
Camp Lemonnier is one of Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia installations that conducts six lines of operations to support air operations, port operations, safety, security, quality of life, and what is called the core: the fuels, water and power that keep the bases operating. Camp Lemonnier’s mission includes enabling joint warfighters operating forward and to reinforce the U.S.-Djibouti relationship by providing exceptional services and facilities for the tenant commands, transient U.S. assets and service members.
That visit to North Korea was Pompeo’s second in a month, which in itself represents a drastic step up in the level of official contact between the North Korean and US governments.
Kim has repeatedly proposed talks with world leaders about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which was a US precondition for talks. Kim has asked for few concessions in return for his promise to denuclearize.
Trump’s administration has laid out a number of ambitious goals for the negotiations, which include permanent, irreversible, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea before sanctions are lifted.
Singapore had not been widely suggested in advance as a likely location for the summit.
But a number of factors make it a logical choice: It has diplomatic relations with both countries, hosts a North Korean embassy, has a good position in Southeast Asia, and can play the part of a neutral third party.
Other candidates had been Mongolia, also a neutral country, and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the conservative caffeine connoisseur:
~ Small batch, roast-to-order coffee that might as well be shot from guns~
Black Rifle Coffee Company is a deeply veteran-owned, veteran-oriented business.
Military service, American conservatism, and an unapologetic love of liberty make up the philosophical bedrock upon which founder, Evan Hafer, built his in-your-face gourmet coffee upstart.
If you’ve ever taken a virtual stroll through Black Rifle’s youtube marketing videos (frequently featuring co-owner and 2nd Amendment Pom Pom Waver @mat_best_official), then you know that these guys really, really treasure circadian rhythm shattering coffee.
Hafer served as a Green Beret during Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as a stint as a contractor for the CIA in subsequent tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, all while nurturing an abiding fascination with the fine art of roasting coffee. Much as he prized his time as an operator, when it came time to transition, he was ready for the adventure of running a small business exactly according to his rules.
“I transition out…in a way that’s probably unusual to a lot of people, because, I’ll just turn the page on it, meaning, like, I love and respect my time in the military–it’s taught me a lot, but at the same time…it doesn’t hold me back.”
His solution to the problem of leading a new life as an vetrepreneur is to bring with him as much of his past warrior life as is germaine to his new mission. The combat humor, the belief in veteran power, the faith that hard work will pay off in the end…these qualities and more make up the arsenal that Black Rifle Coffee carries on its steady march forward.
Like the best of them, they remember where they came from.
“War is something that, it’s like, it’s always there. I think for most veterans…you don’t ever leave it. You don’t leave it.”
I really want to hear the safety brief from the Seabees this week. Any time any lower enlisted screws up, they single that dude out and crucify him in front of the unit to make sure it never happens again. When officers screw up, they play it off as a thing that everyone does wrong and remind everyone that they’re the real victim here. Especially if it’s the same officer who screwed up.
“Alright, guys. I know you might have heard about this streaking epidemic, but that stops today!”
Anyways, here’re some memes.
13. He’ll be fine. That drone flying overhead has a sweet Valentine’s Day gift for him.
(Meme via PNN)
12. Always trying to look for that last f*ck to give.
11. Throwing up doesn’t make you less of an alcoholic. It just means you’re making room for more!
10. F*ck Jodie; you can always find a new wife. But what about your dog?
9. Feels like you’re wearing nothing at all… nothing at all… nothing at all…
8. Come on, Seabees. There’s a time and place for running around naked.
7. As long as they only think the party is “just loud,” you’re doing it right.
6. It’s not like they had the balls to try sh*t during the Cold War…
5. Ever wonder why so many Marine brats are born 9 months after the Marine Corps Ball?
4. Just enough motivation to check off the box.
3. Marines will also yell back if they even think you say, “Marine” without capitalizing it.
2. About to leave and you heard the words, “Hey there, hero! Where do you think you’re going?” And Retention wonders why no one speaks to them…
1. Supposedly, you only get Good Conducts for not screwing up for 3 years. Even if you do, you’ll probably still get one anyways…
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Jan. 23 that North Korea is moving “ever closer” to putting Americans at risk and that he believes leader Kim Jong Un won’t rest until he’s able to threaten multiple nuclear attacks against the U.S. at the same time.
“North Korea is ever closer to being able to hold America at risk,” Pompeo said at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington. “I want everyone to understand that we are working diligently to make sure that, a year from now, I can still tell you that they are several months away from having that capacity.”
Speaking after one year on the job, Pompeo also said the CIA believes Kim would not only use nuclear weapons to stay in power, but to threaten to reunify the divided Korean Peninsula under his totalitarian regime. The quest for reunification is disputed by some North Korean experts who see Kim’s nuclear program as primarily a means of retaining power and don’t think he would threaten or forcibly try to take over South Korea.
Pompeo said North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has developed at a “very rapid clip,” but that Kim is hoping for an arsenal of nuclear weapons — “not one, not a showpiece, not something to drive on a parade route.”
He wants the ability to deliver nuclear weapons from multiple missiles fired simultaneously. “That increases the risk to America,” Pompeo said. It’s unclear how well the United States could defend against multiple missiles fired from North Korea at the same time.
Pompeo also warned that North Korea could sell nuclear-weapon and ballistic-missile technology and research to other countries, including Iran, which could set off a nuclear arms race.
Asked whether Iran could use its existing agreements with Pyongyang to advance its own nuclear-weapons program, Pompeo called it “a real risk” and admitted that the CIA could miss such transfers of information. “So if someone asks me as the senior intelligence leader of the CIA, can you guarantee this [would be uncovered], I would say absolutely not.”
Despite his warning, Pompeo doesn’t think a North Korean attack on the United States is imminent. He said the Trump administration is “laser-focused” on achieving a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.
Americans should know that it is working to prepare a series of options so the president has the “full range of possibilities” to address the threat.
He wouldn’t address the question of whether there are military options available to the US that don’t risk an escalation into nuclear war with North Korea.
“There is much effort all across the U.S. government to ensure that Americans don’t have to feel at risk,” Pompeo said.
“We saw what happened in Hawaii. It is an imperative — an American, national imperative — that we as an intelligence agency deliver the information to our senior leaders such that they can resolve this issue in a way that works for the American people.”
Earlier this month, a false alarm that a ballistic missile was headed for Hawaii sent the islands into a panic, with people abandoning cars and preparing to flee their homes until officials said the cellphone alert was a mistake.
They’re surrounded, targeted by constant bombardments and slowly strangled of supplies and reinforcements for months so fighters for Daesh (aka ISIS) might reasonably have abandoned Mosul and tried to slink off into the night.
That’s what happened June 2016 in the battle to recapture Fallujah, when Daesh fighters were relatively quickly routed, and hundreds were killed by U.S. aircraft when their fleeing convoy was spotted in the dark with infrared targeting systems.
Everyone in the anti-Daesh coalition hoped for a similar retreat by demoralized terrorists that would separate them from the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians still cowering in Mosul’s byzantine old city, on the west bank of the Tigris River.
But Daesh’s fighters are not abandoning Mosul, which, with the Syrian town of Raqqa, forms the twin-capitals of the self-proclaimed Islamist “caliphate.”
They are falling back on defensive positions prepared for two years in the densely congested side streets and alleyways of the old city, gathering Iraqi civilians close as they can as “human shields” and apparently preparing for a last, desperate stand.
“The toughest and most brutal phase of this war, and probably the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced or even read about in my 34-year career,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve says.
A veteran of six combat tours, Townsend calls the fighting in Mosul “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”
The tragic byproduct has been an alarming spike in civilian casualties, including a U.S. strike against a reported ISIS truck bomb on March 17 that may have collapsed a nearby building and killed as many as 200 civilians gathered there by Daesh.
On a recent trip near the frontlines of the Battle of Mosul, Townsend found a possible explanation for Daesh’s determination to stage an apocalyptic fight to the death in the old city.
“Every movement has a well-spring or some home turf where it finds support, and in recently talking to Iraqi and coalition commanders and listening to their intelligence assessments, I heard about neighborhoods supporting ISIS that I remembered from being a brigade commander in Mosul 10 years ago, when those same neighborhoods were sources of support for Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Townsend, speaking recently to defense reporters by phone from Baghdad.
If the Shiite-led Iraqi government fails to reach out to those and other neighborhoods and towns of disenfranchised Sunnis after the fighting stops, he noted, then Daesh’s expulsion from Mosul will likely prove a fleeting victory.
“What’s important after ISIS is defeated is that the government of Iraq has to reach out to these groups of people and make sure they feel like they have a future in the Iraqi state,” said Townsend.
A Pivotal Moment
With roughly three-quarters of Mosul recaptured and Daesh finally on the verge of losing its grip on Iraqi territory, the campaign against them is poised at an important inflection point.
Counter-insurgency experts have long understood that the actions of the Iraqi government and the various factions involved in the fighting the day after Mosul is recaptured will largely determine whether the group is defeated, or, once again, rises from the ashes of sectarian conflict.
The complex nature of the battlespace, combined with the anti-Daesh coalition’s sprawling nature, promises to complicate the transition from urban combat to whatever comes after.
The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is weak and has struggled to cope with the demands of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the fighting in Mosul.
The territorial demands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to the north, and possible acts of retribution against Sunni civilians by thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen to the west of city, cast a dark shadow over the aftermath.
A continued spike in civilian deaths by U.S. and coalition air forces could further alienate the overwhelmingly Sunni population of Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province.
And hanging over the entire anti-Daesh campaign is the question of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq after the group is expelled, and whether that engagement can be leveraged to help achieve the long-sought national reconciliation among Iraq’s feuding Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni factions.
Perhaps no U.S. military officer of his generation better understands this difficult terrain, and the momentous challenges ahead, than retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan and at U.S. Central Command.
He is widely credited with crafting and executing the counterinsurgency doctrine that pulled Iraq back from the abyss of sectarian civil war in 2007-2008 and decimated Al Qaeda in Iraq.
“The military defeat of ISIS is only the first step. The much more challenging task is to use all elements of American and coalition power to help achieve political solutions that will avoid once again creating fertile ground for extremists, and thereby avoid the rise of ISIS 3.0,” Petraeus told [Breaking Defense] in a recent email. “Our success in that mission will determine whether the U.S. military has to do this all over again in five years.”
Sectarian Civil War
After U.S. and Iraqi military forces and the Sunni tribes of Anbar Province routed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) beginning in 2006-7, the remnants of the terrorist insurgency eventually went underground, only to rise Phoenix-like from the fires of Syria’s civil war.
That brutal conflict pitted a minority regime of Alawites, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against a majority Sunni population.
Meanwhile, after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, the Sunni tribes in western Iraq, which had turned against AQI in the “Anbar Awakening,” grew restive under the iron-fisted and openly sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who headed the Shiite-majority government in Baghdad.
A former AQI lieutenant named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had spent time in a U.S. detention facility in Iraq, realized that between weak Shiite-led governments in Damascus and Baghdad lay a swath of territory inhabited by millions of rebellious Sunnis.
From that strategic insight, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born, and in one of the most improbable military offenses in history, its terrorist army captured territory in Syria and Iraq and proclaimed a “caliphate” in land stretching between its twin capitals.
When the Obama administration reluctantly deployed aircraft and troops back to Iraq to defend a Baghdad government on the verge of collapse, it wisely used that leverage to help nudge out the sectarian Maliki and encourage the more moderate Abadi.
Since then Abadi has promised to lead “national reconciliation” by reaching out to Sunnis liberated from Daesh rule, and draw them back inside the government tent. He has often struggled, however, to control a fractious coalition government with many hardline Shiite politicians with close ties to Shiite Iran.
Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy and former senior Middle Eastern analyst for the CIA, worries about Abadi’s ability to bring the country together.
“I think Abadi is a very good man who wants what’s best for Iraq, to include a pluralist government, corruption reforms, and democracy. The problem is Abadi is not particularly good at building coalitions, and the Iraqi government is fragmented and paralyzed by this ongoing sectarian civil war,” he says. “Frankly, Nelson Mandela would have a hard time stabilizing Iraq at this point. So the United States needs to leverage the influence it has gained by helping fight ISIS to empower Abadi in his reconciliation efforts. And they must include limiting the activities of the Shiite militias.”
Reining in Militias
The key to Iraq’s future may lie with the Shiite-dominated militias called Popular Mobilization forces.
A number of these militias have direct links to Iran and they have been difficult for the Iraqi government to control. According to Human Rights Watch, Shiite militias involved in the battle of Fallujah last summer committed atrocities against Sunni civilians, including torture and summary executions.
In the operation to recapture Tikrit they reportedly burned hundreds of homes of Sunni civilians they accused of colluding with Daesh. If something similar happens after Daesh is expelled from the much bigger and more populous city of Mosul, the swamp of Sunni grievance is likely to rise once again.
Sheikh Jamal Al-Dhari is a Sunni tribal leader who has lost more than 70 family members in Iraq’s sectarian wars.
“The ‘Anbar Awakening’ showed that the way to defeat Al Qaeda is to work with the Sunni tribes, but our efforts to take part in the anti-ISIS fight have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Baghdad government,” he said in an interview.
Now Shiite-dominated Iraqi Security Forces and possibly U.S. airpower have inadvertently killed hundreds if not thousands of Sunni civilians in Mosul, he noted, and thousands of Shiite militiamen have captured Sunni majority villages to the west of the city.
“We fear that the use of excessive force will cost the lives of thousands of more civilians, creating hardships and hard feelings that will only set the stage for the next ISIS, or worse.”
To avoid Kurdish or Shiite forces fighting each other and mistreating liberated Sunni civilians, U.S. battle planners created separate corridors into the city.
“The U.S. military worked very hard to insure that neither the Peshmerga nor the Popular Mobilization forces would be involved in the close-in fight in Mosul, and that has been mostly successful,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.
“But the main reason we’ve seen civilian casualties increase is that ISIS is being much more aggressive in using civilians as human shields. Their backs are now against the wall in Mosul’s old city, and they seem to be preparing for a last stand.”
When the dust of battle finally settles over Mosul, the most important decision confronting the Trump administration will be whether or not to keep a residual U.S. force inside Iraq to continue advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces, and helping coordinate counterterrorism operations.
If the U.S. military packs up lock-stock-and-barrel and leaves once again, many experts believe it will only set the stage for “son of ISIS” to fill the vacuum.
“Only if U.S. forces remain in Iraq to secure the peace will we achieve a major military victory over ISIS,” said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
The U.S. can leverage that presence not only to empower Abadi’s national reconciliation agenda, he said, but also to eventually find a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.
In “On War” [ Carl von] “Clausewitz said that the art of war was using tactical victories to achieve strategic ends,” said Jeffrey.
“We need to use the victories in Mosul and Raqqa to achieve the strategic end of a stable Middle East that is not dominated either by ISIS or Iran.”
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 has told Turkey that it will take back weapons supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria after the Islamic State group is defeated, Turkish defense sources said.
The United States has told Turkey that it will take back weapons it supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria after the Islamic State group is defeated, Turkish defense sources said.
President Donald Trump approved arming fighters from the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units in May – which is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces – drawing strong condemnation from Turkey.
Ankara said on June 22nd that US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised to provide his Turkish counterpart with a monthly list of weapons handed to the YPG, with the first such inventory already sent.
In a letter to Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik, Mattis said that a detailed record of all equipment provided to the YPG was being kept and that all the weapons would be taken back after Islamic State was defeated, according to Turkish defense.
Once the mainly Sunni Arab city is taken, it will be held by Arab forces, the defence sources said he told Isik.
Washington and Ankara are bitterly at odds over US support for the YPG, a Syrian armed faction that acts as the main ground force in the Pentagon’s plan to defeat the Islamic State group but that Turkey deems a front for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Turkey’s concerns about the YPG were significant enough for Ankara to launch its own military operation inside Syria in August 2016, dubbed Euphrates Shield.
The operation had the dual goals of targeting IS and the Kurdish militia, particularly to prevent the YPG from controlling a contiguous strip of territory along the Syria- Turkey border.
The SDF – an Arab-Kurdish alliance formed in 2015 – spent seven months tightening the noose on Raqqa city before finally entering it last week.
An estimated 300,000 civilians were believed to have been living under IS rule in Raqqa, including 80,000 displaced from other parts of Syria.
Thousands have fled in recent months, and the UN humanitarian office estimates about 160,000 people remain in the city.
U.S. forces have continued air and artillery strikes in Syria against Islamic State targets and will conduct them indefinitely despite President Donald Trump’s announcement Dec. 19, 2018, that U.S. troops would withdraw from the country, the U.S. military regional command said Jan. 4, 2019.
In a release, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) said that U.S. and coalition forces conducted 469 strikes with either air or artillery in Syria between Dec.16 and Dec. 29, 2018, against a range of ISIS targets and in support of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeastern Syria.
The strikes were carried out using a variety of platforms, including fighters, attack aircraft, bombers, rotary-wing and remotely piloted aircraft, rocket-propelled artillery and ground-based tactical artillery, the task force said.
There is no immediate cutoff date for the air and artillery strikes, CJTF-OIR said.
U.S. forces “will continue to target ISIS” and “will remain committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS to improve conditions for peace and stability in the region,” the release stated.
In addition to the U.S. and coalition strikes, Iraqi fighter aircraft have also attacked ISIS targets inside Syria in recent days.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command in Baghdad said Dec. 31, 2018, that Iraqi F-16s hit a house near the Iraqi border that was being used for meetings by ISIS leaders. The attack Dec. 31, 2018, came a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he had no objections to Iraqi cross-border strikes that were limited to the remnants of ISIS in eastern Syria.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Commanders of the SDF, which has driven ISIS out of most of eastern Syria, initially charged that Trump’s withdrawal announcement amounted to a betrayal that would leave them prey to threatened attack by Turkey, but SDF fighters have continued to press the offensive against ISIS near the Iraqi border, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), the main fighting force within the SDF, to be linked to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which has been labeled a terrorist group by the U.S., Turkey and the European Union.
In another sign that the U.S. is continuing to support the SDF, the Observatory said Jan. 4, 2019, that U.S. troops were conducting patrols in the flashpoint town of Manbij in northeastern Syria near the Turkish border. Turkey has demanded that elements of the SDF in Manbij leave the town and withdraw east of the Euphrates River.
Since his withdrawal announcement, which prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Trump has repeatedly backed up his intention to bring home U.S. troops from Syria, but said the withdrawal would be “slow and coordinated.”
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
At a White House Cabinet meeting Jan 2, 2019, Trump said, “We’ve had a tremendous success in Syria and “we’re slowly bringing people back.”
He added, “We are doing something that, frankly, if I would have told you two years [ago], when we first came into office, that we would have had that kind of success, nobody would have believed it.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Since late 2017, thieves have taken 10 bells or gongs from buoys floating off Maine’s coast, and now the Coast Guard is offering a reward for information about the culprits.
Six buoys where hit during the first half of 2018, and more have been swiped since then. The Coast Guard says nine bells were stolen from Penobscot Bay, and another one, the most recent, was stolen off Bailey Island in Harpswell.
The bells attached to the buoys are meant to help mariners navigate when visibility is low.
When the Coast Guard asked the public for information at the end of May 2018, Lt. Matthew Odom, the waterways management division chief for the Coast Guard in northern New England, said the thefts “not only reduce the reliability of our aids-to-navigation system and put lives at risk, but they also create a burden and expense to the taxpayer for the buoy tenders and crews responsible for maintaining the aids.”
Seaman Cory J. Hoffman and Seaman Apprentice David A. Deere with a buoy on the deck of Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay in Lake Erie, Nov. 12, 2007.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class William B. Mitchell)
Each stolen bell has weighed 225 pounds, according to the Portland Press Herald. The gongs, like the one stolen from the White Bull Gong buoy off Bailey Island, weigh 371 pounds. The combined weight of the stolen gear is 2,755 pounds.
A Coast Guard spokesman told the Press Herald that the service has spent about ,000 so far to replace bells and gongs that have been stolen. That doesn’t include the time and labor needed to fix and replace the equipment.
The Coast Guard says the bells are most likely being sold to nautical novelty stores or scrap yards. The service requires the bells be made of a copper-silicon alloy to resist corrosion and withstand the seawater to which they’re constantly exposed.
The stolen merchandise could be worth a lot, depending on the market for copper. Silicon bronze, which is similar to the copper alloys used in the bells and gongs, can sell for about id=”listicle-2598399878″.50 a pound, according to a scrap-metal firm in Portland. Assuming all the bells and gongs can be sold, the 2,755-pound haul could net more than ,100.
Tampering with navigation aids is a federal crime, punishable by fines up to ,000 a day or a year in prison. The Coast Guard has asked those with information about the missing devices to call the Northern New England sector command center.
The reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction can total up to half the amount of fines imposed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.