The position is appointed by the president, and does not require a lengthy confirmation hearing from the Senate.
Here are five possible candidates that may become the next national security adviser to Trump:
Peter Jacobs contributed to this report.
Retired Gen. David Petraeus
Retired Gen. David Petraeus’ career includes 37 years of service in the US Army and a role as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
In addition to commanding the entire coalition force in Iraq, the four-star general headed US Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees all operations in Middle East.
Petraeus was briefly considered for Secretary of State by the Trump administration.
Stephen J. Hadley
Stephen Hadley served as the National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009.
He served on several advisory boards, including defense firm Raytheon, and RAND’s Center for Middle East Public Policy. Together with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, he helps head the international strategic consulting firm, RiceHadleyGates LLC.
He also wrote the “The Role and Importance of the National Security Advisor,” which, as the title implies, is an in-depth study of the National Security Adviser’s role.
Retired Gen. Keith Kellogg
As the interim National Security Adviser filling in for Michael Flynn, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg was the chief of staff for the Trump administration’s National Security Council (NSC).
Prior to that, he worked in the Joint Chiefs of Staff office and was part of computer software giant Oracle’s homeland security team.
Tom Bossert, a cybersecurity expert, serves as the Homeland Security Adviser in the White House.
The former Deputy Homeland Security Adviser to President George W. Bush co-authored the 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security, the government’s security policies established after the 9/11 terror attacks.
In a 2015 column in The Washington Times, Bossert seemed to defend the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by writing, “To be clear, the use of military force against Iraq and Afghanistan was and remains just … The use of force in Iraq was just and, at the time, necessary, even if Mr. Obama disagrees with how things went.”
Retired Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward
Retired Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward is a US Navy SEAL and the former Deputy Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM).
He served as the commander of SEAL Team 3 and was the Deputy Commanding General of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Harward also served on the National Security Council as the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Office of Combating Terrorism, and is also the CEO for Lockheed Martin in the United Arab Emirates.
ISIS terrorists recruited from western countries like the US and UK always kept their distance from each other because of the threat of drone strikes, according to a captured member of the terror group.
Parvez left the UK to join ISIS in 2014 but was captured in Baghuz, the final ISIS bastion in Syria, according to the BBC. The government has stripped him of citizenship.
In an interview from prison he described the extreme fear among western members about being killed by drones.
An MQ-1 Predator drone over southern Afghanistan.
“So, people wouldn’t want to be associated with one another just in case.”
“Because we didn’t actually have the list of who’s on the drone list or not. So we’d really be scared of, OK, this guy might be, and this guy might be.”
“So it’s better I just keep to myself,” he said.
A number of key ISIS figures have been killed in drone strikes.
They include media director Abu Anas al-Faransi in March 2019, British ISIS fighter Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” in December 2015, and British defector Sally Jones in October 2017.
Parvez also told BBC reporter Quentin Sommerville that he regrets joining, wants to come home, and never knew the “realities” of being part of ISIS.
“I didn’t know there was something waiting for me like that so most of the foreign fighters, when you do talk to them, the first thing they say to you is that we would never ever have come if we had known the realities of ISIS,” he said.
“There was many times where I thought ‘time to pack up and leave,’ and there’s many times I did try to pack up and leave but the reality was that it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.”
General Mazloum Kobani, the commander-in-chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said that his forces liberated the last ISIS stronghold in the village of Baghuz, ending the terror cell’s presence in Syria.
ISIS is still active in Iraq, and parts of Africa.
They have achieved cult hero status for their exploits since 9/11, but their success on the battlefield is taking a personal toll on Navy SEALs and members of other US special operations elite forces.
Reports of rampant illicit drug abuse by special operators — while on deployment and at home — have prompted congressional lawmakers to call for an accountability review of the “culture” inside special operations units.
Drug and alcohol use by some members of special operations units is nothing new to the culture within the teams, who see such behavior as a coping mechanism in response to the unforgiving tasks these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have been asked to carry out.
“They are pretty much out there on a daily basis in very dangerous situations and working with [partners] who you don’t know if they are going to put a bullet in your back,” one former team member with knowledge of personnel issues told The Washington Times. “The level of stress these people are experiencing is off the charts,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The unprecedented pace and tempo in which US special operations forces have been used in the post-9/11 global war on terrorism, beginning with al Qaeda and the Taliban and now encompassing Islamic State, Boko Haram, and other groups, has exacerbated those stress levels, leading to even riskier coping behaviors.
“Kill/capture” missions by US special operations units combined with clandestine drone strikes formed the backbone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism doctrine. Six months into his term, President Trump has shown little sign of abandoning that strategy. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in May that the United States is entering an era of global conflict defined by protracted small wars with extremist militant groups.
“This is going to be a long fight,” Mr. Mattis said.
Aside from deploying hundreds of special operations military advisers to the front lines of the Islamic State fight in Syria and Iraq, the Trump administration has ordered the expansion of US Special Operations Command’s mission in Africa, battling the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab.
“You see our forces engaged in that from Africa to Asia. But, at the same time, this is going to be a long fight. And I don’t put timelines on fights,” Mr. Mattis told CBS News.
‘Something has to give’
The operational tempo for Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other “Tier One” US special operations forces units, which spend a majority of their time overseas on deployment, is a vicious cycle but a prerequisite for the job, the former team member said.
“We’re not talking about 18-, 19-year-old kids. You have to have a level of resilience to get where they are,” he said. But even with the most seasoned and battle-hardened veterans, “something has to give” from the relentless demands to deploy.
A pair of random, command-wide drug screenings conducted from November through February uncovered a total of 59 cases of illicit drug use among sailors serving in Naval Special Warfare Command.
Seven command members tested positive for illicit drug use from among more than 6,300 subjected to a sweep of random tests late last year, according to figures that command officials provided to The Times. The command also uncovered 52 cases of illegal drug use among 71,000 tests carried out since August 2014.
Of the 52 command members who tested positive for illegal drug use during the most recent round of tests across the Navy command, 10 were SEAL team members. Command officials could not confirm how many SEAL members were part of the seven positive drug tests found during a round of testing in November and December.
Drug abuse, domestic abuse, or other behaviors tied to the seemingly constant rotations to conflict zones are “endemic of what these people are going through,” the team member said. “These are your franchise players. They want to be the best of the best. It’s a quality you need but also makes it hard to disengage. A lot of it is just coping just the physical toll [the job] takes on you. You have to find an outlet.”
The problem of drug use within the special operations community gained unwanted attention in April when news leaked of a closed-door speech by Capt. Jamie Sands, head of all East Coast-based Navy SEAL teams. The captain warned all 900 Navy special operators in the command about cracking down on the use of illicit drugs — including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and ecstasy — among the SEAL teams that went public.
One active-duty SEAL attached to the East Coast teams told CBS News at the time that a number of his team members had tested positive for illegal drugs multiple times but remained on active duty since the Navy was unable to monitor their drug usage on a regular basis. Their frequent, extended deployments overseas allowed team members to avoid regular drug screenings.
Capt. Sands said that would no longer be a loophole in the command.
“We’re going to test on the road,” the officer said. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, then you will be caught.”
Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, in June pushed for legislation requiring US special operations command and the head of the Pentagon’s special operations directorate to conduct an accountability review of the military’s elite units amid reports of heavy drug abuse within the teams.
The review was included in the House draft version of the Pentagon’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which sets aside $696 billion for military programs and operations. The full House overwhelmingly approved the defense spending package this month.
The measure would require Mark Mitchell, acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, as well as top brass from Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, “to provide a briefing regarding culture and accountability in [special operations forces].”
Critics say the Pentagon’s policies do not properly address the problem of illicit drug use among special operators, a claim US Special Operations Command officials vehemently deny.
“No one has turned a blind eye to the challenges special operations forces face after a decade and a half of continuous combat operations,” command spokesman Kenneth McGraw said in a statement to The Times.
Command officials and their counterparts in the services’ special operations directorates formed a task force to address issues such as drug use and other symptoms related to prolonged deployments of the elite US troops. The task force takes a “takes a holistic, integrated approach” to post-deployment issues unique to Special Forces units “designed to maximize access to treatment and minimize any stigma associated with seeking help,” Mr. McGraw said.
Despite the command’s task force and other associated efforts, lawmakers are pressing command officials on the problem of drug use inside the teams.
Ms. Speier’s office declined repeated requests for comment on the legislation and the level of cooperation House members are receiving from command officials and the Pentagon. But her characterization of the need for accountability within the special operations teams to address drug use is the wrong way to view the problem, the former team member said.
“I do not know if this is an accountability issue. It is not just about bad people. I think a lot of it is just what they have been through,” he said. “You have to realize you are not going to eradicate this [problem]. You cannot eradicate those experiences” of war.
Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, tweeted a photo of himself with Shulkin, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on the way to Youngstown, Ohio, July 25 with President Donald Trump.
Perry is an Air Force veteran. Shulkin, a medical doctor, was appointed by President Barack Obama as the VA’s undersecretary for health in 2015 and became secretary this year. He did not serve in the military. He’s the first VA secretary who is not a veteran.
Representatives for Zinke and Shulkin did not respond to requests for comment.
Calling the breadth and capability of the U.S. Special Operations Forces “astonishing,” the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict discussed the global posture of the nation’s special operations enterprise during a hearing Feb. 14, 2019, on Capitol Hill.
Owen O. West appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
West said that while special operations forces make up just 3 percent of the joint force, they have absorbed more than 40 percent of the casualties since 2001. “This sacrifice serves as a powerful reminder that special operators are in the risk business,” he said.
The assistant secretary said the National Defense Strategy has challenged all of DOD to increase focus on long-term strategic competition with Russia and China, and the SOF enterprise is in the midst of transformation; “something special operators have always done very well.”
Assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict Owen West.
Any transformation starts with people, West said, noting, “In November, Gen. Thomas and I issued the first-ever joint vision for the [special operations forces] enterprise, challenging professionals to relentlessly pursue the decisive competitive advantage.”
Not stretched thin
West told the committee he is “proud to report to you that our SOF is neither overstretched nor breaking, but very healthy and eager to defend the nation against increasingly adaptive foes.”
As an integral part of the joint force, special operations troops are integrated into every facet of the NDS, Thomas told the committee.
“For the last 18 years, our No. 1 priority has been the effort against violent extremist organizations,” the general said. “As part of the joint force, we continue to be the … major supporting effort in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Lake Chad Basin; everywhere [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-] affiliated organizations are. We are relentlessly pursuing them to ensure this country never, ever endures another 9/11.”
A more lethal force
Thomas noted that Socom remains focused on finishing the effort by, with and through the United States’ many coalition partners.
“At the same time, again, as part of the joint force, we’re endeavoring to provide a more lethal and capable special operations force to confront peer competitors,” the commander said.
To build a more lethal force, strengthen alliances and partnerships and reform for greater performance and efficiency, Socom is reshaping and focusing its forces on capabilities, while also developing new technological and tactical approaches to accomplish the diverse mission that Socom will face in the future, Thomas said.
“The emergency security challenges will require Socom to be an organization of empowered SOF professionals — globally networked, partnered and integrated in relentlessly seeking advantage — in every domain for the joint force in the nation,” the general said.
A CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft takes off with a team of special tactics airmen assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron during exercise Emerald Warrior 19.1 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 22, 2019.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex)
In addition to its responsibility to man, train and equip the world’s most capable special operations forces, over the past few years, Socom has experienced considerable development in another legislative role as a combatant command, he said.
Global mission sets
“We are currently assigned the role as the coordinating authority for three major global mission sets: counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction and recently, messaging and countermessaging,” Thomas said.
“These roles require us to lead planning efforts, continually address joint force progress toward campaign objectives, and recommend improvements for modifications to our campaign approach to the secretary of defense,” he explained.
In parallel, Socom is pursuing an aggressive partnership with the other combatant commands with global portfolios: U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Space Command, Thomas said, which is designed to leverage Socom’s respective capabilities to provide more agile solutions to DOD.
“We are increasing our investments in a wide spectrum of emerging technologies to include artificial intelligence/machine learning, automated systems, advanced robotics, augmented reality, biomedical monitoring, and advanced armor and munitions development, to name a few,” the general said.
“Leveraging our proven ability to rapidly develop and field cutting-edge technology flowing from our focus on the tactical edge of combat,” Thomas said, ” joint experimentation initiative will bring together innovative efforts from across our special operations force tactical formations to ensure that commanders’ combat requirements are addressed with the most advanced concepts available.”
‘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 Bright-eyed Hope Machine in your squadron:
~ a bag from the brand that’s turning military surplus into vet success ~
Emily and Betsy Nuñez — sisters and co-founders of Sword Plough — represent the kind of entrepreneurial venn diagram that a truly bipartisan American government would engineer in a lab to ensure a Better Tomorrow.
Growing up at West Point with their father, a 30-year Army veteran, Emily and Betsy were inculcated from an early age with the military life. Emily was one of only three students at Middlebury College in ROTC and would go on to serve on active duty as an intelligence officer with 10th Special Forces Group.
She would also be one of the first women to attend Ranger School.
At the same time, she and Betsy were laying the groundwork for a classic millennial start-up, a sustainable bags and accessories company dedicated to repurposing materials and people for the betterment of all. Since 2013, they’ve been operating at the energetic epicenter of 21st century feminism, social entrepreneurship, sustainable business modelling and post-9/11 veteran affairs.
But if there’s one anecdote from the early days of Sword Plough that, above all others, may have foretold the relentless success the company has enjoyed since its founding, it’s this one, from Emily:
Well, just before launching on Kickstarter, we did another business plan competition…at the Harvard Business School, their Pitch for Change Competition. And I got leave from the Army to attend the contest. It was just an amazing experience. We pitched to the audience and the judges and we won first place and the Audience Choice Award, which was just incredible. [But] we almost actually didn’t even have the chance to do the pitch because there was a blizzard that weekend [in Boston] and we were having a really hard time finding a cab…so we ended up hitching a ride with a snow plow…
Uh…hold please. I grew up in New England. Snow plows stop for no one. How did you pull that off?
I sprinted up to him. I was wearing high heels and a dress and I just told him…”We only have 20 minutes to get to Harvard Business School to pitch our idea to repurpose military surplus into bags and to work with veteran American manufacturers and donate part of our profits to veteran organizations!” [H]e waved us in and gave us a ride. It was a pretty lucky moment…
Was luck really the deciding factor? I doubt it. Faced with such a hyper-specific onslaught of enthusiasm, purpose, brains, and brass, what snow plow man — no matter how grizzled — could say no? Who among us would be so gripped with frozen-hearted pessimism that he’d turn such a pitch aside? It’s unimaginable.
The Nuñez sisters have created a recipe that is impossible to deny. Their products are excellent, unique, and sustainable. Their company is staffed by veterans at every level. Their profits are charitably apportioned. Their eyes are on the horizon and their mission is to serve.
It happens almost every single year and it’s always a giant fuss. A new recruit who is barely out of boot camp will wear their branch’s dress uniform as they walk down the aisle at their high school graduation. The school will invariably be annoyed that someone isn’t wearing the same thing as everyone else, they’ll cause a fuss, and, suddenly, everyone is up in arms against that school.
Now, we’re not going to throw any individual under the bus — so we won’t name names — but trust me when I say that stunts like this are definitely boot moves.
This time, the near-annual graduation controversy started with two Marines in Michigan. They informed their school of their plans month before entering boot camp and the school, of course, rejected their proposal. The students graduated recruit training on a Friday and come back to Michigan to graduate high school the following Sunday.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)
First, it’s important to realize that schools don’t lack in compassion for the military and its troops, but the ceremony requires uniformity. The school made many concessions, including offering specially-made tassels, just like those worn by honor students, woven in red, white, and blue. They also offered to announce their military rank as they received their diploma and annotate their service in the rosters and the programs.
Even still, the students walked in their dress uniforms instead of the standard caps and gowns. The school’s superintendent allowed them to walk to keep their families happy. Afterward, an unnamed school board member discretely expressed to the students they were not happy with the rule violation, but that they also respected their service. This gentle aside then hit the internet, was blown out of proportion, and now the school board members are being made to look like as*holes.
The fact is that the uniform of the day was a cap and gown. These recruits disobeyed that order. When moments like this happen in the military because someone is trying to be an individual, the offenders swiftly disciplined. When this happens in the civilian world with recruits fresh out of boot camp (in this case, literally two days out of boot camp), the civilians who put out a simple rule (and offered many compromises) are made out to be the bad guys.
(Photo by Chris Moncus)
Each school has a policy on wearing uniforms to graduations. Some allow it, some don’t. The entire state of New Jersey, for instance, allows all troops to wear their uniform to their high school graduation. If the school allows troops who’ve completed their initial entry training to wear a uniform, outstanding! Go for it! If not, the school shouldn’t be vilified for asking a young troop (and student) to follow a guideline.
If you still feel compelled to wear your dress uniform in an unofficial manner, wear it under your cap and gown. It’s as simple as that.
What do they have in mind once they get into the highly confidential area? “Lets see them aliens,” the event description says.
But in a statement provided to the Washington Post, Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews said the Air Force was aware of the event and warned against it.
“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” she said. “The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”
For what it’s worth, the event remains scheduled for Sep. 20, 2019 — and it appears they know what they’re in for.
“We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry,” the event’s description says.”If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets.”
A “Naruto run” refers to the popular anime, in which a person runs very fast with their torso forward, and arms back. Faster than their bullets, if you will.
Mattis said in a statement that the strike, which consisted of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting the Shayrat air field on April 6, was a “measured response” to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.
In a break from his predecessor, President Donald Trump quickly authorized strikes against the Syrian government — a first for the United States.
According to Mattis, it was meant to deter future chemical weapons use, while showing the world that the U.S. would “not passively stand by” when such atrocities are carried out.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there could be “no doubt” that Assad’s troops carried out the attack, and autopsies have showed that sarin gas was used. The Syrian government and Russia, its ally, have vigorously denied responsibility.
Russia said that instead, the Syrian air force perhaps carried out a conventional attack that hit a chemical weapons cache controlled by the rebels.
However, as chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta explained to Bellingcat, sarin in storage consists of unmixed components, and dropping a bomb on them would not turn them into a nerve agent.
Meanwhile, Mattis’ statement revealed some details of a damage assessment at the air field. It said the Tomahawk strikes destroyed or damaged fuel and ammunition sites, air defenses, and 20% of Syria’s operational aircraft.
“The Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons,” Mattis concluded.
For decades, submarines have been patrolling and protecting America’s ships with honor as they operate deep down below the sea’s surface. Functioning as the “Silent Service,” these vessels have come a long way with their vast array of technological advances and undersea stealth.
But the concept goes back as far as the Revolutionary War, though how it got to the level of today’s technology is a wonder given the dangers of plying the ocean’s depths.
The “Drebbel,” the “Turtle,” and the “Nautilus” were all early versions of submarine technology that never quite got underway. But it wouldn’t be until Confederate Naval Secretary Stephen Mallory authorized the construction of the CSS H.L. Hunley to break the blockade of their southern ports that sub-surface warfare really came into its own.
After completion, the Hunley measured 40-feet long, 4-feet high, and 42-inches wide tightly housing a crew of eight men who had to power the vessel by hand cranking the propeller and steer through the ocean’s dark waters.
During its first testing phase in the fall of 1863, the CSS Hunley failed and sunk killing five crew members. The sub was recovered, but sank again and killed all eight crew, including co-inventor Horace Hunley, later that same year.
Although considered a dud, the Hunley’s commanders still believed in its worth and resurrected the sub from the water for the second time.
It wouldn’t be until Feb. 17, 1864, where the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic and soon after plunged toward the ocean’s floor for a third time killing all of its crew — a real death trap.
Believe it or not, there is one gun very notable for having been taken by the United States Air Force to other planets. That said, it was only on TV.
The “Stargate” TV franchise — based on the 1994 movie featuring Kurt Russell — starred Richard Dean Anderson of “MacGyver” for its first eight seasons. The series was notable in having two separate Air Force Chiefs of Staff cameo as themselves, Gen. Michael Ryan in “Prodigy” and Gen. John Jumper in “Lost City, Part Two.”
The central premise around the series was that the Air Force had acquired a “stargate” that was set up in Cheyenne Mountain. The team led by Anderson’s character, SG-1, was pretty much carrying out a mission similar to of the Army Special Forces: building alliances with native populations.
The adventures eventually took SG-1 all the way across the galaxy and beyond, where they not only faced off against hostile nations, but also made contact with friendly aliens and acquired new technology.
And as is the case with special operations forces, SG-1 had gear that average grunts didn’t get their hands on — usually. In addition to all the alien tech, they did get some earth weapons, too. Notable among them was the P90 personal defense weapon from FN Herstal.
The P90 is a select-fire weapon that fires the 5.7x28m cartridge. It is a compact weapon with a 50-round magazine. The gun made its combat debut during Operation Desert Storm with Belgian special operations troops.
You can see a video about this PDW that has gone to other worlds below.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Jan. 26 to expand Ankara’s operation in a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria eastward, toward the border with Iraq.
In Vienna, the Syrian opposition and Russia agreed to a cease-fire to halt the fighting over the besieged eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, an area the U.N. has called the “epicenter of suffering” in the war-torn country.
The agreement, confirmed to The Associated Press by opposition official Ahmad Ramadan, is contingent on Russia compelling the government to allow aid flow to the suburbs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Rebels gave the government 24 hours to comply, said Ammar Hassan, spokesman for the Islam Army, one of the factions fighting inside the area. The government did not sign the agreement, said opposition adviser Omar Kouch.
The eastern Ghouta area has seen more than two months of violent fighting since rebels tried to ease a choking government blockade that has depleted food and medical supplies.
The U.N. reported in November that child malnutrition in eastern Ghouta was at the worst ever recorded throughout the seven years of civil war. It estimates there are around 400,000 people trapped under the government’s siege.
Conditions deteriorated precipitously after pro-government forces choked off the last smuggling tunnels leading to the opposition-held suburbs in May.
A “de-escalation” agreement brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey in August failed to bring any relief. The government and rebels eased up on their fighting but the government refused to allow aid into eastern Ghouta contravening the agreement.
Fighting erupted again in November, leading the government to pound the enclave with airstrikes and artillery fire without distinguishing between civilian and military targets. Rebels have responded with waves of shelling on Damascus. At least 286 civilians have been killed in the crossfire in the last month alone, according to figures from the Observatory.
The agreement, the latest in a long line of short-lived truces for Syria, was announced on the second and last day of a U.N.-mediated round of peace talks in the Austrian capital. Another round, mediated by Russia, starts in Sochi on Jan. 29.
Erdogan said the Turkish forces’ push into Afrin would stretch further east, to the Syrian Kurdish town of Manbij, and toward the border with Iraq “until no terrorist is left.”
Erdogan’s latest comments appeared to be in defiance of the United States, which has urged Turkey to keep its campaign in Syria “limited in scope and duration” and to focus on ending the war.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to be a terrorist group because of their purported links to Kurdish insurgents within Turkey’s own border. Manbij is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the YPG. U.S. troops are not present in Afrin but are embedded with the SDF in other parts of Syria, where they are working to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.
“We will clear Manbij of terrorists … No one should be disturbed by this because the real owners of Manbij are not these terrorists, they are our Arab brothers,” Erdogan said, “From Manbij, we will continue our struggle up to the border with Iraq, until no terrorist is left.”
Ankara’s push into Manbij would put Turkish troops in proximity to American soldiers there.
Erdogan remarks came on the seventh day of the Turkish incursion into Afrin, which started Jan. 20.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Health Minister Ahmet Demircan said Jan. 26 that the operation into Afrin had led to 14 deaths on the Turkish side. Three Turkish soldiers and 11 Syrian opposition fighters allied with them were killed in fighting since Jan. 20, he said. Some 130 others were wounded.
The SDF said the first week of Turkey’s incursion had left more than 100 civilians and fighters dead. The group said in a statement Jan. 26 that among the dead are 59 civilians and 43 fighters, including eight women fighters. At least 134 civilians were wounded in the weeklong clashes, it added.
Turkey’s military said at least 343 “terrorists” have been “neutralized” during the campaign, a figure the Syrian Kurdish militia dispute.
In his speech, Erdogan slammed the U.S. alliance with the Kurdish forces in Manbij and other parts of Syria.
“Our greatest sadness is to see these terrorist organizations run wild holding U.S. flags in this region,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan said President Donald Trump asked him “not to criticize us so much” during their telephone call on Jan. 24.
“Okay,” said Erdogan, citing what he allegedly told Trump in the conversation. “But how can a strategic partner do such a thing to its strategic partner?”
Erdogan also accused the Syrian Kurdish militia of using civilians as human shields in Afrin to try and slow down the advance of the Turkish forces and of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters.
He also criticized calls by U.S. and other allies for a quick resolution of Turkey’s incursion, saying military interventions in places in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted for several years.
Late Jan. 25, the Pentagon described Turkey’s military operations in Afrin as not helpful and threatening to damage the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants in Syria.
Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said U.S. military commanders continue to talk with Turkey about the establishment of some type of safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border. He said it was “simply an idea floating around right now” and there has been no decision yet.
McKenzie said the U.S. is clearly tracking movement by Turkey but downplayed the chances of American forces being threatened in the vicinity of the town of Manbij.
Divers from U.S. Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) Two, Underwater Construction Team (UCT) One, and the U.S. Coast Guard braved harsh Arctic waters to play a critical role during a torpedo exercise as part of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018.
ICEX 2018 is a five-week biennial exercise that allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies, and partner organizations.
During the exercise, the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) and the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) each fired several training torpedos under the ice. Training torpedoes have no warheads and carry minimal fuel.
“The primary objective of this year’s ICEX is to test new under-ice weapons systems and validate tactics for weapon employment,” said Ryan Dropek, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport, Rhode Island Weapons Test Director. “Once the divers recover these torpedoes, we can extract important data about how they perform and react in these conditions.”
After the submarines fire the torpedoes, helicopters transport gear and personnel to the location where the positively-buoyant torpedo is expected to run out of fuel. Each torpedo has a location device in order to assist in the search. Once found, a 3-4 person team will then drill a series of holes for the divers to enter and exit, as well as one hole for the torpedo to be lifted by helicopter.
“Once we know the location of the torpedo and drill holes, our divers slip into the water to begin placing weights on a line attached to the tail end of the torpedo,” Chief Warrant Officer Michael Johnson, officer-in-charge of MDSU-2 divers, explained. “The weights help shift the torpedo from a state of positive buoyancy to neutral buoyancy under the ice.”
Once the torpedo is neutral, the divers place brackets with cables to the top and bottom of the body of the torpedo. A helicopter then connects to the torpedo before lifting it vertically out of the hole.
The three dive teams completed additional training in preparation for diving in the unique environment of the Arctic Ocean.
“To prepare for ICEX, we completed training at the Coast Guard’s Cold Water Ice Diving (CWID) course and earned our ordnance handling certification from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center,” said Johnson. “Additionally, each unit completed MK48 Torpedo recovery training and Unit Level Training (ULT) classroom training on hypothermia, frostbite, ice camp operations, dry-suit, and cold-water ice diving.”
The USCG CWID course is a two-week course in Seattle, Washington hosted by the USCG instructors at Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center (NDSTC) which focuses on the use of equipment and diving operations in harsh Arctic waters. During the course, divers complete a diving practical in Loc de Roc, British Columbia at 5,000 ft. elevation to put environmental stresses on the divers and equipment to acclimate to the cold and altitude.
“Our underwater construction teams have always had the ice-diving capabilities, so it was awesome to be invited out to this exercise to make sure we’re keeping up with something that we say we can do,” said Builder 1st Class Khiaro Promise, assigned to Construction Dive Detachment Alfa.
During ICEX, the divers conducted dives using two different types of diving methods. UCT-1 and the USCG dove with SCUBA equipment, which provides divers with an air supply contained in tanks strapped to the backs of the divers. The divers equip themselves with a communication “smart rope” which is a protected communication cable to the surface that acts as a tending line so support personnel on the surface has positive control of the divers and so they can quickly return to the dive hole.
MDSU-2 divers used the diving system DP2 with configuration one, which provides voice communications and an air supply provided by the surface. This configuration allows the divers to swap the composite air bottles without the diver resurfacing and without interrupting their air supply.
“We decided to use the DP2 system because it performs in arctic conditions very well,” said Navy Diver 1st Class Davin Jameson, lead diving supervisor for MDSU-2. “The ability to change our air supply during the dive is critical and allows us to stay under the water a lot longer.”
Not only did the divers have an essential role in torpedo recovery, they were also essential to camp operations. “Prior to torpedo retrieval dives, all the divers on ice helped set up the camp and in the building of two runways (one 1,300 and one 2,500-ft),” Senior Chief Navy Diver Michael McInroy, master diver for MDSU-2. “In the camp, everyone has responsibilities to keep operations on track. The divers worked hard to do their part in and out of the water.”
MDSU-2 is an expeditionary mobile unit homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Ft. Story (JEBLCFS) in Norfolk, Virginia. The unit deploys in support of diving and salvage operations and fleet exercises around the world. The primary mission is to direct highly-mobile, fully-trained and equipped mobile diving and salvage companies to perform combat harbor clearance, search and expeditionary salvage operations including diving, salvage, repair, assistance, and demolition in ports or harbors and at sea aboard Navy, Military Sealift Command, or commercial vessels of opportunity in wartime or peacetime.
UCT-1 is also homeported at JEBLCFS and is worldwide deployable to conduct underwater construction, inspection, repair, and demolition operations. Seabees operated off the coast of Alaska for the first time in 1942 when they began building advanced bases on Adak, Amchitka and other principal islands in the Aleutian chain.
ICEX divers and their support elements are a proven and vital component to the success of this five-week exercise. The partnership between the Navy and Coast Guard builds on the foundation of increasing experience and operational readiness even in the one of the harshest regions of the world.
“The brotherhood in diving means we have a lot of trust in that other person when you go underwater, and you get close to your coworkers, it’s more of a family,” Promise said.