Bold, functional, and hardcore were the first words that came to mind when I unboxed the Benchmade Infidel 3300BK-2001 double-edge dagger. It feels light but still strong. Every edge and line is incredibly clean, and at a nearly $500 price point, it should be that way.
It is an incredibly comfortable blade to carry, for its size, thanks to the tip-down, deep-carry pocket clip. If you’re the kind of person who wants to carry this type of tactical blade on a MOLLE capable host, you can certainly do that — although I’m not sure that its anodized blue color makes it the best choice for that (in such a case, you might prefer Benchmade’s fixed-blade Infidel instead). That being said, my preferred method of carrying is in my pocket, so this is a great option for me. While the color isn’t my normal choice, when I consider that I’ve got a box full of black and gray tactical knives, it is actually kind of refreshing to have something that stands out a bit.
This iteration of the popular Infidel OTF (out-the-front) platform features the introduction of a bold new anodized blue handle (.59″ thickness) to a family of tactical knives that sported more traditional colors. The handle material is 6061-T6 aluminum. It looks a little blocky from certain angles, but it is very comfortable to hold and deploy. The total weight comes in at 4.90oz so it isn’t heavy enough to be noticeable while carrying. I’ve got average-sized hands and this knife feels great in every way. It wasn’t simply the handle color that got an upgrade — the blade did too.
The 3.91″ length blade now sports a DLC (Diamond-like Carbon Coated) finish on a new CPM-S30V steel with a thickness of 0.118″ and a hardness of 58-60. When the plain double-edged blade is closed the handle length is 5″; when the blade is open the overall length is 8.91″. Deploying the blade is a clean action. There is no unnecessary play with the release button, and it doesn’t require superhuman strength. For the first few days I carried this knife I was admittedly nervous about a negligent discharge, but soon came to realize it wasn’t a valid concern due to its quality.
The Infidel 3300BK-2001 comes with a MSRP of 5 (depending on where you look it may be slightly more or less). This Benchmade “Black Class” blade is in the company’s highest tier of quality. It is considered an “Unlimited Limited” product, meaning that it will only be available for one year. If you’re looking for a defensive blade that conceals easily in your pocket but also has a bit more character than the typical tactical knife, this is one to consider. This blade will be available for purchase on 8/20/2020.
U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment are conducting a month-long military exchange program with Marines from the Indonesian Korps Marinir in Eastern Java, Indonesia, and Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Aug. 6-29, 2019.
The exchange program, designed to strengthen the partnership between the two militaries, involves each country sending a platoon of Marines to live and train together at the others’ military bases. Working closely though a rigorous training schedule focused around individual, team and squad level tactics, Marines from both nations are able to learn from each other and continue to improve their ability to work together.
“For basic tactics, we do the same thing for shooting and maneuver, but we have a different terrain and environment,” said 2nd Lt. Gilang Kanandha, a platoon commander with the KORMAR. “We can make our Marine Corps better by learning new things and [the U.S.] Marines can learn something new too.”
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and Indonesian Marines patrol through the woods during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
Not only do the Marines share tactics with each other, they also develop new leadership styles and establish relationships with their partner nation counterparts.
“We are able to train together and be aggressive when it’s time to do that,” said 1st. Lt Joseph Artis, a platoon commander with Co. A., 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment. “But during our down time, we have the ability to just be Marines together.”
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and Indonesian Marines eat together during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
“Our relationship with our Indonesian counterparts is very strong,” said Staff Sgt. Nathanial Skousen, the company gunnery sergeant for Co. A., 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. He noted how naturally the Marines from both nations interacted with each other, “It’s as if the same type of people are drawn to serve their nation’s military,” said Skousen.
The KORMAR exchange enhances the capability of both services and displays their continued commitment to share information and increase the ability to respond to crises together across the Pacific.
A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and an Indonesian Marine pose for a photo following training during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
“It causes us to open our eyes a little bit when we experience things with Marines from overseas,’ said Artis. “The fact that this is happening in different parts of the world, it gives us perspective that there is a global mission we are trying to achieve. It’s not just us in Hawaii trying to do this.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
The F-35A Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter combining advanced aerodynamics, survivability in high-threat environments, and an enhanced ability to provide pilots and allied assets across operational domains with robust situational awareness.
The F-35 is the result of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program to develop a single-engine, stealthy, multi-role fighter to replace an aging fleet of mission-dedicated airframes: the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II for the Air Force and the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II for the Navy and Marine Corps.
Although separate airframe variants were designed to meet specific needs of the various military services, all F-35 variants are primarily designed to infiltrate contested airspace, accurately deliver guided and conventional munitions, and collect, process and disseminate real-time reconnaissance while maintaining robust air-to-air combat capability at speeds above Mach 1.
Military and budgetary benefits of international cooperation are well represented in the F-35 program. Partner nations including the U.S., U.K., Canada, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Norway and Australia, are highly involved in the aircraft’s ongoing development. The F-35 has also been sold to Israel, Japan, and South Korea.
Use of a common weapons system among allies promotes an operational familiarity during coalition partner training and combat, while reducing the cost, time, training, manning and research and development of integrating dissimilar airframes of those allied nations.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is preparing to receive its first squadron of 14 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs in-country in late 2018.
The Royal Australian Air Force, has committed to obtaining 72 F-35A aircraft to form three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown. The RAAF is expected to take delivery of its first operational F-35As in December 2018.
Development and design
After winning the JSF design competition, 0 million contracts to build prototypes were awarded in 1997 to both Lockheed Martin for it’s X-35, and Boeing, for its X-32.
Boeing’s entry incorporated the requirements of all the services into one short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) airframe with thrust being vectored through nozzles, as with the existing Harrier.
The Boeing X-32, left, and the Lockheed X-35 competed for the DoD contract to produce the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in 1997. Both companies received 0 million grants to build prototypes. The new single-engine, Mach-1 capable aircraft needed to be stealthy and provide robust situational awareness to the pilot during attacks on ground targets and when fighting in air-to-air engagements. It also needed to meet the specifications of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps as well as nation partners. Lockheed won the competition which would eventually produce the F-35 Lightning II.
Lockheed Martin proposed to produce three airframe variants, one for each service: the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F-35A for the Air Force’s long runways; the STOVL version, the F-35B, for U.S. Marine Corps and British navy and air force; and the F-35C for U.S. Navy carrier-born operations.
In the end, the Department of Defense determined the X-35B version, with a separate vertical-lift fan behind the cockpit, outperformed the Boeing entry and awarded the overall JSF contract to Lockheed Martin.
Maj. Nathan Sabin, taxis an F-35A of the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron, a tenant unit at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., before a test flight at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, Feb 17, 2016. Six operational test and evaluation F-35s and more than 85 airmen of the 31st TES travelled to Mountain Home AFB to conduct the first simulated deployment test of the F-35A, specifically to execute three key initial operational capability mission sets: suppression of enemy air defenses, close air support and air interdiction.
(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
The first F-35A test aircraft purchased by the Air Force rolled off the production line in 2006. The Air Force took delivery of its first production F-35As at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in 2011 to begin pilot and maintainer training and in 2014 the 58th Fighter Squadron was the first to become a complete F-35A squadron.
After years of testing weapons separation, operational integration and aerial refueling, the Lightning II met its targets for initial operational capability when it was declared “combat ready” in August of 2016 by Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command.
Features and deployment
Air Force units that operate the F-35A now include:
The 461st Flight Test Squadron and 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards AFB, California.
The Integrated Training Center for pilots and maintainers at Eglin AFB, Florida.
The 388th Fighter Wing and 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah.
The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB, Arizona.
The 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
An F-35A Lightning II from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to MacDill AFB, Fla., about 100 miles off the Gulf Coast March 2, 2016. Airmen from the 33rd Fighter Wing were able to complete modifications to the aircraft ahead of schedule to enable the use of inert munitions instead of simulated weapons, advancing the fifth-generation fighter’s syllabus and ensuring pilots receive the most comprehensive training before they support a combat-coded F-35A unit.
The F-35 serves as an unparalleled force multiplier because its advanced sensors and datalinks share information and situational awareness not just between fifth- and fourth-generation U.S. and allied aircraft, but also between coalition land, sea and space assets.
This “operational quarterback” is also proving to pack a nasty ground attack and individual air-to-air combat capability.
During the large-scale combat training exercise, Red Flag 17-1, held at Nellis AFB in the spring of 2017, F-35As participated in multi-aircraft sorties in a highly-contested airspace. Air Force leadership and pilots reported F-35As destroyed multiple ground targets without being detected in the airspace and earned a stellar 20:1 kill ratio in air-to-air combat scenarios.
F-35A Lightning IIs piloted by the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings prepare to depart Hill AFB, Utah, Jan. 20 for Nellis AFB, Nev., to participate in a Red Flag exercise. Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise. This is the first deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016.
(U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)
Despite the impressive individual performance, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein stresses the F-35 is best thought of as an integral component of the Air Force’s overall warfighting capability.
During a symposium at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in February of 2017, Goldfein was asked to compare the F-35’s capability versus advanced Chinese aircraft like the J-20 and the J-31.
“I hope, over time, we can evolve our discussion from platform v. platform, which I would argue is a 20th Century discussion, to a network versus network,” Goldfein said. “Its not about what the F-35 or the J-20 or the F-22 or the J-31 can actually do in a one versus one… it’s an interesting conversation, but its not very compelling because we are never going to have the F-35 in there by itself, ever.
An F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016.
(Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
“What really counts is we are going to bring a network, a family of systems to bear on the enemy. That’s going to be an F-35 that’s there with an F-22, that’s there with an F-18, that’s there with a space capability being fed into the cockpit, that’s there with cyber capabilities, that’s there with a multitude of ISR, that’s there with a submarine force. We’re going to bring multi-domain, multi-component capabilities and we’re going to bring coalition capabilities.
“As we do today, in the future, we are going to be able to achieve decision speed and maneuver forces from all domains and create so many dilemmas for the enemy that, that in itself, will become a deterrent value,” Goldfein said.
An Air Force weapons load crew assigned to the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Hill Air Froce Base, Utah, loads a GBU-12 into an F-35A Lightning II aircraft at Nellis AFB, Nevada, Feb. 1, 2017.
Partner nations who have purchased the airframe, the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Norway, and Australia, are highly involved in the aircraft’s ongoing development. As such, the F-35 program represents a model of the military and budgetary benefits of international cooperation. The F-35 has also been sold to Israel, Japan and the Republic of South Korea.
Use of a common weapons system among allies promotes an operational familiarity during coalition partner training and combat, while reducing the cost, time, training, manning and research and development of trying to integrate dissimilar airframes of those allied nations.
Did you know?
The F-35A CTOL variant is flown by the air forces of the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and Italy.
The three F-35 variants are manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas, Cameri, Italy, and Nagoya, Japan, with 300,000 parts from 1,500 suppliers worldwide.
The F-35 software has more lines of code than the Space Shuttle.
An F-35’s pilot wears a helmet that has inputs necessary for situational awareness projected onto the interior of the visor: airspeed, heading, altitude, targeting information and warnings. It also projects imagery from around the aircraft, via infrared cameras, onto the visor, allowing the pilot to “look through” the bottom of the aircraft.
The F-35 Lightning II is named after the famous WWII fighter, the twin-engine P-38 Lightning. The U.S.’ leading air combat pilot of WWII, Maj. Richard I. Bong, scored all of his 40 victories flying the P-38.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
In America, we call it “eminent domain.” In China, they call it a Wednesday. Or whatever day the government comes and decides to take your house so they can build a freeway across what used to be your living room.
Yang Youde was a 56-year-old rice farmer who one day got the word that the government wanted to develop the land on which his farm stood. He wasn’t having it. He’d heard the stories about other regular people being forced off their land. Yang wasn’t about to become a victim.
Before the Chinese government and the hired agents of the land developers could force him out, he set out to create a system of defenses that would keep them in fear of coming onto his property. Using old stovepipes and fireworks, he built a real-life cannon that could fire rockets up to 100 yards.
“My goal isn’t to hurt anyone, I just want to solve my problem,” Yang told al-Jazeera. “If I get hounded out, I’m left with nothing. What’s my future except to steal, rob, or beg?
In February 2010, they came for him determined to violently force him away. He fired rockets at 30 crews until he ran out of ammo. After a physical altercation, the local police stepped in and forced the developers to come back some other time.
Yang made more ammo. And a giant watchtower. He also converted a push cart into a mobile rocket launcher.
From that high vantagepoint, he was able to hold off 100 demolition crew workers. This time, when the police came, they came for Yang.
Yang was offered the U.S. equivalent of ,000 for his Wuhan-adjacent farm. But he had a nice parcel of land with a fishpond on it. He knew he couldn’t fight the government forever, but he wanted at least a fair price. After all, his contract for the land didn’t run out for another 19 years.
And he said the Chinese government’s compensation policies entitled him to five times the offered amount. The old farmer had been growing watermelons and cotton on the land for some 40 years.
When all was said and done, Chinese state media reported that Yang was offered upward of 0,000 for his land, which he eventually agreed to. According to al-Jazeera, Yang was also held in jail for 51 days and tortured for his famous stand.
The U.S. Marines put supermodel Kate Upton through her paces on Aug. 22 during a workout in Detroit to promote the upcoming Marine Week celebration in the city.
Upton struggled a bit at the end, but was able to complete the training routine that involved a series of aerobic exercises and running as her fiance, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, watched from afar. Upton joined several other Tigers players’ wives and significant others in the session at Wayne State University’s athletic complex that was led by Gunnery Sgt. Sara Pacheco, a Marine Corps fitness instructor.
“It was (a) very hard workout,” Upton said following the exercise session, which she concluded by collapsing to the grass in an exhausted embrace with a fellow workout warrior. “I knew it was going to be hard. The Marines are very tough.”
Verlander, a former American League most valuable player and winner of the Cy Young award as the league’s top pitcher, said afterward that he was proud of Upton for her efforts.
“I think it’s easy to show your support with words. I think going out there and doing that workout I think really shows how much she supports (the military),” Verlander said. He is the founder of the Wins for Warriors charity that supports military service members and their families.
Upton, a world-famous model who has appeared three times on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, was on hand to promote Marine Week, which runs Sept. 6-10, and is designed to provide the public with a better understanding of the Corps and its mission and the chance to connect with hundreds of Marines.
In the first week of February 2018, insiders in the Israeli aviation industry told Haaretz that Saudi Arabia reportedly granted approval to Air India to fly direct from Delhi to Tel Aviv using its airspace.
Reuters confirmed that Air India said it is planning direct flights to Israel, and sought permission from Saudi Arabia to fly over its territory, which would significantly reduce flight times by more than two hours.
Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority denied reports that it already granted Air India’s request.
However, there was no indication that it would not consider the request in the future.
If the air route is confirmed, it would mark the first time Saudi Arabia would allow commercial flights to fly to Israel using its airspace and would mark a significant shift in strategic policy that has shaped the region for decades.
Currently, Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and has instated a ban on flights traveling to Israel from using its airspace for more than 70 years.
But news of Saudi Arabia potentially easing its airspace regulations may add concrete evidence to reports of the country’s warming ties to Israel.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have shared goals
Several reports have surfaced showing covert cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, who currently maintain no diplomatic ties.
One key issue the two have reportedly bonded over is curbing common-enemy Iran’s continued expansion in the Middle East.
Iran has openly threatened to annihilate Israel many times over the serious decades-long conflict between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia and Iran’s conflict dates back to a centuries-old divide between Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority in the Saudi Kingdom, and Shiites who govern Iran. The two officially severed ties in 2016, after Iranian protesters set fires in the Saudi Embassy compound in Tehran.
While the two countries have been coy about reports of exchanging intelligence, Israel has been upfront about its “covert” contacts with Saudi officials amid common concerns over Iran.
Representatives from the two countries shared the stage at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in 2015 and discussed their common interest in opposing Iran. Anwar Eshki, a retired major general in the Saudi armed forces and Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, admitted that they’ve been quietly conducting diplomacy on Iranian issues since 2014.
In 2017, a leaked diplomatic cable confirmed longtime rumors of Israel and Saudi cooperation. In the cable, Israel instructed its overseas embassies to encourage support for Saudi Arabia in its battle against Iranian-proxy Hezbollah.
Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told Al Jazeera that Iran remains a major threat to many countries across the Middle East.
“Unfortunately, the U.S. left a vacuum in the region which was filled by the Russians in Syria and by the Iranians and their proxies in other parts of the Middle East,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Israel is perceived as the most reliable potential ally. Therefore the Saudis understand pretty well that it is a good time to be good friends with Israel,” he said in the interview.
The Crown Prince is ushering in a new era
Saudi’s young Crown Prince is also seen as a key piece to understanding the timing of Israel and Saudi Arabia renewed relations.
The ambitious Mohammed Bin Salman has been spearheading a reform of Saudi’s domestic and foreign policy, which includes reevaluating its regional alliances, and aggressively opposing Iranian influence, according to Al-Arabiya.
The Crown Prince is also shaping Saudi’s cultural ethos. In November 2017, Salman made waves by purging anti-American and anti-Jewish clerics, making a strong indication that Saudi Arabia is seeking rapprochement with its Jewish neighbor and U.S.-ally Israel.
And by December 2017, Israel invited the Crown Prince to visit the country to discuss regional peace, and described the nation as the “leader of the Arab world.”
Experts say the Salman’s rise to power and widespread calls for reforms have allowed for a modern partnership with Israel to grow.
Associate professor with the Gulf Studies Program department at Qatar University Mahjoob Zweiri told Al Jazeera: “The political changes in Saudi Arabia and the desire to consolidate power is the main reason why these relations with Israel were opened.”
A new breakaway Afghan Taliban faction that has close ties to neighboring Iran and opposes efforts aimed at ending the 18-year insurgency in Afghanistan has emerged.
The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami, or Party of Islamic Guardianship, is believed to have split from the mainstream Taliban soon after the United States and the militant group signed a landmark peace agreement in February.
The formation of the splinter group underlines the possible divisions within the Taliban, which has seen bitter leadership transitions and growing internal dissent in recent years.
It is unclear whether the new splinter group will rally broad support but its emergence could pose a new hurdle for the U.S.-Taliban deal, which has been undermined by violence, disputes, and delays.
Under that agreement, international forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by July 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Afghan government.
‘Early Stages Of Forming’
Antonio Giustozzi, a Taliban expert with the Royal United Services Institute in London, said it appears the new splinter group is based in Iran, which shares a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan and has a sizeable Afghan population.
“It’s still in the early stages of forming,” said Giustozzi, adding that the military strength and the leadership of the faction is unknown.
An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that the new splinter group has not been “officially announced.” The official said members of the group included radical Taliban commanders and members of small Taliban offshoots.
A new report by a United Nations monitoring team made public on June 1 said that “at least one group of senior Taliban” had “formed a new group in opposition to any possible peace agreement.”
The breakaway faction was “composed mainly of dissident senior Taliban members residing outside Afghanistan,” said the report, which was based on information provided by Afghan and foreign intelligence and security services, think tanks, experts, and interlocutors.
Iran Building Taliban ‘Combat Capabilities’
The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami joins a growing list of Taliban factions that support continued fighting against Afghan and international troops.
“There are several Taliban leaders, fronts, and commanders who oppose peace and are linked to Iran,” said Giustozzi.
Among them, he added, is Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban and the head of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction that is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
That is despite Haqqani’s op-ed in February in The New York Times, in which he voiced support for the peace deal with the United States.
Haqqani, who is the Taliban’s operational chief, has a million U.S. bounty on his head. He is the son of the late radical Islamist leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Al-Qaeda-linked network blamed for some of Afghanistan’s deadliest suicide attacks.
The Haqqani network has strong ties to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. But Giustozzi said the network is “getting closer” to Iran as Islamabad and Riyadh cut funding to it.
Other Iran-linked Taliban leaders who oppose peace efforts include Mullah Qayum Zakir, a powerful battlefield commander and the former military chief of the Taliban until 2014. A former inmate in the infamous U.S. prison at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, Mullah Zakir has the backing of hard-line field commanders.
Mullah Zakir leads a conservative Taliban faction along with Ibrahim Sadr, the Taliban’s former military commission chief. In October 2018, Sadr was among eight Taliban members designated global terrorists by the U.S. Treasury Department.
“Iranian officials agreed to provide Ibrahim with monetary support and individualized training in order to prevent a possible tracing back to Iran,” the Treasury Department said, adding that “Iranian trainers would help build Taliban tactical and combat capabilities.”
An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the new splinter group included the followers of Sadr.
The officials said the new group also includes members of the Feday-e Mahaz (Suicide Brigade) a small, hard-core offshoot of the mainstream Taliban.
The group is believed to be led by Haji Najibullah, a loyalist to radical Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, who was killed in a U.S.-led attack in Helmand Province in 2007.
Iran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, when the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan. Tehran also provided help to U.S. forces as they toppled the Taliban regime. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.
Tehran has confirmed it has contacts with the Taliban but insists that it is aimed at ensuring the safety of Iranian citizens in Afghanistan and encouraging the Taliban to join peace talks.
But U.S. officials have accused Tehran of providing material support to the Taliban, an allegation it denies.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in January accused Tehran of “actively working” to undermine the peace process in Afghanistan, adding that Iran was supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network.
In a report released in November, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said Iran provides financial, political, training, and material support to the Taliban.
“Tehran does not seek to return the Taliban to power but aims to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in the event that the Taliban gains a role in a future Afghan government,” the report said, adding that Iran’s support enabled it to advance its interests in Afghanistan and attain “strategic depth” in the country.
Taliban Divided Over Peace
The emergence of the Taliban splinter group has exposed serious divisions within the militant group.
The Taliban is believed to be divided over a peace settlement.
Its political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to a peace deal but hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan demand the restoration of the Taliban regime that ruled from 1996 to 2001.
Internal Taliban divisions have intensified after the death of founder and spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.
Some Taliban commanders accused his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, of covering up Mullah Omar’s death and assuming leadership of the extremist group without proper approval.
Mullah Mansur struggled to quell the internal dissent and reconcile feuding factions, with some commanders splitting from the group and challenging his leadership.
Mullah Mansur was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.
The succession of Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, a low-key Islamic scholar who was Mullah Mansur’s deputy, was also opposed.
But experts said the Taliban has overcome the succession crises, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite a deadly war against foreign and Afghan forces.
Borhan Osman, an independent analyst and a leading expert on Islamic extremism and the militant networks operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, said divisions within the Taliban are not yet visible.
“So far the Taliban has been successful in spinning the agreement with the United States as an outright victory,” he said.
Osman said the Taliban’s unity will be tested during intra-Afghan talks, when Afghan and Taliban negotiators will discuss a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing deal.
The negotiations were scheduled to start in March but were delayed by disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners by the government and escalating militant attacks.
“The Taliban will be forced to come up with specific positions on issues and present their vision for a future Afghanistan,” said Osman.
The Taliban has been ambiguous on key issues, including women’s rights, the future distribution of power, and changes to the Afghan Constitution, reflecting the divisions within the group.
Many expect intra-Afghan negotiations to be complex and protracted, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and the sharing of power between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Internal rifts and rivalries have led to the emergence of various Taliban offshoots over the years, although many lack the military strength and support to pose a threat to the mainstream group.
The High Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — led by Mullah Mohammad Rasul — has been engaged in deadly clashes with fighters from the mainstream Taliban in southern and western Afghanistan since 2015, leaving scores dead on both sides.
The clashes have left the offshoot severely weakened, experts said, with many considering the group to be militarily irrelevant.
Mullah Rasul is believed to receive arms and support from Afghan intelligence in an attempt to divide the militant group.
President Donald Trump said June 12, 2018, that North Korea has committed to returning the remains of the missing from the Korean War, giving hope to the families of more than 7,800 service members that they will finally get a full accounting.
Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to the “immediate repatriation” in a last-minute deal reached at their historic summit in Singapore.
The issue of the missing-in-action had had been pressed on him by the families, and he went into the matter in “great detail” with Kim during their discussions, Trump said at a news conference before leaving Singapore.
“I must have had just countless calls and letters and Tweets, anything you can do — they want the remains of their sons back,” he said of the families.
“They want the remains of their fathers, and mothers, and all of the people that got caught into that really brutal war, which took place, to a large extent, in North Korea,” Trump said. “And I asked for it today, and we got it. That was a very last minute. The remains will be coming back. They’re going to start that process immediately.”
(U.S. Army Korea Media Center official Korean War online video archive)
“But so many people, even during the campaign, they’d say, ‘Is there any way you can work with North Korea to get the remains of my son back or my father back?’ So many people asked me this question,” he said.
“And, you know, I said, ‘Look, we don’t get along too well with that particular group of people.’ But now we do. And he agreed to that so quickly and so nice — it was really a very nice thing, and he understands it. He understands it,” Trump said of Kim.
The joint statement signed by Trump and Kim stated: “The United States and the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”
The general statement on “immediate repatriation” could refer to remains North Korea already has in storage but were never returned after joint recovery efforts were suspended in 2005 amid the political impasse over North Korean provocations and advances in its missile and nuclear programs.
“We must have hope that this agreement will finally bring peace to the peninsula and help bring closure to thousands of families of missing American servicemen from the Korean War,” Keith Harman, national commander of the VFW, said in a statement. “Now the hard work to bring the initiative to fruition begins.”
A joint declaration after the first meeting between a U.S. president and a North Korean leader called the summit “an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose efforts were crucial in bringing Trump and Kim together, said there would be no turning back on an agreement that held out the prospect for lasting peace on the peninsula.
“Building upon the agreement reached today, we will take a new path going forward. Leaving dark days of war and conflict behind, we will write a new chapter of peace and cooperation. We will be there together with North Korea along the way,” Moon said in a statement.
On June 6, 2018, South Korea’s Memorial Day, Moon said the return of the remains of missing Americans and the estimated 120,000 South Koreans also missing from the 1950-53 war was a top priority for the Trump-Kim summit.
“When the South-North relations improve, we will push first for the recovery of remains in the Demilitarized Zone,” the 154-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide area separating the two Koreas, Moon said.
According to the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 7,800 Americans have not been accounted for from the war, and about 5,300 of that total are believed to have been lost in battle in North Korea or buried at prisoner-of-war camps.
Past recovery efforts have centered on the area around the Chosin reservoir, scene of a horrific battle in the winter of 1950 in which Marine and Army units fought against encirclement by Chinese forces.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
An Army veteran who says someone left a scalpel inside him after surgery is suing a Veterans Affairs hospital.
Bridgeport resident Glenford Turner says the scalpel was only discovered years later, after he suffered from long-term abdominal pain. He sued the VA in U.S. District Court last week, seeking unspecified compensatory damages.
Court papers say Turner had surgery at the VA hospital in West Haven in 2013. Nearly four years later, he went back to the VA with dizziness and severe abdominal pain. An X-Ray showed there was a scalpel inside his body.
Turner had to undergo surgery to remove the scalpel. His lawyer, Joel Faxon, said doctors confirmed it was the same one. Faxon called it “an incomprehensible level of incompetence.”
The VA said Jan. 15 it doesn’t typically comment on pending litigation.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said he was appalled and stunned by the “egregious medical malpractice case.”
“I have asked for a detailed explanation from VA of this deeply troubling report,” he said in a statement. “I am demanding also full accountability so this kind of horrific negligence never happens again.”
The Memorial Day Murph, a workout created in honor of Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL awarded the Medal of Honor for Operation Redwings in Afghanistan 2005 requires an intermediate to advanced level of fitness to complete.
The challenge is popular with many tactical athletes, CrossFit, and other exercise groups and can be found at The Murph Challenge.
Here is a way to help prepare for the high repetitions of pullups (100), pushups (200), and squats (300). Over the next several weeks, progress throughout the pyramid below a few days a week and see if you score better each week, by moving up the pyramid. See below:
You should warm up well with this workout, in fact, the warmup/run pyramid works well to not only prepare you for higher rep sets but will help you slowly accumulate repetitions for the grand 100,200,300 grand totals.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Derek Seifert, 633rd Air Base Wing photojournalist, performs a pull-up during a Memorial Day Murph and Pararescue Workout event
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Areca T. Bell)
Pushups / Squat Pyramid: Run 100m, 1 pushup/squats, Run 100m – 2 pushup/squats run 100m – 3/3…up to 10/10. This warmup will yield 55 squats and 55 pushups to add to the Murph Workout (100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats) below:
This Half Pyramid has you starting at 1 and building up to level 10 in ten sets.
PT HALF Pyramid 1-10 (*1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10)
pullups x 1 (55 reps)
Pushups x 2 (110 reps) (*2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,18,20)
Squats x 3 (165 reps) (*3,6,9,12,15,18,21,24,27,30)
For clarity, the sets of the PT Pyramid breaks down like this:
Set 1: Pullup 1, Pushups 2, Squats 3, run 400m
Set 2: Pull-ups 2, Pushups 4, Squats 6, run 400m
Set 3: Pull-ups 3, Pushups 6, Squats 9, run 400m…Keep going up the pyramid until you fail, then resort in reverse order after failing at two exercises.
Reverse PT Pyramid with Pull-ups and Squats with cardio of choice each set to recover from each set
Pull-ups x 1 – total for day equals 100 pull-ups
Squats x 3 – total for day equals 300 squats
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jared Martin, 633rd Security Forces Squadron police services NCO in charge, performs a push-up during a Memorial Day Murph and Pararescue Workout event.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Areca T. Bell)
For more information on the PT Pyramid, see the full article, The PT Pyramid is what I call a Foundation Workout. It helps the user build a solid foundation of calisthenics and increases volume so you will improve your previous limits. Once you get to level 10 and back down to 1 again you will have done 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 300 squats. You do this each set by doubling each pull-up set for pushups, and tripling each pull-up set for squats.
You have 35 pushups to complete the FULL Murph 100,200,300 rep challenge and at the same time, work on your goal pace running intervals for future timed run events.
U.S. service members and their families participate in a 1-mile run during the Memorial Day Murph and Pararecue Workout event.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Areca T. Bell)
YES, this is 10 sets of 1/4 mile runs at goal mile pace for timed runs. Arrange as needed (use a treadmill or track if pull-up bar nearby)
Finish the workout with a Mini Mobility Cooldown that has some form of non-impact/walking, stretching, and foam rolling of muscles that will be sore – thighs, hamstrings, chest, upper back/lats, and arms.
Repeat 2 times
Non-Impact cardio 5 min
Foam roll / Stretch 5 min
Good luck with preparing for this journey and a worthy reminder of our fallen heroes.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
U.S. Air Force fighters and Army helicopter gunships have attacked and killed more than 220 Taliban forces in Ghazni over the past several days after militants launched a massive attack on the Afghan city less than 100 miles from Kabul.
“Ghazni City remains under Afghan government control,” Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for Operation Resolute Support and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, told Military.com on Aug. 14, 2018.
Afghan forces are conducting clearing operations in the city, but hundreds of civilians have fled, trying to escape the fierce fighting, The Associated Press reported Aug. 14, 2018.
“The Afghan National Army’s 203rd Corps, the Afghan National Police’s 303rd Zone and Afghan Special Security Forces are rooting out the remnants of the Taliban within the city,” O’Donnell said. “What we observed, as these Afghan-led operations drove a large portion of Taliban from the city over the last day or so, was the retreating Taliban attacking the more vulnerable surrounding districts, which Afghan forces are reinforcing.”
Residents of Ghazni City walk past gates and monuments in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, April 20, 2018.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Jerry Griffis)
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that insurgents had been driven from Ghazni and said the Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower on the city’s outskirts during the initial assault, cutting off landline and cellphone links to the city, the AP reported.
O’Donnell said the Taliban who remain in Ghazni “do not pose a threat to the city’s collapse … however, the Taliban who have hidden themselves amongst the Afghan populace do pose a threat to the civilian population, who were terrorized and harassed.”
U.S. Special Forces and 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade advisers are providing advice to Afghan forces on how to effectively conduct clearance operations and combined-arms integration, he added.
“U.S. airpower has killed more than 220 Taliban since Aug. 10, 2018,” O’Donnell said. “In addition to the initial strike on Aug. 10, 2018, U.S. forces conducted five strikes Aug. 11, 2018, 16 strikes Aug. 12, 2018, 10 Aug. 13, 2018 and none Aug. 14, 2018.”
AH-64 Apache helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Combat Aviation Brigade provided close-air support for Afghan forces, he said, adding that Brig. Gen. Richard Johnson, deputy commander of the 101st and commander of Task Force South East, advised Afghan leaders in an operational command-and-control center.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Within the Army’s military police is the Criminal Investigation Command. They’re like NCIS for the Army (the real one — not the TV show). They conduct investigations, collect criminal intelligence, provide forensic laboratory support, and, occasionally, they’re assigned to a unit if they suspect something is wrong.
If CID catches wind of serious misconduct, they’ll insert an agent into a unit through which they’ll observe what’s really going on. The chain of command might know what’s going on, but no one in said unit is aware.
Now, we’re not telling you this to put you on guard at all times — that’d be crazy. You should only suspect someone is secretly a CID agent if they show any or all of these signs.
Then you should absolutely be suspicious.
1. They’re optimistic about the unit.
It’s impossible to show up to morning PT both sober and ready for the day to begin. Anyone upbeat and cheery is not an organic piece of your unit.
Only warrant officers are authorized to smile — mostly because no one can find them and tell them they can’t. (Photo by Senior Airman Kaylee Dubois)
2. They claim they don’t know how to print out their ERB (or don’t want to).
Their ERB is a dead giveaway. Every soldier loves bragging about themselves. At every possible moment, we love to remind people that, “actually, I have four certificates of achievement, not three.”
Anyone who’s not willing to engage in a proverbial pissing contest is clearly a 31D and not an 11B.
If they show off their challenge coin collection, it’s not their ERB — thus proving they’re an agent. (Photo by Spc. Tracy McKithern)
3. They don’t brag about their previous unit (or claim they didn’t have one).
Speaking of bragging, everyone also sh*t talks their current unit because the last one is always better.
Beware if you ever hear the phrase, “well, I mean, my last unit was okay. Nothing bad, but nothing special.” Obviously, their previous, nondescript unit was CID.
Everyone’s last unit was better — but their next unit will definitely be best. (Photo by Sgt. Thomas Crough)
4. They’re unwilling to do dumb sh*t with you — but want to watch.
What kind of grunt isn’t willing to throw their entire career away at a moment’s notice because their buddy said, “hey, bro. Watch this”? CID agents, that’s who!
Chances are, they’ll be sitting there with their beer, taking mental notes to use against you in court.
Don’t worry, it’s not the soldier taking “notes” on a clipboard — they’re just trying to get out of work. (Photo by Sgt. Jon Heinrich)
5. They’re always asking how your weekends were.
Immediately after a four-day weekend, normal people will make small talk by saying, “how was your weekend?” We’re not here to burst your bubble, but this isn’t because they actually care about what you did. It’s a hollow gesture. Nobody actually cares that you just stayed drunk in the barracks, playing video games.
If there’s even the slightest note of sincerity in their voice, it’s a CID Agent trying to get you to spill the beans about what you did.
6. They’re a lower enlisted who actually knows regulations (other than the loopholes).
If pressed on the spot, every response to any regulation should be, “Ah, crap. It’s, uh… AR-6… One sec…” followed by an immediate Googling of the answer. The only time a troop should be able to spout off regulations off the top of their head is if they’re an NCO.
If they know the regulation, they’re trying to pinch you on that law.
7. They actually pay attention to safety briefs.
No one cares about what is being said at the safety brief before the weekend starts — not even the person giving the safety brief. That’s why it’s the same stuff repeated week in, week out.
The typical CID agent probably just wants to get home to watch their copy of Jack Reacher for the 7th time this week, but they’re still trying to blend in with the unit and pretend like they’re not breaking any rules themselves.