Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Chatter about a new wave of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq have been making the rounds for days. Today, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller made it official. 

As Miller began his announcement behind the backdrop of the Pentagon press room, he spent time pointedly stating that the moment was owed, “To the many patriots who had made the ultimate sacrifice and their comrades who carried forward their legacy.” He reminded those watching of the over 6,000 American lives lost in the war and how over 50,000 American lives were forever changed by visible and invisible wounds.

Miller spent Tuesday morning briefing members of Congress. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who rarely goes against Trump’s decisions, objected to the withdrawal. He wasn’t the only Republican in Congress to do so. Joining him in concern was Acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman and Florida Congressman, Marco Rubio (R).

Although concerns were raised by a number of military and congressional leaders in the days prior to the announcement, on Tuesday, Miller made the troop withdrawal official. “I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countiries,” Miller stated. “By January 15, 2021, our forces – their size in Afghanistan – will be 2,500 troops. Our forces and their size in Iraq will also be 2,500 troops by that same date.”

Miller was recently appointed as Acting Secretary of Defense after the President fired Mark Esper from the position via Twitter.

According to CNN, prior to his firing Esper sent a classified memo to the White House, which detailed conditions that hadn’t yet been met for a safe withdrawal of U.S. troops. There is speculation that the memo combined with Trump’s apparent loss of the presidency led to Esper’s firing.   

Despite reported military leadership objection to the withdrawal without conditions met and the leaked memo indicating it was a unanimous chain of command objection, Miller forged ahead today announcing President Trump’s official order. “This is consistent with our established plans and strategic objectives… supported by the American people and does not equate in a change of U.S. policy or objectives. Moreover, this decision by the president is based on continuous engagement with his national security cabinet over several months,” Miller stated. 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley stated to NPR in October that, “The whole agreement and all of the drawdown plans are conditions-based. The key here is that we’re trying to end a war responsibly, deliberately, and to do it on terms that guarantee the safety of the U.S. vital national security interests that are at stake in Afghanistan.”

“I have also spoken with our military commanders and we all will execute this repositioning in a way that protects our fighting men and women,” Miller stated. He continued, “Today is another critical step in that direction and a result of President Trump’s bold leadership…we will finish this generational war and bring our men and women home.” 

The Acting Secretary of Defense did not offer any reasoning to the accelerated troop withdrawal despite conditions not being met, nor did Miller take any questions following the reading of his prepared statement.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Spec Ops leaders tell Congress they’re in the ‘risk business’

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.

Emerging technologies

“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.”

Articles

Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has one very clear message: The country needs more icebreakers.


Zukunft reiterated that point time and again during an Aug. 24 speech to members of the Alaska policy nonprofit Commonwealth North in Anchorage.

He recalled a conversation he had with then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice when Rice asked him what President Barack Obama should highlight shortly before the president’s extended trip to Alaska in late August 2015.

“I said (to Rice) we are an Arctic nation. We have not made the right investments and we do not have the strategic assets to be an Arctic nation and that translates to icebreakers and that’s almost exactly what President Obama said when he came up here,” Zukunft said.

US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“Fast forward — it’s Jan. 20, 2017, and I’m sitting next to President Trump and as they’re parading by he says, ‘So, you got everything you need?’ I said, ‘I don’t. The last administration, they made a statement but they didn’t show me the money. I need icebreakers.’ (Trump said) ‘How many?’ ‘Six.’ ‘You got it.’

“You never miss an opportunity,” Zukunft quipped.

It’s well documented in Alaska that the US has “one-and-a-half” operable icebreakers. That is, the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy, which are in the Coast Guard’s fleet. A sister ship to the Polar Star, the Polar Sea remains inactive after an engine failure in 2010.

Zukunft noted Russia’s current fleet of 41 icebreakers to emphasize how far behind he feels the US is in preparing for increased military and commercial activity in the Arctic as sea ice continues to retreat — a message Alaska’s congressional delegation stresses as well.

USCGC Healy. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“We are the only military service that’s truly focused on what’s happening in the Arctic and what happens in the Arctic does not happen in isolation,” Zukunft said.

He added that Russia is on track to deliver two more cruise missile-equipped icebreakers in 2020.

“I’m not real comfortable with them right on our back step coming through the Bering Strait and operating in this domain when we have nothing to counter it with,” he said.

The Coast Guard’s 2017 budget included a $150 million request to fund a new medium icebreaker, which Zukunft characterized as a “down payment” on the vessel expected to cost about $780 million, according to an Aug. 15 Congressional Research Service report on the progress of adding to the country’s icebreaking fleet.

Photo from United Sates European Command.

For years it was estimated that new heavy icebreakers would cost in the neighborhood of $1 billion each, but those estimates have been revised down as the benefits of lessons learned through construction of the initial vessel and ordering multiple icebreakers from the same shipyard are further examined.

The CRS report now estimates the first heavy icebreaker will cost about $980 million to build, but by the fourth that price tag would go down to about $690 million for an average per-vessel cost of about $790 million. That is on par with the cost for a single new medium icebreaker.

Zukunft said the Coast Guard is working with five shipyards on an accelerated timeline to get the first icebreaker by 2023, but how it will be fully funded is still unclear.

“We have great bipartisan support but who is going to write the check?” he said, adding that aside from Russia and China, the United States’ economy is larger than that of the other 18 nations with icebreakers combined.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, a heavy icebreaker homeported in Seattle. USCG photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener.

The Obama administration first proposed a high-level funding plan for new icebreakers in 2013 that has not been advanced outside of small appropriations.

“Our GDP (gross domestic product) is at least five times that of Russia and we’re telling ourselves we can’t afford it,” Zukunft continued. “Now this is just an issue of political will and not having the strategic forbearance to say this is an investment that we must have.”

He also advocated for the US finally signing onto the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, which lays out the broad ground rules for what nations control off their coasts and how they interact in international waters.

Not signing onto the Law of the Sea, which was opened in 1982, leaves the US little say as other nations further study and potentially exploit the Arctic waters that are opening, he said.

“We are in the same club as Yemen; we are in the Star Wars bar of misfits of countries that have not ratified the Law of the Sea convention,” Zukunft said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Navy is preparing for an all-out fight at sea

The Navy is firing weapons, engaging in combat scenarios, and refining warfighting tactics through a rigorous training regiment aimed at better preparing the sea service for massive warfare on the open ocean.

Described by Navy officials as “high-velocity learning,” Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) is focused on speeding up combat decision making and responding in real time to emerging high-tech enemy weapons such as missiles, lasers, sea mines, long-range anti-ship missiles, and torpedoes, among others.

“We are focused on the high-end fight” Cmdr. Emily Royse, SWATT leader, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The emphasis also has a heavy academic focus, lead by specially prepared Warfare Tactics Instructors, aimed at briefing — and then debriefing — a range of operational maritime warfare scenarios.


“For each training type we focus on sea control type events. Warfare units are presented with a scenario and we are there to help them through the decision making process to help them fight that scenario. For surface warfare, for instance, they might plan how they are going to get all their ships through narrow, high-risk straights or how to respond to small boat threats,” Royse added.

The training crosses a wide swath of maritime combat missions, to include mine countermeasures, Amphibious Ready Groups, Carrier Strike Groups, and other elements of surface warfare. The idea is to further establish and refine tactics, techniques, and procedures needed for major warfare against high-tech enemies.

“Sea control objective is to ensure that our forces are able to move freely within the sea lanes and ensure that they are free from threats or able to counter threats,” Royse said.

U.S. Navy ships assigned to the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group sail in formation for a strike group photo in the Caribbean Sea.

Some of the particular kinds of enemy weapons these courses anticipate for the future include a range of emerging new systems — to include lasers, rail-guns, and long-range missiles, among other technologies.

Not surprisingly, these courses appear as somewhat of a linear outgrowth or tactical manifestation of the Navy’s 2016 Surface Force Strategy document. Tilted “Return to Sea Control,” the strategy paper lists a number of specific enemy threat areas of concern focused upon by course trainers.

Examples of threats cited by the strategy paper include “anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated and layered sensor systems, targeting networks, long-range bombers, advanced fighter aircraft, submarines, mines, advanced integrated air defenses, electronic warfare, and cyber and space technologies.”

Much like the training courses and the Surface Force Strategy, the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept also builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, in place now for a number of years. This strategic approach emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed.

Having cyber, space, and missile weapons — along with over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons — are relevant to offensive attack as well as the “distributed” portion of the strategy. Having an ability to defend against a wider range of attacks and strike from long-distances enables the fleet to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations, making US Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower.

Interestingly, the pressing need to emphasize offensive attack in the Navy fleet appears to have roots in previous Navy strategic thinking.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Doug Pearlman)

Part of the overall strategic rationale is to move the force back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors, such as that which was emphasized during the Cold War. While the importance of this kind of strategic and tactical thinking never disappeared, these things were emphasized less during the last 15-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, securing the international waterways, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure.

These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increase its offensive “lethality” given that rivals such as Russia and China have precision-guided anti-ship missiles able to hit targets at ranges greater than 900 miles in some cases. The advent of new cyber and electronic warfare attack technologies, enemy drones and the rapid global proliferation of sea mines all present uniquely modern nuances when compared to previous Cold-War strategic paradigms.

Nevertheless, the most current Naval Surface Warfare Strategy does, by design, appear to be somewhat of a higher-tech, modern adaptation of some fundamental elements of the Navy’s Cold-War-era approach — a time when major naval warfare against a Soviet force was envisioned as a realistic contingency.

A 1987 essay titled “Strategy Concept of the US Navy,” published by Naval History and Heritage Command, cites the importance of long-range offensive firepower and targeting sensors in a geographically dispersed or expansive open ocean warfare environment. The paper goes so far as to say the very survivability of US Naval Forces and the accomplishment of their missions depends upon offensive firepower.

“Integrated forces may be geographically distant, but their movements, sensors, and weapons are coordinated to provide maximum mutual support and offensive capability,” the paper writes.

The Cold War-era Strategic Concepts document also specifies that “Naval defensive capability should include long-range detection systems such as airborne early warning, quick reacting command and control systems and effective defensive weapons systems.”

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Ford’s clumsiness is now enshrined forever

Gerald Ford had a reputation for being clumsy.


As we learned during our tour of the new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the former president’s clumsiness almost cost him his life as a young sailor.

During World War II, Ford served as a navigation officer on the USS Monterey.

Related: These photos show what our veteran presidents looked like in uniform

At one point, a large wave almost washed Ford overboard the Monterey, but his foot got caught on a drain, preventing him from going over, US Navy spokesman Corey Todd Jones told Business Insider.

Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford. (Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum.)

There’s now a statue immortalizing that moment in the hangar bay of the USS Ford, which even features the drain that saved his life.

The statue, however, is removed when the ship is deployed.

One of the president’s most famous falls came on a rainy day in December 1975. Ford was walking down the stairs of Air Force One when he slipped and fell down the remaining steps.

Also read: Search gerald ford That time Gerald Ford promoted George Washington to six-star general

Unfortunately for Ford, who was actually a decorated college football player, that wasn’t the only stumble he made as president.

He also once tripped going up the stairs of Air Force One, and reportedly fell while skiing.

Chevy Chase routinely mocked him on Saturday Night Live, and there was even apparently a running joke at the time that Ford’s vice-president was just a banana peel away from the presidency.

Here’s the infamous slip:

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the drone ships being deployed by terrorists

Drone-controlled boats filled with explosives were reportedly used in at least one attempted attack on Saudi Arabia in early October 2018.

Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen, claimed that the A Royal Saudi Naval Forces frigate Al Madinah-class 702 intercepted two boats laden with explosives traveling toward the major port of Jazan, located directly north of the country’s border with Yemen.

Al-Malaki said the Navy spotted two boats approaching the port on Sunday morning that appeared to be remotely controlled. The boats, reportedly operated by the Houthi group in Yemen, were destroyed and caused only minor material damage.


He warned that coalition forces “will strike with iron fist all those involved in acts of terrorism.”

“Those hostile acts will not go by without holding the ones executing, plotting and planning them accountable for their actions.”

On Oct. 2, 2018, Saudi border guards said they rescued a Saudi fishing boat that came under fire from unknown attackers while in Gulf waters, according to Al Arabiya. Border guards said that three fishermen on board were being treated for injuries, and an investigation into the origin of attack was underway.

Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen.

Over the last year, regional forces reportedly intercepted several drone boat attacks.

In January 2017, Houthi forces struck a Saudi warship using a remote-controlled boat. And in April 2017, Houthi forces attempted to blow up a Saudi Aramco fuel terminal and distribution station in Jazan using a high-speed boat rigged with explosives.

Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet, told Defense News in 2017 that there is concern over the Yemeni rebel group having access to this remote type of weaponry.

“That’s not an easy thing to develop,” he said. “There’s clearly support there coming from others, so that’s problematic,” pointing to production support of the mobile weapons by Iran.

He added that explosive boats create a new category of self-destructive attacks.

“You don’t need suicide attackers to do a suicide-like attack.”

“So it makes that kind of weaponry, which would normally take someone suicidal to use, now able to be used by someone who’s not going to martyr themselves.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The coronavirus has spread to 3 US sailors aboard 3 different Navy warships

The coronavirus that causes the illness COVID-19 first appeared in central China but has since become a global pandemic, and it has infected three US sailors aboard three different Navy warships, the service said.


A Navy sailor assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, at port in San Diego, California was the first sailor aboard a warship to be infected.

Another sailor assigned to the USS Ralph Johnson, a guided-missile destroyer at port in Everett, Washington, tested positive on Monday, with another one assigned to the Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado, at port in San Diego, testing positive Tuesday.

The three sailors are in isolation at home, as are individuals identified as having had close contact with them. Military health professionals are investigating whether or not others were exposed, and the ships are undergoing extensive cleaning.

The coronavirus has spread to more than 6,500 people and killed over 100 in the US. The number of US military personnel who have tested positive is significantly lower, but the virus continues to spread.

For the Navy, protecting its warships are a serious concern.

Last year, the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry experienced an unusual viral outbreak. Mumps hit the ship hard, infecting 28 people despite efforts to quarantine the infected and disinfect the vessel.

That was a vaccine-preventable illness. There is no available vaccine for the coronavirus, which has infected over 200,000 people and killed more than 8,000 worldwide. Sailors live in close proximity aboard Navy ships, and communicable diseases are easily transmittable.

Navy ships are filled with personnel and are not exactly conducive to social distancing. The Boxer, for instance, can carry up to 1,200 sailors and 1,000 Marines.

Pacific Fleet is begging sailors to stay off ships if they feel unwell. “We don’t want sick sailors on our ships right now,” Cmdr. Ron Flanders, Naval Air Forces spokesman, told The San Diego Union-Tribune on Monday. “If sailors are feeling ill, they should notify their chain of command.”

While the service is taking this threat seriously, some questions have been raised about the Navy’s response to infections aboard warships.

Shortly after the revelation that a sailor aboard the Boxer had tested “presumptive positive” for the virus, military leaders gathered around 80 crew members into a small room for a half-hour meeting to discuss the importance of social distancing and other preventative practices, ProPublica reported Monday.

There have been other similar incidents.

Update: This piece has been updated to reflect the latest figures from the US Navy.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy failed to intercept a test missile in Hawaii

The US Navy reportedly conducted a failed ballistic missile intercept test on Jan. 31 2018, the second failed test involving a SM-3 Block IIA in a year.


The missile was fired from an Aegis Ashore missile defense station in Hawaii and missed its intended target, which was launched from an aircraft.

Related: The Aegis Combat System is successfully plucking enemy missiles out of the sky

The Department of Defense confirmed to CNN that a test had taken place, but did not mention the result.

“The Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy sailors manning the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex (AAMDTC) conducted a live-fire missile flight test using a Standard-Missile (SM)-3 Block IIA missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii,” DoD spokesman Mark Wright told CNN.

If confirmed, the test would be the second time this year that the missile, made by Raytheon, failed to intercept its target during tests. The last failure happened in July of 2017, and was blamed on a sailor accidentally entering data that identified the target as a friendly, causing the missile to self-destruct.

A Raytheon SM-3 launches from the vertical launcher on the front deck of a ship. (Raytheon)

Raytheon is developing the missile as part of a joint project between the US and Japan, which plans to install two of the systems on its mainland in order to defend against threats from North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.

Also read: Here is how Burke-class destroyers will be able to zap incoming missiles

The failure comes amid high tensions between the US and North Korea. Defense officials told CNN that they would not publicly discuss the failed launch, in part because of “sensitivities surrounding North Korea.”

Articles

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.


Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.

Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.

Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.

Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Afghan Air Force Brig. Gen. Eng A. Shafi. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.

The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.

Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.

But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo: USMC

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.

While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.

“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”

He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.

The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.

Kentucky Guardsmen train Afghans. DoD Photo by Lt.j.g. Bryan Mitchell

And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.

Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.

The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.

“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”

But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.

Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga

“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”

What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.

Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.

“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”

MIGHTY MEMES

The 13 funniest memes for the week of February 22nd

President Trump has officially signed the order to begin the process of developing the Space Force. The logical side of all of our brains is telling us that it’s just going to be an upgraded version of what the Navy and Air Force’s respective Space Commands currently do… but deep down, we all want to sign up.

I mean, who wouldn’t immediately sign an indefinite contract to be a space shuttle door gunner? It represents that tiny glimmer of hope in all of us that says we, one day, can live out every epic space fantasy we’ve ever dreamed up.

The sad truth is that the first couple decades (if not centuries) of the Space Force will involve dealing with boring human problems, not fighting intergalactic aliens bent on destroying our solar system. Oh well.

Hey, while you wait for the army of Space Bugs to start invading, kill some time with these memes.


(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drills Sergeant Says)

(Meme via Private News Network)

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?

That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.

This is his story:


Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’

(Paramount Pictures/Hasbro)

The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.

Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.

Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.

“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”

Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)

Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.

Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.

After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,

“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”

The resemblance is uncanny.

Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New executive order expands opportunities in government jobs for Milspouses

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump invited military mothers and spouses to the White House May 9, 2018, in honor of Mother’s Day, and the president signed an executive order to enable military spouses to find work more easily in the private and federal sectors.

“Mother’s Day, which is this Sunday, is celebrated just one time per year,” the first lady said to the gathering in the White House East Room. “Today, I want to take this opportunity to let you all know that as mothers who are members of the military community, you deserve recognition for not only your love for your … children, but for the dedication and sacrifice you make on behalf of our country each and every day,” she said.


The president said he was honored by the presence of military spouses. “We celebrate your heroic service — and that’s exactly what it is,” he said.

The president talked about spouses’ hardships during long deployments. “Some of them are much longer than you ever bargained for, and you routinely move your families around the country and all over the world,” the president said.

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump
(Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

“[My] administration is totally committed to every family that serves in the United States armed forces,” Trump said. “Earlier this year, I was proud to sign that big pay raise … and I am proud of it.”

Noting that the White House is taking action to expand employment opportunities for military spouses, the president said service members’ spouses would be given “treatment like never before,” noting that the unemployment rate among military spouses is more than 90 percent.

But that is going to change, he added.

“[For] a long time, military spouses have already shown the utmost devotion to our nation, and we want to show you our devotion in return,” the president said. “America owes a debt of gratitude to our military spouses — we can never repay you for all that you do.”

Following his remarks, Trump signed an executive order addressing military spouse unemployment by providing greater opportunities for military spouses to be considered for federal competitive service positions.

The order holds agencies accountable for increasing their use of the noncompetitive hiring authority for military spouses, and American businesses across the country are also encouraged to expand job opportunities for military spouses, the president said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wife kept dead husband’s body in freezer for 10 years

When the police arrived at a retirement community in Utah to conduct a welfare check last month, they were disturbed to find not only the body of the elderly woman who lived there, but a man’s corpse tucked inside a deep freezer in her utility room.

That man was eventually identified as Paul Mathers, who was 58 years old when he was last seen in 2009. He was the husband of the 75-year-old woman also found in the home, Jeanne Souron-Mathers.

“I’ve been here 13 years — this is one of the strangest cases,” Tooele City Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Hansen told news outlets, adding, “We’ve never had anything like this.”


He said police officers had opened Souron-Mathers’ fridge and freezer hoping to find food that would indicate “some type of a timeline” for when she died. But when a detective opened a deep freezer in the utility room, he “immediately finds an unidentified deceased adult male in the freezer,” Hansen said.

The police made the discovery on November 22 and initially called the incident “very suspicious.”

But after several weeks of investigating, the police announced on Monday that they’d found several equally bizarre clues that might help explain the incident.

Video: Police investigate body found in freezer during welfare check

www.youtube.com

Hansen said investigators searching through Souron-Mathers’ home found a notarized letter from December 2008 that appeared to be from Mathers, declaring that he was not killed by his wife.

“We believe he had a terminal illness,” Hansen told KSTU, adding that Mathers likely died sometime between February 4, 2009 — the date of his last appointment at a Veterans Affairs hospital — and March 8, 2009.

Hansen also told The Salt Lake Tribune that experts had not yet verified whether the signature on the letter truly belonged to Mathers. He added that the woman who notarized the letter in 2008 told the police she never read the document before stamping and signing it.

Investigators also discovered that Souron-Mathers had collected roughly 7,000 in Veterans Affairs benefits after her husband’s death and are still looking into whether she continued to receive Mathers’ Social Security benefits, Hansen said.

Hansen told The Tribune that they were still awaiting an autopsy report to confirm the cause of Mathers’ death but that detectives were “wrapping up” their investigation.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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