The United Nations says attacks and intimidation by the Taliban against October 2018’s parliamentary elections in Afghanistan resulted in a record number of civilian casualties.
In a Nov. 6, 2018 report, the UN said militants had waged “a deliberate campaign intended to disrupt and undermine the electoral process.”
It said at least 435 civilian casualties were recorded — 56 people killed and 379 wounded — during the Oct. 20, 2018 election and subsequent days when delayed polling took place.
The Taliban, fighting to force foreign troops out of Afghanistan and defeat Kabul’s Western-backed government, issued a series of threats against the elections that included three separate warnings in the days leading up to the vote.
(Flickr photo by Todd Huffman)
There also were several attacks on voter-registration centers in the months before the election, some claimed by the Islamic State group.
The UN said attacks by antigovernment elements, mostly the Taliban, were carried out with rockets, grenades, mortars, and improvised explosive devices.
The United Nations also noted to a campaign of threats, intimidation, and harassment, including abductions before the election.
Featured image: Task Force Southeast hosts an elections security shura for Afghan government and military leaders in the southeast zone of Afghanistan at Advisor Platform Lightning, April 11, 2018. The group discussed the importance of secure and credible elections in Afghanistan.
The Department of Homeland Security as well as the FBI are investigating what is being called possibly the largest scale cyber-attack ever, according to Aljazeera.
On the morning of Oct. 21 the first wave of the cyber-attack began on infrastructure company Dyn, based in New Hampshire. The company is responsible for connecting individual internet users to websites by routing them through a series of unique Internet Protocol numbers. CNN reported that the company monitors more than 150 websites.
Friday’s cyber-attack used botnets — or devices connected to the internet that have been infected with malware — to launch a distributed denial of service attack that impacted companies like CNN, the New York Times, Twitter, PayPal, and others, Aljazeera reported.
USA Today explained that denial of service attacks turn unsuspecting devices into weapons by downloading malware to unprotected devices that allows them to be controlled by hackers. Hackers then use these weaponized botnets to overload the traffic to websites by sending hundreds of thousands of requests through the IP address, giving a false signal that the website is too busy to accept normal requests for access to the site.
While the cyber-attack was mostly annoying for internet users, it ultimately impacted the U.S. on a much larger scale, denying the 77 companies affected by the attack up to $110 million in revenue, according to Dyn CEO John Van Siclen.
The greater security concern is the access to individual devices that is granted because the devices were left with their default password intact, according to The Guardian. The devices used in Friday’s cyber-attack were all traced back to one company, the Chinese tech company XiongMai Technologies, which makes, ironically, security cameras.
The cyber-attack was felt as far away as Europe, and across the U.S. Wikileaks suggested in a tweet late Oct. 21 that its supporters were responsible for the breach, sending out a picture of the most affected areas in the U.S.
Military members can help protect their devices from being used as weapons by following their training on cyber awareness. Consistently changing passwords, logging out of accounts when on public computers, and protecting personally identifying information are recommended.
Participating in adaptive sports helped to get Major out of a serious depression he had fallen into after being severely wounded, he said. Adaptive sports are designed or modified for disabled athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities or injuries.
“Before I got injured I loved competition, sports, and getting into shape,” said Major, who represented the Baltimore Veterans Affairs at the Army Trials.
Participating in adaptive sports “changed my life,” he said.
“It made me more sociable with other veterans who have similar injuries and stories,” Major said.
Sports also helped him to have a more positive attitude about his injuries, he added.
During the Army Trials, Army athletes in wheelchairs, with prosthetic limbs, and some with injuries that weren’t apparent at first glance competed in a variety of events.
They came from more than a dozen installations and participated in track and field, cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, and seated volleyball.
Most had compelling stories, like Major, about how participating in sports got them out of a dark place and thrust them into a new chapter in their lives.
Lt. Col. Luis Fregoso was one of the organizers of the Army Trials with the Warrior Care and Transition Program in Arlington, Va. This Army organization oversees the most critical cases of wounded, injured, and ill soldiers and helps them transition back to active duty or to civilian life.
Sports can play a huge role in the healing process, said Fregoso, who is from Los Angeles.
“A lot of soldiers, when they have this life-changing event happen to them, they will get into a dark place,” Fregoso said. “The common theme is they just don’t feel their normal self and start spiraling into a bad area, especially in their mind.”
Sports help them to adapt to their “new normal” and can give them the confidence to tackle other areas in their lives, Fregoso added.
Retired Master Sgt. Shawn “Bubba” Vosburg still has the look of a soldier out on a mission. But he suffers from post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury, and a slew of other injuries up and down his body.
Competing in sports helps to “tie you back to the military,” said Vosburg, who is originally from Colorado Springs, Colo., but now calls El Paso home. He represented Fort Bliss during the recent competition.
“You do so much time in the military, and you lose that when you retire,” Vosburg said. “But (adaptive sports) introduces you to new people whom you consider friends and family, and that family is growing.”
Vosburg credits sports for saving his life and he wants to return the favor to his fellow veterans.
He is working on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Texas at El Paso and wants to help “bring more soldiers out of the dark, like I came out of,” he said.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein emphasized the essential role airmen have when it comes to space superiority during the 34th Space Symposium, April 17, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“Our space specialists must be world-class experts in their domain,” said Goldfein. “But, every airman, beyond the space specialty, must understand the business of space superiority. And, we must also have a working knowledge of ground maneuver and maritime operations if we are to integrate air, space and cyber operations in a truly seamless joint campaign.”
Space is in the Air Force’s DNA, said Goldfein. The service has been the leader of the space domain since 1954 and will remain passionate and unyielding as the service continues into the future, he added.
“Let there be no doubt, as the service responsible for 90 percent of the Department of Defense’s space architecture and the professional force with the sacred duty to defend it, we must and will embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today,” Goldfein said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)
Space enables everything the Joint Force does, and space capabilities are not only vital to success on the battlefield, but are also essential to the American way of life.
Goldfein also discussed the importance of working with allies and partner in space.
“As strong as we may be as airmen and joint warfighters, we are strongest when we fight together with our allies and partners,” said Goldfein. “Integrating with our allies and partners will improve the safety, stability and sustainability of space and will ultimately garner the international support that condemns any adversary’s harmful actions.”
The importance of space is highlighted in both the recently published National Security and National Defense strategies. In addition, the President’s Budget for Fiscal 2019 offers the largest budget for space since 2003.
(U.S. Air Force / United Launch Alliance)
Goldfein acknowledged that investing in technology is vital, but investing in the development and training of our joint warriors is equally important, he said.
“We must make investments in our people to strengthen and integrate their expertise,” said Goldfein. “We are building a Joint-smart space force and a space-smart Joint force. That begins with broad experience and deep expertise.”
Goldfein went on to underscore how space enables all operations, but it has become a contested domain. The Air Force must deter a conflict that could extend into space, and has an obligation to be prepared to fight and win if deterrence fails.
“We will remain the preeminent air and space force for America and her allies,” said Goldfein. “The future of military space operations remains in confident and competent hands with airmen. Always the predator, never the prey; we own the high ground.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Planet Labs commercial satellite managed to capture a rare photo this week of a Chinese submarine at what observers believe is the entrance of a secretive undersea cave at a strategically important naval base.
The important base sits at a strategic gateway to not only the contested South China Sea but also Taiwan and the Western Pacific.
Chinese submarine at the entrance of Yulin Naval Base. Planet Labs Inc.
China likes to hide some of its strategic assets underground. For instance, the “Underground Great Wall of China” is the name given to the network of tunnels China is believed to use to store intercontinental ballistic missiles.
While the vast, hardened underground tunnel system offers a potential second-strike capability in the event of nuclear war, Dean Cheng, an Asian studies expert at the Heritage Foundation, told Insider that “it is also a way of deceiving your adversary to make sure that they have no idea how many of anything you have.”
In the case of Yulin Naval Base, submarines are most vulnerable at dock, so hiding them in underground tunnels, as has been done in the past, offers a certain degree of protection from potential adversaries, such as US Navy forces patrolling nearby.
“The benefit of underground berthing is it prevents overhead sensors like visual or electronic intelligence satellites from tracking submarine deployments to cue other surveillance and tracking assets like US submarines, patrol aircraft, and surface combatants,” Bryan Clark, a former US Navy officer and defense expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider.
“These kinds of cues are important for US and allied intelligence gathering against adversary submarines, since they can be hard to find once they get to sea and submerge,” he added, explaining that Yulin’s location at the southern end of Hainan allows PLAN submarines to access deeper waters more quickly than other bases might permit.
“One thing to keep in mind is that the Chinese view information as a resource,” Cheng explained.
“They work very hard to make sure that all information is tightly controlled,” he said. “To their mind, it is always in their strategic interest to keep you guessing about where are my boats, how many boats do I have, and for you to be left wondering.”
“Imagine you’re playing football and all of a sudden, the other side puts 14 additional people out on the field,” he said. “Your entire playbook just went out the window.
“That’s how the Chinese view information more broadly,” Cheng said. “If I can hide things from you, when I suddenly reveal new capabilities, new numbers, you’re going to have to chuck your entire playbook that you’ve been training to, that you’ve been resourcing to, that you’ve been typically oriented toward, out the window.”
The tunnels at Yulin also make it difficult for an adversary to observe Chinese military preparations and intentions, Carl Schuster, former director of operations at US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, told CNN.
“You have no evidence of (the submarine’s) combat readiness, operational response times and availability,” he said. “Tunnels blind potential opponents to the submarines’ operating status and patterns, denying them the ability to determine the state of China’s military preparations, knowledge critical to assessing China’s intentions and plans.”
Yulin Naval Base has been operational for decades and houses nuclear-powered fast attack and ballistic-missile submarines, among other assets.
The Pentagon expects the submarine force to continue to grow, and China watchers say Chinese subs are becoming increasingly capable as the country modernizes its force, making it more of a threat to rivals.
The photo from Planet Labs appears to show a Shang-class submarine, one of China’s newer nuclear submarines. While the boats are considered “substantially noisier” than US Los Angeles and Virginia-class submarines, “the Shangs have vertical-launch tubes for YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles and could be a threat to US naval forces or logistics ships operating in the open ocean,” Clark said.
China is believed to have six of these submarines, some of which are based at Yulin.
The US envoy to NATO said Oct. 2, 2018, that it might take counter-measures against Russian nuclear-capable missiles with military force if they don’t stop building the new weapons accused of violating a 1987 treaty.
US ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said she thought the US and Russia could find a diplomatic solution to the perceived treaty violation, but would use force if necessary.
“At that point, we would be looking at the capability to take out a (Russian) missile that could hit any of our countries,” Hutchinson told a news conference. She later said on Twitter that US efforts were focused on counter-measures and not “preempitvely striking Russia.”
The Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty of 1987 sought to stop an arms race in Europe after Moscow in the early 1980s placed nuclear missiles capable of striking European capitals from its home turf.
The US responded with a variety of its own comparable nuclear forces deployed to Europe during the height of the Cold War. The treaty was hailed as a success in arms control circles as having eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons and largely denuclearizing Europe.
“Counter measures (by the US) would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty,” she added. “They are on notice.”
Striking Russian missile facilities in Russia could very likely trigger war and would require a massive US military effort. Hutchinson may have been referring to “counter measures” in terms of missile defenses or the proposed development of new US weapons that would target Russia’s treaty-violating missiles.
“We have been trying to send a message to Russia for several years that we know they are violating the treaty, we have shown Russia the evidence that we have that they are violating the treaty,” Hutchison said.
“We are laying down the markers so that our allies will help us bring Russia to the table,” she added.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In 2014 the ride service Uber launched “Uber Military,” a veteran hiring initiative designed to get transitioning service members interested in becoming a “partner,” as the company calls its drivers. Since that time Uber has signed up more than 50,000 veterans as drivers.
As a result of the milestone, Uber just announced that they are donating $1 million dollars to a host of veteran charities including the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and Homes for our Troops.
“Over the past 18 months, we’ve crisscrossed the country to hear the stories of servicemembers and veterans,” Uber’s Emil Michael wrote in a company blog post. “Everywhere we go, they tell us that they want opportunities to make money on their own terms and set their own schedules. We’re thrilled to be able to give more servicemembers and veterans the on-demand work opportunities they’ve been asking for.”
The charities were picked by the Uber Military Advisory Board, an impressive collection of veterans that includes former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former ISAF commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and former Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen (who’s also on WATM’s Board of Directors).
There are other elements to the Uber Military initiative beyond a big donation to military charities. Uber has incentivized drivers to begin or end a ride on military installations by paying higher rates for those trips. The company has also partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to create awareness about the perils of driving while intoxicated, particularly in military communities that tend to be spread out and require the use of cars to get around.
The Uber Military promotional campaigns are currently centered around the big military populations in California, Texas, and Florida, but the company wants to encourage veterans nationwide to sign up to be drivers.
Kia Hamel is a Navy vet as well as a Navy spouse. Her husband is stationed in Hampton Roads as the executive officer of an amphibious ship, and she has remained in the DC Metro region to keep working as a paralegal while she pursues her master’s degree. Kia has a 4th-grader at home and a son nearby who’s attending college. She first heard about Uber through an email from a third-party employment company, and almost on a whim she clicked on the company’s site link.
“The first thing I noticed was that the drivers didn’t fit the classic cabbie profile,” Hamel says. “I filled out the forms and two weeks later I downloaded the partner app and I was an Uber driver.”
Before Hamel got her part-time job with the law firm, she was driving more than 40 hours a week. “You can make a living wage,” she says. Now she drives when her schedule allows — in the morning during rush hour or on weekends. “For me it’s all about the flexibility.”
Todd Bowers, Marine veteran and Uber’s director of military outreach, points out that Uber’s military vet drivers have driven in 175 cities in all 50 states and that their combined trip distance to date adds up to 78,309,082 miles.
As Bowers travels around the country trying to create awareness in military communities and with veterans everywhere, he’s always amazed at the wide range of profiles of those driving with Uber. “I went to an MBA program a couple of days ago and asked if any of them had driven for Uber, and five officers in the classroom raised their hands,” Bowers says.
“We understand our utility in the veteran employment timeline,” Bowers says. “We’re probably not anyone’s ‘forever’ job, but we’re a great way for vets to earn income when they’re in transition or in need of a part-time job that has max flexibility.”
Here’s some more at-a-glance data:
If you’re a military veteran or active duty servicemember who wants to know more about how to get started as an Uber driver go here.
Retired Staff Sgt. David Jonathan Thatcher, one of two last surviving members of WWII’s Doolittle Raiders, passed away in Missoula, Montana from complications of a stroke on June 22, 2016. He was 94.
On April 18, 1942, Thatcher was involved in the Doolittle Raid – United States’ first retaliation to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier. The raid involved 16 B-25 Mitchell Medium bombers, 2 aircraft carriers, 4 cruisers, 8 destroyers…and 80 brave souls – all of which had volunteered and trained for the “extremely hazardous” secret mission under the command of the famous Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle.
Thatcher’s aircraft, nicknamed the “Ruptured Duck”, was seventh to launch (is that ok to say because I say ‘take off’ in the next sentence) and was piloted by Ted W. Lawson. The goal for all 16 bombers was to take off from the USS Hornet and bomb military targets in Japan. It was not possible to land back on the Hornet, so the plan was to continue west for a landing in China.
The mission ended up launching 170 miles further out than anticipated, and all of the aircraft ran out of fuel before reaching the areas in China that were not occupied by the Japanese. As was the fate of two other bombers, Thatcher and his crew were forced to ditch their plane at sea. Lawson, the Ruptured Duck’s pilot and his co-pilot were both tossed from the B-25. Miraculously, all 5 crew members survived with serious injuries, with the exception of Thatcher. After regaining consciousness, he was able to walk and helped the others survive.
Doolittle would later tell Thatcher’s parents “… all the plane’s crew were saved from either capture or death as a result of his initiative and courage in assuming responsibility and in tending the wounded himself, day and night.”
Thatcher was one of three awarded the Silver Star for acts of valor during the Doolittle Raid.
“Beyond the limits of human exertion, beyond the call of friendship, beyond the call of duty, he – a corporal – brought his four wounded officers to safety,” Merian C. Cooper, a logistics officer for the Doolittle Raid, wrote of Thatcher after debriefing the Raiders who survived.
In a 2015 interview with the Associated Press, Thatcher said: “We figured it was just another bombing mission,” only later did he realize that “it was an important event in World War II.”
“The Doolittle Raid was a pivotal point in the war and ‘very necessary,’ said Thatcher’s son-in-law, Jeff Miller in an interview with local paper, Missoulian. “But nobody talks about the rest of the story. These guys weren’t put on the sidelines. Too often, the story stops at the Doolittle Raiders.”
Thatcher went on to train in Tampa, Florida on B-26 bombers, and was “one of 12,000 troops to ship out of New York Harbor on the Queen Mary, which zigzagged its way across the North Atlantic to avoid detection by German U-boats. In the next several months, Thatcher flew 26 bombing missions over North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Italy. He participated in the first bombing of Rome in July 1943.”
After retiring from the military, Thatcher worked for the USPS as a Postal Clerk. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, three of their five children and seven grandchildren.
The remaining Doolittle Raider is 101-year-old retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole – Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot.
Throughout history, Native American warriors have given a wide mix of motives for joining the U.S. military. Those include patriotism, pride, rage, courage, practicality, and spirituality, all mingling with an abiding respect for tribal, familial, and national traditions.
This Veterans Day, explore the complicated ways the Native American culture and traditions have affected their participation in the United States military when The Warrior Tradition airs at 9 pm ET on PBS. The one-hour documentary, co-produced by WNED-TV and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc., tells the stories of Native American warriors from their own points of view – stories of service and pain, of courage and fear.
Armed forces across the planet and throughout history have used leaflets for any number of reasons, from psychological operations to warning civilians about an upcoming attack. For most of this time, this kind of messaging has come in the form of slips of paper dropped in enemy territory from the air for the widest possible dissemination.
But times are changing, and the technology of psychological operations, along with the way humans can communicate to mass audiences are changing with it. These days, the kinds of propaganda we use can be sent between audiences who aren’t even technically at war with each other.
One side of this communication may not even know they’re using propaganda. That’s where a new study from the University of Maryland says internet memes are being used as a psychological Trojan horse. Author Joshua Troy Nieubuurt says the meme is the latest in the evolution of leaflet propaganda. It’s easy to get a message across, easy to spread that message and plays into existing biases.
Memes are an easy way to share an idea, a fast way to convey a message and, in some cases, a way for the idea to propagate itself and spread in a viral way, whether the idea or message has any real basis in reality.
They are also readily accepted by those with existing cognitive biases. Humans embrace information that already confirms their view of the world, a phenomenon known as confirmation bias. When someone sees a meme with a message that shares their views, they are more apt to share it.
People are also more likely to accept ideas shared by official sources and famous people, a phenomenon known as popularity bias. In general terms, everyone wants to be associated with a popular idea, and internet memes are no different.
Nieubuurt argues that internet memes and their easy shareability are an ideal tool for disseminating ideas to a wide audience across various social media platforms. Since they can be created, used, disseminated and remixed by anyone with internet access, state actors will naturally have an interest in using memes as part of any psy-op plan.
But perhaps the best reason for using memes as a tool of propaganda is the relative anonymity of its creator. The more viral a meme gets, the further and further away it gets from its origin. So whether or not the information in the meme is true or if its source lacks credibility, it soon becomes so far removed from the creator, that the sources become almost irrelevant.
In these ways, memes can be used to create and reinforce the legitimacy of certain ideas or policies to the benefit or detriment of political or geopolitical friends and enemies. Whether it aids a political candidate or undermines the government’s coronavirus response, there is always an intended goal in mind for any psychological operations campaign. Memes are just a cheap, easy way to reach those goals.
So the next time you’re considering sharing that viral meme, consider that you might be aiding a foreign intelligence service – and wonder what their goal could be.
Iran has been negotiating a 25-year accord with China “with confidence and conviction,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told parliament on July 5, saying its terms will be announced once the deal is struck.
Zarif insisted there was nothing secret about the prospective deal, which he said was raised publicly in January 2016 when President Xi Jinping visited Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also has publicly supported a strategic bilateral partnership with China.
China is Iran’s top trading partner and a key market for Iranian crude oil exports, which have been severely curtailed by U.S. sanctions.
Zarif made the comments in his first address to parliament since a new session began in late May after elections that were dominated by hard-liners.
During the session, Zarif was heckled by lawmakers largely over his key role in negotiating a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the U.S. unilaterally abandoned in 2018 before reimposing sanctions.
U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal saying it was not decisive enough in ensuring Iran would never be able to develop a nuclear weapon.
Trump wants Tehran to negotiate a new accord that would place indefinite curbs on its nuclear program and restrict Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
Iran has gradually rolled back its commitments under the accord since the United States withdrew.
The 2015 deal provided the Islamic republic relief from international sanctions in return for limits on its nuclear program, but Iranian hard-liners staunchly opposed the multilateral agreement, arguing the United States could never be trusted.