Afghan president admits 'horrific' losses, but says Taliban is losing - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

The latest reports on the war in Afghanistan seem to contradict the government assurances that victory is within reach, painting a picture of a bloody conflict with no end in sight.

In November 2018, 242 Afghan security force members were killed in brutal engagements with Taliban insurgents, The New York Times reported Nov. 15, 2018. Militants almost wiped out an elite company of Afghan special forces in an area considered the country’s “safest district,” and officials told Voice of America Nov. 15, 2018, that more than 40 government troops were recently killed in Taliban attacks near the border.


Over the past three years, more than 28,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani revealed in a rare admission.

“Since 2015, still much regrettable, but the entire loss of American forces in Afghanistan is 58 Americans. In the same period, 28,529 of our security forces have lost their lives,” the president said, according to the Times. For Afghanistan, this figure works out to roughly 25 police officers and soldiers dying each day.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Are the losses horrific? Yes,” he added, saying that this does not mean the Taliban are winning.

But there are real questions about whether the scale of these losses is sustainable.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis highlighted just how devastating the war has been for the Afghan security forces in an October 2018 speech. “The Afghan lads are doing the fighting, just look at the casualties,” he explained. “Over 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September.”

The Afghan government controls or influences only 55.5 percent of the country, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) introduced in its most recent quarterly report to Congress, noting that this is the lowest level of control in three years. In November 2015, the government controlled or influenced 72 percent of the country.

Hamid Karzai, former Afghan president, told the Associated Press that the blame for these losses rests on the shoulders of the US.

“The United States either changed course or simply neglected the views of the Afghan people,” Karzai told the AP. His views reflect what has been reported as a growing aversion for the NATO mission.

Signs that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating come as the US and its coalition partners ramp up their air campaign against Taliban forces. Coalition bombing in Afghanistan is at a 5-year high, according to the latest airpower report from US Air Forces Central Command, and the year isn’t out.

US Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan who narrowly escaped an assassination that left two senior Afghan officials dead and a US general wounded, recently told NBC that the war in Afghanistan “is not going to be won militarily. He added that the “the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily,” a view that may not be shared by Taliban commanders.

Caitlin Foster contributed to this report.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gunmen assault Afghan spy facility in Kabul

Gunmen have launched an attack on an Afghan intelligence training center in Kabul, officials say.

Police officer Abdul Rahman said on Aug. 16, 2018, that the attackers were holed up in a building near the compound overseen by the National Security Directorate in a western neighborhood of the Afghan capital.

He said the gunmen were shooting at the facility and it wasn’t immediately clear how many gunmen were involved in the assault.


Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said the attackers were firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi later said three or four attackers took part in the assault and two of them were killed.

He said Afghan forces had cleared the building from the basement all to the fourth floor and were battling gunmen on the fifth floor during the early evening.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

A rocket-propelled grenade (on the left) and RPG-7 launcher. For use, the thinner cylinder part of the rocket-propelled grenade is inserted into the muzzle of the launcher.

There was no immediate word on the number of casualties among civilians and security forces nor any immediate claim of responsibility, which comes a day after a suicide bombing in a Shi’ite area of Kabul killed 34 people and wounded 56 others.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group on Aug. 16, 2018, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Afghanistan’s Western-backed government has been struggling to fend off the Taliban, the Islamic State, and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

A team of six Air Force men and women bested the Army and Navy to capture the first-ever Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Final Battle held at Retama Park on the outskirts of San Antonio Nov. 17, 2018.

Capt. Mark Bishop of Air Mobility Command, Capt. Noah Palicia of Pacific Air Forces, Capt. Jennifer Wendland of Air Force Global Strike Command, 1st Lt. Stephanie Frye of PACAF, 1st Lt. John Novotny of AMC, and Senior Airman Stephanie Williams of U.S. Air Forces in Europe completed the course in 2:17:33 to win the championship, a 110-lb trophy and armed forces bragging rights for the next year.

Fashioned after the popular American Ninja Warrior TV competitions, Alpha Warrior tested the competitors’ strength, coordination and endurance through more than 20 obstacles.


The two-day event featured Air Force finals on Nov. 16, 2018, and the inter-service finals the next day. Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and the Air Force Services Activity hosted the event.

In kicking off the finals Nov. 17, 2018, Maj. Gen. Brad Spacy, AFIMSC commander, talked about how teammates would pull each other through.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Capt. Mark Bishop nears the end of the bridge obstacle of the proving rig during the first Inter-service Alpha Warrior Final Battle Nov. 17, 2018, Retama Park, Selma, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Debbie Aragon)

“These young soldiers, sailors, and airmen are going to push through this course and they’re going to get to a point somewhere where they think they can’t make it, and they’re going to get through it and their teammates are going to get them through it. In the end, someone will be the winner, but they’re all going to win together,” he said.

It wasn’t too surprising the previous day’s Air Force Final Battle first place male and female athletes, Palicia from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and Williams from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom, came out on top again in the individual category. Palicia finished with the overall fastest time at 16:57.9. Williams finished at 24:03.2.

“The competition was really tough but I’m really pumped that the Air Force is able to do this,” Palicia said. “It feels incredible to be part of the first inter-service battle.”

He said the team walkthroughs and understanding proper technique really helped them complete the obstacles.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Bareng, who is no stranger to fitness programs, said the atmosphere motivated him.

“I wasn’t only getting motivated by my teammates but actually had Air Force and Army guys rooting me on,” he said. “It’s been one team-one fight mentality this whole time and it’s been inspiring to be alongside our sister services.”

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Senior Airman Stephanie Williams, women’s category winner, tackles the rings obstacle of the proving rig during the first Inter-service Alpha Warrior Final Battle Nov. 17, 2018, Retama Park, Selma, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Debbie Aragon)

The finals provided an opportunity for friendly competition while building camaraderie and esprit de corps among the competitors, said Army Sgt. Cameron Edwards.

“The event was challenging,” Edwards said. “It was the first event that I’ve been around Navy and Air Force together. It was a very unique time together. We competed not only against — but with — each other through the end.”

The program expanded from an Air Force-only event in 2017 to include Army and Navy competitors in its second season.

“This event has been a year in the making,” said Col. Donna Turner, AFSVA commander. “Airmen had to compete at the installation-level and regionals where the top two male and females were selected to compete in the Air Force Final Battle. The top six male and females moved on to our first inter-service battle.

“We have a phenomenal partnership with Alpha Warrior, to be able to bring this type of training and tactical fitness to our armed forces,” she said.

“This is the new way to train. This is functional fitness put into a complex environment where airmen have to think, as well as be fit and strong. We call it the revolution in fitness and this is the way of the future,” Spacy said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This carbine was the predecessor to the AK-47

The AK-47 assault rifle is one of the most classic firearms of all time. It has seen combat all across the world — in the both the hands of national armies and various non-governmental entities, like terrorist groups, insurgencies, and drug cartels. But did you know there was a predecessor to the AK-47?


That rifle is the SKS, which, arguably, is responsible for popularizing the 7.62x39mm cartridge used in the AK-47. Officially, it was known as the SKS-45. This rifle, in some senses, is fairly similar to the M1 Garand. It’s semi-automatic (meaning it fires one shot each time the trigger is pulled) and has an internal magazine (albeit one loaded with stripper clips instead of the en bloc clip used by the M1). The SKS holds ten rounds of ammunition.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Communist China made over eight million SKS rifles, including those held by these sailors with the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Seeing action from World War II to the War on Terror

Some of the SKS prototypes saw action against Nazi Germany in World War II, but the rifle didn’t have a long service career with the Soviet Union. The AK-47’s introduction quickly shifted the stock of SKS rifles into the hands reserve units or allies. Other Soviet-friendly nations, including Communist China, produced it under license. The Chinese made at least eight million of these rifles.

In China, their version of the SKS, the Type 56 carbine, served for a long time alongside their version of the AK-47, called the Type 56 assault rifle. After the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese conflict, both of these weapons were replaced by the Type 81 assault rifle. Despite that, Russian and Chinese SKS rifles continue to see action across the world — the rifles are prominently mentioned in a 2003 report about guerrilla warfare in East Timor and have been spotted in the eastern portion of Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels are fighting the central government.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Many SKS rifles were passed on to Soviet allies during the Cold War.

(DOD photo by CMSgt Don Sutherland)

Because the rifle is not capable of fully-automatic fire, the SKS has been imported into the United States for the civilian market, where it has gained a lot of popularity. The SKS may have first seen action over 70 years ago, but it will likely see use, in one capacity or another, for decades to come.

Articles

This is how Marines pay their respects to our veterans in hospice

It’s been six years since 1st Lt. Kimberly Colby, a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, made her first visit to a dying veteran as part of the Honor Salute program.


It still sticks out in her mind.

He was a Marine infantryman during Vietnam and had earned the Purple Heart while overseas. He was dying of colon cancer.

During the visit, she and a fellow comrade, both in their service blues, saluted the Marine and thanked him for his service.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
USAF photo by Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson

“He was stoic throughout the ceremony despite being in immense pain,” Colby said.

When she was about to leave he said, “You know what? That’s the first time I have ever been thanked for my service.”

At the time, Colby was a cadet (midshipman) in the Naval Academy and was one of the first volunteers to sign up as a project leader with Honor Salute, then known as Final Salute. The program began in 2010 at Hospice of the Chesapeake in Pasadena, Md., for young military members at the beginning of their careers to pay tribute to veterans at the end of their lives.

“The program struck a chord with me,” said Colby, whose father and grandfather were in the military. Her grandfather was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and her father served in the Marine Corps during the post-Vietnam era.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Patrick J. DeGeorge, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs

Now after being stationed at Camp Pendleton, Colby has become instrumental in honoring San Diego-area veterans as a volunteer with the Escondido-based Elizabeth Hospice and the Carlsbad-based Hospice of the North Coast.

Colby has visited veterans at their homes and in senior living communities across the county and has spearheaded efforts to recruit fellow Marines as volunteers at the nonprofit hospices.

The hospices conduct pinning ceremonies throughout the year to recognize aging veterans and thank them for their military service. Ceremonies are held in dining halls of area senior living communities and at bedside for hospice patients. The ceremony includes a “Final Salute” where an active-duty service member salutes the veteran.

Since 2012, The Elizabeth Hospice has recognized more than 2,300 veterans.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nolan Kahn

Colby and the other Marines from Camp Pendleton who participate in the ceremonies spend time talking with the veterans. Some patients are able to share stories and some put on their old uniforms for the occasion, while others depend on family members to share the memories.

“It is especially meaningful for those who were never welcomed home or thanked for their service,” said the hospice’s veterans specialist Lisa Marcolongo, whose husband served in the Marine Corps.

“Kimberly’s smile lights up a room as she shakes the hand of a veteran,” Marcolongo said.

For Colby, the best part are the stories and instant camaraderie that can be built. The hardest part is saying goodbye to the veteran and his family and friends.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

“Honoring veterans is something I consider a sacred obligation for those of us who wear the cloth of our nation,” Colby said.

Colby’s advice for current service members: “Go out of your way to honor veterans. It is within our lifetime that we will lose all WWII and Korean War veterans. Their stories and sacrifices should be honored.”

The Elizabeth Hospice is looking for veterans and active-duty service members to participate in its veteran pinning ceremonies.

For information on The Elizabeth Hospice, visit elizabethhospice.org and on Hospice of the North Coast, visit hospicenorthcoast.org

Articles

The vulnerability of US Navy ships to computer hacking is scarier than you’d think

The collision of guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain with a tanker near Singapore was the fourth accident involving ships from the US Navy’s 7th fleet in less than a year.


Two of the incidents — collisions involving the USS McCain and the USS Fitzgerald earlier this summer — have left a total of 17 sailors dead or missing, more than the 11 service members killed in Afghanistan so far this year.

After the McCain collision, the Navy relieved the commander of the 7th fleet “due to loss of confidence in his ability to command,” according to the Navy.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
Honoring the seven Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald who were killed in a collision at sea. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Raymond D. Diaz III

The service also planned a temporary halt of operations around the world and to launch a fleet-wide review in search of systemic issues that could have contributed to the most recent incidents.

The Navy is known for its thorough and unsparing reviews, which have been undertaken in the aftermath of each incident, and analysts are already pointing to internal issues, as well as high operational tempos in heavily trafficked waterways, that could be related to the mishaps.

But the number of accidents involving warships in the western Pacific — during “the most basic of operations” — has stirred concern that outside factors are affecting the ships and their crews.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
Commanding officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) oversees operations from the bridge wing of the ship. Navy photo by Patrick I Crimmins.

“There’s something more than just human error going on because there would have been a lot of humans to be checks and balances” when transiting the Strait of Malacca, the narrow, heavily trafficked waterway the McCain was approaching, Jeff Stutzman, a former Navy information warfare specialist, told McClatchy.

“I don’t have proof, but you have to wonder if there were electronic issues,” said Stutzman, who is now chief intelligence officer for cyber-intelligence service Wapack Labs.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, tweeted on August 21 that there were “no indications right now” of “cyber intrusion or sabotage.” But, he added, the “review will consider all possibilities.”

 

The admiral said the McCain’s collision with the tanker was the second “extremely serious incident” since the Fitzgerald’s collision with a Philippine cargo ship off the coast of Japan in mid-June. The nature of the incidents and the narrow window in which they occurred “gives great cause for concern that there is something out there that we’re not getting at.”

Experts have downplayed the likelihood of such attacks on US warships, noting that infiltrating Navy guidance systems would be very hard to do and instead citing human negligence or error as likely causes. Others have dismissed the likelihood of state-directed attacks on ships at sea, noting that such efforts would be a misuse of resources, strategically unwise, and generally harmful to maritime conduct.

But recent high-profile cyberattacks around the world have brought new attention to the security of maritime navigation, which is highly reliant on computer networks.

The US Navy uses encrypted navigation systems that would be difficult to hack or deceive, and there’s no sign satellite communications were at fault in the McCain’s collision. But there is technology out there to misdirect GPS navigation — typically through a process known as “spoofing” that leaves the system thinking it is somewhere it’s not.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock after sustaining significant damage. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Leonard Adams.

The software and electronic gear needed to spoof a GPS system has become easier to get in recent years, particularly for private or nonstate actors.

In 2013, a team of graduate students led by Todd Humphreys, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and satellite-navigation expert, were able to spoof the GPS on an $80 million yacht, directing it hundreds of yards off course without the system detecting the change.

In late June, GPS signals for about 20 ships in the eastern Black Sea were manipulated, with navigation equipment on the ships, though seeming to be functioning correctly, saying the ships were located 20 miles inland. An attack on thousands of computers later that month also disrupted shipping around the world.

Global commercial shipping is more vulnerable to such attacks and cargo ships are more exposed — the number of them plying the high seas has quadrupled over the past 25 years. And causing a collision by hacking or hijacking a commercial vessel’s GPS is seen as increasingly possible.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
The crowded seas of the Strait of Malacca. Photo from Safety4Sea.com

Most commercial and passenger ships use the Automatic Identification System, or AIS, to locate other ships and avoid collisions. But the AIS has weaknesses, and hackers could in theory send out a signal claiming to be a phantom ship, affecting navigation decisions by other ships in the area.

Dana Goward, former chief of Marine Transportation Systems for the US Coast Guard, said hackers could go after the unsecured navigation system on a commercial or private ship while simultaneously jamming a Navy ship’s guidance systems. Or they could misdirect the commercial ship’s guidance system, sending the ship off-course.

In the aftermath of the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions, the demands facing the US Navy, and the Pacific fleet in particular, have gotten renewed focus. Greater operational demands on fewer ships have cut into time for rest as well as time dedicated to training (and the nature of that training has changed as well).

In light of such demands, experience suggests that in high-traffic areas mistakes by humans manning the ships remained a likely culprit, said Goward, a former Coast Guard captain. “It’s a difficult environment to be in and human error is always present,” he told USA Today.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an entire Italian regiment surrendered to one pilot

When Royal Air Force pilot Sydney Cohen crash landed on the Italian-controlled island of Lampedusa in 1943, he thought he would be in for the fight of his life. Lampedusa was the home of more than 4,000 Italian troops in garrison, and all Cohen had was his service weapon to fight them.

Instead, he was in for the surprise of his life, and was crowned King of Lampedusa shortly after.


Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

A biplane similar to the one flown by Syd Cohen.

Cohen was supposed to be headed back to his home base on Malta in a Swordfish biplane but never quite made it. The pilot was flying with his two-man crew, Sgt. Peter Tait, the navigator, and Sgt. Les Wright, the wireless operator and gunner, on a search and rescue mission over the Mediterranean Sea. Their instruments failed mid-flight and they got turned around, only to run out of fuel before realizing the island below was not Malta.

The plane had a “fit of gremlins,” as Cohen later described it. The only place he could land was on the Axis-held island of Lampedusa.

Luckily for the RAF pilot, there were no Nazis on Lampedusa, only Italians. The island had a big runway and the crew saw no option but to go in and land on it, consequence be damned. They could never reach Malta in their condition and it was better than crashing into the ocean. They also didn’t know that the Allies ran heavy bombing missions on the island. So when he crash landed on the island, it made for incredible headlines back in London. Not because of a terrific battle – it was the mass surrender of 4,300 Italians.

“As we came down on a ropey landing ground we saw a burnt hangar and burnt aircraft around us,” Cohen said. “A crowd of Italians came out to meet us and we put our hands up to surrender but then we saw they were all waving white sheets shouting, `No, no. We surrender.’ The whole island was surrendering to us.”

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

It’s good to be the king.

Cohen got bold and asked to see the island’s commandant. As they moved toward the commandant’s villa, another Allied air raid began. The RAF pilot began to surmise the Italians were sick of getting bombed and really were ready to surrender.

“They asked me to return to Malta and inform the authorities of their offer to surrender,” he said. “They gave me a scrap of paper with a signature on it.”

So Cohen refueled and took off for the Allied base in Tunis to give the RAF the news. Upon hearing it, the RAF, the newspapers, London society, and even the British Jewish population raved about the new “King of Lampedusa.”

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

The play “The King of Lampedusa” performed in London’s East End.

Cohen’s story was immediately picked up and turned into a play and a musical. Hollywood even wanted to make a movie of the event as soon as possible. News of the debacle even reached the ears of Nazi propagandists in Berlin, who threatened to give the Jews in London’s East End “a visit from the Luftwaffe.”

The real life of Sydney Cohen doesn’t have a happy ending, no matter how the play, musical, and/or feature film turned out. Cohen disappeared while flying a mission near the Straits of Dover in August 1946. Neither his body nor the wreckage of his plane were ever located and no one knows exactly what happened to him.

Articles

This is what a Mk 38 Bushmaster can do to an Iranian speedboat

You’ve probably followed the reports of how Iranian speedboats have harassed U.S. Navy vessels. Frustrating, aren’t they? Well, think about it this way… we’ve been “showing restraint.”


The thing is, those speedboats are not really Iranian Navy. Instead, they belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. These speedboats, which are often equipped with heavy machine guns, rockets, and other weapons, got a reputation for attacking merchant traffic in the Iran-Iraq War. Back then, they were called “Boghammars” after the Swedish company that built the first boats used by the Iranians.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Today, their primary threat to an American warship could be as a suicide craft. That said, American ships have options to address these craft. Two of the most prominent are the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster and the M2 heavy machine gun. The M2 is a legend. It’s been used on everything from tanks to aircraft to ships, and against just about every target you can imagine.

Now, the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster is not as well-known. That said, it’s been in quite common use. It got its start on the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, where the Army calls it the M242.

It needs a lot of luck to kill a tank, but it can bust up other infantry fighting vehicles, trucks, groups of infantry, even helicopters and aircraft. The Bushmaster made its way to the Marine Corps LAV-25.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
A Task Force Liberty Soldier from 3rd Infantry Division stands guard in an M3A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle near an Iraqi police checkpoint in Tikrit, Iraq. The Bradley main armament is the M242 25mm (Bushmaster) Chain Gun. The standard rate of fire is 200 rounds per minute, and has a range of 2,000 meters making it capable of defeating the majority of armored including some main battle tanks. (DOD photo)

The Navy put the Bushmaster on ships, and it comprises the main armament of the Cyclone-class patrol craft. Each Cyclone has two of these guns, one of which is paired with a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. The guns are also used on other surface combatants as well. The guns can do a lot of damage.

You can see the Mk 38 and the M2 go to work on a speedboat in the video below. One almost an imagine that the Iranian speedboat crews may be asking themselves the question that Harry Callahan told a bank robber to ask himself: “Do I feel lucky?”

Well, do they?

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II’s most decorated woman was a housewife-turned-spy

French-born Odette Sansom was a sickly child. She wrestled with a slew of childhood illnesses, including a bout with polio that left her blind for three years. The adversity she overcame as a youth was good preparation for what she would do as an adult: joining the British “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.”


Sansom’s accomplishments in World War II earned her the Order of the British Empire, a knighthood of the French Légion d’Honneur, and she was the first woman to be awarded the George Cross for “acts of the greatest heroism.” Her life foreshadowed the fortitude she would require as she was tortured by the Gestapo, to whom she would never give any information.

Her exploits are detailed in an exciting new book by Larry Loftis, Code Name: Lise: The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy. Loftis’ detail of Sansom’s life reads like a spy thriller but with the research of a nonfiction narrative, covering one of the best stories of clandestine heroism during the Second World War.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Sansom after the war.

(Imperial War Museum)

Sansom’s wartime story begins in 1941, as the British Admiralty was looking for native-born recruits they could send to Nazi-occupied France. Odette Sansom was a French-born woman who initially responded to the office’s request for photos of the French coastline — except she accidentally sent her photos to the War Office instead of the Admiralty. Soon, the Special Operations Executive, the department responsible for infiltrating Hitler’s Fortress Europe, would recruit her for much, much more.

After less than a year of training, Sansom found herself on a boat headed to France, landing near Cassis in 1942. She was picked up by a spy ring run out of Cannes, where she would work as a radio operator for her group leader, Peter Churchill, relaying secret information back to London. This was always a very dangerous task as the Gestapo were always looking for outgoing radio signals.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Sansom and Churchill.

(Imperial War Museum)

For more than a year, Lise, Sansom’s code name, kept one step ahead of the Gestapo. Along with her radio work, she acted as a courier for all of Southern France, sending messages between resistance cells and SOE operatives. Her skill and professionalism kept her alive, but accidents happen to even the best of operatives, and for Lise, it would be her undoing.

An agent riding a train fell asleep while carrying a list of 200 SOE agents operating in France in 1943. Eventually, that list fell into the hands of Nazi counterintelligence agents. A German double agent calling himself “Colonel Henri” infiltrated the group and betrayed them all. Colonel Henri was really Hugo Bleicher, the notorious Nazi spy hunter.

Sansom and Churchill were arrested and sent to Frenses Prison near Paris. The two were tortured and sentenced to death – a sentence that would never be carried out. While Churchill had no relations with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, his famous name saved both their lives.

Ravensbu

Sansom told the Nazis that Churchill was related to the Prime Minister and that she was the younger Churchill’s wife – and that she was also his boss, and not the other way around. This served the dual purpose of keeping the pressure off of Churchill, even though the Nazis only tortured Sansom even more, while keeping the two alive.

But while Sansom and Churchill survived the torture and execution orders, they spent much of the rest of the war in solitary confinement and suffering cruel, brutal treatment at the hands of her SS captors in the Ravensbrück concentration camp until it was liberated by the Red Army in 1945. But Sansom wasn’t liberated by the Russians. The camp commander drove her to an American position and surrendered himself to the U.S., with a “Churchill” as a bargaining chip.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Ravensbrück was a primary camp for women and political prisoners.

Though she physically came out of the war an emaciated shadow of her former self, the treatment left her with no ill will towards anyone. She would testify against the Nazis who imprisoned and tortured her during the Nuremberg Trials, but her main activities after the war involved helping ease the suffering of those affected by the war.

“How strong the reserves upon which you draw you never realize until you need them, but believe me they do not fail you,” she once said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force working on better nuclear missiles

The US Air Force is taking specific steps to expedite a measured, steady developmental plan for its new, next-generation Intercontinental Ballistic Missile in order to align with the more aggressive US nuclear weapons strategy outlined in the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review.

The service is already making initial technological progress on design work and “systems engineering” for a new arsenal of ICBMs to serve well into the 2070s — called Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD).

The most recent Nuclear Posture Review, released in 2018, calls for an increase in nuclear weapons applications as part of a broader deterrence strategy. The NPR calls for new low-yield, nuclear armed submarine launched ballistic missiles, among other things.


“We are taking the NPR of 2010 and turning it on its head….it included no new mission. This new NPR changes that context and calls for deploying more weapons. Let’s get things done, execute on time,” Gen. Timothy Ray, Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, told reporters at the Air Force Association Convention.

The Air Force plans to fire off new prototype ICBMs in the early 2020s as part of a long-range plan to engineer and deploy next-generation nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles by the late 2020s – by building weapons with improved range, durability, targeting technology, and overall lethality, service officials said

“The sum total of what we are doing is a very significant broad enterprise, which reflects the renewed interest,” Ray said.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

(Northrop Grumman photo)

Northrop Grumman and Boeing teams were awarded Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction deals from the Air Force in 2017 as part of a longer-term developmental trajectory aimed at developing, testing, firing, and ultimately deploying new ICBMs.

Following an initial 3-year developmental phase, the Air Force plans an Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase and eventual deployment of the new weapons.

The Air Force plans to award the single EMD contract in late fiscal year 2020.

Overall, the Air Force plans to build as many as 400 new GBSD weapons to modernize the arsenal and replace the 1970s-era Boeing-built Minuteman IIIs.

The new weapons will be engineered with improved guidance technology, boosters, flight systems, and command and control systems, compared to the existing Minuteman III missiles. The weapon will also have upgraded circuitry and be built with a mind to long-term maintenance and sustainability, developers said.

“What is new and different is that we are thinking about all the needed support and sustainment,” Ray said.

Initial subsystem prototypes are included within the scope of the current Boeing and Northrop deals, service developers said.

Senior nuclear weapons developers have told Warrior that upgraded guidance packages, durability, and new targeting technology are all among areas of current developmental emphasis for the GBSD.

The new ICBMs will be deployed roughly within the same geographical expanse in which the current weapons are stationed. In total, dispersed areas across three different sites span 33,600 miles, including missiles in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Minot, North Dakota, and Great Falls, Montana.

“We are taking a near, mid and far term assessment to make sure we do not put all the risk into the same bucket,” Ray said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Indian pilots say it’s easy to see China’s new stealth fighter

China recently made history as the first country besides the US to field stealth aircraft with its J-20 fighter, but reports from its regional rival, India, indicate that it may want to go back to the drawing board.

The Indian Defense Research Wing says its Russian-made Su-30MKI fighter jets can spot the supposedly-stealth J-20s, and has already observed them in flight.


Indian Air Force Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa said the “Su-30 radar is good enough and can pick it (J-20) up from many kilometers away,” according to Indian news website Zee News.

India has been basing its Su-30MKIs in the northern part of the country to counter China’s deployments of J-20s, which struggle to take off in the high altitudes near Tibet, Zee News reported.

The Su-30MKI represents a new and effective Russian jet with an advanced array of radars that Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider could probably spot the J-20.

“It is entirely possible that the Su-30MKI can pick up track information on J-20 from quite long ranges,” Bronk said. “But what I would expect is that those tracks may be fairly intermittent and dependent on what headings the J-20 is flying on relative to the Sukhoi trying to detect it.”

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
An Indian Air Force Su-30MKI

Bronk explained that unlike the US’s F-22 and F-35 stealth jets, the J-20 doesn’t have all-aspect stealth. This means that from some angles, the J-20 isn’t stealthy. A senior stealth scientist previously told Business Insider the J-20 is stealthiest from the front end.

If China was flying the J-20s in any direction besides towards India, the Su-30MKI radars could have been spotting the jets from their more vulnerable sides.

“Also, it is possible that the Chinese are flying the J-20 with radar reflectors attached to enlarge and conceal its true radar cross section during peacetime operations — just as the USAF routinely does with the F-22 and F-35,” said Bronk.

For safety and training purposes, stealth aircraft often fly with markers that destroy their stealth during peacetime maneuvers.

If this is the case with the J-20s, then India may be in for an unpleasant surprise next time it tries to track the supposedly stealth jets.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Navy’s new flame-resistant coverall

Effective immediately, commands can now order the Improved Flame Resistant Variant (IFRV) coverall. Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) announced manner and occasion of wear guidance for the IFRV Feb. 5 2018.


The approval of the IFRV as a fleet organizational clothing item to replace the legacy Flame Resistant Variant (FRV) coverall was announced in early January 2017 after the completion of a series of afloat wear tests. The IFRV addresses comfort and durability issues found with the original FRV coverall.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
(Jan. 19 2016) Lt. Commander Heather Flores, assigned to U.S. Fleet Forces Command, poses in the Improved Fire Retardant Variant (IFRV) coverall onboard Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, Jan. 19 2016. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks)

“The original FRV was rapidly introduced to the fleet because Sailor safety is our top priority,” said CAPT Mark Runstrom, director, Fleet Supply Operations/Services, USFF. “However, we recognized immediately that we needed a coverall that is more durable, functional, and comfortable as well as safe. That is what the IFRV is all about.”

Sailors stationed aboard ships and submarines will be issued a minimum of two IFRV coveralls with units authorized to procure name tags using unit operating target funds. The manner of wear will be the same as the FRV coveralls, prescribing wearers to don full sleeves and secured fastenings. The current 9-inch black, steel-toed boot and Navy or command ball caps are authorized for wear with the coverall.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Fiorillo, assigned to U.S. Fleet Forces Command, poses in the Improved Fire Retardant Variant (IFRV) coverall aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams, Jan. 18 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks)

Approved belts include a black cotton web belt for E1-E6, a khaki cotton web belt for chief petty officers and officers and; rigger’s belts are authorized at command discretion.

Rank tabs and insignia are authorized to be sewn or pinned on the coverall based on the wearer’s duties and unit preference.

Also Read: Dress uniforms from every military branch, ranked

Rectangular, Velcro-backed name tags will be worn centered, 1/4-inch above the left breast pocket-similar in size, shape, and content to the V-neck sweater name tag. Embossed leather name tags or fabric embroidered unit specific name tags similar to those worn on the green Nomex flight jacket will be authorized for wear at the discretion of unit commanders.

Blue or brown undershirts are authorized for wear with the IFRV, although blue undershirts are being phased out with the introduction of the Navy Working Uniform Type III.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Fiorillo, assigned to U.S. Fleet Forces Command, poses in the Improved Fire Retardant Variant (IFRV) coverall aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams, Jan. 18 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks.)

Members will not be authorized to stencil or serialize any portion of outer fabric of the IFRV nor attach unit or flag patches due to the risk of degrading the flame resistant fabric. However, Sailors are allowed to stencil the inner parts for identification purposes.

The IFRV will be prescribed as an underway uniform and the appropriate attire for events such as sea and anchor detail. Commands can authorize the IFRV for wear ashore or in-port and when working in conditions where excessive wear to the uniform could occur or when needing arc or flash protection.

Related: Why the US military has shoulder pockets on combat uniforms

The IFRV coverall is made from a flame resistant, tri-fiber blend designed to offer arc flash protection and provide improved moisture management by allowing the fiber to breathe more efficiently. The IFRV coverall is also designed for sustained durability lasting nearly twice as long as the FRV.

Additionally, feedback during fleet testing of the IFRV revealed a desire for a two-piece FRV. USFF has developed several versions with varying design features that will be tested in the spring of 2018.

More: This is how US Army uniforms have changed since the Revolutionary War

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The mythical origin of the sniper’s ghillie suit

The two men crawl stealthily through the Panamanian jungle. Their faces are painted with hues of black, brown and green. Their bodies are covered by the burlap strands and interwoven foliage of their ghillie suits. The sniper and his spotter reach a vantage point overlooking the village and search for their target, a Panamanian rebel leader. Camouflaged against the jungle by their ghillie suits, the two men spot their target. As the rebel leader bites into his apple, a single shot pierces the stillness of the jungle and a 7.62x51mm NATO round pierces his heart.

One shot, one kill.


Alerted to the threat, the rebels frantically spray the jungle with automatic fire. Unable to see their enemy, they fire their weapons haphazardly and pray not to be the sniper’s next victim. Invisible to the rebels, the sniper ejects the spent cartridge from his M40A1 rifle and hands it to his spotter. As civilians in the village take cover, the rebels continue to pour gunfire into the jungle with no specific target. When no shots return from the trees, they cease fire. Still unseen, the sniper and his spotter melt back into the jungle and disappear. The only evidence of them having been there is the dead body of the rebel leader, a single hole through his heart.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Sniper and spotter take up an overwatch position (Credit TriStar Pictures)

The 1993 film Sniper, starring Tom Berenger as the titular and aforementioned sniper, introduced many viewers to the ghillie suit. An integral part of a sniper’s kit, the ghillie suit allows the sniper to blend in with their surroundings and evade detection. This is key to accomplishing their mission since a sniper’s primary functions on the battlefield are conducting covert reconnaissance and delivering precision fires.

A ghillie suit is typically made of a net or cloth garment and covered in burlap strips, cloth, or twine. It has an irregular shape which breaks up a sniper’s outline and makes them more difficult to spot. Additionally, snipers can weave local flora into their ghillie suit in order to better blend with their surroundings. If done properly, this additional camouflage will even sway in the wind to match the environment it is replicating. Today, ghillie suits are used by snipers all around the world in foliage, sand, and even snow. Their origin, however, can be traced back to the game attendants and folklore of the Scottish Highlands.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Scottish ghillies in Highland Perthshire. (Photo from tour-scotland-photographs.blogspot.com)

Derived from the Scottish Gaelic word “gille,” meaning lad or servant, a ghillie (the English misspelling) is a man or boy who serves as a game attendant and specializes in fishing, stalking, and hunting. In Scottish folklore, the Gille Dubh was a timid but wild male fairy who roamed the Highlands. Like the suit that bears his name, the Gille Dubh was clothed in leaves and other vegetation which allowed him to camouflage in the Highlands and evade capture.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Lovat Scouts wear two variations of the ghillie suit. (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)

Scottish ghillies created the ghillie suit in the turn of the 20th century as a wearable hunting blind that would allow them to more stealthily stalk and hunt their game on the Highlands. These first ghillie suits were made primarily of burlap which were irregularly torn and cut to break up the ghillie’s silhouette. Almost immediately, the ghillie suit saw military application with the British Army during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Lovat Scouts, the British Army’s first sniper unit, were initially recruited from Scottish Highland estate workers. This included the ghillies who brought their burlap camouflage suits with them.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

Two British snipers during a demonstration for Their Majesties in May 1944. (Photo from captainstevens.com)

The ghillie suit went to war again in WWI where other nations took notice of its effectiveness and adopted it for themselves. As a concept, the ghillie suit has remained largely unchanged since its inception. One notable upgrade came in June 2003 when the U.S. Army introduced a new ghillie suit made of a lightweight, fire-resistant, and self-extinguishing fabric instead of the heavier and flammable burlap.

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

A U.S. Army sniper wears the Flame Resistant Ghillie System. (U.S. Army photo/Released)

Today, snipers around the world continue to carefully craft their ghillie suits in order to camouflage themselves and evade detection by the enemy. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, professional ghillies continue to preserve their legacy as gamekeepers. They cull game herds and lead hunting expeditions, sometimes with the added camouflage of their iconic burlap suit.