Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

Afghan officials are carrying out at least two tracks of talks with the Taliban, The Associated Press has learned, even after a month of brutal bombings and attacks by the militants that killed nearly 200 and despite President Donald Trump’s angry rejection of any negotiations for now.


The persistence of the back-channel contacts reflects the desire to keep a door open for reconciliation even as the Afghan government and its top ally, the United States, fumble for a strategy to end the protracted war, now entering its 17th year. Rifts within the Afghan government have grown vast, even as the Taliban gain territory and wage increasingly ruthless tactics.

The United States has unleashed heavier air power against the Taliban and other militants. After the string of Taliban attacks in recent weeks, Trump angrily condemned the group. “We don’t want to talk with the Taliban,” he said. “There may be a time but it’s going to be a long time.”

Continued reading: President Trump rejects negotiations with the Taliban

Still, Afghanistan’s intelligence chief Masoom Stanikzai and its National Security Chief Mohammed Hanif Atmar continue to each talk separately to the Taliban, say those familiar with the backdoor negotiations. The problem, however, is that neither is talking to the other or to the High Peace Council, which was created by the government to talk peace with the Taliban, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the contacts.

Hakim Mujahid, a member of the High Peace Council, confirmed that Stanikzai still has regular contacts with the Taliban’s point man for peace talks, Mullah Abbas Stanikzai. The two are not related.

Mujahid — who was the Taliban’s representative to the United Nations during the group’s five-year rule of Afghanistan that ended in 2001 — said the group would not respond well to Trump’s tough talk. “The language of power, the language of threat will not convince Afghans to surrender,” he said.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
President Donald Trump.(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Andrew Wilder, vice president of the Asia Program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said multiple players in Kabul have contacts with the Taliban. “But this isn’t being done in a coordinated manner to achieve clearly defined objectives,” he said.

Late February 2018, representatives from dozens of countries are to meet for a second time in the Afghan capital for the so-called Kabul process aimed at forging a path to peace. The first round was held in June 2017.

Also read: A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban

Still, the latest spate of violence has limited options for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is also fending off a mini-revolt within his own government, feuding with the vice president as well as a powerful northern governor.

Meanwhile, the former No. 2 of the Taliban, Aga Jan Motasim, who still counts the radical religious movement’s leader Mullah Habaitullah Akhunzada among his friends, warned that Trump’s strategy of using the military to force a more compliant Taliban to the negotiation table could lead to more suicide attacks.

From within his fortress style house in Kabul, protected by steel gates and gunmen, Motasim said he wants to be a bridge between the government and Taliban.

Motasim was a senior member of the Taliban leadership shura, or council, until 2010 when he was shot 12 times after advocating peace negotiations with the Afghan government. Blame for the shooting has been directed at both elements within the Taliban who opposed peace talks and Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, often seen as the force behind the Taliban.

Motasim now travels in a bullet-proof car and even his friends have to be announced by men with weapons before they are allowed to enter. He spends his time between Kabul, where he talks to the government, and in Turkey, from where he can contact his former Taliban colleagues.

The 2010 shooting of Motasim in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi reflects the deadly conundrum that confounds efforts to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s war.

Related: This is how much of Afghanistan the Taliban reportedly control

Pakistan is accused of giving sanctuary to the Taliban to assert influence in Afghanistan and to counter what it sees as growing influence of India in Afghanistan. Pakistan flatly denies the allegation, but Taliban who have advocated peace talks that threaten to sideline Pakistan have often ended up arrested, dead or forced to live elsewhere.

Pakistan has its own complaints about Afghanistan, saying it allows its territory to be used by anti-Pakistan militants who have staged horrific attacks in Pakistan. It also charges that Afghanistan is being used by hostile India to destabilize its troubled border regions.

The United States has suspended military aid to Pakistan to press it into kicking out Taliban. But Washington also says it sees Pakistan as key to bringing a peaceful end to the Afghan war.

Increasingly, the Taliban have gained control of areas inside Afghanistan. Even Washington’s own Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, says more than half of Afghanistan is either under direct Taliban control or under their influence. Other estimates put the figure as high as 70 percent.

More reading: Taliban target covert US base in Afghanistan

Washington’s reaction to the news of Taliban territorial gains has been to prevent SIGAR from releasing estimates of territory gained or lost by the government, the special inspector general’s office reported last month. Washington has also classified information regarding the strength and performance of Afghanistan’s security forces.

In a report SIGAR said $72 billion of the $120 billion spent in Afghanistan since the war began went to the country’s security.

“Clearly, the time is ripe to ask why an undertaking begun in 2002 and costing $70 billion has — so far — not yielded bigger dividends,” the report said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Exoskeleton engineers work to make their tech useful for soldiers

Several key organizations recently came together to advance exoskeleton technology for the soldier during an intensive three-day Operations and Maneuver and Technology Interchange meeting.

The User Technical Touch Point Exoskeleton event was a three-day living classroom, hands-on experience. It offered an interactive forum for operational and technology immersion on both infantry maneuvers and technology demonstrations. Groups of several Military Operational Specialties, or MOS’s, were represented, laying down their kits and equipment and walking observers through a day “in the field, on the job.”


Operational vignettes and subject interviews offered context on the physiological and cognitive demanding infantry tasks, before, during, and after operations. Vendors, requirement developers, and engineers discussed “what they are and what they aren’t” in the current exoskeleton marketplace, debunking the Hollywood “iron man” effect and focusing on real-time products: the Dephy Exo Boot and Lockheed Martin’s ONYX.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division show some of the equipment that they use during everyday tasks and learn how an exoskeleton can help.

(Photo by David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)

Soldiers were encouraged by the endurance improvement, mobility, and lethality benefits of donning the systems. Those who wore the systems commented on how it felt to wear an exoskeleton and the relationship between a new user and the system. Their candid feedback regarding form, fit and function will help developers prioritize and make modifications to the systems in preparation for a Fall 2019 VIP demonstration.

Observers commented on the flexibility of use as the systems were adjusted with minimal effort from one user to the next over three days. User comments, such as those made by field artillery soldiers, emphasized the potential value of having an exoskeleton or exoskeleton-like system to provide enhanced endurance during operations, which means a positive impact on lethality and combat effectiveness.

“The importance of this User Touch Point event was two-fold: it gave those involved in developing this technology the ability to better understand the physical aspects of the tasks and duties of the soldiers and gain an understanding of the soldier’s perspective in how this capability can be of value,” said James Mingo, a senior military analyst at TRADOC. “They understand it.”

“It provided hand-on experience to the movement and maneuver soldiers of some of the top seven combat MOS’s,” said Raul Esteras-Palos, Robotics Requirements Division, Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate, or CDID, Maneuver Center of Excellence, or MCoE. “This event is an effective way to gain valuable feedback necessary for the advancement of the Army’s exoskeleton program.”

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division show some of the equipment that they use during everyday tasks and learn how an exoskeleton can help.

(Photo by David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)

Soldiers believe that endurance translates into improved lethality while preserving the body from the effects of what is already strenuous work. Comments included discussion on injuries (lower back, neck, shoulder and leg) directly related to both training and combat conditions, impacts that are well documented in the medical community.

The RDECOM Soldier Center is preparing soldier touch point events with 82nd and 101st Airborne, followed by meetings with requirement developers, stake holders and senior leadership. The data from these User Touch Point events will be made available to the Lethality Cross-Functional Teams.

“Major General Piatt, CG 10th MTN DIV’s support has allowed us to tap into the expert knowledge of some of the most experienced Army professionals of our Nation,” said David Audet, branch chief, Mission Equipment and Systems Branch at the RDECOM Soldier Center. “This was a unique opportunity for developers and engineers. We are indebted to the troops for their selfless service and owe them the opportunity to listen to their concerns and take action.”

Teams from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, Program Executive Office Soldier, the Maneuver, Aviation, and Soldier Division at ARCIC/TRADOC, requirement developers from the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Army Research Labs, exoskeleton developers from Dephy Inc. (Massachusetts) and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (Florida), and other support contractors attended the event.

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

Articles

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Fort Bliss soldiers will be going on two major missions in the Middle East later this year, the Army announced March 29.


About 400 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division headquarters, including the Fort Bliss commanding general, will deploy this summer to Iraq. Another 200 soldiers will go to Afghanistan this spring.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
A CH-47 aircrew from Fort Bliss drops off soldiers during an air assault training operation. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Aura E. Sklenicka)

“America’s tank division is highly trained and ready for this important mission,” said Maj. Gen. Robert “Pat” White, commanding general of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. He will deploy on the Iraq mission along with division Command Sgt. Maj. Danny Day.

“We are proud to work alongside our Iraqi allies and coalition partners to continue the fight against ISIS,” White added. “I’m extremely impressed by the commitment and sacrifice of our military families. It is their stalwart support and resilience that gives us the strength to serve.”

Soldiers from the division headquarters, the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion and Division Artillery will take over the role as the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.

The 1st Armored Division will be responsible for mission command of coalition troops who are training, advising, and assisting Iraqi security forces in their efforts to fight the Islamic State and other threats in an ongoing operation known as Inherent Resolve.

These soldiers will replace the 1st Infantry Division headquarters from Fort Riley, Kan., which has been serving in this role.

The division headquarters recently went through the Warfighter command post exercise at Fort Bliss in preparation for this deployment. The deployment is expected to last about nine months.

Brigadier General Mark H. Landes, a deputy commanding general at Fort Bliss, will serve as the acting senior commander at Fort Bliss during the deployment.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

Also, about 200 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade and its Special Troops Battalion will go to Afghanistan this spring and serve as the logistical headquarters for the entire theater of operation.

The brigade did a similar mission from May 2015 to February 2016, with about the same number of troops.

Colonel Michael Lalor, the commander of the Sustainment Brigade, called it a demanding mission but said his troops have been training for it since last summer.

The Sustainment Brigade will oversee a task force of about 2,000 soldiers, civilians, and contractors who will provide important support for U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The task force will provide water, food, ammunition, transportation services, and maintenance, Lalor said.

Command Sergeant Major Sean Howard, the brigade’s senior enlisted leader, said his soldiers have been training hard, including at the recent Warfighter exercise.

“We are ready to go; there is no doubt in my mind,” Howard said.

The Sustainment Brigade’s deployment is scheduled to last about six months.

Articles

A year in, no female SEAL applicants, few for SpecOps

A little more than 12 months after training pipelines for previously closed elite special operator jobs opened to women, the U.S. military has yet to see its first female Navy SEAL or Green Beret.


The component commanders for each of the service special operations commands say they’re ready to integrate female operators into their units, but it’s not yet clear when they’ll have the opportunity to do so.

Related: Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

The Navy is closely monitoring the interest of female applicants. In fact, Naval Special Warfare Command is eyeing one Reserve Officer Training Corps member who’s interested in the SEALs, and another woman who has yet to enter the service but has expressed interest in becoming a special warfare combatant craft crewman, a community even smaller than the SEALs with a training pipeline nearly as rigorous.

But it will likely be years until the Navy has a woman in one of these elite units.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Marines with the Lioness Program refill their rifle magazines during the live-fire portion of their training at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, July 31. | Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jennifer Jones

Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, head of Naval Special Warfare Command, which includes the elite SEALs and other Navy special operations units, noted that the enlisted training pipeline for SEALs is two-and-a-half years from start to end, meaning a female applicant who began the process now wouldn’t join a team until nearly 2020.

And that assumes that she makes it through the infamously grueling Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.

“Just last week, we secured Hell Week … [we started with] 165 folks. We finished with 29. It’s a tough pipeline and that is not uncommon,” Szymanski told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference near Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. “Five classes a year, and that’s what you have, demographically.”

While the Army Rangers famously had three female officers earn their tabs in 2015 in a special program ahead of the December 2015 Defense Department mandate that actually gave women the right to serve in the Rangers, the elite regiment remains male-only, at least for now.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Cpt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 render a salute during their graduation at Fort Benning, GA, Aug. 21, 2015. Griest and class member 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female graduates of the school.(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

To date, one female officer in a support military occupational specialty has completed the training process and will likely join the unit by the end of March, said Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, commander of Army Special Operations Command.

In other previously closed Army special operations elements, he said, two enlisted women have attempted special operations assessment and selection but haven’t made it through. One, who was dropped due to injury and not to failure to meet standards, is likely to reattempt the process, Tovo said.

Two female officers are also expected to begin assessment and selection in the “near future,” he said.

“So we’re going slow,” Tovo said. “The day we got the word that SF and rangers were available to women, our recruiting battalion that actually works for recruit command sent an email to every eligible woman, notifying them of the opportunity and soliciting their volunteerism. We are working things across the force through special ops recruiting battalion to talk to women and get them interested.”

Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command was the first service to report publicly that it had women in its training pipeline. But in a year, MARSOC has had just three applicants, and none who made it through the first phase of assessment and selection, commander Maj. Gen. Carl Mundy III said at the conference. Currently, he added, there are no women in training, and none on deck to enter the pipeline.

The Air Force, which opened its combat control, pararescue and tactical air control party jobs to women last year, has had several applicants, but all have been dropped from training due to injury or failure to meet standards, said Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command.

“I think this is a slow build … and we’ll keep after it,” Webb said, noting that that the service observed similar trends when it opened other jobs up to women decades ago. “AFSOC is looking for the highest caliber candidates, and when a person meets that standard, she will be joining our ranks.”

For some of the services, the challenge is twofold.

Tovo said Army Special Forces recruits primarily from the infantry, which opened to women at the same time SF did. And women are moving quickly into these previously closed jobs; the first 10 women graduated from the Army’s infantry officer course in October, and 140 women are reportedly on deck to enter infantry training in 2017, while more have already been reclassified. But it’s still a small field.

MARSOC also recruits heavily from Marine Corps ground combat MOSs. To date, just three female Marines assigned to one of these jobs have entered the fleet.

“This is a process; it’s going to take time,” Tovo said. “We are focused on it, we’re ready for it and I have no doubt when we get the opportunity to put women through our qualification courses, it going to be done to a professional standard and we will be proud of the results of the female operators who come out the other end.”

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) take a break after completing their 10k hike before navigating their way through the obstacle course aboard, Camp Geiger, N.C., Oct. 04, 2013. Delta Company is the first company at ITB with female students as part of a measured, deliberate and responsible collection of data on the performance of female Marines. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mancuso

Szymanski suggested that social barriers to women serving in units such as the SEALs may no longer be the impediment they once were, as younger, more tolerant sailors enter the force.

“The students coming through, it’s no big deal to them,” he said. “This generation’s much more tolerant of society than our generation — a multi-diverse, gender-neutral society. Some of the integration [challenges] will be with our older cohorts.”

It’s possible, however, that the services will have to rethink recruitment in light of a widened field of potential applicants. Szymanski said his contracted SEAL scout teams visit high schools to recruit talent, but tend to target events with high male participation.

“Typically in the past, that’s been things like wrestling matches and those types of things,” he said. “So I now have to be sure that they’re thinking about, how do they incentivize or attract younger females at some of those events. Maybe swimming meets; swimmers typically will fend well in the pipeline if they’re good in the water.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Everything you need to know about the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

It took 104 years, but the Marine Corps Reserve has grown from just 35 personnel to more than 40,000. To celebrate the USMC Reserve’s August 28 birthday, here’s a look at Marine heritage and culture.


Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Wikimedia Commons)

USMC-R History and Origins

The Marines’ reserve component dates back to the Civil War when military and civilian readers recognized a need for a Naval Reserve to augment the fleet during wartime.

Leading up to WWI, individual states tried to fill the need through state-controlled naval militias, but the lack of a centralized national force limited combat effectiveness.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson recognized the need for an operational Reserve Force, and on August 29, the USMC Reserve was born. The organization grew from just 35 Marines on April 01, 1916, to 6,467 by the time Germany surrendered in November 1918.

Reserve Marines fought on the sea and land in major battles during WWI, and as the Marine Corps began expanding its horizons during WWII, the Reserve component continued to grow. The USMC Women’s Reserve was activated in July 1942, and in 1943, the USMC WR swore in its first director, Maj. Ruth Cheney Streeter.

However, by 1947, it seems like the Marine Corps and the Reserve component were going to be disbanded. Fortunately, the Armed Forces Unification Act created the Department of Defense, which helped standardize pay for Marine Corps Reserve service members, along with creating a retirement pay program.

At the end of the military draft and the transition to an all-volunteer military in the 1970s, the USMC-R would grow to be almost 40,000 members strong.

Celebrating the USMC-R Birthday

This internal observance isn’t a widely known date or public holiday, but Reservists don’t mind. To honor and celebrate the history of the USMC Reserve on its birthday, you might consider flying the Marine Corps flag alongside the American flag this week.

Consult the Marine Corps Flag Manual to learn how to properly display a USMC-R service flag alongside the national colors. Fair warning, and in true USMC nature, this flag-flying manual is no less than 50 pages long, so be prepared for a long and thorough read.

TL;DR: The flag represents a living country and is considered a living thing. The right arm is the sword arm, and so the right is the place of honor, so the edge of the flag should be toward the staff. Flags should be displayed from sunrise to sunset. If a “patriotic effect is desired for specific occasions,” the flag can be displayed for a full 24 hours if properly illuminated during hours of darkness.

Famous USMC Reservists

Like the other branches of the military, being a part of the USMC-R can significantly impact civilian careers. For Reservists, being a Marine often means being able to also continue with life’s other passions. Take a look at the most famous Marine Reservists. You might not know they were Leathernecks, but we’re pretty sure you know their work!

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Wikimedia Commons)

Drew Carey

After enlisting in the Reserves in 1980, Carey went on to serve a total of six years. The comedian says that he adopted his trademark crew cut and horn-rimmed glasses because of his time in service. During his time in the Reserves, Carey was always looking for new ways to make money. Someone in his unit suggested using his jokes. Of his big break in Hollywood, Carey has often remarked that he would still be serving if he hadn’t made it big.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Cory W. Bush/Released)

Rob Riggle

Retired Lt. Col. Riggle served in the USMC Reserve as a PAO from 199-2013. He served in Kosovo, Liberia and Afghanistan. He joined the Marines after getting his pilot’s license with the intent of becoming a Naval Aviator but left flight school to pursue his comedy career. He has appeared on the Daily Show and had a running role on The Office.

Interested in joining the USMC Reserves?

The USMC-R is a critical component to being able to provide a balanced, ready force. There’s no telling that you’ll end up a famous comedian like Drew Caret or Rob Riggle, but chances are you’ll grow as a person and learn something in the process, too. Find out more here.


MIGHTY HISTORY

How losing Vietnam was actually a victory for 5 other countries

On Jan. 27, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Paris Peace Accords, formally ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. On Apr. 30, 1975, the country of South Vietnam formally came to an end as North Vietnamese tanks rolled across bases and airfields and into the southern capital of Saigon.

While many look back and see the war as a waste of money, manpower, and materiel given the outcome, there are more than 475 million people who would disagree.


Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

The foundation of that figure of 475 million is the current population of Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It doesn’t mention the relatives of those populations who are no longer alive and didn’t live under the constant threat of global Communism because of the line in the sand drawn by American forces in Vietnam.

World War II-era Navy veteran, Georgetown University professor, and former member of the National Security Council under four presidential administrations, William Lloyd Stearman, wrote about the accomplishments of the United States in the Vietnam War in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece. In it, he argues that the Vietnam War was not only winnable, the North Vietnamese were constantly surprised that the Americans didn’t cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail by invading Laos – a move the NVA thought was inevitable – and thus, win the war for the South.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

The U.S. didn’t want to widen the war, but if the NVA was already in Laos. It was already wider.

While the 96-year-old Stearman spends much of the article rehashing the causes for the outcome of the Vietnam War, the important aspects he adds to the discussion are what the United States and her allies actually achieved through their involvement there, rather than dwelling on what we lost. He argues that without the intervention of the U.S. in Vietnam, the West would have been forced into harder choices in more difficult areas as Communist insurgencies rocked other countries in the region. Quoting Singapore’s visionary leader Lee Kuan Yew, who wrote about this subject in his memoirs:

In 1965, when the U.S. military moved massively into South Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines faced internal threats from armed insurgencies and the communist underground was still active in Singapore. Indonesia [was] in the throes of a failed communist coup. America’s action enabled noncommunist Southeast Asia to put their own houses in order. By 1975, they were in better shape to stand up to the communists. Had there been no U.S. intervention, the will of these countries to resist them would have melted and Southeast Asia would most likely gone communist.”
Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

Lee Kuan Yew is famous for taking Singapore “from third world to first world” in a single generation.

The U.S. troop buildup in South Vietnam in 1965 spurred Britain to reinforce Malaysia. That same year, Indonesian forces were inspired by anti-Communist action and troop build-ups in the region and successfully fought off a Chinese-led Communist insurgency there. If the insurgency in Indonesia were successful, it would have spread to the Philippines and forced the U.S. to come to the Philippines to fight the Communists, rather than in North Vietnam.

That situation, Stearman argues, would have been far worse and far more costly than the fighting in Vietnam.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China tries to warn off Poseidon 6 times

Chinese forces deployed to the hotly contested South China Sea ordered a US Navy reconnaissance aircraft to “leave immediately” six times on Aug. 10, 2018, but the pilot stayed the course, refusing to back down.

A US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane flew past China’s garrisons in the Spratly Islands, giving CNN reporters aboard the aircraft a view of Chinese militarization in the region.


Flying over Chinese strongholds on Mischief Reef, Johnson Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, and Subi Reef, CNN spotted “large radar installations, power plants, and runways sturdy enough to carry large military aircraft.” At one outpost, onboard sensors detected 86 vessels, including Chinese Coast Guard ships, which China has been known to use to strong-arm countries with competing claims in the South China Sea.

Lt. Lauren Callen, who led the US Navy crew, said it was “surprising to see airports in the middle of the ocean.”

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

View from Spratly Islands.

The Chinese stationed in the area were not exactly kind hosts to the uninvited guests.

Warning the aircraft that it was in Chinese territory — an argument an international arbitration tribunal ruled against two years ago — the Chinese military ordered the US Navy plane to “leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding.”

Six warnings were issued, according to CNN, and the US Navy responded the same every time.

“I am a sovereign immune US naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state,” the crew replied, adding, “In exercising these rights guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states.”

The incident comes on the heels of a report by the Philippine government revealing that China has been increasingly threatening foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea.

“Leave immediately,” Chinese forces in the Spratlys warned a Philippine military aircraft in early 2018, according to the Associated Press. “I am warning you again, leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences,” the voice said over the radio.

The US Navy has noticed an increase in such queries as well.

“Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities in the South China Sea,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a representative for the US 7th Fleet, told the AP, adding, “These communications do not affect our operations.”

Of greater concern for the US military are recent Chinese deployments of military equipment and weapons systems, such as jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. While the US has accused China of “intimidation and coercion” in the disputed waterway, Beijing argues it is the US, not China, that is causing trouble in the region.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to comment on Aug. 10, 2018’s exchange between the Chinese military and the US Navy.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sailors may dress according to preferred gender off duty, Navy says

With the upcoming April 12, 2019 start of a new Pentagon policy that will bar most transgender people from entering the military and restrict transgender medical transition for those not grandfathered in, the Navy has released additional guidance noting that sailors will be permitted to “live socially” in their preferred gender while not on duty, even if they must conform to the standards associated with their biological gender while in uniform.

“There is no policy that prohibits the ability of a service member to express themselves off-duty in their preferred gender,” officials said in a recently released Navy administrative message. “Appropriate civilian attire, as outlined in the uniform regulations, will not be determined based on gender.”

The guidance does add that deployed sailors may be restricted in off-duty attire choices “to meet local conditions and host-nation agreements with foreign countries” at the discretion of regional commanders and senior officers.


“All service members are expected to continue to treat each other with dignity and respect,” the message adds. “There is zero tolerance for harassment, hazing or bullying of any service member in any form.”

Officials have insisted that the Pentagon’s new policy — which was spurred by a series of tweets from President Donald Trump in 2017 — does not constitute a ban on transgender individuals in uniform. However, it does restrict those who have not obtained a waiver by April 12, 2019, to serve in their biological gender only, and requires prospective troops with a history of “gender dysphoria” to verify that they have had 36 months of stability in their biological gender and are willing to meet the standards associated with it to enter the military.

The Navy and the Marine Corps, which both released additional guidance ahead of the new policy taking effect, did clarify that currently serving transgender troops who are deployed or otherwise hindered from getting a waiver by the deadline may submit an exception-to-policy request.

“This request must be routed to the commanding officer by the service member no later than 12 April 2019 and must contain a presumptive diagnosis from a provider (e.g., independent duty corpsman or civilian provider),” the Navy message states.

That request must then be forwarded with an endorsement from the service member’s commanding officer and submitted up through the first flag or general officer in the chain of command.

Marines may obtain an extension via a request to the deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, according to a Marine administrative message. The request must include a presumptive diagnosis from a civilian medical provider or independent duty corpsman and include a commanding officer’s endorsement.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Department of Defense)

The policy set to take effect aligns closely with a February 2018 memo to the president authored by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis following a policy review of the impact of transgender troops on “readiness and lethality.”

“In my professional judgment, these policies will place the Department of Defense in the strongest position to protect the American people, to fight and win America’s wars, and to ensure the survival and success of our service members around the world,” Mattis wrote.

Many in Congress, however, have been fiercely critical of the new policy, pointing out the honorable service of the estimated 9,000 transgender troops now serving and the relatively low cost to the Defense Department — estimated at under million — of providing them with medical care to date.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Army veteran Nathan Goncalves

On this week’s episode, Borne the Battle features guest Nathan Goncalves, who shares his story of struggle and perseverance.

While Goncalves didn’t have the intrinsic calling to join the military, he enlisted at 23, seeking reform and discipline. It was in the Army that Goncalves sharpened his focus and developed lifelong friendships and mentors.


Rough transition

However, Goncalves’ transition back to civilian life was not easy. In fact, it turned out to be some of his lowest valleys–involving addiction, PTSD, and anger management.

But things started to change when Goncalves heard he was going to be a father. In this episode, he discusses how an intense work ethic allowed him to achieve a bachelor’s degree at UCLA in less than three years.

Goncalves applied to UCLA’s Law school to study corporate law. He was accepted, but a bitter divorce hampered those plans. Through his own experiences, Goncalves realized there was no advocacy for situations like his own. So he sacrificed a potentially lucrative corporate law career and switched to family law to offer services to homeless and low-income veterans.

Equal Justice Works Responds to Veteran Crisis

www.youtube.com

Goncalves is now hosted by Harriet BuHai Center for Family Law and sponsored in house by Equal Justice Works. He continues to fight for family integration for homeless and low-income veterans as they transition back into the civilian communities.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US’ fresh Iran sanctions aim for the Revolutionary Guards

The US has imposed new sanctions on Iran, the first since President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

The new measures target six individuals and three companies said to be funneling millions of dollars towards an elite unite of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.


The US Treasury Department, acting jointly with the UAE, also accused Iran’s central bank of helping the IRGC access hundreds of millions in US currency which it held in foreign banks to avoid crippling sanctions.

“The Iranian regime and its central bank have abused access to entities in the UAE to acquire US dollars to fund the IRGC’s malign activities, including to fund and arm its regional proxy groups, by concealing the purpose for which the US dollars were acquired,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Steven Mnuchin, United States Secretary of the Treasury

Iran’s central bank was not formally sanctioned in the action, but the Treasury has recently said it will reimpose a number of widespread sanctions aimed at crippling oil and banking sectors in the coming months.

The IRGC is a powerful arm of Iran’s armed forces, established after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The sanctions specifically take aim at the IRGC’s Quds Forces, which operate the groups overseas operations, including in Syria. They are said to have been behind recent rocket attacks launched against Israel in the Golan heights.

The move came just says after Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. The agreement — signed with the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany, and the European Union — promised Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.

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

Articles

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Robert O’Neill ate a last meal with his children and then hugged them goodbye — “most likely forever,” he privately thought.


Even his wife didn’t know where he was going.

On May 2, 2011, two helicopters touched down, one crash-landing, under the cover of darkness within an al Qaeda compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The 23-strong team entered a house and crept up the stairs.

A SEAL in front of O’Neill went along a hallway to provide cover, he recalled. When O’Neill entered the bedroom, he saw a man — bearded, tall, and gaunt — standing there.

“I knew it was him immediately,” he said. “He was taller than I imagined.”

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Osama bin Laden (left). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

O’Neill, a senior chief petty officer in the US Navy SEALs, aimed his rifle and fired twice, he said, hitting the 6-foot-5 figure in the head both times. Osama Bin Laden collapsed. O’Neill shot him again.

Despite his training, which taught him to immediately start gathering intel, O’Neill said he was momentarily dazed by the magnitude of what he had just done.

He snapped out of it when a colleague said, “You just killed Osama bin Laden.”

On July 26, the retired SEAL, in the midst of a lecture series to publicize his memoir, “The Operator,” will come to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to speak about his life and how his experiences can translate to the lives of others.

And, for the first time ever, the gear he wore the night he hunted down bin Laden — boots, helmet, bullet-proof vest, all in desert-camouflage — is on public display, until the end of July.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Navy SEALs in desert camouflage. (U.S. Navy photo)

“This will probably be our biggest event of the year,” said Joe Lopez, spokesman for the non-profit Nixon Foundation.

How did the Nixon pull off the coup before any other museum?

“They asked,” O’Neill, 41, said this week. “They asked, and I said, ‘Why not?'”

Hours after the raid, when then-President Barack Obama announced from the White House that Special Forces had killed bin Laden and that “his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity,” Americans erupted in celebration.

The details of the mission were classified. Retaliation, if members of SEAL Team 6 became known, was possible. Secrecy was paramount.

The initial excitement he felt over firing the kill shots, he said, eventually waned as his name spread through the military community and Washington, D.C.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Robert O’Neill. (Photo from Facebook.)

“The secret was poorly kept,” O’Neill said. “And my name got leaked.”

So in November 2014, O’Neill fully came out and said he indeed was the shooter.

Some fellow SEALs were irked at O’Neill’s position under the spotlight. Several, anonymously, have accused him of breaking the military code by seeking glory or even lying about being the one who killed bin Laden.

Related: 7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The US government won’t confirm the shooter’s identity.

“I don’t really care,” O’Neill said. “I was with the team. The tactics got me to the spot. I just fired the shots. There’s no doubt it was me.”

“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” came out in April. The book, O’Neill said, is about success — how “a guy from Butte, Montana, who didn’t know how to swim, became a Navy SEAL.”

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Navy SEALs train. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl)

And how that guy, who had never envisioned a career in the military, spent 16 years in uniform because of a breakup with a girlfriend.

“I wanted to leave town so I signed up for the Navy,” he said. “That’s part of the book. Don’t just sit there and sulk. Do something.”

O’Neill went on 400-plus missions, including the 2009 rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and the 2005 mission to save fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell. Those rescues were turned into Tom Hanks’ film, “Captain Phillips,” and Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s “Lone Survivor.”

“When I discuss my missions,” the former special operator said about his appearances, “I tell them why we were good at the missions, how we worked as a team, and how and why we developed these traits.”

O’Neill, a Virginia native, has yet to visit the Nixon Library. But when approached, he quickly agreed.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“This is huge for us,” Lopez said. “We also thought it would be cool to have something he wore that night on display.”

Officials thought a boot would be good. Or maybe a glove. Perhaps, if lucky, his helmet.

Minus a T-shirt donated to New York City’s 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Nixon got to borrow everything.

“My uniform was at my dad’s house,” he said. “So I had it shipped there.”

O’Neill’s gear is mounted on a mannequin inside a glass case, flanked by American flags with a video nearby explaining his non-profit, Your Grateful Nation, which helps veterans, particularly those from the Special Forces, prepare for second careers.

The case is next to the front entrance in the lobby, opposite a wall-length portrait of the 37th president.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl

“He’s a hero,” said retired Air Force Maj. Terry Scheschy, of Riverside County, who fought in the Vietnam War and, last week, visited the Nixon Library. “To me, this provides a lot of value to the museum.”

Betty Kuo, 42, of Manhattan Beach, came to the Nixon with her family, including her two young children and their cousins. As she was buying tickets, the children saw the SEAL uniform and sprinted toward it.

Kuo joined them.

“It’s good to teach them that we’re safe, but we can’t take that for granted,” she said. “The military keeps us safe.”

Going into the mission, O’Neill certainly didn’t feel safe himself — he had doubts that his team would escape without harm.

“I thought the mission was one-way,” he said. “That’s why everyone was so excited after the mission. We all got out.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 ways you can help veterans in your community

This article is sponsored by Disabled American Veterans.

Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit originally started by World War I vets and civic leaders in the 1920s, is looking to help veterans and volunteers meet up so that America’s former service members can get the help they’ve earned and volunteers can find opportunities to be helpful.


DAV_Volunteering_AHv1

vimeo.com

1. Get hands-on, especially for disabled vets

Many veterans have projects around the house that might be challenging for them to complete, especially if they were disabled during their service. So, DAV has built a new online platform to allow veterans, their caregivers, and friends of veterans to sign up and list projects where the veterans or caregivers could use some help.

Volunteers can peruse the list and find opportunities in their local areas. The listings include everything from clearing snow off of driveways to garage painting to meal prep and camaraderie. Chances are, someone needs something that you can help with. The tool is new many vets are still discovering it, so feel free to check back if you don’t see anything local immediately.

2. Help veterans voice their needs through social media and online platforms

As a matter of fact, if you know a veteran who could use some help, you can create a listing for them on the service, and the tool makes it easy to share the listing through Facebook, Twitter, or email.

Listings can cover any need that doesn’t require a specific license or certification for safety, and the pre-made general categories cover a lot of territory as well. These can include asking for help teaching less tech-savvy veterans learn to work their phones, helping mobility-challenged vets grocery shop or do meal prep, or even conducting veteran remembrance projects.

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Student Conservation Association members assist with recovery after Hurricane Sandy.

(National Park Service)

3. Recruit your kids and other young people (and potentially get them scholarships)

Youth may be wasted on the young, but sometimes you can get those whipper-snappers to volunteer their time and youth to help others. As an added benefit, those helping out may be eligible for the potential rewards for altruism, like merit badges or college scholarships.

And volunteering on platforms like the DAV’s new platform makes it easy to track volunteer hours. DAV even offers scholarships for students who have volunteered to help veterans, whether the student found those opportunities on volunteerforveterans.org or elsewhere.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

​Darlene Neubert, Step Saver carts driver of Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, prepares to go out to WHASC’s parking areas to pick up patients. Around the military and veteran community, volunteers can make a big difference in terms of what medical care patients can receive.

(U.S. Air Force Daniel J. Calderón)

4. Donate your own time (and maybe your wheels)

Of course, the youth have some limitations, like the fact that many of them can’t drive. So, it may be necessary to donate your own time and potentially your car’s time, especially if you find a veteran who needs to get some help getting to or from their medical appointments.

DAV and Ford got a fleet of vans set up to help veterans who live relatively close to VA medical centers, but these vans need volunteer drivers. And vets do live outside of the areas these vans can service, so there’s a good chance that vets in your area need help getting to appointments or to places like the grocery store.

5. Share this video 

The video at top, clearly, is all about helping people find out about opportunities to help veterans in their local areas, especially through DAV programs.

But as a savvy WATM reader, you’re likely the kind of person who already thinks about veterans a lot (and there’s a decent chance you’re a veteran yourself). So, help get the word out by sharing this video, and we can recruit more volunteers to help veterans in need.

This article is sponsored by Disabled American Veterans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 3rd

Hope you guys enjoyed your block leave. It’s always nice to go back home, relax, grow that pathetic excuse of a two-week beard, and not have to think about anything military-related until that inevitable flight back to your installation.

Hope nothing big happened in those two weeks… Oh… F*ck… Nevermind… Literally everything went to sh*t while you were trying to hook up with your old high school fling because it’s time to get your packing list in order.

Now would be a good time for you to smoke one if you got one because the sh*t hit the fan big time. Unless you’re under 21. We can’t have law-breaking juveniles in our ranks while we’re about to head into another major conflict.


And this entire vacation, I was just waiting to make a joke about the Space Force finally being a thing but noooOOOooo. Anyways, here are some memes.

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(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via 1st Civ Div)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

Real talk: If we go to Iran, it would be a separate conflict from the GWOT as it’s nation vs nation instead of fighting terrorism. So that would mean we’d realistically get to add a star to our CIBs/CABs/CMBs, right?

That may weigh heavily on my decision to reenlist…

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Not CID)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

There’s building character and then there’s risking your troop’s health and lively to appease an antiquated version of what the “military was like back in your day.” 

Don’t let anyone fool you. The sweatpants we wore with our PTs back in the BDU era were the comfiest things ever.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

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