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 TRENDING

Trump set to double tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods

After a handful of quiet days in President Donald Trump’s trade war, it looks as if a further escalation may be on its way following reports that another round of tariffs on China could be announced imminently and a statement from the Chinese government saying it is readying a retaliation.

According to Bloomberg, the Trump administration is considering levying tariffs of 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods shipped to the US, a move that would inevitably deepen tensions between the two nations. Trump so far has publicly threatened 10% tariffs on this tranche of imports.


Citing three sources familiar with the plans, Bloomberg said the US would raise its threat to 25% tariffs as a means of getting the Chinese government to enter into negotiations to de-escalate the conflict, which has seen tit-for-tat tariff impositions largely on industrial goods.

The increased tariff proposals could be announced in a Federal Register notice as early as Aug. 1, 2018, one of Bloomberg’s sources said.

The US has already placed 25% tariffs on about billion worth of Chinese goods, and it has just finished consulting on another set to be imposed on goods worth billion. It earlier imposed tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from China and other countries.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

White-hot steel pouring out of an electric arc furnace.

Goods already affected by Trump’s tariffs against China include batteries, trains, and ball bearings, but they could extend to more consumer goods if further tariffs are imposed. You can see a full list of goods subject to tariffs here .

Before his latest tariff threat, Trump previously signaled a readiness to “go to 500,” or impose tariffs on all 5 billion of goods coming from China to the US.

“I’m not doing this for politics — I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country,” he told CNBC during the interview in which he made that threat. “We have been ripped off by China for a long time.”

The latest reports of Trump’s willingness to increase tariffs on China were met with anger in Beijing, with a government representative accusing the US of attempting to “blackmail” China. The government also made clear that it was willing to hit back at any additional tariffs.

“US pressure and blackmail won’t have an effect,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said, according to Reuters. “If the United States takes further escalatory steps, China will inevitably take countermeasures and we will resolutely protect our legitimate rights.”

Things look better for Europe

As the Trump administration ratchets up its threats to China about rising tariffs, the worst of its conflict with the European Union over trade appears to be over, after last week Trump climbed down on imposing tariffs on European automobiles imported by the US .

During a meeting in Washington, DC, on July 25, 2018, Trump and the European Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, agreed to the beginnings of a deal meant to lower tensions between the two parties.

“This was a very big day for free and fair trade,” Trump said in a press conference after the two met .

In the meeting, the EU agreed to import more American soybeans and liquefied natural gas. The two sides committed to work to lower industrial tariffs and adjust regulations to allow US medical devices to be traded more easily in European markets.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the 82d Airborne sent Putin a message at Saber Strike

The 82nd Airborne Division has a long and storied history. It also has a very significant mission for the United States: It’s America’s fire brigade — sent to a hot spots around the world to draw a line in the sand whenever needed. It did just that in 1990, at the start of Operation Desert Shield, but a lot of time has passed since then.

During Saber Strike 2018, an international exercise held annually in partnership with the Baltic States and Poland to rehearse the deployment of troops in defense of those nations, the 82nd Airborne Division was used to send a pointed reminder. The world needed to know that this division remains ready to act.

With the help of nine U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport planes, roughly 700 paratroopers from the famed division, as well as some from the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, dropped into Latvia, simulating a no-notice deployment.


Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

A paratrooper gathers his equipment after making a landing during Saber Strike 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

It took ten hours for the planes to take the troops to their drop zone in Latvia. In addition to the paratroopers, they also dropped vehicles, like the High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), and equipment, including FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and .50-caliber sniper rifles.

The message was clear: In less than half a day, the United States and its allies can have troops on the ground, equipped and ready to fight.

But here’s something you may not know about the 82nd Airborne Division: There is always a brigade ready move anywhere in the world with just 24 hours’ notice. This is known as the Division Ready Brigade. Inside that brigade, one battalion can arrive anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

Not only did paratroopers from the 82nd make a jump into Latvia, they brought vehicles like HMMWVs, too!

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

In 1990, the deployment of those forces to Saudi Arabia stopped Saddam Hussein at the Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia. It was a clear message that said crossing the border would lead to war with America.

Their rapid deployment as part of Saber Strike 2018 sends a similar message to Putin: The United States of America can and will rapidly respond if you try to attack the Baltic States. Hopefully, as it did in 1990, such a deployment will give a hungry, aggressive nation pause.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Strangers brave snow and ice to attend the funeral of a 91-year-old veteran

In the military community, there’s nothing more important than honoring our fallen and showing up. Earlier today, at Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO, that’s exactly what happened.


Articles

This is why a US Army brigade just blasted 1 million rounds of ammo in Europe

Fort Carson soldiers have put up a series of startling statistics during six months of heavy training in Europe.


In the 180 days deployed, the soldiers have put in 153 days of training with allies and community engagements across a swath of the continent from the Baltic to the Black Sea. To supply the brigade’s more than 4,000 troops, the unit’s truckers have logged more than 100,000 highway miles.

After taking part in the biggest European training exercise for US troops since the Cold War, which wrapped up in Germany last week, the brigade’s troops had fired more than 1 million rounds from their pistols, rifles, machine guns, tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and artillery pieces.

“It has been absolutely tremendous,” said the brigade’s boss, Col. Christopher Norrie.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Col. Christopher Norrie (right) US Army photo by Sgt. William Tanner

The colonel spoke to The Gazette by phone last week as his soldiers packed up their gear for yet another mock war, this time in Hungary. His soldiers had just fought mock battles alongside a full team of American allies, including the usual suspects from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and newer partners including Ukrainian tankers and Albanian infantry.

“We fired 7,000 rounds of artillery,” Norrie said of the 10-day exercise. The unit also drilled with allied Air Forces and coordinated with a French command team.

“I think the dynamic here that was most interesting was the international environment.”

With tensions on the rise across Europe fueled by an increasingly aggressive Russia led by president Vladimir Putin, the training has sent a clear message: Don’t mess with the US or its friends.

The brigade headed to the continent from Colorado Springs in January, bringing more than 2,000 tanks, trucks, and artillery pieces across the Atlantic by ship. The goal was to demonstrate how quickly a US-based unit could be ready to fight overseas.

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

After gathering in Poland, the unit spread out from Estonia to Bulgaria.

Moving the unit across the vast expanse of Europe showed how quickly its soldiers could show up for battle. The training exercises that followed have shown how they can win the fight, Norrie said.

“We view deterrence as presence plus lethality,” Norrie said.

At a German training area, the brigade’s M-1 tanks proved dominant in a simulated war that included traditional combat and modern-day threats including a cyber attack.

“We seized seven objectives in 48 hours,” Norrie said.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
An M1A2 Abrams Tank belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division prepares to fire during tank gunnery qualification at Presidential Range in Swietoszow, Poland, January 27, 2017. The arrival of 3rd ABCT, 4th Inf. Div., marks the start of back-to-back rotations of armored brigades in Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve. This rotation will enhance deterrence capabilities in the region, improve the U.S. ability to respond to potential crises and defend allies and partners in the European community. U.S. forces will focus on strengthening capabilities and sustaining readiness through bilateral and multinational training and exercises. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke)

Large-scale tank training has been a rarity for the Army and 3rd Brigade in recent years. Since 2001, the unit has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but its tanks and other heavily-armored rigs were parked as its soldiers fought as infantry against insurgent groups.

Now, the Army is focused on its ability to take on “near-peer” enemies, like Russia and China.

That explains the abundance of training rounds fired by the brigade — numbers unheard of in recent years as the Pentagon tightened its belt to deal with budget cuts.

Having the unit overseas also allowed 3rd brigade to practice working with allies.

“There are things we need to improve, things our allies need to improve, and things we are very good at,” he said.

Norrie said his unit was successful in bridging language and cultural barriers thanks to liaison teams. The unit put its troops in the headquarters of allied forces and the other nations reciprocated, creating an instant solution for problems as they arose.

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

He said cooperation was also fueled by having a clear common goal.

“That shared interest of expressing the will of the alliance, it’s a very powerful motivator,” he said.

The training for the brigade is also proceeding at a pace unseen outside wartime.

After wrapping up the training in Germany, tank crews were busy washing mud off their tracks and heading out for training in Hungary.

The brigade, which will head back to Fort Carson in about three months, has become expert at shipping gear across the continent.

“We have done 180 different rail movements throughout Europe,” Norrie said.

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

The pounding pace of the unit’s work would be enough to grind down even the most veteran of soldiers.

But Norrie said it has actually had the opposite effect.

Instead of dragging, 3rd Brigade soldiers are walking taller, he said. The platoons, companies, and battalions have become close knit families during weeks of intense work.

Mechanics have set records for the number of vehicles available for war despite their heavy use. Gunnery scores have gone sky-high as soldiers hone their skills, he said.

Norrie said the brigade has the swagger of an undefeated team.

“If you see our soldiers they are so proud of what they have done,” he said.

Articles

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
(US Army photo by Sgt Kenneth Toole)


Recent events, new suicide data and employer survey results paint a difficult picture of veterans in America. Veterans need to take an active role in changing trends and perceptions.

The disheartening events in Dallas struck a heart-breaking blow to the families affected by the loss of life and the community around them. The veteran community, more broadly, reacted with shock and dismay when details surrounding the likely perpetrator indicated he was an honorably discharged Army veteran.

Two other news items that same week added to the negative narrative that continues to hover unfairly over all veterans. First, the Department of Veterans Affairs published the most comprehensive study on veteran suicide to date, which more accurately estimated the number to be 20 per day. Most concerning in the new findings are the risks to younger veterans and women veterans when compared to non-veteran counterparts. Veterans under age 30 have twice the suicide rate when compared to older veterans (who still account for the largest portion of veteran suicides). Similarly, young women veterans are nearly four times as likely to die by suicide compared to non-veteran women.

Second, Edelman released some of the results of its recent survey which found 84 percent of employers viewed veterans as heroes, but only 26 percent viewed veterans as “strategic assets.” Similar studies in recent years show an increasing division between veterans and other Americans with no military connection. A general lack of understanding between those who have served and those who have not plagues many veterans seeking future opportunities.

In less than 72 hours, Americans read articles depicting veterans as homicidal maniacs, suicidal victims and employees of little value. These stories have the potential of reversing progress made by many government and private sector leaders who have worked tirelessly to create a more responsible narrative reflecting the spectrum of attributes (both positive and negative) relating to service member and veteran experiences. Leaders at the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, led by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden, along with former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen and General Dempsey, and private sector stakeholders and advocates have helped dispel myths about veterans in recent years.

Yet, despite these public-facing efforts and campaigns, the convergence of several news items has the potential to reverse progress. Coupled with the Joint Chiefs of Staff ending its biggest advocacy effort aimed at helping service members transition, the Chairman’s Office of Reintegration (formerly Office of Warrior and Family Support), our nation’s veterans, service members and military-affiliated families will continue to be plagued by false narratives, misallocated resources and stereotypes.

With these challenges in mind, veterans and military families need to take an active role in setting the record straight and in voicing real needs to ensure resources are directed where needed most. Here are several ways families can start:

1. Tell your story

Sociologists teach us that societies are always changing. These changes are often the result of modification in social relationships. Sharing your experiences with others is a vital step in reducing the civilian-military drift. As Gen. Martin Dempsey articulated, “If you want to stay connected to the American people, you can’t do it episodically.” The most powerful way to reconnect with the rest of America is to openly share your military experiences without exaggeration or diminishing the realities.

2. Participate in surveys

Academic institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organization are often seeking survey responses from veterans or military families. Taking 10 or 15 minutes to provide input could ensure you and other military-affiliated families get the resources they need. One such survey, conducted by Military-Transition.org, is ongoing and actively seeking recently transitioned service member respondents. The Center for a New American Security is also running a Veteran Retention Survey.

3. Give Feedback

We all know the power of customer reviews. Sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Google+ are some of the first places consumers look before choosing a location for dinner, planning a vacation or making a purchase at a retailer. As veterans, we know there is an inherent trust of other veterans. Many of us rely on fellow veterans to help us find credible counselors, get information about a new community we’re moving to or help us find an employer who has values similar to those experienced while in uniform. Now is the time to merge these two realities (the value of aggregated online reviews and inherent veteran trust of fellow veterans). Are you giving feedback and leaving reviews for businesses that offer discounts to service members and veterans? Have you accessed services from a nonprofit organization or public agency and if so, did you leave them feedback so they can improve their services? If you’re not doing so, I’d encourage you to leave feedback. To make it simple, try a new site, WeVets.us, designed exclusively to capture veteran and military family feedback so fellow services members and veterans can find valuable services.

4. Self-identify in the workplace

CEB Global reviewed the records of more than one million employees and found veterans to be 4 percent more productive than non-veteran employees and have a 3 percent lower turnover rate. While the Edleman survey above indicates an employer perception problem, the CEB data indicate a strong business case for hiring veterans. As a veteran in the workforce, are you self-identifying to your employer? Are you serving your company in a way that leverages your prior military experiences? It is through self-identification and exemplary service that employer perceptions will shift over time.

5. Vote

One of the most coveted freedoms service members defend is our right to vote. As defenders and former defenders of that right, exercise your own right to vote. Elect public officials who have veteran and military family interests in mind. Register to vote and then vote in upcoming elections. If you’re overseas or a military voter, register here.

Chris Ford is a champion for veterans and military families; advocating for solutions that eliminate barriers to the successful transition and reintegration of service members and their families. As the CEO of NAVSO, he expresses his passion and commitment to improve the lives of veterans and military families by providing essential resources to those who serve them. Chris is a 20-year Air Force veteran who retired in 2014 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff where he served in the Chairman’s Office of Warrior and Family Support. During his Air Force career, he deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and earned many decorations and awards including the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of November 23rd

If you really think about it, troops and veterans have been trained for all the stresses of Black Friday.

You’ve been trained in making a plan, navigating difficult driving conditions, effective crowd control, and hand-to-hand combat when comes time to secure that one toy your little niece really wanted, and how to properly exfil the f*ck out of that mall before the rent-a-cops show up on Segways.

However, if you’re smart enough to avoid all of that BS and do your shopping online, then you’ve earned these memes.


Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

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 Smokepit Fairytales)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Grunt Style)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Tweet by Jack Wagner)

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 Disgruntled Vets)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

(Meme via Private News Network)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Dashcam footage shows pilot ejecting from armed F-16 just before it crashes into a California hangar

Last Thursday afternoon, commuters driving down the 215 Freeway adjacent to Riverside County, California’s March Air Reserve Base witnessed an incredible sight. A pilot was forced to eject from his F-16 Fighting Falcon carrying live ordnance over the highway, deploying his chute as the fighter careened into the roof of a nearby warehouse.

The single-engine fighter was headed back to March Air Reserve Base after completing a routine training mission in the nearby Moreno Valley when the pilot reported a hydraulics failure in the aircraft. Soon, he was forced to eject, landing safely in a nearby field. The crippled jet, however, continued its uncontrolled descent into the roof a warehouse across the freeway from the base, belonging to a company called See Water Inc.


2019 0516 153242 004

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In a dramatic 20-second clip captured by the dash camera of YouTuber James Dyer, you can see the stricken F-16 losing altitude as it passes from the left to the right of the screen. As the pilot ejects, the aircraft continues to coast and wobble, seemingly toward the freeway until the clip ends.

The warehouse that the armed F-16 crashed into was occupied at the time, and at least one person recorded footage of the aftermath that they later posted to Facebook.

“Holy *expletive* dude. That’s a *expletive* airplane; that’s a military airplane in our building,” one person can be heard exclaiming in the footage.

Damage filmed inside warehouse after fighter jet crash in California- video

youtu.be

Warning – Video contains harsh language

While local officials would not comment on the exact munitions the F-16 was carrying, they did confirm that it was equipped with a “standard armament package,” which suggests 500 rounds for the aircraft’s on-board cannon as well as a number of potential air-to-ground or air-to-air bombs and missiles. All told, the F-16 has hard points for six external weapons, often broken down into two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, and two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, as well as two additional 2400-pound external fuel tanks when necessary for long-duration flights. Whatever ordnance was on board this Fighting Falcon was quickly secured by Air Force officials.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence

F-16 carrying a full combat load including external fuel tanks

(U.S. Air Force)

Suffice to say, as bad as a hole in a warehouse roof may be, this incident could have been significantly worse. No one was killed in the crash, though 13 people were injured with three remaining hospitalized but listed as stable. According to local health officials, none of the injuries sustained were life-threatening.

“Thank God everyone is safe and OK,” Mike Johnson, the CEO of the company located in the warehouse, told the press. “We’ll have to see what this means for the company, but right now our concern is with our employees and their families.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Enlisted pilots could fly in combat for the first time since WWII

The Air Force is mired in a deepening pilot crisis, with a shortage of approximately 2,000 pilots from the active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve at the end of fiscal year 2017 in September.


The Air Force has pursued a number of policies to correct that shortage, including quality-of-life improvements, opening positions for retired pilots, and drawing more active-duty pilots from the National Guard and Reserve. The force also has the option to recall retired pilots, but says it will not avail itself of it.

Now it appears the Air Force is considering a step it has long avoided: training enlisted airmen to be combat aviators.

A new six-month pilot-training program will consist of 15 officers and five enlisted airmen, Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, chief of the Second Air Force, told his commanders in a November 30 email, seen by Air Force Times.

Currently, the only Air Force personnel eligible to be pilots are commissioned officers, and achieving officer status requires a four-year college degree.

“Enlisted volunteers will be pioneers in innovating Air Force aviator recruitment, selection, and training processes by demonstrating the potential of non-college graduates to succeed in a rigorous pilot training environment,” Leahy, whose command is responsible for basic military and tactical training for Air Force personnel, wrote in the email.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Maj. Glenn Meleen, a test pilot for the 40th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, prepares to taxi prior to flight in the Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula

Leahy added that the training program would provide data to Air Education and Training Command commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast about “the potential for enlisted members to train to fly modern combat aircraft,” according to Air Force Times. The email was obtained by former airman Steven Mayne, who runs the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page.

The email said there was a December 15 deadline for airmen to volunteer online and that those picked would start training on February 15. Those who succeed would take solo flights in T-6 single-engine turboprop training aircraft.

Air Education and Training Command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday confirmed the email to Air Force Times and said the command “chose to focus on flying training because of the urgency involved with the enterprise.” She added that the program was meant to examine how airmen learn and would look at technology that could lead to better and faster learning.

However, she also downplayed enlisted airmen’s proximity to the pilot’s seat, telling Task Purpose that, while the training program was started because of the need for pilots, the “study is not looking at changing our pilot force, but rather it is exploring new ways to effectively and efficiently deliver training.”

Read More: This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

“The plan for this six-month program is to explore the technology available to produce a student, similarly-skilled to a UPT graduate,” Holliday told Task Purpose, referring to the Air Force’s yearlong basic aviation course, Undergraduate Pilot Training.

Officers who pass the six-month course will get pilot’s wings and move on to specialized training, while enlisted airmen who pass will return to the specialty they were selected for during basic training, Holliday said, adding that they could have their flight hours applied to a civilian pilot’s license.

‘The natural progression’

The Air Force said at the end of 2015 that it would begin training enlisted airmen to fly RQ-4 remotely piloted aircraft — part of an effort to meet demand for unmanned-aircraft pilots. At the end of 2016, two master sergeants became the first enlisted airmen in 60 years to complete solo flights during initial flight training.

The Air Force continued that training this year, with 30 enlisted airmen (chosen from 800 initial applicants) starting training for the RQ-4 Global Hawk in March. Outside of that initiative, however, the force has shown little interest in training enlisted airmen to fly manned aircraft.

Despite that reluctance, Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth Wright told Air Force Timesearlier this year that many enlisted men have pilot’s licenses and that enlisted airmen piloting manned aircraft appeared to be “the natural progression.”

Wright also started a study at the end of the summer to explore what benefit the Air Force would get from bringing back the warrant officer program, which some have said would be a way to properly recognize and compensate enlisted pilots for their expanded duties as fliers.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

Air Force officials have pointed to a number of reasons for the force’s pilot shortage including quality-of-life issues, recruitment by private airlines, as well as strain created by three decades of ongoing operations around the world.

The shortage of qualified fliers has also been exacerbated by a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline, caused by a combination of factors like force drawdowns, longer deployments, and budget restrictions.

Air Force leaders have zeroed in on budget woes as a particular problem.

Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said in November that he worried, “if we cannot move past sequester in its current form, we’re going to break this force.”

This month, with the window closing on budget legislation, Goldfein again sounded alarm about the worst-case scenario for the Air Force: A budget deal that doesn’t lift spending limits put in place by the Budget Control Act.

Such an outcome would “devastate” the Air Force, Goldfein told Air Force Times, adding to problems created by the last budget sequester and hindering the service’s ability to keep pilots in their planes and, in turn, in uniform.

“If you’re not preparing for or executing combat operations, then you’ll likely stop flying,” Goldfein said. “Currencies will lapse, qualifications will cease, and we’ll potentially look back on the timeframe of having an only 2,000 pilots short [force] as a dream.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Charlie DeLeo: Keeper of the Flame

If you’ve ever set foot in New York City at night and glanced across the Upper Bay at Lady Liberty, you’d see that her torch burns bright. From 1972 to 1999, you had Charlie DeLeo to thank for that awe-inspiring sight.

Known as the “Keeper of the Flame,” DeLeo was responsible for ensuring the light bulbs—some 22 stories up—were changed. He accomplished this every day, rain or wind or shine, so that when people see the statue they are left with a sense of hope. DeLeo believes this spirit embodies the best of what America offers.


In Vietnam

One might say that DeLeo himself is synonymous with the best of America: he has always endeavored to give whenever and whatever he can. He gave first when, at 17, he gained his parent’s permission to enlist in the Marine Corps. His poor eyesight required a waiver, and he was limited to duties as a cook.

In Vietnam, DeLeo was desperate for a transfer to the infantry. He believed in his heart that he was a rifleman, but learned quickly that, when in a war zone or combat situation, no task is menial and it takes the work of everyone to ensure success. He believed that honor comes from hard work, determination and devotion.

When eligible, DeLeo submitted for transfer, but soon found himself in a construction unit—not the infantry. But he found excitement there when, one night in Phu Bai, three Marines were killed and 52 were injured during a mortar attack. DeLeo was among the injured; he took shrapnel to his leg.

With Lady Liberty

During his recovery, DeLeo saw the bodies of dead Marines waiting to be transported back home. It was on the Khe Sanh airstrip when DeLeo decided that he had seen enough. He received a Purple Heart upon returning home, then—in uniform—went to visit Lady Liberty. The statue had always been special to DeLeo, ever since he took a trip there in fourth grade. He wanted to see the torch up close but wasn’t permitted when he got there.

About four years later, while between jobs, DeLeo again went to see the Statue of Liberty, and on impulse, asked about a job. He was told that they were looking for a maintenance guy and that he should ask about it. He did, and he was hired. But it wasn’t until a few months into his position that he took on his iconic role.

DeLeo’s boss had got wind that he was sneaking up into the torch, where no one ever went and weren’t supposed to go. Instead of being let go, his boss gave him the task of caring for the torch. From then on DeLeo became the “Keeper of the Flame.”

The “Keeper of the Flame” ensures the Lady’s torch is ship shape, changing out bulbs and cleaning the encasement when necessary. With this role, DeLeo became something of a celebrity, having several articles written about him, and one time appearing on a game show. In 1998 he won a Freedom Award from America’s Freedom Festival at Provo, and he’s even had a book written about his life, called Charlie DeLeo: Keeper of the Flame, by William C. Armstrong.

Thank you for your service, Charlie DeLeo!

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army issues tips for operating weapons in extreme cold

The U.S. Army recently put out a reminder to soldiers on how to make sure their weapons continue to function when temperatures dip below freezing.


“Cold temperatures can greatly affect the maintenance, functioning, and employment of infantry weapons,” according to a Jan. 2 Army press release. “The Army will continue to operate in cold weather environments worldwide, so we must be able to maintain our weapons in any climate.”

Condensation is a killer.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
A Special Forces Operator assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) fires a round at a target hundreds of meters away during sniper training Feb. 8, 2017 at Limestone Hills Training Area at Fort Harrison, Montana. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Craig Cantrell)

Also known as sweating, condensation forms on weapons when troops move them from freezing temperatures into a warm shelter. Taking weapons dripping with condensation back out into the cold will result in the internal mechanisms freezing together, causing stoppages, the release states.

If possible, keep weapons outside during extremely cold weather. When left outside, weapons should be readily accessible, guarded, and sheltered to keep ice and snow from accumulating in the working mechanisms, sights, or barrel, according to the release.

If weapons must be kept inside a shelter, keeping them near the floor will reduce the chance of condensation. Keeping the inside temperature of the shelter close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit will also cut down on condensation, according to the release. Condensation will continue to form for about an hour after bringing weapons into a shelter, so wait until it stops before wiping weapons down.

Also Read: Silver coating may be the future of military cold weather clothing

Upon leaving the shelter, take a few minutes to pull the charging handle to the rear and drop the magazine several times to prevent parts from freezing, the release states.

Also, use “Lubricant, Arctic Weapon” on all weapons except the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun instead of Break-Free CLP, which can thicken and cause weapons to operate sluggishly or jam, the release states.

What else? How do you keep your gear ready for cold-weather environments?

Articles

Mattis: US faces ‘a determined enemy’ in Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said May 9 that American forces in Afghanistan face “a determined enemy” but are dealing significant blows to the enemy.


Speaking at a news conference in Copenhagen alongside his Danish counterpart, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, Mattis said both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida are losing ground and power in Afghanistan as the government, under President Ashraf Ghani, “wins the affection, the respect and the support” of the people.

“In Afghanistan, the enemy has lost about two-thirds of its strength and this past weekend, President Ghani announced the death of the emir of IS Khorasan — this is the IS group in Nangarhar…” Mattis said. “In our anti-IS campaign, we’re dealing that group one more significant blow with the loss of their leader.”

U.S. and Afghan officials announced recently that Abdul Hasib, the head of so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan, had been killed in a military raid. He was believed to have been behind an attack that killed 50 people in a Kabul military hospital earlier this year.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Danish Minister of Defense Claus Hjort Frederiksen host a press brief at Eigtveds Pakhus in Copenhagen, Denmark, May 9, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

Mattis said the United States will continue integrating its military and non-military efforts in Afghanistan and do everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

“We have to remember that the battlefield that we are fighting on is also a humanitarian field where innocent people live right now, sometimes forced to stay on a battlefield by IS,” he said.

The comments from Mattis come as U.S. media report the Trump administration may significantly increase the number of U.S. troops and intensity of the fight in Afghanistan.

According to reports, Trump is weighing whether to send as many as 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan. The U.S. currently has about 8,400 troops stationed in the country.

Also read: NATO requests more troops for Afghanistan

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump has asked military advisers “to relook at the entire strategy” in Afghanistan.

News accounts say the prospective plan would give the Pentagon, not the White House, the final say on the number of troops in Afghanistan, while the U.S. military would have greater range in using airstrikes to target Taliban fighters and remove Obama-era policies limiting the movements of military advisers in the country.

Trump will reportedly make a decision on the Afghanistan policy prior to a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-22 conducted its first ever airstrike in Afghanistan

The Lockheed F-22 Raptor has seen some action over Syria – but now it can also add Afghanistan to the places where it has fought. The fifth-generation fighter made its combat debut against the Taliban on Nov. 20.


According to a report by the Aviationist, the Raptors took part in strikes against Taliban-operated drug labs that produced opium. Opium can then be refined into heroin, which is worth $200 a gram in the United States.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
A F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker on their way to Iraq, Jan. 30 2015. The F-22s are supporting the U.S. lead coalition against Da’esh. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/Released)

A release by Operation Resolute Support headquarters noted that the F-22s were selected due to their ability to use the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, or SDB. The release noted that the reduction of collateral damage was a consideration in the selection of the F-22 to carry out the attack.

According to Designation-Systems.net, the GBU-39 comes in at 285 pounds, has a 250-pound blast-fragmentation warhead, and a range of over 60 nautical miles. A F-22 Raptor can carry up to eight in its internal weapons bays. Improved versions, like the GBU-40 and GBU-53 add multi-mode seekers to engage moving targets.

Afghanistan and the Taliban hold talks amid a wave of violence
Staff Sgt. Randy Broome signals a jammer operator to move a Bomb Rack Unit 61 forward, while loading it onto an F-15E Strike Eagle at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on Aug. 1. The NCO is an aircraft weapons specialist with the 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

The F-22 strikes come in the wake of President Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan. As part of the new strategy, rules of engagement were loosened. Prior to the announcement of the new strategy, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut when it was used against a tunnel system.

The war in Afghanistan has also seen the employment of a very old aircraft. During Operation Enduring Freedom, NASA used a version of the B-57 Canberra over the combat theater.

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