Afghanistan doesn't expect troop withdrawal to affect security - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security

A significant reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan won’t impact upon the security of the war-torn country, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said on Dec. 21, 2018.

It was the first official Afghan reaction to reports in the U.S. media that President Donald Trump is considering a “significant” withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, with some quoting unnamed officials as saying the decision has already been made.

“If they withdraw from Afghanistan it will not have a security impact because in the last 4 1/2 years the Afghans have been in full control,” Ghani’s spokesman, Haroon Chakhansuri, said via social media.

The Wall Street Journal quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official on Dec. 20, 2018, as saying that Trump “wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”


The AFP news agency quoted a U.S. official as saying the decision has already been made for a “significant” U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“That decision has been made. There will be a significant withdrawal,” AFP quoted the official as saying.

CNN also reported that Trump has already ordered the military to make plans for a withdrawal of perhaps half of the current 14,000-strong force.

NATO has so far declined to comment on the reports, saying only that is aware of the reports.

In response to an RFE/RL question, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said, “The Afghan Army and police have been fully in charge of the security of Afghanistan for over four years. They are a brave, committed, and increasingly capable force, who have ensured the security of the parliamentary elections earlier this year.”

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security

“Earlier this month, NATO foreign ministers expressed steadfast commitment to ensuring long-term security and stability in Afghanistan,” Lungescu said.

“Our engagement is important to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists who could threaten us at home.”

However, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, whose NATO-member country is a contributor to Resolute Support, voiced skepticism that even a partial U.S. withdrawal could be supplanted by the remaining members.

“Frankly, I do not believe that we can split forces and rely that something can be done in the absence of an important player. It’s difficult really to say,” Linkevicius told RFE/RL.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to counter attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.

U.S. officials have been attempting to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the government in Kabul. Many Taliban leaders insist that U.S. forces depart before substantial peace talks can take place.

The reports came a day after Trump surprised and angered many U.S. lawmakers, administration officials, and international allies by saying he was pulling “all” U.S. troops out of Syria, where they are leading a multinational coalition backing local forces in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

It also came shortly before Trump announced that his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, would be leaving his post at the end of February 2019.

U.S. media are reporting that Mattis opposed Trump’s move to withdraw from Syria. In his resignation letter, Mattis said his views were not fully “aligned” with those of the president.

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

A U.S.-led coalition has been in Afghanistan since 2001, when it drove the Taliban from power after Al-Qaeda militants — whose leaders were being sheltered in Afghanistan — carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

However, the Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to counter attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.

U.S. officials have been attempting to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the government in Kabul. Many Taliban leaders insist that U.S. forces depart before substantial peace talks can take place.

‘Huge Mistake’

Mohammad Taqi, a Florida-based political analyst, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that a rapid U.S. withdrawal would be “a huge mistake.”

“If we look at it in context of talks with the Taliban, then it seems [the] Taliban have already strengthened their position,” he said. “Now the reports of [a U.S. withdrawal] show a weakening stance by the U.S., which could subsequently undermine [the] Afghan government’s position.”

On Dec. 20, 2018, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, questioned the Taliban’s determination to end the 17-year war after the group’s representatives refused to meet with an Afghan government-backed negotiating team.

Khalilzad said that, while he was certain the Afghan government wanted to end the conflict, it was unclear whether the Taliban were “genuinely seeking peace.”

Khalilzad’s remarks came following his latest face-to-face meeting in December 2018 with the Taliban, which was held in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and was also attended by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The U.A.E. hailed the talks as “positive for all parties concerned,” while the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Khalid bin Salman, claimed the meetings will produce “very positive results by the beginning of next year.”

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

MIGHTY FIT

7 tips for feeling more comfortable at the gym

For those who’ve never been before, the gym can be an intimidating place. The weights are heavy, some of the isolation machines are complicated, and the other people look jacked. While everyone around you goes about their workout, you feel a little lost and you start feeling like you made a mistake just by showing up.

We call this, “gymtimidation.”

On the surface, the gym can seem like an unwelcoming place, even if the person at the first desk was so nice to you. And if you’re not in the best shape, standing next to some ripped guy or gal can make you feel insecure.

As with any new environment, it takes a little time to adapt to the gym. Fortunately, we’ve got a few tips that’ll help you feel a little more comfortable as you hit the weights.


Also Read: 5 workout machines you should skip while at the gym

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This is definitely a distraction.

Go with some friends

Most of the time, finishing an intense workout is all about finding the proper motivation. Having a little support at the gym goes a long way. Nobody is going to motivate you like a good friend that’s also looking for results. Plus, working out with a few friends helps drown out some of the outside distractions that can make you uncomfortable.

Wear comfy clothes

Going to the gym doesn’t need to be a fashion statement, even if some people do dress up in expensive workout clothes for whatever reason. If you want to spend a pretty dime on the clothes you’re going to sweat in, that’s fine by us. Those who buy buy into the pricey trends tend to do so because it makes them feel better when they enter the weight room.

You don’t have to wear the newest Air Jordans or a Lululemon shirt, but if it’s comfortable and makes you feel more confident, then go for it.

Your workout is about you and no one else.

www.youtube.com

Learn other exercises

It’s safe to say that most people have a general sense of what constitutes a solid workout. Push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups are some of the fundamentals and, if those are exercises you know, that’s fine. But the internet is full of free workout plans.

As long as you have a working smartphone, you can connect to the world wide web, even while you’re in the gym, and find tons of step-by-step workout routines.

It’s that freakin’ simple.

Listen to good music

The majority of gym-goers listen to music to help amp themselves up and get through their strenuous workouts. Listening to a good jam is the perfect way to tune out the world around you and focus on lifting all the weights you can. Before you know it, that “gymtimidation” you once felt will filter its way out of your mind.

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We know!

Remember, you’re not alone.

At any given time, there are likely dozens of people working out in the same gym alongside you. The majority of all gym patrons have the same goal: to become healthier people. As long as you try to get in shape while you’re there, you’re just like everybody else.

Go during slow hours

Being uncomfortable in crowds can limit you in life. When it comes to getting a good workout, however, even those who are extremely comfortable in the gym like to show up during the slow hours.

Who the hell wants to wait on workout equipment anyways? Certainly not us.

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You can do it.

Everyone starts out at day one

You see all those toned people working out on the treadmills and in the weight room? Guess what: Those people decided that they were going to get in shape one day, just like you’re doing now. This might sound cheesy, but everyone starts on day one.

Building and toning muscle takes time, just like confidence. Remember, fitness is a process and a journey.

Articles

You need to see this incredible B-1B Bomber crash landing

In a 1989 incident, the Air Force crew of a B1-B bomber found itself unable to lower the front landing gear during a training flight and was forced to execute an emergency landing in the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.


The four-person crew was executing a routine training flight without nuclear weapons onboard on Oct. 4, 1989, and realized three hours into the flight that the front landing gear was malfunctioning. Over the next nine hours, the crew worked to get the gear down.

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security
(GIF: YouTube/airailimages)

Investigators later blamed a hydraulic failure, but the crew in the air just knew that they had to reach the ground safely. The Air Force routed the plane to a dry lakebed in California that was often used for landing the space shuttle.

The dust of the Rogers Dry Lake bed is more likely than most surfaces to allow for a safe skid, reducing the risk to the crew and plane. The full landing is visible from a few angles in this video from airailimages:

Articles

North Korea: Missile tests were practice runs to hit US military in Japan

North Korea’s state-run media announced its latest missile launches were conducted to practice hitting US military bases in Japan, according to The Washington Post on Tuesday.


“If the United States or South Korea fires even a single flame inside North Korean territory, we will demolish the origin of the invasion and provocation with a nuclear tipped missile,” a Korean Central News Agency statement read.

Related: US sets up ballistic missile defense system in South Korea

Three of the four ballistic missiles fired Monday morning flew 600 miles and landed in the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The other missile landed outside the zone.

Studying the photos provided by North Korea, analysts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies deduced that the missiles were extended-range Scuds. Having tested these missiles in the past, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, said that North Korea’s test was not to see whether they could operate but to assess how fast units could deploy them.

“They want to know if they can get these missiles out into the field rapidly and deploy them all at once,” Lewis told The Post. “They are practicing launching a nuclear-armed missile and hitting targets in Japan as if this was a real war.”

The extended-range Scud missiles could be produced more cheaply than other medium-range missiles in the Hermit Kingdom’s arsenal, according to Lewis. This could be disastrous for allied nations, such as Japan and South Korea, not only because North Korea could release a barrage of these missiles, but the rate at which they could be fired can be difficult to counter, even with the US’s defensive systems.

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security
Lockheed Martin

One of these defensive systems, the antimissile battery system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), was in the process of being deployed on Monday night in Osan Air Base, less than 300 miles from the missile launch location.

“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” said Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, in a news release.

Designed to shoot incoming missiles, THAAD has been compared to shooting a bullet with another bullet. However, analysts say that the system would have difficulty in intercepting missiles launched simultaneously — as in Monday’s test.

Also read: 4 things you need to know about North Korea’s missile program

According to a KCNA statement translated by KCNA Watch, Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, supervised the launches from the Hwasong artillery units, who are “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency.”

The launches came shortly after an annual series of US-South Korea military exercises that kicked off earlier this month. The ground, air, naval, and special-operations exercises, which consist of 17,000 US troops and THAAD systems, was predicted by scholars to be met with some retaliatory measures by North Korea.

“In spite of the repeated warnings from [North Korea], the United States kicked off this month the largest-ever joint military exercise with South Korea,” said North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Choi during a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva on Tuesday, according to Reuters. “The annual, joint military exercise is a typical expression of US hostile policy towards the DPRK, and a major cause of escalation of the tension, that might turn into actual war.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy ship trains to rescue astronauts at sea

San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) is underway to conduct Underway Recovery Test (URT) 7 in conjunction with NASA off the coast of Southern California.

URT is part of a U.S. government interagency effort to safely practice and evaluate recovery processes, procedures, hardware, and personnel in an open ocean environment that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft upon its return to Earth.


This will be the first time John P. Murtha will conduct a URT mission with NASA. Throughout the history of the program, a variety of San Antonio-class LPD ships have been utilized to train and prepare NASA and the Navy, utilizing a Boiler Plate Test Article (BTA). The BTA is a mock capsule, designed to roughly the same size, shape, and center of gravity as the Crew Module which will be used for Orion.

NASA and Navy teams have taken lessons learned from previous recovery tests to improve operations and ensure the ability to safely and successfully recover the Orion capsule when it returns to Earth following Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in December 2019.

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security

San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS John P. Murtha arrives to its new homeport Naval Base San Diego.

(U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Lucas T. Hans)

EM-1 will be an uncrewed flight, whose successful completion hopes to pave the way for future crewed missions and enable future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

During URT-7, John P. Murtha will conduct restricted maneuvering operations. Small boats carrying Navy and NASA divers will deploy alongside the BTA to rig tending lines, guiding the capsule to Anchorage as the ship safely operates on station.

Conducting both daytime and nighttime recovery operations, NASA crew members will work alongside the Navy to manage how the capsule is brought in, set down and safely stored.

NASA plans to conduct two more URT missions before EM-1 takes place.

John P. Murtha is homeported in San Diego and is part of Naval Surface Forces and U.S. 3rd Fleet.

Commander, U.S. Third Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. They coordinate with Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet to plan and execute missions based on their complementary strengths to promote ongoing peace, security, and stability.

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

VA nurse takes charge at fatal highway accident

When faced with trauma in a hospital emergency department, nurses have a myriad of tools and resources available to tackle whatever challenges come their way. But imagine being faced with a situation as the only lifesaver at the scene of a horrific accident in a remote location, dealing with 10 patients and a lack of necessary equipment. Add a language barrier, cultural sensitivities, and sweltering heat and even the most experienced nurse can be challenged.

That was the scenario that a VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System nurse faced recently.


On the afternoon of June 20, an SUV traveling a lonely stretch of highway between Las Vegas and St. George, Utah, experienced a sudden tire blow-out, overturning and flipping off the road. The event threw several passengers from the vehicle and trapped others inside.

Maria VanHart, a VASNHS emergency department nurse, was heading home to Utah after her shift at the North Las Vegas Medical Center. Nearly 30 minutes into her commute, she happened upon the single-vehicle accident. While a few onlookers had stopped to assist the victims, none of them were trained to manage the scene.

VanHart assessed the situation, and then quickly acted. “I did what I was trained to do,” she said. “I didn’t panic… just immediately did what needed to be done.”

10-year-old was her translator

One of VanHart’ s first challenges was communicating with the victims. She soon learned that the family had travelled to the United States from Syria for a wedding. Of the 10 passengers, only a 10-year-old boy was able to speak English. “He was walking around with some minor bumps and bruises, but overall looked OK,” said VanHart. He would serve as translator for all her patient care questions. “The first thing I told him was ‘I need you to show me everyone who was in the vehicle.'”

The driver of the vehicle was the father, who had suffered only minor bruises. An older teenage girl holding a baby were walking around the scene, both seemingly unscathed. The boy’s immediate concern was for his brother, a 14-year-old who was trapped inside the overturned vehicle.

“He was not breathing and (based on his condition) I knew immediately that he was dead.”

VanHart quickly turned her attention to others who needed immediate care. The mother of the family was thrown from the vehicle during the accident and was laying 10 feet behind the wreckage. VanHart concluded that she had suffered a severe pelvic injury and had potential internal bleeding.

Needed helicopter for mother and infant

At the front of the vehicle were two more victims on the ground: a boy in his late teens who had a broken leg and an infant girl who didn’t initially appear to have any injuries. While bystanders told VanHart that the infant was fine, she wanted to examine her just in case. “When I did my assessment on her, I could see some facial bruising, agonal breathing, and one of her pupils was blown, so I knew she had a head injury. She may have been having some seizure activity because her eyes were fluttering. She and the mother needed to be flown to a hospital immediately.”

Soon after, the Moapa Police Department arrived on site. “The scene was very active,” said Officer Alex Cruz. “Between attempting to stop traffic, rendering first aid and requesting additional units, it was hectic to say the least. Maria was calm and knew what she was doing. She was directing people on what to do while rendering aid herself. She was like an orchestra conductor.”

Based on the severity of the victim’s injuries, VanHart asked Cruz to request immediate evacuation. “I trusted her expertise and ended calling three helicopters and four ambulances due to her triaging the scene,” he said. “You could tell that she knew what she was doing and there was no time to question her capabilities.”

Calming Syrian father with familiar greeting

Another challenge facing the responders was more difficult to navigate. When paramedics removed the clothing from the woman who VanHart believed suffered internal injuries, her husband became enraged. “I know that as a Muslim, he believed it was inappropriate for men to see his wife without clothing,” VanHart said. “He was still in shock and needed someone to understand him, so I did my best to do that.”

After years of working with doctors of various nationalities, VanHart has picked up phrases in many languages. “One of the things that I learned from working with doctors from the Middle East was a common greeting, ‘As-salamu alaykum,’ which means ‘peace be upon you,'” she said. “So, I sat with the husband and I told him that and he seemed to calm down.'”

Her own emotional crash

After the helicopters were loaded with patients and VanHart had briefed the receiving medical teams at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, she finally took a step back and realized what had happened. She had been on the scene for two hours in 105-degree heat and was exhausted. “When the adrenaline goes away, there’s a crash. It’s an emotional and physical crash. I was dehydrated and physically shaky afterwards. I sat down, drank some water and called my friends for reassurance.”

Breast cancer survivor

VanHart is a breast cancer survivor. She also had lost most of her family to illness at a young age and is married to the former head of a hospital’s trauma nursing department. Health care has always played a big role in her life.

VanHart has a unique philosophy when it comes to assessing her work:

“At the end of the day, there are two things that let me know if I have done my job that day. One is ‘what was my patient-to-hug ratio?’ And the other one is ‘had my mother been the last person I had cared for, would I have done anything differently?’ Everyone out there is someone’s parent or child and they all deserve to be cared for as if they were my own.”

In the photo above, VanHart provides care to a Veteran at the North Las Vegas Medical Center.

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

Articles

This is one idea on how the US military could fight a war in space

A major strategic think-tank suggested that assuring US victory in a space war requires the military to develop a network of small satellites capable of rapidly replacing destroyed space assets.


During a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that took place on June 22nd, military experts and space industry representatives suggested the US invest in the technology to launch swarms of small satellites into orbit as an insurance policy for larger military satellites in the event of a conflict in space.

Developing the capacity to rapidly launch small and cheap satellites would create a “layer of resiliency,” preventing any disruption to space assets by quickly replacing any destroyed satellites.

The current network of large US military and intelligence satellites provide a major war-winning advantage over other countries, but “was really built in an uncontested environment,” Steve Nixon, vice president for strategic development for the satellite firm Stratolaunch, told SpaceNews. “It’s no longer resilient to threats and probably cannot operate through a contested military environment.”

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security
The International Space Station. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The military relies on a network of Global Positioning System satellites to provide precision navigation, communications, weather monitoring, and to find intelligence assets. But those satellites could be vulnerable to Chinese and Russian weapons, according to General John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command.

“We believe that for just one percent of what we spend on national security space, you could add this layer, both in terms of satellites and launch systems,” Nixon said. “One percent is your insurance or deterrent capability that preserves the rest of your architecture. It seems like a really good deal.”

Nixon’s company is developing technology to launch satellites into space from small aircraft, which could be done much more rapidly than a full rocket launch.

Experts believe the threat against satellites has been obscured in today’s asymmetric warfare against terror cells that lack the ability to target US space assets, according to a report published in August by the US National Academies.

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security
A map of currently tracked satellite objects. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

China successfully destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007 and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy orbiting objects in 2013.

“Despite world interest in avoiding militarization of space, potential adversaries have identified the use of space as an advantage for US military forces, and are actively fielding systems to deny our use of space in a conflict,” Hyten wrote in a white paper published in July.

The Trump administration seems interested in maintaining space dominance. The Air Force requested $7.75 billion, a 20 percent increase, in their space budget from last year. The service could spend upwards of $10 billion on space operations from combined public and classified budgets last year, according to The Air Force Times.

Articles

The Air Force’s first F-35s will be fully ready for war next month

After years of development, and having only just entered service officially with the US Air Force last year, the F-35A Lightning II will finally be declared fully combat ready next month, heralding a new age of air power for the service.


Aviation Week reports that the 34th Fighter Squadron, based at Hill AFB, Utah, will take delivery of brand new F-35As fresh from the production line in Dallas, Texas. What differentiates these latest stealth jets from the F-35As currently flown by the Air Force is that they will come with the Block 3F software upgrade.

Block 3F is the final step towards enabling the aircraft to fully utilize every air-to-surface and air-to-air weapon it was built to field in combat. Currently, the F-35s flown by the Air Force and US Marine Corps operate with a limited weapons load while Lockheed Martin and other program contractors ready the Lightning II’s software.

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security
A Norwegian F-35A taxiing (Photo Department of Defense)

The F-35 was created as part of the Joint Strike Fighter program of the late 1990s, bringing about a dedicated multirole replacement for the F/A-18 “Legacy” Hornet, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the AV-8B Harrier II jumpjet operated by the Marine Corps.

By building aircraft with similar architecture – just different engines – the Department of Defense theorized that money could be saved in the long run while keeping operational readiness for the military’s entire fighter fleet at an all-time high. As such, Lockheed Martin has developed three variants of the F-35: the A model for the Air Force, the B model short takeoff/vertical landing for the Marine Corps, and the carrier-capable C model for the Navy.

The F-35 was originally designed to work in tandem with the F-22 Raptor – the Raptor serving as an air superiority fighter while the Lightning II functioning more as a swing-role “Swiss army knife” aircraft. The deployment of the Block 3F software is a huge leap towards making that goal a reality today.

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security
A USAF F-35A departs from Luke AFB in Arizona (Photo US Air Force)

This upgrade comes in the wake of a training deployment conducted by the 34th Fighter Squadron to the United Kingdom earlier this year with F-35As that were still limited in their warfighting capabilities – most in terms of the weapons they could carry and employ. The Marine Corps has also pushed its F-35Bs out to Japan, but are also serving in a limited capacity until the new software update is rolled out.

With fears of a potential confrontation with North Korea, and with the rise of Chinese and Russian stealth fighters on the horizon, maintaining an edge with its own fifth generation fighters has become a major priority for the Air Force. According to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the F-35s which were deployed to the UK in spring could have been sent to battle if called upon, though their pilots would not be able to access the aircraft’s full potential, with the limited software built into their aircraft at the time.

The Pentagon expects to place more than 100 F-35s in Asia within the next three to four years to counter the Chinese air force’s fielding of its own fifth generation fighters like the J-31 Gyrfalcon and the J-20 multirole fighters.

 

Articles

Top general says US commandos and Arab allies squeezing ISIS in Syria

American special operators teamed with Arab fighters in Syria are poised to take a key town north of the Islamic State stronghold in Raqqah. If they succeed it would be an important blow to the Islamic insurgency and assist the government of Iraq in taking back its second largest city.


Since late June, jets from the United States, France, and Australia have been pounding ISIS positions in the city of Manbij, a key northern crossroads town north of the ISIS-held town of Raqqah in Syria. Kurdish and Syrian-Arab fighters who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, are squeezing hundreds of ISIS fighters in the town, said to be a key transit point for bootleg oil and illicit arms for the terrorist group.

“I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with the performance of our partner forces, the Syrian-Arab coalition, in particular,” said Central Command chief Army Gen. Joseph Votel during a press conference at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

“This has been a very difficult fight. This is an area that the Islamic State is trying to hold onto,” he added.

Pentagon chief Ash Carter said the campaign in Manbij is part of an effort to squeeze ISIS into Raqqah in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Defense officials have hinted that a full-on assault on Iraq’s second largest city is imminent, with regional leaders meeting July 20 at Andrews to flesh out a post-takeover plan.

“In play after play, town after town, from every direction and in every domain, our campaign has accelerated further, squeezing ISIL and rolling it back towards Raqqah and Mosul,” Carter said. “By isolating these two cities, we’re effectively setting the stage to collapse ISIL’s control over them.”

Al Jazeera reports that ISIS has lost nearly 500 fighters in Manbij as SDF fighters with American help have squeezed the terrorist enclave. The SDF has suffered less than 100 dead.

The success in Manbij comes as an opposition watchdog group claimed a U.S.-led airstrike on the town killed 56 civilians July 19. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report, the dead include 11 children.

Carter said the anti-ISIS coalition, dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve, is looking into the allegations.

“We’re aware of reports of civilian casualties that may be related to recent coalition airstrikes near Manbij city in Syria,” Carter said. “We’ll investigate these reports and continue to do all we can to protect civilians from harm.”

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security
A Peshmerga soldier fires at a target from his foxhole during a live-fire exercise near Erbil, Iraq, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Hurst/Released)

Votel added that Kurdish and Syrian-Arab parters are working to keep the 70,000 civilians in Manbij out of harms way.

“What I’ve been most impressed with is the deliberateness and the discipline with which our partner forces have conducted themselves,” Votel said. “They are moving slowly, they are moving very deliberately, mostly because they’re concerned about the civilians that still remain in the city.”

“And I think that that speaks very highly of their values and it speaks very highly of what they’re about here. We’ve picked the right partners for this operation,” he said.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Austria gave the Ottoman Turks the greatest taunt of all time

Simply put, the 1529 Siege of Vienna did not go the way the Ottoman Empire hoped it would. Sultan Suleiman I, the Magnificent, was coming off a fresh string of victories in Europe and elsewhere when he decided that the road to an Ottoman Europe had to be paved through the legendary city of Vienna. He boasted that he would be having breakfast in Vienna’s cathedral within two weeks of the start of his siege.


When the day came and went, the Austrians sent the Sultan a letter, telling him his breakfast was getting cold.

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When you drop sick taunts, you must then drop sick beats.

The Sultan had a reason to be cocky going into the Siege of Vienna. He had just brought down the Hungarians, the longtime first line of defense for European Christendom. Hungary lost its king and fell into a disastrous civil war which the Ottomans intervened in. The Habsburgs, who controlled half of Hungary and all of Austria at this time, weren’t having any of it and Hungary was split for a century after. For the time being, however, the Ottomans and their Hungarian allies were going head-to-head with Austrian Archduke Ferdinand I, pushing the Austrians all the way back to Vienna in less than a year.

But Europe’s Christian powers were not going to let Austria fall without a fight and so sent help to the besieged city. That help came in the form of German Landsknechts, Spanish Musketeers, and Italian Mercenaries. It was the furthest the Islamic armies had ever penetrated Europe’s heartland. But Suleiman would fail to take the city.

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Look, if you want to have breakfast in church, most Christians will happily oblige you.

(Woodridge Congregational United Church of Christ)

The torrential rains started almost immediately, meaning the Turkish armies had to abandon its powerful cannons, along with horses and camels who were unaccustomed to the amount of mud they had to trudge through. Even so, they still came with 300 cannons and outnumbered the defenders five-to-one. The allied troops inside the city held their own against the Turkish onslaught as the rain continued.

Sickness, rain, and wounds hounded the Ottoman armies until snowfall took the place of the rain. The Ottomans were forced to retreat, leaving 15,000 men killed in action behind.

The Sultan would never get his breakfast in the cathedral. No sultan would ever get breakfast in an Ottoman Vienna.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What a ‘designated survivor’ does during the State of the Union

With President Donald Trump’s first official State of the Union address on Jan. 30, the White House’s security apparatus is making preparations for a grim worse-case scenario.


If there was a targeted attack on the Capitol, someone would have to take over the government.

Excluding the years immediately after a new president is elected, one member of the president’s Cabinet has been selected every year since the 1960s to be the “designated survivor.”

They sit out the State of the Union far away from the House chamber, so that in case there is a catastrophe, a Senate-confirmed official could take the reigns of the presidency. Since 2005, a designated survivor from Congress has also been selected in order to rebuild the legislative branch.

Also Read: A World Trade Center survivor left an amazing goodbye to his family

This year’s designated survivor has not been announced yet. Although highly unlikely, this doomsday scenario has captured the imaginations of screen writers and TV producers, spawning a an entire show on ABC called simply “Designated Survivor.”

In the real world, designated survivors have often tended to be low-ranking cabinet members, and until 9/11, had spent their evenings away from Washington, DC, in a variety of ways. Almost all choose to kick back, relax, and enjoy the perks of the presidential treatment for a few short hours.

Here are how past designated survivors have spent their State of the Union addresses as the possible president-to-be:

A designated survivor has been selected for the State of Union address since sometime in the 1960s, but the first one documented person was secretary of housing and urban development Samuel R. Pierce Jr. at former President Ronald Reagan’s in January 1984.

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Official portrait of then-Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Samuel Pierce.

Source: The American Presidency Project

In 1986, agriculture secretary John Block spent Reagan’s address from his friend’s house on the shores of Montego Bay, Jamaica. “I was having a glass of wine probably,” Block said after the fact.

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John Block (Official US Secretary of Agriculture photo).

Source: ABC News

In 1990, secretary of veteran affairs Ed Derwinski had a pretty casual experience as the designated survivor. He had pizza near his home while his security detail stood by.

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Former President George H.W. Bush’s cabinet, with Derwinski standing in the top row, third from the right. (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

In 1996, secretary of health and human services Donna Shalala spent the State of the Union address in the White House. She reportedly ordered pizza for her staff after former President Bill Clinton told her, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

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Donna Shalala (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

In 1997, secretary of agriculture Dan Glickman visited his daughter in Lower Manhattan to hang out at her apartment — “nuclear football” and all. But after the State of the Union ended and Secret Service left, they were left looking for taxis in the pouring rain.

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Dan Glickman, 26th Secretary of Agriculture, January 1995 – 2001. (Wikipedia)

Source: CBS News

In 1999, then-secretary of housing and urban development and now-governor of New York Andrew Cuomo opted to stay home to spend quality time with his kids.

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Andrew Cuomo as HUD Secretary (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

In 2000, secretary of energy Bill Richardson spent his time as designated survivor hanging out with his family in coastal Maryland. They dined on roast beef and drank beers as the Secret Service watched over them.

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Bill Richardson at an event in Kensington, New Hampshire. (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

But after the 9/11 attacks rocked the world, the role of designated survivor took on new gravity. From then on out, designated survivors were taken to an undisclosed location and didn’t speak to reporters about their experiences.

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U.S. President George W. Bush at the 2002 State of the Union address in January 2002. (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

“I think 9/11 created a new aura of reality,” said interior secretary and 2011’s designated survivor Ken Salazar. “It added a dimension of seriousness to that kind of protective measure.”

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Official portrait of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

In 2006, secretary of veterans affairs Jim Nicholson had to deal with this new level of seriousness when he was transported via helicopter to an unknown location and given a security briefing. But was able to enjoy a steak dinner in the process.

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Jim Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

In 2010, an unusual circumstance meant that two designated survivors were selected.

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Source: Washington Post

Then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton was abroad in London during the State of the Union, but secretary of housing and urban development Shaun Donovan was also named designated survivor.

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HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, 2009 (Wikipedia)

Source: Washington Post

Had anything happened to the president, Clinton would have succeeded former President Barack Obama because she was next in the line of succession, but because her location was known, another survivor had to be selected.

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Photo by Marc Nozell | Wikimedia Commons

Source: Washington Post

Thankfully — outside of the fictional TV show on ABC — no real designated survivors have had to fulfill their doomsday missions.

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Kiefer Sutherland plays President Tom Kirkman, who finds himself unceremoniously dumped into the Oval Office as the Designated Survivor. (Wikipedia)

Articles

Army evaluates new shoulder-fired rocket tech

The U.S. Army is testing new recoilless rifle technology designed give soldiers shoulder-fired rockets that are lighter and more ergonomic and in future, make them safe to fire in tight urban spaces.


Testers at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland are evaluating upgrades to the M3 recoilless rifle, also known as the Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System, or MAAWS. The improvements will make it more ergonomic, six pounds lighter and shorter.

Also read: The Army’s new grenade has a split personality

Maneuver officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are also conducting a live-demo on the new Shoulder Launched Individual Munition, or SLIM, as part of the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE, 2017.

SLIM is a new lightweight, disposable shoulder-fired rocket, made by Aerojet Rocketdyne. It weighs 14.9 pounds and is designed to be safely fired from inside enclosures without causing hearing or respiratory system damage, Army officials at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning maintain.

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A soldier tests the recoilless rifle known as the M3E1 Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System. | U.S. Army photo

“At 14.9 pounds, it lightens the soldier load, increases engagement lethality and flexibility by eliminating the need for multiple specialized rocket systems with single purpose warheads,” according to a recent press release from MCOE.

Officials from Benning’s Maneuver Battle Lab will document findings in an initial report on live fire capabilities Nov. 1 and present them in conjunction with the AEWE 2017 Insights Briefing to the public on March 1, 2017.

Findings from the assessment of SLIM and other technologies will inform the material selection process for the Individual Assault Munition capabilities development document and final production decision, Benning officials say.

The Individual Assault Munition, or IAM, is a next-generation, shoulder-launched munition being designed for use by the Objective Force Warrior.

IAM will also contribute to survivability by enabling soldiers to engage targets from protected positions without exposing themselves to enemy fire, Army officials maintain. The new weapon is being designed to combine the best capabilities of the M72 LAW, M136 AT4, M136E1 and M141 BDM and replace them in the Army arsenal.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen test officials are testing improvements to the M3 MAAWS . The 75th Ranger Regiment and other special operations forces began using the recoilless rifle in 1991.

The Army began ordering the M3 for conventional infantry units to use in Afghanistan in 2011. The M3 weighs about 21 pounds and measures 42 inches long. The breech-loading M3 fires an 84mm round that can reach out and hit enemy bunkers and light-armored vehicles up to 1,000 meters away.

Program officials will incorporate modern materials to “achieve input provided by U.S. Special Operations Command and other services’ users,” said Renee Bober, Product Manager for the M3E1 at U.S. Army Project Manager Soldier Weapons, in a recent Army press release.

To assist in the project with funding and expertise, the M3E1 team turned to the Army Foreign Comparative Testing Program and began working with the M3’s Swedish manufacturer, Saab Bofors Dynamics, for testing and qualifying its next-generation weapon, known as the M3A1.

Saab unveiled the new M3A1 in 2014. It’s significantly lighter and shorter than the M3 recoilless rifle. It weighs about 15 pounds and measures 39 3/8 inches long.

The Army project team traveled to Sweden so they could observe and validate the vendor’s testing instead of duplicating it back in the U.S., said William “Randy” Everett, FCT project manager.

“It was an innovative solution that saved more than $300,000,” he said.

When testing and qualifications are completed in spring 2017, it is scheduled to go into type classification in the fall of 2017, Army officials maintain. After that, the system will be available for procurement to all Department of Defense services.

The upgraded weapon will able to fire the existing suite of MAAWS ammunition, Army officials maintain.

One of the upgrades will include a shot counter. For safety reasons, a weapon should not fire more than its specified limit of rounds.

Right now, soldiers are manually recording the number of rounds fired in a notebook provided with each weapon. The shot counter will help the system last longer because soldiers can keep a more accurate count of how many rounds go through each weapon, Army officials maintain.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why North Korea has a psychological advantage over the US


  • North Koreans are trained by propaganda and military service not to fear incredible hardships like nuclear war.
  • North Korean officials say their country could destroy the US, but they would survive because Pyongyang has many bunkers and shelters.
  • US citizens view their lives and comfort much more dearly, but the US’s nuclear superiority limits North Korea’s advantage to psychology only.

When the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos went to North Korea, the “most telling moment” for him came when his minder, Pak Sung Il, a father of two, told him that “nuclear war with the United States would be survivable.”

Asked why North Korea would entertain the idea of nuclear war with the US if it would totally wipe out their country, Osnos’ minder gave a chilling answer.

Also read: Top US spooks say the North Korean dictator isn’t crazy at all

“We’ve been through it twice before” he said of national devastation, referring to the Korean War and the “Arduous March,” or the famine of the 1990s that killed up to 3.5 million.

“We can do it a third time,” he said.

“A few thousand would survive,” Pak said. “And the military would say, ‘Who cares? As long as the United States is destroyed, then we are all starting from the same line again … A lot of people would die. But not everyone would die.”

Nicholas Kristof wrote of his trip to North Korea in The New York Times and reported a “ubiquitous assumption that North Korea could not only survive a nuclear conflict, but also win it.”

“If we have to go to war, we won’t hesitate to totally destroy the United States,” a teacher at an amusement park told Kristof.

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But when Western journalists travel to North Korea, they only see and hear state-approved narratives. While officials and official propaganda may unanimously state that North Koreans think they can destroy the US and survive the conflict, regular citizens may not feel the same way.

“This is a government script that everybody studies and repeats,” Kristof told Business Insider of North Koreans’ attitude toward nuclear war. But “people often buy the government propaganda especially if they are in Pyongyang,” said Kristof.

Average North Koreans may or may not believe the official propaganda that they could destroy the US, but their lives revolve around politics and ideology in a way to which the US could never compare.

In Pyongyang, all 16 metro stops are buried deep underground and have been designed to double as bomb shelters. Much of Pyongyang’s infrastructure doubles as bomb shelters, as the memory of the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 — when more bombs were dropped in Korea than in the entirety of World War II — looms large.

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Every North Korean is required to serve in the military, and years ago children were not excluded. (image Wikicommons)

The last time the US was attacked by a foreign country was Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The US hasn’t lived in fear of nuclear annihilation since the close of the Cold War in the early 1990s.

The vast majority of US citizens never serve in the military, and many do not even know anyone who has. North Korea has mandatory military service for all men and women.

Even if average North Koreans aren’t as fearless in the face of nuclear exchanges as their top officials are, they have a built-in cultural and psychological advantage in facing down such a conflict.

But the advantage is entirely limited to perspective.

North Korea is still trying to produce a single, credible nuclear missile that can reach the US, and the US has enough nuclear weapons to completely destroy North Korea, China, and Russia in about a half hour.

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