Afghans are slightly more optimistic about the future than they were last year, despite a stagnant economy and near-constant attacks by a revitalized Taliban, according to the results of a nationwide poll released Nov. 14.
The annual survey by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation, released in Kabul, found that 32.8 percent of Afghans believe their country is moving in the right direction, up from 29.3 percent in 2016. Another 61.2 percent said the country is heading in the wrong direction, down from 65.9 percent — a record high — in 2016.
The foundation acknowledged that the slight increase in optimism is “difficult to explain.”
The country has been mired in war since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. The Taliban have regrouped and driven the Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces from a number of districts across the country. An upstart Islamic State group affiliate has meanwhile carried out several attacks targeting civilians.
The foundation polled 10,012 Afghan men and women in face-to-face interviews conducted between July 5 and July 23 in all 34 provinces. The poll has a 1.4 percent margin of error.
“The main finding for this year’s survey, if you look at overall the public perception, it is starting to stabilize in term of how people view the future of Afghanistan and public optimism is increasing in a variety of areas although there are issues around people’s desire to leave the country and live abroad if provided with an opportunity,” Abdullah Ahmadzai, country representative for The Asia Foundation said after announcing the study in Kabul.
The findings marked the reversal of a decade-long downward trajectory, the foundation said. However, most respondents expressed concern about the security and future of the country, and 38.8 percent said they would leave Afghanistan if they had the opportunity, the second-highest number recorded since the survey began in 2004.
“So overall 2017 compared to 2016 shows a trend that is more positive and optimistic compared to last year, where we had the public pessimism at its highest and public optimism at its lowest levels,” Ahmadzai said.
Reactions to the survey from residents in the capital differed. While some didn’t agree with the results, university student Mir Hussain said it makes sense to him that most Afghans are hopeful for the future.
“If we think that our country is not moving forward it is not going to help us, we are not willing to move backward,” he said. “We are optimistic and our country has to move forward.”
Ahmadzai said there are specific reasons why some Afghans are not hopeful for the future.
“When it comes to public pessimism in terms of where they see the country is heading, the main issues are around security, unemployment, or the economic situation and the fact that the unemployment rate is reported to be quite high in the reporting year.”
Ahmadzai said confidence in public institutions has slightly improved, though nearly all Afghans say the country’s rampant corruption affects their lives, consistent with last year’s findings.
Thirty soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division recently tested new technologies in a video-game environment to provide feedback for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.
“This latest experiment will provide us with an understanding of which technologies are most critical for the robotic combat vehicle to be successful in an operational environment,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, NGCV CFT director.
Coffman will be one of the speakers Oct. 14, 2019, at a NGCV Warriors Corner presentation at the Washington Convention Center where more about the experiments will be explained.
The soldiers from 4ID’s 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the NGCV CFT’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.
The campaign of learning is part of GVSC’s virtual prototyping process that helps the Army test new technologies without soldiers needing to start up an engine or even set foot in the field — saving valuable resources.
Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division support the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.
(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)
The soldiers provided feedback on vehicle crew configuration, formations, vehicle capabilities, enabling technologies — such as unmanned aerial vehicles and aided target recognition — and networked capabilities.
The experiment examined multiple questions including how soldiers dealt with constraints such as signal degradation, lack of mobility while using certain features, task organization, and which variants of the vehicles proved the most useful.
“One of the things we are looking at is if a lighter, less-protected RCV can achieve similar battlefield effect as a heavier but more protected one, while both having the same lethality package,” Coffman said.
For the five-day virtual experiment, soldiers employed RCVs in open and urban terrain against a simulated near-peer adversary. Observations and data were collected as to how soldiers use the RCVs and enabling technologies such as smoke generation, tethered unmanned aerial systems, target designator, and signal boost in offensive and defensive roles and in both open and urban environments.
Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.
(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)
“RCVs were able to effectively designate targets and conduct target handoff with other RCVs which executed the target using Hellfire missiles,” said an infantryman who participated in the experiment. [soldier names are withheld due to research protocol.]
These type of events will continue throughout the year with each virtual experiment increasing in capability and fidelity to support a live soldier experiment in March and April 2020. The next virtual experiment will be conducted with support from the 1st Cavalry Division Dec. 9-13, 2019, at the Detroit Arsenal.
“These soldier touch points are essential to how Army Futures Command is executing the Army’s modernization priority,” Coffman said. “Soldiers are at the center of everything we do, and their insight is crucial to developing these new technologies.”
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, presided over the launch of a new anti-ship cruise missile system on June 8 in Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast. And though the missiles performed well and struck their target, it was a pretty weak showing.
The missiles flew about 125 miles, South Korea said, and fired from tracked launchers with forest camouflage. The missiles themselves were not new, according to The Diplomat, but they showed off a new launcher that can fire from hidden, off-road locations within moments of being set up.
But those are about the only nice things you could say about these missiles.
In the photos released by North Korean media, it’s clear the missiles are striking a ship that isn’t moving.
The ship appears anchored, with no wake. Photo by Rodong Sinmun
In a combat situation, the ships would move and take countermeasures. For the US, South Korean, and Japanese navies, that often means firing an interceptor missile.
North Korea also lacks the ability to support these missiles with accurate guidance. The US would use planes, drones, or even undersea platforms to observe and track a target.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
North Korea waited to test these missiles until two US aircraft carrier strike groups armed to the teeth with missile defense capabilities left its shores, perhaps to avoid embarrassment should the US knock them down.
Unlike its practice with ballistic-missile tests, which are banned under international law, the US did not publicly comment on this launch. North Korea is well within its rights to test a cruise missile in international waters.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
But despite the rudimentary technology used in the launch, North Korea did show that it poses a real threat. Not only do the missile launchers leverage the element of surprise, but they represent yet another new missile capability.
In a few short months, North Korea has demonstrated a range of capabilities that has surprised experts and military observers. Though the missiles don’t pose a threat to the US Navy, Kim showed he’s serious about fighting on all fronts.
Today I found out Jimmy Stewart was a two star general in the United States military.
In 1940, Jimmy Stewart was drafted into the United States Army, but ended up being rejected due to being five pounds under the required weight, given his height (at the time he weighed 143 pounds). Not to be dissuaded, Stewart then sought out the help of Don Loomis, who was known to be able to help people add or subtract pounds. Once he had gained a little weight, he enlisted with the Army Air Corps in March of 1941 and was eventually accepted, once he convinced the enlisting officer to re-run the tests.
Initially, Stewart was given the rank of private; by the time he had completed training, he had advanced to the rank of second lieutenant (January of 1942). Much to his chagrin, due to his celebrity status and extensive flight expertise (having tallied over 400 flight hours before even joining the military), Stewart was initially assigned to various “behind the lines” type duties such as training pilots and making promotional videos in the states. Eventually, when he realized they were not going to ever put him in the front line, he appealed to his commanding officer and managed to get himself assigned to a unit overseas.
In August of 1943, he found himself with the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, initially as a first officer, and shortly thereafter as a Captain. During combat operations over Germany, Stewart found himself promoted to the rank of Major. During this time, Stewart participated in several uncounted missions (on his orders) into Nazi occupied Europe, flying his B-24 in the lead position of his group in order to inspire his troops.
For his bravery during these missions, he twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross; three times received the Air Medal; and once received the Croix de Guerre from France. This latter medal was an award given by France and Belgium to individuals allied with themselves who distinguished themselves with acts of heroism.
By July of 1944, Stewart was promoted chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment wing of the Eighth Air Force. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to the rank of colonel, becoming one of only a handful of American soldiers to ever rise from private to colonel within a four year span.
After the war, Stewart was an active part of the United States Air Force Reserve, serving as the Reserve commander of Dobbins Air Reserve Base. On July 24, 1959, he attained the rank of brigadier general (one star general).
During the Vietnam War, he flew (not the pilot) in a B-52 on a bombing mission and otherwise continued to fulfill his duty with the Air Force Reserve. He finally retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1968 after 27 years of service and was subsequently promoted to Major General (two star general).
Both Stewart’s grandfathers fought in the American Civil War. He also had ancestors on his mother’s side that served in the American Revolution and the War of 1812. His father served in the Spanish-American War and World War I. His adopted son, Ronald, was killed at the age of 24 as a Marine in Vietnam.
The full list of military awards achieved by Stewart are: 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 4 Air Medals, 1 Army Commendation Medal, 1 Armed Forces Reserve Medal, 1 Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1 French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
As a child, Stewart was a Second Class Scout and eventually became an adult Scout leader. He was also the recipient of the prestigious Boy Scouts of America Silver Buffalo Award, of which only 674 to date have been given out since 1926. Of the other recipients besides Stewart, 14 have held the office of President of the United States.
A brigadier general is equivalent to a lower rear admiral in the navy. A major general is equivalent to a rear admiral and is typically given 10,000-20,000 troops to command and is authorized to command them independently.
U.S. law limits the number of general officers that may be on active duty at any time to 302 for the Army, 279 for the Air Force, and 80 for the Marine Corps.
Eligible officers to be considered to promotion for the rank of brigadier general (one star) are recommended to the President from a list compiled by current general officers. The President then selects officers from this list to be given the promotion. Occasionally, the President will also nominate officers not on this list, but this almost never happens. Once the President makes their selection, the Senate confirms or rejects the selected individuals by a majority vote.
The name “brigadier general” comes from the American Revolutionary War when the first brigadier generals were appointed. At that time, they were simply general officers put in charge of a brigade, hence “brigadier general”. For a time in the very early 19th century, this was the highest rank any officer in the military could achieve as the rank of major general (two star) had been abolished. The rank of major general was later re-established just before the war of 1812.
At Princeton, Stewart excelled at architecture and was eventually awarded a full scholarship for graduate work by his professors as a result of his thesis on airport design.
Stewart and Henry Fonda were roommates early in their careers. Later in life, they still shared a close friendship and, when they weren’t working, they often spent their time building and painting model airplanes with each other.
Jimmy Stewart also was an avid pilot before his military service. He received his private pilot certificate in 1935 and used to fly cross-country to visit his parents. Interestingly, when he did so, he stated that he used rail road tracks to navigate.
Stewart was also one of the investors and collaborators who helped build Thunderbird Field, which was a pilot training school built to help train pilots during WWII. During the WWII alone, over 10,000 pilots were trained there.
After WWII, he strongly considered abandoning acting and entering the aviation field, due to personal doubts that he could still act.
His first film after the war was Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life which, at the time, was considered somewhat of a flop with the public, though it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Stewart. Partially due to this film’s poor showing at the box office, Capra’s production company went bankrupt and Stewart began to further doubt his ability to act following the war.
On January 5, 1992, It’s a Wonderful Life became the first American program ever to be broadcast on Russian television. A translated version, courtesy of Stewart and Lomonosov Moscow State University, was broadcast to over 200 million Russians on that day.
Stewart went on to act in several flops, as well as several critically acclaimed films, and by the 1950s was still considered a top tier actor over all. This was important because in 1950 he became one of the first top tier actors to work for no money up front, but rather a percentage of the gross of the film. Others had done this before, but it was rare and generally only lower end actors on the tail of their careers would agree to this. He did this on the movie Winchester ’73 where he had asked for $200,000 pay to appear in that movie and Harvey. The studio rejected, so he countered that he’d work for a percentage of the gross. He ended up taking home nearly $600,000 for Winchester ’73 alone. Hollywood’s other top-tier stars took noticed and this practiced began becoming the norm for top tier actors.
By 1954, Stewart was voted the most popular Hollywood actor in the world, displacing John Wayne. He also was the highest grossing actor that year.
Stewart was also known somewhat for his poetry. He frequently would appear on Johnny Carson’sThe Tonight Show and would read various poems he had written throughout his life. One of his poems, written about his dog, so moved Carson that, by the end, Carson was choking back tears. Dana Carvey and Dennis Miller, in 1980, parodied this on Saturday Night Live. These poems were later compiled into a book called Jimmy Stewart and His Poems.
Later in life, Stewart appeared in The Magic of Lassie (1978), much to the dismay of critics and the general public, as the film was a universal flop and seen to be beneath him. Stewart’s response to them was that it was the only script he was offered that didn’t have sex, profanity, or graphic violence.
Stewart’s final film role was as the voice of Wylie Burp, in the 1991 movie An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.
Stewart devoted much of the last years of his life to trying to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation of the U.S. constitution and the Bill of Rights as well as promote education. He died of a blood clot in his lung on July 2, 1997. Over his life, his professions included a hardware store shop-hand; a brick layer; a road worker; an assistant magician; an actor; an investor; a war hero; and a philanthropist. He also held a bachelors degree in architecture from Princeton.
The “boat people,” as they came to be known, are an oft-forgotten footnote at the end of the Vietnam War. In the years following the U.S. withdrawal and the subsequent fall of South Vietnam to the Communist north, refugees packed ships leaving the southern half, bound for anywhere but there.
Between 1975 and 1995 some 800,000 people faced pirates, traffickers, and storms to escape the grip of Communism and make it to a new life in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, or elsewhere. Images of boat people adrift on any kind of ship routinely made the nightly news. Rescued refugees would be resettled anywhere they would be accepted, many of them ending up in the Western United States. One of those people was Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Asan Bui.
Vietnamese “Boat People” being rescued while adrift at sea.
Asan Bui was born on one of those vessels, adrift in the ocean, bound for nowhere, some 44 years ago. He was a citizen of no country. His father took his then-pregnant mother out of Vietnam because he had served in South Vietnam’s army as an artilleryman. Against all odds, he, his wife, and five children all escaped the iron curtain as it came crashing down.
Bui, like many who fought for anti-Communist South Vietnam, faced persecution and execution at the hands of the oncoming Communists in 1975. The fall of the southern capital at Saigon was imminent, and many were looking for a way to flee. Asan Bui’s father took his family by boat.
Air Force Reserve, Lt. Col. Asan Bui was born at sea 44 years ago while adrift in the ocean aboard a wooden boat.
(U.S. Air Force Reserve photo by Senior Airman Brandon Kalloo Sanes)
Bui’s family was just the tip of the iceberg. The fall of Saigon caused 1.6 million Vietnamese people to flee South Vietnam. The elder Bui was not happy to leave and wanted to fight the Communists every inch of the way. His sense soon got the better of him, though. If he were captured, he would likely have been tortured and killed.
“Anyone that fought alongside the United States would be killed or imprisoned in re-education camps,” Bui told the Air Force Reserve. “I have personally spoken with individuals that have gone through this brutal ordeal and survived. Some were not released for over a decade and still carry the traumatic scars.”
Lt. Col. Bui’s father, Chien Van Bui, calls in artillery fire during the Vietnam War.
(Photo provided by Lt. Col. Asan Bui)
If they did survive the capture and torture, Southern fighters could look forward to hard time in Communist labor camps, re-education centers, or worse. Instead of all that, Chien Van Bui fled with his family. When the family was rescued, they were taken to Camp Asan in Guam, naming their newborn child after the camp they called home.
Asan Bui joined the United States Air Force in his mid-twenties, now serving his 19th year for the country that took him in and allowed him to start a family of his own. Lt. Col. Asan Bui is the commander of the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla. He is dedicated to continued service.
“I want to honor those (military and sponsors) that have sacrificed so much for my family and the Vietnamese refugees,” said Bui. “Especially the Vietnam veterans.”
The Pentagon has named a U.S. soldier who died on Nov. 24, 2018, in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand and confirmed that the soldier had been critically wounded during a firefight against “enemy forces” in a neighboring province.
In a statement issued on Nov. 25, 2018, the Pentagon said 25-year-old Army Ranger Sergeant Leandro Jasso sustained his fatal wounds during combat in the Khash Rod district of Nimruz Province.
He died after being evacuated to the Garmsir district of Helmand Province, where U.S. forces operate an expanded forward operations base known as Camp Dwyer and a smaller military installation known as Camp Garmsir.
Jasso was the ninth U.S. soldier to die in Afghanistan in 2018.
Some 14,000 U.S. soldiers are currently serving in Afghanistan, where the United States and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014.
The remaining Western forces mainly train and advise the Afghan security forces, which have been struggling against attacks from a resurgent Taliban and other militant extremist groups.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said earlier in November 2018 that 58 Americans had been killed in Afghanistan since the start of 2015 when Afghan troops took over primary responsibility for Afghanistan’s security.
During the same period since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops from Afghanistan, Ghani said nearly 29,000 Afghan police and soldiers have been killed — a figure far higher than anything previously acknowledged by the government in Kabul.
Insurgents posing as friendly militia members lured a U.S. and Afghan team to a meeting in eastern Afghanistan, triggering a shootout and a coalition airstrike on the compound, the U.S. military said Jan. 12.
U.S. Navy Capt. Tom Gresback said the insurgents baited the team, inviting an Afghan militia leader, a U.S. service member, and an interpreter to a security shura meeting Jan. 11.
Once the meeting was over, the Taliban-linked insurgents opened fire, killing the militia leader and wounding the American service member and the interpreter. The Taliban quickly claimed credit for the attack but overstated the casualties, the U.S. military said.
The Taliban said the attack was carried out by two insurgents disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.
In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.
Gresback said that after the wounded were moved to safety, a coalition airstrike targeted the compound, killing 10 insurgents.
The mission was in Mohmand Valley, in Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.
According to Gresback, local Afghans began moving back to Mohmand Valley earlier last summer after being forced from their homes in 2015 when the Islamic State group affiliate began to take hold in the southeastern portion of Nangarhar.
The U.S.-led coalition, working with the Afghan forces, has waged a persistent campaign against the IS group.
Gen. Robert B. Abrams recalled once being awakened at 2 a.m. on a Friday. It was the early 1980s then, and he was a young lieutenant stationed in a cavalry squadron in West Germany.
It was a unit alert that had woken him from his sleep, he recalled. Back then, those alerts could come at any time, completely unannounced. And when they came, soldiers in area bars would need to report to their units, in whatever state they were in, within two hours.
Abrams, commander, US Army Forces Command, spoke earlier this month at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Once soldiers were assembled, he said, they had four hours to get all their gear and ammunition loaded on trucks and tanks, and move out to their tactical assembly areas. They had to be ready to cross the border into East Germany, if called to do so.
“Everyone had a sense of urgency and knew what was at stake,” he said, remembering his early days in the Army.
However, the mindset is beginning to shift, he said. “That’s the direction the Army is now taking.”
Abrams pointed to a number of readiness indicators, including training, which he said has improved over the last couple of years.
Recently, the Army has shifted its training focus to a “decisive-action training environment that’s very robust,” he said.
The DATE training environment includes training with both conventional and non-conventional forces in all domains during every combat training center, or CTC, rotation, he said.
Leading up to the CTC rotation, units have also improved their home-station training, he said, adding that there’s been a 300 percent increase in company-level, live-fire exercises at home station over the last two years.
Even aviation units at the platoon and company levels are now participating in live-fire exercises, something not widely seen since before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
“We’ve made huge progress over the last couple of years in reducing the number of non-deployable (soldiers),” Abrams said, adding that it’s still the No. 1 readiness challenge facing the Army today.
Some units have seven or eight percent non-deployables, he said, so there’s still some work to do to shrink those numbers.
Abrams attributed improvements in reducing the number of non-deployable soldiers to several factors, including the fielding this year of the commander’s Medical Readiness Dashboard. That computerized medical update allows company and battalion commanders to better understand and deal with the medical status of their soldiers.
Improved physical training is another area the general credited with reducing injuries and elevating fitness levels. He gave a shout-out to a pilot program now underway that is incorporating a new soldier readiness test involving four brigades from FORSCOM that are evaluating “all five measurements of fitness.”
The Army is moving away from an “industrial-age medical system,” to one that’s more like the type used for professional athletes that gives soldiers the care they need “at their point of impact and at the point of injury,” he noted.
The importance of care is so important because “muscular-skeletal injuries continue to impact soldiers,” he said.
Twelve of the Army’s 25 brigade combat teams have, to date, received their complete authorized stockage lists, Abrams said, and US Army Materiel Command is working on equipping the rest. ASLs consist of such things as repair parts, fuel, and construction material kept at each BCT distribution center.
To ensure the equipment is sufficient and where it needs to be, Abrams said FORSCOM conducts monthly logistics and aviation readiness reviews.
The biggest struggle in equipping the force right now, he said, is getting spare parts to where they are needed in a timely manner. Currently, he said, the wait time is about five times what it should be.
A big part of increasing readiness, Abrams said, involves adequate and predictable funding from Congress.
“Continuing resolutions crush us at the unit level,” he said. “We are unable on a monthly basis to adequately plan to support training and requisition repair parts for our fleet at a tempo we are training.”
Abrams admitted that the Army doesn’t have an adequate narrative about readiness to present to lawmakers. “We in the military intuitively know what readiness means but have been unable to articulate it to the public. Everybody wants a ready force but we have a hard time describing it.”
US leaders are now asking Pakistan to increase its counterterrorism activity and further collaborate with the Dept. of Defense when it comes to attacking Jihadists in their country and advance prospects for increased peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford recently met with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Bajwa in Islamabad to discuss heightened cooperation between their two countries.
“Secretary Pompeo emphasized the important role Pakistan could play in bringing about a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, and conveyed the need for Pakistan to take sustained and decisive measures against terrorists and militants threatening regional peace,” State Dept. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a written statement.
The meeting takes place within a broader context of ambiguity characterizing US-Pakistani relations, a connection which encompasses both tensions and successful military-to-military counter-jihadist cooperation.
Within Pakistan, there appears to be two interwoven, yet distinct trajectories; US officials and Pakistani security experts say that the Pakistani military has had substantial success attacking jihadists within their borders. At the same time, many US officials continue to raise some measure of question regarding the level of Pakistani resolve when it comes to counter-jihadist initiatives. Further, some are also raising questions about the actual depth of Pakistan’s alliance with the United States, particularly given the country’s interest in addressing the India-Pakistan conflicts regarding the contested Kashmir region.
Pompeo and Dunford, being aware of President Trump’s stated concern that Pakistan might harbor jihadists, both cited increased military-to-military relationships as central to future progress in the region.
“On the surface, they say they want to cooperate…. So what we are looking for is the actions to back that up ,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staft Gen. Joe Dunford, according to a Pentagon report.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan on Sept. 5, 2018.
Former Secretary of State spokesman Jamie Rubin is among those raising concerns about the actual extent of Pakistan’s allegiance to the US-backed counterterrorism operations. In particular, he has posed the question as to whether the newly arriving Pakistani administration, led by recently elected Prime Minister Imran Khan, will pursue pro-American policies.
Multiple counterterrorism and security experts familiar with operations in the region have said that part of the ambiguity or apparent contradictory sensibilities within Pakistan emerges, in large measure, from Pakistani entities operating separately from a military-led government infrastructure.
Rubin made the argument that instances wherein Pakistani entities appear to be sustaining some degree of alliance with Afghan and Pakistani jihadists are due to the country’s highly-prioritized anti-India stance.
Specifically, Pakistani jihadists are, according to many expert estimates, believed to be involved in various counter-Indian initiatives. Also, Rubin maintained that some portion of Pakistanis seek to maintain an ability to have safe harbor in Afghanistan in the event that their country is overrun by Indian forces.
Citing the currently incoming new Pakistani administration, Rubin raised the question as to whether there were enough “pro-Americans” within Pakistani government. He wondered whether there was instability and tension separating Pakistani military leadership and other political ambitions held by some in the country.
Pakistani security officials involved in maintaining counterterrorism support and security within the country say an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis, including government officials, are what he called “moderates.”
“The rhetoric in Pakistan is moderate and not one of an extremist Pakistan. That is in everyone’s interests,” said Ikram Sehgal, Chairman of an international security firm called the Pathfinder Group.
At the same time, Sehgal also cited the importance of Pakistan’s relationship with Iran and other regional neighbors, adding “our best stance is to be neutral and not take sides.”
Meanwhile, US military officials emphasize that the current Trump administration is deeply invested in improving US-Pakistani military and diplomatic cooperation with a particular dual-pronged approach of both seeking peace in Afghanistan and stepping up Pakistani military counterinsurgency attacks against jihadists.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo arrives in Islamabad, Pakistan on Sept. 5, 2018.
Also, operating beneath the shadow of a widely-discussed war in Afghanistan, the Pakistani military has quietly been aggressively attacking jihadi terrorists, Taliban forces and other enemies in the mountainous tri-border region spanning Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, according to Sehgal.
Pakistani military missions, which have for quite some time been existing below the radar of greater international consciousness and focus, have by no means been uncomplicated. Many successes have been met with challenges and an ebb-and-flow often associated with complex counterinsurgency operations against a mix of enemy forces.
Nonetheless, despite the overwhelmingly circulated narrative that jihadist enemies continue to find safe-harbor in Pakistan, jihadi insurgent forces have consistently been attacked and removed from the area by the Pakistani military, Sehgal said.
Operating with weapons, intelligence assistance, and training support from the US military, Pakistani military activity has lowered the number of jihadi fighters in the country from more than 100,000 years ago to roughly 2,000 today.
Along with many Pakistani experts and observers of the tri-border region, Sehgal does acknowledge that the situation in Pakistan is not without some ambiguities and complexities. However, despite an at times fragmented approach and periodic hesitations, Pakistani forces have steadily made substantial progress over the course of the last decade, he claimed.
Pakistani military operations have included raids, door-to-door searches of tribal areas and large-force attacks on jihadi facilities such as underground bunkers and command and control facilities; the attacks have massively reduced the amount of enemy jihadi fighters in the region, Sehgal said.
Sehgal added that, not long ago, Pakistani military forces attacked and destroyed a jihadist facility in the tribal areas previously known to harbor large amounts of insurgents.
“Pakistanis have been carrying out ops on their side of the border. We have not had an easy time as successful as we’ve been. We successfully carried out military operations against jihadi military facilities,” he said. “We have not had a single failure when we attack them directly.”
Also, the Pakistanis are currently fencing the tri-border area to stop the flow of enemy fighters coming in from Afghanistan. Sehgal said the fence will be finished several months from now.
Featured image: Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Bajwa.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Three B-2 Spirits and approximately 200 airmen completed their first deployment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in support of the U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force deployment, Aug. 15 through Sept. 27, 2018.
Although bombers regularly rotate throughout the Indo-Pacific, this marked the first deployment of B-2 Spirits to JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to (Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam) highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, director of air and cyberspace operations, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces. “The B-2s conducted routine air operations and integrated capabilities with key regional partners, which helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. routinely and visibly demonstrates commitment to our allies and partners through global employment and integration of our military forces.”
Despite the deployment taking place in the middle of hurricane season, the B-2 pilots accomplished hundreds of local and long-duration sorties and regional training. Each mission focused on displaying the bomber’s flexible global-strike capability and the United States’ commitment to supporting global security.
One of the key integrations involved the B-2s and F-22 Raptors assigned to the 199th Fighter Squadron, a unit of the 154th Wing under the Hawaii Air National Guard. Like the B-2, the F-22 is virtually invisible to threats. This makes them the perfect match for escorting the stealth bomber and providing situational awareness. The training helped polish the cohesion between the pilots.
“The Bomber Task Force is a total-force integration deployment,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron commander. “Our active-duty and guard members worked seamlessly together with their counterparts here in Hawaii to determine the best way for the B-2 to operate from this location in the future.”
A B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in support of the U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force deployment is parked on the flightline Sept. 26, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)
The 154th Wing also supported the B-2 with the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron’s KC-135 Stratotankers. Although the B-2 is capable of flying approximately 6,000 miles without refueling, the KC-135s provided aerial refueling for long-duration missions.
“The training with the Hawaii Air National Guard was invaluable,” Adcock said. “Together we refined and exercised multiple tactics that are crucial to the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility.”
In addition to air operations, the deployment also focused on hot-pit refueling. During this technique, the pilots land and continue to run the B-2’s engines while fuels distribution technicians refuel the aircraft. The pilots are immediately able to take off again with a full tank and maximize the amount of time they are in the air versus on the ground. One B-2 conducted hot-pit refueling at Wake Island, a coral limestone atoll in the mid-Pacific, west of Honolulu, Sept. 14, 2018.
Finally, weapons load crews exercised loading BDU-50s, inert 500 pound non-explosive practice bombs, into B-2 bomb bays on the JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam flightline.
“This weapons load is the first stepping stone to loading live munitions from this location,” said Master Sgt. Nicholas Lewis, 393rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons section chief. “Furthermore, it provides pilots and load crews valuable training necessary to accomplish future BTF missions.”
From air to ground support, the first Bomber Task Force deployment to Hawaii has allowed each member to determine what it would take to operate the B-2 from JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam and execute strategic deterrence, global strike, and combat support at any time.
“I am very proud of every airman that was a member of the 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron,” Adcock said. “We flew to a forward operating location that the B-2 had never operated out of and overcame numerous challenges.”
Few have served their country and community at the level of Floyd Carter, Sr. His service began in 1944 when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as a 2nd Lt. Bombardier. He was among the first African-Americans to complete pilot training. At the time, the 1,000 black pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen were just a drop in the bucket of those fighting World War II.
After the war and after the creation of the United States Air Force in 1947, Carter joined the Air Force Reserve. He was a part of the massive flow of moral and material support for West Berlin that would come to be called the Berlin Airlift.
If you’re doing the math, that’s already 24 years of service.
As an Air Force Reservist, he needed a civilian job. In that, he continued to serve, joining the New York Police Department in 1953. Within three years, he was promoted to detective and spent 27 years serving the people of New York in some of the most trying, crime-ridden times in the city’s history.
He retired from the Air Force in 1974 and the NYPD in 1980.
Carter was presented with a Congressional Gold Medal from then-President George W. Bush in 2007. He and other Tuskegee Airmen were also invited to President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration ceremony as well as the premiere of George Lucas’ 2012 film about the Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails.
Airmen at Travis Air Force Base are implementing innovative strategies to reduce man hours and increase mission effectiveness.
Over the past several months, the base has implemented a variety of innovations including 3D printing and 3D scanning.
Cultivating a culture of innovation is essential to mission success, said Col. Matthew Leard, 60th Air Mobility Wing vice commander.
“At Travis (AFB), airmen are empowered to identify and solve problems at their level, rapidly,” he said. “We want airmen to think big and try the ideas others say will never work. It does not always have to be proven technology or have a business case. Let’s just try it, who knows it may just work.”
The innovations under way at Travis AFB were made possible when the Air Force distributed million in Squadron Innovation Funds in an effort to increase readiness, reduce cost, save time and enhance lethality of the force.
In October 2018, Travis AFB procured a 3D hand scanner capable of producing three-dimensional representations of aircraft parts. The device has also been used to inspect aircraft damage.
“The scanner displays the deepest part of a dent to the nearest thousandth of an inch,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Smithling, 60th Maintenance Squadron assistant section chief for aircraft structural maintenance. “The scanner can identify the shape of a dent, as well as if it’s sharp, smooth or round, which allows us to give our engineers a better damage analysis than we could before.”
Joshua Orr, 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, uses a CreaForm HandyScan 700 to capture digital information to render a three-dimensional image of an aircraft part into specialized computer software, Nov. 16, 2018, at Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
Smithling said the scanner was first used in November 2018 to inspect the landing gear of a C-17 Globemaster III after a bird strike, and over the past month, has greatly reduced the time required to complete damage inspections.
“One of our C-5 aircraft went through a hail storm in 2013 and we found many dents on all the panels,” he said. “We’ve performed an inspection of this aircraft every 180 days and we’ve had to measure every dent that’s still on the wing’s surface. The first few times we did that, it took us 48 hours. We had that C-5 in our hangar last week and we were able to inspect the four primary structural panels in 30 minutes.”
The 60th MXS is also in the process of procuring two 3D printers, one polymer printer and one metal printer, so they can reproduce aircraft parts.
“With the two additive manufacturing units, we will be able to grab any aircraft part, scan it, and within four to eight hours, we will have a true 3D drawing of it that we can send to the additive manufacturing unit to print it,” Smithling said.
That capability, he said, will decrease the time Travis AFB aircraft are out of service.
“Right now, we could have one of our aircraft down for about 48 hours while we try to get the part it needs,” he said. “Once we have this additive manufacturing capability in place, we will likely be able to print and replace parts in a few hours and return our aircraft to flying status much quicker.”
Innovation is also leading to improved patient care at David Grant USAF Medical Center, the largest medical center in the Air Force. The Dental Clinic at DGMC received a Form2 printer in August 2018, which has enabled the clinic to produce a variety of items used for dental surgery.
A Formlabs Form2 printer, operated by 60th Dental Squadron airmen, prints a dental guard at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 17, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)
“We currently fabricate surgical guides, hard night guards and dental models or casts with different variations,” said Capt. Geoffrey Johnston, 60th Dental Squadron prosthodontist. “We are also investigating printing temporary crown and bridge restorations, complete and partial dentures and orthodontic clear aligners.”
“Prior to additive manufacturing techniques, there were shapes and designs for instruments and restorations in dentistry that were either impossible or so expensive and cumbersome to fabricate, they were not feasible to create,” Johnston added. “The Form2 overcomes those pitfalls and does so with resins that have been determined biocompatible for intraoral use.”
This technology leads to improved patient care, said Johnston.
“By merging 3D radiographs of jaws with 3D models of actual teeth, we are able to plan exact placement of implants and with 3D printing technology added to that, we are able to carry out those plans with extreme precision,” he said. “This precision of placement gives us the ability to more predictably avoid nerves, vessels and adjacent teeth with our implant placement. Also, this technology enables us to have temporary crowns made before dental implant surgery to attach to the implants at the time of surgery.”
Currently, Travis AFB airmen are working on a dozen 2018 SIF-funded projects and preparing to submit innovative ideas for the 2019 SIF campaign. Airmen can submit ideas through the U.S. Air Force Ideation Platform at https://usaf.ideascalegov.com/.
Afghanistan set new records for opium production in 2016 despite an $8.5 billion USD counternarcotics campaign investment by U.S agencies, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) stated in its latest quarterly report to Congress.
The report said that opium production increased 43 percent in 2016, while poppy eradication hit a 10-year low and was “nearly imperceptible.”
It said that the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conduct an annual survey with financial contributions from the United States and other donors.
UNODC estimated that the potential gross value of opiates was $1.56 billion USD — or the equivalent of about 7.4 percent of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — in 2015.
“The latest 2016 UNODC country survey estimates opium cultivation increased 10 percent, to 201,000 hectares, from the previous year,” the report said adding that “the southern region, which includes Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul, and Daykundi provinces, accounted for 59 percent of total cultivation. Helmand remained the country’s largest poppy-cultivating province, followed by Badghis and Kandahar.”
“Deteriorating security conditions, a lack of political will, and the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics’ ineffective management all contributed to the paltry eradication results in 2016,” the report said.
Poppy “cultivation remained near historically high levels compared with the past several decades.”
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s “narcotics industry — coupled with rampant corruption and fraud — is a major source of illicit revenue,” the report said.
The “opium trade provides about 60 percent of the Taliban’s funding.”
“Since the collapse of the Taliban government, the opium trade has grown significantly and enabled the funding of insurgency operations. Taliban commanders collect extortion fees for running heroin refineries, growing poppy, and other smuggling schemes,” according to the report.
“Powerful drug networks, mainly run by close-knit families and tribes, bankroll the insurgency and launder money. There have been media reports and allegations of corrupt government officials participating in the drug trade,” it said.
The Taliban is an Islamic extremist group that ruled Afghanistan until the U.S military intervention following the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attack in New York and Washington, D.C. that killed more than 3,000 people. The Taliban allowed al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as its training base for attacks against the U.S. and other western nations.
“Traffickers provide weapons, funding, and material support to the insurgency in exchange for protection, while insurgent leaders traffic drugs to finance their operations,” the report said.
Afghanistan “remains the world’s largest opium producer and exporter — producing an estimated 80 percent of the world’s heroin.”
John Sopko, head of SIGAR, recommended that President Donald Trump establish “a U.S counternarcotics strategy, now years overdue, to reduce the illicit commerce that provides the Taliban with the bulk of their revenue.”