Afghan officials said unknown aircraft hit Taliban forces in a province along the border with Tajikistan, killing eight militants, a day after a shooting that left at least two Tajiks killed.
The origin of the aircraft was unclear. Tajik officials denied its warplanes or helicopters were involved, as did Russia, which has a sizable military contingent in Tajikistan.
Khalil Asir, spokesman for police in Afghanistan’s Takhar province, said the aircraft struck early on Aug. 27, 2018, in the Darqad district near the border area. In addition to the dead, six other militants were wounded, he said.
Cross-border clashes are rare along Afghanistan’s 1,400-kilometer border with Tajikistan. However, security in some border provinces, including Takhar, has deteriorated over the past few months and regular clashes have broken out between Afghan security forces and militant groups, including the Taliban.
Spokesman Khalil Asir says eight Taliban militants were killed in the attack.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed the attack, saying it broke out between drug smugglers and Tajik border guards. Mujahid said the aircraft bombed a forested area used by smugglers.
Mohammad Jawid Hejri, the provincial governor’s spokesman, also said the clash had occurred between drug smugglers in Afghanistan and Tajik border guards. He said the area is under Taliban control.
Asked by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service about the reported airstrike, border guard spokesman Muhammadjon Ulughkhojaev said he could not confirm it.
“An operation to search for and detain armed individuals is ongoing” in a neighboring region, he said. “But the Border Guards Service didn’t use helicopters there.”
Other Tajik security agencies did not immediately respond to queries about other aircraft in the area.
The incident came one day after two Tajik foresters were killed in a shooting incident along the border. A Tajik security official, who asked not to be named, told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service that the shooting — either gunfire or mortars — came from the Afghan side of the border.
A third Tajik forester was also wounded in the Aug. 26, 2018 shooting, according to Sulton Valizoda, the head of the Farkhor district.
“Foresters, along with an employee of a livestock farm, were out gathering hay. They had official permission,” Valizoda told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service. “But they were attacked, and two were killed. The case is being investigated.”
The Tajik Border Guard Service said in a statement on Aug. 26, 2018 that the three were all forest rangers.
Glenfiddich distillery in Scotland is the world’s largest exporter of single malt whisky. Started in Dufftown in 1886, it ships 1.2 million 9-liter cases each year.
Making single malt is a difficult and lengthy process. Barley is ground down and added to spring water. Heated to 64°C, it turns to sugar, dissolving into a fine sweet, tangy liquid called wort. The wort is drained, cooled, and passed into washbacks. This is heated and condensed in copper wash stills for its first distillation, and a second time in spirit stills. This spirit trickles into the spirit safe, ready for maturation, and then is batched in casks with spring water. Casks spend years in the warehouse, maturing into a single malt.
An aged 30-year maturation can have 30% to 40% of the alcohol evaporated in the barrel, or over 1% each year of the whiskey’s life. This is because of “Angel’s Share” — the natural evaporation of the liquid into the atmosphere over time. So older whiskies are expensive not because they’re old, but because they are rare.
Why Single Malt Whisky Is So Expensive | So Expensive
Fashion, and the collector’s market, also have something to do with the rise in popularity. Christie’s Director of Wine Tim Tiptree oversaw the sale in 2018 of The Macallan 1926 60-Year-Old, which sold for id=”listicle-2632194755″,512,000 to a private buyer. According to Tim, the collector’s market will continue to grow.
India, China, and Japan, are now main players in the single malt market. Particularly successful is the Yamazaki distillery in Osaka prefecture. Rare whiskies from their collection of single malts now sell for thousands of dollars.
We tried a 12 year-old single malt worth , and the 50 year-old bottle worth ,000.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ashley Salazar did a lot of stupid stuff growing up, probably no different from the stupid stuff we all did. But unlike many who made mistakes as teen, Salazar was “saved” by joining the Air Force.
“A lot of people don’t even believe I served in the military,” she says. “All they see is a pretty girl, but I was a tomboy growing up. Everyone does the kind of stupid stuff I did. When I joined, Uncle Sam became my dad in a way, making sure I stayed out of trouble. It pushed me to be more than I ever thought I could be.”
She joined the Air Force because of the September 11th attacks. She actually had a potential modeling and acting career before enlisting, since her mother was also a model. But enlisting was something Salazar felt she had to do.
“I had a modeling agent, but I was really affected by 9/11. I was seventeen years old then,” she recalls. “I had to wait a year to join. But I did as soon as I could. I talked to Marine recruiters and I talked to Coast Guard recruiters, but the Air Force seemed to call me the most. I wanted to serve my country. We have to fight for ourselves as Americans, but we also have to fight for those who don’t have the freedoms we have.”
The Air Force got a super troop in Airman Salazar. She was an element leader in basic training and despite a few stumbles, she graduated from Radiology technical training with a Commander’s Award that hadn’t been awarded in five years. Adversity is where Salazar thrives.
“I first got pregnant with my daughter in radiology school. I was having very hard time as a C student. But something happened to me, where she made me go from C student to A student – from the bottom to the top of my class.” She was promoted early in a “Below the Zone” promotion and made Staff Sergeant this first time she tested for the rank.
She spent much of her career at Keesler and Scott and she did everything she could to be part of the Air Force mission. She trained into mammography, volunteered to deploy to field hospitals, and even volunteered for Security Forces augmentee duty, a job few Airmen look forward to.
“All the cops were deployed,” she says. “I was young, 18 years old, and I could go do my part. Not just for the civilians back home but for all the military members who had spouses and children. I could deploy so they don’t have to. I did have to experience things I would have rather not have seen. Everyone does.”
Salazar was stationed at Keesler AFB in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Mississippi, and Alabama. As hospital personnel, she was not able to evacuate the base and spent the aftermath, using X-rays to identify bodies —and body parts. In the meantime, she lost everything in the storm. When it came time to be relocated, she opted for Scott AFB in Illinois, to be closer to her family.
She liked her hospital job, but her favorite aspect of her Air Force career was a much higher calling: Honor Guard.
“I did over 600 Honor Guard ceremonies between the two bases and I was flight leader while at Scott,” Salazar recalls. “Being able to give back and thank the families is the most gratifying thing I’ve ever experienced. I know someday when I pass, someone is going hand a flag to my family and it means a lot, it was and honor and it was humbling to be able to do that for people.”
Her modeling came up again after photos of her at an Air Force Christmas party wearing a red dress appeared on the Medical Group’s website. Everyone wanted to know who that woman in red was. The base photographer who took the photos begged Salazar for months to let him use her as a model. She was never really thinking of being a model.
“To be honest, I’m 5’7″ and a little bit big around the top,” she says. “And they like women who are thin and not shapely in the fashion world. Besides, I felt old at 23 or 24 and I thought 18-year-olds were the ones who modeled, not 24 year old airmen with kids. I finally caved and we did some photos. Shortly after, I was signed with an agency and then I got my first billboard across from the St. Louis Cardinals stadium.”
After that, she started doing regular modeling work using her military leave, while still maintaining her Air Force career. She even expanded into doing her own photography for others. Eventually, she did a volunteer charity calendar that got her into hot water.
“Being a Super Troop kinda hurt me in the end because the standards of professionalism in the Air Force are so high, if you mess up once, it’s unforgiving,” Salazar says. “It was a dress jacket with a little cleavage, nothing from the waist down, and I was just saluting. Which cost me my quarterly award. They also took an oak leaf cluster. I didn’t want to bring any discredit on myself or on anyone.”
Salazar left the Air Force in 2008, when the U.S. job market was tanking on an epic scale. People were losing their jobs, no one was hiring. As a recently divorced, recently separated airman, Ashley Salazar had to take care of her daughter and her mother. She turned to her creative work.
“I started this blog when I started photography,” she says. “I would interview people and take their photos and put them on this Tumblr page. Fast-forward five years and now we have this thing called MollMag which is now wildly popular. It’s been my baby and now I’m taking it to the next level. We have a new international edition released in South Africa which we started in 2013.”
Salazar is also a supporter of breast cancer research, as the disease runs in her family.
Ashley is also currently in a contest to be the model for Pink Lipstick Lingerie. For her, it could mean a huge difference in her life and for her family.
“The one thing I haven’t been able to do as a model is be a model for a lingerie company,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to get into a catalog. A lot of these companies also use models for those funny Halloween costumes they have at stores every year. If I win this vote, they’ll fly me to New York to do these shoots for them. Once you get into the catalog industry, its much more likely for your career to take off.”
Through all her hard times, her experience in the Air Force has always stayed with her. It toughened her, it changed her, it prepared her for anything she might have to do in the civilian world. That experience gives her an edge, a down-to-earth, can-do mentality that keeps her from giving up where so many others might have in her position.
“I’ve been told no so many times for so many things,” she says. “Being a mom means I have a couple of stretch marks. Real women do. In the beauty world, that’s not ideal. It’s a competitive industry and it’s hard. My husband now taught me to embrace my body to accept myself my body for what it was and be happy with myself as we started to fall in love, I began to feel more comfortable and that’s when the bikini photos started to come out.”
“They only show one perspective of beauty out there, but real women are mothers too. I wanted to see a mother in Playboy, because it affects people around the world. Women all over the world see these women and then hold themselves to that standard. And they might think ‘well, if I don’t look like that, then I’m not beautiful,’ but that’s not true.”
After the Air Force and her husband, Ashley credits her glamour model success to her fans.
“I’m lucky to have fans,” she says. “I’m grateful for every one of them. I don’t care if they follow all my work or just like my Facebook page because they think I’m hot. I’m thankful for each fan and I hope they stick around.”
The pilots of the doomed Lion Air flight that crashed into the Java Sea October 2018 frantically searched the aircraft’s manual to try to find a way to keep the plane under control before the crash, cockpit voice recordings show.
The first officer reported a “flight control problem” two minutes into the flight, and the captain then asked him to check a handbook that contained procedures for abnormal events, the recordings showed, according to a report from Reuters.
The Boeing 737 Max 8 plane then spent nine minutes pushing its nose down, with the first officer unable to control the plane, as the captain desperately searched the handbook for a solution.
The plane then crashed into the sea, killing all 189 people on board.
Three sources discussed the contents of the plane’s cockpit voice recorder with Reuters, in the first time that such information, which is part of an ongoing investigation into the crash, has been made public.
The investigation has taken on new significance after an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed on March 10, 2019, killing all 157 people on board.
Lion Air Cockpit Voice Recorder Reveals Pilots’ Frantic Search For Fix | TODAY
The preliminary report into the Lion Air crash mentioned the Boeing system as well as other factors, including the airline’s maintenance.
A source told Reuters that someone mentioned the plane’s airspeed on the cockpit voice recording, and a second source said one of the plane’s indicators showed a problem on the captain’s display but not the first officer’s.
The preliminary report showed that the plane’s computer kept pushing the nose of the plane down using the trim system, which is a system that usually adjusts the aircraft to keep it on course.
A source told Reuters that the trim system was not mentioned in the recording, just the airspeed and altitude of the plane. “They didn’t seem to know the trim was moving down,” the source said.
A crew that flew the same plane the evening before had the same problem with the plane’s nose but ran through three checklists to solve the problem, the preliminary report showed.
The plane was treated on the ground, and the report says the previous crew believed the issue was resolved.
Following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, many countries have grounded the 737 Max, including China, which has a higher number of the aircraft than any other nation. The US was the most recent country to ground the plane.
Boeing declined to comment to Reuters because of the ongoing investigation.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon will send a proposal to the White House in early May laying out America’s long-term presence in Afghanistan, senior defense officials said May 4. The plan will likely include a request for more U.S. troops.
U.S. military officials have said they need greater forces to meet the growing training and advising mission in Afghanistan, where local forces are fighting a Taliban insurgency. And there is a new push for NATO members to step up their commitments of troops and other resources to help the country in its struggle for stability.
Theresa Whelan, who is currently working as the Pentagon’s assistant defense secretary for special operations, told senators the new plan likely will go to the White House next week.
“We are actually actively looking at adjustments to the approach in Afghanistan right now,” Whelan told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The interest is to move beyond the stalemate and also to recognize that Afghanistan is a very important partner for the United States in a very tricky region.”
Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and other senior military leaders have repeatedly described the fight in Afghanistan as a stalemate. Officials have said they need more trainers and advisers to increase the capabilities of Afghan forces.
But the United States doesn’t want to carry the burden by itself.
A senior NATO official said the U.S. has sent letters to allies asking them to increase their commitments. The official was not authorized to discuss the letters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Appearing with Whelan, Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, told the Senate panel he has enough forces for the military’s counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, which is targeting Islamic State, al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
Thomas said a critical factor in ongoing discussions about a new Afghanistan strategy is the need for an enduring U.S. presence in the country. The new plan would set the parameters for how that could look.
In the military, everyone loves to compare their job with others as part of a pissing contest to see who has it worst. Some cite their terrible living conditions, others tell horror stories of intense training, and the rest point to the awful, boring tasks handed to them. But there’s only one clear winner of the Absolute Worst Job contest — and that goes to the U.S. Navy’s loblolly boy.
Now, we’re not saying this to discredit your terrible MOS or rating — we’re sure yours is perfectly horrible — but unless your job is centered almost entirely around handling the medical waste that accumulated out at sea in the 1700s, then you probably can’t compete.
If reading about medical waste makes you a bit squeamish, we wouldn’t blame you if you’d instead like to check out our article about cute animals greeting returning troops. No? Alright, weirdo — but don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Which also involved a lot of cleaning. Pre-Industrial Era medicine wasn’t known for its cleanliness.
The loblolly boy was the junior-most enlisted surgeon’s assistant back in the day. While the average operating table on a vessel consisted of the surgeon and a surgeon’s mate or two, all of the work that was deemed “below the officer” was shoveled directly onto the loblolly boy.
The name comes directly from the English slang term ‘lob,’ which meant ‘bubbling’ or ‘boiling,’ and ‘lolly,’ which was a soup or broth. This is in regards to one of the more lighthearted tasks assigned to these troops: to feed soup or stew to the injured sailors and Marines.
But since they were the lowest-ranking member of the medical team, they also had to handle the other tasks associated with nursing the wounded, like cleaning chamber pots, organizing medical supplies, cleaning medical instruments, and, of course, assisting in surgery.
We’re not talking the cleanest of working environments here, but at least they tried their best.
Back in the 18th century, amputation was a go-to answer for a lot of dire medical situations. Wound too bad? Amputation. Infection looks like it’s spreading? Amputation. Bone shattered too much? Amputation. Skin starting to turn green after you ignored a simple scrape? Amputation. It’s a pretty grim solution, but there’s no denying its effectiveness when the alternative was often death.
This was also long before anesthetics or analgesics, so the operations had to be done quickly — because, you know, that was the most “humane” way to cut someone’s leg off. They’d have the loblolly boy hold them down while Doc sawed it off. Problem is, the loblolly boy was often just a kid or young adult, which made restraining a fully grown Marine who’s getting parts cut off a significant challenge.
Old Victorian English surgeons in a hospital got the process down to 30 seconds flat. Civil War surgeons in the midst of a battle would clock in at around the same time, but the process was a whole lot messier. The loblolly boy, of course, had to clean up the inevitable splatters before the next patient came in. Disposing of amputated limbs was one of the primary duties of the loblolly boy.
If you’re a corpsman, now you know you can always win the debate of how’s job has been historically worse.
(U.S. Navy photo)
The job wasn’t the most glamorous, but it did open the doors for loblolly boys to work their way up in the medical field. This gave an opportunity to those who would otherwise not have it — for social, economical, or racial reasons. Many of the first African American surgeons got their start in the military as loblolly boys.
Ann Bradford Stokes, an escaped slave, was taken aboard the USS Red Rover during the Civil War and became both one of the first women to enlist and one of the first African Americans to enlist in the United States Navy. Though she could not read or write during her time of service, she did her job dutifully for years and became the very first woman in U.S. history to receive a military pension.
This terrible job evolved throughout the years, later known as surgeon’s steward, apothecary, and bayman, before becoming what we today know: the hospital corpsmen.
ProPublica senior reporter Sebastian Rotella, author of “Rip Crew,” lays out what popular TV shows and movies like “Narcos” and “Sicario” get right and wrong about Mexican drug cartels. Following is a transcript of the video.
Sebastian Rotella: I’m Sebastian Rotella. I’m the author of the novel Rip Crew and I’m a senior reporter at Propublica.
“Sicario” was a, was a good movie, and some of the things it portrayed were very accurate, for example that shootout at the border, if you remember in “Sicario” when they’re at the border crossing, stuck in traffic, that has happened, and something that I was very worried about when I was covering the border, because you know that is a sort of a prime vulnerability moment when you’re stuck in that traffic at the border.
There were other things in, for example, in “Sicario” that I thought pushed the envelope, the sort of gratuitous and casual torture taking place on US territory, that in my experience, you know, it happens very rarely, I’m really not aware of it. And that isn’t because there aren’t particularly Latin American law enforcement and intelligence and military units that work with the US that engage in that kind of activity, but it tends to happen precisely in those countries. You know, the idea that you would bring someone into the US to do that and expose yourself to all kinds of potential prosecution and scandal, that did not ring true, for example. So it really depends.
I think “Narcos” is quite well-researched. What happens is, and I’ve done this having written fiction, and having been involved in projects where you move this stuff to the big screen, things have to be simplified, they have to be made dramatic, they have, you lose nuance, and oftentimes, they’ll be things that happen in real life that I think would make for good, it would be good on, on a TV show or a movie, but they’re harder to portray because oftentimes they happen out of ineptitude.
Right, I mean the scary thing sometimes about this world is the combination of that, how lethal, but sometimes how inept or how unsophisticated some of these actors are, that factor that is hard to portray in the best series this question of ineptitude of the mix of sophistication and coincidence and sort of human flaws, I think when that is draw out in series, that is when they’re at their best, because I think that is very human and that is very real. There is still a sense of the drug lords in Mexico. You know people talk a lot about Chapo Guzman, who was just captured.
The thing about Chapo Guzman is he was kind of the last of the drug lords of his style, and one of the reasons that Mexico was so violent, and the drug violence and drug corruption has gotten so bad is precisely because the generation of drug lords like Chapo Guzman has kind of died out, and the people who run most of the cartels now, the cartels are adamized and fragmented for one thing. And the other thing is what you have is a phenomenon, is as the drug lords like Chapo Guzman have faded out, the trigger men, the gun men, who pretty much resolve everything through violence have risen.
So it’s not to say that Chapo Guzman and the Arellano-Felix brothers whom I covered in Tijuana years ago and others, weren’t violent. They were bloodthirsty and sadistic, but they also had a sense of when to corrupt, rather than kill, when to do packs, when to, how to, how to, how to approach this as a, as a business, as a violent business, but a business, none the less. Whereas the drug cartels like the Zetas, and some of the remnants of other cartels that have risen, the Zetas were former commandos in Mexico actually military men who took over and created their own cartel. Pretty much they resolve everything through violence, so people think about a drug lord sort of sitting on a throne somewhere and running this vast empire and it’s much more a series of smaller, very anarchic, dangerous, chaotic empires, that are, you know, that have been splintered and fractured and that unfortunately has created more violence and not less.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ethiopian Airlines’ deadly crash on March 10, 2019, was the second disaster involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in the last five months.
The apparent similarities to the crash of Lion Air in October 2018 has sparked an outcry from US lawmakers as other countries — including China, Britain, Australia, and more — ground the plane pending further investigation.
Here’s what we know so far about March 10, 2019’s crash and any similarities to the Lion Air disaster so far:
All of the 157 people on board were killed
When the Ethiopian Airlines plane plunged to the ground shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi, all 149 passengers and eight crew were killed.
The airline’s CEO told journalists that those involved hailed largely from African countries, as well as 18 Canadians, eight Americans, and others from a handful of European countries.
One passenger, who accidentally missed the crashed flight by two minutes, said in a Facebook post that he was “grateful to be alive,” despite being angry previously that no staff could help him find his gate.
Boeing, the US-based manufacturer of the 737 Max 8 involved in the crash, said March 12, 2019, it will soon roll out a software update in response to the two crashes.
At the heart of the controversy surrounding the 737 MAX is MCAS or the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation system. To fit the MAX’s larger, more fuel-efficient engines, Boeing had to redesign the way it mounts engines on the 737.
This change disrupted the plane’s center of gravity and caused the MAX to have a tendency to tip its nose upward during flight, increasing the likelihood of a stall. MCAS is designed to automatically counteract that tendency and point the nose of the plane downward.
Initial reports from the Lion Air investigation indicate that a faulty sensor reading may have triggered MCAS shortly after the flight took off.
Here’s the company’s full statement:
For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer. This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals, and crew training. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.
Still, Boeing’s statement has done little to calm fears of global air travel regulators around the world.
The US’ air safety regulator on March 11, 2019, said the plane was still safe to fly. And for now, the Federal Aviation Administration does not appear to be following the rest of the world in grounding the plane.
“External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident on Oct. 29, 2018,” the FAA said March 11, 2019. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions”
A handful of American lawmakers, including at least three senators and a representative, have called on the FAA to ground the plane. Amid those calls, US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and her entourage of staff flew on a 737 Max 8 from Austin, Texas back to Washington D.C. March 12, 2019.
“The department and the FAA will not hesitate to take immediate and appropriate action,” Chao said, according to CNBC.
Pilots in the United States also reported issues with the plane in the months leading up to March 10, 2019’s crash. One pilot said the flight manual was “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient,” according to the Dallas Morning News.
Those complaints were made in the Federal Aviation Administration’s incident database which allows pilots to report issues about aviation incidents anonymously. They highlighted issues with the Max 8’s autopilot system, which had been called into question following the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018. That incident also involved a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane.
More countries ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft after Ethiopian Airlines crash
“We are not surprised by the negative stock reaction, as the 737 represents the strongest backlog, free cash flow (FCF and potential upside from further rate increases,” Ken Hubert, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, said in a note to clients on March 11, 2019.
“We view the risk as less about near term expenses, but the full year 737 delivery estimates for BA could be impacted. We do not expect BA to slow the 737 pull from suppliers. Moreover, the larger risk is the reputational concern for BA,” he continued.
The 737 MAX comprised 2.2% of Southwest’s scheduled available seat miles (ASM) for March 2019, and is projected to grow to 2.6% by June 2019. The airline reportedly said March 12, 2019 that it’s “working with Customers individually who wish to rebook their flight to another aircraft type.”
United Airlines and American Airlines also operate the plane in the US, where there are 74 of them registered according to the FAA. Around the world, 59 airlines operate 387 of the 737 Max 8 and 9, the agency said.
U.S. Army Private first class Hansen Kirkpatrick was killed during an indirect fire attack in Helmand province, Afghanistan July 3, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.
The Pentagon announcement was devoid of details on the circumstances of the 19-year-old’s death, and the incident remains under investigation. Two other U.S. soldiers were reportedly wounded in the attack but their wounds are not considered life threatening.
Helmand province is an active site of U.S. operations supporting the Afghan National Security Forces in the fight against the Taliban. The Taliban has turned the province into the frontline of its campaign against the U.S. and Afghan government, controlling vast swaths of its territory.
Kirkpatrick’s death comes amid serious discussions by U.S. officials to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan. President Donald Trump granted Secretary of Defense James Mattis authority to set Afghan troop levels in mid June.
Mattis recently secured NATO backing to increase the number of overall troops in Afghanistan by at least a few thousand, in a recent visit to Europe.
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North Korea’s military parade on Feb. 8 featured much of what we’ve come to expect from Pyongyang — grandiose speeches, choreographed crowds, and a procession of missiles.
But it also featured a mystery missile never before seen.
While many analysts focused on the big intercontinental missiles, like the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15, and the threat they pose to the U.S. mainland, a smaller missile slipped by relatively unnoticed.
Here are a few shots of the new system:
While everyone’s still slack-jawed over the sight of four massive Hwasong-15 missile on their TELs, I think its important to point out a far more shocking newcomer is what appears to be a copy of the Russian 9K720 Iskander. pic.twitter.com/aDZBtOsYWH
Justin Bronk, a military expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that North Korea’s mystery missiles “look enormously like Iskander missiles and not a missile that [North Korea has] been seen with before.”
Bronk pointed out that the former Soviet Union and now Russia have a long established history of helping North Korea with its missile program. Talented engineers left unemployed after the collapse of the Soviet Union often found good paying work in North Korea, according to Bronk.
But the Iskander isn’t a Cold War design. If Russia collaborated with North Korea as recently as the Iskander, it would have huge geopolitical implications, and would strain an already fraught U.S.-Russian relationship.
The new missile is not confirmed to be a Russian design. Mike Elleman, a missile expert at the Institute of International Strategic Studies, said the missile was “inconsistent with Iskander” and that it was just as likely a clone of South Korea’s Hyunmoo-2 missile system. North Korea has been known to hack South Korean defense information.
Regardless of origin, the little missile may be a big problem for the US
Whether Russia or South Korea was the origin of the information for the mystery missile, it poses a major threat to U.S. forces in South Korea and in the region.
Bronk explained that North Korea’s current fleet of ballistic missiles don’t have the accuracy of more modern systems like the Iskander. If North Korea deployed the new, more accurate ballistic missiles, it could lay the groundwork for an opening salvo on an attack on South Korea that could blindside and cripple the U.S.
With a large number of precise, short-range missiles, which the mystery missile appears to be, U.S. missile defenses could become overwhelmed. U.S. military bases, airfields, and depots could all fall victim to the missile fire within the first few minutes of a conflict.
Whatever the origin, the appearance of this mystery missile likely has large geopolitical and tactical implications for the U.S.’s push to denuclearize Pyongyang by force or diplomacy.
Earlier this month, the Army’s top general in charge of supplying units with troops blamed a lack of readiness on limited time for training, adding that lack of funding isn’t the biggest challenge.
Head of Army Forces Command Gen. Robert Abrams said the lack of training stems from lawmakers making policy that commits the service to engagements around the world without an eye toward keeping the force healthy and trained up.
Abrams explained that soldiers were expected to deploy more and have less time home because of downsizing.
“Our goal has always been … one month gone, two months back,” Abrams said, adding that the Army is currently experiencing a ratio of “deploy-to-dwell” that trends closer to one month gone, one month back.
“Our commitments worldwide across the globe in support of our combatant commanders remains at a very high level while we continue to simultaneously downsize the total force,” Abrams told an audience at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.
“Our number one constraint for training is time available.”
Recent budget cuts have forced the Army to reduce its total active duty soldiers to 450,000 while still meeting its obligations worldwide. As a result, the operational tempo for soldiers is higher and more demanding — ultimately requiring soldiers to train more, for longer periods of time, in addition to more and longer deployments, Army officials say.
“The impact of non-standard missions continues to have a degrading effect across our force in being able to sustain proficiency in combined arms maneuver,” Abrams said.
Because soldiers are experiencing a minimal deploy-to-dwell time, there isn’t enough time for soldiers to maintain the training the Army requires.
“We struggle today to maintain and meet Department of the Army standards in our critical combat fleets,” Abrams explained before highlighting unmet requirements within the Army’s aviation and ground fleets. He was quick to explain that in aviation in particular, the problems do not lie with the aviators. The problem stems, instead, with plans to restructure the way the Army finances those fleets, impacting training requirements, upkeep on aircraft, and overall readiness of aviators.
While Abrams was very careful not to blame funding shortfalls for the readiness issues facing the Army, he did not hesitate to blame the readiness of the National Guard in particular on lack of money.
“We’ve dug ourselves this hole because of funding,” Abrams said.
Despite the tough times, Abrams said the Army has made tremendous strides in the last year in terms of readiness and overall capabilities.
“Last year at this exact forum, one of underlying themes was that as an army in terms of our joint war-fighting capabilities, we were pretty rusty,” he said. “I’m happy to report today that we have made progress in our ability.”
The Russian military on Nov. 28, 2018, announced plans to deploy advanced antiaircraft missiles to the Crimean Peninsula amid rising tensions between Moscow and Kiev.
A division of S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missiles will be sent to Crimea for “combat duty,” the state-backed Tass news agency reported Wednesday, citing information provided by the Southern Military District’s press service. “In the near future, the new system will enter combat duty to defend Russia’s airspace, replacing the previous air defense system,” a representative told the official news agency.
Sputnik News, another Russian media outlet owned by the Russian government, indicated that this would be the fourth S-400 air-defense battalion the country deployed to Crimea. The S-400 surface-to-air missile system is one of the world’s most advanced air-defense systems, able to target aircraft, missiles, and even ground targets.
A column of what appeared to be anti-ship missile systems was spotted on a highway headed toward the Crimean city of Kerch on Nov. 27, 2018, the Russian state-funded television network RT reported.
An S-400 92N2 radar and 5P85T2.
News of missile deployments to Crimea come just a couple of days after a serious naval clash between Russia and Ukraine on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Sea of Azov, which is shared territorial waters under a 2003 treaty signed by the two countries.
During Nov. 28, 2018’s confrontation, Russian vessels rammed a Ukrainian tugboat and opened fire on two other ships before seizing the boats and taking their crew members into custody.
Russia asserts that the ships, which were traveling to the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol from Odessa by way of the Kerch Strait, failed to request authorization and engaged in dangerous maneuvers. Moscow has yet to provide evidence to support these claims.
Ukraine argues that the incident was evidence of Russian aggression and released a video from aboard one of the Russian ships that Ukrainian authorities intercepted. In the video, the Russian sailors can be heard shouting “crush him” as the Russian vessel rams the Ukrainian tugboat.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump has engaged China in a trade war that has global markets holding their breath, but his administration recently challenged Beijing on an issue Chinese officials have promised to go to war over.
Buried in the paper, which charts China’s efforts to build up a military fortress in the South China Sea and use its growing naval might to coerce its neighbors, is a reference to Taiwan as a “country.”
“As democracies in the Indo-Pacific, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Mongolia are reliable, capable, and natural partners of the United States,” the strategy said. “All four countries contribute to US missions around the world and are actively taking steps to uphold a free and open international order.”
President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.
China views Taiwan as a breakaway island province that has its own democratic government. Beijing sees this as an existential threat and the factor most likely to upset the Communist Party’s absolute hold on power in the mainland.
In July 2018, China threatened to blacklist airlines that referred to Taiwan as a country. US airlines fell in line, but the White House protested the strong-arm tactic as “Orwellian nonsense.”
But now the US itself has clearly said it: Taiwan is a country, and the US will treat it as such.
‘The Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs’
In another unprecedented step, a high-ranking Taiwanese minister was allowed to meet with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, in May 2019. This move predictably enraged China.
At the Shangri La Dialogue, the top defense summit in Asia, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe made clear the stakes of China’s Taiwan problem.
“Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure,” Wei said, according to Channel Asia News. “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs.”
Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe.
Taiwan is “the hot-button issue” in US-China relations, John Hemmings, the director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, told Business Insider.
China has always maintained that it would prefer to reunify with Taiwan peacefully but would do so by force if needed. Additionally, China’s navy has increasingly patrolled the waters around the island and flown nuclear-capable bombers nearby.
But the US has also sailed warships through the narrow strait separating China and Taiwan and has gotten allies to pitch in.
The arms are already moving
The US’s rhetorical escalation follows the Trump administration normalizing arms sales to Taiwan and the news that it will sell billion in tanks, anti-tank weapons, and air defenses to the island.
According to Hemmings, these weapons have a clear purpose: to fight back against a Chinese invasion of the island.
Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the US had now entered “uncharted territory” by acknowledging Taiwan.
A US Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tank during Arrow 2019 at the Pohjankangas Training Area near Niinisalo, Finland, on May 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)
The US under Trump has been the most pro-Taiwan administration in decades, Hemmings said. Trump demonstrated this during his presidential transition period when he had a call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen.
For years, China has slowly stepped up pressure on the US in areas like forcing companies to transfer technology, building up military sites on artificial islands in the South China Sea, and naval challenges.
Hemmings mentioned a popular anecdote in China, in which a frog is cooked by putting it in a pot of cold water and then slowly turning up the heat. The frog doesn’t realize it’s getting cooked until it’s too late. China’s gradual pressure campaign against the US has been compared to this practice.
With the US now quietly acknowledging Taiwan in a strategy document, it may have found its own small way to turn up the heat on Beijing.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.