Two military agents are testifying that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl helped them understand insurgents better and provided a “gold mine” of information after he was returned in a prisoner swap.
The agents were called by the defense to testify Oct. 31 at Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing. He pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009. He faces life in prison.
The agents say the information that Bergdahl gave them will help train troops on how to survive future imprisonments. Bergdahl was held by the Taliban for five years.
Prosecutors have sought to show a military judge the severe wounds that troops suffered while searching for Bergdahl.
Gut-wrenching testimony at the sentencing of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will likely continue with officials who treated the soldier following his brutal five years of captivity by Taliban allies.
The defense began with Bergdahl himself describing his experience in enemy hands. And that served as a dramatic counterpoint to the emotional testimony of the final prosecution witness, Shannon Allen, whose husband can’t speak and needs help with everyday tasks after being shot in the head while searching for Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Bergdahl faces up to life in prison for endangering his comrades after pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He told the judge Oct. 30 he didn’t mean to cause harm when he walked off his post in 2009.
The founder of the Haqqani network, one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and feared militant groups, has died after a long illness, the network’s ally, the Afghan Taliban, has announced.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose son Sirajuddin Haqqani now heads the brutal group and is also the Taliban’s deputy leader, died “after a long battle with illness,” the Taliban said in a statement in English on Twitter early on Sept. 4, 2018.
The Taliban claimed that Jalaluddin “was from among the great distinguished Jihadi personalities of this era.”
The United States, after allying with Haqqani to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, by 2012 had designated his organization a terrorist group.
The elder Haqqani was paralyzed for the past 10 years, AP reported. Because he had not been heard from in several years, reports of his death were widespread in 2015.
Haqqani was once a minister in the Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion in 2002 that followed the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Prior to the U.S. invasion, Haqqani fostered close ties with Arab extremists, including the now-deceased Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, who set up militant camps in Afghanistan before being run out of the country into hiding in Pakistan by U.S.-led NATO forces.
Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
The Haqqani network has been blamed for spectacular attacks in Afghanistan in recent years.
It was blamed for the truck bombing in the heart of Kabul in May 2017 that killed around 150 people, though the group denied its involvement.
The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.
St. Patrick’s Day has an entirely different meaning in the United States than it does in elsewhere in the world. The actual Irish hold a solemn, religious holiday, while the diaspora of those of Irish descent take the time to celebrate their heritage. Non-Irish Americans celebrate the day for good luck and use it as a perfect excuse to go drinking with the guys.
The city of Savannah, Georgia, however, holds their own St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The river turns green, everyone wears green, and civilian women show their love to the boys in green. Soldiers from nearby Army installations join in on the city’s parade and, traditionally, women jump into the formations and kiss on the cheeks of a handsome soldier — leaving a huge, red lipstick mark.
On March 8, 2018, official spokesmen from Fort Stewart and parade chief organizers put an end to the kisses.
Savannah is an Army town with Hunter Army Airfield, Fort Stewart, Fort Jackson, and Fort Gordon all within a relatively short distance’s drive. This is perhaps one of the few times where volunteering for parade duty is worth it. The marching soldiers must keep their composure and remain as stoic as possible while beautiful women kiss them.
The reasons given for ending the tradition are that the “soldiers need to look professional” and that “red lipstick is not part of the uniform.” So far, there’s been no word on if the green beads the soldiers are given are also too unprofessional.
Another (more genuine) reason for prohibiting the kisses is safety. Many security concerns are raised in allowing countless spectators to jump the barricades and run up on the troops, even if it’s done with literally the best intentions.
A silver lining is that no defined punishment has been set. If a soldier just happens to be marching and a woman just happens to kiss him, the punishment is likely going to simply involve push-ups.
That doesn’t sound that bad. You’re about to see the happiest any troop has ever been while getting the sh*t smoked out of them.
Earlier this summer, Chinese and Indian border forces fought a shootout in Ladakh, in the Galwan River Valley, along India’s disputed border with China. On Jun. 15, 2020, India’s armed forces managed to push Chinese advances back across the disputed border, but not before both sides took heavy losses for such a skirmish.
The Indian military says it lost 20 soldiers in the fighting, while China won’t admit how many it lost (U.S. intelligence estimates as many as 34). Among those was 23-year-old Gurtej Singh from Punjab.
He had only been in the military for less than two years, according to India’s Femina Magazine – but joining was his lifelong goal. In December 2018, he was able to join the 3 Punjab Ghatak Platoon, Sikh Regiment. And it was 3 Punjab Ghatak Platoon that was called up to aid the Indian Bihar Regiment when it came under heavy fire from the Communist Chinese troops.
Gurtej SIngh was coming to the rescue of his fellow soldiers. And he was about to do some incredible damage.
Once on the scene, Singh was armed only with his issued kirpan knife. Four Chinese soldiers were on him almost instantly, Indian officials told Femina. Two of them tried to pin him down as he swung his knife at the other two. The scuffle soon veered toward a steep cliff face. Singh lost his balance and slipped, throwing all four enemies off the cliff – and falling himself.
He was able to stop his freefall with the help of rocks on the cliff face. Injured in the head and neck, he returned to the scene, rewrapped his turban, and started wrecking the Chinese soldiers with his knife. In a move that would make American Chosin Reservoir veterans proud, Singh stabbed seven more Chinese soldiers one-by-one.
Until he was stabbed from behind, leaving him mortally wounded. Singh would die there, but not before turning around and taking out his own killer first.
Gurtej Singh: 12, Chinese People’s Liberation Army: 1.
Singh’s remains were returned to his family in Punjab and he was laid to rest in the Sikh tradition with full military honors.
Xi Jinping, who was not reached for comment, probably hopes there was only one Gurtej Singh.
Gene Simmons wants you to be rich and powerful, but it’s not going to be easy. You’re going to have to learn English, wake up early, turn off the TV and study.
“I want to shake you up and tell, you a real harsh truth: The world doesn’t need you,” he says. “The only way you’re going to become rich and powerful is if you stand up on your hind legs. You’re only going to get the respect you demand.”
Simmons, the co-founder and bassist for the rock band Kiss, is brutal in his advice: Women, choose between a career or a family. Guys, get rid of your worthless friends. Above all, don’t listen to the self-esteem movement or be politically correct. Simmons is here to demand that you drop and give him 20.
“I want to be your drill sergeant and piss you off so that you wake up and smell the coffee and go out there and become that rich and powerful person you deserve to be,” he says. “You cannot fail in America.”
Why should you listen to this guy, someone who has spent much of his adult life slathered in scary makeup, in towering platform boots, wagging his tongue onstage and singing songs like “Lick It Up”?
Because he’s also an entrepreneur who came to America with no money and no English. He’s become, he says, a millionaire with a hand in a restaurant franchise, a wealth management services firm and a magazine, among others. “You don’t have enough hours in the day to understand what I do,” he says.
Now Simmons is ready to reveal the principles he’s learned in his book, “On Power,” part guidebook, part self-help manual, with several profiles of people we should admire, like Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett. It’s a small book, and that’s on purpose. “You can take it to the pooper with you,” he explains.
Jessica Sindler, his editor, called working with Simmons “without a doubt a memorable experience” and that all the concepts in the book came from him. “They’re based on the way he lives his life and runs his career. He is very much a man who practices what he preaches.”
In person, Simmons is a jokester and a wordsmith who clearly loves attention. He wags his impressive tongue to whoever asks and glad-hands strangers like a politician. He likes to wear a ball cap decorated with a picture of a sack of money that he’s trademarked. He puns outrageously (“Close but no guitar,” he says at one point. “See what I did there?”).
Simmons cheerfully poses for selfies, interrupts conversations and likes to take candid photos of people he encounters who are lost in their phones. “Every once in a while, look up,” he told one startled bystander. Sometimes, he goes too far, as he did recently during a visit to Fox News Channel. He was allegedly crude, taunted staffers and exposed his chest, triggering a network ban.
Simmons has become legendary for leveraging Kiss’s distinctive look and winking cool into everything from reality TV shows to action figures, colognes, keychains, cabernet sauvignon and even a coffin — the Kiss Kasket.
Simmons is a curious mix of things. He’s a hawk on foreign policy, no fan of unions or socialism, but a liberal when it comes to social issues. “You want to get married to a rock? Or change your sex? Go to Mars and become a Martian religious fanatic? I really don’t care,” he says.
He has boasted of his sexual conquests but is a long-married teetotaler who has no patience for illegal drug users. He can quote Kierkegaard and Kant and speaks four languages, but blames the recent global financial meltdown on greedy borrowers.
He believes we’re still basically hunter-gatherers, with men awash with testosterone and only vaguely civilized. He applauds the wave of women these days calling out men for sexual misconduct.
“There will always be bad guys, don’t kid yourself. The best thing that’s happening now is the female of the species is standing up collectively and saying, ‘That’s enough.’ Good for women. That should always have been the case.”
His advice to gaining wealth is simple: Start a limited liability partnership in your home, use social media and deduct your costs from taxes. You can keep your old job until the rewards flow in. If they don’t? You can declare bankruptcy and “then you can start again.” (It’s advice not all financial advisers endorse.)
Having a brilliant idea for a business is fine, but outhustling is more important to Simmons. “It doesn’t have to be new or original. It can be a stupid idea,” he says. “Some of the dumbest people have become enormously successful.”
U.S. prosecutors have arrested a Russian woman who cultivated ties with American conservative politicians and groups and charged her with acting as a covert agent for the Russian government.
In U.S. court filings in Washington late on July 16, 2018, prosecutors said Maria Butina, 29, entertained and cultivated relationships with U.S. politicians and worked to infiltrate U.S. political organizations, particularly the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobbying organization, while reporting back to a high-ranking official in Moscow.
The U.S. complaint says Butina in an e-mail in 2015 described the gun association as the “largest sponsor” of congressional elections in the United States and said Russia should build a relationship with it and the Conservative Political Action Conference, a top backer of Republican political campaigns, to improve U.S.-Russia relations.
The U.S. case against Butina, a founder of the pro-gun-rights Russian advocacy organization Right to Bear Arms, was announced just hours after the conclusion of a summit in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki.
The complaint portrays Butina as active in promoting Russian interests in U.S. politics, including an easing of sanctions imposed on Moscow in 2014, in the year leading up to Trump’s election as president in 2016.
In a video posted on YouTube from the FreedomFest, a conservative political event in Las Vegas in July 2015, Butina is seen asking then-candidate Trump if he would continue to support sanctions against Russia if he were elected president.
Reuters, citing an anonymous source, reported that Butina was a Trump supporter who bragged at parties in Washington that she could use her political connections to help get people jobs in the Trump administration after the election.
According to the complaint, Butina reported back to a top government official in Moscow, who is not named in the court papers. But the official was described as “a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.”
That description fits Aleksandr Torshin, whom Butina has previously been affiliated with. She is pictured with Torshin in numerous photographs on her Facebook page.
Aleksandr Torshin (right)
Torshin, who became a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association in 2012, was among a group of Russian oligarchs and officials targeted with sanctions in April 2018 because of their ties with Putin and their roles in “advancing Russia’s malign activities.”
Court papers filed in support of Butina’s arrest accuse her of participating in a conspiracy that began in 2015 in which the senior Russian official “tasked” her with working to infiltrate American political organizations with the goal of “reporting back to Moscow” what she had learned.
In addition to seeking out meetings with U.S. lawmakers and candidates, the complaint says Butina attended events sponsored by private lobbying groups, including the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event in Washington that attracts leading conservative politicians.
Butina allegedly organized Russian-American “friendship and dialogue” dinners in Washington and New York with the goal of developing relationships with U.S. politicians and establishing “back channel” lines of communication, as well as “penetrating the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation,” the complaint says.
Court papers say that an unnamed American who worked with Butina in an October 2016 message claimed to have been involved in setting up a “private line of communication” ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and “key” officials in a U.S. political party through the National Rifle Association.
Butina was arrested on July 15, 2018, and charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a decades-old law that until recently was rarely enforced.
In a statement, Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, called the allegations “overblown” and said prosecutors had criminalized mundane networking opportunities.
Driscoll said Butina was not an agent of the Russian Federation but was instead in the United States on a student visa, graduating from American University with a master’s degree in international relations.
“There is simply no indication of Ms. Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law or the United States — only at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations,” Driscoll said.
“The complaint is simply a misuse of the Foreign Agent statute, which is designed to punish covert propaganda, not open and public networking by foreign students.”
Court papers charging Butina with conspiracy to inflitrate U.S. political organizations include several e-mails and Twitter conversations in which she refers to the need to keep her work secret or, in one case, “incognito.”
Prosecutions under the U.S. foreign-agent law picked up in 2018 amid growing concern in Washington about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the case against Butina was connected to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian election meddling. The charges against her were brought by a different Justice Department office: the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C.
Among the most prominent people to face charges under the foreign-agents law is Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was charged by Mueller in 2017.
When the Los Angeles Police Department responded to this particular domestic dispute during the 1992 LA riots, they likely didn’t need the backing of the United States Marine Corps – but they had it anyway. Upon approaching the house, one officer was hit by a shotgun blast of birdshot. He called back to the Marines to cover him. Unfortunately, what “cover” meant to the Marines and to the LAPD were two different things.
The officer just wanted the threat of M-16s pointed at the house to keep the shooter from shooting again. The Marines thought the 200 rounds they fired into the house would be enough. They were probably both right. But that’s not how the U.S. Army National Guard would have done it.
Before the Marines were called in, thousands of Guardsmen took to the streets of LA during the 1992 riots.
In the early 1990s, the streets of LA were a dangerous place. Even the LAPD officers who regularly walked their beats admitted to losing the streets to the tens of thousands of gang members who controlled much of the city’s south side. Los Angeles was soon a powder keg of racially and socially fueled frustration that exploded on April 29, 1992. Four LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force against Rodney King, a black motorist who was beaten by the officers after evading them on a California freeway.
Their acquittal sparked the 1992 LA Riots, a huge civil disturbance that covered 32-square-miles, from the Hollywood Hills to Long Beach. Eventually, the governor of California would call in more than 10,000 California National Guard troops and 2,000 active troops to quell the riots. That wasn’t enough. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Marine Corps veteran, knew what he needed and asked President Bush to send in the Marines.
Within 36 hours, state and local agencies, along with thousands of California National Guardsmen had largely restored order. That’s when they were suddenly federalized and augmented with more active duty troops and the United States Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton. According to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Delk, this caused the morale among the soldiers of the California Guard to plummet, after all their work in restoring Los Angeles. Suddenly being told the Marines were coming in to finish the job didn’t look so good.
Local civilians, on the other hand, knew exactly who to thank. According to Gen. Delk, locals cheered at the appearance of the California National Guard in their neighborhoods. Shopkeepers and restaurants refused to take money from the Guardsmen often even delivering food and drinks to the staging areas.
So in the immediate aftermath of the rioting and violence, the media latched on to the idea that calling in the Marines was the solution to restoring law and order, despite the fact that the job was mostly done by the time the Marines arrived. The Guardsmen, for their part, continued to do their jobs despite the lack of national appreciation. By the time the Guard withdrew, the streets were much safer than they were before the riots began. The crime rate dropped by 70 percent and local citizens did not want the troops to leave. In fact, it was more than a month before the last National Guard soldier left Los Angeles.
The good news is that the federalization of the joint task force worked exactly as it was supposed to and no one wearing a uniform of the U.S. military was killed or seriously injured. Most importantly, no U.S. troops killed or wounded any innocent civilians.
Arts in the Armed Forces just launched an Action Fund to provide arts and dialogue to the military community in response to disruptive events on base. Every donation will be matched through Labor Day 2020 with the goal of raising $200,000 to help the military community in times of crisis.
Founded by U.S. Marine Adam Driver and Juilliard alumna Joanna Trucker, the mission of the non-profit is to use the powerful shared experience of the arts to start conversations between military service members and civilians in order to bridge the world of the arts and the world of practical action.
After disturbing accounts of violence, sexual assault and suicides on military bases like Fort Hood, this kind of activism can’t come soon enough.[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CEcJvDMAXqC/?igshid=1kzuh7yoiacyw expand=1]Login • Instagram
As most people can attest during the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, in times of crisis, people turn to the arts for entertainment, comfort and inspiration. We learn about our own humanity from storytellers. Organizations like Arts in the Armed Forces have also discovered how therapeutic artistic exploration can be for the warrior community.
Now, through Sept. 7, 2020, every gift up to 0,000 will be matched dollar for dollar by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, so you can double your impact by donating. You can name your gift in honor or memory of a loved one. You can also share your story by tagging @aitaf and #AITAFActionFund on Instagram.
Benefits for service members include film screening and panel tickets as well as other great initiatives like the Bridge Award, which recognizes emerging playwrights (and, recently, screenwriters) of exceptional talent within the United States military. Service members interested in applying can learn more about the Bridge Award here.
To contribute to the Action Fund and help provide morale-boosting experiences to the military and veteran community where and when they are needed most, check out the campaign here.
In the video above, you can learn more about Adam Driver’s service in the Marines, how he turned to the theater to recreate the camaraderie he missed after the military, and how the arts can be used to help returning veterans transition to civilian life.
Every year, Wreaths Across America works to ensure that every one of the nearly 250,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery has a wreath on it for Christmas. This year, though, they are very short, and whether they succeed is very much in doubt.
According to a report by the Washington Examiner, this year the group is almost 120,000 wreaths short of being able to accomplish its mission. That means nearly half the graves at the cemetery where two presidents (John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft), 367 recipients of the Medal of Honor, Thomas G. Lanphier Jr. (the pilot who shot down the plane carrying Isoroku Yamamoto), Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chafee, the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and General of the Armies John J. Pershing would not be decorated.
“Last year at this time we were still short, but not by quite as many. I think a lot of people drive by the cemetery in December and see all those wreaths and unfortunately people still believe that the government does that like they do the flags on Memorial Day,” Wayne Hanson, the chairman of the board for Wreaths Across America told the Examiner.
The origins of Wreaths Across America go back to 1992, when 5,000 surplus wreaths were donated to decorate headstones at Arlington. The ceremony continued until taking off in 2002. In 2007, the organization was recognized as a not-for-profit 501(c)3.
According to the organization’s website, in 2015 over 168 companies delivered over 300 truckloads of wreaths to be placed on the graves of veterans.
Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas as a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 miles per hour. Over four feet of rain has been dumped on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and Houston is flooded — and it may be as bad as Katrina.
Below are some of the photos showing the rescue efforts by the National Guard, which has been, as you might imagine, very busy.
This is what they are dealing with: An aerial view shows severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)
Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron prepare to deploy from the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Aug. 27 for Texas, where they will assist with rescue and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The Airmen are specialists in swift-water and confined-space rescue. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)
U.S. Air Force 41st Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawks take-off, Aug. 26 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. The 23d Wing launched HC-130J Combat King IIs, HH-60G Pave Hawks, aircrew and other support personnel to preposition aircraft and airmen, if tasked to support Hurricane Harvey relief operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)
In this aerial view, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter hovers over the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)
Texas National Guardsmen drive military vehicles down flooded streets while searching for stranded residents impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)
Texas National Guardsmen work with emergency responders in assisting residents affected by Hurricane Harvey flooding during search and rescue operations near Victoria, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle)
Texas National Guard soldiers aid a citizen in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD)
A Texas National Guardsman carries a resident from her home during flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)
Texas National Guard soldiers assist residents affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Aug. 27. (National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)
A Texas Task Force responder helps hoist a stranded resident to a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during search and rescue near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)
A Texas National Guardsman shakes hands with a resident after assisting his family during Hurricane Harvey flooding in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)
To donate $10 to the American Red Cross, text REDCROSS to 90999. The donation will be reflected in your next cell phone bill. You can also donate by going to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster for a list of national charities assisting those whose lives have been altered by Hurricane Harvey.
Perhaps unthinkable as early as just a year ago, diplomats from the United States met with representatives of the Afghan Taliban to discuss terms for ending the 17-year long conflict in Afghanistan. It all began when Afghan government under Ashraf Ghani and Taliban senior leadership agreed to a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. When it actually happened, not only did Afghans across the country rejoice, it legitimized the prospect of a permanent end to the fighting.
Of course, violence didn’t cease entirely for the most important holiday in Islam. Fighters under the flag of the Islamic State continued pressing attacks from the ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar Province, killing 30.
Elsewhere in the country, however, Afghans were able to breathe a much-welcomed sigh of relief for the first time in over a decade, even if it was only temporary. Fighters from both sides even joined each other in some areas to celebrate the holiday, sharing a salat prayer or jelabi sweets. For a few days, their automatic rifle fire was directed into the air, instead of at each other. After the holiday, the fighters reluctantly returned to the routine of war they have endured for 17 years.
The joint celebrations made it apparent that many in Afghanistan are ready to see an end to all fighting in the country and that some kind of agreement could be reached between the opposing sides — including the U.S.-supported Ghani government. Now, the U.S. State Department confirmed that Alice Wells, a senior official for U.S. relations in Afghanistan, traveled to Doha to meet with the Taliban.
Taliban officials were excited at the meeting, telling journalists it yielded “very positive signals,” in their eyes. Representatives of the Afghan government were not present at the talks. It was Ashraf Ghani’s central government in Afghanistan that first offered the Eid ceasefire agreement.
The two sides agreed to meet again in the very near future.
The biggest wrench in recent peace works is the rise of a relatively new force arising in Afghanistan, one the United States and the Taliban seem to deem a greater threat than one another: ISIS.
As a newcomer to the fighting in the country, ISIS is not as capable, having neither the technical and numerical superiority of the United States nor a force of battle-hardened Afghans who have been fighting for decades, some as far back as the 1979 Soviet invasion. The terror organization also does not have the entrenched backing of rural Afghans like the Taliban does in many areas.
The difference between this U.S.-Taliban meeting is that previous American administrations demanded that any peace talks be held between the Taliban and the Afghan government, whereas the Taliban would only agree to talk to the United States — and the biggest demand for peace in the country is that all foreign forces withdraw.
The charity for wounded veterans, the Wounded Warrior Project, is facing accusations of using donor money toward excessive spending on conferences and parties instead of on recovery programs, according to a CBS News report.
Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette, who returned from Iraq in 2006 with a bronze star and a purple heart, told CBS News he admired the charity’s work and took a job with the group in 2014 but quit after two years.
“Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn’t see is how they spend their money,” he told CBS News.
Millette said he witnessed lavish spending on staff, with big “catered” parties.
“Going to a nice fancy restaurant is not team building. Staying at a lavish hotel at the beach here in Jacksonville, and requiring staff that lives in the area to stay at the hotel is not team building,” he told CBS News.
According to the charity’s tax forms obtained by CBS News, spending on conferences and meetings went from $1.7 million in 2010 to $26 million in 2014, which is the same amount the group spends on combat stress recovery.
Two former employees, who were so fearful of retaliation they asked that CBS News not show their faces on camera, said spending has skyrocketed since Steven Nardizzi took over as CEO in 2009, pointing to the 2014 annual meeting at a luxury resort in Colorado Springs.
“He rappelled down the side of a building at one of the all hands events. He’s come in on a Segway, he’s come in on a horse,” one employee told CBS News.
About 500 staff members attended the four-day conference in Colorado, which CBS News reported cost about $3 million.
Wounded Warrior Project declined CBS News’ interview requests for Nardizzi, but instead sent Director of Alumni and a recipient of their services, Captain Ryan Kules, who denied there was excessive spending on conferences.
“It’s the best use of donor dollars to ensure we are providing programs and services to our warriors and families at the highest quality,” he said.
Kules added the charity did not spend $3 million on the Colorado conference, but he was not there and was unable to say what it did cost. He also told CBS News that the charity does not spend money on alcohol or engage in any other kind of excessive spending.
Germany and France say Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine likely shot down a drone being used by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) monitoring mission, demanding that those responsible “be held accountable.”
In a joint statement on Nov. 1, 2018, Berlin and Paris also noted that in recent weeks, the drone had observed convoys entering Ukrainian territory across a nonofficial border crossing from Russia on “multiple occasions” and spotted a surface-to-air missile system before the loss of communication.
Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014. Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.
Germany and France, which have been working with Moscow and Kyiv as part of the so-called Normandy Format to bring an end to the conflict, said the drone operated by the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) disappeared in the early hours of Oct. 27, 2018.
OSCE Permanent Council venue at the Hofburg, Vienna.
The incident occurred while the long-range drone was following a convoy of trucks near the town of Nyzhnokrynske close to the Russia-Ukraine border, an area controlled by the separatists, the statement said.
It said evidence assembled by the SMM “suggests Russia and the separatists it backs bear responsibility” for the downing of the unmanned aerial vehicle.
The “severe” incident “stands in clear violation” of the SMM mandate as adopted by participating states of the OSCE mission, Germany and France said.
The SMM, a civilian mission assigned to report impartially on the situation in Ukraine, has hundreds of monitors in the country’s east where the separatists are holding parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The mission said in March 2018 it was reintroducing its long-range drone program more than 18 months after it was halted due to repeated shoot-downs.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine persists despite cease-fire deals reached as part of the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk accords, and implementation of other measures set out in the deals has been slow.
Featured image: OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine.