Britain is planning to almost double its number of troops in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced.
May on July 10, 2018, said the British military will deploy an extra 440 troops, bringing the country’s total to about 1,100, as it looks to assist Afghan forces in their battle against Taliban and Islamic State (IS) insurgents.
The move comes a day before the start a potentially contentious NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018, with U.S. President Donald Trump demanding that members contribute more to the alliance’s efforts and their own national defense.
Trump has called on allies to send reinforcements to Afghanistan to help deal with the security situation the country, where a NATO-led mission is assisting the Western-backed government in Kabul.
“In committing additional troops to the Train Advise Assist operation in Afghanistan, we have underlined once again that when NATO calls, the U.K. is among the first to answer,” May said.
The additional troops will not be in a combat role and will instead take part in NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train and assist Afghan forces.
British troops, like the bulk of Western forces, ended combat operations in 2014, handing battlefield duties mainly over to Afghan forces.
About half of the British troops will arrive in August 2018, with the rest coming in February 2019. They will be based in Kabul.
Trump in 2017 announced that the United States would send thousands more troops to Afghanistan and has asked other NATO countries to send reinforcements as well.
Citing U.S. officials, Reuters reported on July 10, 2018, that the U.S. administration is planning another major review of its strategy in Afghanistan “in the next few months.”
The Kabul government has struggled in the past year against resurgent Taliban fighters, along with IS, Al-Qaeda, and other militants, some 17 years after a U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from rule in Afghanistan.
The Air Force was recently considering a new strategy to its PT tests. In a nutshell, it’s going to give any airmen who might fail a PT test a “mulligan” and list the test as a diagnostic instead of a record test. It may possibly be allowed for an airman to list a failed test as off-the-books, but that part isn’t set in stone.
The Air Force was surprisingly serious (to the other troops who use phrases like “Chair Force”) about failed PT tests and other branches also have a practice test system in place. But I can’t help but point out the bad optics on this one.
I mean, I get it. Any notion that the Air Force might someday consider being a fraction more lenient in comparison to the other branches or older vets will cause outrage. On the other hand, I know I would have killed for something like that back in my lower enlisted days…
Anyways, here are some memes while I ponder how much weight I’ve gained since getting out of the Army…
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via On The Minute Memes)
True story: I had an E-6 MP live in the apartment next to me off-base…
You know the type, the kind that called in a “noise violation” for my TV being “too loud.” Seeing him get an eviction notice was one of the happiest days of my life in the Army.
With the growing tensions and the many threats that North Korea poses, it’s a safe bet that there is a desire to keep an eye on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Of course, the DPRK strongman isn’t going to be obliging and tell us what he is up to. According to FoxNews.com, the Air Force is keeping an eye on him – and one of the planes that help do this is quite an old design, even if it has a lot of new wrinkles.
Osan Air Base is best known as the home base of the 51st Fighter Wing, which has a squadron of F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolts. But Osan also is home to a permanent detachment from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, which operates the Lockheed U-2S, known as the Dragon Lady.
Yeah, you heard that right. Even in an era where we have Predators, Reapers, and the RQ-170 Sentinels, among other planes, the 1950s-vintage U-2 is still a crucial asset for the United States Air Force.
In fact, according to GlobalSecurity.org, one variant of the U-2, the TR-1, was in production in the 1980s. The TR-1s and U-2Rs were re-manufactured into the U-2S in the 1990s. The TR-1 was notable in that it swapped out cameras for side-looking radar, and it was eventually called a U-2 in the 1990s.
An Air Force fact sheet notes that the U-2S is capable of reaching altitudes in excess of 70,000 feet and it has a range of over 6,090 nautical miles. In short, this plane is one high-altitude all-seeing eye. The planes are reportedly capable of mid-air refueling, but having a single seat means that pilot endurance is often a bigger factor than a lack of fuel.
The Air Force fast sheet notes that the U-2 can carry infrared cameras, optical cameras, a radar, a signals intelligence package, and even a communications package.
The U-2 has proven that it is a very versatile plane. The Air Force is considering a replacement, but that may prove to be a tricky task. While plans calls for the plane to be retired in 2019, a 2014 Lockheed release makes a compelling case for the U-2 to stick around, noting it has as much as 35 years of life left on its airframes.
That’s a long time to get any proposed replacement right.
A note from a 1955 Ballantine Book remarked about how one author – a former serviceman – arrived in their New York offices with his Stars and Stripes drawings and a story of a “brilliant military career, where he rose through the ranks to become a PFC.”
That newly-minted civilian was Shel Silverstein. And he did rise through the ranks to become one of the most celebrated American writers.
A quick perusal of the books on his website will show a body of work that uses all his many talents.
For decades, Silverstein entertained and delighted children with poetry like “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and stories like “Giraffe and a Half.” His children’s book “The Giving Tree” is widely considered one of the best, though to some divisive, of its genre.
But there is at least one book missing from that list.
It was during his time in the military that Silverstein began to draw cartoons, at times finding himself at odds with military censors. He later wrote enough cartoons to make a compendium of his best works.
“Drop Your Socks” was published in 1955 to the delight and entertainment of the new peacetime Army and the old war veterans alike.
The young artist was attending the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts when he was drafted into the Army in 1953. According to his biography in “Stars and Stripes,” the Army “without realizing its error, assigned him to the Pacific Stars and Stripes, read by thousands of Army men in Japan and Korea.”
But Shel Silverstein didn’t join the Army of WWII or Korea. It was a new Army, one not at war, but supposedly at the ready to fight for peace. Silverstein never knew the Army that “fought the wars with live ammo and read V-mail and liberated towns and kissed French girls and caught bouquets and wore baggy pants and a six-day growth of beard.”
Shel Silverstein’s Army was made up of “ordinary guys” who “dragged through two years [the amount of time a peacetime draftee normally spent in the service] cleaning grease traps, bugging out of details, and forgetting their general orders.”
As he wrote in the book’s introduction, “there’s no war now, no casualties, no rationing, and no immediate danger … people’s attitudes are bound to change.”
But legendary military cartoonist Bill Mauldin, in writing the book’s introduction said, “the thing about real military humor is that when a soldier says something funny, he is mainly trying to ventilate his innards … he expresses himself in a wisecrack because if he said it straight, he’d simply bust down.”
“Motives and methods of warfare change from generation to generation,” Mauldin continues. “But soldiering stays pretty much the same messy proposition. … I suspect Shel Silverstein would have amused the cootie-pickingest Roman centurion.”
Russia’s political-military leadership frequently criticizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its enlargement and for staging military exercises close to Russian borders. This pattern has intensified since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent downturn in its relations with the United States and its allies.
Surprisingly, therefore, Moscow’s official reaction has been somewhat muted during the current run up to the active phases of NATO’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years—though some Russian military experts have been making critical comments to the media.
On January 23, the US Department of Defense confirmed that a redeployment of United States military personnel had commenced, transferring forces from the homeland to Europe as part of the NATO exercise Defender Europe 2020. The wide-spanning maneuvers will focus on the Baltic States, Poland and Georgia, involving more than 36,000 personnel from 11 countries (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020).
Russian news outlets have highlighted that this year’s Defender Europe exercise scenario is based on a war breaking out on the continent in 2028, between NATO and an enemy close to its borders. Additional reports stressed the scale of the exercise, with 28,000 U.S. military personnel participating, including the deployment of 20,000 from the United States. Referring to the magnitude of the drills, Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, compared them to the 1983 Able Archer, which resulted in Soviet forces being placed on alert.
Despite the scale of Defender Europe 2020 not even coming close to Able Archer 1983, a number of the upcoming exercise’s features may well cause concern for the Russian defense establishment (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020). Kozyulin asserted, “Such large-scale exercises will seriously aggravate the situation. Moreover, the main events will be held in Poland, Georgia and the Baltic countries, which not only border Russia, but also [exhibit] an unfriendly attitude toward our country” (Km.ru, January 27).
These reports also stressed a number of aspects of the exercise that may help explain the lack of an official response from Moscow thus far. Defender Europe will become an annual NATO exercise with a large-scale iteration planned for even-numbered years and smaller versions occurring in between. US military personnel will constitute the bulk of the force this year, with European allies collectively providing only 8,000 personnel.
As Russian analysts expect, moving the forces, equipment and hardware will prove quite challenging to the North Atlantic Alliance forces. Moreover, Defender Europe 2020 is the first exercise of its kind, which may have persuaded Russia’s defense leadership to cautiously study the exercise in all its various elements before responding to it (Km.ru, January 27, 2020; Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020; Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
In a detailed commentary in Izvestia, the Moscow-based military analyst Anton Lavrov assesses the implications of the exercise, and identifies areas that will be closely monitored by Russia. Lavrov notes that Defender Europe will work out how the Alliance will fight a “war of the future” by testing an experimental strategy and some of its latest military equipment, adding, “Almost 500 American tanks, self-propelled guns and heavy infantry fighting vehicles, hundreds of aircraft, [as well as] tens of thousands of wheeled vehicles will take part in the exercises.”
The force buildup for the maneuvers will continue until April, and then NATO will conduct a series of drills forming part of the overall exercise. Crucially, this will provide an opportunity for the US to road-test its latest doctrinal development, namely “multi-domain battle,” which adds space and cyberspace to the traditional domains of land, sea and air. Lavrov states, “The concept will be tested in a series of command and staff exercises of the allied forces” (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
The exercise divides into three related elements: transferring 20,000 US troops from the homeland to Europe and back again, moving US personnel based in Europe, and conducting a series of smaller exercises alongside allied forces.
Lavrov also points to the fact that Defender Europe 2020 will rehearse both defensive and offensive operations. One feature of the offensive operational aspects relates to US airborne forces conducting three joint airborne assault landings. In each case, the leading role is assigned to US forces. In the drop into Latvia, they will be joined by forces from Spain and Italy; in Lithuania, they are aided by personnel from Poland; and an additional multilateral airdrop is planned for Georgia (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
As noted, one key challenge relates to the logistical tasks of moving troops and equipment over such vast distances. US military personnel and equipment will land at airports across Europe and seaports in Antwerp (Belgium), Vlissingen (Netherlands), Bremerhaven (Germany) and Paldiski (Estonia).
Russian military expert Vyacheslav Shurygin explained the nature of the challenge: “The transport infrastructure of Europe has not encountered such large-scale movements of military equipment for a long time.” Indeed, the redeployment of forces and hardware involved cannot be compared to standard US battle group rotations (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
Clearly, one of the objectives of the exercise is to assess the efficiency of these deployments into a potential theater of military operations. Lavrov adds, “Even for the modern US Army, the transfer of heavy tank and infantry divisions from continent to continent is a difficult, lengthy and expensive task. Twenty thousand units of equipment that the Americans will use in the maneuvers will arrive from the US, and another 13,000 will be received by the military from storage bases on the spot.
In Europe, there are now four large storages of American military equipment. Each one has everything, from tanks and artillery to trucks and medical vehicles, to equip a tank brigade. Another similar base is being built in Poland and will be commissioned in 2021″ (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
One commentary in the Russian media stressed not only that NATO was deploying forces for exercises close to Russia’s borders but pointedly also referenced Belarus, which fits with Moscow’s scenario planning for its Zapad series of strategic military exercises: “However, the fact that such a powerful group of US and NATO forces is practicing deployments near the borders of Belarus and Russia, against the background of a growing American military presence in Poland and the Baltic countries, is a matter of concern” (Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
It remains to be seen whether Russia’s political-military leadership will continue to be cautious about Defender Europe, restricting its criticism to public rhetoric, or if it will ultimately try to engage the Alliance in political or information warfare on this front.
U.S. President Donald Trump says there are promising signs that the United States would reach a peace deal with the Taliban by the end of this month.
Chances are “good” for the agreement to be sealed, Trump said on a February 13 podcast broadcast on iHeart Radio.
When asked if a tentative deal had been reached, Trump said: “I think we’re very close…. I think there’s a good chance that we’ll have a deal…. We’re going to know over the next two weeks.”
The president’s comments are the latest indication of progress being made in talks between the United States and the Taliban that have been taking place since December in Qatar, where the militants have a political office.
Earlier in the day, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told journalists in Brussels that both sides had negotiated a “proposal” for a week-long scaling-down in violence.
President Donald Trump speaks to Fort Drum Soldiers and personnel during a signing ceremony for the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, Aug. 13, 2018.
He said a drawdown of troops and further negotiations with the militants would be “conditions-based” and begin after a decline in violence.
“We’ve said all along that the best…solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement,” he added. “It will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward — if we go forward.”
Progress toward reducing violence could usher in direct peace talks between the militants and the Afghan government to end the nearly two-decade war.
AP reported that if violence subsided, it would lead to an agreement being signed between the United States and the Taliban, followed by, within 10 days, all-Afghan negotiations to establish a road map for the political future of a postwar Afghanistan.
There has been a “pretty important breakthrough” over the past few days, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on February 13 about peace negotiations. He did not elaborate.
President Donald Trump would still have to formally approve the agreement and finalization of details is expected at this week’s Munich Security Conference, where Esper and Pompeo will meet with Afghan President Ashaf Ghani.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg the day before reiterated that the alliance “fully supports the U.S.-led peace efforts, which can pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.”
Speaking at the same NATO summit in Brussels attended by Esper, the secretary-general said the militants “need to demonstrate that they are both willing and capable to deliver a reduction of violence and contribute to peace in good faith.”
He said the militant fighters have to “understand that they will never win on the battlefield. They have to make real compromises around the negotiating table.”
The prospective deal would see the U.S. pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan, while the Taliban would provide security guarantees and launch eventual talks with the Western-backed government in Kabul.
There are some 12,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as well as thousands of European forces participating in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
The AC-130 gunship is a devastating display of force and firepower. Through the years, the aircraft has been equipped with an array of side-fired canons, howitzers, mini-guns, wing-mounted missiles and bombs, and laser guided-missiles launched from the rear cargo door, earning it the moniker the “Angel of Death.”
The primary missions of the gunship are close air support, air interdiction, and armed reconnaissance.
The heavily armed aircraft is outfitted with sophisticated sensor, navigation, and fire control systems, allowing it to track and target multiple targets using multiple munitions with surgical precision.
Another strength of the gunship is the ability to loiter in the air for extended periods of time, providing aerial protection at night and during adverse weather.
The AC-130 relies heavily on visual targeting at low altitudes and punishes enemy targets while performing pylon turns around a fixed point on the ground during attack.
The Air Force is the only operator of the AC-130 and the gunship has been providing close air support for special operators for the last 50 years.
Development and Design
During the Vietnam War, the C-130 Hercules airframe was selected to replace the original gunship, the Douglas AC-47 Spooky (Project Gunship I). The Hercules cargo airframe was converted into AC-130A (Project Gunship II) because it could fly faster, longer, higher, and with increased munitions load capabilities.
The gunship’s AC identifier stands for attack-cargo.
The aircraft is powered by four turboprop engines and has a flight speed of 300 mph and a flight range of 1,300 miles, depending on weight.
The AC-130A was equipped with down facing Gatling guns affixed to the left side of the aircraft with an analog fire control system. In 1969, the AC-130 received the Surprise Package, which included 20mm rotary autocannons and a 40mm Bofors cannon configuration.
The gunships have been modified with multiple configurations through the years with each update providing stronger avionics systems, radars and more powerful armament.
Currently, Air Force special operations groups operate the AC-130U Spooky II and the AC-130W Stinger II.
The Spooky II became operational in 1994, revitalizing the special operations gunship fleet as a replacement for the AC-130A aircraft, and to supplement the workhorse AC-130H Spectre, which was retired in 2015.
The Spooky II is armed with a 25mm GAU-12/U Gatling gun (1800 rpm), a 40mm L60 Bofors cannon (120 rpm), and a 10mm M102 howitzer (6-10 rpm). The AC-130Us have a pressurized cabin, allowing them to operate 5,000 feet higher than the H models, which results in greater range.
The AC-130W was converted from the MC-130W Dragon Spear, a special operations mobility aircraft and are armed with precision strike packages to relieve the high operational demands on AC-130U gunships until new AC-130Js enter combat-ready status.
Over the past four decades, AC-130s have deployed constantly to hotspots throughout the world in support of special operations and conventional forces. In South America, Africa, Europe and throughout the Middle East, gunships have significantly contributed to mission success.
As of Sept. 19, 2017, the AC-130J Ghostrider, the Air Force’s next-generation gunship, achieved Initial Operating Capability and will be tested and prepared for combat deployment in the next few years. The AC-130J is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130U/W gunships.
The Ghostrider is outfitted with a Precision Strike Package, which includes 30mm and 105 mm cannons and precision guided munitions of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs and AGM-176 Griffin missiles. The 105mm M102 howitzer system is a devastating weapon that can fire off 10 50lbs shells per minute with precision accuracy.
There are 10 Ghostrider gunships in the current fleet and the Air Force plans on purchasing 27 more by fiscal year 2021.
– The original and unofficial nickname for the AC-130 gunship was “Puff the Magic Dragon” or “Puff.”
– The AC-130H Spectre was introduced in 1969 and was used for 46 years in service; the longest service time of any AC gunship.
– Air Force Special Operations Command plans to install combat lasers on AC-130 gunships within a year.
AC-130U Spooky Fact Sheet:
Primary function: Close air support, air interdiction and force protection
Builder: Lockheed/Boeing Corp.
Power plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines
Thrust: 4,300 shaft horsepower each engine
Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)
Length: 97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)
Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)
Speed: 300 mph (Mach .4) at sea level
Range: Approximately 1,300 nautical miles; limited by crew duty day with air refueling
Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7,576 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
Armament: 40mm, 105mm cannons and 25mm Gatling gun
Crew: AC-130U – pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer (five officers) and flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, and four aerial gunners (eight enlisted)
Deployment date: 1995
Unit cost: $210 million
Inventory: Active duty, 17; reserve, 0; Air National Guard, 0
The word “Dependa” has often been a derogatory label put on military spouses. The word itself insinuates that they sit on the couch all day collecting the benefits while their service member works hard and risks their lives for this country’s freedoms. There’s an even uglier way of saying that word but that term doesn’t deserve a discussion.
Guess what? The married military member themselves are just as much a “Dependa” as their spouse is. You read that right – turns out in a marriage, it’s supposed to be that way.
The role of a soldier, guardsman, Marine, sailor, airman, or coastie is simple: mission first. The needs of the military will always come before their spouse, children, and really – anything important in their life. This is something that the military family is well aware of and accepts as a part of the military life.
Often the spouse will hear things like, “well, you knew what you signed up for.” Yes, the military spouse is well aware of the sacrifice that comes along with marrying their uniformed service member. But are you?
While the military member is off following orders and doing Uncle Sam’s bidding – the spouse is left with the full weight of managing the home, finances, and carrying the roles of being both parents to the children left behind, waiting. Both depend on each other to make it work – and that’s how it should be. Here are 5 reasons why servicemembers depend on their spouses:
When a married service member deploys, they typically leave behind not only a spouse but children as well. While the service member is off focusing on their mission, for many months on end, life at home doesn’t stop just because they are gone. It’s just taken care of by the spouse. Without the home front being handled by the spouse, the service member cannot remain mission-ready or deploy.
Even when they are home, they aren’t really home
Just because a service member isn’t currently deployed doesn’t mean they are completely present for the family. Between training exercises, TDY’s, and the needs of the service, they are never really guaranteed to be home and of help to the military spouse. Military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate due to a number of factors like frequent moves but also lack of childcare. Did you know 72% of military spouses cannot find reliable childcare for their children?
The PCS struggle is real
The military family will move every 2-3 years, that’s a given. While the military member is busy doing check-outs and ins – the spouse is typically handling all of the things that come along with moving.
Organizing for the PCS
Researching the new duty station area for best places to live, work (if they can even find employment), and good schools for the children
Gathering copies of all the medical records
Finding new providers for the family
Unpacking and starting a whole new life, again
Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian, reads the book, “Big Smelly Bear” to preschool children at the library as part of Robins Air Force Base’ summer programming.
U.S. Air Force
Many of the support programs for the military are run off the backs of volunteers – the military spouses, to be exact. The Family Readiness Group (Army and Navy), Key Spouse (Air Force) program, or the Ombudsman (Coast Guard) programs are all dependent on the unpaid time of the military spouse. These programs all serve the same purpose – to serve the unit and support families.
More than 2.5 million United States service members have been deployed overseas since 9/11. Service to this country comes with a lot of personal sacrifice for the military member. Half of them are married, many with children. They leave a lot behind all in the name of freedom. It comes at a heavy price. That service to the country affects every aspect of their lives – including their mental health. Their spouse becomes their secret keeper, counselor, and advocate. 33% of military members and veterans depend on their spouse to be their caregiver.
The military spouse serves their family, community, and are the backbone of support for their military member to have the ability to focus on being mission ready. They are both a “Dependa” to each other and cannot be truly successful without the other’s support – and that’s okay.
The motorcycle club whose members were at the vanguard of Russia’s occupation of Crimea, nicknamed “Putin’s Angels” by the media, is on the road again.
Members of the Night Wolves were due in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Serb-majority entity Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, on March 21, 2018, and were expected to hold a press conference in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, around a week later.
They have planned or taken provocative rides before — including a Victory Day trip to Berlin and a candle lighting at Katyn, where Josef Stalin is said to have ordered the execution of tens of thousands of Polish officers during World War II — and are targeted by U.S. and Canadian sanctions for their thuggish support of non-uniformed Russian forces during the takeover of Crimea in 2014.
The group’s agenda during its tour of what it calls the “Russian Balkans” remains unclear, and it is hard to know whether it somehow reflects Kremlin geopolitical goals or is just a solid effort at trolling.
Atlantic Council senior fellow Dimitar Bechev recently argued that while Russia is increasingly active in the Western Balkans, its influence is not as great as generally believed.
Promoting his new book, Rival Power: Russia In Southeast Europe, at the London School of Economics, Bechev expressed concern that Western media was obsessed with the idea of Russia as a “partner-turned-enemy” in the Balkans and the Middle East.
“In reality, if Russia was increasingly present in the Balkan region, it was not always because it was imposing itself but because local powers and elites were engaging Russia to serve their own domestic agendas,” Bechev said.
The Slavic culture and the Orthodox faith of many of the region’s inhabitants have also meant that the “narrative structure [already] tends to favor Russia” in the Balkans and makes it fertile ground for the possible exercise of Russian “soft power.”
But Jasmin Mujanovic, author of the book Hunger Fury: The Crisis Of Democracy In The Balkans, is less certain that Russia’s influence in the region has been overstated.
“Russia’s influence in Bosnia and the Balkans is obviously not as significant as it is in its immediate ‘near abroad.’ But that does not mean Moscow does not have concrete strategic aims in the region, aims which, from the perspective of the political and democratic integrity of local polities, are incredibly destructive.”
According to Mujanovic, the combination of clear Russian objectives in the region and the desperation of some local politicians to cling to power (such as Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik) makes for an explosive mix.
“[O]ne does not militarize their police, or hire paramilitaries, or purchase missiles if they are not prepared to use them,” said Mujanovic. He suggested that some individuals were prepared to use violence to sabotage the Bosnian elections in 2018 and “counting on support from Russia and assorted Russian proxies to do it.” He did not provide specific evidence of any such plans.
“Russia’s objective is simple: Keep Bosnia out of NATO and the EU,” Mujanovic added. “Moscow wants to ensure that the country remains an ethnically fragmented basketcase in the heart of the Balkans.”
Into this volatile context ride the Night Wolves.
On their Facebook page, the Russian bikers said their nine-day tour through Bosnia and Serbia would cover 2,000 kilometers after leaving Belgrade on March 19, 2018. Two of the Night Wolves have been denied entry to Bosnia on security grounds, including the group’s leader, Aleksandr Zaldostanov, aka “The Surgeon.”
Following their role in the Ukrainian conflict, the Night Wolves were blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury in 2014 and a year later prevented from riding through Poland on their way to Berlin to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany.
Yet these concerns apparently are not shared by authorities in Serbia and in Republika Srpska, in Bosnia.
“The different perceptions of the [Night Wolves’] tour are a reflection of the Balkan political landscape, including differences in relations with Russia,” Belgrade-based analyst Bosko Jaksic told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service.
“Republika Srpska in particular is a bastion of pro-Russian sentiment and currently the main focus of Russian activity in the Western Balkans,” Jaksic added. “In Serbia, meanwhile, there are numerous organizations, groups, associations, and even political parties that do not hide their admiration for Russia. [This tour] among other things should serve as a warning that Russia is ramping up its influence, relying both on existing local support and using every available means and avenue to project its soft power.”
Jaksic said he believes the Balkans became a key part of Moscow’s strategic agenda following the onset of the Ukrainian crisis and is now a target for its soft-power arsenal.
“These so-called ‘Putin’s Angels’ are undoubtedly a part of a very political agenda,” Jaksic said.
It appears that in Republika Srpska, where only around half of the population has access to the Internet, trolls must deliver their message in person.
“The leader of the Night Wolves…uses his motorbike like a scalpel to make an incision and separate parts of the Balkans from the West, bringing them closer to Russia. He does so while preaching pan-Slavism and Christian Orthodoxy, two favorite themes of Russian propaganda,” Jaksic said.
While the West equivocates over the Balkans, Mujanovic complained, “Moscow and Banja Luka will not squander an easy opportunity to ‘create new facts’ on the ground,” adding that even a small dose of violence could be fatal to “a polity already as fragmented as Bosnia.”
“This,” Mujanovic said, “is the most significant threat to the Dayton peace [accords] since 1996.”
Team Rubicon, a non-government organization made up of military veterans and first responders, rapidly deploys skilled personnel to emergency areas after disasters. After the earthquake in Nepal, Team Rubicon sent folks who have made a difference on the ground executing what they’ve called OperationTenzing Nepal.
The team members have deployed to very remote areas, so knowing what to put in the pack-up is crucial.
Veterans with the appropriate skills set up medical aid stations to help those affected by the quake. After major disasters, the spread of disease can be accelerated due to contaminated water and a loss of basic services.
Keeping track of care can be a challenge in the chaotic, high patient volume environment that follows a disaster.
Many patients have multiple injuries, each of which requires treatment and follow-up. Teams stationed in a village do their best to make sure injuries don’t become worse.
Team Rubicon works with local and foreign governments while conducting their operations. And since many members are veterans, they are able to interact with militaries more easily than some NGOs.
Reconnaissance in remote areas can be challenging, especially after existing infrastructure is damaged by an earthquake. Drones allow foreign responders like Team Rubicon, as well as local forces, to respond more efficiently.
Team Rubicon is collecting donations to support of Operation Tenzing Nepal on their website. Also, military veterans or civilians with skills as first responders can volunteer with Team Rubicon for future operations. Teams serve one of 10 regional areas in the United States or deploy internationally.
Since the close of the Cold War, military parades have been associated with authoritarian powers, like China, Russia, and North Korea, who show off their newly built military platforms to the chagrin of military analysts around the world.
While the U.S. has the best military in the world, there are some things Russia, China, or North Korea can do in a parade that the U.S. simply can’t.
For example, Pennsylvania Avenue probably can’t handle a long convoy of heavy military vehicles. Today’s M1 Abrams tanks weigh a whopping 67 tons. World War II-era military parades featured tanks that weighed about half that.
The weight and treads of an Abrams tank might just tear up the road. When China and Russia put on military parades, they roll through state-of-the-art military vehicles, while the U.S.’s main battle tank was first built in 1979. In many ways, Russia and China’s parades would likely outclass the U.S.’s in terms of how new their equipment is.
Will Trump show nukes?
Additionally, Russia, China, and North Korea like to parade their ICBMs around, but the U.S. can’t really do that. Unlike the authoritarian nuclear powers across Asia, the U.S. parks its ICBMs in silos, not atop huge military trucks.
When the U.S. does move its ICBMs around, it does so in plain-looking trucks. The U.S. has paraded nuclear weapons down Pennsylvania Avenue before, but today’s nuclear weapons are far more discrete looking.
But there is a nuclear platform that would make sense for a parade and avoid tearing up the road — nuclear bombers. The U.S. could fly B-2 and B-52 bombers overhead, as well as stealth jets, like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.
In terms of air power, the U.S. has much more to show off than Russia, China, or North Korea, which can’t even fly its planes due to a lack of fuel.
The U.S. has something Russia, China, and North Korea can’t touch
While the U.S. military doesn’t exactly lend itself to parading, it has something worth showing off that China, Russia, and North Korea can’t touch — soldiers who actually want to be there.
The pride of the U.S. military is not any one single platform, or any combination thereof. All major militaries have planes, tanks, and missiles, but the U.S. has an all-volunteer force, while Russia, China, and North Korea rely on conscripts.
Even more important than troops marching though, are the people watching. In the U.S., anyone of any status can think and say or write what they like about the soldiers. They can attend, or not. The revelers on the sidelines of the parade w0uld be proud U.S. citizens attending of their own free will.
That’s simply not the case in North Korea, Russia, and China.
Basically it’s a story about how a small group of veterans who were radicalized in Iraq and Afghanistan provide security for fringe Neo-Nazi groups. It continues with an anecdote about the author’s NYPD lieutenant uncle and his prejudice.
The piece argues that not enough is being done to aid returning veterans with Post Traumatic Stress from becoming racists. To the article’s defense, it does say the percentage of veterans pulling security for the Right Wing groups is a small one. And I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard a racial slur used by a piece of sh*t during my time in the U.S. Army.
However, it glosses over the U.S. military’s extremely hard stance against those ****heads and the astronomical percentage of troops who learned to see their fellow service member as not white, brown, or black, but “green.”
The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775. — GEN Mark A. Milley (@ArmyChiefStaff) August 16, 2017
All the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces have unequivocally denounced racism and hatred within their branch. Every value within each branch goes directly against what we all stand for. There is no way in Hell any soldier can truly live by the Army values if they are not loyal to and respect everyone on their left and right.
The Army’s diversity mission statement is: “To develop and implement a strategy that contributes to mission readiness while transforming and sustaining the Army as a national leader in diversity.” In every sense, we are.
We just assume that no matter what race you are, wherever you comes from, whatever religion, gender, or orientation: if you’re a young private – you’re probably an idiot no matter what. And if you’re a second lieutenant, you’re probably an idiot who’s also in the chain of command.
Troops come from all walks of life. I’ve served with former surfers from California, ranchers from Texas, and computer analysts from Illinois. Troops who grew up in the projects of Harlem to the high rises of Manhattan to trailer parks outside Atlanta to the suburbs of Cleveland.
I will forever be honored knowing they all embraced me as a brother. The life story of my friend, Spec. Allam Elshorafa, is proof that serving in the military will make you “see green” far more than the minute group of f*ckfaces that do radicalize.
Arriving at my first duty station in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, I wasn’t the most popular guy in the unit. I quickly realized that awkwardly talking about World of Warcraft wasn’t doing me any favors with avid fishermen and party guys, yet they still always looked out for me as one of their own.
In Afghanistan, I got to know Elshorafa. He was a Muslim born in Jerusalem. His family moved to Dallas when he was younger and as an adult, he enlisted to defend his new American home.
We quickly became friends. We’d talk about cartoons we saw as kids, video games we played as teens, and movies we hated as adults.
Things shifted when the topic of “why we enlisted” came up. He told me it was his life’s goal to help teach others that “not all Muslims are terrorists.” They are a fringe group that preys on other Muslims and are a blight on his religion.
One of radical Islam’s recruitment methods is to point at racism of westerners to rally disenfranchised Muslims. Yet, for all of the vile hatred those sh#tbags spew against the West, the largest target of Islamic terror is still other Muslims.
Islamic terror to Elshorafa was the same as how every group deals with the radical sh*theads. Not all Christians are Branch Davidians, and not all Republicans are in the Alt-Right. To him, America was his home and we were his family. I, and everyone else in the platoon, embraced him as such.
My brother-in-arms ended his own life in June 2017. He joined the staggering number of veterans that still remain one of the most tragic concerns within our community. The loss still pains me, and I wear the memorial band every day.
It didn’t matter what race or religion either of us was, Elshorafa had my six and it will always hurt that I didn’t have his in his time of need.
He taught me about his faith and never attempted to convert me. He invited me to join him at an Eid al-Fitr celebration and the food was amazing. Just as you learn the players of every other football team other than your own by hanging out with their passionate fans, you learn in the military about others’ ways of life by bullsh*tting with them.
Everyone embraces the same suck on a daily basis. We all bleed the same red. And we all wear the same ‘green.’
After the US downed a Syrian jet making a bombing run on US-backed forces fighting ISIS, Russia threatened to target US and US-led coalition planes West of the Euphrates river in Syria.
But while Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US.
The US keeps an aircraft carrier with dozens of F/A-18E fighters aboard in the Mediterranean about all the time and hundreds of F-15s and F-16s scattered around Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan.
According to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.”
“Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers.
So if Russia did follow through with its threat, and target a US aircraft that did not back down West of the Euphrates in Syria, and somehow managed to shoot it down, then what?
“The US coalition is very cautious,” said Lamrani. “The whole US coalition is on edge for any moves from Russia at this point.”
Lamrani also said that while F/A-18Es are more visible and doing most of the work, the US keeps a buffer of F-22 stealth jets between its forces and Russia’s. If Russia did somehow manage to shoot down a US or US-led coalition plane, a US stealth jet would probably return fire before it ever reached the base.
At that point the Russians would have a moment to think very critically if they wanted to engage with the full might of the US Air Force after the eye-for-an-eye shoot downs.
If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back.
Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft.
Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.
Russia would likely manage to score a couple intercepts and even shoot down some US assets, but overall the Russian contingent in Syria cannot stand up to the US, let alone the entire coalition of nations fighting ISIS.
Russia also has a strong Navy that could target US air bases in the region, but that would require Russia to fire on Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar, which would be politically and technically difficult for them.
This scenario of a hypothetical air war is exceedingly unlikely. Russia knows the numbers are against them and it would “not [be] so easy for the Russians to decide to shoot down a US aircraft,” according to Lamrani.
And Russia wouldn’t risk so much over Syria, which is not an existential defense interest for them, but a foreign adventure to distract from Russia’s stalled economy and social problems, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Russia is not a great power by most measures, like GDP, population, living standard,” Borshchevskaya told Business Insider. “Russia has steadily declined. It’s still a nuclear power, but not world power.”
In Syria, “a lot of what Putin is doing is about domestic policies,” said Borshchevskaya, and to have many Russian servicemen killed in a battle with a US-led coalition fighting ISIS wouldn’t serve his purposes domestically or abroad.