China plans to increase its military spending by 8.1% in 2018 in an effort to modernize its armed forces.
Beijing proposed spending 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion) on its military, according to its budget report presented ahead of the opening of China’s 13th National People’s Congress on March 5, 2018, according to Reuters.
Premier Li Kequiang said in his opening address that China will “advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests.”
He also said the military, the government, and its people must always be as “strong as stone.”
China’s defense spending has increased following Xi’s appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Joint Operations Command in April 2016. The budget grew 7.6% in 2016, and 7% in 2017.
The battle against explosives and stemming civilian casualties in Afghanistan remains a top priority for U.S. forces there.
“For more than 40 years, Afghanistan has been bombed, shelled and mined,” according to the Alun Hill video below. “Old Soviet mines and shells still litter the countryside.”
Insurgents use these dangerous relics, innocuous household items and other explosive materials smuggled in from Pakistan to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which they use against American forces. Explosives that are undetonated can remain dormant for years before being uncovered by unsuspecting civilians. Most of the casualties now in Afghanistan come from these items, said Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) Manager Hukum Khan Rasooly.
Watch how these dangerous weapons are made and destroyed:
A U.S. official says North Korea has conducted its first missile launch in more than two months.
The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.
The Pentagon was more cautious, calling it a “probable” missile launch. Col. Rob Manning, a spokesman said, “We detected a probable missile launch from North Korea” at approximately 1:30 p.m. EST. He said the Pentagon is assessing the situation and has no further information to provide, including what kind of missile may have been launched.
It would be the first North Korean missile test since it launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Sept. 15 that flew over northern Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.
The White House says President Donald Trump has been briefed on North Korea’s apparent ballistic missile launch.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders says in a tweet that Trump “was briefed, while missile was still in the air, on the situation in North Korea.”
At the time of the launch, Trump was in a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill.
A U.S. official says North Korea has conducted its first missile launch in more than two months.
The Pentagon says it detected and tracked a single North Korean missile launch and believes it was an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said Nov. 28 that the missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 1,000 kilometers (about 620 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan.
Manning says the Pentagon’s information is based on an initial assessment of the launch. He says a more detailed assessment was in the works.
Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary says North Korea has fired a missile that might have landed inside the country’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.
Yoshihide Suga says the missile appears to have been fired from North Korea’s western coast and the government is gathering information and analyzing the launch data.
Suga says repeated provocation by the North is unacceptable and Tokyo has lodged a strong protest.
Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho. (U.N. photo by Mark Garten)
Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho says the government has told the North Koreans “that we criticize their behavior in the strongest terms possible” following a new missile launch.
He told reporters Nov. 28 at U.N. headquarters that “we are very concerned and we have condemned them publicly.”
U.N. Security Council President Sebastiano Cardi says he has been in contact with key U.N. members, but no request has been made yet for a meeting.
Cardi says he is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Nov. 29.
Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary says the missile might have landed inside the country’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.
Cardi says if it fell in that zone, it would be an “even greater” danger.
President Donald Trump says the United States will “take care of it” following North Korea’s latest missile launch.
Trump told reporters Nov. 28 that “it is a situation that we will handle.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says North Korea is continuing to build missiles that can “threaten everywhere in the world.”
Mattis says a missile that North Korea launched early Nov. 29 local time flew higher than its previous projectiles. He says South Korea has fired pinpoint missiles into surrounding waters to make certain that North Korea understands it can be “taken under fire” by the South.
He says North Korea is endangering world peace, regional peace, and “certainly the United States.”
North Korea ended a 10-week pause in its weapons testing and threatened to heighten regional tensions by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan.
Mattis spoke Nov. 28 during a White House meeting with President Donald Trump and the top Republican congressional leaders.
The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting on North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch.
Italy chairs the council and its spokesman says the Nov. 29 afternoon meeting was requested by Japan, the U.S., and South Korea.
The Security Council has already imposed its toughest-ever sanctions on Kim Jong Un’s government in response to its escalating nuclear and ballistic missile programs and the U.S. and Japan are likely to seek even stronger measures.
The launch was possibly North Korea’s longest. It is certain to raise tensions in the U.N.’s most powerful body.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called North Korea’s latest missile test a “serious threat” to global peace and stressed the need for stronger sanctions and pressure against Pyongyang to discourage its nuclear ambitions.
Moon said Nov. 29 at a National Security Council meeting that the South will not “sit and watch” North Korea’s provocations and will work with the United States to strengthen its security.
Moon says South Korea anticipated the latest North Korean launch and prepared for it.
South Korea’s military conducted its own missile drills that started just minutes after North Korea’s launch was detected.
President Donald Trump is speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after North Korea launched what the Pentagon said was an intercontinental ballistic missile.
White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr. tweeted a photo of Trump on Nov. 28 in his office. He says Trump was “speaking with @JPN_PMO @AbeShinzo, regarding North Korea’s launch of a intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan…”
Abe says Japan will not back down against any provocation and would maximize pressure on the North in its alliance with the U.S.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has raised concerns that North Korea’s perfection of an intercontinental ballistic missile would let regional security “spiral out of control” and make the United States consider a pre-emptive strike against the North.
Seoul’s presidential office said Nov. 29 that Moon said during a National Security Council meeting that it would be important to prevent a situation where North Korea miscalculates and threatens the South with nuclear weapons or the U.S. considers a pre-emptive strike to eliminate the threat.
Moon has called for his military to take further steps to strengthen its capabilities following a recent agreement between Seoul and Washington to lift the warhead payload limits on South Korean missiles.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has told government officials to “closely review” whether the latest North Korean missile launch will affect South Korean efforts to successfully host next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Seoul’s presidential office reported Nov. 29 that Moon said during a National Security Council meeting that it would be important to find ways to “stably manage” the situation.
South Korean preparations for the February games have been overshadowed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests this year. France has said its Olympic team won’t travel to South Korea if its safety cannot be guaranteed.
South Korea has been hoping North Korea takes part in the games to ease concerns, but it’s unclear whether the North will.
North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and has ignored the South’s proposals for dialogue in recent months.
President Donald Trump has spoken with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss the countries’ response to North Korea’s latest missile launch.
The White House says both leaders “underscored the grave threat that North Korea’s latest provocation poses” not only to U.S. and South Korea, “but to the entire world.”
The two presidents also “reaffirmed their strong condemnation of North Korea’s reckless campaign to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, noting that these weapons only serve to undermine North Korea’s security and deepen its diplomatic and economic isolation.”
Trump and Moon spoke at length about the threat posed by North Korea during Trump’s trip to Asia earlier this month.
November 2019, the US Navy unveiled the official seal for the future aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, which was officially launched on Oct. 29, 2019 — three months ahead of schedule.
The Kennedy will be christened in Newport News, Virginia, on Dec. 7, 2019, and even though it likely won’t be commissioned into service until 2020, the carrier’s seal reveals what naval aviation will look like aboard the Kennedy in the decades to come.
The seal, which is meant to honor Kennedy, his Navy service, and his vision for space exploration, depicts several of the aircraft that will operate on the carrier.
In front of the superstructure is what appears to be an E-2 Hawkeye early-warning aircraft, its wings folded back. Next to it, on the carrier’s bow, are F/A-18 Super Hornet jets, while an F-35C Lightning II stealth fighter and an H-60 helicopter variant are on the other side of the deck.
The crest for the Ford-class aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy.
(US Navy graphic)
Between the F-35C and the helicopter is a new addition to the carrier air wing: an MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle, its wings folded above it.
In an email, Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, public affairs officer for Naval Air Force Atlantic, confirmed that the MQ-25 was pictured on the seal, which “displays future naval aviation capabilities that the aircraft carrier will likely support throughout its estimated 50 year service life.”
The MQ-25’s inclusion means the Navy “firmly expects UAVs will play a key role in directly supporting the primary combat function of the carrier, which will still be conducted by Super Hornets, Growlers, and the F-35,” said Timothy Choi, a Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary’s Center for Military and Strategic Studies.
“Contrast the MQ-25’s presence with the absence of other carrier aircraft, such as the C-2 or its replacement, the CMV-22, that don’t play a combat role,” added Choi, who first spotted the MQ-25 on the seal when it was released.
Boeing’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueling tanker, being tested at Boeing’s facility in St. Louis, Missouri.
(Boeing photo by Eric Shindelbower)
A heavyweight champion
The Navy awarded Boeing an 5 million contract for the Stingray in August 2018, and one of four development models made the drone’s first flight in September. The first of four development models is expected to be delivered in fiscal year 2021, followed by planned initial operational capability for the aircraft in 2024.
In all, the Navy expects to get 72 MQ-25s and for a total cost of about billion, according to James Geurts, Navy assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, who called it “a hallmark acquisition program.”
The MQ-25 is a refueling drone, meant to ease the workload of the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets, which currently conduct both combat missions as well as refueling operations, using detachable tanks.
The drone would also allow carrier aircraft to fly longer and farther, conducting more missions and putting more space between the carrier and the growing variety of weapons that threaten it.
A dedicated carrier-based aerial refueling tanker could allow carrier aircraft “to reach [combat air patrol] stations 1,000 [nautical miles] from the carrier and conduct long-range attacks to respond promptly to aggression while keeping the carrier far enough away from threat areas to reduce the density of air and missile threats” to a level the carrier strike group’s defense could handle, according to a 2018 report on the carrier air wing by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Boeing and the US Navy’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueler during its first test flight, Sept. 19, 2019.
The Stingray “gives us additional reach, just like that of heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali,” Adm. James Foggo, head of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, said on a recent edition of his On the Horizon podcast.
The Navy may eventually ask for more than range, however.
The CSBA report also recommended redesignating the MQ-25 as a “multi-mission UAV,” modifying later versions to conduct attack, electronic warfare, or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions where appropriate.
Those modified MQ-25s “would be able to complement [unmanned combat aerial vehicles] when the risk is acceptable, providing the future [carrier air wing] a potentially less expensive option for surveillance, EW, or attack missions in less stressing environments,” the report said.
But the Stingray is still a long way from joining the fleet, and what it can do when it gets there, if it gets there, remains to be seen.
“The positioning of the MQ-25 into the background and off to the side might also be interpreted as a certain hesitancy” by the Navy, Choi said. “In the event UAVs turn out not to be as successful as expected, it can be easily ignored and the seal is not burdened with a white elephant sitting front and center on the deck.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
2017 ended as Mexico’s most violent year in recent memory, with 25,339 homicide cases — more than during the peak year of inter-cartel fighting in 2011.
Crime and violence have steadily increased in Mexico over the past three years, and the bloodshed over the past decade has come despite, and often because of, the Mexican military’s and federal police’s presence in the streets.
Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 13, Army Gen. Robert Ashley, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described a key trend that has contributed to the violence.
Asked what threats US officials saw in Mexico and how the situation there had changed over the past decade, Ashley told the committee what has “transpired over the last couple of years is you had five principal cartels; we alluded to the number of captures [of cartel leaders] that had taken place, over 100. Those five cartels have kind of devolved into 20, and [as] part of that outgrowth, you’ve seen an increase in the level of violence.”
The dynamic Ashley described — the removal of criminal leaders leading to fragmentation of their groups and further violence — has been recognized as a failing of the “kingpin strategy” pursued, with strong US backing, by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, who deployed troops to confront domestic insecurity in 2007.
‘What’s happening, it’s like ants’
The kingpin strategy targets high-profile criminal leaders, with the idea that their capture or death will weaken their organization.
Ashley noted that under Peña Nieto, Mexico has brought down more than 100 high-profile cartel figures — among them Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (twice), Knights Templar founder Servando “La Tuta” Gomez (captured because his girlfriend brought him a cake), and Hector Beltran Leyva and Alfredo Beltran Guzman, both of whom lead of the Beltran Leyva Organization, an erstwhile Sinaloa cartel ally.
But the hoped-for security gains haven’t materialized.
“What actually happens is that if you take out the head of organization and it creates power vacuums and leads to … both internal schisms and encroachment … and creation of new spaces for other actors that can come, until we see a multiplication effect, or a proliferation, of smaller, regional groups,” David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego and director of the school’s Justice in Mexico program, told Business Insider in late 2016.
After a decade of Mexico’s drug war, several large cartels are thought to still be operating in Mexico, though two — the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel— are believed to be the most powerful. But smaller groups, often splinters of larger cartels, have proliferated. (Sinaloa cartel infighting caused violence to spike in northwest Mexico in 2016 and early 2017.)
Information obtained from the Mexican attorney general in 2017 by journalist Nancy Flores indicated there were nine large cartels with 36 smaller related groups present in Mexico — fewer than the 88 total groups the attorney general’s office identified in 2014, and even fewer than the 200 drug-trafficking cells identified by Mexican political scientist and crime analyst Eduardo Guerrero-Gutierrez. Such groups are fluid and hard to define, making an exact number hard to determine.
Smaller groups are also less capable of transnational drug trafficking and rely on local-level crimes, like kidnapping and extortion, which drives up crime levels and increases insecurity.
This dynamic can be seen throughout Mexico, especially in places like Tamaulipas, where factions of the Gulf cartel are competing for control of drug trafficking and other criminal rackets, and in Guerrero, a hotbed for heroin production that is home to a plethora of local and regional criminal groups and larger groups like the Sinaloa cartel that are involved in the cultivation and transportation of drugs as well as local criminal enterprises.
Official photograph of the President of México, Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto.
“What’s happening, it’s like ants,” a Tamaulipas state police officer told Vice of the kingpin strategy’s effects in late 2016. Taking out the “queen ant” without following up, he said, means they can regroup and return — or others take the queen’s place.
‘To recover peace and calm’
But the fragmentation and proliferation of criminal groups aren’t the only trends contributing to insecurity in Mexico.
A lack of economic opportunity for marginalized communities creates amenable operating conditions for criminal groups, which also thrive on high profit margins created by drug prohibition. Corruption, particularly of local government officials and police forces, is rampant, inhibiting efforts to crack down on criminal groups and undermining the rule of law.
Deep-seated impunity allows many crimes to go unpunished. According to the 2016 Global Impunity Index, only seven of every 100 crimes in Mexico are reported, and just 4.46% of reported crimes actually result in convictions. All told, “less than 1% of crimes in Mexico are punished,” the Center for Impunity and Justice Studies, which calculated the index, estimated.
Despite its failings, the Mexican government has not scrapped the militarized approach to fighting crime. A controversial law formalizing the military’s role in domestic law enforcement was signed late last year, though it is being evaluated by the supreme court.
And at the end of January 2018, days after final crime data showed just how violent 2017 had been, Mexico’s national security commissioner said more soldiers would be deployed to crime hotspots — “to recover peace and calm for all Mexicans.”
Lt. Col. Megan A. Brogden was handed a flag today that was full of symbolism.
It marked her new position as a battalion commander and all the responsibilities associated with that job.
It marked the pinnacle of her U.S. Army career so far.
And it marked a milestone in the continued diversification of Army special operations.
Brogden, who assumed command of the Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, is the first woman to assume command of a battalion within any of the Army’s seven Special Forces groups.
“It was a very humbling moment,” she said after the ceremony on Fort Bragg’s Meadows Field. “It’s such a great organization.”
But while happy to take on the challenges and proud of her accomplishments, Brogden is hesitant to mark herself as breaking new ground or smashing through any so-called glass ceilings.
“I don’t necessarily see it as much of a milestone,” she said. “I didn’t go to Ranger school or selection. It’s a lot about timing.”
Officials have called Brogden’s assuming command a historic moment for 3rd Group and the rest of the Special Forces Regiment. But during the change of command, leaders made clear that she was chosen for her expertise and leadership, not because she is a woman.
“She is without a doubt the right choice to assume command of this great unit at this time,” said Col. Bradley D. Moses, the 3rd Special Forces Group commander who passed the battalion colors to Brogden, symbolically starting her time in command.
Moses said Brogden has an unwavering dedication to soldiers, and a long history of supporting and leading special operations soldiers and maintaining the force.
“You’re a great officer, Megan. Smart, humble and full of energy. It’s an honor to serve with you again,” he said. “Lead from the front. Focus on the mission and take care of your soldiers and their families. I look forward to working with you in the days ahead.”
Brogden said the Group Support Battalion has a noteworthy reputation. It’s the largest, most diverse of five battalions within the 3rd Special Forces Group, charged with supporting Special Forces teams deployed to remote and austere environments in Africa and the Middle East.
“They have an awesome reputation,” she said.
And for the next two years, she said, she’ll work to build on that reputation and innovate to better support soldiers and their missions.
In taking command, Brogden said she feels no added pressure due to her gender. She said her selection as battalion commander shows the continuing growth of women within the special operations community.
“I think the doors are already opening, and if females want to be in the Special Forces community, the opportunities are there,” Brogden said.
She noted that women are already assigned within the Group Support Battalion, have served within U.S. Army Special Operations Command as civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers for nearly two decades and have served in cultural support teams with Army Rangers and as part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Capt. Christopher Webb, a spokesman for the 3rd Special Forces Group, said the percentage of women serving in special operations is comparable to the active Army. The first female service members served alongside the predecessors of today’s special operations soldiers as early as World War II, he said.
But there’s little doubt that the role of women in special operations is changing. In addition to filling more leadership roles, USASOC continues to integrate women into previously closed military jobs, officials said, stressing that standards have and will remain high for any position.
Brogden took command from Lt. Col. Chris Paone, who had led the Group Support Battalion, also known as the Nomads, for two years.
Moses honored the work the battalion has done under Paone’s command, praising his role in a massive shift that saw the 3rd Group’s mission focus move from Afghanistan to Africa.
Along the way, Paone and the battalion had to adjust from the resource-rich Central Command area of operations to a more austere environment, often hours away from supply lines.
The Group Support Battalion, on any given day, has soldiers deployed to about 12 countries in North and West Africa. It also has soldiers in Afghanistan, working alongside local partners.
The battalion, formed more than a decade ago, has more than 400 soldiers assigned to more than 35 military occupational specialties, and nine officer branches. The soldiers provide communications and electronics support, military intelligence, food service, chemical reconnaissance, supply and services, transportation, maintenance, water purification, medical support, engineering, water purification, parachute rigging, unmanned aerial reconnaissance, contracting support and more.
Paone praised the soldiers and battalion leaders. The special operations community needs leaders to be team-builders, Paone said. And there’s no doubt Brogden is uniquely qualified.
“The battalion can only benefit from your strong sustainment experience,” he said. “Best of luck.”
Brogden is a native of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, and was commissioned as a quartermaster officer from Oregon State University. She has served in Korea, within the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, and at Fort Lewis in Washington.
With the 82nd Airborne, she was executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. She also served in other Fort Bragg units including as J4 plans chief at Joint Special Operations Command and, most recently, as secretary of the general staff for the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
According to her Army bio, Brogden served two tours with a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
She said her past experiences have molded her into the leader she is today and will help guide her in the future.
In words of advice to younger female officers, Brogden said they will need to challenge themselves as officers and take the tough jobs that will develop them into leaders.
For Brogden, those jobs have often put her in contact with leaders who have become mentors. On Friday, many of those mentors were by her side. They included retired generals, such as Lt. Gen. Kathy Gainey, Brig. Gen. Ed Donnelly and Maj. Gen. Jim Hodge; and other leaders, including Col. Kathy Graef, Col. Geoff Kent and her most recent former commander, Brig. Gen. Chris Sharpsten.
Brogden’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and numerous other honors. She is also authorized to wear the Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, Rigger Badge, German Parachutist Wings and a Joint Meritorious Unit Achievement Medal.
It served with the United States military from 1964-1998, and with NASA until 1999. The SR-71 had been developed from the A-12 OXCART (no relation to the A-12 Avenger), a single-seat plane capable of making high-speed recon runs as well.
It was thought satellites and drones could replace the SR-71. The problem was that satellites are predictable, and too many drones just don’t have the performance or reliability. But Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which created the A-12/YF-12/SR-71 family, is now developing a SR-72, and they promise it will be faster than the Blackbird.
Lockheed noted that the SR-71 was designed on paper with slide rules. Even without the benefit of high-technology, the SR-71 proved to be superb at its role.
The Trump administration has hit China with tariffs on $250 billion in consumer and industrial goods in 2018, and now sanctions tied to Beijing’s arms deals with Russia are being added to the mix.
On Sept. 20, 2018, the State Department said it would impose sanctions on China’s Equipment Development Department and its director, Li Shangfu, for “significant transactions” with Russia’s main weapons exporter, Rosoboronexport.
The Equipment Development Department oversees procurement of China’s defense technology.
The Chinese entities will be added a sanctions list established under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which was passed in August 2017 and went into effect in January 2018.
The law is meant to punish Russia for actions that include meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. Countries trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors — including US allies — can face secondary sanctions, though a waiver process was included in the legislation. (The US added 33 other people and entities to the list on Sept. 20, 2018.)
“Both transactions resulted from pre-Aug. 2, 2017, deals negotiated between EDD and Rosoboronexport,” the State Department said.
“Since China has now gone ahead and, in fact, done what is clearly a significant transaction … we feel it necessary and indeed we are required by the law [to] take this step today,” a senior administration official said.
This is the first time the US has sanctioned a buyer of Russian weapons under the law. While the sanctions were imposed on China, the State Department official said the move was directed at Moscow.
“The ultimate target of these sanctions is Russia. CAATSA sanctions in this context are not intended to undermine the defense capabilities of any particular country,” the official said. “They are instead aimed at imposing costs upon Russia in response to its malign activities.”
China and Russia have both lashed out at the sanctions.
Russia dismissed the measures as an “unfair” measure meant to undermine Russia’s position as a major arms exporter. (The US and Russia are the world’s two biggest weapons suppliers.)
Those subject to the sanctions are blocked from foreign-exchange transactions subject to US jurisdictions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Sept. 21, 2018, that Moscow was doing what it could to not depend on the international financial system over which the US has influence.
“We are doing all that is necessary not to depend on the countries that act in this way regarding their international partners,” Lavrov said, according to state-controlled media.
China also bristled at the sanctions. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was “strongly outraged by this unreasonable action” and that China “strongly urged the US to immediately correct its mistakes and revoke the so-called sanctions. Otherwise it must take all consequences.”
India, a major US partner, similarly plans to buy the S-400, and it and other US partner countries are also major buyers of Russian weapons.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo flanked by U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman delivers closing remarks at the 2+2 Dialogue, in New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018.
While the legislation was under discussion, US defense officials requested exceptions be made for those countries that worked with the US but still needed to buy Russian arms.
At the end of August 2018, the Pentagon’s top Asia official said the “impression that we are going to completely … insulate India from any fallout” related to the sanctions was “a bit misleading.”
But as of early September 2018, when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met their Indian counterparts in New Delhi, Pompeo said there had been no decision on action over India’s purchase of the S-400.
The sanctions will ban the Chinese company from export licenses and from foreign-exchange transactions that take place under US jurisdiction and block the firm from the US financial system and its property and interests in the US.
Li, the director, will be barred from the US financial system and financial transactions, have any property and interests blocked, and be barred from having a US visa.
“Today’s actions further demonstrate the Department of State’s continuing commitment to fully implement CAATSA section 231, which has already deterred billions of dollars-worth of potential arms exports from Russia,” the agency said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. base near southern Syria’s al-Tanf border crossing was set up to train local Syrians to fight Islamic State militants, but it also serves as a counterweight to Iranian activities in the war-torn country, U.S. officials and experts tell VOA.
“Our mere presence there accomplishes that, whether it’s a goal or not,” Army Maj. Josh Jacques, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said.
The U.S. military’s primary focus across Syria has been the defeat of Islamic State fighters, and to serve that mission, U.S. soldiers at al-Tanf are training a Syrian group called Maghawir al-Thawra (MaT), Jaques said.
While the military is not directly focused on Iran in Syria, it can still indirectly impede Iran’s “destabilizing acts” in the country, according to CENTCOM commander U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel.
“There are opportunities for us to indirectly influence their [Iran’s] activities by our presence, by the pursuit of our ongoing operations, that I think disrupt and make it difficult for them to pursue their unilateral objectives,” Votel told reporters during a July 19, 2018 briefing.
Jordan, Iraq, and Syria all meet in the area surrounding the U.S. base, a potential space, officials say, through which Iran could create a continuous land bridge that would stretch to the Mediterranean.
But the U.S. has established a so-called “deconfliction zone” in the area that spans about 55 kilometers around the base. The zone is meant to protect the United States and its allies as they battle the Islamic State militant group, and it essentially prevents any non-U.S. ally from entering the area.
“One quiet rationale for maintaining a presence there is to at least monitor and then perhaps deter some of the Iranian forces, or Iranian-backed forces that may have used that part of the country to transit into Syria,” said Brian Katulis with the Center for American Progress.
The base is not meant to completely block Iran’s involvement in Syria because much of its engagement comes via airplanes.
The U.S. post does, however, protect American military assets, giving the U.S. the ability to mount drone operations, conduct surveillance, and perhaps even create human intelligence networks.
It also helps to reassure U.S. ally Jordan, whose officials have expressed concerns about how secure its border would be if Americans weren’t in southern Syria.
“As small as that [U.S.] presence is, I think it sends a signal,” Katulis said.
5th Special Forces Group (A) Operation Detachment Bravo 5310 arrives to meet Major General James Jarrard at the Landing Zone at base camp Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.
(DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Connor)
‘Shades of gray’
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior defense fellow at the Brookings Institution, says defeating IS is the “black and white” goal for American forces at al-Tanf, while all the ways that the U.S. indirectly influences Iran in Syria are “shades of gray.”
He says the base also allows the U.S. to “exercise some influence on parts of the country so that Iran isn’t the only important foreign actor.”
“In the short term, you want to create some alternative power centers,” said O’Hanlon.
Once IS is defeated, however, the United States will need a long-term political transition strategy that clearly explains why the military would stay in Syria.
“We’re sort of in a transition phase, where you can still sustain the current effort on the grounds of it being anti-ISIS, but everyone recognizes that the days of that argument carrying the day are numbered,” O’Hanlon said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terror group.
“Just staying for presence sake is not a good enough reason,” he said.
Around midnight on Jan. 30, 1968, Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army troops began a massive surprise attack on U.S., South Vietnamese, and allied forces across South Vietnam.
The Tet Offensive, as it came to be known, was actually a three-phase campaign, lasting from Jan. 30 – March 28, May 5 – June 15, and Aug. 17 – Sept. 23.
“The event really defined the course of the rest of the [Vietnam] war and how it ended, which was a pretty inglorious ending,” said former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
Hagel, who was with the 47th Infantry Regiment in Vietnam during Tet, spoke at the “Vietnam: The Tet Offensive” panel discussion, Jan. 25, at the National Archives.
Then a 21-year-old private first class, Hagel, just two months in country, said his mechanized infantry unit sustained heavy casualties in the vicinity of Long Binh.
The attack was a complete surprise, he said. What happened in Long Binh was typical of what was happening across the country.
The U.S. had completely underestimated the strength of the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong guerrilla forces from South Vietnam, he said. It came as a shock to the American public and turned public opinion against the war.
One of the myths of Tet, he said, is that it was a big enemy military victory, he added. It wasn’t. “Our military actually did very well considering.”
Erik B. Villard, a historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History, said there were other myths about Tet, some of which he wrote about in his Center for Military History book, “Combat Operations: Staying the Course, October 1967 to September 1968.”
One myth, he said, was that the North Vietnamese orchestrated a number of major battles prior to Tet in the autumn of 1967 to draw U.S. forces away from the cities so they would be in a better position to succeed in capturing the urban areas.
The real story is more interesting, he said. The 1967 battles were local and regional campaigns, planned over the spring and summer of that year.
The idea for the Tet Offensive did not even occur to the enemy at the time, as their strategic planning process tended to be short-term and, at times, very chaotic, he said.
Also, why would they want to launch a major battle in November 1967, just months before Tet when full strength would be needed? There wouldn’t be adequate recovery time, he said, noting that the National Archives provided some key documents he used in his research.
A second myth, Villard said, was that Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of American forces in Vietnam, “was wedded to this notion of victory through attrition; that the way to succeed was to kill enough of the enemy that you crossed this imaginary threshold and you could just kind of grind your way toward success.
“Westmoreland deserves far more credit than he’s gotten in my view,” he added.
He was a shrewd person who understood the value of pacification and cutting enemy supply lines, as he was doing in secret operations to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Villard noted.
A third myth, he said, is that U.S. military policy changed when Westmoreland was replaced by Gen. Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. in June 1968, in the middle of the Tet Offensive.
Abrams and Westmoreland saw mostly eye-to-eye on strategy, he said. The mission continued to be defending bases and lines of communication, as well as air interdiction operations and supporting pacification.
Pacification was a term used at the time to denote counterinsurgency operations, which included advise and assist missions and winning over the loyalty of the local population.
Policy didn’t actually change until after mid-1969 when Vietnamization took hold, he said. Vietnamization consisted of drawing down U.S. forces and transferring responsibility to the South Vietnamese forces.
The buildup of forces into 1968 and the draw down a year later had already been planned on Westmoreland’s watch, he said.
Merle L. Pribbenow II, an author specializing in the Vietnam War, with five years of service in Vietnam during the war as a CIA operative, said that a widespread myth was that the Tet Offensive was a well planned and executed enemy attack.
That’s completely false, he said, referencing documents and interviews of NVA and VC commanders after the war.
Many of those generals became bitter with the way they and their units were treated by their own military and political leaders and the high numbers of casualties that resulted, he said.
“We focus on how we felt Army commanders screwed up and were unprepared. [The North Vietnamese] were saying the exact same things again and again,” he said.
After the war, the Vietnamese did tactical reviews and battle studies, just as the U.S. Army did, to learn lessons and assess strengths and weaknesses, he noted.
The takeaway from that assessment, he said, was that the communists acknowledged that a lot of the poor decision-making during Tet resulted from underestimating U.S. military response, as well as the loyalty of the South Vietnamese people.
Like the Americans, the communists also inflated their own body counts, minimized their failures, and exaggerated their accomplishments, he said.
The biggest problem, he added, was that shortcomings were not reported up the chain of command and authorities refused to listen to subordinates.
As a result of the assessment, he said the military leadership of Vietnam decided on a new approach. From then on, leaders were instructed to encourage subordinates to tell the truth, even if it wasn’t something they wanted to hear or went against their own thinking.
Gregory Daddis, an associate professor of history and director of Chapman University’s Master of Arts program in War and Society, said another myth was that the U.S. media was to blame for the lack of political will after the Tet Offensive.
There’s a tendency, he said, to find someone to blame when a bad outcome occurs.
Looking back 50 years ago to the Tet Offensive gives everyone an opportunity to gain a better perspective on everything that took place, he said.
An important takeaway from Tet, he said, is that sometimes military action might not be the best tool in all situations to achieve the desired political effect.
Hagel added that “in the end, war is determined not by military might but by the support of the people. We found ourselves on the wrong side of that.”
He concluded: “The sacrifices made by over 56,000 Americans who lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of individuals who were wounded, and all who served, were never really given much recognition for an assignment they didn’t choose. But they served and they served honorably, and did what their country asked them to do. And I think that’s a part of this story that needs to be told more often.”
Andrea Fisher took to Twitter on March 1 after receiving a strange package addressed to her with a return address of “Commanding Officer 22th Marine Regiment.”
Fisher was shocked when she opened the package to find four separate containers labeled “CLINICAL SPECIMENS – URINE SAMPLES” that were addressed to the Navy Drug Screening Laboratory in Great Lakes, Illinois.
“The Marine Corps sent me a box full of piss. I’m not even f—— kidding,” she tweeted.
“PLEASE tell me this happened to someone else,” wrote Fisher, who recently tweeted a promotion certificate identifying herself as a sergeant in the Marine Corps, wrote on Twitter.
Fisher did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Maj. Kendra Motz, 1st Marine Division director of communication strategy and operations, affirmed the Corps’ mistake to the Marine Corps Times. She said that the Marines have since picked up the urine samples from Fisher and that the package was not intentionally sent to the wrong recipient.
The military has a zero-tolerance for troops possessing or using banned substances and performs random tests periodically to screen them. They generally test for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, synthetic cannabinoids, and benzodiazepines, according to the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, .
The Marine Corps recently expanded the scope of its testing in December 2020 after reports came out from the 2nd Marine Division in North Carolina that several Marines and sailors were caught using lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD.ADVERTISING
According to 2nd Marine Division spokesman 1st Lt. Dan Linfante, the 2nd Marine Division planned to test for LSD in scheduled and random formats.
“The use of prohibited substances is unfortunately not new,” Linfante said. “What’s new here is that the 2nd Marine Division is now testing specifically for LSD, along with the many other substances we’ve long tested for — both randomly and in every other way possible.”
Capt. Joseph Butterfield, a public affairs officer in the Marine Corps, told the Marine Corps Times that the rest of the Department of Defense may soon begin randomly testing other branches and troops for LSD as well.
“Due to increased concerns regarding the usage of LYSERGIC ACID DIETHYLAMIDE by service members, the Office of the Under Secretary Defense for Resiliency approved adding LSD to the Drug Demand Reduction Standard Test Panel in August 2020, commencing in December 2020,” Butterfield said.
The GI Film Festival is an annual event that introduces new and established filmmakers that honor the stories of the American Armed Forces.
“From the very beginning, it has been about fostering a positive image for men and women in uniform,” said Brandon Millet, co-founder and director of the GI Film Festival. “We’ve expanded that image to also connecting service members to society given that only one percent serve. We want people to come to the event and be highly entertained and walk away with a greater sense of appreciation for what are men and women in uniform do for us on a daily basis and if we accomplish those two missions we’re happy.”
The GI Film Festival is open to filmmakers of every level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers. Here’s a short video featuring some of the directors, actors, and producers at the GI Film Festival this year:
President Donald Trump shot down a veiled vision of peace offered by Iran’s president on July 22, 2018, to full-on threaten the Islamic Republic with historically epic confrontation — and it looks as if his administration could topple the country.
“To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump tweeted.
“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” he continued.
Trump was responding to statements from Rouhani, Iran’s elected political leader who serves at the pleasure of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s religious supreme leader.
In a meeting with Iranian diplomats, Rouhani offered a vision of peace with the US but also said a conflict between the two would be “the mother of all wars.”
According to Reuters, he said: “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”
Rouhani’s statement, though balanced against the threat of massive war, actually represents a shift in Iranian foreign policy.
Iran has strongly opposed the US since its theocratic government took power in 1979, with officials chanting “death to America” in parliament. Iran’s navy has the explicit, though lofty, operational goal of destroying the US Navy.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Trump is coming for Iran’s leadership
Rouhani, in extending a veiled olive branch, may have been acting in anticipation of an onslaught by Trump.
A new report from Reuters suggests Trump’s administration has launched a campaign designed to topple Iran’s leaders.
Several officials told Reuters that Trump would pressure Iran’s leaders with tough sanctions and an information campaign meant to erode their support.
Recent statements from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicate this shift has already taken place, as the US expresses its hope for the Iranian people to install a more moderate, secular government.
An Iranian woman protesting the theocratic government’s rule that all women must wear headscarves in public.
(My Stealthy Freedom آزادی یواشکی زنان در ایران / Facebook)
Iranian women rejecting the forced dress code of headscarves have become emblematic of the movement.
While European countries strongly opposed Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal, the threat of US sanctions has successfully made Tehran a pariah in the business world.
After Trump’s withdrawal, Iran’s currency ballooned and the government imposed a set of strict financial controls on its citizens, capping the amount of foreign currency they can hold and seizing overseas accounts.
As Iran’s working class rejects the government’s foreign-policy ambitions, the upper class has had its aspirations of foreign travel or education crushed by such financial restrictions. Iran’s government has responded to protests with security forces and violence time and time again, but the unrest has continued on a regular basis in 2018.
Russia, normally a powerful ally of Iran, swiftly turned its back on Tehran, refusing to sell it air defenses even when its forces were coming under heavy fire from Israel and telling Iran’s militias to leave Syria.
Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, told Reuters that Trump’s strategy could produce one of two outcomes.
“Outcome one is capitulation, forcing Iran to further curtail not only its nuclear program but also its regional ambitions,” Sadjadpour said. “Outcome two is the implosion of the Islamic Republic.”
The US maintains it does not seek regime change for any country, even those as antagonistic as Iran and North Korea.