China is recruiting a lot more carrier-based fighter pilots, a clear sign of the Chinese navy’s ambitions.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s annual pilot recruitment program ended in early July with 20% more recruits than last year, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Furthermore, recruiters witnessed a 41% increase in enrollment in the carrier-based fighter pilot program, an important development as the country pushes ahead with plans to build a fleet of aircraft carriers.
China just unveiled its first homemade aircraft carrier
China only has one operational carrier at the moment. A second aircraft carrier is expected to enter service soon, and a third is under construction.
China’s sole aircraft carrier — the Liaoning — began as the discarded hull of an unfinished Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser, which China purchased, refitted, and transformed into its first flattop.
The second carrier, currently unnamed, will be China’s first indigenously produced aircraft carrier, although it is essentially a slightly improved derivative of its predecessor.
The third carrier, which China began building in 2018, is expected to be China’s first step toward a modern aircraft carrier.
The Pentagon assesses that this vessel will “likely be larger and fitted with a catapult launch system,” featuring a design that “will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations.”
Chinese military analysts expect China to continue to build up its carrier fleet as it strives to rival American military might.
Wang Yunfei, a naval expert and retired PLA destroyer naval officer, told the South China Morning Post earlier this year that China ought to have at least six aircraft carriers by 2035.
“The country needs to keep developing until it is at the same level as the United States,” he said.
The US has a total of 11 nuclear-powered carriers that are much more capable than anything China currently has and likely will have for the foreseeable future. Not only does the US still have a technological advantage, but the US Navy also has decades of experience with aircraft carrier operations.
As China builds up its fleet, it will inevitably need more capable carrier-based pilots, of which the Chinese navy has traditionally had a shortfall.
“China has been training more pilots for aircraft carriers for some time now, and this upward trend will continue to guarantee warship operations,” a Chinese military analyst told the Global Times this weekend.
The expert, the state-affiliated newspaper paraphrased, explained that “China will not only have more carriers in the future, but the sizes will be bigger, enabling them to carry more aircraft, thus requiring more pilots.”
Chinese carrier-based fighter pilots presently fly the J-15 “Flying Shark,” a heavy, unreliable aircraft not particularly well suited for carrier operations, but China is looking into better alternatives as its carrier program advances.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
(Writer’s note: This article contains descriptions of real-world violence and there is a video embedded that shows attack helicopters firing on insurgents on the burning outpost. Obviously, viewer/reader discretion is advised.)
View of the 120mm mortar at COP Kahler days before the Battle of Wanat.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Queck)
The attack on the U.S. forces near Wanat in Afghanistan centered on Kahler, a combat outpost in the area. COP Kahler was a strong position, but it faced a number of defensive weaknesses. First, it wasn’t the high ground in the valley. That’s a compromise military leaders sometimes have to make, but you really don’t want to have to defend a position where an enemy can fire on it from above.
Another problem was that civilian buildings came close to the outpost. This included a mosque that the attackers would misuse as a fortress to get an advantageous position against the defenders.
Finally, and probably most importantly, COP Kahler was not yet done. Engineers had been working for weeks to prepare for construction, but the actual building only began on July 9, four days before the attack would come. And a number of important defensive measures wouldn’t be complete for weeks or potentially months.
Some of the defensive positions on July 13 were still just concertina wire and guns, though some positions were protected by boulders, HESCOs, or hasty earthworks. The task force had planned for the possibility that an attack would come early, while the outpost was still vulnerable. But the intelligence estimates did not anticipate an attack by hundreds, and the assets at the base didn’t either.
But Chosen Company of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was holding and building Kahler, and they had prepared well for an attack with what they had.
The defenders’ TOW missile launcher was mounted on a HMMWV that could be driven around the site, but a platform was quickly built to give it better fields of view and fire. And there were two mortars, a 120mm and a 60mm, to provide additional muscle.
And the Americans had built observation posts in the territory around the outpost. These would allow American forces to inflict casualties from higher ground, but it would also deny the enemy a chance to occupy those three positions, meaning that was three fewer positions the insurgents could attack from.
And the engineers were busy from July 9 to 13, filling as many HESCOs and digging out as many fighting positions as they could. They were able to provide significant protection to the 120mm and many fighting positions before the attacks came. The 60mm mortar had a pit and a few sandbags, providing some protection. (Some of the defenses and fighting can be seen in this video.)
There were signs in the buildup to the attack that it was coming. Men in the nearby bazaar were seen watching the Americans and seemingly doing pace counts to figure out distances. The number of children in the village slowly dropped, and Afghan contractors refused to bid on some services for the base.
So when Capt. Matthew Myer saw five shepherds traveling together near the base he immediately prepared for a complex attack, using his TOW and mortars to hit the men shifting around the base. Five shepherds will rarely travel together because that many shepherds signals that there are either too many shepherds or too many goats in one area for normal grazing.
But before Myer could give the order to attack, two bursts of machine gun fire signaled the enemy forces, and then a rain of rockets came onto the U.S. warriors. The Battle of Wanat was on, and the enemy had seized the initiative.
A Army graphic shows the defenses at COP Kahler during the Battle of Wanat. Notice OP Topside which is physically separated from the rest of the defenses. The hotel and mosque were key buildings controlled by insurgents during the battle.
(U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute)
That first volley came in the first hours of July 13, and it contained a very large amount of RPGs. While the Army history of the battle gives no official number to the rockets that hit the base, quotes from the men who fought in the battle described an absolute rain of rockets that left dozens and dozens of tail fins on the ground around the Americans. A radiotelephone operator later said that the “RPG fire was like machine gun fire.”
The insurgent forces had sneaked up close to the outpost and unleashed hell, and the volume of fire indicated that there had either been a major buildup of rockets at these positions or else runners were keeping the shooters well supplied. This rain of explosions took the TOW launcher out of the fight and suppressed a mortar and some machine guns and grenade launchers.
Myers and his men were suddenly struggling to achieve fire superiority. The mortar crew got at least four high-explosive rounds off despite the incoming fire, but were driven back from the weapon by the RPGs and machine gun fire. Rounds were flying in from buildings and trees near the outpost, and the fire was concentrated on the mortarmen.
But they weren’t the only ones in trouble. Another main objective of the enemy force was cutting one of the observation posts, OP Topside, off from the main force. While the OPs provided protection to the COP, they would also be vulnerable to enemy attack until the engineers were done clearing vegetation from the fields of fire.
A mortar crewman was injured by an RPG, and then another was hurt while dragging the first casualty to safety at the command post. The TOW launcher and HMMWV exploded, and it injured an Afghan soldier, knocked out some American communications equipment, and dropped two unexploded but unstable missiles back onto the defenders.
The artillery assets supporting the outpost sent death back at the attackers whenever they could, but they were firing 155mm howitzers at high angle. Danger close starts at just over 700 yards, and anything closer than 600 yards in rough terrain is simply too risky to fire. The automatic grenade launchers on the base had a similar problem.
Defenders at Kahler the day before the Battle of Wanat.
(U.S. Army soldiers)
The weapons that were available were fired at such a high rate that many of them began to overheat, and then the only .50-cal went down after an enemy round struck it in the feed tray cover.
But the worst of the fighting for the Americans took place at OP Topside. Only nine Americans were there at the start of the fighting, and the insurgent activity made reinforcing them a dangerous and tricky task, though the paratroopers would do so successfully multiple times.
The OP had its own artillery observer, but he was wounded in that first RPG volley. A paratrooper at Topside was killed in that same volley, and another died just moments later while attempting to throw a grenade. Another was wounded so badly that he could not fight.
The six men able to fight, including the forward observer, were forced to work through their own injuries and beat back the attack. Fortunately, the observer had sent a list of pre-planned targets back to the gun lines days before, and so artillery was able to send some assistance despite the fact that the observer could not conduct the calls for fire.
The defenders attempted to get the upper hand, but their own crew-served weapons went down from overheating or ammo shortages, and then one gunner was killed while firing his M4.
Finally, reinforcements from the main COP moved out. But the three-man team lost one soldier en route to a wound in the arm. Soon after they arrived, the enemy made it through the wire.
The attack was repulsed, but the two reinforcements were killed, and so was another soldier. A short time later, a sergeant moved forward to suppress fighters in a nearby building and was killed. Only one soldier was left in fighting shape with another three seriously wounded.
The defender managed to take out an enemy position with a light anti-tank weapon, giving most of the survivors just enough time to fall back to another position. But in their haste, they missed that the forward observer was severely wounded but still alive.
This artilleryman grabbed a grenade launcher and fired every round he had and threw every hand grenade he could reach. Just before he was forced to make a last stand at the OP, four men from the COP reinforced him, and Topside remained in American hands.
But a new attack, once again led by RPGs, strained this control. Every paratrooper on the OP was wounded, and one would die soon after. A platoon sergeant gathered a new force of seven paratroopers and two Marines and once again reinforced the OP, arriving shortly before the Apache attack helicopters.
Gun runs by the helicopters with their 30mm cannons finally drove the attackers back and allowed this larger force to protect the OP. Another platoon from Chosen Company arrived to help out their brothers-in-arms. This force brought multiple machine guns and two automatic grenade launchers with them on HMMWVs as well as multiple anti-tank rocket launchers.
The quick reaction force assaulted into the bazaar, driving the enemy from nearby buildings while suppressing other positions with the trucks. QRF fighters threw out smoke to mark insurgent positions and the Apaches eliminated them. Slowly, the volley of RPG fire lessened and, four hours after the attack began, the terrorist forces finally began to retreat.
Medical evacuation crews landed under fire to get the wounded out, in at least one case evacuating a casualty while an Apache made a gun run just 30 yards away. This limited American losses to the nine paratroopers already killed. A massive surge in U.S. and Afghan forces occurred July 13 with Afghan commandos coming in to clear the nearby village house-to-house and gain intelligence.
The biggest surprise for the Afghan commandos came when they searched the Afghan National Police station near the compound. A massive cache of weapons was there with most of them having been recently fired. But the evidence was that they had fired in support of the insurgents, not against them. The police chief and others were arrested.
Over the following days, American air assets pummeled insurgent positions, and future Chief of Staff of the Army Mark Milley set up operations in Wanat. An estimated 20-50 enemy fighters were killed in the fighting.
Despite the hard-won tactical success, senior leaders decided that holding Wanat was simply too costly and drained resources from more fruitful fights elsewhere. Chosen Company was pulled out.
It’s always a bad idea for payday to come on a Friday. Here’s hoping that everyone makes it to Monday without any recall formations because some lance corporal stole a car and crashed it into the general’s house.
In the meantime, here are 13 funny military memes:
1. You can just hear that lead fellow yelling, “To the strip clubs!”
There are more rumors and myths floating around about the Central Intelligence Agency then there are actual facts. “The Agency” or “The Company” is charged with preempting threats and furthering national security objectives by collecting and analyzing intelligence and conducting covert action while simultaneously safeguarding our nation’s secrets. It’s a broad mission, and a lot of trust has been granted to them by the American people to carry it out.
But it takes a special kind of person to thrive in the CIA.
Who, or what, are they looking for? And do those who served at the tip of the spear while in the military have a competitive advantage? If so, is a U.S. Navy SEAL better than a U.S. Army Ranger? Or does a Green Beret’s experience hold more weight when competing for one of the few spots available as a gray man?
The CIA doesn’t publicly answer any of those questions, instead opting to keep their ideal candidate’s qualifications vague. So we reached out to a few veterans of the Agency to see if they noticed any trends.
Hafer while deployed to Africa.
(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)
Evan Hafer, former CIA contractor
Evan Hafer is in the coffee business these days, but he started out as a U.S. Army Special Forces NCO (noncommissioned officer) before transitioning to contracting for the CIA. He’s deployed dozens of times around the world on their behalf, and he even assessed and trained those who were trying out for the Agency’s elite high-threat, low-visibility security force toward the end of his career.
“It all depends on what kind of officer you’re looking for,” Hafer said. “When you look at paramilitary operations, they have a wide variety of objectives. A good portion is working by, through, and with foreign nationals while conducting covert action. For a long time, Special Forces did a lot of covert action, so they made for the best agents in that respect.”
Hafer while deployed to Afghanistan.
(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)
Hafer went on to explain that there are different types of jobs at the Agency that require different skill sets. “Typically a good Ranger NCO will make a great guy for on-the-ground, high-threat, low-visibility security work. And Marines across the spectrum are pretty good at a lot of different things.”
Hafer made sure to note the difference between conducting direct action (DA) in the military’s special operations units and gathering intelligence for the CIA. “If you like blowing doors down, intel will bore the fuck out of you,” Hafer said. “It’s a lot of writing, and regardless of background, guys who enjoy DA might not like the intel job.”
“If you’re a hammer and every problem is a nail, then you won’t like being the pen.”
(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)
Bob Baer, former CIA case officer
You may recognize Bob Baer from his work hosting investigative shows on the History Channel or delivering commentary on CNN, but before that he spent 21 years as a CIA case officer. He deployed around the world, speaks eight languages, and even won the CIA’s career intelligence medal.
“It’s almost always Special Forces,” Baer said about the ideal background for working operations in the CIA. “These guys are out in places training locals. I found the SF guys, especially the ones who have experience working in strange places, to be most effective.”
(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)
He even went so far as to say that elite Tier 1 operators (that many would assume to be perfect for the job) often don’t work out. “For them, it’s so low-speed — there’s not as much excitement as they’re used to. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Delta or SEAL Team Six guy make the adjustment.”
Baer echoed Hafer’s sentiment toward the U.S. Marines, saying, “It seemed the Marines did a good job adjusting.” And admitted that he usually preferred a military background over a straight academic: “All in all, people who were in the military were best because they learned about dealing with government BS, while the least equipped were always the academics.”
Robyn, like Baer, was a case officer for the CIA and spent years running sources around the world — to include active combat zones. She asked that we not use her last name but was happy to offer her thoughts on not just the ideal military resume, but also what it actually takes to be a successful case officer regardless of background.
“At the end of the day, you’re selling a lemon. You’re convincing someone to commit espionage and provide intel against their country in exchange for whatever is valuable to them,” Robyn explained. “You have to convince them that you care, that their life matters — whether it does or not.”
“So the guys that do well are the guys that understand the human factor,” she continued. “They have to understand what makes someone tick and pretend to be concerned. People are not going to put their lives at risk for someone who doesn’t care. You have to care.”
Robyn recalled a former state trooper who she worked with that did well, noting that a law enforcement background laid a solid foundation for talking to people who can be difficult to extract information from, such as witnesses and victims.
“The militant guys don’t do well,” Robyn said, noting that there’s a difference between being militant and being from the military, and that it takes a unique person to operate in the gray for months or even years at a time. “They’ve gotta operate without mental, emotional, or personal boundaries. There’s no commander’s intent, and the mission isn’t always clear. A renaissance man will do better than the fire-breather, even if they both come from Special Forces. We need the guys who can jump between philosophy and tactics while maneuvering in all different environments.”
The one thing that Hafer, Baer, and Robyn all agreed on is that no single bullet point on a resume qualifies someone for the difficult work of the CIA. They all emphasized that it takes a special person, and the best people at the Agency often have certain intangibles that you either have or you don’t. It seems it takes much more than a trident or a tab to make it into the nation’s most elite intelligence agency — and that’s a good thing.
Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe
The Republican majority on the House Veterans Affairs Committee pushed through a voice vote Wednesday to subpoena documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs on millions spent for artworks at VA facilities and huge cost overruns at a Denver-area hospital.
“It’s unfortunate that the VA’s continuing lack of transparency has led us to this decision” to move for the subpoenas, said Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and the committee chairman.
“I am confident we are not receiving the whole picture from the department” on spending for art and ornamental furnishings, including $6.4 million at Palo Alto, California, facilities.
The committee also wants specifics on the costs for a new Aurora, Colorado, facility that ballooned to $1.7 billion, nearly three times the original estimate.
Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat and the ranking committee member, argued that the VA was already working to provide answers and warned that the subpoenas could expose whistleblowers. “Now you will be outing employees who were honest with investigators” on the artworks and the spending on the Aurora facility, Takano said.
In June, Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said, “We got a lot of things wrong” with construction of the Aurora facility, but releasing an internal VA investigation would be counterproductive.
“You end up chilling the whole investigative process,” Gibson said in a news conference at the construction site.
The subpoenas ask for all information on VA art and ornamental furniture purchases since 2010. The VA’s response in the inquiry thus far has been “wholly incomplete,” Miller charged.
“We will not accept VA trying to pull the wool over the eyes of this committee and the American people for poor decision-making and waste of funds made on the part of the department,” Miller said.
“VA claims to have spent approximately $4.7 million on art nationwide from January 2010 to July 2016, yet the committee has already substantiated over $6.4 million spent during this period in the Palo Alto health care system alone,” he said.
Miller again singled out artworks at the Palo Alto Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, described by the VA as one of five facilities nationwide designed to provide intensive rehabilitative care to veterans and service members with severe injuries to more than one organ system. Miller made similar complaints about Palo Alto nearly a year ago in a House floor speech.
Miller took issue with “Harbor,” a huge rock sculpture in a pool that its designers said was intended to evoke “a sense of transformation, rebuilding and self-investigation.”
When installation was included, it cost nearly $1 million “to put the rock up,” Miller told the committee.
Miller also complained about an artwork called “Horizon” on the walls of the Palo Alto facility’s parking garage.
“Horizon” spells out in Morse code the “With malice toward none …” quote from President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Second Inaugural address and a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, which says in part, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, sustained massive damage from a 70-ton crane falling on it after an accident at a shipyard, Russian media reports.
The Kuznetsov, a Soviet-era ship already known for having serious problems, now has a massive 214 square foot hole in its hull after a power supply issue flooded its dry dock and sent a crane crashing down against it.
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Kuznetsov, is a floating hell for the crew
“The crane that fell left a hole 4 by 5 meters. But at the same time … these are structures that are repaired easily and quickly,” Alexei Rakhamnov, the head of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, told Russian media.
“Of course when a 70-tonne crane falls on deck, it will cause harm,” Rakhmanov continued, according to the BBC. “But according to our initial information, the damage from the falling crane and from the ship listing when the dock sank is not substantial.”
After years of discussion, the U.S. Air Force has taken the initial steps to buy commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft for its light attack aircraft fleet.
The service is alerting defense firms hoping to compete for the Light Attack Aircraft program that it intends to begin soliciting bids in December, according to a presolicitation announcement posted on FedBizOpps on Aug. 3, 2018.
“LAA will provide an affordable, non-developmental aircraft intended to operate globally in the types of Irregular Warfare environments that have characterized combat operations over the past 25 years,” the post said. “A contract will be awarded in fourth quarter of [fiscal 2019].”
While the program would remain a full and open competition, Air Force officials said the most viable aircraft are the Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.
“Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Textron Aviation are the only firms that appear to possess the capability necessary to meet the requirement within the Air Force’s timeframe without causing an unacceptable delay in meeting the needs of the warfighter,” the FedBizOpps post said.
The two single-engine turboprop aircraft were most recently part of the service’s light attack experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The second phase of the experiment was canceled in July following a fatal crash.
A Light Attack Distinguished Visitors Day, originally set for July and canceled after the fatal crash, has been rescheduled for Sept. 14 at Andrews Air Force Base, Air Force officials said.
Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, top acquisition official for the Air Force, told reporters at the time that the service would continue to work with defense industry partners to complete remaining test requirements, which mostly consist of maintenance and sustainment data.
He said then that a potential request for proposal for light attack, also known as OA-X, could be issued by December.
“If we decide that we’re going to go forward with the acquisition … if that’s the direction we’re going to go, we want to get an RFP out on the street by December,” he said last month. “If we go down that path … what we then want to do is make a downselect decision within the next fiscal year.”
The Air Force in 2016 announced plans to hold flight demonstrations with a handful of aircraft to test whether lighter, inexpensive and off-the-shelf aircraft might be suitable in ongoing wars such as Afghanistan.
As part of Phase I, four aircraft — the A-T6 and A-29, as well as AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion — conducted demonstrations and weapons drops during the experiment at Holloman in August 2017. After Phase I was completed, the Air Force selected the Wolverine and Super Tucano to undergo more demonstration fly-off scenarios between May and July of this year.
A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft during ground operations is prepared for takeoff from Holloman AFB. The AT-6 is participating in the US Air Force Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Ethan D. Wagner)
In November, key lawmakers agreed to provide the Air Force with 0 million to continue experimenting with the planes. Additionally, lawmakers recently passed the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes 0 million “to procure Air Force light attack aircraft and associated long lead material,” according to the bill’s summary.
If the planes can be interoperable with other militaries’ planes, the result would be a diverse fleet of aircraft with partners across the world, officials have said.
“We must develop the capacity to combat violent extremism at lower cost,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a statement released Aug. 3, 2018. “Today’s Air Force is smaller than the nation needs and the Light Attack Aircraft offers an option to increase the Air Force capacity beyond what we now have in our inventory or budget.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Military.com in September that the light attack initiative should be viewed as a new way of doing business — not just a plane, but part of a larger communications system.
OA-X “is actually not about the hardware — it’s about the network,” he said, adding he wants the service to train more often with coalition partners who may not have high-end fighter aircraft.
“At the same that we’re looking at a relatively inexpensive aircraft and sensor package, can I connect that into a network of shareable information that allows us to better accomplish the strategy as it’s been laid out?” Goldfein asked.
Bunch last month added, “We’re still going to experiment and try out the network in other areas over time. The goal of this network is to get it to the point where we can utilize it in other platforms beyond light attack.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said Dec.3 that he believes it’s time to start moving the families of American military personnel out of South Korea as North Korea pushes the U.S. closer to a military conflict.
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he will also urge the Pentagon not to send any more dependents to South Korea.
“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.”
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from the North.
Last week, North Korea shattered 2½ months of relative quiet by firing off an intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers say showed the reclusive country’s ability to strike the U.S. East Coast. It was North Korea’s most powerful weapons test yet.
The launch was a message of defiance to President Donald Trump’s administration, which, a week earlier, had restored North Korea to a U.S. list of terror sponsors. It also hurt nascent diplomatic efforts and raised fears of a pre-emptive U.S. strike. Threats traded by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have further stoked fears of war.
Graham expressed confidence in the Trump administration’s ability to manage the growing conflict with North Korea.
“He’s got the best national security team of anybody I have seen since I have been in Washington,” said Graham, who has served in Congress since 1995.
The Trump administration has vowed to deny North Korea the capability of striking the U.S. homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile.
“Denial means pre-emptive war as a last resort. The pre-emption is becoming more likely as their technology matures,” Graham told CBS. “I think we’re really running out of time. The Chinese are trying, but ineffectively. If there’s an underground nuclear test, then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States.”
Trump has said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping about Pyongyang’s “provocative actions,” and he vowed that additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea. China is North Korea’s only significant ally, but it has grown increasingly frustrated over the North’s nuclear and missile tests that have brought a threat of war and chaos to China’s northeastern border.
This week, Vladimir Shamanov, a former military officer who leads the Defense Committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, said that by the end of this year ISIS “won’t exist anymore as an organized military structure.”
While ISIS is losing large swaths of its home turf, it still operates in a number of countries. Here are nine places where the fight against ISIS is not slowing down.
The Egyptian government has been fighting Islamist insurgents since the military took power in 2013. Most of the fighting has happened in the Sinai Peninsula, where ISIS proclaimed a province in 2014.
Egypt has been under an official state of emergency since April, after a attack killed dozens of members of Egypt’s minority Christian population.
Hundreds of Egyptian police and military servicemen have been killed in battles with jihadists. In an ISIS attack on an army outpost in Sinai in July 2016, 23 soldiers were killed and at least 26 were wounded.
In late October, at least 54 policemen and conscripts, including several officers, were killed in what appeared to be a well-planned ambush. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities have not ruled out ISIS.
The latest attack took place in the Giza governorate, which means the insurgency is spreading beyond the Sinai Peninsula — a worrisome sign that may have led President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to reorganize his security leadership.
Libya became a safe haven for terrorist groups after Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. It currently has three different governments claiming authority over the country, and the lack of a strong central authority and a unified security force has allowed militias to fill the void.
ISIS seized the coastal city of Sirte — Gadhafi’s hometown — in 2015. At its peak, ISIS was thought to have over 5,000 militants in Libya. In addition to causing chaos there, they were aiding jihadist groups in Egypt and other parts of North and West Africa.
Though ISIS lost control of Sirte in December 2016, they still have what officials have described as a “desert army” operating in the regions south of the city. That army has shown signs of trying to gain ground in the country.
The US launched its first airstrike in Libya under President Donald Trump in September, 150 miles south of Sirte, reportedly killing 17 militants.
A major concern among European officials is that as ISIS loses territory in Iraq and Syria, its fighters could relocate to Libya. Among those fighters may be Westerners who could use Libya’s role as a transit point for migrants to return home.
Yemen has long been a battleground in the fight against Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. While the Saudi-led military campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in country has received much of the attention, ISIS’ presence there has gotten the notice of the US.
ISIS created its Yemen branch in 2014, during the chaos that followed the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Since then, its attacks have killed hundreds.
US forces launched more than 100 airstrikes against Al Qaeda in Yemen this year, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. October saw the first US airstrikes against ISIS in Yemen. According to US Central Command, the three strikes on ISIS training camps reportedly killed 60 militants.
ISIS’s Afghan affiliate, known as Islamic State in Khorasan, or ISIS-K, was declared in 2014. The group mostly made up of Taliban defectors and new recruits.
Though the group only controls small patches of territory, it has been a main focus for the US military. On April 13, the US dropped its largest nonnuclear bomb on an ISIS-K compound. Estimates of the number killed range between 36 and 96 militants.
Militants affiliated with ISIS and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have also clashed with each other, resulting in deaths on both sides.
A drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province on October 12 reportedly killed 14 ISIS militants — though an Afghan MP, Shahzada Shaheed, claimed all the casualties were civilians.
The US estimates that there are roughly 600 to 800 ISIS-affiliated militants still in the country, mostly in Nangarhar province in northeast Afghanistan.
5 – 3. Mali, Niger, and Nigeria
West Africa is becoming an increasingly important front in the fight against ISIS. Islamist violence is not new in the region. There was an insurgency that took over northern Mali in 2013, and the jihadist group Boko Haram declared allegiance to ISIS in 2015.But the violence has showed no signs of slowing down.
New groups like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara — which reportedly carried out the early-October ambush that killed four US soldiers while they were on a mission with local partners in Niger — are being formed, and the number of militants joining these groups seems to be increasing.
On October 23, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said that ISIS “has aspirations to establish a larger presence” in Africa.
“We’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less,” Dunford said, adding that the US military will be making recommendations to Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and that US forces will remain in the area despite the casualties in Niger.
As in West Africa, Islamist violence is not new to Somalia. For the last decade, the most feared jihadist group in the country has been Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda ally. ISIS unsuccessfully tried to recruit Al Shabab in 2015, and now the two groups fight each other in addition to government forces.
Though smaller than Al Shabab, ISIS’ affiliate in Somalia has made its mark as a deadly terrorist organization. It has routinely conducted bombings and attacks that have killed hundreds. It is also outgaining Al Shabab in terms of foreign volunteers, as most aspiring jihadists want to be part of the ISIS brand.
In October, the largest bombing in the history of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, left at least 300 civilians dead and caused more than 275 injuries.
No group has claimed responsibility, but it is a troubling sign as it could lead to more violent competition between Al Shabab and ISIS, as they try to become the dominant Islamist group in the country.
The Trump administration sent US troops to Somalia in May — the first such deployment in more than 20 years — to aid antiterrorism efforts. On Friday, the US military carried out its first two drone strikes on ISIS targets in Somalia, killing “several terrorists,” according to US Africa Command.
ISIS made its mark in the Philippines in a manner similar to that in Iraq and Syria — suddenly emerging with a large and organized force, seizing large amounts of territory.
Led by Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Brothers — who formally lead Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group, respectively — forces that pledged loyalty to ISIS took over the city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur province on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
The siege that followed resulted in the deaths of 962 ISIS militants, including Hapilon and at least one of the Maute Brothers; 165 Philippine soldiers were killed, and nearly 1.1 million people were displaced.
Though Philippine soldiers liberated the city, ISIS remains a threat in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia as a whole.
Stasia Foley lived a beautiful life. She was born on May 22, 1916, in Connecticut, right before World War I began. She vividly remembered being a teenager during the Great Depression and the hardship that came with it. She left school at just 13 years old to support her family. With five brothers and sisters, everyone had to pitch in. Stasia spent her days on a farm planting and harvesting crops to help feed her family.
Family was everything to her.
Stasia was highly athletic and was a part of the Hazardville R.C.A. Girls Baseball team, a team that would go on to win numerous championships. This eventually led her to being inducted into the Enfield Sports Hall of Fame. Throughout her life, she watched some of the sport’s giants play, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig in Yankee Stadium. Stasia received signed baseballs and loved to tell stories both about her time in the dugout and in the stands.
Stasia met the love of her life, Edward Foley, and married him on Oct. 8, 1938. Life was good, for awhile. World War II would soon come calling.
Edward was drafted into the Army as a medic on Feb. 7, 1942, and was quickly sent to Europe – right in the middle of combat. She missed him desperately and relied on infrequent postcards and letters from his stops throughout the war.
Edward assisted in the liberation of Auschwitz and Dachau Nazi concentration camps.
While Edward was gone, Stasia went to work for Colt Firearms in Hartford. The company’s workforce grew by 15,000 in three separate factories to keep with the demand for the war effort.
Eventually, the war ended and Edward came home safely toward the end of 1945. The couple had two children, Gail and Daniel. Stasia worked for aerospace companies and spent 25 years working for Travelers Insurance Companies until her retirement. Stasia and Edward were married 51 years before her soulmate died in 1989.
Stasia loved her family, especially her three grandchildren. One of her grandsons would go on to serve in the United States Coast Guard. Sunday dinners in her home, surrounded by all, were the highlight of the week. In 2001, Stasia’s son Daniel and his family moved to Texas. Eventually, Stasia moved in with her daughter, Gail and her husband, William.
When Stasia turned 100, she was still highly independent, active and as sharp as ever. She had just started using a cane at her family’s insistence. At 102, things started to slow down. Her granddaughter, Tara Bars, decided to make a legacy video.
“She had always been such an important woman in my life,” Bars explained. “I feel like the time in her life that she lived, she saw so much. Living through the wars, the Great Depression – it has always fascinated me but the fact that my Nana lived that, saw that, witnessed it and was part of it… Once that line is gone, it’s very difficult to ever figure out or hear those family stories,” she said.
Following the completion of that video, Bars saw how frail her grandmother was becoming. In December of 2018, congestive heart failure made its presence known, causing her once-independent grandmother to become weak and easily winded. Stasia was with her daughter and her husband in their Florida winter home when she was eventually put on hospice care. When the nurses met with her in the home, they asked her what her goals were.
She told them her dream was to go to Tara’s wedding.
“When I heard that, it just broke my heart to pieces because I just knew she wouldn’t make it,” Bars said in between tears. Bars’ wedding was set for June 1, 2019, and Stasia was medically unable to fly, with her health rapidly deteriorating. Bars said she turned to her fiancé one day in January and told him she was going to Florida.
She would make her part of her grandmother’s wish come true.
“I looked up photographers and the first one I talked to on the phone was Red Door Photography and they just made me feel like it was going to be perfect,” she shared. Bars then went on to book hair and makeup, keeping everything a secret from her family. She made up a story about needing one last interview with Nana for the legacy video so her aunt and uncle wouldn’t suspect anything. They got Stasia ready and downstairs – telling her there was a surprise. When the doors opened, her beloved granddaughter was waiting for her.
In the car as they were driving to the surprise, she told her grandmother that she knew how much she wanted to be at her wedding and so she decided to bring the moment to her.
The memory of Stasia’s face lighting up with joy is one Bars will carry with her forever.
They arrived at the location and Bars went to change into her wedding dress. She said as she came around the corner, she could see her grandmother sitting in the chair, her arms opening as soon as she saw her. “She held her arms out to me so I just plopped down right there. She kept hugging me and kissing me and telling me how beautiful I looked. It absolutely meant everything to me that it meant everything to her,” Bars shared through tears.
Bars said that as soon as the photography session started, something changed. It was like her grandmother became a young woman again, said Bars, “She was no longer the fragile and frail Nana I saw a moment before. Something inside of her just lit up, it was incredible.” She continued, “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my last day with her. Our hearts spoke together that day.”
Stasia passed away at 102; only 27 days after that beautiful photoshoot with her granddaughter in her wedding gown.
On her wedding day, Bars finally revealed the photoshoot surprise to her family. The tears and joy were overflowing. Her wedding photographer was there to capture the moment and shared it on social media. It went viral.
“Don’t be scared to show your love and express it. We’re losing this generation. Once they are gone you can’t go back,” said Bars.
In a world where everything moves so fast; take a moment to pause. Savor the special moments and people in your life. You never know how much time you’ll have left.
For the first time ever, EA Sports’ “Madden” franchise will feature a story mode in “Madden NFL 18.” Called “Longshot,” the story is about overcoming all odds, not just winning football games or scoring the big contract.
“Longshot” is the story of Devin Wade, a quarterback who played at the University of Texas but joined the Army in the middle of his college career. While in, one of Wade’s commanding officers encourages him not to give up on his dream of starting in the NFL.
The captain in “Longshot” is played by a real Green Beret, whose story is very similar to that of Devin Wade. Army veteran Nate Boyer was a Special Forces soldier who played at Texas after leaving the Army.
“It was a big coincidence that the storylines were so similar, especially with him going to University of Texas,” Boyer told We Are The Mighty. “Some things are switched around. Devin Wade went to college first and then joined the army and now is going back to try and play football in the NFL. But still, it was kind of weird.”
Boyer is joined in the cast by “Moonlight” and “Luke Cage” actor Mahershala Ali, who plays Devin’s dad, Cutter, as well as real pro players J.R. Lemon and Dan Marino.
Even the title “Longshot” resonates in Nate Boyer’s life. ESPN featured Boyer and his story in a piece called “The Longshot.”
ESPN’s feature documented then-34-year-old Boyer trying to get on the Seattle Seahawks as a long snapper after leaving the University of Texas.
“When I came out of the army I was 29 and I never played football in my entire life,” Boyer recalls. “I just wanted to try and make the University of Texas roster. That was like my first goal: Just make the team.”
Then Boyer wanted to get on the field. He did. Then he wanted to start. For three years, Boyer was the starting long snapper for the Longhorns. He even made Academic All Big-12 during his tenure.
Now Boyer will play Capt. McCarthy, U.S. Army. He’s part-mentor to Devin, part-life coach. Like Boyer, McCarthy pushes his troops to live without regrets – that they could do anything if they want it badly enough.
“Captain McCarthy was kind of like the voice in my own head,” says Boyer. “The good voice. The angel, not the devil on the other shoulder, sort of pushing myself and encouraging myself and wanting me to believe in myself.”
The story mode in “Madden 18” is a simplified version of the game, according to Kotaku. The plays are called by the computer and there are no time outs. You can only control Devin and whichever receiver gets the ball. But you do get to play a pick-up game in a deployed location.
To any aspiring “Devin Wades” out there who might be wearing the uniform of the United States right now, but who hope to wear an NFL uniform (or any uniform) in the future, Boyer recommends fearlessness and hard work.
“No matter what it is you’re interested in, if it’s something positive and it challenges you, just go for it,” he says. “Even if you’re a little afraid to pursue it, just put everything you have into it. Take the things you overcome and accomplish, the sacrifices you make, and apply that moving forward. The military is a stepping stone, not the pinnacle of your life. Find that next challenge.”