This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland - and earned a medal - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

No, the man eating alone in a diner in Nuuk wasn’t Fezzik — a friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless giant, unemployed in Greenland.

Nonetheless, U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Katlin Kilroy, dining in the same restaurant during a port visit to Greenland’s capital, took pity on the man and decided to cover the cost of his dinner. Her action set off a chain of events that resulted in an international exchange of goodwill — and a merit award.

“Paying it forward” is how Kilroy was raised in Apex, North Carolina, a town of roughly 45,000 southeast of Raleigh, she said in an interview with Coast Guard public affairs personnel, published in a news release.

“My parents used to carry around sandwiches and socks for those down on their luck. We didn’t give money, but we’d give time or buy a meal and spend time with people. Listen to them,” Kilroy said.

But instead of purchasing provisions for a person she thought was in need, Kilroy inadvertently fed the man serving as premier of Greenland, a position roughly equivalent to president or prime minister, setting off a chain of events that led to a VIP visit to the Coast Guard medium endurance cutter Campbell.

During her encounter with Premier Kim Kielsen, according to the Coast Guard release, they talked about his careers before he entered politics, as a mariner and a police officer. He then expressed interest in visiting Campbell and its crew — unexpected attention that could have landed Kilroy in hot water.

Campbell’s commander, Capt. Thomas Crane, embraced the opportunity and welcomed Kielsen aboard. Crane then accepted a personal tour of Nuuk from the nation’s top politician.

“Her chance encounter in Nuuk directly strengthened our nation’s position in an increasingly competitive Arctic domain through relationship building. Seaman Kilroy is a true shipmate,” Crane said in the release.

Kilroy has been in the Coast Guard for nearly two years, enlisting in 2018. As a non-rate described as having an affable disposition and knack for reaching people, she slipped naturally into a public affairs role, supplementing the work of the PAOs at Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, Virginia, for much of her fledgling career.

She got a chance to deploy as a public affairs representative with the medium endurance cutter Tahoma, as well as the Campbell, in August 2020 when no other rated petty officers were available, covering joint Arctic operations and exercises with the U.S. Navy, and Canadian, French and Danish maritime forces.

Her performance during the 85-day mission, documenting events and photographing Coasties at work, as well as the chance encounter at dinner, earned her the Coast Guard Achievement Medal.

“We could not have been happier with her performance,” Crane said. “She enabled top-level real-time visibility of these operations, reaching more than 6.6 million people.”

Kilroy is now on her way to being a Coast Guard public affairs specialist, according to the service.

And the man she bought dinner for? He is probably most well-known in the U.S. for scoffing at President Donald Trump’s pitch in 2018 to purchase Greenland — a proposal that came up during a conversation between the president and Danish ambassador Lars Gert Lose.

Denmark and Greenland both nixed the idea outright.

“Greenland is not Danish. Greenland is Greenlandic. I persistently hope that this is not something that is seriously meant,” Kielsen said.

After his encounter with Kilroy, Kielsen lost his reelection bid for the chairmanship of his party — a defeat that may lead to his ouster as premier. So, while Kielsen is not exactly unemployed in Greenland, his political future is uncertain.

To Kilroy, paying for a stranger’s meal anywhere, regardless of stature, is a natural extension of her Southern hospitality.

“People also see me in uniform … They pay it forward, and I do too. In this case, it happened to be the premier, and we had a nice conversation,” Kilroy said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Marines compete for HITT championship

Four days, seven challenges, several dozen competitors, but only two may become champions.

Marines from far and wide accept this annual challenge, and there is no exception this year at the 2019 High Intensity Tactical Training Championship aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 9 through Sept. 12, 2019.

The championship has been hosted by Marine Corps HITT and Semper Fit for the past five years, and has evolved with every passing year. The HITT program’s primary mission is to enhance operational fitness and optimize combat readiness for Marines. The program emphasizes superior speed, power, strength and endurance while reducing the likelihood of injury.


“1-2 instructors have been pulled from major Marine Corps installations,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Atkins, a force fitness instructor for Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. HITT centers. “We all came together to brainstorm what the Marines would be doing for the athletic events.”

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

Sgt. Miguel Aguirre, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., competes in the fourth challenge of the High Intensity Tactical Training Championship at Butler Stadium aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sep. 10, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by James Frank)

The events for the championship are drafted by HITT instructors and confirmed by a board of various Marine Corps fitness specialists.

“It’s a grind, straight grit,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Frank, a competitor from MCB Camp Pendleton. “You can’t just be good at one thing.”

“You have to be well rounded physically and mentally.”

The seven events for the 2019 HITT Championship included a marksmanship simulator, combat fitness test, weighted run, combat swimmer challenge, obstacle course, pugil stick fight, BeaverFit assault rig, live-fire fitness challenge, and HITT combine.

“We run through it ourselves so we can understand what they are going through too,” said Atkins.

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

A U.S. Marine competes in the fourth challenge of the High Intensity Tactical Training Championship at Butler Stadium aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sep. 10, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by James Frank)

The intensity and nature of the challenges, create a risk of injury. To mitigate an ambulance is always on site and numerous medical personnel were present. The Marines are also being monitored closely by high-tech equipment that records their heart rates, core temperature and other vital information, which gives an in-depth idea of their overall health provided by Western Virginia University.

“The tactical drill was my probably my favorite because it included live-fire, and it was awesome to see how your body reacts to being under physical and mental duress,” said 1st Lt. Frances Moore, a competitor from MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.

The competitors are awarded points based on each timed event. The goal at the end of the competition is to have the most points. The championship culminates at the end of day four, when the scores have been determined and the male and female champions are awarded.

“They come in and train every single day and get coaching advice from all the staff,” said Frank. “Then I get to come here and actually see them put all that effort into the competition.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.


Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.

“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal
FILE – Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika

The graduation of first 10 women from the infantry course comes a little more than a year after Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate Army Ranger School in August 2015. Maj. Lisa A. Jaster became the third woman to graduate from a gender-integrated Ranger course two months later.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.

Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.

“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”

Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.

Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.

“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.

Female infantry officers will leave Fort Benning and go to Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Wesley said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.

“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.

Griest and Haver are following the same path.

Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.

“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.

Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.

“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”

Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.

“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”

Articles

This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

Air Mobility Command has grounded the C-5 Galaxy cargo planes operating at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware after a nose landing-gear unit malfunctioned for the second time in 60 days.


The stand-down order, issued July 17, affects all 18 C-5s stationed at Dover — 12 of them are primary and six are backup aircraft, according to a release.

The Air Force has 56 C-5s in service.

“Aircrew safety is always my top priority and is taken very seriously,” Air Mobility Command’s chief, Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, said in a release. “We are taking the appropriate measures to properly diagnose the issue and implement a solution.”

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker

An Air Mobility Command spokesman told Military.com that both malfunctions involved C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft. On May 22 and again July 15, the planes’ “nose landing gear could not extend all the way,” the spokesman said. The C-5M was introduced in 2009 and is the latest model of the C-5.

Air Force personnel will perform inspections “to ensure proper extension and retraction of the C-5 nose landing gear,” Air Mobility Command said. The halt applies only to C-5s at Dover, and Air Mobility Command said it would work to minimize the effect on worldwide operations.

Also read: Behold, the largest plane in the US Air Force

The C-5 is the Air Force’s largest airlifter. It has a 65-foot-tall tail and is 247 feet long with a 223-foot wingspan. The first version, the C-5A, entered service in 1970, and several models have joined the fleet since then.

The C-5M was given more powerful engines, allowing it to carry more cargo and take off over a shorter distance. It can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, its range is more than 8,000 miles.

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal
USAF Airmen load an M1A1 Abrams Tank into an Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo aircraft. (USAF photo by Roland Balik)

In recent years, budgets cuts and sequestration compelled Air Force leadership to begin taking C-5Ms out of service.

Everhart, the Air Mobility Command chief, said in March that total C-5 inventory had fallen to 56 from 112 a few years ago.

But the Air Force has made moves to reverse that deactivation, saying it plans to move at least eight mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, over the next four years.

That return to service would partially overlap with an upgrade project for the active fleet of airlifters that is slated to wrap up in 2018.

“I need them back because there’s real-world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Warrior Rising helps vetrepreneurs build sustainable businesses

Almost every military career ends with the service member making a decision: find a job or start a business. For those in the National Guard or reserves, this choice parallels time in uniform.

Veterans who choose the path of entrepreneurship have an added resource to lean on. Jason Van Camp founded Warrior Rising — a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their immediate family members start their own businesses.


“When you were getting out of the military you had a question, and that question was ‘now what? What am I going to do with myself?'” Van Camp said. “You probably thought to yourself ‘you know I could just sit back and collect my retirement or I could get a job or I could start a business.”

Starting a business after leaving the military is a journey Van Camp knows well. The former green beret left the Army after a seizure disorder forced him to medically retire. He founded Mission 6 Zero, a leadership development firm with high-profile clients including the NFL and Major League Baseball.

Warrior Rising was launched to help other veterans make the transition to business ownership. The resources provided by the organization are free to veterans and their immediate family members. It is funded by donations with 82.4% of every dollar going to veterans. The rest, Van Camp said, goes to overhead. He added that initially, 100% of donations went to veterans, but the company grew too large and he had to hire paid staff to keep up with demand.

In the five years since its founding, Warrior Rising has grown exponentially. In 2015 the company helped six veterans establish businesses. Last year the number was 1,016. This year, Van Camp said, Warrior Rising on pace to help 1,500 veterans start new businesses with about 40 signing up every two weeks.

Despite frequently saying during an online interview that “business is hard,” Van Camp said Warrior Rising already has some success stories.

Firebrand Flag Company, for example, recently sold out on a limited run of fireproof American flags.

“They’re ramping up business right now and I have no doubt this is going to be a multi-million-dollar company,” Van Camp said.

People interested in using Warrior Rising’s free services should first go to the organization’s website to sign up. Van Camp said an intake specialist will call the applicant within 48 hours.

“So, you have an intimate one-on-one conversation with someone about your business idea, what you’re trying to accomplish, why you’re trying to do it. Is it a good idea? Do you have the money for this? Does your spouse support you?” Van Camp said. “Questions about the actual journey you’re about to embark on.”

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

From there, applicants are sent to Warrior Rising’s education platform, Warrior Academy – online training that translates a military operations order into a business model. Van Camp said the training is designed to be difficult to prepare would-be entrepreneurs for the realities of owning a business.

“You can’t start out with 0,000 salary. That’s not how it works in business,” he said. “You’re going to have to grind and go without pay and suffer for a while before you start seeing revenue — before you start seeing everything start to pay off and you see a return on investment.”

After the training is complete, applicants are paired with mentors who are successful in the industry the veteran hopes to succeed in. Van Camp said the mentors are usually, but not always veterans.

Eventually, after the veteran has met all of the requirements, they can ask Warrior Rising for financial assistance and the organization will assist them in finding investors, loans or grants.

But that’s not the end of a veteran entrepreneur’s journey with Warrior Rising.

“What I realized is it wasn’t just about starting a business and finding your purpose through business ownership, it was also about creating a community and joining a community and joining a tribe of people that can support you and you can feel comfortable with like you’re part of the family with,” Van Camp said. “We have platoons all over the country.”

In the past, the organization hosted numerous in-person events, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced Warrior Rising to turn to online venues for events.

Van Camp described coronavirus as a game changer in many ways for those hoping to start businesses. First, he said, more people are applying for Warrior Rising’s assistance.

“It’s been even more prevalent because of COVID,” he said. “Because people are at home looking for that next step because they ask the question ‘now what’ and they come to Warrior Rising for help.”

He said the pandemic will continue to affect the business world for the foreseeable future. He said trucking and logistics, online services and recreational vehicle sales businesses are doing well. His outlook is equally optimistic for credit card processing companies, home security and solar sales.

The outlook is less rosy for commercial real estate.

“Clients of mine that have office space, they’re realizing right now that they don’t need office space. They can work from home,” Van Camp said. “They’re putting as much product out the door as they did before. Private equity firms, venture capitalist firms, the companies that basically control their finances are going to say ‘listen, anything that doesn’t affect the bottom line, get rid of’. They’re going say ‘we don’t need office space. We don’t need to pay rent.’ Coronavirus is going to change the game.”

Van Camp said it’s hard to predict what kind of businesses will be successful. The deciding factor usually has more to do with the would-be entrepreneur than the business itself. Even those with ideas others think are bad might succeed if they’re tenacious and adaptable, he added.

“We try to make it difficult for them and if they continue to try to move forward and if they say ‘I don’t care what you think. I don’t care if you laugh at me, I’m doing this no matter what’, those are the guys that succeed,” Van Camp said. “We try to make sure they understand all the risks. We try to help them understand there’s no guarantees and they’re probably going to fail. We give them all the stats. For some people it scares them off. That’s a good thing because they would have been scared off during their business endeavor anyway. I’ve seen some things that I thought ‘well that’s a dumb idea.’ Because they didn’t quit, they proved me wrong.”

Veterans interested in starting a business can find resources on the Warrior Rising website at https://www.warriorrising.org.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the crews who make sure fellow Marines can fight from ship to shore

It is a tough job and not everyone is lining up to work at their pace.

Combat cargo Marines have one of the most demanding jobs aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). This is especially evident during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX).

Combat cargo’s mission is to support the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (MEU) logistical requirements across the three classes of ships featured in MEU operations.

“We are in charge of anything and everything that comes on and off the Bataan,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Novakoski, combat cargoman with the 26th MEU.


This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit move and secure cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan during Composite Training Unit Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 9, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims)

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit move and secure cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan during Composite Training Unit Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 9, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims)

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit move and secure cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan during Composite Training Unit Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 9, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims)

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit move and secure cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan during Composite Training Unit Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 9, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims)

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit move and secure cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan during Composite Training Unit Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 9, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tanner Seims)

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

Combat Cargo Marines with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group wait for a Landing Craft, Air Cushion to give the signal it is safe to board to prepare for training operations during an exercise aboard the San Antonio-Class amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, off the coast of North Carolina, Aug. 26, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Patricia A. Morris)

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

US Navy Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class James Thomas, with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, signals a Landing Craft, Air Cushion while US Marines and sailors wait to retrieve cargo to prepare for training operations during an exercise aboard the San Antonio-Class amphibious transport dock ship USS New York off the coast of North Carolina, on Aug. 26, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Patricia A. Morris)

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

Combat Cargo Marines with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group finish off-loading a Landing Craft, Air Cushion during an exercise aboard the San Antonio-Class amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, off the coast of Virginia, Aug. 23, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Patricia A. Morris)

“Combat cargo is a vital part of daily ship life,” said Novakoski. “If we didn’t have Marines to work the long hours in combat cargo, ship supplies would struggle and missions wouldn’t be completed.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

The Army’s top leadership is pretty worried about how quickly the North Korean threat is growing

US General Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, says North Korean missile technology may be advancing faster than expected.


Milley spoke July 27 at the National Press Club in Washington, as North Koreans concluded a day of remembrance to mark the anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

Milley told his audience, “North Korea is extremely dangerous, and more dangerous as the weeks go by.”

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal
General Mark Milley. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marisol Walker.

‘Never seen before’

Earlier this month, Pyongyang announced it had completed its first successful test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, one expert said could travel far enough to reach the westernmost US states of Alaska or Hawaii.

The launch took US defense experts by surprise. Pentagon officials said it was something they had “never seen before.”

There was speculation that North Korea might use the July 27 anniversary to test-launch a new missile, but late in the day, those fears appeared to have been unfounded.

Earlier July 27, North Koreans gathered at the mausoleum of North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il to commemorate the day in 1953 when China, North Korea, and the US-backed United Nations signed an agreement to end the struggle over the Korean peninsula.

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal
Statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Wikimedia Commons photo by José Fernandes Jr.

Peace treaty never signed

The conflict began in 1950 when the Soviet-ruled North invaded the democratically ruled South.

In the North Korean version of the story, the conflict is known as the Fatherland Liberation War. North Korea blames the United States for starting the war that devastated the Korean peninsula and saw the South Korean capital, Seoul, change hands four times.

Because a peace treaty was never signed, the two nations are technically still at war. Pyongyang uses that fact to justify its concentration on military readiness.

Hong Yong-Dok brought his granddaughters to the Kim mausoleum to pay their respects July 27. He told a French news agency, “Our country is ever-victorious because we have the greatest leaders in the world.”

Humor

This video answers the question of the casualty radius of Mattis’ knife hand

General James “Mad Dog” Mattis is known for many things, including outstanding leadership, delivering motivational quotes and demonstrating perfectly executed knife hands.


Mattis entered in the Marine Corps in 1969 and attended Central Washington University as part of the ROTC program.

Working his way up the ranks, Mattis oversaw a Marine recruiting station in Portland, led the historic 1st Marine Division into Iraq in 2003, held the position of commander of the United States Central Command since 2010, and served under the Trump administration as the 26th Secretary of Defense until 2019.

Having served nearly his entire 41-year military journey in a position of leadership, he’s had to answer all sorts of tough questions.

Check out the Marine Corps‘ video as the legend himself answers the most important question of his career. What’s the kill radius of his knife-hand?

(United States Marine Corps, YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is Iran’s ace-in-the-hole in war with U.S. Navy

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal signed with Iran and five other countries in 2015, Tehran has responded with one of its most frequent threats: closing the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel in the Persian Gulf through which roughly 30% of world’s oil flows.

“If Iran’s oil exports are to be prevented, we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz,” a Revolutionary Guards commander said in July 2018.


Coastal defenses and naval vessels would have a big role in that effort, but it would most likely revolve around one of Iran’s favorite military assets: sea mines, a vicious weapon that presents an acute challenge for a US Navy that is shifting between old and new mine-countermeasure systems.

Iran has laid mines at sea in past conflicts, and even these much less sophisticated weapons have disabled and nearly sunk US Navy warships.

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter transits the Strait of Hormuz in May 2012.

(Photo by Alex R. Forster)

An asymmetric threat

“As far back as the early 1980s, Iran was mining waters in the Gulf to prevent oil tankers from coming in or out of ports in the Arab part of the Gulf — Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc. — and it has extensive experience in trying to also menace warships,” said Scott Savitz, a senior engineer at the Rand Corporation.

Sea mines remain “a big part of the Iranian approach,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The sea mines Iran used at that time were relatively unsophisticated — the mine that almost sank the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts in 1988 was a World War I-era device — but mines it can deploy now are more advanced and more dangerous, with some warheads weighing nearly 2,500 pounds.

As of 2012, Iran was believed to have grown its supply of sea mines from about 1,500 during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s to more than 6,000, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

That stockpile is not as vast as those of North Korea, China, or Russia, which also rely on anti-access or area-denial approaches to limit movement in contested areas, but it includes an array of mines, such as cheap, conventional ones and more advanced “smart mines,” which may be able to track multiple targets, discern different types of ships, and avoid detection by lurking on or near the seafloor.

Advanced mines can be triggered by sound, pressure, or magnetic influence. But even conventional ones that require contact to detonate are a threat to US warships and other commercial vessels. Iran also has an array of ships to lay them — some can even be deployed through submarine torpedo tubes.

Iran’s naval forces are no match for the US Navy, but sea mines are asymmetric weapons that a weaker side can use to foil a stronger opponent — even one with the world’s strongest navy. They can be deployed to deny access or freedom of movement and can be used to escalate tensions more incrementally than would a cruise-missile attack on an enemy warship.

“The Iranians see [mines] as a good tool for them to be able to threaten to close the strait and do it in a way that they can threaten it and you don’t know that the mines are really there,” Clark said, “and then if they do have some mines out there, the damage they’re going to inflict is going to be more in terms of preventing people from freely going back and forth rather than having to kill a lot of people to make a point.”

“You can threaten the use of mines and actually not have any out there,” Clark added. “However, a very small number of mines … in a place where someone’s likely to run into one, and then that damages a ship, and then you can say that you’ve got a much larger field, even though you may not.”

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

The USS Avenger off the coast of Hawaii during the Rim of the Pacific exercise in 2004.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Speed and scope

The US has previously said attempts to deploy mines would draw a military response, but the Navy also has means to counter mines.

The service keeps several of its 14 Avenger-class ships stationed in Bahrain all year.

The ships are designed for anti-mine warfare, using sonar and video systems, cable cutters, and a mine-detonating device to neutralize mines. Their hulls are made of wood covered with fiberglass for lower magnetic resonance. The engines are also designed to lower the ships’ magnetic and acoustic signatures. This is exceedingly dangerous work for these ships and their explosive ordnance disposal teams, which involves getting close to lurking mines to find and neutralize them.

The Avenger-class ships based in Bahrain are “immensely capable” and have multiple capabilities for and approaches to mine warfare, Rand’s Savitz said. They are lightly armed, however, and would require escorts.

But the Avenger class is aging, and the problem for the US Navy is that the mine threat looms as it struggles to move from those ships and the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters that often accompany them to a newer platform that uses unmanned systems deployed aboard littoral combat ships.”

The US is in this transition from a more traditional minesweeping approach, where a minesweeper goes out and either drags minesweeping equipment behind it that physically entangles the mines or sets them off by magnetic influence,” Clark said.

“Now they’re transitioning to the use of unmanned vehicles to do a lot of this,” he added. “So they’ll have an unmanned ship drive out … sweep gear behind it to pick up mines, and they’ll have unmanned vehicles go around and hunt for mines that might be on the seafloor” or otherwise submerged.

Littoral combat ships are already in service, and there’s been recent progress with LCS-based mine countermeasures, such as the Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle and the helicopter-mounted Airborne Laser Mine Detection System. That progress, amid struggles with littoral combat ships, may mean these systems end up being deployed aboard other ships, Clark noted.

But other cost overruns, delays, and malfunctions — like the cancellation of the Remote Minehunting System after nearly a billion dollars and almost two decades of work — have hindered the mine-countermeasure program.

Mine-countermeasure systems in general “don’t get as much attention as they need,” Clark said. “It’s not a sexy part of the Navy.” Older systems, he said, “could’ve been replaced a long time ago, or at least improved before this became an issue.”

The shift between older platforms and newer systems with limited capabilities is “a huge liability” for the Navy, Clark said.

“They’re in the middle of this transition, so they don’t have these unmanned systems really completely tested out and fully fielded, and so there’s still a lot of the traditional sweep gear and traditional approaches,” he said.

The Sea Dragon, which is the Navy’s oldest helicopter in service, was supposed to retire in 2005. But the service has yet to find a replacement for the heavy-lift helicopter, which can haul a variety of minesweeping gear and deploy anywhere in the world within 72 hours. The Avengers, introduced in the early 1990s, have also had their service lives extended, requiring upgrades.

Those ships and helicopters remain capable, but they aren’t “scalable,” meaning they “can’t ramp it up when there’s a minefield,” Clark said. Those systems aren’t necessarily a problem because they’re old, he added, they’re “just limited in speed and scope.”

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

The Remote Minehunting System and an AN/AQS-20 mine-hunting sonar being brought aboard the littoral combat ship USS Independence during testing of the mine-warfare mission module package in 2012.

Timelines and risks

The issues facing US mine-countermeasure systems do not mean Iran has a clear advantage, however.

“While the Persian Gulf is not wide, it’s big enough that Iran would have to cover a swath in order to prevent ships from going through it without encountering mines,” Savitz said. “So it would be challenging for them.”

Moreover, because it lacks refining capacity, Iran needs to be able to ship oil and refined products in and out.

“It would be cutting its own throat if it tried to shut down all traffic in the Gulf,” Savitz said. “If it leaves open a significant pathway, then others can potentially use it too.”

If Iranian ships start behaving in ways that indicate they’re laying mines, “that can be interdicted,” Savitz added. And the US would watch closely for any effort to reseed minefields that had been cleared.

“That’s the best mine-countermeasure solution of all, is to catch the adversary laying the mines or to detect roughly where the mines are laid,” to focus mine-countermeasure efforts, Savitz said.

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

A naval aircrewman preparing a Q-24 sonar side-looking vehicle to be lowered into the Persian Gulf from an MH-53E Sea Dragon during mine-countermeasure training on May 18, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Joshua Bryce Bruns)

But the scalability issue would loom over any effort to track down and clear mines from the area.

“Mine countermeasures is also typically a slow area of warfare that requires intense attention to detail, so it also entails thinking about trade-offs between timelines and risk,” Savitz said. “How quickly a water space can be opened up after … mine countermeasures have begun depends on what level of risk is acceptable.”

Former Adm. James Stavridis, who was the supreme allied commander in Europe before retiring in 2013, told CNBC in July 2018 that, should Iran try to use its military to close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and its partners “would be able to open it in a matter of days.”

That time frame is not so certain. It depends on how large the Navy and its partners believe the affected minefield to be.

“If it’s the whole Strait of Hormuz, the Navy says that could take weeks,” Clark said. While many modern tankers have features like double hulls that could mitigate some mine risks, closing or restricting access to the Gulf would upend the global economy.

Stavridis may have meant the US and its partners could clear a “very narrow channel” through a minefield during that period, Clark added, but that would slow down traffic, and each ship would need an escort. There would be “much less access than was previously available,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO addresses Russian ‘military build-up,’ situation In Afghanistan

NATO foreign ministers concluded a two-day meeting on December 2 that paves the path for reforms within the transatlantic alliance as it faces twin challenges from Russia and China, as well as key decisions about the situation Afghanistan.

The meeting, held via videolink as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, discussed how the alliance must adapt to new threats, including “persistently aggressive Russia” and “the rise of China.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on December 1 told reporters that the ministers discussed the Russian “military build-up” around the alliance and the mission in Afghanistan.

The Western military alliance “will have to take some hard decisions” about the mission when NATO defense ministers meet in February, he said.

A 67-page expert group report outlining suggestions about how to reboot the alliance noted that while NATO faced one big threat during the Cold War, it now faces two “systemic rivals” — Russia and China — along with “the enduring threat of terrorism.”

Speaking to reporters, Stoltenberg said the ministers discussed “Russia’s continued military build-up in our neighborhood, as well as arms control.”

He said NATO is adapting its deterrence posture “to address Russia’s destabilizing actions,” but the ministers agree that they must continue to pursue dialogue with Russia.

They also expressed support for preserving limitations of nuclear weapons and for developing a more comprehensive arms control regime, and welcomed talks between Russia and the United States ahead of the expiration of their bilateral New START treaty in February.

“We should not find ourselves in a situation where there is no agreement regulating the number of nuclear warheads,” he said.

The ministerial also included a meeting with the foreign ministers of Georgia and Ukraine on security in the Black Sea region and NATO’s continued support to both partners.

Foreign ministers also discussed developments in Belarus following nearly four months of pro-democracy protests and the situation in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the wake of a Russian-brokered peace deal that ended 44 days of fierce fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces.

On Afghanistan, Stoltenberg said NATO supports the peace process while remaining committed to the mission to help fight terrorism.

But he added: “As we continue to assess the situation in Afghanistan, it is clear that we will face a turning point early next year.”

The security alliance risks an even longer-term engagement if the NATO mission stays in Afghanistan, and if it leaves there is a risk that it will become a safe haven for international terrorists again, Stoltenberg said.

“So, there is a price for staying longer, but there is also a price for leaving too soon,” he said.

NATO now has about 11,000 troops from dozens of countries stationed in Afghanistan. Their mandate is to help train and advise Afghanistan’s security forces.

But the presence of U.S. forces, which NATO relies on for air support, transport, and logistics, is scheduled to shrink by 2,000 troops to 2,500 by January 15.

Under a peace deal reached between the United States and the Taliban, all foreign troops should leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 if security conditions on the ground permit.

The policy report also suggested the Western military alliance find a way to stop individual countries vetoing policy decisions, as Hungary has done over plans for a deeper partnership with non-NATO member Ukraine.

Other recommendations included creating a consultative body to coordinate broader, Western policy toward China, holding summits with European Union leaders, and giving the secretary-general more power over personnel and budgets.

“NATO needs a strong political dimension to match its military adaptation,” according to the report, whose suggestions are not binding.

The document is to be presented to NATO leaders at a summit planned for next year. They could be included in an update to NATO’s Strategic Concept document, which dates from 2010 and sought to consider Russia as a partner.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Together We Served provides virtual base for connecting Veterans

These unprecedented times are contributing to a higher level of anxiety, particularly among our Veteran population. The constant flow of often discouraging news, along with a reduced ability to mingle with others to keep spirits up, makes it difficult for some to maintain their morale. TogetherWeServed, a military heritage community website and home to over 1.9 million U.S. Military Veterans, wants to help.


A secure virtual base for Veterans

During a Veteran’s military service, their base, ship or shore station is place to call home – a safe haven to share in the company of some of the finest men and women with a mission in common. Together We Served (TWS) aims to replicate that same spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood in its own “Virtual Base” website.

With its membership containing only active serving and Veterans, TWS provides a secure platform for all Veterans to engage with other Veterans on a level that is simply not possible in most social networking environments.

Together We Served’s forums encourage informal discussion, reminiscent of barrack-room banter on a wide range of interests – from local community discussion, uplifting military humor and interesting hobbies, to lively debate on current political issues.

With a number of members suffering from combat-related and other health issues, TWS’s Support Forums provide a safe environment where Veterans can discuss the situations they face each day.

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal

Create your own military service page on the Together We Served site.

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Find your battle buddies today

The joy of locating a long-lost buddy cannot be underestimated and TWS has proven to be an accomplished Veteran locator. You can easily find other Veterans you served with, without having to enter names, by way of TWS’s ability to automatically match the service information you enter on your Military Service Page with the service information on the pages of all other TWS members. The list of matching members is particularly useful as names are often forgotten.

Honoring Service

More free time can provide an additional opportunity. TWS’s Military Service Page is designed to honor the military service of each and every Veteran. Each Veteran’s Page displays: their photo in uniform, rank insignia, medals and awards (displayed exactly as worn), all badges and unit patches; and names, dates and locations of their boot camp, training schools, unit assignments, as well as any combat or non-combat operations participated in. Unlimited photographs from military service can be scanned and added to the TWS Photo Album. A step by step self-interview called “Service Reflections” captures the memories of key people and events that made an important impact on a Veterans life. The result is a rich, visual presentation of a Veteran’s entire military service which, once shared, becomes a lasting legacy for their children and grandchildren.

In support of the Veteran community at this difficult time, Veterans are invited to join Together We Served, via the link below, to receive a FREE 12-months Premium Membership.

Join Together We Served.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

‘Noose around the neck of ISIS’ as carrier airstrikes move south

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, Persian Gulf — The hiss and scream of F/A-18 Super Hornets launching from the flight deck is business as usual on this city at sea, where sorties on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria have been launched a dozen or more times a day since early February.


When aircraft loaded with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and 1,000-pound bombs aren’t being catapulted into flight, training and qualification flights commence.

Constant through the action is a sort of deck ballet of positioning, as the 74 aircraft based on the ship are guided onto elevators for maintenance and storage, or moved to make room for the daily C-2 Greyhound delivery of people and Amazon packages.

The routine of life aboard the carrier is perhaps the most conventional element of the unconventional war against ISIS.

American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, mostly special operations and advisory elements, operate in relative secrecy, with few opportunities for journalists to observe them up close.

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

On the carrier, by contrast, public affairs officers host three or four media visits per month, boarding them in comparatively luxurious “distinguished visitor” berthing, complete with monogrammed bathrobes, and offering them interviews with pilots and unit commanding officers.

Aboard the carrier, multiple sailors said they are on their second deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve — the coalition anti-ISIS fight — and compared the consistency of operations today favorably to the frenetic nature of the campaign when it first began in 2014.

With OIR about to enter its third year next month, the commander of the Bush carrier strike group said he is seeing progress in the fight.

Related: Iran tests advanced torpedo in Strait of Hormuz

While many strikes continue to target enemy positions in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, where assaults on ISIS’s urban strongholds continue, the carrier’s fighter pilots are seeing more missions to the south, along the Euphrates River Valley. The strikes follow the path of retreating ISIS leaders, Rear Adm. Ken Whitesell said.

“Their vision of a geographic caliphate is coming to an end,” Whitesell told Military.com. “As they move and that unblinking eye stays on top of them, they will be targeted as they move down the valley.”

The number of fighter sorties launched from the carrier daily ranges from 12 to more than 20, plus several EA-18G Growler electronic warfare sorties, said Capt. Will Pennington, commanding officer of the Bush.

Pilots fly punishing eight-hour missions one to three times a week, in addition to daily training and currency flights. But the mission tempo has stayed largely steady since the carrier deployed, and the air wing has yet to be pushed to its limits, he said.

“We’re not surging to make this happen; this is a comfortable pace. We could up it and still get comfortable,” Pennington said.

The fight is proceeding carefully and deliberately from the air in large part because of the complexity of the urban ground battle. In Iraq, where a little more than half of the air wing’s sorties are tasked, the strike mission was simpler before coalition forces arrived in Mosul, he said.

“There were more targets and less complicated aerials,” Pennington said. “Now that the effort is moving forward and being successful … that operation, both from the ground and the air, needs to be carried out with much more prudence, given civilian entanglement.”

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo Greene III

In both Mosul and Raqqa, the ground fights have been slow-moving. Coalition troops began their first assault on Mosul in October, and began a campaign to retake Raqqa the following month. Whitesell pointed optimistically to the words of Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Othman Al-Ghanmi, who predicted earlier this month that the fall of ISIS in Mosul would be complete in just three weeks.

It’s not the first time a top official has predicted victory close at hand. But the changing nature of strike targets also gives Whitesell reason to believe the end is near.

In addition to targets including enemy personnel, vehicles and improvised explosive devices, Whitesell said pilots are being tasked with destroying a key source of the militant group’s economic survival: oil wells.

While previously aircraft would target vehicles used to transport the oil, most of those are gone, thanks to the air mission, he said. “Now we get it before it comes out of the ground.”

Whitesell contrasts today’s operational picture to that of 2014, when the Bush became the first aircraft carrier to launch airstrikes on ISIS.

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

“ISIS had made the push out of Syria and Raqqa, way down, so they had incredible geography. So this carrier was the first striking on the Iraqi assets to stop ISIS at the gates of Baghdad and start moving them back,” he said. “Fast-forward three years to where we are. We’ve got, essentially, a noose tied around the neck of ISIS.”

On a given day, a pilot might be tasked with engaging a specific target over Iraq or Syria, or with flying to a region and remaining “on call,” to be assigned a future target, sometimes with scant notice, by a controller on the ground.

Also read: Here’s how the F-16 Falcon could replace the F-15 Eagle

While pilots’ assignments can change at any time during the mission, they generally know the day’s mission set by the time they’re walking to their aircraft on the flight deck, said Lt. Cmdr. “Butters” Welles, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 37, the “Ragin’ Bulls.” The squadron flies the F/A-18C Hornet.

Multiple pilots who spoke with Military.com asked that their full first and last names not be used, a subtle acknowledgment of online threats ISIS militants have made on various occasions against U.S. troops and their families.

Welles, who is on his fourth combat deployment, said he still feels the power of the moment when dropping ordnance on a ground target.

This Junior Coastie accidentally bought dinner for the Premier of Greenland — and earned a medal
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

It’s a sense similar to other high-stress moments, whether it’s landing on the ship at night or doing something that requires intense attention,” he said. “There’s a sense of time compression, where everything sort of slows down, but you feel like it’s still moving very quickly … it’s definitely a very intense moment.”

At that point, a pilot’s day is far from done. Still ahead are a series of tanker refueling operations, a flight back to the ship, and hours of debriefs. The workday of a pilot with a strike mission can easily stretch to 12 hours or more, the work continuing long after exiting the cockpit.

But after a day in the fight, they return to the ship, where four meals are served daily, gyms and movie channels are available for free time, and routine keeps chaos at bay.

And pilots are well aware of the contrast between the reality of the island-like carrier and that of coalition troops in the gritty, drawn-out ground battles.

“It’s a very different perspective and involvement for us to be up and somewhat detached from what’s going on down on the ground,” Welles said. “So I would say it’s a sense of pride, knowing that we contributed in some way to a very difficult effort on the ground. Because once we’re complete, and we either leave to airborne refuel, or need to go home, then the people we’re talking with are still there in the fight.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban constitution offers glimpse into militant group’s vision for Afghanistan

When most of Afghanistan was under Taliban rule in the late 1990s, the fundamentalist regime drafted a new constitution.

The document was never officially ratified, and it was unclear how much of it was ever implemented before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the extremist Islamic group from power.


But the constitution offers a glimpse into what kind of government the militant organization envisages as it prepares to negotiate a future power-sharing arrangement with the current Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani.

A political settlement made by the disparate Afghan sides is a key component of the peace deal signed by the United States and the Taliban on February 29 that is aimed at ending the 18-year war.

Under the deal, foreign forces will leave Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has agreed to launch direct negotiations with Afghan officials for a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing formula to rule the country.

Since 2001, the Taliban insurgency has vowed to drive out foreign forces and overthrow the Western-backed government in Kabul. But even as it seemingly pursues peace, it been vague about what kind of postwar government it envisions in Afghanistan.

Radical Islamic Seminaries

The Taliban emerged in 1994 following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first surfaced in ultraconservative Islamic seminaries in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees.

The seminaries radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought against the occupying Soviet forces.

The Taliban appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul alone.

The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce their ultraconservative brand of Islam. They captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.

In 1998, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar assembled some 500 Islamic scholars from across the country to draft a new constitution for the country.

After three days of deliberations, the scholars drafted a 14-page document — the first and only attempt by the Taliban to codify its views on power and governance.

‘Intensely Religious Roots’

In the document, power was centralized in the hands of an “Amir ul-Momineen,” or leader of the faithful. This supreme leader was the head of state and had ultimate authority. This was Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s spiritual leader and founder.

The constitution did not describe how such a leader would be selected or for how long he could serve. But it said the supreme leader must be male and a Sunni Muslim.

An Islamic council, handpicked by the supreme leader, would serve as the legislature and implement laws and policy. The government, headed by the head of the council of ministers — a quasi-prime ministerial position — would report to the Islamic council.

Under the constitution, Sunni Islam was to be the official state religion, even though some 15 percent of the population are Shi’ite Muslims.

The document stated that no law could be contrary to Islamic Shari’a law.

The constitution granted freedom of expression, women’s education, and the right of a fair trial, but all within the limits of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Shari’a law.

It is unclear how the document shaped the Taliban’s draconian laws and brutal policies during its Islamic Emirate, the official name of the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001.

The Taliban banned TV and music, forced men to pray and grow beards, forced women to cover themselves from head to toe, and prevented women and girls from working or going to school. The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engaged in adultery. Executions were common.

Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group, said the draft constitution reflects the “Taliban’s intensely religious roots” and reveals the importance placed on a “centralized authority” for a group that was “founded on a mission of restoring order to the country.”

The document was littered with contradictions and was never ratified. It was republished in 2005, a year after Afghanistan adopted a new constitution. But the document has disappeared from Taliban discourse in recent years.

“That may have been due to internal debate over certain articles, or just reflective of the group’s inclination to remain flexible in its policies, in part perhaps to prevent internal divisions over policy differences,” said Watkins.

‘Monopoly On Power’

As an insurgent group, the Taliban has preserved some of its key principles since it was overthrown in 2001.

Power is still centralized in the hands of an all-powerful leader, who oversees a shadow Taliban government in Afghanistan. The Taliban still enforces its strict interpretation of Islam in areas under its control. And it still regards Shari’a as the supreme law.

But analysts say the past two decades have changed how the Taliban views power.

The Taliban overcame a succession crisis after the death of Mullah Omar, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite its 18-year war against foreign and Afghan government forces.

“The group now operates in a strange combination of increasingly centralizing its control over its own membership, while also allowing it to decentralize in other ways,” said Watkins.

The Taliban has claimed recently that it is not the same group that ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.

In a public statement, the Taliban said it does not want to reestablish its Islamic Emirate and has attempted to project a more reconciliatory image.

But the Taliban’s ambiguity on women’s rights, free speech, and elections — key democratic tenets introduced in Afghanistan since 2001 — has raised fears among many Afghans that the extremist group will attempt to restore its severe regime.

The Taliban said in January 2019 that they are not seeking a “monopoly on power” in a future administration in Afghanistan but are looking for ways to coexist with Afghan institutions, in what was seen as the militants’ most conciliatory statement to date.

A month earlier, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said “if peace comes and the Taliban returns, then our return will not be in the same harsh way as it was in 1996.”

The Taliban said in February 2019 that it is committed to granting women their rights and allowing them to work and go to school, but only as long as they do not violate Islam or Afghan values.

But in the same statement, the Taliban also suggested it wants to curtail the fragile freedoms gained by women, prompting a wave of concern from rights campaigners.

Analysts said the Taliban’s great ambiguity on key issues reflects the divisions within the group.

The Taliban’s political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to an accommodation in assuming power under a peace deal.

Meanwhile, hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan are reluctant to budge on their demands for a full restoration of the Islamic Emirate.

“There is a cocktail of views among the Taliban on power and governance,” said Javid Ahmad, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.

“More than anything, Taliban leaders need an intra-Taliban dialogue to settle their conflicting views about a future Afghan state,” Ahmad added.

There are also intense differences among the Afghan political elite.

Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, generally support a centralized state that guarantees their control of the government. But non-Pashtuns, which constitute a majority of the population, believe too much power of the state is left in the hands of one individual, and support decentralization because it would enshrine a more inclusive and equitable distribution of power.

‘Incredibly Difficult’

Direct talks between the Taliban and an Afghan negotiation team over a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement were expected to start on March 10.

But the launch of the negotiations has been delayed due to disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners and the formation of Kabul’s negotiating team.

Even when intra-Afghan negotiations begin, many expect them to be complex and protracted, possibly taking years, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and distributing power.

“It will be incredibly difficult to get the two parties to come up with compromises on every issue of governance,” Ahmad said, although he added that there were also reasons for hope.

Both the Taliban’s political vision and the Afghan political system are modeled on the centralization of power and the supreme role of Islam.

Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution prescribes that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” and sometimes appears at odds with more liberal and democratic elements within it.

Power is in the hands of a heavily centralized government. The president has the right to appoint and fire governors, mayors, police chiefs, district governors, and senators and has a tight grip on the country’s finances and how funds are spent and distributed.

“There is much more common ground in the legal and governance systems of these two than many of their supporters, on either side, care to admit,” said Watkins.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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