With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?
I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.
I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.
We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.
In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.
I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.
I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.
The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).
I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?
Now, Olson will be showing off those moves and more on tour.
“This show is going to solidify the F-35 in its rightful place, just [as] the absolute, cutting-edge stealth fighter jet [that’s] here and it’s ready and so capable,” said Olson, an instructor pilot and commander of the F-35A Heritage Flight Team.
Military.com recently spoke with Olson, with the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, about the upcoming 2019 demonstration season, in which he will be the solo F-35 performer at 17 shows across the U.S. and Canada.
“It’s just a total, absolute rage fest within 15 minutes,” Olson said.
Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot and commander, performs a high-speed pass during a demo practice.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)
The F-35 Lightning II has been part of the Heritage Flight for three seasons and is gearing up for its fourth starting March 2019, officials said. The Heritage Flight Foundation is a contractor with Air Combat Command and performs across the U.S. and overseas, flying old warbirds such as the P-51 Mustang.
But this is the first time the F-35 will have a breakout role in the 30-minute, full-narration air show, with its own 13-minute demo featuring state-of-the-art aerobatics.
“We’re going out there to showcase the jet, [and] we’re doing it fully aerobatic … fully showcasing the maneuvering envelope of the F-35,” Olson said.
That means a minimum of 16 maneuvers, including rolls, loops, high-degree bank turns, and inverting to be fully upside down, among other actions. There will also be two new passes with the older warbirds, including a “fun bottom-up pass where the [audience] can see the bottom of the aircraft as it arcs over the crowd,” he said.
Olson said the show pulls from the strengths and maneuvers of multiple airframes that came before the F-35. For example, the F/A-18 Super Hornet is “very impressive at a slow-speed capability, being able to do things like a square loop” and the F-16 Viper demo “is very fast and agile,” he said. Audiences will be able to see the F-35 do both.
Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, taxis after a demonstration practice.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)
The F-35 “will be able to power out of other maneuvers” more swiftly because of its F135 engine, which propels it with more than 40,000 pounds of thrust, Olson said.
He will perform a pedal turn similar to the F-22, in which the F-35 banks and climbs high, eventually simulating a somersault-like move. But Olson will not use thrust vectoring or manipulate the direction of the engine’s to control altitude or velocity.
“This is really just a testament to the design and the flight control logic that’s built into the jet. And all these maneuvers are repeatable under all conditions … no matter what kind of temperature, or elevation, all these maneuvers are safe,” Olson said.
“For the first three seasons, we wanted the public to see the F-35, but it wasn’t fully ready,” Olson said, meaning that not every jet used for demonstrations was configured to the latest Block 3F software. “The F-35 program involved concurrent production and test. … There was a little extra amount of testing still left to do … and software and hardware modifications.”
That restricted pilots to a maximum of 7 G-forces, but now Olson can pull a full 9Gs if he wishes.
Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, flies inverted during a demonstration practice.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)
And he has: During the RIAT show in July 2018, Olson climbed to a full 9G configuration because that specific jet was fully capable. But he said he still wasn’t performing the high-banking maneuvers he now can for the upcoming season.
Olson and a small team at Luke have been working on the first-of-its-kind show since December 2018. They traveled to manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 simulator facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, to develop the show alongside Billie Flynn, Lockheed’s experimental test pilot.
The demo moves also simulate how the F-35 will perform in combat, Olson said.
“Through our narration, we attempt to succeed in connecting the maneuver at the air show to its real world, tactical application,” he said, adding that he flies the F-35 like he’s in a combat configuration but he won’t be carrying an ordnance load.
Still, “you are seeing the jet and how it would perform in actual combat,” he said.
As additional jets came to Luke for pilot training, it gave the demo team breathing room to practice because they weren’t taking planes away from the primary training mission, Olson said.
Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, practices the F-35 demonstration.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)
“As far as flying operations go at Luke, [we now have enough] jets to support a demo team,” said Olson, who was previously an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot.
The show routine has been flown more than 40 times. Each time, he and other pilots, maintainers, avionics specialists and others involved in the show watch the tape from the cockpit and another recorded from the ground to see what can be perfected.
“We grade ourselves down to the foot, and down to the knot of airspeed,” Olson said. “When you travel at 1,000 feet per second, that’s a tight tolerance. But that’s the precision in which we designed this thing.”
He added, “No one has seen the F-35s perform this way and I … think it really sets the bar for what a demo [show] can be.”
Olson says he doesn’t see additional F-35 jets being added to the demo, though maneuvers may be tweaked or added in future seasons.
“That work is never finished,” he said. “Connecting the U.S. military, the U.S. Air Force with the American public is the goal. And the F-35 demonstration is the conduit for which we forge that connection.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
This is it, part 3. There’s some weird stuff on this list, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking something or you may miss out on that “1 weird trick” to more gains than you ever thought possible. I’m only partially joking, I give a very clear recommendation to help boost your own endogenously produced free testosterone…check it out below.
If your workout is typically less than an hour you literally don’t need this supplement.
(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Wright)
Intra-workout (AKA something you need to take while training)
I’ll sum it up for you one more time just to really beat this horse harder (I hate horses after all).
If your workout is less than 90 minutes, it’s probably completely unnecessary.
If your workout is 90 minutes or longer a simple beverage of ~40 grams of fast carbs, like Gatorade, ~15 grams of protein, and electrolytes (AKA salt and potassium) like those provided in a Gatorade every hour at and after the 90-minute mark should satisfy your need.
Maybe there’s an intra-workout that satisfies that need more simply than some fruity flavored protein powder and a Gatorade. I’m not sure, I haven’t looked that deeply into it recently. If you have one that you like, tell me in an email at email@example.com, and I’ll include it in a future article on the best intra-workout supplements.
The one that seems to be purchased the most on bodybuilding.com contains no carbs and costs nearly dollars. That’s a bullshit product that completely misses the point/purpose of an intra-workout.
How to Increase Testosterone Naturally | Science Explained
This is a good time to talk about blends, proprietary recipes, and trademarked ingredients. If the supplement you are considering has any of these in them, DO NOT buy that supplement. These terms are just clever marketing and, more often than not are an excuse to hide the fact that the supplement is completely ineffective.
The specific testosterone support supplement I looked at in my bodybuilding.com search didn’t contain half of the vitamins/minerals that have been shown to have the most efficacy in boosting testosterone. It did have a bunch of unverified nonsense and herbal remedies in it like fenugreek, maca, and boron. I wouldn’t spend any money on this or any similar product for testosterone support.
If you truly have a testosterone deficiency, talk to your doctor about getting a no kidding testosterone cycle to help your medically recognized deficiency.
If you are simply trying to increase your testosterone because you think that’s good then try taking these with a dietary fat containing meal for at least a month to see if things change for you:
zinc (10–30 mg)
magnesium (200–350 mg)
vitamin D3 (50–75 mcg / 2,000–3,000 IU).
Buying those three should be much cheaper per serving than any nonsense that is 15 ingredients mixed together.
Of course you could just get this one from your diet.
Before I even get into Omega-3s ask yourself why you’re taking it. If it’s for joint health, then continue on. If it’s for heart health, stop and have a more in-depth conversation with your doctor. It seems that even though Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on triglycerides and blood pressure they don’t actually seem to prevent cardiac events.
As far as joint health goes, the rule is simple. You want to be supplementing with 3 grams of combined EPA and DHA to get the effect you’re searching for. If the supplement you’re looking at has that serving size and no other nonsense in it, go for it.
Alternatively, you probably don’t need to supplement if you are eating fatty fish like salmon a few times a week. Make the decision for yourself. If you have access to salmon regularly, I don’t know why you’d waste your time taking more pills than you need.
Pssst… Tryin’ to get a pump?
(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky)
WTF is this/why do you need it? Seriously, I want to know. If you take something that is specifically designed to give you a pump, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me why.
The pump stimulator I looked at had two ingredients that seem to be intended to do something:
Glycerol: It’s supposed to help your muscle cells to hold on to more water and therefore increase output. I found one weak paper on the topic. I’m not convinced. It will probably make you feel like you have a bigger pump since it’s allowing more water to be stored in your muscle…the only group I can see caring about this is bodybuilders. But even then, it may inhibit vascularity due to the increased water retention. TLDR: Meh.
A proprietary blend of something containing nitrate and who-knows-what-else. Stay away from trademarked or patented combinations like the plague. They lack evidence and efficacy (translation: it’s someone trying to pull the wool over your eyes.)
If you choose to achieve said calorie surplus using a mass gainer, then go ahead. All a mass gainer typically is just a butt-ton (or is it an ass-load? I always get them confused) of carbohydrates… Guess where else you can get carbohydrates. In just about every delicious food!
If you prefer the mass gainer over all other foods, I guess go ahead, weirdo. In my own personal experience of anyone, I’ve ever seen purchase mass gainer is that it sits on top of the fridge 80% full until it expires. Pretty sure that’s the definition of a waste of money.
Those are the 12 most commonly purchased categories of sports nutrition supplements purchased on bodybuilding.com. Chances are you’ve seen them in your local supplement store/megastore and considered purchasing one or all of them. Hopefully, this guide has shown you where to spend your money and where to save it.
As I mentioned multiple times throughout this article, if you have any questions or alternative opinions on my take on these types of supplements, do not hesitate to email me at email@example.com.
As always, when it comes to nutrition, your number one solution to any dietary need or hack should be to alter your diet of real foods to get adequate quantities and proportions of macro and micronutrients. Only after you have that dialed-in like I very explicitly outline in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide should you bother walking down the supplement aisle.
If you made it this far in the article, you clearly care about your health and fitness. Why then have you not joined the Mighty Fit FB group? If you are in the group, post in there which category of sports supplements that I covered in this article that you are the most disappointed by.
Now that we can thank McDonald’s restaurants for serving breakfast all day, we should take the time to thank fatigue-clad troops for not having to leave our cars to get it.
Despite the Army and Air Force’s current relationship with Burger King, their first love was McDonald’s and Mickey D’s was more than willing to accommodate that love by mediating the one thing which kept our troops from easy access to the Golden Arches.
In 1975, Army regulations near Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona prevented soldiers wearing their olive-drab fatigues to leave their cars.
McDonald’s heard their plight and added its first drive-thru to McDonalds stores in Arizona, then to Oklahoma and Georgia to serve the soldiers in those areas.
The first drive-thru came way earlier, however. In 1931, a Los Angeles franchise called the Pig Stand opened the first restaurant where motorists could roll around and get a bag of food, packaged to take home. The first burger chain to feature a drive thru was an In-n-Out in Baldwin Park, California in 1948.
In May 1999, that historic location closed forever so that a new McDonald’s restaurant could open next to it. The first McDonald’s drive-thru was torn down and replaced by a parking lot to serve the new McDonald’s.
Burgers, cars, and troops: the triad of American life.
Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley rebuked comments from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that blamed US support for a terror attack on a military parade Sept. 22, 2018, that killed 25 people and wounded 60.
Haley waved off Rouhani’s condemnation of America, and said in the aftermath of the attack, “he needs to look at his own home base.”
“The Iranian people are protesting,” Haley said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sept. 23, 2018. “Every ounce of money that goes into Iran goes to his military. He has oppressed his people for a long time.”
Haley continued: “He can blame us all he wants, but the thing he’s got to do is look in the mirror.”
Rouhani lashed out at America’s support for mercenary countries in the Persian Gulf, saying it helps to “instigate them and provide them with necessary means to commit these crimes.”
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose relevant sanctions crippled the economy and drew ire from leadership, Haley said.
“They don’t like the fact that we’ve called them out,” Haley said. “We have called them out for ballistic missile testing. We’ve called them out for their support of terrorism. We’ve called them out for their arms sales. And they don’t like it.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted immediately after the attack Sept. 23, 2018, to blame regional countries and their “US masters,” calling the gunmen “terrorists recruited, trained armed and paid” by foreign powers, raising tensions in the region amid the unclear future of Tehran’s nuclear deal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to “Fox News Sunday” before Rouhani’s statement, calling Zarif’s comments “an enormous mistake.”
“The loss of innocent life is tragic, and I wish Zarif would focus on keeping his own people secure rather than causing insecurity around the world,” Pompeo said.
Haley said the September 2018 United Nations General Assembly would be a chance for countries to sort out tension, but Trump isn’t planning on a meeting with Iranian leadership, as Rouhani “has to stop all of his bad behavior before the president’s going to think he’s serious about wanting to talk.”
Haley added: “There is no love for Iran here in the United States, and there’s no love for the United States in Iran.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
South Korea is reportedly considering withdrawing some of its military forces and equipment from guard posts on the border with North Korea on a “trial basis,” according to a Yonhap News report published on July 23, 2018.
It’s part of an effort to promote friendlier ties between the two countries, South Korea’s defense ministry outlined a plan to transform the [Demilitarized Zone] into a “peace zone,” the defense ministry said, referring to the buffer between North and South Korea.
“As stated in the Panmunjom Declaration, [the ministry] is seeking a plan to expand the [withdrawal] program in stages after pulling out troops and equipment from the guard posts within the DMZ,” the defense ministry said.
The ministry said it would also plan on designating a de facto maritime boundary as a “peace sea” to allow fishermen from both countries to operate.
The Panmunjom Declaration was the culmination of months-long dialogue between the two countries after a year of fiery threats in 2017. The diplomatic detente was signed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their summit in April 2018, paving the way for a “a new era of peace,” on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Mooon Jae-in.
South Korea has already made some changes on the border that reflect friendlier relations. In spring 2018, it dismantled loudspeakers that blasted news and Korean pop music towards North Korea. The loudspeakers, which were set up in 2016, could be heard for miles inside the North.
However, for many North Korea observers, the declaration’s broad language and the absence of a specific plan tempered expectations of an immediate solution to the nuclear threat North Korea poses. Despite dismantling some key facilities related to its intercontinental ballistic missile program, some experts believe the gesture may not be very meaningful in the aggregate.
Featured image: A South Korean checkpoint at the Civilian Control Line, located outside of the DMZ.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Islamic State group said its fighters have captured Osama bin Laden’s infamous Tora Bora mountain hideout in eastern Afghanistan but the Taliban on June 15th dismissed the claim, saying they were still in control of the cave complex that once housed the former al-Qaeda leader.
Earlier, ISIS released an audio recording, saying its signature black flag was flying over the hulking mountain range. The message was broadcast on the militants’ Radio Khilafat station in the Pashto language on late June 14th.
It also said IS has taken over several districts and urged villagers who fled the fighting to return to their homes and stay indoors.
A Taliban spokesman denied IS was in control, claiming instead that the Taliban had pushed IS back from some territory the rival militants had taken in the area.
The Tora Bora mountains hide a warren of caves in which al-Qaeda militants led by bin Laden hid from US coalition forces in 2001, after the Taliban fled Kabul and before he fled to neighboring Pakistan.
According to testimony from al-Qaeda captives in the US prison at Guantamo Bay, Cuba, bin Laden fled from Tora Bora first to Afghanistan’s northeastern Kunar province, before crossing the border into Pakistan. He was killed in a 2011 raid by US Navy SEALs on his hideout in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
Pakistan complained the raid violated its sovereignty while bin Laden’s presence — barely a few miles from the Pakistani equivalent of America’s West Point military academy — reinforced allegations by those who accused Pakistan of harboring the Talibanand al-Qaeda militants. Pakistan denies such charges, pointing to senior al-Qaeda operatives it has turned over to the United States.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Taliban fighters pushed back the Islamic State group from areas of Tora Bora that IS had earlier captured.
Mujahid claimed that more than 30 IS fighters were killed in battle. He also added that a US airstrike on Taliban positions on June 14th had killed 11 of its fighters and benefited the Islamic State group.
The remoteness of the area makes it impossible to independently verify the contradictory claims.
Afghan officials earlier said that fighting between IS and the Taliban, who had controlled Tora Bora, began on the 13th of June, but couldn’t confirm its capture.
Afghan Defense Ministry’s spokesman Daulat Waziri would not say whether IS was in complete control of Tora Bora. But he said Afghan forces engaged IS militants in the Chapahar district of eastern Nagarhar province, killing five and pushing them out of the area.
The province, which borders Pakistan, is the main foothold of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan. An affiliate of the IS, which is fighting in Syria and Iraq, emerged over the past two years and seized territory, mainly in Nangarhar.
The Afghan forces’ offensive will continue toward Tora Bora, Waziri said, adding that if the Afghans “need air support from NATO, they are ready to help us.”
While the United States estimates there are about 800 IS fighters in Afghanistan, mostly restricted to Nangarhar, other estimates say their ranks also include thousands of battle-hardened Uzbek militants.
Last week, Russia announced it was reinforcing two of its bases in Central Asia, in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with its newest weapons because of fears of a “spill-over of terrorist activities from Afghanistan” by the Afghan IS affiliate.
“The [IS] group’s strategy to establish an Islamic caliphate poses a threat not only to Afghanistan but also to the neighboring countries,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
After 18 years of fighting, the Afghan war is at a deadly stalemate.
Afghanistan is divided among government forces backed by international troops, the Taliban and its militant allies, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and a collection of smaller foreign terrorist groups.
The United States and the Taliban signed a landmark agreement in February aimed at “bringing peace to Afghanistan.” That deal foresees a power-sharing arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the full withdrawal of all foreign troops.
As a Taliban delegation arrived in Kabul for talks on prisoner releases and the Afghan government and the Taliban prepare to launch direct peace talks, most of the country is fiercely contested and ravaged by violence, with warring factions pursuing a “fight-and-talk” strategy.
WATCH: Some 900 Taliban members were freed from Afghanistan’s largest prison outside Kabul as part of a prisoner swap under a cease-fire deal on May 26.
The Afghan government controls the capital, Kabul, provincial capitals, major population centers, and most district centers, according to Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.
Around 30 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts are in government hands, the Taliban commands some 20 percent, and the rest of the country is contested, according to Long War Journal (LWJ), a project run by the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank.
The LWJ’s “living map,” based mostly on media reports, is the only publicly available source that tracks district control in Afghanistan, after Resolute Support stopped assessing territorial control and enemy-initiated attacks over the past two years.
Afghan security forces have been on the defensive since NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, losing much-needed assistance with logistics, air support, and intelligence.
Resolute Support is training, advising, and assisting the 273,000-strong Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Additionally, the Afghan government employs around 20,000 militiamen who are part of the Afghan Local Police.
Meanwhile, a separate U.S. counterterrorism force is combating foreign terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the IS group and also elements of the Taliban. The United States also funds and supports special Afghan paramilitary units.
The Afghan forces have a large numerical advantage: There are an estimated 60,000 full-time Taliban militants and some 90,000 seasonal fighters.
But government forces are suffering from record casualties, high attrition, and low morale. That is widely blamed on a resurgent Taliban, ineffective leadership in the armed forces, and chronic corruption.
President Ashraf Ghani said in January 2019 that about 45,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen had been killed since he took office in September 2014 — or a staggering 849 per month. In 2018, the government stopped publicizing fatalities.
“The internationally recognized and elected government doesn’t have a monopoly on the use of force nor control over the majority of the country,” says Jonathan Schroden, a security expert with the U.S.-based nonprofit research and analysis organization CNA, who has provided assessments on the security situation in Afghanistan to the U.S. military and Congress.
The Taliban, which claims to be a government in exile, “has eroded much of the government’s control but cannot do so to the point of becoming the recognized government,” Schroden says.
The result, he says, is a “strategic stalemate.”
Government forces had been in an active defensive mode since a weeklong reduction-of-violence agreement preceding the U.S.-Taliban deal. But after two devastating terrorist attacks this month that the government blamed on the Taliban, Ghani ordered government forces to go on the offensive.
The political crisis over the disputed presidential election in September also affected the government’s military posture. There were fears of civil war after Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, threatened to form a parallel government and proclaimed himself the president, a scenario that threatened the cohesion of the security forces.
The standoff was resolved after Ghani and Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal — their second after consecutive elections — on May 17.
“The government faced serious challenges for months,” says Obaid Ali, an expert on the insurgency at the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul. “The government didn’t have a military strategy because the leadership was focused on the internal crisis after the presidential election’s outcome and the U.S.-Taliban talks.”
Ali says the months-long political feud sank morale and complicated logistics within the security forces.
The Taliban controls more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the fundamentalist group from power.
The fundamentalist militant group’s leadership fled to neighboring Pakistan, where it allegedly received sanctuary, training, and arms, an accusation Islamabad has denied. From its safe havens in Pakistan, the Taliban has waged a deadly insurgency against Afghan and international troops.
The Taliban has been following what security experts call an “outside-in” strategy that was effectively employed by other insurgencies in Afghanistan, including the mujahedin who fought Soviet and Afghan government forces in the 1980s.
From its sanctuaries in Pakistan, the Taliban captured rural areas of Afghanistan and consolidated control over larger swaths of the countryside while generating recruits and resources. In recent years, the Taliban has encroached on more populated areas with the aim of isolating and then seizing them.
The militants have twice briefly seized control of the northern city of Kunduz, the country’s fifth-most populous.
“The Taliban has so far been successful in seizing and contesting ever larger swaths of rural territory, to the point where they have now almost encircled six to eight of the country’s major cities and are able to routinely sever connections via major roads,” Schroden says.
“The major thing holding the Taliban back at this point is the government’s supremacy of the air and its superior strike forces in the form of the commandos and special police units. But those units are being worn down and the Afghan Army has been slowly failing as an institution for the past five years.”
The Taliban insurgency has been a unifying cause for some smaller foreign militant groups.
Around 20 foreign militant groups are active in Afghanistan, including Pakistani extremist groups like the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e Muhammad, and Central Asian militant groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group fighting for Uyghur independence in China.
Ali says the Taliban has ties to some of these foreign militant groups. “Some of these groups operate under the Taliban umbrella,” he says. “They can’t operate in Afghanistan without the Taliban’s permission. Each of these groups has a unique relationship with the Taliban — operationally, ideologically, or economically.”
Al-Qaeda is a largely diminished force, with only several hundred fighters in Afghanistan. But it remains a crucial part of the Taliban insurgency. The two groups have been longtime partners and are co-dependent, according to experts.
According to the U.S. State Department, the “implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement will require extensive long-term monitoring to ensure Taliban compliance, as the group’s leadership has been reluctant to publicly break with Al-Qaeda.”
Under that deal, the Taliban committed to “preventing any group or individual, including Al-Qaeda, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”
A January report from the UN’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stated that ties between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “continue to be close and mutually beneficial, with Al-Qaeda supplying resources and training in exchange for protection.”
Afghan security forces said on May 11 that they had captured the IS group’s regional leader for South Asia, Abu Omar Khorasani, in an operation in Kabul.
This was the latest in a string of recent setbacks for the group.
In April, Afghan security forces in the southern city of Kandahar captured the leader of the IS branch in Afghanistan, Abdullah Orakzai, along with several other militants.
According to the United Nations, since October 2019, over 1,400 IS fighters and affiliates have surrendered to Afghan or U.S. forces.
The U.S. military said the IS group’s stronghold in the eastern province of Nangarhar was “dismantled” in November 2019 due to U.S. air strikes, operations by Afghan forces, and fighting between the Taliban and IS militants.
The U.S. military said around 300 IS fighters and 1,000 of their family members surrendered.
The fighters and family members who did not surrender have relocated to Pakistan or the neighboring province of Kunar, a remote, mountainous region along the border with Pakistan, it added.
The U.S. military estimates that there are between 2,000 and 2,500 IS fighters active in Afghanistan.
Ali says that the IS group has bases in a few districts of Kunar Province, and they are also likely present in parts of neighboring Nuristan Province, another remote, mountainous province. But he says recent reports that IS militants were active in northern Afghanistan are “unreliable.”
“The group has lost most of the territory it held in eastern Afghanistan,” Ali says. “The recent operations against IS have severely weakened them and most have gone underground.”
But he says the recent arrests of IS fighters and leaders in major urban areas shows that there are still IS “sleeper cells” in the country.
Most IS fighters are thought to be former members of Pakistani militant groups, especially the Pakistani Taliban.
“There are a smaller number of Afghans, Central Asians, and even fewer from other regional countries,” Ali adds.
The Russian deputy defense minister said Aug. 24 at a military technical forum that Moscow plans to build 100 T-14 Armata battle tanks.
“The designed models are currently undergoing operational testing,” Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet. “We have a contract for 100 units that will be supplied before 2020.”
Since it was unveiled in 2015, the T-14 has received a lot of hype and has worried many westerners — some of which is deserved.
The T-14 is part of the Armata Universal Combat Platform, which is is based on a single chassis that that can be used for a variety of Armata armored vehicles — not just the T-14 tank.
This interchangeable platform, according to Globalsecurity.org, includes “standard engine-transmission installation, chassis controls, driver interface, unified set of onboard electronics, [and] life-support systems.”
The T-14 comes with a high velocity 125mm cannon that also fires laser-guided missiles up to 7.4 miles away, while the US’ M1A2 SEP V3 Abrams’ main gun only has a range of about 2.4 miles.
It’s equipped with a revolutionary unmanned turret and armored hull for the crew, The National Interest said, and it’s even one step away from becoming a completely unmanned tank, able to be operated by crews at a distance, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, previously told Business Insider.
The T-14 also sports the new Afghanit active protection system, which has a radar and electronic system that disrupts incoming guided missiles, The National Interest said.
The APS can also jam laser guided systems and even has interceptors that can take out RPGs, missiles, and possibly kinetic rounds — although the latter has been questioned by many analysts, The National Interest said.
While the T-14 has strong layers of defense and reactive armor, “no tank is invincible, it is only more survivable,” Michael Kofman, a CNA analyst, told Newsweek. “It’s somewhat unclear how effective these defensive systems are against top-down attack missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin, which is expensive but effective.”
“It’s important to remember that the Armata platform is still a prototype undergoing field trials and not a completed system … There is still a debate in Russia on what its capabilities should be and the initial serial production run of 80-100 tanks is doubtfully going to be the final variant, so we should reserve judgment,” Kofman told Newsweek.
While the T-14 is impressive in many respects, Russia’s main tank for years to come, given the high cost of the T-14 and even the T-90A, will probably still be the T-72B3, Kofman told The National Interest.
One look at their pin curls, painted red lips and A-line dresses in patriotic hues, and you’re instantly transported back to the 1940s.
But then you hear the Blue Anchor Belles sing. Just a few notes, and you can’t help but tap your toes.
The “Belles,” as they’re known, is a 1940s-style female singing trio in the Pensacola, Florida area. The group is made up of Naval aviator spouses.
The group takes inspiration from The Andrews Sisters, the best-selling harmony group of the early 20th century, famous for their song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
“We’re bringing boogie-woogie back,” Goldie Lahr, who started the singing trio in 2016 while stationed in Oklahoma City, said.
Lauren Martin, a member of the group, notes that the song is a crowd favorite.
“I missed singing, so I decided to start [the group],” Lahr said.
Lahr began arranging unique, three-part harmonies for beloved songs from the World War II era. She held auditions to find additional singers for the group, inviting fellow military spouses to be a part of her vision. Before she knew it, the Blue Anchor Belles was born.
Like for many military families, new orders eventually came. So rather than leave it behind, the Blue Anchor Belles PCS’d to Pensacola in 2018, a move that’s been a great fit.
“Coming to Pensacola has been like coming home for us. Not only is the rich history of Naval aviation here close to our hearts, but the military, veteran and civilian communities have welcomed us with open arms. Not to mention, people in Pensacola love live music,” Lahr said.
The Belles perform at military functions, community events and minor league sporting events. Still, their passion is singing for aging veterans and their families at assisted living centers and memory care facilities.
“This is music from their generation, and you can see how much joy it brings them. Plus, it brings us joy to keep this vintage music relevant,” Lahr added.
Since its beginning, nearly a dozen talented female singers have been a part of the Blue Anchor Belles.
“Once a Belle, always a Belle,” Lahr said.
But as most military stories go, their spouses eventually move on to new assignments in new duty stations. Each member takes a piece of the Belles along with them when they move.
“We’ve gotten pretty used to members coming and going,” Lahr said.
For that reason, auditions are held semi-regularly.
“The member that’s about to leave teaches the new member her parts.”
Lahr admits there’s a downside to having members move so frequently.
“But there’s an upside too,” she added. “We have this community of Belles all over the country. We’re in Washington state, San Diego, Virginia, and that community is constantly growing!”
Martin joined the group in 2019 when she moved to the Pensacola area with her husband for primary flight training at NAS Whiting Field.
“I saw a call for auditions and decided to give it a go. I did theater and music growing up and had really missed it,” Martin said.
She says she appreciated the opportunity to pursue her passion.
“Moving down here, I had a hard time finding a job. There weren’t many opportunities in the field I work in, and when employers realize you’re a military spouse and are going to move sooner rather than later, it just adds to the difficulty. It was disheartening. Then I found the Blue Anchor Belles, and it was so nice to have something for me. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love, which is singing and performing, and so lucky to be a part of this,” Martin said.
The Belles love being a part of a community of military spouse performers, which is exactly what Lahr was hoping to build in the first place.
“It’s a special thing in that it gives military spouses the opportunity to use their talents and a family to belong to,” Lahr said.
The new year will bring another PCS for Lahr, and she plans to bring the group with her, opening up the opportunity for new military spouses to join the Belles’ ranks.
“We brought the boogie-woogie to the gulf coast, and soon we’ll look to bring it to the west coast. And who knows where we’ll take the Belles after that,” said Lahr.
White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly issued a stinging response to Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez, after the Illinois lawmaker said Kelly’s position on DACA qualified him as a “disgrace to the uniform he used to wear.”
“As far as the congressman and other irresponsible members of congress are concerned, they have the luxury of saying what they want as they do nothing and have almost no responsibility,” Kelly told Fox News Sept. 10. “They can call people liars but it would be inappropriate for me to say the same thing back at them. As my blessed mother used to say ’empty barrels make the most noise.'”
Gutierrez attacked Kelly in early September for serving the Trump administration as it moves to phase out the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program.
“General Kelly is a hypocrite who is a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear. He has no honor and should be drummed out of the White House along with the white supremacists and those enabling the President’s actions by ‘just following orders,'” Gutierrez said in a statement issued hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA will be phased out.
The DACA program, implemented through executive action in 2012, protects roughly 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation and provides temporary work visas for those who qualify.
Kelly defended the administration’s decision to roll back the program, suggesting the move was a response to the program’s dubious constitutional status, rather than a personal decision made by Trump.
“Every DOJ and DHS lawyer says DACA is unconstitutional. Every other legal scholar – right and left – says the same thing. Trump didn’t end DACA, the law did. That said, I worked and succeeded to give the congress another six months to do something. I am not confident,” he said.
Gutierrez’s office took issue with Kelly’s characterization of the program’s constitutionality, arguing the program has never been challenged in court.
“The constitutionality of DACA has never been challenged successfully in court and the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the program, certainly never questioned its constitutionality at its inception or while hundreds of thousands signed up for it,” Gutiérrez spokesman Douglas Rivlin told Fox News.
The Trump administration repealed the program under threat of an impending lawsuit from a coalition of conservative state attorneys general. Trump seemed to soften following the announcement, expressing hope that Congress would codify amnesty for Dreamers through legislation before the six month reprieve period expires.
Army Lt. Col. Ron Cole, 49, a public health nurse with the Army Public Health Center, doesn’t exactly look the part of the long-distance runner. He’s a big guy.
This 5 feet, 10-inch tall former professional body builder and wrestler will tell you his physique is more suited for short bursts of speed, but he loves distance running. This year marks an important milestone for Cole — he’s turning 50 and he’ll be competing in his ninth Army Ten-Miler in October.
“Age is not on our side always and I’m not the smallest of guys,” said Cole. “My joints have been in the military for 28 years and pounding the pavement has had its toll, but my motto for this year’s race is ‘Forged at 50’. I’m not slowing down, I’m getting better with age, and I’ve gotten creative with the knowledge I’ve learned over the years to either keep the pace or even improve my pace.”
Cole, who also serves as the APHC Performance Triad action officer, understands the importance of sleep, activity and nutrition. He hopes to improve on his best 9:30-minute mile ATM pace by incorporating the 10-mile training plan (linked to this article) offered through the ATM website and endorsed by APHC’s health and fitness experts.
“One of the things I’m doing is incorporating the Performance Triad of sleep, activity and nutrition as well as some of my weight training background and personal nutrition experience to enhance my muscle endurance as I prepare to run,” said Cole.
Cole plans to run hills, incorporate treadmill sprints, follow a good sleep and nutrition plan, and do some cross training to optimize his performance.
“I live in Havre de Grace, Maryland, which has a lot of hills that I also use for shorter sprints instead of resting on the inclines,” said Cole. “I also like to cross train and do walking lunges with weights in the hallways during my breaks from my desk.”
Cole was first introduced to the run through his then girlfriend and now wife Shanekia, who was training for the run in 2006 as part of the Kirk Army Community Hospital Team at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He trained with the team on some of their practice runs and cheered her on at the finish line.
Lt. Col. Ronald Cole, a public health nurse with the Army Public Health Center, hydrates in between exercises June 21, 2019, in preparation for competing in his ninth Army Ten-Miler in October. Cole is following the APHC-expert recommended Army Ten-Miler training plan as well as APHC guidance on proper hydration.
(Photo Credit: Graham Snodgrass)
The two married in August 2008 and planned to compete together for the 2009 race, but Shanekia was diagnosed with cancer in October 2009, and he ended up doing his first ATM that year with no training or preparation, which he does not recommend.
“The race was going well until I reached mile seven, which was the entrance of the 14th Street ramp,” said Cole. “The ramp is about a 1 degree incline and continues to rise at 1 degree for approximately 2 miles.”
It was at that moment that Cole felt like a pack of gorillas had jumped on his back and he wanted to quit. However, he looked to his right to find a wounded warrior changing his prosthesis; this sight made him realize that he had nothing to complain about.
“So I started running from that point on and every time I wanted to quit — he was my motivation,” said Cole. “So that first run wasn’t my best run, but it was my most inspiring.”
Cole is committed to running the race every year until he can no longer run. He also does this to honor Shanekia, who suffered complications from chemotherapy and can no longer compete in the race, but remains one of his biggest supporters. She is now free of cancer and helps with his meal prepping and comes out to cheer every run.
Cole’s story and commitment to the race have motivated some of his co-workers to make the run.
“His energy and spirit and story of why he runs has also inspired me to run the Army Ten-miler this year,” said Joanna Reagan, an APHC registered dietitian who recently retired from the Army. “Although I’ve run it in the past, Lt. Col. Cole has inspired me to shoot for my own personnel best this year.”
The two train together, which Reagan says helps keep her motivated.
“We are holding each other accountable with our running plans, trying to eat eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day and getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night,” said Reagan. “Having a ‘running buddy’ really helps with accountability and commitment.”
Cole hopes to keep running for years to come.
“The energy of the Ten-Miler keeps me enthusiastic and motivated to run,” said Cole. “Every time you’re running it may be painful, but along the course of the run you’re surrounded by at least 30,000 other people and you feel you want to do that again.”
The Performance Triad website at https://p3.amedd.army.mil/performance-learning-center/nutrition is a good resource for nutrition, nutrient timing and hydration recommendations for this year’s ATM competitors.
The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.