Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

The threats that failing governments and foreign influence pose to the United States have not been the norm in the Western hemisphere. Since the institution of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has opposed efforts by European and other powers to meddle in the United States’ backyard, keeping a watchful eye on its neighbors. There has been much turmoil the last fifty years — Pinochet’s reign in Chile, the civil war in El Salvador, drug-fueled gang violence in Colombia, and others, are all conflicts that divided nations, destabilized the region, and engrossed the world.


Despite the violence and attention, Latin American conflicts have generated, the United States was largely successful in limiting influence from foreign nations and overseas organizations seeking to exploit these conflicts and undermine the integrity and influence of the United States. Now, the Monroe Doctrine faces perhaps its most challenging test yet: recent unrest in Venezuela. The growing discontent in the country has reached a boiling point, with the specter of civil war looming and national security concerns that threaten the safety of the United States.

What To Know About The Attempted Coup In Venezuela (HBO)

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To blame for this recent disorder is the resurgent cancer of socialism and communism, not new to the Western Hemisphere. One need not look further than 90 miles south of Florida to see Cuba: a state whose current complexion was born of communist revolution, nurtured barbarous dictators and violent revolutionaries, and welcomed as a military ally by the Soviets, nearly triggering a nuclear war. When Hugo Chavez tightened his grip over Venezuela at the turn of the 21st century, history knew how this story would end. But the predictable rise and fall of socialism in oil-rich Venezuela now creates a danger we have not seen in our hemisphere since the Cold War.

The proud people of Venezuela have witnessed what socialism provides to a country: empty promises, rampant poverty, widespread corruption, and hopelessness. Their cries for freedom were silenced by bribes and force at the hands of Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. Free elections were touted but marred in such overt corruption that would be laughable if the consequences were not so dire.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

On Jan. 23, 2019, the hope of the nation turned to Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who took the oath of office as Interim President of Venezuela. This peaceful, constitutionally-valid shift of power has flipped the suffering nation on its head. Since then, President Trump and allies across the world have pledged support for Guaido and have left all options on the table with respect to lending aid and military intervention in the country to ensure his security and authority as leader.

Freedom, however, is not easy to gain or preserve, as Americans discovered during our war for independence some 244 years ago. On the ground in Venezuela, violence, and unrest have intensified as many military leaders remain loyal to President Maduro. Local government institutions have been paralyzed, and a people already crushed by a centrally-planned, corrupt economy have nowhere to turn for help. As if to say, “Let them eat cake!” Maduro’s forces have barricaded major highways to stop the flow of relief from neighboring countries.

Most troubling however may be dueling threats from major geopolitical adversaries that put the safety of our hemisphere in jeopardy. Russia has sent bombers to Venezuela in support of the Maduro regime – a provocative show of force that harkens back to the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As global support for Guaido grows, so does Russian resolve to prop up a failed despot.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

Nicolas Maduro.

Further testing American dominance of the Western Hemisphere is another sinister force lurking in the shadows: radical Islamic terrorism. For years, reports of burgeoning terror cells popping up in Latin America have made their way into newspaper headlines, with the most recent example involving the growing presence of Iran-linked terror organization, Hezbollah, in Latin America. The ever increasing instability within Venezuela offers fertile grounds for these terror networks to take root and grow amid a nation made susceptible to radical proposals offered by fanatical organizations in the face of social and economic collapse. Consider: there remains air travel between Caracas and Tehran, and American intelligence has little way of knowing who all are on those flights. Should bad actors from the Middle East’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism with intentions of harming the United States make their way to Venezuela, what will that mean for the United States and the continent at large?

If terror organizations find safe-haven on the streets of a failed state in South America, the threats to our homeland become incalculable. Crossing into the United States via our southern border, once difficult, has been made easier by assistance from international non-profits, failure to enforce and reform current immigration law in the United States, and “Coyotes” – individuals guide those seeking entry into America across the border for a fee. This has already been made manifest in the formation of migrant caravans comprised of hundreds if not thousands from all over Latin America seeking asylum in the United States in mass numbers, regardless of the validity of their claims. The political class’ failure to seriously address this immigration problem is a dream come true for international terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminals seeking to cross our borders — with smuggled arms, drugs, diseases, and more — to then harm the American people.

So where do we go from here? First, we must recommit to the Monroe Doctrine and assure Interim President Guaido that we, as well as our partners and allies in the region, have his back. This means potentially mobilizing both naval forces and ground troops in areas of strategic importance to signify not just our support for the Guaido presidency, but also to send the message that foreign interference in our hemisphere will not be toleration. Our aim is not to violently provoke but to firmly warn.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

Juan Guaido.

(Flickr photo by Senado Federal)

Second, we must finally secure our borders. On top of violent drug trades and human trafficking that pose a risk to people throughout the American continents, our border is now facing an even graver security threat considering recent developments in Latin America. Our southern neighbors have proven incapable of controlling migration across their borders, unable to filter out narcotics and criminals in an acceptable manner before they invariably arrive at ours. Every day that passes where our border is left unsecured while tensions mount in Latin America, American workers and their families face an ever-imminent threat to their work, their communities and their way of life.

The current situation in Venezuela is a new and evolving crisis for the Americas the likes of which have not been seen since when John F. Kennedy was president. The success or failure of the Guaido presidency will depend on the shared ability of the U.S. and our allies to pressure Maduro to leave office and cede power to Guaido. If we do not take care of our nation’s homeland security in the meantime, the fallout from potential catastrophe in Venezuela in the near-future will spell disaster for the entirety of Latin America and significantly harm the United States. The time to act is now, and I believe these recent developments give ample justification to do just that.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Army wants a cannon that can hit targets in the South China Sea

The US Army wants a cannon that can fire a round over 1,000 miles, with the aim to blow a hole in Chinese warships in the South China Sea should a conflict occur, according to Army senior leadership.

“You can imagine a scenario where the Navy feels that it cannot get into the South China Sea because of Chinese naval vessels, or whatever,” Secretary of the Army Mark Esper revealed Jan. 23, 2019, “We can — from a fixed location, on an island or some other place — engage enemy targets, naval targets, at great distances and maintain our standoff and yet open the door, if you will, for naval assets or Marine assets.”


The Army, relying heavily on the newly-established Army Futures Command, is undergoing its largest modernization program in decades, and it is doing so with a renewed focus on China and Russia, the foremost threats to US power in the National Defense Strategy.

A key priority for the new four-star command is Long-Range Precision Fires, a team which aims to develop artillery that can outrange top adversaries like Russia and China.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

Soldiers fire 155 mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer weapons system.

(U.S. Army photo by Evan D. Marcy)

“Our purpose is to penetrate and disintegrate enemy anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) systems, which will enable us to maintain freedom of maneuverability as we exploit windows of opportunity,” Col. John Rafferty, head of the LRPF cross-functional team, explained to reporters in October 2018.

The Chinese and Russians have made significant advancements in the development of effective stand-off capabilities. Now, the Army is trying to turn the tables on them.

“You want to be outside the range that they can hit you,” Esper told Task Purpose Jan. 23, 2019.

“Why was the spear developed? Because the other guy had a sword. A spear gives you range. Why was the sling developed? Because the spear closed off the range of the sword,” he explained. “You want to always have standoff where you can strike without being struck back. That’s what extended-range cannon artillery gives us.”

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

An M777A2 155 mm howitzer.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Katelyn Hunter)

The ERCA is an ongoing project that may eventually create opportunities for the development of a supergun with the ability to fire a round over 1,000 miles. The extended-range cannon artillery currently has a range of 62 miles, which is already double the range of the older 155 mm guns.

The Army is also looking at adapting current artillery for anti-ship warfare.

During the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in 2018, Army soldiers fired multiple rockets from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) at the ex-USS Racine during a combined arms sinking exercise. The drill highlighted what a war with China in the Pacific might look like.

China has one of the world’s largest navies, and there is significant evidence that it intends to use its growing military might to drive the US out of the region.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

10 of the craziest twists from the ‘El Chapo’ trial so far

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s federal trial reads like a telenovela.

The Mexican drug lord has watched from his seat in a Brooklyn courtroom as prosecutors have brought out cartel cohorts, a Colombian kingpin, and even a mistress to testify against him.

The trial has led to accusations of murder rooms, secret tunnels, and bribes. Mexican government leaders have also been accused of accepting bribes — including former President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Guzman pleaded not guilty to drug-trafficking charges connected to claims that he built a multibillion-dollar fortune by smuggling cocaine and other drugs across the Mexico-US border.

He is charged with 17 counts of having links to drug trafficking in the US and Mexico.

Here are the most shocking twists and turns that have happened at his trial so far.


Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

In opening arguments for the case, Assistant US Attorney Adam Fels described the amount of cocaine Guzman was accused of trafficking over the border.

He said that in just four of his shipments, he sent “more than a line of cocaine for every single person in the United States,” according to the BBC.

That amounts to more than 328 million lines of cocaine, Fels said.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

Former Colombian drug lord Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia.

(U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York)

2. A former Colombian kingpin who altered his face to hide his identity explained international drug trafficking to the court.

Former Colombian kingpin Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia testified how his Norte del Valle cartel used planes and ships to bring cocaine to Mexico, where the Sinaloa cartel would smuggle it to the US under the direction of Guzman.

Abadia testified that he kept a ledger that showed how much hit men were paid and that he bribed Colombian authorities with millions of dollars.

He estimated that he smuggled 400,000 kilos of cocaine, ordered 150 killings, and amassed a billion-dollar fortune through his cartel.

He was arrested in 2007 and extradited to the United States, where he pleaded guilty to murder and drug charges.

3. The son of one of Sinaloa cartel’s top leaders testified against Guzman.

Much of the prosecution team’s hard-hitting testimony came from its star witness, Vicente Zambada Niebla.

Zambada is the son of one of the cartel’s top leaders, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who is considered one of Guzman’s peers within the Sinaloa cartel hierarchy.

The younger Zambada, nicknamed El Vicentillo, described in detail the exploits of the cartel in his testimony against Guzman.

In one bit of testimony, Zambada said Guzman had the brother of another cartel leader killed because he would not shake his hand when they met to make peace in a gang war.

“When [Rodolfo] left, Chapo gave him his hand and said, ‘See you later, friend,’ and Rodolfo just left him standing there with his hand extended,” Zambada said, according to BBC.

The 43-year-old pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking charges in Chicago in 2013 and to a trafficking-conspiracy charge in Chicago days before Guzman’s trial began.

Guzman’s defense attorneys have argued that Zambada’s father is, in fact, the true leader of the Sinaloa cartel.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

A diamond encrusted pistol that government witness Jesus Zambada said belonged to Guzman.

(U.S. Department of Justice)

4. Zambada also spoke about Guzman’s diamond-encrusted pistol.

Zambada testified that Guzman had an obsession with guns, and owned a bazooka and AK-47s.

His favorite, Zambada testified, was a gem-encrusted .38-caliber pistol engraved with his initials.

“On the handle were diamonds,” Zambada said of the pistol, according to the New York Post.

Prosecutors released photos of the weapon in November 2018.

5. El Chapo’s mistress described escaping Mexican marines using a secret tunnel hidden under a bathtub.

Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López, 29, took the stand in a Brooklyn courtroom during Guzman’s federal trial to discuss her relationship with Guzman.

The former legislator in Mexico detailed a 2014 incident in which she and Guzman fled Mexican forces through a secret tunnel under a pop-up bathtub.

López said she was awoken one morning to Mexican marines trying to break down the door of the house in which she and Guzman were staying.

Guzman, who was naked at the time, brought her into the bathroom, and López said, “He said, ‘Love, love, come in here.’ There was like a lid on the bathtub that came up. I was scared. I was like, ‘Do I have to go in there?’ It was very dark.”

The bathtub lifted up with a hydraulic piston, and Guzman, López, and others ran through the tunnel in complete darkness, she said.

López said the tunnels led to a sewer system for Culiacán, a city in the state of Sinaloa.

6. Guzman’s cartel had a million bribe fund, according to Zambada’s testimony.

In Zambada’s testimony, he said traffickers had a million bribe fund for former Mexican Secretary of Public Security Garcia Luna to ensure their business ran smoothly, the BBC reported.

Zambada said former Mexico City Mayor Gabriel Regino was also bribed.

Luna and Regino have denied the allegations.

Zambada also testified that he paid out id=”listicle-2626652052″ million a month in bribesto Mexican officials — among them was Humberto Eduardo Antimo Miranda, who led the Defense Ministry under President Felipe Calderon.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

Emma Coronel Aispuro, Guzman’s wife.

(Telemundo)

7. El Chapo’s beauty-queen wife described her husband as a “normal person.”

American-born mother-of-two Emma Coronel Aispuro, 29, spoke to Telemundo about Guzman’s trial in an interview that aired in December 2018.

It was Coronel’s first public interview in two years.

She told Telemundo that she had never seen her husband doing anything illegal, according to translations from the New York Post.

“[The media] made him too famous,” Coronel said of her 61-year-old husband, who she married on her 18th birthday in 2007. “It’s not fair.”

“They don’t want to bring him down from the pedestal to make him more like he is, a normal, ordinary person,” she added.

8. A weapons smuggler said a cartel hit man had a “murder room.”

Edgar Galvan testified in January 2019 that a trusted hit man for Guzman kept a “murder room” in his house on the US border, which featured a drain on the floor to make it easier to clean.

Galvan, who said his role in the Sinaloa cartel was to smuggle weapons into the US, testified in January 2019 that Antonio “Jaguar” Marrufo was the man who had the “murder room,” according to the New York Post.

The room, Galvan said, featured soundproof walls and a drain.

“In that house, no one comes out,” Galvan told jurors.

Both men are now in jail on firearms and gun charges.

9. El Chapo put spyware on his wife’s and mistress’ phones — and the expert who installed it was an FBI informant.

Prosecutors in Guzman’s trial shared information from text messages the drug lord sent to his wife, Coronel, and a mistress named Agustina Cabanillas with the jury.

FBI Special Agent Steven Marson said US authorities obtained the information by searching records collected by a spyware software Guzman had installed on the women’s phones.

Texts appeared to show Guzman and Coronel discussing the hazards of cartel life, and Guzman using Cabanillas as a go-between in the drug business.

It turns out the IT expert who installed the spyware was actually an FBI informant.

The expert had built Guzman and his allies an encrypted communication network that he later helped the FBI crack, according to The New York Times.

10. A Colombian drug trafficker testified that Guzman boasted about paying a 0 million bribe to a former Mexican president.

Hildebrando Alexander Cifuentes-Villa, known as Alex Cifuentes, testified that Guzman paid 0 million to President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was in office from December 2012 to December 2018.

Cifuentes has previously been described as Guzman’s right-hand man, who spent several years hiding in northwest Mexico with him.

“Mr. Guzman paid a bribe of 0 million to President Pena Nieto?” Jeffrey Lichtman, one of the lawyers representing Guzman, asked Cifuentes during cross-examination, according to The New York Times.

“Yes,” Cifuentes responded, adding that the bribe was conveyed to Pena Nieto through an intermediary.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first aerial bombing run was made by the Italian Army

In November 1911, Italy was engaged in a costly war against the Ottoman Empire in what is today Libya. It worked out for the Italians in the end, easily defeating the Ottoman Empire, who was by then a shadow of its former glory. The war brought a number of new technologies onto the battlefield, most notably the airplane. Italian pilots were the first to use heavier than air aircraft for both reconnaissance and to drop bombs on enemy positions. One pilot was also the first to fly a night sortie.


For the Turks, who had no anti-air defenses, they were the first to shoot down an aircraft with small arms fire.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

The German-built Taube monoplane like the one flown by Lt. Gavotti over Libya.

On Nov. 1, 1911, Giulio Gavotti, an Italian war pilot, climbed into the cockpit of his Etrich Taube monoplane. His mission was to fly over the Ain Zara oasis, occupied by Turkish troops. Instead of just flying over the target, he decided he would throw bombs out of the plane and into the mass of maybe 2,000 enemy soldiers below. The lieutenant would later write to his father that he was really pleased to be the first person to try. His efforts earned him the nickname “the Flying Artilleryman.”

“I notice the dark shape of the oasis. With one hand, I hold the steering wheel, with the other I take out one of the bombs and put it on my lap…. I take the bomb with my right hand, pull off the security tag and throw the bomb out, avoiding the wing. I can see it falling through the sky for couple of seconds and then it disappears. And after a little while, I can see a small dark cloud in the middle of the encampment. I am lucky. I have struck the target.”

And that’s how one pilot ushered in the Air Power age.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

Giulio Gavotti, the first bomber pilot.

The young lieutenant had strapped a number of grapefruit-sized grenade-like bombs into a leather pouch in the cockpit. As he flew over the target, he would toss them over the side. The official history of the Italian Army in Libya says that Gavotti screwed in the detonators and flew at an altitude of just 600 feet as he made his bombing runs. He tossed three over the side at an oasis at Tagiura and then one over the Ain Zara Oasis. No one is really sure how many (if any) he actually killed on his run.

In response, the Ottoman Empire issued a formal complaint. Dropping bombs from aerial balloons was outlawed by the Hague Convention of 1899. The Italians countered that the airplanes weren’t balloons and any heavier-than-air craft was legally allowed to drop bombs as Gavotti had.

“I come back really pleased with the result,” Gavotti wrote. “I go straight to report to General Caneva. Everybody is satisfied.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why I’m strong: How one military daughter feels about deployment

The day my dad left for deployment brought me hard feelings – feelings that were hard for me to process. The thought of him being in harms way made me afraid. Knowing how much I would miss him made be unbelievably sad. All that I knew for sure is that I did not want to take him to the drop off point.

I wanted him to stay.


Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

(Military Spouse)

Once we arrived at the squadron, I tried to convince myself to hold everything together, hiding how I was feeling and I put on a brave face. I certainly did not want to lose control of my emotions in front of a room full of strangers. But when I heard the loud slam of the van door closing and I realized that my Daddy was about to drive away, I stopped caring about who was around.

I sprinted toward the vehicle, wildly yanking at the door handle. “I just want you to stay. Please. Please stay.” I started to cry. The feeling of dread loomed over me. He opened the door and gave me one last hug. My Dad held me close and promised that everything would be okay.

But it wasn’t okay.

Living without my Dad was harder than I thought. I wanted to talk to him -to tell him about all the things I was learning and fun things I was doing. He missed a lot. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It was awful. Christmas was not the same. I was glad we could open presents over video chat, but all I wanted for Christmas was to have him home.

Everything about life without him stressed me out and I began to be overly anxious. There were several times where my head felt like it was spinning. I was overwhelmed with worry. Many nights, I wouldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. Living life without my dad home just made me feel blue.

Nothing felt normal. When Dad is home, he takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. I can tell him all about what is happening and how I feel. I really missed these nights. We could really only talk for a few minutes because there was a seven-hour time difference. Night time was the worst. I feel safer when he is here.

It wasn’t all bad. We went on a few family vacations and even went to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean, we only went to Great Wolf because of the eight million delays for dad’s homecoming- making Dad miss my brother’s birthday. But it was fun.

If I had to do all over again (which I hope won’t be for a while), I would do a few things differently. Maybe, if you are a kid in the middle of a deployment -or getting ready for one – here are a few things I learned.

You can’t control everything. Don’t try. Stop trying to make everything perfect. You can’t. Recognize the things that you can control, like yourself or how clean your room is, and control what you can. I organized my books, made slime, and did things that made me feel comfortable.

Be patient with your family. Everyone is sad or stressed. Emotions are running hot and even the littlest things feel more annoying. Do your best to give people a break and stay calm. When I got overwhelmed, I would retreat to my room and count backwards from sixty. I would count colors or patterns in my room. Also, I bout “Pinch Me” dough, which smelled like the beach. Find something that brings you joy and peace.

Have lots of comfort food. (Oreos are always a good choice.) Nothing beats a snack. Snacks are wonderful, and sharing them with a friend is even better. When I was feeling sad or frustrated, I would invite my next-door neighbor over for a snack and a chat. It always made me feel better.

Lastly, call your friends. The beauty of military life is that you have friends everywhere. When I needed to, I would call my best friends, Talia and Aurea. They would cheer me up, help me think through what I feel, and give me encouragement. They know what this is like. Both of them, like me, are military kids.

Deployment seasons might not always be “okay,” but they are only temporary. They don’t last forever. I know that my dad does hard things, like being away, because he wants to serve our country. I can do hard things, too. He believes in freedom and he tells me that I can do my part too. I’m strong because he is strong. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for all you do.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

(Military Spouse)

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy translator helps search for missing troops in Vietnam

As the sun rises over the jungle canopy, the workers are already on the move. They take in the crisp scent of the morning air as they head up the rocky mountain path, slipping between the trees of a wet, dew-covered forest in Vietnam.

At the top of the green mountain ridge, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Quoc Bao Lam is waiting to greet them with a smile and a handshake before getting started on the day’s work.

On a normal day, Lam is a master-at-arms with the military police at Naval Station Everett, Washington, but today he’s part of a unique assignment. He is acting as the lead linguist for a recovery team deployed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency on its fourth mission to Vietnam.


Remote site

Lam works at an excavation site found on a remote mountain peak in one of the Vietnamese jungle’s most austere locations. The site is only accessible by helicopter, and the nearest village is about 5 and a half miles away, down a long steep rocky trail on the brink of being overgrown by the jungle. Being at a site so removed, a linguist is a necessity for a successful recovery mission.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Quoc Bao Lam, left, a linguist deployed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, talks with local people in Quang Binh, Vietnam, Sept. 6, 2018.

(Photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

“Nothing in this mission could be accomplished without the skill sets and abilities of an experienced linguist on the team,” said Marine Corps Capt. Mark Strickert, DPAA senior recovery team leader. “Linguists translate intent, interpret body language, serve as cultural advisors, facilitate negotiations and build camaraderie with the local community and government officials we work with so closely every day. Linguists are the underlining glue in the tireless steps we take to fulfill our nation’s promise to bring our fallen home.”

The mission of DPAA is to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing service members to their families and the nation from past conflicts.

The total number of service members unaccounted for from the Vietnam War was 2,646, but through the work of DPAA, 1,052 of those missing have been found, identified and repatriated. The work of DPAA continues to find the remaining 1,594 missing U.S. service members from the Vietnam War.

Painstaking work

The work to recover missing service members starts with intense analyzing of historical records from all sides of a conflict surrounding the missing individuals. This is followed by interviewing eye witnesses, gathering local accounts and pinpointing and evaluating possible dig sites. Once all the data has been compiled and strongly suggests a specific area, recovery teams are brought in to dig and sift the soil, looking for remains of the missing individuals.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Quoc Bao Lam.

(Photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

When Lam first learned about DPAA and its missions to Vietnam to recover missing troops, he felt an instant connection and he knew he had to find a way to contribute.

“I wanted to be a part of this important work,” Lam said, “to have an opportunity to help my fellow service members and their families find closure, and possibly help to find some of the lost or fallen friends of my father.”

Lam moved to America at age 8 with his mother and siblings. His father, Ouang Lam, had left five years prior to escape prosecution and possible execution at the end of the Vietnam War.

From the start of the conflict, Ouang fought with South Vietnam’s army. As U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War increased, the U.S. Army began seeking out local people who could speak English, Chinese and Vietnamese to help U.S. troops better navigate the region.

Becoming a translator

After applying to train with the U.S., Ouang was sent to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to get a better grip on the English language and military terminology. Once proficient in English, he was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was taught how to fly medical helicopters before going back to his country and the war.

For the rest of the war, Ouang delivered supplies and wounded U.S. and South Vietnamese troops by helicopter. He regularly came under fire and, throughout the conflict, lost fellow aircrew, friends and family. Ouang made it to the rank of chief warrant officer 3 at the war’s end.

North and South Vietnam were reunited. Those who had worked with the Americans were soon hunted by the authorities. Ouang had to leave his country to save his and his family’s lives.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Quoc Bao Lam, right, lead linguist, translates for Marine Corps Capt. Mark Strickert, left, senior recovery team leader while deployed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Quang Binh, Vietnam, Sept. 6, 2018.

(Photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

Ouang began building a new life for his family in Chicago, thanks to a religious group that sponsored individuals who had fought alongside U.S. troops during the war. They brought foreign veterans and their families to the U.S. to ensure they were not harmed by the new Vietnamese government.

After all he experienced during the war, Ouang was against war for the rest of his life. Ouang urged his children to go to school and not join any military service, but Lam wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Luckily before his father passed away, Lam was able to explain why he chose to serve in the military after realizing school was not for him.

Father’s pride

“My father was incredibly upset and did not talk to me for some time,” Lam said. “After a few years I sat down with him and talked about why I joined the Navy. While he still did not like the idea of me being in the armed forces, over time came to be very proud of my service to the country that has given his family so much.”

If it wasn’t for Ouang’s close work with the U.S. during the war, he may never have gotten out of Vietnam after the country’s reunification and would have never had the chance to provide his family with the American dream.

“Lam’s father is always watching from above and he would be proud of Lam working to find his lost friends from so long ago,” said Lam’s mother. “We have been proud of everything that he has done so far in life, to give back to the U.S. for all the U.S. has done for our family. We are extremely proud.”

After weeks of facilitating negotiations, advising on cultural differences and interpreting body language, Lam’s mission in Vietnam came to a close.

From his position atop the mountain, Lam surveyed the green valley below, as the setting sun cast the sky in hazy blues and purples.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA releases new findings on the connection between TBI and dementia

VA and the Kristine Yaffe Lab at the University of California, San Francisco, have taken a new approach to understanding the association of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) — with and without loss of consciousness (LOC) — with dementia among veterans. Their recent study, one of the largest in the United States, included 178,779 veterans in the VA health care system who were diagnosed with various levels of TBI severity.

The study found that TBI with and without LOC are both associated with a heightened risk of developing dementia. Even mild TBI without LOC was associated with more than a twofold increase in the risk of a dementia diagnosis.

The study was part of the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC), a federally funded research project devised to address the long-term effects of mild TBI in military service members and veterans. CENC is jointly funded by VA and the Department of Defense.


TBI overview

TBI is a complex physiological condition that can arise when a brain experiences trauma, either directly or indirectly, during any of a variety of moderate to catastrophic events. TBI has been researched and studied in-depth by some of the world’s leading neurologists, neuropsychologists, neuropsychiatrists and other leading mental health experts. Their goal is to develop treatments, tools and resources to help those affected by TBI return to their previous, or close to their previous, quality of life and cognitive ability. TBI among veterans is a key focus area of VA physical and mental health care, and VA conducts research every day to help unravel the intricacies of TBI’s symptoms and effects.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

In the past 10 years, researchers and clinicians have confirmed that TBI may be a risk factor for dementia, but they have yet to determine why. Some professionals think dementia may be related to the injury itself, while others believe that head trauma may cause toxic and abnormal proteins associated with dementia to build up over time.

Advice for veterans experiencing symptoms of TBI

Evaluation by a physician is critical to help identify and address symptoms of TBI. TBI can be difficult to diagnose because it has many causes, such as motor vehicle collisions, sports-related injuries and falls. Among veterans, TBI may be caused by a single event, such as an IED blast, but also may occur over time as a result of repetitive jolts to the head or neck. If you have had a recent head injury, or if you had a head injury in the past and are concerned about recent changes in your memory, consult your physician for a screening.

During a TBI evaluation, you and your doctor will discuss what caused your injury and ways to deal with any physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating and headaches. You also will explore how these symptoms affect your daily life. Your doctor may recommend counseling to help you learn ways to manage the effects of TBI. Because a TBI can affect the way the brain functions, medications may be needed or changed to assist in recovery and coping.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

To learn more about TBI symptoms and treatment for veterans, visit VA’s mental health page on TBI or go to MakeTheConnection.net, which features videos of veterans talking about their experience with TBI.

Understanding dementia risk factors

Although there is a slightly elevated risk for dementia among those who have experienced TBI, that does not mean everyone with TBI is at risk. TBI is only one of many risk factors for dementia, including genetic markers, that are being studied. No matter what risk factors you may have, it’s important to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, monitor your heart health and try to remain mentally and physically active.

The future of TBI and dementia research

The VA health care system recognizes that more research is needed to further understand and provide the best health care to veterans with TBI. This study suggests that veterans with TBI — in particular, older veterans — should be monitored and screened at regular intervals for any signs of memory changes. Research collaboration among VA, universities and national organizations such as the National Institutes of Health will continue to expand our knowledge of TBI and related conditions and opportunities to prevent and treat them.

About the VISN 21 MIRECC

VA’s VISN 21 MIRECC is committed to improving the clinical care of veterans with dementia and with post-traumatic stress disorder through the development of innovative clinical, research and educational programs. This center’s approach is to identify risk factors for cognitive decline in older veterans and to develop and implement novel countermeasures to minimize this decline.

For more information on VISN 21, visit www.mirecc.va.gov/mirecc/visn21.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Valley Forge: The bootcamp that turned around the American Revolution

After years of growing tension between Great Britain and the 13 North American colonies, war officially broke out between the British troops and the colonial militia in the Massachusetts battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. That June, the revolutionary rebels were gaining traction, and the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia to vote in favor of forming the Continental Army, which would be fronted by George Washington as the commander in chief. However, British Redcoats soon descended in the tens of thousands upon Washington’s humble forces, and a series of losses at battles such as Brandywine and Paoli brought the Continental Army to the brink of collapse.


General George Washington and his ramshackle army arrived in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on December 19, 1777. As the British had taken the rebel capital of Philadelphia, the Valley Forge camp sat roughly twenty miles northwest in a wide open agricultural landscape. The six months that the General and his men spent there would turn out to be some of the most demoralizing—and revitalizing—periods of the Revolutionary War.

Around 12,000 people including soldiers, artificers, women, and children set up camp at Valley Forge. They constructed small wooden huts that would be inhabited by a dozen soldiers at once. Inside the cramped quarters, the soldiers used straw for their bedding and went without the comfort of blankets.

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Though the winter of 1777 to 1778 wasn’t particularly harsh, the typical conditions overwhelmed the poorly supplied soldiers. Many of Washington’s men lacked proper attire—boots in particular—which rendered them unfit for service. As the men froze, their limbs would blacken. Often, there was no choice but to submit to amputations.

Worse yet, food stocks were quickly depleting, and there were stretches of time where troops went without meat for days. Diseases like influenza, typhoid, and dysentery ravaged the camp, thanks in part to poor hygiene practices, reportedly resulting in the death of one in six soldiers. Conditions were so bad, and the efforts of the troops so pitiable that George Washington was almost relieved of his command.

However, despite the distressed conditions that Washington’s army was experiencing, their time at Valley Forge would soon prove to be an incredible tactical opportunity with the assistance of one immigrant.

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, often called Baron von Steuben, had been a military officer in the Prussian army since the age of 17. The Prussian army was a force widely considered one of the most formidable in Europe at the time, and von Steuben had made the most of his time with the army. The baron was a well-trained soldier with a clever mind for military strategy. On February 23, 1776, he rode into Valley Forge to turn the tides of war.

Upon his arrival, General George Washington was quick to appoint von Steuben as a temporary inspector general. Thanks to his impressive experience overseas, von Steuben was knowledgeable not just in drills, but also in maintaining a sanitary camp. He began redirecting the latrines to a location far away from the kitchens—and facing downhill.

More notably, Steuben was also appointed as the chief drillmaster for Washington’s Continental Army, even though he knew very little English upon his arrival. The main problem with the Continental Army was that, while they had first-hand combat experience, most of its members had never been formally trained. What training the soldiers had received at this point varied based on which militia or regiment they originated from, resulting in little to no uniformity during battle. Steuben was resolved to remedy this.

Steuben began to run the troops through a series of strict Prussian drills. He taught them how to quickly and efficiently load and fire their weapons, and they practiced volley fire as well as skirmish operations. Steuben then tackled their issues with maneuverability by standardizing their marching paces and organizing them into tight four-man columns as opposed to the endless single file lines they’d been trudging into battle. He also taught the soldiers how to proficiently charge with bayonets.

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The impact made by Steuben’s efforts was not contained merely to those soldiers who spent six months at Valley Forge. The drillmaster was instrumental in the creation of an American military manual, “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States”, often simply referred to as the “Blue Book”. This work would stand as the official training resource for the U.S. Army for decades to come.

The Continental Army was in fighting form like never before. Not only were they armed with expert combat skills, but Steuben’s training had effected a sharp incline in morale across the camp. It was with this sharpened tactics and heightened confidence that General George Washington’s troops would face the British again in the thaw of 1778.

Not long before Baron von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge, the French had signed a treaty with colonial forces. The Franco-American alliance eventually shook the nerve of British officers, and fearing that they would be set upon by the French naval force if they remained in Philadelphia, the British marched on to New York City on June 18, 1778. George Washington and his reformed soldiers followed bravely after the Redcoats the very next day.

As the British made their way through New Jersey, they decimated property and pillaged supplies from civilians. In response, the local militia set about exhausting the British soldiers with small scale confrontations. On June 28, the Continental Army and the British troops finally came together in the Battle of Monmouth.

The battle in the sweltering summer heat lasted five long hours. Though many historians consider this first great clash after Valley Forge to have been a stalemate between the forces, it was still pivotal in the Continental Army’s rise. They had proven themselves a cohesive and impressive unit. The changes made at the once-grim Valley Forge camp would propel them forward to eventually win their independence from Britain.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How these military spouses plan to achieve one million acts of kindness

Three military spouses say they hope to change the world, through one act of kindness at a time.

To accomplish this, they aim to encourage more than one million acts of kindness in the military community through a viral movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition, set for Dec. 3, 2019.

“One million acts sounds like a lot,” admitted Maria Reed, an Army spouse and organizer for the event. “But, it just takes one act to inspire another, and if enough people are inspired — we can reach a million acts together.”


It was Reed’s optimistic thinking that initially helped her form a bond with two like-minded spouses: Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

Three military spouses, Maria Reed an Army spouse, Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse visit Los Angeles, Calif., Nov. 6, 2019, to promote their online movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition.

The three first met in May at the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards ceremony, held in Washington, D.C. All three won that night for their respective branches.

Following the ceremony, the three connected “easy and effortlessly,” Reed said, largely due to their shared goal to use their platform to bridge together the military community and help others.

At first, they didn’t know exactly how they would collaborate, they said. But, that changed soon after a plan was hatched to contact GivingTuesday, the parent organization of their group. Shortly after they made contact, GivingTuesday representatives agreed to partner up and the military edition was created.

“It’s inspiring to see military service members, veterans, and their families who already have committed so much to something bigger than themselves, lead the way to encourage one million acts of kindness,” said Asha Curran, GivingTuesday chief executive officer, in a news release.

The military edition kicked off in September 2019, and since it was announced they have received nation-wide attention. However, according to Reed — who is a military spouse of 16 years — the need to help others is just a part of being in the military community.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

U.S. Army Spc. Janerah W. Glaze, 253rd Transportation Company, New Jersey Army National Guard, grills hamburgers during the Sgt. 1st Class Robert H. Yancey Sr. Stand Down at the National Guard Armory in Cherry Hill, N.J., Sept. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Mark Olsen)

Her husband, who is currently deployed, plans to responsibly participate from his undisclosed location overseas.

“Military families are called to serve, it’s in our DNA and [GivingTuesday] is a way that we can all serve and give back to the community,” Reed said.

No act of goodwill is too small, she added. “It doesn’t matter, kindness is kindness.”

Whether serving food to the homeless, volunteering at an animal shelter, buying coffee for a stranger, or simply holding a door open for someone — there are no shortage of options, she said.

In addition to individual acts, Reed said various schools, companies, and blood drives across the country have committed to join in the effort to meet their seven-digit goal.

But, the true measure of success, Manfre said, is simply to inspire others to be kind.

“If all we do is inspire just one person to be kind to someone else, that’s what matters,” she said.

The inaugural event will be documented online with #GivingTuesdayMilitary.

With more than 50 chapter ambassadors at the forefront of local efforts, and thousands of eager participants who are affiliated with more than 800 military installations worldwide, the trio agree their movement will grow every year.

Social media pages have been set up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the campaign, all with the handle @GivingTuesdayMilitary.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the new Arctic ‘Cold War’ is a dangerous myth

All too often the Arctic region is portrayed as an area on the cusp of military crisis. This is an easy narrative to sell; it harks back to the Cold War. Potent imagery persists of submarines trolling silently beneath the Arctic ice and nuclear ballistic missiles pointed across the North Pole.

During the height of the standoff between NATO and the USSR, the world feared a barrage of nuclear warheads streaming in from the frozen north – and this experience has imprinted on the collective imagination and created distinct ideas about the region. This fear, for example, motivated from the 1950s the construction of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Lines, a system of radar stations across the northern US (Alaska), Canada, and Greenland. The DEW Lines were meant to give the US and its NATO allies an early warning of an incoming Soviet nuclear strike.


The Cold War was a significant period in history. But catchy headlines playing off the parallels between the region and a new “cold” war are misleading. There have, of course, been increased tensions between the West and Russia since 2014 due to the conflict over Ukraine and Crimea. The 2018 Trident Juncture exercises in the Arctic, featuring “50,000 personnel from NATO Allies and partner countries”, are evidence of this. But the tension is not Arctic-specific and militaries are diverse actors in the region. This nuance, however, is often overlooked.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

Belgian and German soldiers of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force train their weapons proficiency in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture.

Current military exercises and equipment acquisitions fuel old Cold War perceptions. And a certain militarization is indeed occurring in the Arctic. Russia, for example, has recently invested heavily in updating its northern military infrastructure. So too have other Arctic states, such as Canada and Denmark. But military activity has, to varying degrees, occurred for decades in the north – it was just largely ignored by those not living there until recently.

What’s changed?

The Arctic states guard their land and waterways through aerial, submarine and surface ship patrols, much as they have done for years. This hardly constitutes an escalation of military tensions, even if the infrastructure is being updated and, in some cases, increased. Despite this, talk of a new Cold War is heating up.

A nation’s armed forces often play a range of roles – beyond their traditional responsibilities in armed conflict. They are useful for rapid response during disasters, for example, and provide a range of security roles that don’t necessarily mean an escalation to war. They offer search and rescue (SAR) services and policing support.

In Norway, for example, the coast guard is one of the branches of the navy, along with the armed fleet, the naval schools and the naval bases. In Denmark, meanwhile, the coast guard’s Arctic activities are managed by the Royal Danish Navy.

In Canada, the coast guard is a civilian organization. It “is the principal civilian maritime operational arm of the government of Canada“. But it also works closely with the Department of National Defense to provide Canada’s search and rescue services, including aerial support.

The US Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which “secures the nation’s air, land, and sea borders to prevent illegal activity while facilitating lawful travel and trade“. By law, however, the US Coast Guard is outside the Department of Defense “in peacetime and is poised for transfer to the Department of the Navy during war“.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a 420 ft. icebreaker.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Prentice Danner)

Because of affiliations such as these, the line between military and civilian activity can become blurred. But that doesn’t mean all military activity is hostile or equates to an escalation towards war.

Changing environment

Climate change and technological advances have begun to open up the Arctic. And this means that more policing is required in a region that is remote and often out of reach for traditional police forces.

Other issues are also arising from climate change, such as increased forest fires. In July 2018, Sweden suffered major forest fires. As part of its effort to combat the fires it deployed “laser-guided bombs to douse forest fires”. This initiative was led by the Swedish air force. By using laser bombs, the “shockwaves simply blew out the flames in the same way our breath does to candles”.

As the region’s economic activity expands, armed forces are also being asked to assist more with civilian issues. In 2017, for example, the Norwegian Coast Guard was called in by local police in Tromsø to help police Greenpeace protesters who had entered a 500-metre safety zone around the Songa Enabler rig in an effort to stop drilling in the Korpfjell field of the Barents Sea. The Norwegian Coast Guard vessel, KV Nordkapp, responded, resulting in the seizure of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship and the arrest of all 35 people on board.

Given the Arctic’s growing economic potential, military infrastructure is getting more attention. Russia, in particular, has made it clear that with economic potential on the line in the Arctic, a military build up is essential. For Russia, Arctic resources are central to the country’s economic security so the government line is: “National security in the Arctic requires an advanced naval, air force and army presence.” But issues of national security are wide ranging and are not solely a matter of building capacity to defend oneself from or in war.

Overall, it is vital to remember that while militaries are tools of war, they are not just tools of war. They also contribute to and provide a wide range of security services. This does not mean that increased military spending and activities should not be viewed with a critical eye. Indeed, they should. But discussing “a new Cold War” is sensationalist. It detracts from the broader roles that militaries play throughout the Arctic and stokes the very tensions it warns of.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

Articles

Navy SEAL vet looks to break wing suit distance record

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Andy Stumpf is a former Navy SEAL who hasn’t lost one iota of his drive since he took off the uniform. The same motivation that took him to harm’s way and back is now pushing him to break the wing suit overland distance record of 17.83 miles. At the same time he’s putting it all on the line to accomplish an even more important feat: raising $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs.

You can help Andy raise 1$ million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.

Andy will attempt the jump on November 1.

Here’s an infographic of Andy’s (planned) profile:

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

And check out this video about Andy’s motivation and the jump:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine Corps punishes 2 pilots for their sky penis

The Marine Corps has punished two aviators who flew their aircraft deliberately to draw a giant penis in the skies over California’s Salton Sea.

The Oct. 23, 2018 incident resulted in the West Coast Marine Corps training squadron launching an investigation into the flight pattern of a T-34C aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101.

“Two Marine Corps aviators were administratively disciplined following the completion of an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding an Oct. 23, 2018 irregular flight pattern that resulted in an obscene image,” said Maj. Josef Patterson, a spokesman for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.


Patterson did not reveal details of the disciplinary action taken against the Marines. “The aviators retained their wings and will continue service to their country as valued members of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing,” he said.

The flight pattern was originally spotted about 120 miles outside San Diego by @AircraftSpots, which monitors military air movements on Twitter.

Drawing phallic images seem to be a pattern in military aviation.

Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Goossen was fired as commander of the 69th Bomb Squadron on Nov. 27, 2018, because penis drawings were discovered on moving map software displayed on the nuclear-capable B-52‘s Combat Network Communication Technology.

During the 69th’s deployment to Al Udeid Air Force Base, Qatar, between September 2017 and April 2018, penis drawings were repeatedly created by members of the unit and were captured as screengrabs for a compact disc montage that was played at the end of the deployment.

An investigation was launched after the CD was turned into Air Force officials.

And in December 2017, the Navy punished two of its aviators for a similar stunt near Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington.

The details of their punishment were not released, but the two were allowed to keep their aviator status.

The aviators were assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 130 and flew an EA-18G Growler aircraft to draw an image of male genitalia in the sky. Witnesses captured the image on cellphone cameras and posted it on social media.

— Military.com’s Gina Harkins, Oriana Pawlyk and Hope Hodge Seck contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

Recruited as a child soldier into Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Lal Mohammed accompanied his elder teenage brother, Bakht e Ali and their father, Taweez Khan, into the training and indoctrination for a promised life of religious glory. They lived for almost two years as members of the Wilayet e Khorasan, or Islamic State Khorasan Province, in Eastern Afghanistan.


“I was nine years old when I was with them. Now I am 12. They used to show us videos on how to fight and carry out suicide bombings,” Mohammad said.

His older brother was around 16 when he joined the militant group.

Islamic State, known regionally as ISKP, emerged in the region in early 2015. Most originally belonged to the Pakistani Taliban, which had been displaced from their stronghold in Pakistan’s tribal areas by a military operation.

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An Afghan village elder directs a crowd of eager school children as Afghan Special Security Forces arrive to distribute school supplies in Shadel village, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 3, 2017. ASSF drove ISIS from the village during fall offensive operations, allowing the locals to regain their farmland and re-open schools. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Klene)

Across the border in Afghanistan, 15 years of war had left vast swathes of territory without government. The age-old Pashtun tradition of welcoming guests helped them find shelter in the homes of local Shinwari tribesmen, who had been refugees during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and were eager to return the favor.

Eastern Afghanistan, particularly Nangarhar province, became an IS stronghold.

Later, many of those who provided shelter had to flee with their families, often leaving their belongings behind.

“When Daesh (ISKP) came to our area, most people already sympathized with them,” Ali said. “Our tribal elders and religious clerics started backing them. Daesh commanders started sitting with us in our homes. They would show us videos of the infidels oppressing Muslims.”

The militants told the locals their police and army were puppets of infidels and they needed to rise up in jihad, a holy war. Some of the locals, like Khan and his sons, joined their ranks.

Life with ISKP

Life with ISKP for the boys was regimented. They woke up before dawn to offer morning prayers, followed by religious lessons focused on jihad, then daily chores, and, finally, weapons training.

Ali recalled around 100 to 150 kids who lived and trained with them, including some who were under 10 years old, like his brother, Mohammad.

I saw it with my own eyes. They used to tell these young kids that if they carried out suicide bombings, all their troubles would be over and they would go straight to paradise. They were so good at indoctrination that any child who listened to them for a month would not listen to anyone else.

All the children’s needs, clothing, weapons, food, were taken care of. Khan, their father, received a salary from ISKP.

The two brothers remember their training to be very disciplined. The ultimate goal was to make them suicide bombers.

One day, they took the younger brother on a mission. “Daesh fighters told me we were going to be in a firefight, and that they would stay behind and open fire from the check post. I should go forward and explode my suicide vest,” Mohammad said.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?
An Afghan boy receives a school bag from Afghan national army soldiers and a Marine special operations company’s team members. The ANA and MSOC unit were visiting a Helmand province village in late February. (Courtesy PhotoNATO Training Mission Afghanistan 2008)

ISKP lost that fight and had to retreat. He came back alive.

The militants focused on molding young minds by showing videos and playing militant music to increase the boys’ sense of affiliation with IS. The brothers said the idea of being part of something bigger than themselves, a battle between good and evil, felt good.

‘We wanted to slaughter someone’

Militants punished anyone who did not follow their fundamentalist brand of sharia. “We’ve seen torture. We’ve seen it happening to our own friends or relatives,” Ali recalled.

He also recalled how normal it was to kill someone.

We saw a lot of people get slaughtered. We also wanted to slaughter someone because we were told that this would bring us holy rewards from God. People who disagreed with Daesh were slaughtered.

Also Read: Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm

Khan said, “Sometimes, they would tie people’s hands and feet, and then slaughter them. Sometimes they would hang a man from a tree and just leave him there to die. Sometimes they would just beat someone up with batons ’til he died,” he said.

Escaping from the militants

Not everyone was happy with the militants, but if someone tried to escape, ISKP militants usually went after them to punish or kill them.

Despite that danger, and the promises of heaven and glorious rewards from God, the father and sons said the atrocities became too much for them to handle.

Khan described a growing sense of alienation from the group, which he started seeing as foreigners oppressing his countrymen.

“These men from TTP (Pakistani Taliban) started working here as IS. They started taking land and trees from the locals as spoils of war,” he said. “They used to kidnap Afghanis to get ransom,” he added.

Eventually, Khan decided to take his sons, and some other men under his command, and escape to a government-controlled area. They surrendered to local police. He now works with the police.

“Even now, if IS finds out we are here, they will find us and kill us,” Ali said.

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?
Afghan kids take a moment to smile for the camera. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Meanwhile, they have no idea of the fate of dozens of other child soldiers who were living with ISKP.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, the Taliban have also trained and deployed scores of children for military operations and used them to plant homemade bombs.

The United Nations has documented the use of child soldiers by Afghan police.

In December last year, the Afghan government signed an initiative called the Child Protection Policy, with the aim of protecting children in conflict zones, including barring its security forces from using children in armed conflict.

But for children like Ali and Mohammad, there is no effective program to de-radicalize and re-integrate them into society. Now, Bakht e Ali works as a security guard, while Lal Mohammad stays at home and has not joined school again.

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