Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford reiterated on Nov. 17, 2018, that reconciliation is the only way forward in Afghanistan and that political, economic, religious, and military pressure must be maintained on the group.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized to Yalda Hakim, a foreign correspondent of BBC World News, that there is no military solution in Afghanistan and that the struggle in that country will require all aspects of government.

The chairman was participating in a Halifax Chat as part of the 10th annual International Security Forum here.


“Success in Afghanistan is an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process,” Dunford said. “That requires us to have political pressure, social pressure and military pressure. In the military dimension, our task is to make sure the Taliban realize that they cannot win on the battlefield.”

NATO and partner nations are working closely with Afghan national security forces to keep the pressure on the Taliban. At the same time, other agencies are working to improve economic conditions in the country. In addition, Islamic organizations are working to encourage the Taliban to talk with and ultimately join the Afghan government. Religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan have issued fatwas calling on the Taliban to lay down their weapons and talk peace, Dunford said.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is interviewed by BBC World News correspondent Yalda Hakim in Canada during the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, Nov. 17, 2018.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Part of the pressure was the recent elections in Afghanistan. “The elections that just took place, [were] largely successful and less violent, certainly, than people predicted,” he said. “And I think political transition in 2019 will also be critical in putting pressure on the Taliban.”

All this will combine to convince Taliban leaders that their future lies with reconciliation, the general said.

“But the key to success is to combine all of that pressure to incentivize the Taliban for, again, that Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process,” he said.

Undergirding everything in Afghanistan is the South Asia Strategy. A key provision in that is its conditions-based approach. The Afghan government and Afghan people know that the world is with them in trying to move through this constant state of war. “And I would also say that the decision by NATO and partner nations to support the Afghan national defense security forces through 2024 absolutely affects the Taliban’s calculus,” Dunford said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

War with North Korea will either be all out or not at all

US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of the US military in the Pacific, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 15, 2018, that the US isn’t planning a one-off, “bloody nose” strike on North Korea, but rather it’s planning to go all out in war or not at all.


Senior administration officials are reportedly exploring the “bloody nose” strategy, which entails a limited strike to humiliate and intimidate North Korea. When asked about this during the Senate hearing, Harris said no such plan existed.

Also read: Trump will meet with Kim Jong Un to end the Korean nuclear crisis

“We have no bloody nose strategy. I don’t know what that is,” Harris said in response to a question from Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, USNI reported.

“I am charged by the national command authority of developing a range of options through the spectrum of violence, and I’m ready to execute whatever the President and the national command authority directs me to do, but a bloody nose strategy is not being contemplated,” Harris continued.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation
President Donald Trump.

Experts uniformly reacted in horror at the news that President Donald Trump’s administration was reportedly planning a limited strike on North Korea, as they allege it would likely result in an all-out, possibly nuclear retaliation from Pyongyang.

According to Harris, the US feels the same way.

Related: Trump commits US to maximum pressure on North Korea

“If we do anything along the kinetic spectrum of conflict, we have to be ready to do the whole thing,” Harris said, pouring cold water on the idea of a limited strike that would only have rhetorical ramifications.

Speculation over Trump’s willingness to strike North Korea peaked after he dismissed Victor Cha, a widely respected Korea expert, as US ambassador to South Korea after almost a year of consideration.

Cha’s dismissal owed to his disagreement Trump’s plan to attack North Korea, multiple outlets reported at the time.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps excited for full-rate production of G/ATOR system

The Marine Corps has reached another acquisition milestone decision by gaining approval for full-rate production of the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition on May 23, 2019. The G/ATOR system combines five legacy radar systems into a single, modernized solution with multiple operational capabilities, providing Marines with comprehensive situational awareness of everything in the sky.

“G/ATOR is a phenomenal capability that lends itself to warfighting dominance for years to come,” said John Campoli, program manager for Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We’ve received tremendous positive feedback from Marines on the system, and are excited to get this capability to warfighters across the MAGTF.”


G/ATOR provides real-time radar measurement data to the Common Aviation Command and Control System, Composite Tracking Network, and Advanced Field Artillery Data System. All G/ATOR systems share a common hardware and operating system software baseline to satisfy the warfighter’s expeditionary needs across the MAGTF with a single solution.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

U.S. Marines set up the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar system on Feb. 26, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Leo Amaro)

The highly expeditionary, three-dimensional, short-to-medium-range multi-role radar system is designed to detect, identify and track cruise missiles, manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles as well as rockets, mortars and artillery fire. The Corps started fielding G/ATOR to Marines in 2018, reaching initial operational capability for air defense and surveillance missions in February 2018 and counter-fire and counterbattery missions in March 2019.

As previously reported, G/ATOR is being developed and fielded in three blocks that will support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force across the range of its capabilities. Block 1 — which began fielding a year ago — provides air defense and surveillance capabilities; Block 2 supports MAGTF counter-fire and counterbattery missions; and Block 4 — a future iteration — will provide expeditionary airport surveillance radar capabilities to the MAGTF. With this full-rate production decision, the Corps will procure 30 additional G/ATOR units.

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

Articles

WATCH: This Royal Marine’s viral video about drowning could save your life

A Royal Marine has created a viral video highlighting what to do in the event you’re stranded without a flotation device. After jumping into a pool, TikTok user @dutchintheusa fashions a flotation device out of his pants to slip around his neck and stay afloat. Over 10 million people have viewed the TikTok video, with comments offering gratitude for the potentially lifesaving video.

User @Dutchintheusa is a Royal Marine, an elite amphibious force of the Royal Navy, held at very high readiness for worldwide rapid response and threat neutralization. According to their website, the role of the Royal Marines is to serve “as the UK’s Commando Force and the Royal Navy’s own amphibious troops. They are an elite fighting force, optimised for worldwide rapid response and are able to deal with a wide spectrum of threats and security challenges. Fully integrated with the Royal Navy’s amphibious ships, they can be deployed globally without host nation support and projected from the sea to conduct operations on land. A key component of the Royal Navy’s maritime security function, they provide a unique capability and are experts in ship-to-ship operations.”

In May, Royal Marines reported joint training with US Naval Special Warfare Task Unit-Europe:

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation
Photo: Royal Marines

From their website:

Royal Marines have carried out commando training missions alongside US Navy forces across Scotland during the early phases of a deployment that will take them around northern Europe.

Members of the US Naval Special Warfare Task Unit-Europe joined Arbroath-based 45 Commando on rigorous urban close-quarter combat training missions in Garelochhead, live firing drills and vertical assaults near Loch Lomond.

45 Commando form a central part of the Littoral Response Group (North) deployment, which will take commando forces and Royal Navy ships – HMS Albion, RFA Mounts Bay and HMS Lancaster – around northern Europe and into the heart of the Baltic this spring.

To prepare for those operations, more than 300 commandos headed on two separate preparatory ‘battle camps’, which saw them carry out a variety of essential commando training exercises alongside US allies to keep them razor sharp for what’s to come.

Marine Nathan Bell, X-Ray Company, said: “I enjoyed having the chance to practice close-quarters battle, it’s interesting, but it’s also really important.

“It’s mentally quite tough as well though, because in real life, the scenario you are faced with will be unique; therefore, you need to be so well drilled that you can rely on your initiative in the heat of the moment. 

“Commando basic training sets the foundations of teamwork and discipline which allows us to be successful.”

TikTok user @dutchintheusa has 3.5M TikTok followers and posts a variety of safety and escape videos, which can be found here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia’s only carrier would fight an American carrier

It wasn’t so long ago that the British and Russians exchanged trash talk over carriers. That all started when the then-Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, called the Admiral Kuznetsov “dilapidated.” The Russians responded by calling the first of the Royal Navy’s new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, “a large, convenient target” and warned the Brits to keep their distance.


Now, both carriers have had their problems. If you’re a loyal WATM reader, you have followed the Kuznetsov Follies. We are talking a first deployment that featured two splash landings, needing to operate planes from land bases, not to mention the fact that the new fighter is a possible dud and the carrier is a floating hell for the crew.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

HMS Queen Elizabeth has a problem of her own, though. No planes. In fact, she may have to operate F-35Bs from the United States Marine Corps, which will require some adjustments. Any fight here would be tough to call, but give the Brits the edge. Once the F-35s clear out the Kuznetsov’s air wing (largely because they are far more advanced than MiG-29s and Su-33s), the Kuznetsov will only have 12 SS-N-19 Shipwreck missiles to use. No problem for the Queen Elizabeth’s escorts.

Related video:

But how well would the Kuznetsov fare against an American carrier? If anything, it’s even more of a slaughter. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Kuznetsov can carry 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums, four Su-25 Frogfoot trainers, 15 Ka-27 Helix ASW helicopters, and two Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning choppers.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

By comparison, it should be noted that a typical American carrier air wing has four strike-fighter squadrons of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F/A-18C Hornets, each with a dozen multi-role fighters. So, the Russians are fighting at the wrong end of eight-to-three odds. The American carrier’s air wing, by the way, does offer electronic-warfare assets as well.

Once the Kuznetsov’s fighters are gone, the American carrier can then either launch an alpha strike to sink the Kuznetsov, or support an attack by B-1B Lancers carrying LRASMs. Either way, the Kuznetsov is going down. Heck, even an old Midway-class carrier could take the Kuznetsov.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

MIGHTY TRENDING

It rains on the sun – this is how

For five months in mid 2017, Emily Mason did the same thing every day. Arriving to her office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, she sat at her desk, opened up her computer, and stared at images of the Sun — all day, every day. “I probably looked through three or five years’ worth of data,” Mason estimated. Then, in October 2017, she stopped. She realized she had been looking at the wrong thing all along.

Mason, a graduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was searching for coronal rain: giant globs of plasma, or electrified gas, that drip from the Sun’s outer atmosphere back to its surface. But she expected to find it in helmet streamers, the million-mile tall magnetic loops — named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet — that can be seen protruding from the Sun during a solar eclipse. Computer simulations predicted the coronal rain could be found there. Observations of the solar wind, the gas escaping from the Sun and out into space, hinted that the rain might be happening. And if she could just find it, the underlying rain-making physics would have major implications for the 70-year-old mystery of why the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona, is so much hotter than its surface. But after nearly half a year of searching, Mason just couldn’t find it. “It was a lot of looking,” Mason said, “for something that never ultimately happened.”


The problem, it turned out, wasn’t what she was looking for, but where. In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Mason and her coauthors describe the first observations of coronal rain in a smaller, previously overlooked kind of magnetic loop on the Sun. After a long, winding search in the wrong direction, the findings forge a new link between the anomalous heating of the corona and the source of the slow solar wind — two of the biggest mysteries facing solar science today.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

Mason searched for coronal rain in helmet streamers like the one that appears on the left side of this image, taken during the 1994 eclipse as viewed from South America. A smaller pseudostreamer appears on the western limb (right side of image). Named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet, helmet streamers extend far into the Sun’s faint corona and are most readily seen when the light from the Sun’s bright surface is occluded.

(© 1994 Úpice observatory and Vojtech Rušin, © 2007 Miloslav Druckmüller)

How it rains on the Sun

Observed through the high-resolution telescopes mounted on NASA’s SDO spacecraft, the Sun – a hot ball of plasma, teeming with magnetic field lines traced by giant, fiery loops — seems to have few physical similarities with Earth. But our home planet provides a few useful guides in parsing the Sun’s chaotic tumult: among them, rain.

On Earth, rain is just one part of the larger water cycle, an endless tug-of-war between the push of heat and pull of gravity. It begins when liquid water, pooled on the planet’s surface in oceans, lakes, or streams, is heated by the Sun. Some of it evaporates and rises into the atmosphere, where it cools and condenses into clouds. Eventually, those clouds become heavy enough that gravity’s pull becomes irresistible and the water falls back to Earth as rain, before the process starts anew.

On the Sun, Mason said, coronal rain works similarly, “but instead of 60-degree water you’re dealing with a million-degree plasma.” Plasma, an electrically-charged gas, doesn’t pool like water, but instead traces the magnetic loops that emerge from the Sun’s surface like a rollercoaster on tracks. At the loop’s foot points, where it attaches to the Sun’s surface, the plasma is superheated from a few thousand to over 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit. It then expands up the loop and gathers at its peak, far from the heat source. As the plasma cools, it condenses and gravity lures it down the loop’s legs as coronal rain.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

Coronal rain, like that shown in this movie from NASA’s SDO in 2012, is sometimes observed after solar eruptions, when the intense heating associated with a solar flare abruptly cuts off after the eruption and the remaining plasma cools and falls back to the solar surface. Mason was searching for coronal rain not associated with eruptions, but instead caused by a cyclical process of heating and cooling similar to the water cycle on Earth.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, Lead Animator)

Mason was looking for coronal rain in helmet streamers, but her motivation for looking there had more to do with this underlying heating and cooling cycle than the rain itself. Since at least the mid-1990s, scientists have known that helmet streamers are one source of the slow solar wind, a comparatively slow, dense stream of gas that escapes the Sun separately from its fast-moving counterpart. But measurements of the slow solar wind gas revealed that it had once been heated to an extreme degree before cooling and escaping the Sun. The cyclical process of heating and cooling behind coronal rain, if it was happening inside the helmet streamers, would be one piece of the puzzle.

The other reason connects to the coronal heating problem — the mystery of how and why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is some 300 times hotter than its surface. Strikingly, simulations have shown that coronal rain only forms when heat is applied to the very bottom of the loop. “If a loop has coronal rain on it, that means that the bottom 10% of it, or less, is where coronal heating is happening,” said Mason. Raining loops provide a measuring rod, a cutoff point to determine where the corona gets heated. Starting their search in the largest loops they could find — giant helmet streamers — seemed like a modest goal, and one that would maximize their chances of success.

She had the best data for the job: Images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, a spacecraft that has photographed the Sun every twelve seconds since its launch in 2010. But nearly half a year into the search, Mason still hadn’t observed a single drop of rain in a helmet streamer. She had, however, noticed a slew of tiny magnetic structures, ones she wasn’t familiar with. “They were really bright and they kept drawing my eye,” said Mason. “When I finally took a look at them, sure enough they had tens of hours of rain at a time.”

At first, Mason was so focused on her helmet streamer quest that she made nothing of the observations. “She came to group meeting and said, ‘I never found it — I see it all the time in these other structures, but they’re not helmet streamers,'” said Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at Goddard, and a coauthor of the paper. “And I said, ‘Wait…hold on. Where do you see it? I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that before!'”

A measuring rod for heating

These structures differed from helmet streamers in several ways. But the most striking thing about them was their size.

“These loops were much smaller than what we were looking for,” said Spiro Antiochos, who is also a solar physicist at Goddard and a coauthor of the paper. “So that tells you that the heating of the corona is much more localized than we were thinking.”

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

Mason’s article analyzed three observations of Raining Null-Point Topologies, or RNTPs, a previously overlooked magnetic structure shown here in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. The coronal rain observed in these comparatively small magnetic loops suggests that the corona may be heated within a far more restricted region than previously expected.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Emily Mason)

While the findings don’t say exactly how the corona is heated, “they do push down the floor of where coronal heating could happen,” said Mason. She had found raining loops that were some 30,000 miles high, a mere two percent the height of some of the helmet streamers she was originally looking for. And the rain condenses the region where the key coronal heating can be happening. “We still don’t know exactly what’s heating the corona, but we know it has to happen in this layer,” said Mason.

A new source for the slow solar wind

But one part of the observations didn’t jibe with previous theories. According to the current understanding, coronal rain only forms on closed loops, where the plasma can gather and cool without any means of escape. But as Mason sifted through the data, she found cases where rain was forming on open magnetic field lines. Anchored to the Sun at only one end, the other end of these open field lines fed out into space, and plasma there could escape into the solar wind. To explain the anomaly, Mason and the team developed an alternative explanation — one that connected rain on these tiny magnetic structures to the origins of the slow solar wind.

In the new explanation, the raining plasma begins its journey on a closed loop, but switches — through a process known as magnetic reconnection — to an open one. The phenomenon happens frequently on the Sun, when a closed loop bumps into an open field line and the system rewires itself. Suddenly, the superheated plasma on the closed loop finds itself on an open field line, like a train that has switched tracks. Some of that plasma will rapidly expand, cool down, and fall back to the Sun as coronal rain. But other parts of it will escape – forming, they suspect, one part of the slow solar wind.

Mason is currently working on a computer simulation of the new explanation, but she also hopes that soon-to-come observational evidence may confirm it. Now that Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, is traveling closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it, it can fly through bursts of slow solar wind that can be traced back to the Sun — potentially, to one of Mason’s coronal rain events. After observing coronal rain on an open field line, the outgoing plasma, escaping to the solar wind, would normally be lost to posterity. But no longer. “Potentially we can make that connection with Parker Solar Probe and say, that was it,” said Viall.

Digging through the data

As for finding coronal rain in helmet streamers? The search continues. The simulations are clear: the rain should be there. “Maybe it’s so small you can’t see it?” said Antiochos. “We really don’t know.”

But then again, if Mason had found what she was looking for she might not have made the discovery — or have spent all that time learning the ins and outs of solar data.

“It sounds like a slog, but honestly it’s my favorite thing,” said Mason. “I mean that’s why we built something that takes that many images of the Sun: So we can look at them and figure it out.”

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.

The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.

“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”

His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.


The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.

Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.

(Circle of Heroes)

For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.

“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”

One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.

On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.

“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”

In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Video still by Bill Mills)

“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.

Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.

“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”

Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.

Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.

He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.

“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Shawn Campbell)

Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.

“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”

While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.

“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.

“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Recently, the Afghan Air Force grabbed headlines by dropping its first laser-guided bomb. From here, that might not seem so impressive — the U.S. dropped laser-guided Paveways in Vietnam as early as 1968. But, considering the fact that their military force was decimated by a civil war that began after the Soviets left in 1989, Afghanistan’s military modernization is quite the shock.


Today, as World Air Forces 2018 notes, the Afghan Air Force has 12 A-29 Super Tucanos (with six more on order) as well as 28 MD530Fs (with 154 on order) and ten UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters. The Afghan Air Force is also acquiring almost 160 UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters, four of which have already been delivered. These aircraft are set to replace a fleet of Russian-designed Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters and Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

Afghan Air Force MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter fires its two FN M3P .50 cal machine guns

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The Super Tucano is currently a finalist in the OA-X competition (alongside the Beechcraft AT-6B). The UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters are second-hand, but will be upgraded with a newer engine and rocket pods before delivery. Afghanistan is also going to acquire Cessna 208 Caravan light transport aircraft armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

But did you know that, thirty years ago, the Afghan Air Force packed a lot of punch? An inventory of older equipment shows a lengthy list of Soviet designs were once in service, ranging from the Il-28 Beagle and MiG-17 Fresco to the MiG-23 Flogger. But 12 years of civil war wore that force down substantially. By the time Operation Enduring Freedom began, less than 20 planes were flyable. After Operation Enduring Freedom, there simply wasn’t an Afghan Air Force.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

One of what will be up to 160 UH-60A Blackhawks for the Afghan Air Force.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jared J. Duhon)

We’ve got a long way to go before the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS are defeated in Afghanistan, but the new Afghan Air Force should help speed that process along.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia tested electronic warfare on its own troops

Russia held large-scale military exercises with troops from Belarus earlier this year, during which Moscow claimed more than 12,000 soldiers took part in a variety of drills in both countries.


The Zapad 2017 exercises fell short of many of the sinister elements observers thought they might include, but one aspect of the electronic-warfare component of the drills elicited surprise among NATO officials.

“The amount of jamming of their own troops surprised me. It was at a level we haven’t seen,” the chief of Estonia’s military intelligence, Col. Kaupo Rosin, told Defense News. “And they did it in the different branches, so land force, Air Force. That definitely surprised us.”

Rosin said Russia has an advantage in that its forces can switch to civilian electronic infrastructure within its own territory should their military electronic networks get jammed or become compromised.

“They tested [their own troops] to learn how to switch into their own cable network and not to emanate anymore, but to deal with the problem,” he said.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation
Zapad 2017, at the Luzhsky training ground during the main stage of the Zapad-2017 joint Russian-Belarusian strategic exercises. (Image from Moscow Kremlin)

Estonia and its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania, have warned about increasingly assertive Russian action along their shared borders. Estonia in particular has noticed increased Russian espionage activity.

The country’s intelligence service noted in its most recent annual report that:

The Russian special services are interested in both the collection of information and in influencing decisions important for Estonia. The Russian intelligence and security services conduct anti-Estonian influence operations, including psychological operations — in other words, influencing the defense forces and the general population of a potential enemy.

Rosin said NATO forces had a record of good communications, pointing to the bloc’s experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he noted that Russia is more capable than opponents faced in those countries, so NATO needs to look for new solutions and different ways to train its military leaders.

“We have to approach the problem as a complex problem — not just jamming, but also what other means can we use in order to disrupt the Russian communication system,” he told Defense News. “It probably includes some cyber activities.”

Baltic and British officials have said there is evidence of persistent Russian hacking efforts against European energy and telecommunications networks, as well as disinformation campaigns. Estonia itself hosted NATO’s biggest cyber-defense exercise this week, where “fictional scenarios [were] based on real threats,” a Estonian army officer said.

Rosin also said a foe with more robust electronic-warfare capabilities would require new ways of training officers to approach their commands. “If you have some limitations in communications, for example, how do you deal with that?” he said.

The military-intelligence chief cited Estonia’s military’s rapid troop call-up abilities and its relatively small size as potential advantages in a conflict, but, he added, communicating and coordinating with troops from other NATO members countries would complicate operations.

“When we are talking about the NATO command structure or different staff,” he told Defense News, “then I think the problem will kick in.”

Also Read: This is how Russia could sweep NATO from the Baltic Sea

NATO has itself assessed shortcomings in its command structure. An internal report seen by German news outlet Der Spiegal concluded that the alliance’s ability to rapidly deploy throughout Europe had “atrophied” since the Cold War ended.

The report recommended forming two new command centers: One to oversee the shipment of personnel and supplies to Europe, and another to oversee logistics operations in Europe. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in early November that the bloc’s defense ministers were set to approve a plan to create those commands.

Despite that change, Rosin said there remained operational and strategic challenges to NATO capabilities as well as questions about the bloc’s ability to deter threats.

Russia has advantages in time, personnel, and territory in which to operate, and Moscow would try to thwart a NATO military response, he said, noting vulnerabilities created by the Suwalki Gap and sea lines of communication.

“So the danger for us is if the Russians for some reason come to the conclusion that they might get away with some type of action in our region, then there is … [the possibility that they] might do some miscalculation and start something, which we don’t want,” he told Defense News. “In order to keep that under control, then our military posture must be adequate and the plans must be adequate. [Russia is asking]: Is really NATO coming to help or not?”

Russian action in Ukraine in 2014 and its continued involvement there — and NATO’s response to it — have been cause for concern in Eastern Europe, the Baltics in particular.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation
Ukrainian internal police at a massive pro-EU rally in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Ivan Bandura.)

Earlier this year, Lithuania’s defense minister told The Guardian that his country was “taking very seriously” Russian threats to Batlic stability, drawing parallels between propaganda about Lithuania emanating from Moscow and events preceding Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

NATO has increased its troop and equipment deployment to the region in recent months to reassure allies there. (Lithuania has said it wants a permanent U.S. troop presence there.)

In June 2016, US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts practiced takeoffs and landings on an Estonian highway for the first time since 1984. Russian and NATO aircraft have also come into increasingly close contact in the skies over the Baltics in recent years.

Overall, Rosin said, NATO had improved is posture in relation to Russia. Asked about his 2015 comments that Moscow was playing hockey while everyone else was figure skating, he struck an optimistic tone.

“I’m not sure if we are in the same hockey league with the Russians. Definitely not yet,” he told Defense News. “We are in a good way, but there is a lot of room for improvement.”

Articles

The US just tested an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile

An unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile has been launched from a U.S. Air Force Base in California on a flight to a target in the Pacific Ocean.


The missile lifted off at 12:03 a.m. April 26 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

An Air Force statement said the mission was part of a program to test the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation
Another unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test Dec. 17, 2013 and again on Sep. 5, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

The 30th Space Wing commander, Col. John Moss, said Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of the U.S. nuclear force and to demonstrate the national nuclear capabilities.

In a Minuteman test, a so-called re-entry vehicle travels more than 4,000 miles downrange to a target at Kwajalein Atoll near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

“Team V is once again ready to work with Air Force Global Strike Command to successfully launch another Minuteman III missile,” Moss said. “These Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities. We are proud of our long history in partnering with the men and women of the 576th Flight Test Squadron to execute these missions for the nation.”

The 576th Flight Test Squadron will be responsible for installed tracking, telemetry, and command destruct systems on the missile.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Surfing superstar Hangs 10 and donates $20k to veterans

Kelly Slater is known around the world as arguably the greatest surfer of all time. An 11-time world champion, Slater is iconic in the surfing community.


Watching videos on YouTube, it’s easy to see why he has been so dominant on the board and has had such a huge influence and impact on the sport.

Outside the surfing community, there’s another group of people Slater continues to help: veterans.

Slater built a pretty rad surfing ranch out in the California countryside that attracts surf aficionados and celebrities alike.

The ranch is also a spot used by nonprofits to provide outlets for wounded warriors to surf as a part of therapy.

In addition to surfing, Slater is also known for many other things from being a businessman, model, actor, environmentalist, philanthropist and overall cool dude.

When it comes to philanthropy, Slater is known for giving to myriad causes. He has donated and raised awareness for protecting the ocean and worked on suicide prevention.

But this weekend, his focus was on an oft forgotten population – wounded warriors.

In addition to being the greatest surfer of all time, Slater is also an avid golfer. Every year he can, he participates in the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am which was held this past weekend.

The Pro-Am is a celebrity-studded event which features the best golfers in the world playing alongside athletes from other sports and entertainment celebrities.

Crowds love the atmosphere which is more relaxed than usual golf events.

One of the events held was the Chevron Shootout. The shootout is where past champions of the tournament are paired with champions from the world of sports to compete in a team putting competition at the Pebble Beach Putting Green with winnings going to the player’s charity of choice.

Other athletes included Steve Young, Matt Ryan, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker. Slater was paired with D.A. Point and won the Shootout, donating his winnings to his charity of choice: Wounded Warrior Project.

Of the ,000 prize his team won, he gets to donate half to that cause.

Slater later posted on Facebook posting pics of the event.

As you can see in the comments, veterans loved the love Slater gave to the veteran community. Mahola, Mr. Slater.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 26th

Oh boy, picking just one military news story and riffing on it is going to be hard this week.

Let’s see… The Coasties beat the Marines in a sniper competition. The Marines drew another skydick over Miramar. Civilians learned that the Air Force has enough money to waste hundreds of thousands on easily broken coffee mugs. A soldier got arrested in South Korea for kicking a policeman in the nads. And the Commander-in-Chief said he’d, “send in the military — not the guard — but the military,” effectively discrediting the efforts of over half a million guardsmen.

Because I can’t come up with anything funnier than reality has been this week for the military, I’ll just remind you that your Cyber Security cert is almost expired. You should probably get on that.


Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via Battle Bars)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via Private News Network)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via Ranger Up)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

13. The perfect Halloween costume doesn’t exi-

No, seriously. You should probably get your Cyber Security training done.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

As the prospect of a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan is closer than it has ever been, the peace process with the Taliban could be derailed by competing agendas.

Longtime rivals Russia and the United States have backed separate negotiations with different stakeholders, muddling the complex process.

To highlight the confusion, the Taliban first sat down for talks with American negotiators in Qatar before meeting a delegation of powerful Afghan power brokers in Moscow for “intra-Afghan” talks.


Why two simultaneous negotiating processes?

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held a series of direct talks with Taliban negotiators in the Qatari capital, Doha, culminating in the basic framework of a possible peace deal.

Meanwhile, Moscow has organized two peace conferences — the latest on Feb. 5-6, 2019 — that have drawn representatives from Afghanistan’s neighbors, opposition politicians, and the same Taliban negotiators that met with the American delegation in Doha.

Taliban, Afghan Delegations Meet In Moscow

www.youtube.com

Both processes have frozen out the Afghan government, which the Taliban has refused to meet. The militants see the Kabul government as a Western puppet and have said they will negotiate directly with Washington.

Analysts say Moscow is trying to promote itself as a power broker to challenge the U.S.-backed peace process.

Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul, says the Russian peace talks are fueled by “Russian political sniping against the [United States].”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Feb. 4, 2019, that the United States was trying to “monopolize” peace talks with the Taliban and was conducting talks in secrecy while keeping regional countries “in the dark.”

Haroun Mir, an Kabul-based political analyst, says it has been the Taliban’s strategy to have two simultaneous tracks for negotiations.

“The Taliban has insisted on negotiating first with the United States and then bypassing the Afghan government and initiating a dialogue with different Afghan political groups,” says Mir. “Thus far they have been successful in dividing the Afghan political elite who have supported the constitutional process in the past 18 years.”

What are the consequences of having two tracks?

Analysts say a major consequence is deepening divisions inside Afghanistan between President Ashraf Ghani’s administration and a host of powerful opposition politicians, including former President Hamid Karzai.

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Among those who attended the Moscow meetings were key power brokers who have announced their candidacy to run against Ghani in the July presidential election.

Ruttig says for Moscow not to include the Afghan government was an “affront” and has the strong feel of election campaigning and Russia taking sides.

“A united ‘Kabul camp’ would be better, but maybe this is an illusion anyway,” says Ruttig. “But [unity] was clearly not the desire of the Russian government: this is divide and interfere.”

Ghani is reportedly furious about his administration being left out of both the U.S. and Russian talks.

The president’s office criticized the meeting in Moscow, saying that Afghan politicians attending the gathering were doing so “in order to gain power.” Meanwhile, Kabul fears Washington will make a deal in Doha with the Taliban behind their back.

Analyst Mir says by keeping the Kabul government out of the U.S.- and Russia-backed talks the Taliban wants to “reduce the legitimacy of the Afghan government to a minimum and thus further strengthen [its] bargaining position vis-a-vis the United States and extract maximum advantage.”

Who are the likely winners and losers?

Graeme Smith, an Afghanistan analyst and a consultant for the International Crisis Group, says no one has won or lost because all of the actors have stakes in the outcome.

“If these talks give birth to an inclusive intra-Afghan process, the people of Afghanistan could finally gain relief from the world’s deadliest war,” says Smith. “If the talks fail to include all sides and no durable peace results [from them], the people could suffer another collapse into civil war.”

Sidelined and frustrated, the weak, deeply unpopular Afghan government may feel it is the biggest loser so far.

Mir says it’s not just the government that stands to lose, but “all of those who have defended the constitutional process for the past 18 years.”

Analysts say the talks have given Russia the chance to burnish perceptions of Moscow’s global significance while dealing a fresh blow to Western influence.

Ruttig says Moscow’s role is another assertion that it is “back in the strategic game.”

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

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