Palestinian terror groups claimed responsibility for firing more than 100 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel from May 29 to May 30, 2018, in the worst bombardment seen since the 2014 Gaza war referred to as Operation Protective Edge.
Israel’s Channel 10 estimated that more than 115 rockets and missiles were launched from Gaza into Israel after the first sirens were heard near the Gaza border at 6 p.m. on May 29, 2018. Other estimates listed the number as high as 130.
Despite the heavy barrage, no civilian casualties have been reported on the Israeli side as its Iron Dome missile defense system shot down many of the projectiles. Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) said three of its soldiers were wounded by mortar fragments on Tuesday, Haaretz reported.
The IDF said on Twitter that it struck 25 military targets in Gaza in retaliation for the increased fire.
“The IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios and is determined to act against terror operatives.,” the IDF said.
Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks claiming it was in response to Israel’s killing of over 100 Palestinians participating in sometimes violent protests along its border since March 30, 2018.
“Qassam and Jerusalem Brigades (the groups’ armed wings) announce joint responsibility for bombarding (Israel’s) military installations and settlements near Gaza with dozens of rocket shells throughout the day,” the groups said in a joint statement, according to Reuters.
Israel also imposed a naval blockade on Gaza on May 29, 2018, and stopped a boat with 17 Gazan protesters from reaching Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said on May 30, 2018, it believed the fighting had come to an end. Hamas said it had agreed on a ceasefire with help from Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza Haaretz reported.
Israel said it would be willing to respect the ceasefire, with Egypt acting as a moderating force. However an Israeli official told Haaretz that Israel was prepared to ramp up its retaliatory attacks if rocket launches resume.
The Gaza border has been the site of mass protests aimed at lifting Israel and Egypt’s blockade on the Gaza Strip which has been in place since 2014.
Rocket launches from were common during Israel’s war with Gaza in 2014. The 7-week war saw 73 deaths on the Israeli side and over 2,000 deaths on the Palestinian side, according to various estimates by Israel, the UN and Hamas.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Gen. “Stormin'” Norman Schwarzkopf was preparing for a counter-offensive against Iraqi invaders in Kuwait, he was disappointed by the initial plans put forward by his staff. The plans looked, to him, like they might fail — or at least require many more lives, time, and lost equipment than any coalition nation would be happy losing.
The SAMS graduates were like this — except for the mask and the lightsaber and the robes.
(Photo by Simon King)
The story started in September, 1990, when Schwarzkopf put out the call for new blood on his planning team. Four recent SAMS graduates were sent straight to him, arriving in theater within weeks of the call. When they were assembled, Schwarzkopf gave them a seemingly impossible task: Draft a new offensive war plan within two weeks while not telling anyone what they were doing or asking any questions that could expose their purpose. For the four top planners, led by Col. Joseph Purvis, this presented a series of challenges. They couldn’t tell any lower-level staff why they needed to know details, like exactly how many trucks a unit had or how quickly their slowest vehicles could move on sand up a hill.
I mean, everyone was glad for the help, but the more tank types you bring, the more details you have to keep track of.
(Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. H. H. Deffner)
If that wasn’t challenging enough, someone up their chain (many civilian and military leaders have claimed credit since the war) had envisioned a “Left Hook” attack that required an entire corps to secretly move through the massive desert with limited ability to resupply while facing a numerically superior force.
But this was the exact challenge that the year-long SAMS program prepared graduates for, infusing into them a deep understanding of strategic planning. Purvis’s team at Central Command reached out to other SAMS graduates at both American corps and every subordinate division they could find and set up a backdoor network for asking their detailed questions about equipment numbers and unit strengths.
What emerged from the planning cell, working with troops at Third Army, VII Corps, and XVIII Airborne Corps, was a plan for forces that focused on breaking the Republican Guard units and other forces and had little emphasis on holding ground. ‘Envelope and destroy,’ not ‘clear and hold.’
In other words, rather than focusing on liberating Kuwait and destroying Iraqi forces in the process, the coalition would focus on breaking Iraqi forces and allow liberation to naturally follow. Coalition units wouldn’t need to stay in place and hold ground.
The SAMS graduates across the force worked with the four planners at top to create realistic timelines for movements, emphasizing speed but acknowledging environmental facts, like how an armored column needs time to re-form, refuel, and rearm for attacks after long drives through the desert.
The “Left Hook” was a massive undertaking that needed to be accomplished with secrecy and finesse so the Iraqis would keep their attentions to the east until it was too late.
(Photo by U.S. Navy PHC D. W. Holmes II)
They recommended a large logistics buildup to support a “short duration, high tempo, high consumption ground offensive.”
Translation: If you throw everything at them in the first week, there won’t be anything left to fight against (or with) in the second.
Plans were drawn up that utilized most divisions for their specific strengths. Airborne forces moved throughout the battlefield, guarding supply lines and keeping isolated Iraqi forces cutoff. Air assault soldiers used their helicopters to strike deep into Iraqi territory and disrupt defenses.
Before he was wielding lightsabers in Star Wars or blowing up Twitter with Marriage Story, Adam Driver was a Marine with 1/1 Weapons Company, 81’s platoon, out in Camp Pendleton, California.
“I joined a few months after September 11, feeling like I think most people in the country did at the time, filled with a sense of patriotism and retribution and the desire to do something,” he stated in his opening remarks.
He joined the Marines and found that he loved it.
“Firing weapons was cool, driving and detonating expensive things was great. But I found I loved the Marine Corps the most for the thing I was looking for the least when I joined, which was the people: these weird dudes — a motley crew of characters from a cross section of the United States — that on the surface I had nothing in common with. And over time, all the political and personal bravado that led me to the military dissolved, and for me, the Marine Corps became synonymous with my friends,” he shared, voicing the brotherhood that many veterans feel while in service.
Then, months before deploying to Iraq, he dislocated his sternum in a mountain-biking accident and was medically separated.
“Those never in the military may find this hard to understand, but being told I wasn’t getting deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan was very devastating for me,” he confessed.
Those of us who wore the uniform but never deployed know exactly what he means.
It’s a different type of survivor’s guilt, a common response to surviving a life-threatening situation. In this case, it’s about not even going into that situation. In the eighteen years since the 9/11 attacks, our military has kept a high deployment tempo. Many of our friends never returned.
And for those of us left behind — whether because our mission was elsewhere in the world or, like Driver, we were medically ineligible for combat — well, it’s a shitty feeling.
“I have a very clear image of leaving the base hospital on a stretcher and my entire platoon is waiting outside to see if I was OK. And then, suddenly, I was a civilian again,” blinked Driver.
“It’s a powerful thing, getting in a room with complete strangers and reminding ourselves of our humanity, and that self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder.” Or a lightsaber at your hip?
“I was surprised by how complex the transition was from military to civilian. And I was relatively healthy; I can’t imagine going through that process on top of a mental or physical injury. But regardless, it was difficult,” he shared, voicing what many veterans have felt after their service.
He struggled with finding a job. “I was an Infantry Marine, where you’re shooting machine guns and firing mortars. There’s not a lot of places you can put those skills in the civilian world,” he joked.
He also struggled with finding meaning in acting school while his friends were serving without him overseas.
“Emotionally, I struggled to find meaning. In the military, everything has meaning. Everything you do is either steeped in tradition or has a practical purpose. You can’t smoke in the field because you don’t want to give away your position. You don’t touch your face — you have to maintain a personal level of health and hygiene. You face this way when “Colors” plays, out of respect for people who went before you. Walk this way, talk this way because of this. Your uniform is maintained to the inch. How diligently you followed those rules spoke volumes about the kind of Marine you were. Your rank said something about your history and the respect you had earned.”
Find out more about how he went from Marine to actor in the video above — and how he has found peace in service after service — in the video above.
Now, you can bring that magic to bedtime. Whether it’s for you, your little one, a grandchild or just that Disney lover in your life, calling for a bedtime message is easy, fun, and best of all, it’s free.
The author’s daughter sound asleep at Disney. Photo/Tessa Robinson
For a limited time (until April 30), ShopDisney.com is offering bedtime messages from some of our favorite Disney characters. Callers can choose a special goodnight greeting from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy or Goofy. The messages are so endearing, tucking your little one in for the night and telling them to have sweet dreams.
Even though spring break trips are canceled and the legendary theme parks have shut down all over the world in response to COVID-19, we all could use a little Disney magic.
When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are Anything your heart desires will come to you If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.
Zimbabwe’s opposition leader has pledged to rid the country of investment from China if he wins the nation’s upcoming July 2018 elections.
Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change told crowds at a rally in the capital city of Harare on May 1, 2018, that China was “asset-stripping” the country’s resources.
“I have seen the deals that Ngwena [President Emmerson Mnangagwa] has entered into with China and others, they are busy asset-stripping the resources of the country,” he said.
Chamisa promised to change the country’s current relationship with China pending a victory.
“I have said, beginning September 2018, when I assume office, I will call the Chinese and tell them the deals they signed are unacceptable and they should return to their country.”
The 2018 elections will be the first since the relatively-peaceful coup and subsequent resignation of former president Robert Mugabe in 2017. Mugabe was effectively ousted as president after serving for more than 30 years, with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa stepping in to take his place.
China has also heavily invested in projects including extensions to airports, construction of a new parliament building, and repairing water supplies between Harare and surrounding town, according to The Herald.
But China has faced growing criticism for its foreign investments projects.
China has spent billions in Africa as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and often seeks collateral in the form of natural resources.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 413th Flight Test Squadron successfully conducted the first Air Force-piloted flight of the HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter July 11, 2019. The test took place at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach.
The unit embedded Air Force personnel with the contractor, Sikorsky, to provide early warfighter involvement and operationally relevant developmental testing.
The aircraft, based on the Army’s UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter, is modified to perform missions locating and rescuing downed pilots in hostile territory. The Air Force is contracted to purchase 113 HH-60W aircraft to replace its aging fleet of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.
“Our entire team has been focused on bringing together a lot of moving parts to get here today,” said Lt. Col. Wayne Dirkes, 413th FLTS operations officer. “We are really excited to be a part of recapitalizing a vital component of our warfighting strategy,”
HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter.
The purpose of the test flight was to collect level flight performance data the Air Force requires to move the program into the production and deployment phase of the defense acquisition process.
According to Dirkes, the crew performed an instrumentation and telemetry checkout with the control room, gathered basic engine start data and flew referred gross weight level flight speed sweeps between 40 knots and maximum horizontal speed.
“Performance testing requires extremely precise aircraft control, and our test pilot maintained tolerances of plus or minus one knot of airspeed, 20 feet of altitude and less than 100 feet per minute vertical speed, flying by hand,” Dirkes explained.
HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter.
The flight also served as a method for the test pilot to complete the required qualifications to fly the aircraft. Maj. Andrew Fama, a 413th FLTS test pilot, was the first Air Force pilot to fly the aircraft.
“I’m honored to be the first Air Force pilot to fly the ‘Whiskey’ and very excited to deliver a new aircraft to my rescue brothers and sisters,” Fama said.
Sikorsky pilots have been flying the aircraft for about a month; however, this milestone marks the beginning of integrated government and contractor flight test operations.
There are six aircraft dedicated to the developmental test program. The 413th’s HH-60W operations are scheduled to begin at Eglin AFB Auxiliary Field #3, also known as Duke Field, Florida, this fall.
In the summer of 1966 the United States was ramping up operations in Vietnam. For the Marines of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, this meant deep infiltration and reconnaissance into the Que Son Valley.
Dubbed Operation Kansas, the recon teams moved deep into enemy-held territory to observe and strike at the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong operating in the area.
This mostly consisted of calling for artillery or air support to take out small concentrations of enemy fighters. When larger groups were observed, they were dealt with by calling in reinforcements in the form of Marine rifle companies and battalions.
There was little intention of the recon Marines making direct contact.
Thus, 18 Marines from Team 2, C Company, 1st Recon inserted onto Hill 488 to begin their observation mission.
The team was led by Staff Sgt. Jimmie E. Howard. Howard had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 and was assigned to the 1st Marine Regiment in Korea.
While serving as the forward observer to the regimental mortar company in 1952, Howard was awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts while defending outposts along the Main Line of Resistance.
After his tour in Korea, Howard stayed in the Marine Corps and entered Marine Reconnaissance. In early 1966 he returned to combat in Vietnam, leading a platoon of Reconnaissance Marines.
On the night of June 13, 1966, Operation Kansas began with the insertion of numerous recon teams into the Que Son Valley. Team 2 on Hill 488 quickly set up positions to observe the valley. Over the course of the next two days, the recon teams disrupted enemy activity with air and artillery strikes. Howard and his team were doing so well that they turned down an offer to be extracted in order to remain one more day.
Unfortunately, the accuracy and effectiveness of the firepower Howard’s team brought to bear also served to alert the Viet Cong that these were not simply random attacks; they were being watched. The enemy had also surmised that the observation must be coming from Hill 488. Alerted that a Viet Cong battalion of approximately 200-250 men was heading their way, the Marines prepared to defend themselves.
As the Marines waited for the inevitable, the Viet Cong were creeping up the hill toward the Marine positions. Howard had ordered his men to pull back to a rocky knoll at the top of the hill the moment contact was made. Under the cover of darkness, the first Viet Cong made it to within 20 feet of the Marine perimeter. The first shots from the Marine defenders rang out. Under a hail of gunfire and grenades, the Marines fell back to the final defensive position.
The Marines took casualties almost instantly but they responded with determined resistance. Grenades and mortars rained down on their position as heavy machine gun and rifle fire covered the advance of the attackers. But the Marines mowed down the first wave of attackers and blunted the advance. The remaining enemy took a more cautious approach and searched for an opening.
Howard used the brief lull in fire to call for extraction. Before help could arrive, the Viet Cong mounted another determined charge to take the hill but were again driven back. By this time the Marines were out of grenades, running low on ammunition, and all eighteen had been wounded or killed. But there was still more fighting to do.
After some three hours of fighting, air support arrived overhead. As Air Force planes dropped flares to illuminate the valley, gunships and fighters made strafing runs. They dropped napalm on the advancing enemy. To say the air support was danger-close would be an understatement. Despite the air attack, the enemy was persistent and continued to charge the hill.
At one point the Viet Cong began yelling at the Marines, taunting them. The young Marines of the recon team looked to Howard who gave them the go-ahead to yell back.
Then, with the enemy still shouting taunts, the remaining Marines literally looked death in the face and laughed their heads off. The whole team joined in a chorus of laughter that silenced the Viet Cong.
The Viet Cong came again.
With the enemy still probing their lines, the beleaguered Marines relied on their expert marksmanship and a little trickery to even the odds. Out of grenades, the Marines would watch for movement and then hurl a rock at the enemy.
Intending to escape the impending explosion the Viet Cong would expose their position. Then with deadly accuracy the Marines would take a single shot, conserving ammunition and racking up the body count.
A rescue attempt at dawn resulted in one lost helicopter, with a medevac waved off due to the intense fire. Eventually it was decided to bring in a Marine infantry company to clear the hill and allow the recon team to be pulled out. Reportedly there remained only eight rounds of ammunition between the survivors; the rest had picked up enemy weapons.
Howard’s steadfast leadership and cool under fire during the battle for Hill 488 earned him the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded a Purple Heart, along with every other member of the team. Thirteen members of the team were awarded the Silver Star for their bravery. The remaining four members of the team received the Navy Cross. Six of the Marines of Team 2 received their awards posthumously. The recon platoon was the most decorated unit for its size ever in the history of the American military.
The political ideologies of China’s presidents have usually been added to the country’s constitution, but only Mao and Xi have been named in the title of those theories.
The amendment, called “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” was approved by all 2,300 delegates attending the congress. Xi is now considered the most important party leader alive — above former presidents and his eventual successor.
This departure from tradition indicates immense party support for Xi and his strict leadership style; that support could be crucial as Xi eyes a potential third term as president, which would also break with the two-term tradition. The biggest indicator for Xi’s 2022 plans could emerge Wednesday, when the party’s new senior leadership is announced.
If Xi does not give a nod to a young and experienced successor under 60 years of age, or ignores unofficial retirement-age rules, it may indicate the Chinese president will seek a third term in the next five years.
The Chinese constitution stipulates that a president can serve only two five-year terms. Xi, however, could rally party support to stay for a third term or continue leading from his other role of party secretary-general — which actually outranks the president. Both options are more likely with Xi’s strong party support. Another option is to revive the title of party chairman, a label that has not been used since Mao held it.
During the congress’ closing session, party leaders referred to Xi as the country’s “core” leader, a term first used to describe Mao.
The latest jobs report shows 21 million Americans out of work, largely attributed to the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Double-digit unemployment rates are nothing new for spouses who have seen increased efforts over the years to elevate the plight of a demographic working to establish a career around military life. But is there a career field immune from PCS moves and pandemics? The CEO of Squared Away thinks so.
Michelle Penczak, a Marine spouse, co-founded Squared Away in 2017 to give military spouses opportunities that demand a range of skills, like social media, project management, and human resources. The company has now grown to 95 and she says the field is “extremely sustainable” even with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Most of our clients are taking their businesses remotely and are leaning on us to make the transition as smooth as possible. We also add a great amount of value to teams who have been forced to downsize but still have the need of an assistant,” Penczak said in an email interview.
Squared Away was inspired by Penczak’s own challenges in maintaining employment as her husband, a Marine officer, received orders to different duty stations around the U.S. She initially worked as a personal assistant to a lobbyist in Washington, DC. until relocating to Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The transition from a large city to a small military town was difficult in terms of finding comparable employment.
“No one would hire me … it was so defeating and I didn’t want anyone to ever feel that way,” she said.
Eventually, after many interviews and rejections, she found employment as a virtual assistant with Zirtual. However, it was not long after the business closed, but lingering clients wanted her to remain with their companies. Then her husband received orders to Hawaii.
“I was terrified I would lose my clients,” Penczak said because her clients operated on Eastern time. “So, I got up at 3 am to work with my East Coast clients.”
She said she told herself it would never work, but six months into it her husband encouraged her to change her thinking.
“He said, ‘It’s working.’ I would drive myself out of bed [at 3am PCT] and do my stuff. Then I’d have all the rest of the day to hang out in Hawaii which wasn’t a bad deal. I became more productive and it worked better for me. My co-founder [Shane Mac] told me, ‘I need you to build a company.’ I told him he was crazy. I had no idea how to run a company,” she said. “I thought about it for a couple of days and said let’s do this.”
Squared Away places virtual assistants with a myriad of companies to include venture capital firms, startup companies, and marketing firms. Penzcak added that the company does not invest in marketing. She notes her client base has grown exponentially over the past year strictly from a referral base.
“Anyone who needs extra supports … They become their righthand man … All of our clients are saying how much they love us, working with amazing people who believe in our mission. I’ve never felt more blessed in my life. My team is amazing,” she said.
Squared Away employs military spouses stationed within the U.S., along with remote assistants in Germany as well.
“Nothing feels better than one of my girls coming to say … you are making such a big difference to me and my family,” Penczak said.
The company’s structure also allows its team members to balance personal and professional responsibilities.
“All of our spouses have a unique story … We can be dedicated to our clients, but also be flexible to be there for our kids. Currently, we have 110 clients … it’s growing steadily. The more clients the more assistants we can hire,” she said.
Penczak’s 2020 goals include expansion of her team.
The Russian Defense Ministry warned the US military on Feb. 1, 2018 to either stop flying near its borders or to “agree on their rules,” according to state-owned media TASS.
“If the realization of this fact by American pilots causes depression and phobias, we recommend that the American side either exclude flying near Russian borders in the future or return to the negotiations table and agree on a set of rules for such flights,” the Russian Defense Ministry also said, according to RT.
US Naval Forces Europe-Africa accused Russia on Jan. 29, 2018 of an unsafe intercept over the Black Sea near Crimea, saying that an Su-27 flew within five feet of a US Navy EP-3 Aries signals reconnaissance aircraft. Video appeared to show the Russian fighter jet noticeably close to the US plane.
“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes,” the US Navy said.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that the incident earlier in the week was “absolutely legal and perfectly safe for the American surveillance plane.”
The US has released several videos of the intercept, showing the Su-27 buzzing and hovering near the US spy plane.
Russia said that the incident was an escort — not an intercept.
The Russian Defense Ministry and Russian Embassy in Washington, DC did not respond to Business Insider’s emails asking why such maneuvers were necessary for an escort, and what “agree to their rules” meant.
Moscow also called out the US commander of the 67th Task Force of the 6th Fleet, saying, “We would like to address the commander of the 67th Task Force of the 6th Fleet Bill Ellis with a reminder Crimea is an integral part of Russia,” Tass reported.
The Russian Defense Ministry also claimed that NATO planes have maneuvered in similar ways in the past, but they “cause absolutely no effects on Russian crews.”
US Naval Forces Europe-Africa did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Elon Musk is one step closer to his goal of stationing a network of 12,000 satellites in orbit above Earth.
On Nov. 11, 2019, SpaceX successfully launched 60 of its Starlink satellites into orbit. This is what the satellites looked like before they were loaded onto the rocket.
They were carried into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which took off at 14:56 UTC from a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Once it was at an altitude of 280 km (174 miles) the rocket deployed the satellites.
The stated aim of SpaceX’s Starlink project is to create a network of nearly 12,000 satellites to bring high-speed internet to remote and rural parts of the world.
After sending the satellites adrift the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on a landing pad out in the Atlantic ocean.
Although the original plans for Starlink listed just under 12,000 satellites, Space News reported in October 2019 that the company applied to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for permission to launch an additional 30,000.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Universal Studios Orlando announced it is offering the first-ever Military Freedom Pass, a seasonal pass option for military families, to use in its parks.
The Military Freedom Pass can be used any day through Dec. 31, with no blackout dates. Service members can choose from two-park or three-park options, and all tickets must be purchased at an ITT office.
The Military Freedom Pass costs $199.99 per person for the two-park option and $264.99 per person for the three-park option. It is similar to the park’s current Preferred Pass that is valued at $394.99 per person. It includes free valet parking, discounts on food and beverages, and more.
Universal’s Military Freedom Pass is available to active-duty service members, National Guard members, reservists, retired military, and military spouses. It is also available to Department of Defense civilians.
The two-park option includes access to Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. The three-park option includes access to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida, and Universal’s Volcano Bay. Volcano Bay, a waterpark, is expected to open in March.
Military service members, retirees, and DOD civilian employees can also get discounts on vacation packages. Packages can be customized through the ITT office and start at $75 (this does not include ticket pricing, airfare, or other additional package costs).
Harry Potter fans can create the ultimate vacation as well, with customized packages to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter starting at $85.
Universal Studios Orlando is currently following strict COVID-19 protocols. Face coverings are required in the park and temperature checks are required before entering. In addition, there are services like mobile ordering for food and drinks, virtual line return times for rides, floor markings to ensure social distancing, limited capacity, and increased cleaning protocols. Read more about Universal Studios’ safety guidelines here.
To purchase your Military Freedom Pass ticket for Universal Studios Orlando visit your local ITT office.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tackled several of the world’s most sensitive issues during a whirlwind trip aimed at preventing Afghanistan from falling back into chaos, easing Kurdish-Iraqi tensions that could allow Islamic State to revive, and isolating Iran as much as possible.
Unsurprisingly, Tillerson was welcomed in Afghanistan and India, where President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to foster a growing partnership as part of his recently announced policy for the region. His reception was more muted in Pakistan, which is under increasing pressure to crackdown on extremist groups and eliminate their safehavens.
Those stops on the five-day, six-nation trip epitomized the diplomatic tightrope that Washington faces, along with the risks in dealing with them face to face. Likely mindful that insurgents attacked Kabul’s international airport hours after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited a month ago, the stops in Kabul and Afghanistan lasted just hours, and neither involved an overnight stay.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani went to Bagram Airbase to meet with Tillerson, whose visit was not announced in advance, to discuss how to deal with the Taliban insurgency that has resulted in what US military officials have called a stalemate.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.
Faiz Mohammad Zaland, an Afghan analyst who attended a number of conferences with Taliban officials abroad, welcomed Tillerson’s proposal for Afghanistan to draw the Taliban into the peace process, as long as the group renounces terrorism and violent extremism.
“We’ve made clear to the Taliban: You will never achieve a military victory,” Tillerson told a news conference Oct. 26. “Do you want your children and grandchildren fighting this same fight?Because that’s the way it’s going to be if you don’t find a different way to go forward.”
Akbar Agha, an ex-Taliban official, told VOA the Taliban want a change in the system of government and insist on a pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan at a time the US and its allies have been beefing up their presence.
In Islamabad, Tillerson was greeted by a low-level Foreign Ministry official and then taken to meet separately with the civilian government and the military, underscoring the difficulty of putting together a united policy when each side has different priorities. There has been strong speculation for years of ties between Pakistan’s intelligence service and extremist groups, and the military’s primary focus is on tense relations with India.
And while the US repeatedly has said it feels that having Pakistan play a positive role is key to success in Afghanistan, there are signs that Islamabad is hedging its bets by growing closer to China – which has undertaken mutually beneficial, multi-billion-dollar development projects in the country – and bolstering relations with Russia in case Washington were to cut back on aid.
Former Pakistani Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said the low-key welcome shouldn’t be seen as a slight, saying then-President Bill Clinton was given similar treatment when he visited in 2000.
“The meetings were important, the welcome was not,” Naqvi said.
Tillerson described his talks in Pakistan as “frank and candid.”
“We probably listened 80 percent of the time and we talked 20 percent,” Tillerson said. “We put our expectations forward in no uncertain terms. We’re going to chart our course consistent with what Pakistan not just says they do, but what they actually do.”
The two sides reportedly exchanged lists of terrorists they want apprehended or eliminated, and they are seeking help in pursuing them.
The reception for Tillerson was much warmer in India, which is clearly happy about the US plan for the country to play an enhanced role in Afghanistan – where it earlier stepped in to provide air transport of Afghan produce and other goods when Pakistan closed border crossings – and the rest of the region.
“He must be very tired, but the good part was that his last stop is a country that is a close friend,” said Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swarah. “It is said visiting a close friend’s place cures you of tiredness. I hope Secretary Tillerson is not feeling tired any more.”
After wrapping up his first trip to the region, Tillerson said his goal had been to expand on Trump’s new policy and what role is envisioned for each country.
“What we’ve received in the region is enormously positive over the South Asian strategy,” he said. “People have said this is the first time we’ve seen a strategy.”