Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats warned about threats from space at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats on Feb. 13, 2018.
“As if we don’t have enough threats here on earth, we need to look to the heavens — threats in space,” he said.
“The global expansion of the space industry will extend space-enabled capabilities and situational awareness to nation-states and commercial space actors in the coming years. The primary concern relates to satellites and anti-satellite capabilities.”
Right now, the U.S. military is heavily reliant on GPS and signals sent between satellites in space. Col. Richard Zellmann, commander of the 1st Space Brigade, a unit within the Space and Missile Defense Command, said that up to 70% of the Army’s combat systems depend on signals sent from space.
In his prepared statement, Coats said Russia and China, having recognized the value of space-based communication and reconnaissance, “will continue to expand their space-based reconnaissance, communications, and navigation systems in terms of the numbers of satellites, the breadth of their capability, and the applications for use.”
To make matters worse, Russian and Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities are becoming increasingly advanced. Those capabilities include (ASAT) missiles, satellites capable of performing kamikaze-style attacks, jamming technology, and “directed-energy weapons” that could “blind or damage sensitive space-based optical sensors, such as those used for remote sensing or missile defense.”
China and Russia continue to at least publicly promote diplomatic efforts to prevent the militarization of space. But as Coats pointed out, “many classes of weapons would not be addressed by such proposals, allowing them to continue their pursuit of space warfare capabilities while publicly maintaining that space must be a peaceful domain.”
Coats estimated that Russian and Chinese ASAT weapons will probably “reach initial operational capability in the next few years.” If those weapons were to take out American satellites, American warfighting capabilities would be seriously hampered.
In the words of Zellmann: “When you start taking away those combat multipliers, we need to go back then to the days of the industrial-age army where you have to have three times as many people as the adversary does.”
The Fighting Season is a six part documentary series that captures what ending a war looks like. The film, which is out now, shows the sacrifices of the men and women who fought for the freedom and security of Afghanistan as America’s longest war drew to an end. Producer Ricky Schroder put himself in harm’s way as an embedded cameramen to deliver the best account possible.
In this edition of “At The Mighty,” Schroder discusses his motivations for filming this series and his experience with the troops in Afghanistan.
If you’re unfamiliar with Howard Schultz, he is the billionaire former CEO and Chairman of Starbucks Coffee, among other entities, and he and his family are on a mission to unlock the potential of every single American – especially veterans. So they’ve taken it upon themselves to fund some of the most powerful, potent veterans programs in the country.
Remember the rumor that Starbucks hated vets and the military from a couple years ago? That was false. In a big way.
The Schultz Family Foundation believes Post-9/11 veterans are returning to civilian life with an enormous store of untapped potential and a reservoir of diverse skills sets that could be the future of the country. Part of its mission is to ensure that every separating service member and their spouse can find a job if they want one. The Schultz Family Foundation makes investments in returning troops in every step of the transition process, from before they ever leave the uniform all the way to navigating post-service benefits.
Once out of uniform, the foundation supports programs and organizations that not only promote finding a job based on skills or learning new skills to get a new career, but also programs that are not typical of a post-military career. These careers include community development, supporting fellow veterans, and of course, entrepreneurship.
Nick Sullivan is an eight-year Army veteran who works with the Schultz Family through the Mission Continues.
Whether working for or donating to causes that directly help veterans or ones that support vets in other ways, The Schultz Family Foundation has likely touched the lives of most Post-9/11 veterans who have separated from the military in the past ten years. Whether through Hire Heroes USA, the Mission Continues, Blue Star Families or Onward to Opportunity, the Schultz Family has been there for vets. Now the Schultz Family Foundation is supporting the Military Influencer Conference.
If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.
Maybe starting your own business isn’t your thing. Veterans looking for support can visit the Schultz Family Foundation website for veterans and click on the “get help” button to join a community of thousands who did the same – and are happy they did.
A heavily armed man is patrolling the hallways of a Florida school. His only job? Prevent a mass shooting.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Harold Verdecia, a 39-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan has been hired as the first guardian at the Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Florida. Verdercia wears body armor and carries a Glock 19X handgun, but it’s his Kel-Tec “Bullpup” rifle, loaded with exploding rounds, that’s raising eyebrows.
MSA Principal Bill Jones outlined to the Herald-Tribune a specific scenario — shooter armed with a rifle, clad in body armor, looking to cause maximum damage — in justifying the unusual move of arming his school’s guardian with a rifle.
Verdercia completed 144 hours of training facilitated by the Manatee County Sherriff’s Office. He also went through extra training to carry the rifle on school grounds.
Palmetto’s Manatee School of the Arts Ramping up more Safety and Security
Security experts, however, seem skeptical of Jones’s insistence that a semi-automatic rifle is appropriate for the job. Walt Zalisko, a retired police chief and police management consultant, told the Herald-Tribune that the school would be safer with its rifles locked away and its guardian building relationships with students, not singularly focused on a mass casualty event.
Michael Dorn, president of a company that has performed security assessments of dozens of school systems in Florida, told the New York Times that a long gun is a more dangerous weapon for someone to take from an officer and that it’s harder for an officer to subdue and handcuff a suspect when he’s carrying such a gun.
Jones doesn’t seem to mind the criticism. He’s currently reviewing applications and hopes to hire a second rifle-toting guardian soon.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
US leaders are now asking Pakistan to increase its counterterrorism activity and further collaborate with the Dept. of Defense when it comes to attacking Jihadists in their country and advance prospects for increased peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford recently met with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Bajwa in Islamabad to discuss heightened cooperation between their two countries.
“Secretary Pompeo emphasized the important role Pakistan could play in bringing about a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, and conveyed the need for Pakistan to take sustained and decisive measures against terrorists and militants threatening regional peace,” State Dept. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a written statement.
The meeting takes place within a broader context of ambiguity characterizing US-Pakistani relations, a connection which encompasses both tensions and successful military-to-military counter-jihadist cooperation.
Within Pakistan, there appears to be two interwoven, yet distinct trajectories; US officials and Pakistani security experts say that the Pakistani military has had substantial success attacking jihadists within their borders. At the same time, many US officials continue to raise some measure of question regarding the level of Pakistani resolve when it comes to counter-jihadist initiatives. Further, some are also raising questions about the actual depth of Pakistan’s alliance with the United States, particularly given the country’s interest in addressing the India-Pakistan conflicts regarding the contested Kashmir region.
Pompeo and Dunford, being aware of President Trump’s stated concern that Pakistan might harbor jihadists, both cited increased military-to-military relationships as central to future progress in the region.
“On the surface, they say they want to cooperate…. So what we are looking for is the actions to back that up ,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staft Gen. Joe Dunford, according to a Pentagon report.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan on Sept. 5, 2018.
Former Secretary of State spokesman Jamie Rubin is among those raising concerns about the actual extent of Pakistan’s allegiance to the US-backed counterterrorism operations. In particular, he has posed the question as to whether the newly arriving Pakistani administration, led by recently elected Prime Minister Imran Khan, will pursue pro-American policies.
Multiple counterterrorism and security experts familiar with operations in the region have said that part of the ambiguity or apparent contradictory sensibilities within Pakistan emerges, in large measure, from Pakistani entities operating separately from a military-led government infrastructure.
Rubin made the argument that instances wherein Pakistani entities appear to be sustaining some degree of alliance with Afghan and Pakistani jihadists are due to the country’s highly-prioritized anti-India stance.
Specifically, Pakistani jihadists are, according to many expert estimates, believed to be involved in various counter-Indian initiatives. Also, Rubin maintained that some portion of Pakistanis seek to maintain an ability to have safe harbor in Afghanistan in the event that their country is overrun by Indian forces.
Citing the currently incoming new Pakistani administration, Rubin raised the question as to whether there were enough “pro-Americans” within Pakistani government. He wondered whether there was instability and tension separating Pakistani military leadership and other political ambitions held by some in the country.
Pakistani security officials involved in maintaining counterterrorism support and security within the country say an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis, including government officials, are what he called “moderates.”
“The rhetoric in Pakistan is moderate and not one of an extremist Pakistan. That is in everyone’s interests,” said Ikram Sehgal, Chairman of an international security firm called the Pathfinder Group.
At the same time, Sehgal also cited the importance of Pakistan’s relationship with Iran and other regional neighbors, adding “our best stance is to be neutral and not take sides.”
Meanwhile, US military officials emphasize that the current Trump administration is deeply invested in improving US-Pakistani military and diplomatic cooperation with a particular dual-pronged approach of both seeking peace in Afghanistan and stepping up Pakistani military counterinsurgency attacks against jihadists.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo arrives in Islamabad, Pakistan on Sept. 5, 2018.
Also, operating beneath the shadow of a widely-discussed war in Afghanistan, the Pakistani military has quietly been aggressively attacking jihadi terrorists, Taliban forces and other enemies in the mountainous tri-border region spanning Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, according to Sehgal.
Pakistani military missions, which have for quite some time been existing below the radar of greater international consciousness and focus, have by no means been uncomplicated. Many successes have been met with challenges and an ebb-and-flow often associated with complex counterinsurgency operations against a mix of enemy forces.
Nonetheless, despite the overwhelmingly circulated narrative that jihadist enemies continue to find safe-harbor in Pakistan, jihadi insurgent forces have consistently been attacked and removed from the area by the Pakistani military, Sehgal said.
Operating with weapons, intelligence assistance, and training support from the US military, Pakistani military activity has lowered the number of jihadi fighters in the country from more than 100,000 years ago to roughly 2,000 today.
Along with many Pakistani experts and observers of the tri-border region, Sehgal does acknowledge that the situation in Pakistan is not without some ambiguities and complexities. However, despite an at times fragmented approach and periodic hesitations, Pakistani forces have steadily made substantial progress over the course of the last decade, he claimed.
Pakistani military operations have included raids, door-to-door searches of tribal areas and large-force attacks on jihadi facilities such as underground bunkers and command and control facilities; the attacks have massively reduced the amount of enemy jihadi fighters in the region, Sehgal said.
Sehgal added that, not long ago, Pakistani military forces attacked and destroyed a jihadist facility in the tribal areas previously known to harbor large amounts of insurgents.
“Pakistanis have been carrying out ops on their side of the border. We have not had an easy time as successful as we’ve been. We successfully carried out military operations against jihadi military facilities,” he said. “We have not had a single failure when we attack them directly.”
Also, the Pakistanis are currently fencing the tri-border area to stop the flow of enemy fighters coming in from Afghanistan. Sehgal said the fence will be finished several months from now.
Featured image: Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Bajwa.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Developed by German Engineers during the 1930s as a defensive strategy of the Third Reich, the self-contained anti-personnel mine was originally named Schrapnellmine or S-Mine. Considered one of the deadliest tools on the battlefield, the French first encounter this version of bouncing mines in 1939 as it devastated their forces.
Dubbed the “Bouncing Betty” by American infantrymen, these mines were buried just underground, only exposing three prongs on the top which were usually camouflaged by the nearby grass vegetation.
Once these prongs were disturbed by a foot or vehicle, the mine would shoot itself upward to around 3 feet or at its victim’s waist level using its black powder propellant. The fuse was designed with a half a second delay to allow its aerial travel.
As it detonated, ball bearings contained inside flew out rapidly and acted as the casualty producing element. The S-mine was lethal at 66 feet, but the American training manuals stated that serious casualties could be taken up to 460 feet.
The landmine had great psychological effects on ground troops as it was known to inflict serious wounds rather than kill.
Although the Schrapnellmine was highly effective and constructed mostly out of metallic parts, detection was quite simple using metal detectors. However, at the time, such heavy and expensive gear wasn’t available to all infantry units as they fought their way through the front lines.
So allied forces had to probe the soil with their knives and bayonets to search for the dangerous mines. When they were discovered, a soldier could disarm the Bouncing Betty with a sewing needle inserted in place of the mine’s safety pin.
Production of the Bouncing Betty ended in 1945 after Germany had manufactured 2 million of the mines.
In the wake of the United States protesting a close encounter between a Su-27 Flanker and a Lockheed EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft operated by the United States Navy, the Russians have a response: They’re not apologizing.
According to a report from USA Today, Russia has instead decided to trash-talk the United States Navy after the buzzing incident late last month. Over the space of two hours and forty minutes, the Flanker made at least one pass in front of the EP-3E, coming as close as five feet from the surveillance plane.
“The Aerospace Force will continue to maintain reliable protection of Russia’s airspace,” the Russian news agency TASS reported the Defense Ministry as saying. “If the awareness of this is a reason for U.S. air pilots to feel depression or succumb to phobias, we advise the U.S. side to exclude the routes of such flights near Russian borders in the future or return to the negotiating table and agree on their rules.”
The Russians also claimed that the Flanker pilot’s actions were safe, legal, and standard operating procedure. They also claimed that NATO planes made “similar maneuvers” near Russian planes over the Norwegian, North, Baltic, and Barents seas.
China became the third country to land a probe on the Moon on Jan. 2, 2019. But, more importantly, it became the first to do so on the far side of the moon, often called the dark side. The ability to land on the far side of the moon is a technical achievement in its own right, one that neither Russia nor the United States has pursued.
The probe, Chang’e 4, is symbolic of the growth of the Chinese space program and the capabilities it has amassed, significant for China and for relations among the great power across the world. The consequences extend to the United States as the Trump administration considers global competition in space as well as the future of space exploration.
Like the U.S. and Russia, the People’s Republic of China first engaged in space activities during the development of ballistic missiles in the 1950s. While they did benefit from some assistance from the Soviet Union, China developed its space program largely on its own. Far from smooth sailing, Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution disrupted this early programs.
The Chinese launched their first satellite in 1970. Following this, an early human spaceflight program was put on hold to focus on commercial satellite applications. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping articulated China’s space policy noting that, as a developing country, China would not take part in a space race. Instead, China’s space efforts have focused on both launch vehicles and satellites — including communications, remote sensing, and meteorology.
This does not mean the Chinese were not concerned about the global power space efforts can generate. In 1992, they concluded that having a space station would be a major sign and source of prestige in the 21st century. As such, a human spaceflight program was re-established leading to the development of the Shenzhou spacecraft. The first Chinese astronaut, or taikonaut, Yang Liwei, was launched in 2003. In total, six Shenzhou missions have carried 12 taikonauts into low earth orbit, including two to China’s first space station, Tiangong-1.
In addition to human spaceflight, the Chinese have also undertaken scientific missions like Chang’e 4. Its first lunar mission, Chang’e 1, orbited the moon in October 2007 and a rover landed on the moon in 2013. China’s future plans include a new space station, a lunar base and possible sample return missions from Mars.
Chang’e 1 spacecraft.
A new space race?
The most notable feature of the Chinese space program, especially compared to the early American and Russian programs, is its slow and steady pace. Because of the secrecy that surrounds many aspects of the Chinese space program, its exact capabilities are unknown. However, the program is likely on par with its counterparts.
In terms of military applications, China has also demonstrated significant skills. In 2007, it undertook an anti-satellite test, launching a ground-based missile to destroy a failed weather satellite. While successful, the test created a cloud of orbital debris that continues to threaten other satellites. The movie “Gravity” illustrated the dangers space debris poses to both satellites and humans. In its 2018 report on the Chinese military, the Department of Defense reported that China’s military space program “continues to mature rapidly.”
Despite its capabilities, the U.S., unlike other countries, has not engaged in any substantial cooperation with China because of national security concerns. In fact, a 2011 law bans official contact with Chinese space officials. Does this signal a new space race between the U.S. and China?
Regardless, China’s abilities in space are growing to the extent that is reflected in popular culture. In Andy Weir’s 2011 novel “The Martian” and its later film version, NASA turns to China to help rescue its stranded astronaut. While competition can lead to advances in technology, as the first space race demonstrated, a greater global capacity for space exploration can also be beneficial not only for saving stranded astronauts but increasing knowledge about the universe where we all live. Even if China’s rise heralds a new space race, not all consequences will be negative.
For an average service member, it takes an obligation of 20 years to retire from the military. For their furry four-legged counterparts, it takes over 30 years to accomplish the same goal in dog years of course. Marine Corps working dogs date back to Nov. 1, 1943, during World War II when 1st Marine War Dog Platoon out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina attacked the beach of Bougainville, Solomon Islands.
Today, working dogs lead regular Marine Corps careers by deploying, taking official photos and even attaining rank. A Marine Special Operations Command working dog, however, has much more rigorous training, increased mission capability and known as a Multi-Purpose Canine (MPC).
“A dog handler is around for about five years,” said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Koman, multi-purpose canine handler, Marine Special Operations Command, “around the same time as them leaving we try to retire their dog.”
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Koman, multi-purpose canine handler with Delta Company, 1st Marine Raider Support Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, awaits command during the retirement ceremony of his multi-purpose canine, Roy, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 29, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)
Roy is one such multi-purpose canine with MARSOC, and Koman just so happens to be his handler. On March 29, 2019, the command held a formal retirement ceremony to honor Roy’s five years of faithful service as a specialized force multiplier within the special operations world. After spending 16 weeks developing skills in explosives detection, tracking, controlled aggression, Roy’s amphibious capabilities, such as water insertion and extraction techniques, prepared him to serve in combat. For this accomplishment, Roy received the Military Working Dog Service Award, an award presented to working dogs and MPCs that deploy into combat.
As a Marine receives a ceremony after 20 years, MARSOC conducts the same for MPCs. Once the MPC retires, it is put up for adoption and given priority to the owner. According to results from recent data from the Department Of Defense Military Working Dog Adoption Program, more than 90 percent of military working dogs and MPC’s adopted by their handlers.
“The handler and dog have been through so much together,” said an unnamed MPC master trainer with MARSOC. “It’s a no brainer for the dog to go to the handlers.”
Before Roy was ready to transition into civilian life, the unit was required to ensure that there are no signs of aggression towards humans and animals. After this assessment, Koman was able to proceed in filing the necessary paperwork for adoption.
“When I first saw him I knew he was the dog I wanted,” added Koman, “it’s just surreal that he’s officially mine today!”
When asked about his and Roy’s plans for the future, Koman stated that he plans to give Roy the most relaxing life possible.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
It is uncertain what the record is for the time between Army parachute jumps, but Lt. Col. John Hall may hold it at 30 years and six months.
When Hall parachuted from a military aircraft January 2018, it was the first time he had done so in over thirty years. Hall, a 53-year-old school teacher at Kearsley High School in Flint, Michigan, is serving a one-year tour of duty in Vicenza, Italy, as the public affairs officer for the storied 173rd Airborne Brigade, the contingency response force for U.S. Army Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
I first worked with the 173rd Airborne when I was put on active duty with the Michigan National Guard in 2014 and sent to the Baltic Countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve and in support of Latvia, our State Partnership Nation,” Hall said. “The 173rd Airborne Public Affairs leaders and I developed a close working relationship, so last summer, when they needed an experienced public affairs officer to lead their team, I was selected and put on orders.
The 173rd Brigade commander sent word to Hall that he would be expected to jump from aircraft as a part of his duties.
“I was really excited and completely terrified at the same time. I graduated from ‘Jump School’ when I was 19 years old and last jumped when I was 22, so I knew what to do,” Hall said with a laugh.
The 173rd put Hall through a one-day airborne refresher course, he said. This training included parachute landing, actions in the aircraft, and emergency procedures, followed by multiple jumps from a 34-foot tower in which his technique was assessed.
The next day, Hall reported to Aviano Air Base in northern Italy, donned his parachute with a couple of hundred other Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, climbed aboard an Air Force C-17 aircraft and, when 1,200 feet over the Juliet Drop Zone, exited the door and tested his training.
“The jet blast spun me in the air so when my ‘chute deployed it was pretty twisted and did not have a full canopy,” Hall said. “I was surprised that I automatically reached up, pulled the ‘risers’ apart and worked the parachute fully open. Good training takes over and we automatically do the right thing. I then checked my position in the sky and prepared to land. It was all over in less than a minute. I took up a good parachute landing fall position and the landing was perfect.”
Hall has served in the Army since graduating from LakeVille High School in the Flint area where he was an All-State wrestler, president of the school’s student council, and where he began dating his eventual wife, Laura.
“I enlisted as a combat medic when I was 19 years old and served in the 82nd Airborne Division in the mid-1980s, where we conducted frequent parachute operations as a part of our combat training,” Hall said. “After leaving the 82nd, I didn’t think I would ever jump from a military aircraft ever again.”
Since leaving active duty with the 82nd, Hall has served in the Army Reserve, the Florida and Michigan National Guard, and has been called back to active duty — to include combat duty in Iraq — on multiple occasions, but he has not been assigned to a unit with an airborne mission until now.
He was initially commissioned as a cavalry officer following officer candidate school and served as a Scout Platoon Leader in E Troop, 153rd Cavalry Regiment in Ocala, Florida. His later assignments include company commander in the 1-125th Infantry in Flint, Michigan, as well as executive officer and commander of the 126th Press Camp Headquarters at Fort Custer, Michigan. It was in the 126th PCH that Hall served a combat tour in Baghdad.
Service in Iraq
Coincidentally enough, while serving as a press officer for Multinational Forces Iraq, Hall was serving in a combat zone at the same time as his daughter, Savannah, who had recently been commissioned as an officer through the University of Michigan ROTC program.
“My daughter, Savannah, grew up around the Army and has seen me in uniform since I was in the 82nd Airborne,” Hall said. “She decided when she went to college that she wanted to enroll in ROTC, serve in the Army, and be a paratrooper. It was indeed a proud moment when I pinned her ‘Jump Wings’ on her at Fort Benning, Georgia. And now my youngest daughter, Samantha, is shipping off to Army basic training later this spring. It remains to be seen if she, too, will become a paratrooper.”
Hall has been working in Vicenza, Italy, on the senior staff of the 173rd Airborne Brigade since August 2017. In this short time, he has supported airborne combat training in Latvia, Germany, Slovenia, a historic mission to Serbia, mountaineering training with the Italian Alpini Brigade, and next week will travel to Toulouse, France, to support 173rd Airborne combined engineering operations with French paratroopers.
High operational tempo
“The operational tempo here at the 173rd Airborne is intense. We continually have combat training going on with our NATO allies throughout Europe,” Hall said. “Our command philosophy is that we are always ‘preparing our soldiers for the unforgiving crucible of ground combat.'”
A significant part of this, in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, is conducting airborne operations, so Hall will complete several more jumps from military aircraft in the coming months.
As far as teaching is concerned, Hall intends to return to the classroom teaching English, history, and theater for the fall 2018 semester. It is certain that the dynamic training and real-world experiences contribute to his classes and his students’ enthusiasm.
Until then, Hall is an Army paratrooper and he said he’s proud of the Soldiers he works with.
Hall added, “It is truly an honor to be able to serve with the ‘Sky Soldiers’ of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. To be able to begin my military career with the 82nd Airborne Division and end it with the 173rd Airborne Brigade is remarkable. I am humbled every day by the discipline, determination, and dedication of these young Americans forward stationed and always prepared to defend their country.”
It appears that the nation’s top military officer is not in sync with his commander-in-chief on the need to label America’s enemy in the conflicts that have persisted since the 9-11 terrorists’ attacks as “radical Islamic extremists.”
Throughout his campaign and since taking office, President Donald Trump has insisted on using the term radical or extremists “Islamic” terrorists to describe ISIS and the other groups spreading conflicts throughout the Middle East and Africa.
Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush and their administrations’ officials, including Pentagon leaders, deliberately avoided use of the “Islamic” label in an effort, they said, to avoid bolstering the terrorists’ propaganda that America was at war with all of Islam. But many Republicans in Congress protested that policy for denying the true nature of the threat.
During an appearance at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Feb. 23, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, repeatedly used the term “violent extremists” in talking about the “four plus one threat” the US military must face. That term refers to the possible future threats posed by Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, plus the ongoing fights against extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and many parts of Africa.
Dunford also used that term in explaining the purpose of the review Trump ordered the Pentagon to conduct on ways to accelerate the fight to defeat ISIS and similar groups.
When challenged by a reporter on whether he does not feel the need to use the “Islamic” label used by Trump, Dunford carefully avoided the term.
“You ought not to read anything into my use of ‘violent extremism’ other than really trying to articulate exactly the point I’m trying to make now… It involves al Qaeda, it involves Hezbollah, it involves ISIS and other groups that present a trans-regional threat,” he said.
“If you ask about a specific group I could give you a more specific descriptor,” Dunford added. “I was using the term ‘violent extremism’ to refer to all of those groups,” that exist “as the result of individuals who take up arms to advance political and/or religious objectives through violence.”
In an earlier discussion about the complex situation the US is trying to deal with in Syria, Dunford noted there are issues with Sunni and Shia groups, the two main divisions of Islam, plus Kurds, Turks and others.
The Taliban has reportedly rejected an offer by the Afghan government for a cease-fire, with militant commanders vowing to carry on their attacks after Taliban fighters in the north seized nearly 200 hostages from a convoy of passenger buses.
A Taliban spokesman said Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada on Aug. 20, 2018, rejected President Ashraf Ghani’s offer a day earlier of a “conditional” cease-fire with the Taliban to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The cease-fire was meant to begin on Aug. 20, 2018, and run for three months, conditioned upon Taliban participation.
But the Taliban spokesman told Reuters by telephone on Aug. 20 that Akhunzada had rejected the new offer on grounds that it would only help the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan.
“Our leadership feels that they’ll prolong their stay in Afghanistan if we announced a cease-fire now,” the Taliban spokesman said, declining to be identified.
Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada
An official in Ghani’s office said the Afghan government would continue its military operations against the Taliban if the militants did not respect the cease-fire.
Afghan officials say government security forces on Aug. 20, 2018, freed 149 people who had been taken hostage by the Taliban several hours earlier in the northern province of Kunduz.
Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, told RFE/RL that the militants continued to hold 21 others hostage on Aug. 20, 2018, after they ambushed a convoy of passenger buses traveling to Kabul for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
He said fighting in the area had halted while Afghan authorities used local elders as intermediaries in negotiations with the Taliban for the release of the remaining hostages.
The buses were stopped in the province’s Khan Abad district, an area under Taliban control — prompting a battle against government forces deployed in a rescue operation.
Rahimi said the rescue operation had killed at least seven Taliban fighters before the militants fled the scene. He said the Taliban had left behind the 149 freed hostages because the militants were unable to transport all of the group due to the rescue operation.
Rahimi said the remaining 21 hostages were taken by the Taliban to an undisclosed location. He said none of them were government employees or members of Afghanistan’s security forces.
However, a Taliban spokesman said the militants were conducting their own investigations to determine if any of the remaining hostages work for the Afghan government or security forces.
Sayed Assadullah Sadat, a Kunduz provincial council member, said earlier on Aug. 20, 2018, that the buses “were packed with people and maybe there were army soldiers and police” among those taken hostage.
Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the Kunduz provincial council, said he thinks the Taliban were looking for government employees or members of the security forces.
Abdul Rahman Aqtash, the police chief in neighboring Takhar province, says the passengers were from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.
The 591 weapons released over Afghanistan in May 2018 were the most in a month so far, according to new statistics released by the Air Force.
Those 591 topped the previous high, which was 562 in April 2018 — a count that includes bombs, missiles and ground-attacks. The record for a month is the 653 weapons released in October 2017 — that month, August 2017, and April and May 2018 are the only months to exceed 500 weapons released.
Overall, the US aircraft conducted 726 sorties as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in May 2018, 73 of which included the release of at least one weapon.
The total weapons deployed by manned and remotely piloted aircraft through May 2018 is 2,339, more than were dropped in both 2016 and 2015 and close to the 12-month totals for 2013 and 2014 — 2,758 and 2,365, respectively.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
The 2,339 weapons used through May 2018 puts the US on pace to release 5,613 weapons this year, which would well exceed the 4,361 used in 2017.
President Donald Trump said in 2017 that the US would increase its troop presence in Afghanistan to combat the resurgent Taliban as well as the growing presence of a local offshoot of ISIS called Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.
Since then, a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack aircraft have been stationed in Afghanistan, as have MQ-9 Reapers used for intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance. F-16 Falcon fighter jets and EC-130H Compass Call electronic-warfare aircraft, among others, are also in the country.
Trump also delegated more authority to the Pentagon and commanders on the ground.
In recent months, the US has stepped up its targeting of the Taliban’s drug labs and other revenue-generating infrastructure, using advanced aircraft like the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter to bomb rudimentary buildings around Afghanistan.
“US air operations in May put tremendous pressure on every branch of the Taliban’s network,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, combined force air-component commander, said in a release. “We struck Taliban leadership with precision strikes, and consistently pummeled their revenue-producing facilities, weapons caches, and staging facilities.”
The May 2018 airstrike data was released as Army Lt. Gen. Austin Scott Miller went before lawmakers as the nominee to be the commander of US Forces Afghanistan. He would be the ninth US general to take command since the invasion in late 2001 and the first appointed by Trump.
The Pentagon believes that the Taliban controls or is contesting control of about one-third of Afghanistan, while the Afghan government controls the rest.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras)
“I’ve learned a lot in the last 17 years,” Miller, who currently oversees Joint Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’ve learned there are groups that want nothing more than to harm Americans.”
“I’ve learned these groups thrive in ungoverned spaces,” he added. “I’ve also learned that when we maintain pressure on them abroad, they struggle to organize and build the necessary means to attack us.”
When pressed by senators, Miller admitted the Pentagon needed to be considering pulling out of Afghanistan in the coming years but stressed that a “precipitous and disorderly withdrawal” would lead to “negative effects on US national security.”
Miller, who deployed to Afghanistan as a lieutenant colonel in 2001, underscored the generational nature of the war by gesturing to his son, a second lieutenant in the Army, during the hearing.
“This young guy sitting behind me,” Miller said. “I never anticipated that his cohort would be in a position to deploy [to Afghanistan] as I sat there in 2001 and looked at this.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.