In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine - We Are The Mighty
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In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

The US on Sept. 6 offered cautious optimism for Russia’s call to deploy a United Nations peacekeeping force in Ukraine while disagreeing with Moscow over its scope.


A State Department official told Anadolu Agency in emailed comments that the option is “worth exploring” in order to protect civilians and as a possible means to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sept. 5 that Moscow will call on the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, where fighting has raged between government forces and Russia-backed separatist rebels.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Putin insisted during remarks to reporters that the peacekeepers be deployed between government forces and rebel-controlled areas in Ukraine’s east.

But Washington and Kiev worry that deploying the peacekeeping force solely along a line dividing the warring parties would help cement the rebels’ territorial claims.

The State Department official, who spoke on condition that she not be named, said if UN forces are deployed, they should have a broad mandate that would include all Ukrainian territory up to and including the Russian border “in order to avoid deepening or institutionalizing the divisions inside Ukraine.”

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Pro-Russian rebels shoot in the air at funeral of a fellow fighter killed in a battle for Marinka near Donetsk. Eastern Ukraine, 6 June, 2015. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

“Our goals are simple: restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and protect Ukrainians no matter what their religion, ethnicity, or language,” she said.

The US has long accused Russia of fomenting separatist violence in eastern Ukraine, including arming and training rebel groups fighting government forces.

More than 10,000 people have died in the fighting since it began in 2014, according to the UN.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch as a massive ammunition depot blows up in Ukraine

Massive explosions at an  in central  have prompted the evacuation of more than 30,000 people and the closure of airspace over the region, the country’s emergency response agency has said.


The blasts late on Sept. 26 sparked a blaze at the depot near Kalynivka in the Vinnytsya region, some 270 kilometers west of Kyiv, the September 27 statement said.

 military prosecutor’s office said investigators were treating the explosions and fire as an act of sabotage, Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) spokeswoman Olena Hitlyanska said on September 27.

National Police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said in a statement on September 27 that hundreds of police officers from the Vinnytsya, Zhytomyr, Khmelnitskiy, Kyiv, and Chernivtsi regions were providing security and safe evacuation of people at the site.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, who arrived in Vinnytsya hours after the blast, said that “external factors” were behind the incident.

Zoryan Shkiryak, an adviser to the head of the Interior Ministry, said on Facebook that he was “convinced that this is a hostile Russian sabotage,” and said it was the seventh fire at military warehouses in Kalynivka.

He said a state commission of inquiry will be set up to investigate the cause of the explosions.

Some 600 National Guard troops were deployed to the area to assist with the evacuation of the residents and to ensure the protection of their property from looters, the National Guard said in a statement. Some 1,200 Ukrainian firefighters were working to contain the blaze, UNIAN reported.

Witnesses said that after an initial loud explosion, bright flashes were visible in the night sky. Some residents said they feared the smoke and fire from the explosion might produce toxic gases.

Local media reported that the explosive wave knocked out the windows in the Kalynivka district state administration, where an emergency headquarters for teams seeking to put out the explosions and fire was later gathered.

Witnesses said the sound of explosions could be heard as far away as Kyiv. Local media said that in Kalynivka, officials turned off the lights and disconnected gas and electricity supplies.

Shortly after the explosions, the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of , General Viktor Muzhenko, arrived in Vinnytsya, authorities said.

A volunteer of the Avtoevrozile organization of Vinnytsya, Ihor Rumyantsev, told RFE/RL that he saw about 10 buses arrive to evacuate people. He said he was helping to evacuate residents, giving priority to women and children.

Early on September 27, Rumyantsev said the explosions started to increase, doubling in size, prompting people to hide in their cellars.

Rumyantsev said the railway connection in the area had completely stopped. Ukrzaliznytsya reported a change in railroad routes due to the explosions.

An employee of the Vinnytsya Oblast Council, Iryna Yaroshynska, confirmed the rerouting of trains going through Kalynivka.

Ukraerocenter closed the airspace within a radius of 50 kilometers from the zone of explosions in the military warehouses, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Yuriy Lavrenyuk said on Facebook.

Residents posted video online showing what appeared to be a fire burning, lights flashing, and smoke billowing into the night sky.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Covert action’ is back on the debate stage

Covert action is making its name again. Back on the strategic foreign policy stage, covert action is a way to achieve diplomacy without direct military confrontation. Kinetic operations by way of targeted killing have become a hot (and disputed) topic.

Even though Presidents Ford in 1976, Carter in 1978, and Reagan in 1981 signed Executive Orders to ban political assassinations, the U.S. has engaged in targeted killings through drone strikes to kill enemy combatants on the battlefield. Signature strikes that target behavior patterns and personal networks often result in increased collateral damage, namely to civilians. Some of these actions are overt while others are covert, or at least clandestine in some nature.


In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

An MQ-9 Reaper drone.

(USAF)

So, who does these things? Is it the military, CIA, or even both?

The answer to the purview of this comes down to law. More specifically, to the debate between authority in U.S. Title 10 and 50. The debate is widely and often invoked to address when the military is taking over actions or missions within the domain of the intelligence operations of CIA.

Title 10 describes the legal authority for military operations regarding the DoD’s organizational structure.

Meanwhile, Title 50 captures CIA’s authority to conduct its intelligence operations and covert action.

The legal stipulations of military versus CIA legal authority are a little more complex, but the two catchall designations are what matter in the larger scope. And that is how practitioners interpret it.

However, the differentiation in the purview between military and CIA operations is not always clear. As changes to the way we fight become more complex and dynamic with each operation, DoD and CIA officers constantly attempt to find themselves in the correct lane for engaging in their respective operations.

Perhaps the easiest example of this was when CIA found the potential for the Predator drone in aerial surveillance. CIA undoubtedly assumed that the aircraft would fall into its own designation. The debate went on between CIA and DoD. Even though the UAV was classified as an aircraft, CIA contended that it was only a platform to collect imagery intelligence. CIA won.

Once CIA tried to weaponize the UAVs by incorporating Hellfire missiles into their framework, DoD fought CIA again. This time, the Air Force made the argument regarding Title 10 versus Title 50. Already established to be an aircraft, a weaponized UAV would fall under Title 10 as the purview of the military. Being weaponized, the Predator was no longer just an imagery intelligence collection asset but more of a kinetic killing machine. Its job was not just to pick up and track high-value targets as much as it was to send warheads to foreheads. This time, the Air Force and DoD won.

So, the designation for military or CIA control of drone warfare is not black or white. It exists in the grey zone.

That is why drones remain a tricky topic for use regarding both surveillance and kinetic operations. It is still a working and developing decision of who calls the shots and who owns the infrastructure.

When it comes to boots-on-the-ground operations regarding both kinetic and non-kinetic operations, the debate becomes even more contested. Because of its charter, CIA is the only agency responsible for and charged with covert action. Action abroad in this context has always been part of CIA’s history: some of it good, other parts bad.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

However, sometimes the military conducts operations that to the naked eye would appear to be consistent with covert action. The big difference is that these operations that may well be clandestine are not covert or designed to be plausibly deniable.

If a U.S. military operation goes sideways, the U.S. Government is forced to acknowledge it. And contrary to popular belief, that includes higher tier units, such as Delta Force, DEVGRU, and others.

Kinetic covert action protocols on the ground are only deniable if under the sanctions of CIA. Meaning they would have to have been performed in a paramilitary context by the Special Activities Division (SAD), including Ground Branch, Global Response Staff …

The U.S. military cannot and does not perform covert action.

However, that is not the end of the discussion. Within the bounds of Title 10, the DoD has found a way to get close to covert action without crossing the line.

The closest the U.S. military gets to covert action is called the Operational Preparation of the Environment (OPE). OPE consists of clandestine intelligence collection that may have a more distant relation to military action. Because OPE exists in a pseudo-covert action context, DoD has won legal jurisdiction of it by arguing that a theoretical, distant military operation might one day exist as a result of its being.

It goes beyond traditional military operations but doesn’t legally cross the line into covert action by CIA. It does, however, get close.

Everyone from DoD, CIA, and even ODNI knows that the delineation is not clear. They argue, they fight, and they come up with some sort of consensus. But while there might not be a distinct line in the ground differentiating CIA and DoD authority, there is a grey line or a buffer zone at the very least.

However, this grey line possesses ambiguity that can have very adverse implications for the national security community. Such ambiguity makes it difficult, if not impossible, for intelligence officers to conduct intelligence operations in their field of work if the collection of such intelligence is proscribed.

If the military continues to conduct clandestine intelligence in the form of OPE, leaders at both DoD and CIA will need to prescribe more delineated instructions for how and by who such intelligence will be collected. This goes beyond mere turf wars that happen all of the time within the intelligence community. It gives instructions as to who can operate in this capacity when covert action is not conducted but is on the borderline of being touched.

The DoD argument for OPE that such intelligence may need to be collected via clandestine means for the potential exploitation in a future, theoretical military operation will not suffice. It only provides legitimacy to the military in conducting such operations but does not provide a way for it to complement or work along CIA.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

Gina Haspel, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Many of the covert operations undertaken by CIA are not very different from military OPE. The functions hold many of the same premises. The only difference is that DoD has made the argument for OPE’s potential value as to why it should be considered a military operation in accordance with Title 10 and not the covert action provisions of Title 50.

Accordingly, the functions of both DoD and CIA should complement one another as opposed to working against each other in the case of further jurisdiction debate. Leaders need to delineate the roles the processes should play in each agency while also proscribing intelligence requirements that can be satisfied according to each service.

There is no reason the DoD should not be able to conduct OPE. It is not covert action and does not fall exclusively into CIA’s charter. But it does border it.

That means there needs to be much more synchronization between DoD and CIA to facilitate intelligence collection on adversarial capabilities and intentions to fulfill intelligence requirements that are desperately needed.

However, the issue does not stop only with senior leadership. It has ramifications for operations officers at CIA and military officers, equally as well. While both cohorts know their jobs and the functions that are to be executed fairly well, operations such as that of OPE provide particular challenges that are still not widely understood. That is particularly the case because it is not firmly established in doctrine or proscribed to the legality of one agency or the other.

An operations officer at CIA who is tasked with clandestine human intelligence collection may be blindsided by OPE operations undertaken by the military that may disrupt or interfere with general Agency operations. Military intelligence collection may confuse Agency personnel as to their requirements as to whose prerogative or official duties the intelligence collection may involve. Further, intelligence collection of this sort in the same area of operations may interfere with CIA sources and asset networks that may inadvertently become shared with that of the military. Sources can quickly become compromised if they are not handled correctly, and too many asset handlers without adequate synchronization will do precisely that.

Likewise, many military officers are unaware of OPE and what it entails. It is not widely discussed, taught, or even presented to military officers in a way to educate them on what is encompassed by the military’s clandestine intelligence collection. Further, it is a discipline that is shared with a select few military personnel and officers who are not acquainted with it may also interfere with its operation. Conventional military hierarchies have become somewhat risk-adverse to date (for good reasons and bad) that their executive judgment (based on collective ambiguity relating to intelligence collection of this sort) may either interfere with or disrupt OPE collection efforts. The absence of clear guidance as to clandestine intelligence functions within the military can cripple the intelligence apparatus and needs to be further described in doctrine to allow for its potential and avoid interference of it inadvertently.

Summarily, the role of covert action between the DoD and CIA is rather clear. The Title 10 versus 50 debate has been exhaustively discussed in the literature and among practitioners. But where the line becomes grey has not. This is a problem for both DoD and CIA. Both agencies need to comprehensively describe the role of clandestine intelligence collection in both agencies. This is particularly true with OPE where the line is not delineated, education efforts are virtually nonexistent, and jurisdiction boundaries are more or less ambiguous. To facilitate the most successful and operationally safeguarded operations of this nature, DoD and CIA need to find a more delineated and prescribed approach to clandestine intelligence collection to fulfill the intelligence requirements that they need to satisfy.

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

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Habakkuk: Churchill’s aircraft carrier made of ice

Lasting five years, eight months and five days, the Battle of the Atlantic was the longest military campaign of WWII. Allied supply convoys were being continuously threatened by German U-boats and Luftwaffe aircraft, and when Italy’s Regia Marina introduced submarines into the mix when they entered the war in June of 1940, Allies were exhausting every idea possible to protect lives along with invaluable resources. Enter Winston Churchill, an unmatched powerhouse of a leader during the war who, in this instance, spearheaded a project more akin to a fictional Bond villain than a 1940’s combat strategy.

The idea itself was simple enough in theory: create an aircraft carrier using as many natural resources as possible, in an attempt to mitigate the high cost of materials like steel, which was in short supply. Pike’s solution was ambitious to say the least. Instead of costly materials that were in high demand, he’d build his aircraft carrier out of one of the most plentiful materials on earth: water, or more accurately, ice.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Illustration showing the design for HMS ‘Habbakuk

Invented by an outside-the-box thinker

The concept came from British journalist, educator, and inventor, Geoffrey Pyke. Pyke was no stranger to the perils of war, having been in a German internment camp during WWI after being caught traveling there using someone else’s passport, in an attempt to work as a war correspondent. He had been arrested just six days after he arrived, and spent over 100 days in solitary confinement before escaping. Despite his continued contributions to both war efforts, he would go on to struggle both personally and professionally, before committing suicide in 1948 at age 54. The British paper “The Times” printed his obituary, which included, “The death of Geoffrey Pyke removes one of the most original if unrecognized figures of the present century.”

The aircraft carrier would be the second significant proposal Pyke would make during WWII. The first was following Germany’s invasion of Norway, when it became clear there needed to be a better way to transport troops through the snow and another difficult-to-traverse terrain. Project Plough was Pyke’s motion to build a screw-propelled vehicle, based loosely off of old patents for Armstead snow motor vehicles. It would be the first time he would get the attention of Louis Mountbatten, the newly appointed Chief of Combined Operations. Mountbatten would bring the inventor, and his ideas, in front of Winston Churchill. Despite the interest in the project, Canada and the U.S. beat Britain to the punch when they began producing the M28 (then T15) and M29 Weasel, both inspired by Pyke’s original design.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
A screw-propelled prototype of the M29 Weasel (left), and a tracked M29 later in service with the U.S. Army

It wouldn’t be long before Pyke and Churchill would see eye to eye on another idea. Project Habakkuk, as it would be known, was supposed to be the answer to the increased presence and efficacy of Allied air forces in the Atlantic.

Pyke chose the name based on the bible verse Habakkuk 1:5, which reads as hubristic optimism for the success of the project.

King James Bible version:

“Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you.”

New International Version (NIV):

“Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

Project Habakkuk

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

What would Pike’s Habakkuk apart from traditional aircraft carriers was the fact that it would be made almost entirely of a combination of ice and wood pulp. Eventually dubbed ‘Pykrete’ (named dually after Pyke and its strength compared to concrete), these two materials would become the main focus of his research and development. With the help of molecular biologist, glacial expert, and eventual Nobel Prize-winning protein chemist Max Perutz, and a hidden refrigerated meat locker underneath London’s Smithfield Meat Market, Pyke was able to fine-tune the functionality of the pykrete, while also discovering some of its unavoidable challenges.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Using Pykrete to build a dome (WikiMedia Commons)

RELATED: AN-1: AMERICA’S PLAN FOR SUBMARINE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS

Perutz determined 14% sawdust or wood pulp to 86% ice was the ideal breakdown for structural soundness, and championed the prospective benefits of a full-scale carrier that could utilize seawater when necessary to repair damages. It wouldn’t be easy, however. Expansion during freezing made construction more difficult than Pike anticipated, and the ice/sawdust mixture would start bowing under its own weight at temperatures above five degrees Fahrenheit (-15°C).

Despite the new structural considerations, a small-scale model of the Habakkuk was greenlit, and a team started work in Jasper National Park, a 4,200 square mile park within the Canadian Rockies. In addition to troubleshooting the known issues, the goal of the scale model was to test environmental durability as well as how pykrete held up against various weapons and explosives. The 60 foot long, 1,000-ton model took eight men around two weeks to complete, and seemed to hold up well enough to both nature and manmade adversaries. Upon its completion, Churchill almost immediately announced the order for the real thing, full scale, and with the highest priority of importance.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
What remains of Project Habakkuk now lies here, at the bottom of Patricia Lake in the Canadian Rockies (Wikimedia Commons)

full-scale Habakkuk was a tall order, and while completion was optimistically slated for mid-1944, the supply list would prove to be a living document. The original list called for 300,000 tons of wood pulp, 25,000 tons of wood fiber insulation, 35,000 tons of timber and a conservative 10,000 tons of steel. All of this totaled around £700,000 (equivalent to just under $10.6 million today). Seasonally driven temperature changes quickly made the team realize that using steel as internal support was not only necessary, but would require much more of it than they had initially estimated. Factoring in more steel, the final proposed cost would be triple what had been anticipated, sitting at £2.5 million.

A False Prophet: Issues in the ice

The project also wasn’t without some creative differences and office politics. Britain wanted to ensure America was invested in the idea, and began to phase Pyke out of the process. Back during Project Plough, Pyke had some significant conflicts with Americans working on his designs, causing him to be removed from that project well before it was ultimately scrapped. While Pyke’s exclusion had little bearing on the final outcome, the timing of it fell towards the beginning of the end for Habakkuk.

The summer of 1943 welcomed more criticisms and observations, and with them, higher expectations for the carrier. With a 2,000 foot runway to accommodate the Royal Navy’ heavy bombers, and 40-foot thick walls to withstand torpedos, the Habakkuk carrier would end up displacing 2,000,000 tons of water (compared to the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz class carrier, which at just over 1,000 feet, only displaces about 100,000 tons). It was also expected to have a 7,000 mile range and be able to handle the highest recorded waves on the open sea. However, its immense size, along with concerns about speed and steering, soon made it more and more clear that the odds may be stacked against Pike’s Habakkuk.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Wikimedia Commons

The last meeting about the build took place in December of 1943. By this time, a number of factors had changed in regards to the war itself, and that, coupled with the challenges they were already facing, ended up being the final nail in the coffin for the project. Portugal had given the Allies permission to use their airfields in the Azores, which allowed them the opportunity of deploying more airborne U-boat patrols over the Atlantic.

An increased number of traditional aircraft carriers, as well as newly introduced and integrated long-range fuel tanks that allowed for longer flight times over the Atlantic, essentially made the Habakkuk obsolete before it could even take shape. The prototype found its final resting place at the bottom of Jasper’s Lake Patricia.

In his collection of essays titled, “I Wish I’d Made You Angry Earlier: Essays on Science, Scientists and Humanity,” Pertuz concluded: 

“The US Navy finally decided that Habakkuk was a false prophet.”

Myth Busting: The return of the Habakkuk

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

While the world never got to see the larger-than-life, movie-villain-worthy tactical ice island, there were two special effects experts who decided to put Pyke’s pykrete to the test.

In a 2009 episode of MythBusters (ep. 115 “Alaska Special”), fabrication wizards Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman wanted to explore the validity of some of the claims made about pykrete. The first was the idea that it was bulletproof, which the two believed they confirmed after their test of firing .45 caliber rounds into a block of solid ice, which shattered on impact, and a block of their own pykrete, which only sustained a 1-inch deep gash when it was hit.

The second “confirmed” theory was that pykrete was inherently stronger than ice on its own. Through a mechanical stress test using a cantilever, Adam and Jamie found that the solid ice broke at only 40lbs of pressure, while their pykrete supported all 300lbs – and a few hits with a hammer- before it fractured.

The third test was the culminating event, trying to determine whether or not Project Habakkuk was even possible. They set to work building their own (much smaller) boat, made from Hyneman’s “super Pykrete”–a mixture of ice and newspapers–which they had found to be even stronger than the original Pykrete formula.

In a conclusion they deemed “plausible but ludicrous,” the Mythbusters team were able to get about 20 minutes of smooth sailing in, reaching up to 23mph, before the boat began to deteriorate. They stayed afloat for the ten minutes it took them to get back to shore, but weren’t confident their particular design would have lasted much longer. While they loved Pyke’s ingenuity, they felt the Habakkuk was, at best, highly impractical.

Project Habakkuk sits comfortably among a long line of attempted military innovations that were never fully realized. What it does prove however, is that tough times can inspire some of the most unconventionally inventive ideas, and there’s sometimes something to be said for those who err on the side of eccentricity.


This article by Amy Dickey was originally published by Sandboxx News.

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China just deployed troops to its first overseas base alongside US outpost

China dispatched members of its People’s Liberation Army to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti July 11 to man the rising Asian giant’s first overseas military base, a key part of a wide-ranging expansion of the role of China’s armed forces.


The defense ministry said on its website that a ceremony was held at a naval peer in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong.

It said the personnel would travel by navy ship but gave no details on numbers or units. Photos on the website showed naval officers and marines in battle dress lining the rails of the support ships Jingangshan and Donghaidao.

China says the logistics center will support anti-piracy, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and western Asia. It says it will also facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises as the PLA navy and other services seek to expand their global reach in step with China’s growing economic and political footprint.

Djibouti is already home to the center of American operations in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, while France, Britain, Japan and other nations also maintain a military presence in the small but strategically located nation.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Chinese special operations forces raid a civilian ocean transport during a counter-piracy mission. (Photo from Chinese Ministry of Defense)

Multinational anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden that China joined in 2008 have also given its navy ready access to the Mediterranean, and, in 2011, it took the unprecedented step of sending one of its most sophisticated warships together with military transport aircraft to help in the evacuation of about 35,000 Chinese citizens from Libya.

In 2015, China detached three navy ships from the anti-piracy patrols to rescue Chinese citizens and other foreign nationals from fighting in Yemen. The same year, it took part in its first Mediterranean joint naval exercises with Russia.

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Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

US military advisers are operating inside the city of Raqqa, Daesh’s last major bastion in Syria, a US official said July 12. The troops, many of them Special Operations Forces, are working in an “advise, assist, and accompany” role to support local fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces as they battle Daesh, said Col. Ryan Dillon, a military spokesman.


The troops are not in a direct combat role but are calling in airstrikes and are working closer to the fight than did US forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul.

“They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq,” Dillon said, adding that the numbers of US forces in Raqqa were “not hundreds.”

The operation to capture Raqqa began in November and on June 6 the SDF entered the city. With help from the US-led coalition, the SDF this month breached an ancient wall by Raqqa’s Old City, where die-hard militants are making a last stand.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
SDF fighters among rubble in Raqqa. Photo from VOA.

Dillon said the coalition had seen Daesh increasingly using commercial drones that have been rigged with explosives. The militants employed a similar tactic in Mosul.

“Over the course over the last week or two, it has increased as we’ve continued to push in closer inside of Raqqa city center,” he said.

The US military is secretive about exactly how big its footprint is in Syria, but has previously said about 500 Special Operations fighters are there to train and assist the SDF, an Arab-Kurdish alliance.

Additionally, Marines are operating an artillery battery to help in the Raqqa offensive.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
The United States Marine Corps provide fire support to the SDF during the Battle of Raqqa. Photo from USMC.

The UN said July 12 it is using newly opened land routes in Syria to expand food deliveries to areas around Raqqa.

The new access has allowed the World Food Program to deliver food to rural areas north of the city for the first time in three years.

More than 190,000 people have been displaced from and within Raqqa province since April 1, according to the UN refugee agency. In the past 48 hours, hundreds of civilians managed to flee areas under Daesh control and cross to territory seized by SDF, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As the map of control changes, so is the access and WFP said it is now delivering food every month to nearly 200,000 people in eight hard-to-reach locations inside Raqqa province as well as other areas in a neighboring province.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
USMC photo by Sgt. Justin T. Updegraff.

Prior to the reopening of the road linking Aleppo in the west to Hassakeh in the east, the WFP relied on airlifts.

“Replacing airlifts with road deliveries will save an estimated $19 million per year, as each truck on the road carries the equivalent of a planeload of food at a significantly lower cost,” said Jakob Kern, the WFP country representative in Syria. “With these cost savings and improved access, we are now reaching more families and people returning to their homes who need our help with regular food deliveries.”

One area that is now reachable is the town of Tabqa, which was taken from Daesh by the US-backed SDF in May. WFP said it was able this month to double the number of people it reaches, delivering monthly food rations to 25,000 people, many of whom have returned to their original homes and are now working to rebuild their lives.

In Homs eastern countryside, meanwhile, a Syrian military source said the army recaptured the Al-Hayl oil field, south of Al-Sukhneh city, from Daesh militants, the state-run news agency SANA reported.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
SDF in Tabqa. Photo from VOA.

The fight against Daesh is only one facet of the war in Syria, which is now in its seventh year. Six rounds of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva have failed to bring the warring sides closer to a political settlement.

A seventh round is now underway in the Swiss city, but expectations for a breakthrough are almost non-existent.

July 12, the head of the Syrian opposition delegation accused President Bashar Assad’s regime of refusing to engage in political discussions.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo courtesy of Moscow Kremlin.

Nasr al-Hariri of the High Negotiations Committee also challenged the UN Security Council to “uphold its responsibilities” and maintain pressure on Assad to honor resolutions that the council has passed. He spoke to reporters after emerging from talks with the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in the latest round of indirect peace talks. Hariri cited the “continuous refusing” of Assad’s government to participate in political negotiations.

Security Council Resolution 2254 from December 2015 called on top UN officials to convene the two sides “to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process.”

Also July 12, a human rights group said Syrian-Russian airstrikes and artillery attacks on a town in southern Syria last month killed 10 civilians in and near a school. Human Rights Watch said one of the airstrikes hit the courtyard of a middle school in the town of Tafas in the southern province of Deraa, killing eight people, including a child. It says most of those killed were members of a family who had been displaced from another town. It said two other civilians, including a child, were killed an hour earlier by artillery attacks near the school.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is asking its followers to take aim at this tropical destination

A recent Islamic State video calls upon would-be jihadis to join the terrorist group in the Philippines rather than the core caliphate in Syria, an NBC News analysis reveals.


The video specifically instructs any would-be travelers in the Asia-Pacific region to go to the Philippines instead of trying to travel to the core caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

“Come forth to the land of jihad. Perform hijrah. Come forth to … Marawi,” a militant instructs in the video.

ISIS fighters remain besieged in the Filipino city of Marawi, where it has mounted a months-long surprisingly robust insurgency. The battle for Marawai has displaced hundreds of thousands of residents and began during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The terrorist group frequently uses the holy month as an excuse to mount some of its deadliest operations. Dozens of Filipino soldiers have been killed in the ensuing siege.

The group’s loss of territory has caused a concerted change in the terrorist organization’s propaganda efforts, which now tell fighters to either carry out attacks in their home countries or travel to one of the group’s affiliate chapters.

ISIS also has active affiliates in Afghanistan, Egypt, and Libya, each of which command the loyalty of hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters. Many of its affiliates have been linked to high-profile attacks in their host countries and even plots against the West.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

I’m a milspouse living with chronic anxiety. Here’s what I want you to know

It’s Monday. I’ve been awake since 6am and I’m sipping on hot coffee – a rare treat in my house, since my kids are still asleep – and looking at my weekly planner. I see that I have another full week of appointments and social gatherings.

Seems pretty normal, right?


For any other person, this looks like a normal week. As for me, this looks like a million things to do and I start thinking of all the ways any of these can go wrong. I quickly become overwhelmed, and then, anxious. I try to gain some control by using my husband as a soundboard to discuss everything coming up, and we formulate a plan together. His reassurance is what helps me overcome the anxiety and get things done.

Then, he calls me and tells me he has a last-minute TDY, and he leaves this weekend. Once again, the military has thrown a wrench in our plans, and I am expected to pick up the slack and adapt.

For some, this last part is just par for the course, and they manage just fine despite the difficulties ahead. For me, my anxiety is now in full swing. How will I get through this?

This is just one example of how my anxiety used to affect my daily life as a military spouse. My anxiety also had control over other aspects, such as:

  • Making friends at a new place (because I feared I wouldn’t be accepted by them)
  • Cancelling plans
  • PCSing
  • My spouse’s work schedule changes
  • Deployment

As military spouses, the expectations placed on us to be strong can be difficult even without anxiety. With anxiety, those expectations are even harder to meet – including the ability to quickly adapt to situations and do things on our own while our spouses are gone. It is really hard to ask for help because we don’t want to be a burden, and as a result, we often feel more alone than we actually are.

If any of this sounds like what you are experiencing, I want you to know that you are not alone! Your friends, key spouse, and even mental health professionals are there to assist you when you are struggling, and it is okay to ask them for help. Asking for help is the best thing I ever did, and if I can do it, you can, too!

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 of the best ‘Full Metal Jacket’ memes ever made

In 1987, Stanley Kubrick released one of the most acclaimed feature films that created a stir within the Marine Corps community — Full Metal Jacket. The movie was an instant hit and, suddenly, veterans and active-duty service members of all ages started memorizing the film’s dialogue and working it into their daily conversations.

Although the film debuted more than 30 years ago, its epic storyline and unique characters contribute to today’s popular culture. Full Metal Jacket still manages to engage audiences, even after we’ve seen it a dozen times. Now, in the age of memes, Full Metal Jacket lives on.


In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

Why isn’t he standing at the position of attention?

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

We, of course, choose Animal Mother.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

Taking jabs at Pvt. Pyle never gets old.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

Too bad his vacation didn’t end well…

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

“Ain’t war hell?”

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

See!

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

He was the guest of honor.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

So that’s what Animal Mother’s problem was. We were way off!

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

Neither game has a winner…

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

Now that’s a war face.

Articles

Russia is bringing back the world’s largest surface combatant

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Russia is in the middle of a massive overhaul of it’s aged, but still dangerous navy. | Photo by Mitsuo Shibata via Wikimedia Commons


Developed in the late 1970s, Russia’s Kirov-class battle cruisers are the largest and heaviest surface-combat ships in the world — and they’re coming back with advanced weaponry, according to Russia’s Tass news agency.

At more than 800 feet long, with a displacement of around 25,000 tons, the Kirov dwarfs any navy ship short of an amphibious assault ship or aircraft carriers. But only one, the Pyotr Veliky, is still in service.

Russian media says that another aging Kirov-class hull, the Admiral Nakhimov, is being fitted with Russia’s newest antiship, antiair, and surface-to-surface missiles.

Russia intends to return the Admiral Nakhimov to its fleet in 2019, at which time the Pyotr Veliky will be docked to undergo the same upgrades.

These include missiles of the Kalibr variety that recently hit targets in Syria from the Caspian Sea, Zircon hypersonic missiles, which are slated to be ready by 2020, and a “navalized” version of Russia’s S-400 missile-defense system, according to Foxtrot Alpha.

To accommodate these missiles, Russia plans to overhaul the ship’s vertical-launch systems. That contract alone is worth 2.56 billion rubles, or $33.5 million, NavyRecognition.com notes.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Aerial starboard view of the foredeck of a Kirov-class ship shows four single 30 mm Gatling guns (in purple), two pop-up (lowered) SA-N-4 SAM launchers (in red), 20 SS-N-19 cruise-missile launchers (in green), 12 SA-N-6 SAM launchers (in blue), and one twin SS-N-14 antisubmarine warfare/surface-to-surface missile launcher (in yellow). These weapons systems will be updated by 2020, Russia claims. | US Navy photo

As with all Russian military expenditures, outsiders have trouble imagining how the struggling petro-state will pay for them.

Though the Russian navy has hit several setbacks before, the Kremlin seems hell-bent on revitalizing its navy.

Articles

The GI Bill just got its biggest funding boost in nearly 10 years

Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.


The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.

The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.

Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell

Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.

“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”

The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”

Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)

The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.

The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.

For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Army Photo by Sgt. Alexander Snyder

A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.

According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.

Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.

The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A WWII hero gets honored seventy years after the fact

The military doesn’t always get things straight and sometimes it takes a little nudge to right a wrong. In Daniel Crowley’s case, the military took 76 years to get his records straight. And the nudge was thanks to the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society (ADBC-MS). But the 98-year old Connecticut citizen was there to be finally recognized.

On Monday, January 4, 2021, Crowley was awarded his long-overdue sergeant’s chevrons, his Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB), and his Prisoner of War Medal. 

The ceremony was held at the Bradley International Airport/Air National Guard hanger in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, which is home to the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing. Gregory Slavonic, the acting undersecretary of the Navy presided over the ceremony. He was assisted by his Executive Assistant G. J. Leland, a former commanding officer of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). The two worked with the secretary of the Army to research and confirm all the awards and promotions that Mr. Crowley had earned during World War II, including his promotion to sergeant which he was never made aware of. 

The entire ceremony was filmed and was posted to the 103rd Airlift’s Facebook page. It can be seen here: http://www.facebook.com/103aw.

Crowley enlisted in the Army Air Corps in October 1940. He said that he was hoping to see the world at the government’s expense. In March 1941, he was assigned to Nichols Field, in Manila in the Philippines. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they bombed the Americans in the Philippines as well, destroying the airfield and the aircraft stationed there. The Americans were shuttled over to the Bataan Peninsula.

Crowley served on Bataan, during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in December 1941, as a member of the Army Air Corps. When those units were turned into the Provisional Army Air Corps Infantry Regiment on Bataan, he fought there until the Americans, out of food, ammunition, and medicine, surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. 

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine
Daniel Crowley soon after joining the Army prior to Pearl Harbor.

But Crowley wasn’t done fighting. He and several other troops refused to surrender. They hid among the rocks along the shore, and by doing so, missed the horrific Bataan Death March. At night, they swam the treacherous, shark-infested waters for three miles over to the Corregidor bastion that was still fighting the Japanese. There, he fought with the 4th Marines against the Japanese until they too surrendered about a month later. Read Next: New Leaders, New Direction: Reinvented MIA Agency Impresses

The Japanese brought the prisoners back to Manila and forced them to march through the streets in what was characterized as the walk of shame. Then they were shuttled off to Camp Cabanatuan. Conditions at Cabanatuan were horrific. To escape that, Crowley and others volunteered to work to help build a Japanese airfield on Palawan Island. There, they build an airstrip using only hand tools.

Coincidentally, the remaining POWs in Cabanatuan were rescued in one of the most daring and successful Special Operations raids in our history. In January 1945, before the Japanese could execute the POWs, members of the 6th Ranger Battalion under the command of Henry Mucci raided the camp and rescued them. 

In March 1944, after Crowley and the other soldiers had finished working on the airstrip, they were shipped off to Japan to provide slave labor in a copper mine.

Crowley was released from hellish captivity on September 4, 1945. He returned to his Connecticut home and family. In April 1946, he was honorably discharged from the Army at Ft. Devens, MA.

The ADBC-MS is the leading voice for Pacific War veterans and their families. It promotes education and scholarship about the POW experience in the Pacific. It supports programs of reconciliation and understanding and advocates for a Congressional Gold Medal for the POWs of Japan.

Of the 26,000 American POWs who were prisoners of the Japanese, more than 11,000 (over 40 percent), died or were murdered in captivity. By comparison, only 1.5 percent of the POWs captured by the Germans died in captivity. 

In honor of Mr. Crowley and the other POWs, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has proclaimed January 4, Pacific War Heroes Day.

We would like to thank Mindy Kolter from ADBC-MS, who furnished SOFREP with the details of Mr. Crowley’s story. You can watch a video on Mr. Crowley below.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. Official: New START Treaty should cover Russian weapon systems under development

An extension of the last remaining nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia should include new weapons systems that Moscow is developing, a U.S. State Department official said in a briefing on March 9.


The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is scheduled to expire on February 2021 and Washington has said a new accord should encompass “slightly exotic new systems such as the nuclear-powered, underwater, nuclear-armed drone called Poseidon; the nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile, air-launched ballistic missile, and that sort of thing,” the official said.

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

obamawhitehouse.archives.gov

The Trump administration has said it wants an extension of New START to also include China. The United States and Russia are the two signatories of treaty that went into effect in 2011.

China, the third-largest nuclear power, is on track to double its nuclear arsenal over the next decade, Christopher Ford, assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on December 2, 2019.

However, China’s arsenal would still be less than half of that of the United States and Russia.

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The nonproliferation agreement limits deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs held by the United States and Russia to 1,550, a reduction of nearly 75 percent from the 6,000 cap set by START 1, according to the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based, nongovernmental organization.

The treaty also allows for the verification of warheads held by each side.

It can be renewed for up to five years if both sides agree. Moscow has already offered to extend the treaty.

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

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