Iran-backed fighters 'killed' in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Air strikes in eastern Syria have killed 26 fighters from an Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary group following a deadly attack on U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Iraq.


The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the March 12 strikes near the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal were probably carried out by the coalition.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

But a spokesman for the coalition said in an statement to AFP that it “did not conduct any strikes in Syria or Iraq last night.”

Later in the day, U.S. Defense Secretary Mike Esper blamed Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia groups for the attack on the coalition at the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

But he did not confirm whether the U.S. or its allies had carried out the eastern Syria attack.

However, Esper said that “all options are on the table” as Washington and its allies try to bring those responsible for the attack, which killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier and wounded a dozen others when a barrage of Katyusha rockets were launched from a truck later discovered several kilometers from Camp Taji.

Syrian state media reported that in the attack in eastern Syria, unidentified jets hit targets southeast of Albu Kamal with only material damage.

However, the Observatory said camps of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella grouping of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, were hit in the strikes, which came after a rocket attack on the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “underscored that those responsible for the [Camp Taji] attacks must be held accountable,” the State Department said of a phone call between the two.

Iraq’s military said caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered an investigation into what he called “a very serious security challenge and hostile act.”

No-one claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but the United States has accused Iran-backed militias of previous attacks on Iraqi bases hosting coalition forces.

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, told a Senate hearing that the attack was being investigated.

But he noted that Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah “the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. civilian and coalition forces in such an incident Iraq.”

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

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U.S. President Donald Trump on March 12 said it had not been fully determined whether Iran, which has backed a number of anti-U.S. militia groups in neighboring Iraq, was responsible for the Katyusha attack.

Washington blamed that militia for a strike in December that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led U.S. President Donald Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.

In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hawaii’s big island volcano eruption can be seen from space

The ongoing volcanic eruptions from Hawaii have been so massive that astronauts can see them from space — and the pictures are incredible.

Ricky Arnold and AJ Feustel, US astronauts stationed on to the International Space Station, posted dramatic photos to Twitter of the ash plume emerging from the Kilauea volcano on the east of the Big Island.



Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)

The volcano erupted on May 10, 2018, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

The crater is already emitting noxious fumes which can make breathing difficult for children and elderly people. The ash cloud has reached as high as 12,000 feet about sea level.

Feustal wrote: “It is easy to see the activity on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano from the International Space Station. We hope those in the vicinity of the eruption can stay out of harm’s way.”

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)

Lava and molten rock bursting from the volcano’s fissures also destroyed at least 26 homes and four other buildings over the weekend, forcing 1,700 people to evacuate.

The US Geological Survey issued a rare “red alert” warning, which means a major volcanic eruptions is imminent or underway, and that the ash clouds could affect air traffic.

Here’s a shot of the volcano from a lot closer to the ground:

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
A US Geological Survey photo of ash rising from the Puu Oo vent on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.
(Kevan Kamibayashi / US Geological Survey)

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

US Navy sailors told to ‘clap like we’re at a strip club’ for VIP visit

The top enlisted leader on a Navy aircraft carrier is under fire for telling his troops to “clap like we’re at a strip club” ahead of the vice president’s stop aboard the ship April 30, 2019.

Command Master Chief Jonas Carter made the remark to sailors aboard the carrier Harry S. Truman, Lt. Cmdr. Laura Stegherr, a spokeswoman for the ship, confirmed to Military.com.

“This statement was inappropriate, and this issue is being addressed by Truman’s leadership,” she said.

CNN first reported the incident April 30, 2019.


Pence met with senior leaders and gave a speech aboard the Truman, which is pierside in Virginia. During his speech, he said President Donald Trump would save their carrier from early retirement, despite the commander-in-chief authorizing the move earlier this year in his 2020 budget proposal.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adelola Tinubu)

George Reed, a retired Army colonel who served as director of command and leadership studies at the Army War College, said while Carter’s phrasing might not have been appropriate for a public audience, sailors likely understood his intent.

“Of course, you want sailors to give a good reception to the vice president, no matter your party preference,” Reed said.

If the command master chief’s comments were more partisan in nature, though, that’s cause for concern.

“There was a time when the mere act of voting was considered by many officers to be too partisan,” he said. “The shift to a period where military [leaders] feel comfortable sporting bumper stickers and yard signs favoring their party or favored candidate reflects cultural change that might not be in the best interest of the armed forces or the nation.”

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Vice President Mike Pence delivers a speech to the crew during an all-hands call in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adelola Tinubu)

This isn’t the first time a Trump administration event involving troops has made headlines.

Last March, when Trump pointed to reporters during a speech to Marines at a California air station and called them “fake news,” the leathernecks cheered.

And in December, when Trump visited troops in Iraq, some had him sign their “Make America Great Again” caps. Since it’s the commander in chief’s political campaign slogan, some said it was inappropriate for them to ask for signatures while in uniform.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army extends infantry school to make grunts more lethal


The U.S. Army is refining a plan to extend by two months the service’s 14-week infantry one station unit training, or OSUT, so young grunts arrive at their first unit more combat-ready than ever before.

Trainers at Fort Benning, Georgia will run a pilot during summer 2018 that will extend infantry OSUT from 14 weeks to 22 weeks, giving soldiers more time to practice key infantry skills such as land navigation, marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, fire and maneuver, and first aid training.


Currently soldiers in infantry OSUT go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about 4.5 weeks of infantry advanced individual training. This would add an additional 8 weeks of advanced individual training, tripling the length of the instruction soldiers receive in that phase.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets Timothy Dudley and Nicholas Calderon move into position to rappel out of a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter during the last phase of the Air Assault Course at Dickman Field, July 23, 2013 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
(Photo by Ashley Cross)

“It’s more reps and sets; we are trying to make sure that infantry soldiers coming out of infantry OSUT are more than just familiar [with ground combat skills],” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning, told Military.com in a June 21, 2018 interview. “You are going to shoot more bullets; you are going to come out more proficient and more expert than just familiar.”

A better trained infantry soldier

The former infantry commandant, Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, launched the effort to “improve the lethality of soldiers in the infantry rifle squad,” Hedrick said.

“In 14 weeks, what we really do is produce a baseline infantry soldier,” said Col. Kelly Kendrick, the outgoing commander of 198th Infantry Brigade at Benning, who was heavily involved in developing the pilot.

This works fine when new soldiers arrive at their first unit as it is starting its pre-deployment train-up, Kendrick said.

Unfortunately, many young infantry soldiers arrive at a unit only a few weeks before it deploys, leaving little time for preparation before real-world operations begin, he said.

“I was the G3 of the 101st Airborne and if a [new] soldier came up late in the train-up, we had a three-week train-up program and then after three weeks, we would send that soldier on a deployment,” he said.

With 22 weeks of infantry OSUT, “you can see right off that bat, we are going to have a hell of a lot better soldier,” Kendrick said. “I will tell you, we will produce infantry soldiers with unmatched lethality compared to what we have had in the past.”

The new pilot will start training two companies from July 13 to mid-December 2018, Kendrick said. Once the new program of instruction is finalized, trainers will start implementing the 22-week cycle across infantry OSUT in October 2019.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
U.S. Army Live fire training at Galloway Range, Fort Benning, GA. C Co 2nd Btn 11 Infantry Regiment.
(Photo by John D. Helms)

The effort follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training early 2018 designed to instill more discipline and esprit de corps in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience, poor work ethic, and low discipline.

“If there are two things we do great right now, that’s physical fitness and marksmanship; I really think everything else has suffered a little bit,” said Kendrick. “If you went and looked at special operations forces … the SOF force has realized they have to invest in training and teaching. And they have done that, so we have been the last ones to get it.”

The Army has prioritized leader training for both commissioned officers and sergeants.

“[But] the initial entry, soldier side of the house, has not [changed] whole lot from the infantry perspective for a long, long time,” Kendrick said.

A new emphasis on land navigation training

Currently, soldiers in infantry training receive one day of classroom instruction on land navigation and one day of hands-on application.

“We put them in groups of four and they go and find three of about four-five points — that’s their land navigation training,” Kendrick.

The new land-nav program will last a week.

“They are going to do buddy teams to start with, and at the end, they will have to pass day and night land navigation, individually,” he said.

One challenge of the pilot will be, “can I get to individual proficiency in land-nav or do I need more time?” Kendrick said.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
Ranger Training Class 4-11 completes a knots test early on day two of the Mountain Phase and moves immediately to rope bridge training and vertical haul line exercises.
(Photo by John D. Helms)

“Part of this what we haven’t figured out is hey, how long do those lanes need to be — 300, 600, 800 meters?” said Kendrick, adding that it would be easy to design a course “and have every private here fail.”

“Then I can turn around and have every private pass no matter what with just a highway through the woods,” he continued. “We’ve got to figure out what that level is going to be — where they leave here accomplished in their skills and their ability and are prepared to go do that well wherever they get to. That is really the art of doing this pilot.”

A new marksmanship strategy

Currently, infantry OSUT soldiers train on iron sights and the M68 close combat optic at ranges out to 300 meters.

The new program will feature training on the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, or AGOG, which offers 4X magnification.

“We don’t do much ACOG training; you go out to most rifle units, the ACOG is part of the unit’s issue,” Kendrick said. “It’s a shame that we don’t train them on the optic that half of them when they walk into their unit the first day and [receive it].”

Soldiers will also receive training on the AN/PAS-13 thermal weapon sightand the AN/PSQ-20 Enhanced Night Vision Goggle.

Soldiers will train with these system and their weapons “day and night with qualification associated,” Kendrick said.

The new program will also increase the amount of maneuver live-fire training soldiers receive.

“Everything from a buddy-team to a fire team to a squad, we are going to increase the time and sets and repetitions in getting them into live-firing, day and night,” Kendrick said. “Today when you do a fire-team, react to contact live fire, you do that twice — daytime only. At the end of this thing, when you are done, we will be doing live-fire [repetitions] on the magnitude of 20-plus.”

As with land navigation, Kendrick said, the time allotted for additional marksmanship training is not yet finalized.

“Like anything else, with being an infantryman, it’s sets and reps that make you proficient,” he said. “So now we are talking about the time to do that amount of sets and repetitions that will give them the foundation that can they can work in the rest of their career.”

More combatives and first aid training

Infantry OSUT trainees receive about 22 hours of combatives, or hand-to-hand combat training.

“We are going to take that to 40 hours,” Kendrick said. “At the end of 40 hours, we are going to take a level-one combatives test, so every soldier that leaves here will be level-one combatives certified.”

Level-one certification will ensure soldiers are practiced in basic holds instead of just being familiar with them, Kendrick said.

“We are talking about practicing and executing those moves.”

It will be the same with first aid training, he said.

Soldiers will spend eight days learning more combat lifesaver training, trauma first aid and “how to handle hot and cold-weather injuries … which cause more casualties than bullets do right now in some of these formations,” Kendrick said.

“You will have a soldier that understands combat lifesaver, first aid and trauma, all those things because right now you just get a little piece of that,” he said.

Infantry trainees will also receive more urban combat training and do a 16-mile road march instead of the standard 12-miler, Kendrick said.

The plan is to “assess this every week” during the pilot and make changes if needed, Kendrick said.

“Is it going to be enough? Do we need more? Those are all the things we are going to work out in this pilot,” he said. “In December, there will be a couple of 14-week companies that graduate at the same time, so part of this is to send both of those groups of soldiers out to units in the Army and get the units’ feedback on the product.”

The effort is designed to give soldiers more exposure to the infantry tasks that make a “solid infantryman here instead of making that happen at their first unit of assignment,” Kendrick said. “This is really going to produce that lethal soldier that can plug into his unit from day one.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

According to Marine Corps Veteran and avionics technician Monica Patrow, there is more to female veterans than meets the eye. “My Marine Corps uniform will forever be the most prideful thing I will ever wear. But with the uniform comes uniformity. And being a female, you can lose your feminine touches. Being a pin-up is an honor and a privilege, just like my five years spent in the Marine Corps.”

The award-winning non-profit organization Pin-Ups for Vets just announced the pre-sales for their 2021 fundraising calendar. While founder Gina Elise may have 15 years of experience producing the iconic pin-up images, this year she had a little obstacle: the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Female Veterans Become Pin-Ups For 2021 Calendar: PART 1

www.youtube.com

The Pin-Ups for Vets calendar has helped contribute to over ,000 for military hospitals to purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for veterans’ healthcare programs across the United States.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

(Pin Up for Vets)

Not only that, the calendar has a special meaning for the veteran ambassadors featured in its pages. “In addition to helping these female veterans embrace their femininity again, many of the ladies have said that being involved with our organization has given them a renewed sense of purpose after transitioning out of the military. It has given them a community again — and a mission to give back,” Elise reflected.

She knew she didn’t want to cancel the 2021 calendar — but safety was her chief concern and sacrifices had to be made.

In previous years, she was able to invite veterans from across the country to participate, but this year she limited her search to veterans within driving distance. In the past, her breathtaking locations have ranged from The Queen Mary to airfields and hangars. This year, she managed her calendar shoot at one outdoor location, Hartley Botanica, with military precision and carefully coordinated timetables to limit personal exposure and contact.

The result is exceptional.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

U.S. Marine Ahmika Richards described what makes Pin-Ups for Vets so unique. “It is special to be involved with Pin-Ups for Vets because of the amazing work they do. They are an organization that gives back to a vulnerable part of our community — and that alone is invaluable. Their work is a great support to us veterans and I am so grateful that I was able to contribute to their organization through the 2021 calendar, which was an absolutely beautiful and wonderful experience.”

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Coast Guard veteran and machinery technician Sarah Weber, currently working towards her doctorate in Psychology echoed Richards’ sentiments. “The best part of being involved with Pin-Ups For vets is the camaraderie. I work a lot with veterans in transition these days, on campus and clinically, and it is clear to me how much benefit there is in maintaining connection to a community of former or current service members. However, in most traditional organizations meant for those purposes, it is difficult to find many women veterans. This is not the case with Pin-Ups For Vets. I meet so many amazing, talented, big-hearted women through being involved with this organization. We can talk about the women-specific aspects of service, and it has been such a relief. This, on top of the fun of dressing up, volunteering and helping raise money for the cause of other veterans makes this the perfect way of staying involved in a community which I care so deeply about.”

While the organization’s 50-state VA hospital tour has been interrupted due to the pandemic, Pin-Ups For Vets is now shipping out care packages enclosed with gifts of appreciation to hospitalized veterans around the country. The organization also continues to ship care packages to deployed U.S. troops around the globe.

You can help support their initiatives by checking out their online shop and pre-ordering your 2021 calendar today!
Articles

These new changes to the USMC physical fitness program are effective immediately

The Marine Corps has announced today that revisions have been made to its physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT), and the Body Composition Program (BCP). Changes to BCP will take effect immediately, while PFT and CFT changes will be implemented starting Jan. 1, 2017.


The PFT changes are among the most profound since 1972 and the changes to the CFT standards are the first since its inception in 2009.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
Revisions have been made to the U.S. Marine Corps physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT) and the Body Composition Program (BCP). All final changes to BCP will take effect as of January 2017.

“Last November we began a comprehensive review of physical fitness and body composition standards,” said Gen. Robert B. Neller, the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps. “Subsequent efforts focused on developing a physical fitness program that incentivizes behavior toward an end state of a healthy and fit force able to better answer the call in any clime and place.”

Immediate changes to the BCP include an increase in the height and weight standards for females, better equipment for determining height and weight for all Marines and the BCP waiver authority will be passed from the deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs to the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command.

The Marine Corps has taken physical performance into consideration when considering BCP. Marines scoring 285 and higher on both the PFT and CFT will now be exempt from height and weight standards. Marines who score between 250 and 284 will have their maximum body fat percentage increased by one percent.

So for example if a Marine has a maximum body fat percentage [of] 19 percent, with a score between 250 and 284 on both the PFT and CFT, he or she will be allowed to go up to 20 percent body fat.

Changes to the PFT include a pull-up/push-up hybrid for both males and females. This eliminates the option for the flex arm hang for females starting in January.

Although Marines can earn points by doing either of the exercises, the maximum amount of points a Marine can earn doing push-ups is 70 points versus 100 if they chose to do pull-ups. This means the highest PFT score a Marine can earn if they chose to do push-ups is 270. The primary benefits of incorporating the pull-up/push-up option for all Marines is that it incentivizes Marines to improve their pull-ups while ensuring gains of upper body strength across the force.

Marines will also have to complete more crunches for maximum score on their next PFT, with scoring being age and gender normed. There will be a slight adjustment to the three-mile run for Marines in high age brackets, too. The PFT and CFT age brackets will change from four age groups to eight. The new groups are as follows: 17-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40, 41-45, 46-50, and 51+.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
U.S. Marines perform a combat fitness test. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell)

Changes to the CFT will consist of adjusted scoring for all three events to correspond with the eight age brackets. The most drastic change will be with the ammo can lifts (ACL) where male Marines age 31-35 will have to complete 120 ACLs for a perfect score vice 97, and female Marines age 26-30 will have to complete 75 ACLs for a perfect score vice 63.

Another change to the CFT is all Marines will perform five push-ups instead of three push-ups during the maneuver under fire portion of the test.

“The new PFT and CFT standards raise the bar on physical fitness for all Marines,” said Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general, Training and Education Command. “Marines today are stronger, faster, and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate. In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”

Related: Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

TECOM will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure the standards contribute to the effectiveness of the force.

Additional details, including the new PFT/CFT scoring tables, physical fitness training recommendations and BCP adjustments are available at: https://fitness.usmc.mil. Follow-on MARADMINS and instructional products will further address details of the changes and the associated Marine Corps Orders will be updated accordingly.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban officials deny report that top leader died from coronavirus

Taliban officials have denied a report that its leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, died after contracting the coronavirus.

Foreign Policy magazine, citing unnamed Taliban officials, reported on June 1 that Mullah Akhundzada contracted COVID-19 and possibly died while receiving treatment abroad.

Foreign Policy quoted Mawlawi Mohammad Ali Jan Ahmad, a senior Taliban military official, as saying that Mullah Akhundzada was “sick” after contracting the virus but was “recovering.”


But three other Taliban figures in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is believed to be based, told Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity that they believed Akhunzada had died of the illness.

Foreign Policy said the coronavirus has stricken a number of senior Taliban leaders in Quetta and in Qatar, where the militant group has a political office.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid on June 2 denied that Mullah Akhundzada or any other senior leaders had contracted the disease or died.

In a tweet, Mujahid accused Foreign Policy of spreading “propaganda” and said Mullah Akhundzada was well and “busy with his daily activities.”

Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban military commander who lives in the Afghan capital, Kabul, told RFE/RL that the report of Mullah Akhundzada’s death was “untrue.”

But a Taliban official in Quetta told RFE/RL that he could neither confirm nor deny the leader’s death.

Mullah Akhundzada took over leadership of the Taliban after his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.

The reclusive leader is a former Taliban chief justice and heads the militant group’s religious council.

An Islamic scholar, he is said to have strong religious credentials, and has been responsible for issuing fatwas, or Islamic decrees, to justify military and terrorist operations.

Taliban officials told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhundzada had not been seen for the past three months and had not made any voice recordings.

Some Taliban sources in Quetta told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhunzada went to Russia for treatment.

Foreign Policy reported that many of the Taliban’s senior leaders in Quetta had caught COVID-19, including Mullah Akhunzada’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network.

The network, a Taliban faction, is believed to have been behind some of the deadliest attacks on Afghan and international forces and civilians in Afghanistan.

With the top two leaders out of action, Foreign Policy reported that the Taliban was now being run by Mullah Mohammad Yuqub, the eldest son of the Taliban’s founder and spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Mullah Omar’s death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.

Mullah Yuqub is a graduate of a seminary in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

Believed to be in his early 30s, he is said to have the backing of a considerable number of field commanders and the Taliban’s rank-and-file.

Experts say that Mullah Yuqub supports the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February that is aimed at negotiating an end to the 18-year Taliban insurgency.

It is unclear how a possible change in the Taliban leadership would affect that deal, which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which is committed to negotiating a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement with the Kabul government.

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

Articles

17 photos that show how high schoolers are turned into badass Marine infantrymen

Marine Corps infantrymen are certified badasses capable of destroying enemy positions and forces with high levels of violence.


But wait, Marines aren’t born out of forges in the ground like Uruk-hai. So how does the Marine Corps take soft, pliable high school graduates barely able to work a condom and turn them into infantrymen capable of thrusting bayonets through enemy fighters like it ain’t no thang?

Well, first:

1. All Marines go through Marine Corps recruit training, starting off at the famous yellow footprints.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
New recruits of Charlie Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, receive a Uniform Code of Military Justice brief at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Angelica Annastas)

2. During recruit training, the recruits learn to accomplish basic military tasks and to cede their personal interests to the needs of the team.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Company G, 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, low crawl at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon)

3. The 12 weeks of recruit training are, to say the least, uncomfortable. Lots of time crawling through sand and mud, ruck marching, and building muscle through repetitive stress.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Company G, 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, low crawls through an obstacle during a training course at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon)

4. But the future infantrymen get their first taste of combat training here, learning to stab with their bayonets and shoot with their rifles.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Company G, 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, practices close combat techniques at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon)

5. And of course, they get to work with the famously kind drill instructors.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Roger T. Moore, a drill instructor with Company D, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, corrects a recruit aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., June 20, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Erick J. ClarosVillalta)

6. At the end of all of this, they earn the right to call themselves Marines and march in the graduation ceremony right before…

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
A U.S. Marine with Company B, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, stands in formation before a graduation ceremony aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., June 17, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Erick J. ClarosVillalta)

7. …they’re sent to the Infantry Training Battalion for 59-days of learning, patrolling, and physical hardship.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East, observe their surroundings during a reconnaissance patrol as part of a field training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

8. The Marines learn a large number of new basic infantry skills and a few advanced infantry skills.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
A U.S. Marine assigned to Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, moves to contact during a field training exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

9. Some of the most important skills are the less flashy ones, like land navigation …

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East, finds the azimuth during a field training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

10. …and long hikes.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Eric A. Harshman, a combat instructor assigned to Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, takes accountability of Marines and gear during a conditioning hike aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

11. But of course, there are plenty of awesome trips to the range.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
A U.S. Marine with Kilo Company, Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East, fires an M240G Medium Machine gun during a live fire exercise on Camp Lejeune, N.C, Jan. 13, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

12. Marines learn to fire everything from machine guns and rifles to grenades and rockets.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East, ejects a shell casing after firing an M203 grenade launcher during a live-fire range at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

13. Even those big, beautiful mortars will make an appearance.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
A U.S. Marine assigned to Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, fires an 81mm Mortar during a live-fire exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

14. But the mother of all machine guns is probably the most beloved weapon in the arsenal: the M-2 .50-caliber machine gun.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (Offical Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)

15. Besides navigation and weapons skills, the Marines have to learn skills like how to administer first aid in combat.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
A U.S. Marine with Company F (Fox Co.), Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East treats a simulated casualty while conducting Military Operations in Urban Terrain during their Basic Skills Readiness Exercise (BSRE) aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Jan. 31, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha).

16. But the crux of a Marine infantryman’s job is combat as a member of a rifle team.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
U.S. Marines with Company F (Fox Co.), Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East conduct Military Operations in Urban Terrain during their Basic Skills Readiness Exercise (BSRE) aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Jan. 31, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha)

17. The culmination of all this training is the 24-hour Basic Skills Readiness Exercise where they’re assessed on everything they learned in training, ensuring that they are ready to perform as expeditionary warfighters around the world.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack
U.S. Marines with Company F (Fox Co.), Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East conduct Military Operations in Urban Terrain during their Basic Skills Readiness Exercise (BSRE) aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Jan. 31, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Active duty women are being denied birth control while deployed

Military leaders say that General Order 1, which limits alcohol consumption and cohabitation for troops deployed to war zones, reinforces good order and discipline. Advocates and troops say it’s an antiquated “ban on sex” — and may in reality be harming women’s health.

Women troops said in some cases that their doctors cited this controversial order to deny them access to birth control while deployed, a fact that was revealed in a survey conducted by the Service Women’s Action Network advocacy group.


In their survey of nearly 800 women serving or who have served in the US military, SWAN found that 26% of active-duty women do not have access to birth control while deployed. That number jumps even higher for other communities: 41% of women veterans reported limited access during their time in uniform.

While several reasons were provided to account for these numbers, including the inability to refill prescriptions far enough in advance, advocates were shocked to find that a limitation on sexual activity would be used to deny access to birth control.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

A U.S. Army Pvt. pulls her way to the top of the slide to victory obstacle during the confidence course phase of basic combat training at Fort Jackson.

(U.S. Army photo)

“Isn’t that ridiculous,” Ellen Haring, chief executive of SWAN, told Business Insider. “It astounds me that people would be denied for that reason.”

It’s astounding, Haring said, because birth control is not just used as a contraceptive. One of the survey’s respondents said she was dismayed when she could not get enough refills to last through her deployments because she primarily used birth control to regulate, and even skip, her menstrual cycle.

Along with safely skipping a period, Planned Parenthood lists a range of medical benefits to using birth control — from reduction of acne to prevention of endometrial or ovarian cancers.

These benefits are not being ignored by the Department of Defense, which said it would be a violation of service members’ privacy if their commander denied them access to birth control.

“Birth control … is not just indicated for pregnancy prevention, it is also indicated for menstrual regulation, including menstrual suppression,” Jessica Maxwell, spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said in an emailed statement to Business Insider.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Twila Stone readies her weapon during a Memorial Day ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko)

It would be a privacy violation for a commander to deny birth control, Maxwell wrote, because taking birth control would not limit a woman’s ability to perform her duties. But she could not publicly comment whether a doctor’s refusal to prescribe the medication would trigger a violation of any military regulation or whether the Pentagon was investigating any reports of this occurring.

Her statement emphasized that emergency contraception, which can be obtained over-the-counter, is readily available even for service members in deployed locations.

But emergency contraceptives are singular in their purpose; these remedies do not satisfy the host of alternate uses filled by prescription birth control.

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

Articles

These badass Marines held off an entire Viet Cong battalion

In the summer of 1966 the United States was ramping up operations in Vietnam.For the Marines of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, this meant deep infiltration and reconnaissance into the Que Son Valley.

Dubbed Operation Kansas, the recon teams moved deep into enemy-held territory to observe and strike at the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong operating in the area.


This mostly consisted of calling for artillery or air support to take out small concentrations of enemy fighters. When larger groups were observed, they were dealt with by calling in reinforcements in the form of Marine rifle companies and battalions.

There was little intention of the recon Marines making direct contact.

Thus, 18 Marines from Team 2, C Company, 1st Recon inserted onto Hill 488 to begin their observation mission.

Jimmie E. Howard was a Staff Sergeant when he led the defense of His 488. (U.S. Marine Corps)

The team was led by Staff Sgt. Jimmie E. Howard. Howard had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 and was assigned to the 1st Marine Regiment in Korea.

While serving as the forward observer to the regimental mortar company in 1952, Howard was awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts while defending outposts along the Main Line of Resistance.

After his tour in Korea, Howard stayed in the Marine Corps and entered Marine Reconnaissance. In early 1966 he returned to combat in Vietnam, leading a platoon of Reconnaissance Marines.

On the night of June 13, 1966, Operation Kansas began with the insertion of numerous recon teams into the Que Son Valley. Team 2 on Hill 488 quickly set up positions to observe the valley. Over the course of the next two days, the recon teams disrupted enemy activity with air and artillery strikes. Howard and his team were doing so well that they turned down an offer to be extracted in order to remain one more day.

Unfortunately, the accuracy and effectiveness of the firepower Howard’s team brought to bear also served to alert the Viet Cong that these were not simply random attacks; they were being watched. The enemy had also surmised that the observation must be coming from Hill 488. Alerted that a Viet Cong battalion of approximately 200-250 men was heading their way, the Marines prepared to defend themselves.

As the Marines waited for the inevitable, the Viet Cong were creeping up the hill toward the Marine positions. Howard had ordered his men to pull back to a rocky knoll at the top of the hill the moment contact was made. Under the cover of darkness, the first Viet Cong made it to within 20 feet of the Marine perimeter. The first shots from the Marine defenders rang out. Under a hail of gunfire and grenades, the Marines fell back to the final defensive position.

The Marines took casualties almost instantly but they responded with determined resistance. Grenades and mortars rained down on their position as heavy machine gun and rifle fire covered the advance of the attackers. But the Marines mowed down the first wave of attackers and blunted the advance. The remaining enemy took a more cautious approach and searched for an opening.

Howard used the brief lull in fire to call for extraction. Before help could arrive, the Viet Cong mounted another determined charge to take the hill but were again driven back. By this time the Marines were out of grenades, running low on ammunition, and all eighteen had been wounded or killed. But there was still more fighting to do.

After some three hours of fighting, air support arrived overhead. As Air Force planes dropped flares to illuminate the valley, gunships and fighters made strafing runs. They dropped napalm on the advancing enemy. To say the air support was danger-close would be an understatement. Despite the air attack, the enemy was persistent and continued to charge the hill.

At one point the Viet Cong began yelling at the Marines, taunting them. The young Marines of the recon team looked to Howard who gave them the go ahead to yell back.

Then, with the enemy still shouting taunts, the remaining Marines literally looked death in the face and laughed their heads off. The whole team joined in a chorus of laughter that silenced the Viet Cong.

The Viet Cong came again.

With the enemy still probing their lines, the beleaguered Marines relied on their expert marksmanship and a little trickery to even the odds. Out of grenades, the Marines would watch for movement and then hurl a rock at the enemy.

Intending to escape the impending explosion the Viet Cong would expose their position. Then with deadly accuracy the Marines would take a single shot, conserving ammunition and racking up the body count.

Two UH-1s were shot down by the Viet Cong forces during medevac and air support attempts. (U.S. Army)

A rescue attempt at dawn resulted in one lost helicopter, with a medevac waved off due to the intense fire. Eventually it was decided to bring in a Marine infantry company to clear the hill and allow the recon team to be pulled out. Reportedly there remained only eight rounds of ammunition between the survivors; the rest had picked up enemy weapons.

Howard’s steadfast leadership and cool under fire during the battle for Hill 488 earned him the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded a Purple Heart, along with every other member of the team. Thirteen members of the team were awarded the Silver Star for their bravery. The remaining four members of the team received the Navy Cross. Six of the Marines of Team 2 received their awards posthumously. The recon platoon was the most decorated unit for its size ever in the history of the American military.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin surprises Japan with offer of unconditional peace

Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed signing a World War II peace treaty with Japan by the end of 2018 “without preconditions.”

Putin made the surprise offer in public, sitting next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a stage at an economic forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok on Sept. 12, 2018.

After Abe pressed Putin on the subject of a treaty and a solution to the decades-long dispute over a group of islands claimed by both countries, Putin said: “An idea has just come into my head.”

“Shinzo said, ‘Let’s change our approaches.’ Let’s! Let’s conclude a peace agreement — not now but by the end of the year, without any preconditions,” Putin said.

He said issues that are in dispute could be resolved later, and that the pact could specify that the sides are determined to reach mutually acceptable agreements.


There was no immediate response from Abe, whose country has sought the return of the islands that lie northeast of Hokkaido since the war.

A treaty without preconditions would leave Russia in control of the disputed islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kuriles and Japan calls the Northern Territories.

Soviet forces occupied the islands at the end of World War II, and the territorial dispute has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from formally ending hostilities in the war.

Russian and Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said that work on a future agreement would continue as usual, and a Japanese official made clear that Tokyo wants an agreement on possession of the islands before it will sign a peace treaty.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Location of the Kuril Islands in the Western Pacific between Japan and the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia.


“The government will continue its negotiations on the basic principle that we will sign a peace treaty after resolving the issue of the attribution of the four Northern Islands,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. “This stance hasn’t changed.”

In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov told Russian news agencies that Putin’s announcement would not require any changes to the current format of negotiations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said later in the day that Putin and Abe had not had a chance to discuss the proposal.

Russian commentator Georgy Kunadze, a former deputy foreign minister, told Ekho Moskvy radio that he believes Putin was “trolling” Abe and “does not expect anything” to result from the proposal.

The quest for the return of the islands is an emotive issue in Japan, and Kunadze suggested that Abe would never accept a deal that would be political suicide.

In years of talks, Russian officials have repeatedly signaled that Japan could not hope for a swift solution and hinted that the best way to get closer to a deal was to invest in the sparsely populated, windswept islands and engage in other areas of economic cooperation.

Meeting Abe on the sidelines of the forum in Vladivostok two days earlier, Putin had told the Japanese prime minister that “it would be naive to think that it can be resolved quickly.”

In his remarks on Sept. 12, 2018, Putin said concluding a pact would create a better atmosphere and enable Russia and Japan to “continue to resolve all outstanding issues like friends.”

“It seems to me that this would facilitate the solution of all problems, which we have not been able to solve over the past 70 years.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 leadership lessons you can learn in the Marines

If there’s anything the United States Marine Corps is known for (aside from striking fear into the hearts of America’s enemies), it’s teaching young Americans how to be leaders. The mission of the Marine Corps is simple: make Marines and win battles. But to find success in the latter, someone has to teach Marines how to lead other Marines into combat. That’s exactly why a big part of boot camp is instilling the idea that every Marine is a leader in their own way.

Granted, not everyone who serves in the Marines becomes a good leader — those rare even among those who enjoy a long, illustrious career — but everyone learns leadership skills. If you move into a leadership position over the course of your service, you’ll likely learn these lessons:


Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Take the lead.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Lead by example

A big part of leadership is giving your subordinates confidence in your ability to lead. Unsurprisingly, one of the best way to do that is by doing the things you ask someone else to do. Show your subordinates that you understand their position and you’re willing to jump in to help.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

You should also be good at communicating those decisions.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Make decisions

There’s a quote from Band of Brothers that spells this one out plainly,

“Lieutenant Dike wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions, he was a bad leader because he made no decisions.”

As a leader, you have to make decisions and you cannot hesitate.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

You should also be willing to talk sh*t to other squads — look at that grin.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

Be confident

If you want your subordinates to believe in you, the first step is believing in yourself. No one wants to follow a leader that’s constantly second-guessing themselves. But it’s essential that you never forget how to stay humble.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Know the guys watching your back.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Long)

Know your Marines

How are you going to help out your subordinates if you don’t know what they need? Get to know your subordinates well so you can better keep track of their morale. Keeping the morale of your men high is good for everyone… except the enemy.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Plan to the best of your ability.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Weikle)

Understand the potential risk

Don’t needlessly put people under your charge in bad situations just because the potential reward is great — and always remember what you’re risking. Before you plan to do something, make sure you understand what you’re about to get into.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why the aircraft carrier sent to confront Iran is hanging back

The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier is hanging back outside the Persian Gulf, where US carriers have sailed for decades, amid concerns that tensions with Iran could boil over.

The US deployed a carrier strike group, bomber task force, and other military assets to the Middle East in response to threats posed by Iran. Although the Pentagon has attempted to shed some light on the exact nature of the threat, questions remain.

One US military asset deployed to US Central Command was the Lincoln, which was rushed into the region with a full carrier air wing of fighters but hasn’t entered the narrow Strait of Hormuz, a vital strategic waterway where Iranian speedboats routinely harass American warships.


As this symbol of American military might sailed into the region, President Donald Trump tweeted, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” Both the White House and the Pentagon have repeatedly emphasized that the purpose of these deployments is deterrence, not war.

The US has employed a “maximum pressure” campaign of harsh sanctions and the military deployments, as national security adviser John Bolton called it, to counter Iran, while also offering to negotiate without preconditions. The US military has meanwhile been keeping the Lincoln out of the Persian Gulf and away from Iran’s doorstep.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

(Google Maps)

The carrier is currently operating in the Arabian Sea. “You don’t want to inadvertently escalate something,” Capt. Putnam Browne, the carrier’s commander, told the Associated Press June 3, 2019.

When the US Navy sent destroyers attached to the carrier strike group through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Persian Gulf, they entered without harassment. But Iranian leaders immediately issued a warning that US ships were in range of their missiles.

Rear Adm. John F.G. Wade, commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, told Military.com the carrier is still in a position to “conduct my mission wherever and whenever needed.” He stressed that the aircraft carrier is there to respond to “credible threats” posed by Iran and Iranian-backed forces in the region.

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln underway in the Atlantic Ocean during a strait transit exercise on Jan. 30, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Clint Davis)

And the carrier is certainly not sitting idle in the region.

Components of Carrier Air Wing 7 attached to the USS Abraham Lincoln linked up with US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers over the weekend for combined arms exercises that involved simulated strikes. “We are postured to face any threats toward US forces in this region,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, the Combined Forces Air Component commander, said in a statement.

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