Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Iran will respond with equal countermeasures if the United States moves to block its oil exports, the Foreign Ministry says.

“If America wants to take a serious step in this direction it will definitely be met with a reaction and equal countermeasures from Iran,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi was quoted as saying by the government news agency IRNA on July 24, 2018.

The United States has told countries that they must stop buying Iranian oil or face consequences.



The warning came after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and moving to reimpose tough sanctions.

The deal with six world powers provided Iran with some relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed President Hassan Rohani’s suggestion that Iran may block oil exports from the Persian Gulf if its own exports are stopped.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

President Hassan Rohani

Tensions have increased between the two countries in past days.

Trump warned Rohani on Twitter earlier this week to “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

The tweet appeared to be in response to Rohani saying any conflict with Iran would be “the mother of all wars.”

Tehran dismissed Trump’s warning on Twitter, which he wrote in capital letters.

Mimicking Trump’s tweet, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif replied, “UNIMPRESSED … We’ve been around for millennia seen fall of empires, incl our own, which lasted more than the life of some countries. BE CAUTIOUS!”

Speaking on July 24, 2018, parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Trump’s tweet did not deserve a response, saying his comments were “undiplomatic and demagogic.”

“The United States is experiencing disorder and wildness in its diplomatic relations,” Larijani was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The awesome way a Cuban defector rescued his family

In 1991, a lone Russian-built MiG-21 approached the Florida coast from Cuba. The plane began “wagging” its wings, a recognized signal for friendly intent. The pilot was Orestes Lorenzo, and he was bringing the MiG to the United States in an attempt to defect from Cuba. The only problem was his wife and kids were still in Cuba.

Not for long.


Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

If you want it done right…

That’s the thing about fighter pilots – no one will accuse them of being timid. Lorenzo was no different. He did fly a 40-year-old MiG straight at the coastline of the world’s lone superpower. In fact, Lorenzo was so daring, he wasn’t even in the Cuban Air Force when he took the jet. He told American officials he’d “borrowed” it to make the flight. Lorenzo didn’t even speak a word of English, he just yearned for freedom.

While he was in Cuba’s Air Force, he learned to fly in the Soviet Union and was deployed to fly air missions in Angola. After a second tour of duty in the Soviet Union, he and his family moved to an air base far from the Cuban capital of Havana. They found themselves unhappy with their situation, facing poverty, repression, and a government more concerned with itself than its people. Lorenzo and his wife hatched a plan to escape with their children, but it was only Lorenzo who landed at Naval Air Station Key West that day in 1991.

That’s where his daring comes in. Lorenzo was whisked away to Washington, where he was (presumably) debriefed, and received his asylum paperwork, as well as visas for his wife and two sons. All was almost set to go as planned, except now the Cuban government wouldn’t authorize his wife and children to leave the island nation. Orestes Lorenzo didn’t just accept his station in life like Castro wanted him to, and he sure as hell wasn’t about to accept this. Lorenzo launched a PR campaign that culminated in President George H.W. Bush giving a speech directed at Cuba, imploring Cuba to let his family go, all to no avail.

Castro refused, so the fighter pilot took matters into his own hands.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Spoiler alert: fighter pilots are brave.

Lorenzo raised ,000 to purchase a 1961 Cessna 310, a small, simple civilian aircraft. He even took lessons to learn to fly the Cessna like an expert. He got word to his family that they should be in a certain spot they all knew well, wearing orange t-shirts. At 5:07 p.m. on Dec. 19, 1992, Lorenzo took off from the Florida Keys in his 30-year-old Cessna and flew just 100 feet above the ocean.

Flying up above a set of cliffs on Cuba’s coastline, some 160 miles from Havana, he pulled up and saw three bright orange t-shirts waiting for him by the side of a road. He landed the plane, got his family inside, and took off again, headed for Marathon in the Florida Keys. Two hours later he and his family were safe.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

The Lorenzo family lands in Marathon.

The U.S. returned the MiG to Cuba, and the Lorenzo family settled in Florida, starting a concrete business. Very few Cuban pilots were able to defect to the United States during the entire Cold War.

Articles

That time the Air Force landed bombers on tank treads

During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.


The B-36 Peacemaker was the largest plane ever built by America. Originally designed before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the B-36 was supposed to be a cross-ocean bomber that could drop 10,000 pounds of ordnance on Berlin or Japan while taking off and landing in the U.S.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports
Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.

The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.

There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports
Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.

So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports
Side view of Convair XB-36. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.

The weight-to-surface-area problem would come up again with the B-47, the Peacemaker’s successor. B-47s dispersed during the Cuban Missile crisis sunk into the concrete of Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts and pilots had to hire a tow truck driver to pull them out of the holes they created.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These soldiers defeated tanks by hacking them

A tank unit deployed to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, for a training exercise had a big surprise when they were ordered to carry out an assault. Their movement was halted not by artillery and missiles, but by ones and zeros. They had been hacked.


According to a report by DefenseSystems.com, the assault was thwarted by cyber weapons. While the exact nature of the hacking wasn’t disclosed, the report did state that it targeted the radios and wireless communication systems on the tanks.

 

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports
Photo: Capt. Kyle Key

“These tanks had to stop, dismount, get out of their protection, reduce their mobility,” Capt. George Puryear told DefenseSystems.com. The need to do so resulted in their “defeat” in the training exercise.

Other electronic warfare and cyber warfare capabilities were also tested at Fort Irwin. In one of the tests, hackers were able to infiltrate into a network and provide false data to the commanders. The potential mischief that can be wreaked with that capability is endless – to include “tricking” a force into friendly-fire incidents.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports
A US Navy (USN) EA-6B Prowler from the Electronic Attack Squadron-133 (VAQ 133), out of Woodby Island, Washington, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, in support of exercise NORTHERN EDGE 2002.

The implications of these exercises have not been ignored. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office and United States Cyber Command have been working on technology to protect American battlefield networks from hackers. One of the systems being applied is a kit that can either be carried by troops or mounted on armored vehicles.

The kits, said to be more capable than the jammers used by aircraft to combat enemy air defenses, have the ability to recognize and analyze electronic signals. During combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, electronic warfare planes like the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18 Growler were used to scramble enemy communications, but in combat against a country like Iran or North Korea, not to mention Russia, those planes may be needed for other mission.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports
M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks move to engage targets during a joint combined arms live-fire exercise near Camp Buehring, Kuwait Dec. 6-7, 2016. The multi-day exercise was designed to test the efficiency of the U.S. Army and Kuwaiti Land and Air forces abilities to identify and eliminate enemies’ anti-aircraft capabilities. Around 30 M1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, two Kuwaiti AH-64 Apache helicopters, several Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles, scout sniper teams, 120mm mortar teams, and M109 Self Propelled Howitzer artillery fire assaulted mock enemy positions during the exercise. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

 

The kits are slated to be tested during a NATO exercise known as Saber Guardian that will take place in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. The Army is also looking at alternatives to the Global Positioning System, including the Adaptive Navigation System, which uses software algorithms to measure not only a cloud of atoms in the system, but also to analyze radio, TV, and even lightning strikes to generate accurate positions. The Army is also developing the Spatial, Temporal and Orientation Information in Contested Environments program, using long-range signals, data sharing, and self-sufficient tactical clocks to overcome jamming.

Those two systems and as many as five others could begin testing in 2018, according to Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, the Rapid Capability Office’s director of operation, in hopes of preventing future hacking incidents. 

MIGHTY FIT

Do this every morning to relieve back pain

There are a lot of reasons for back pain. Many of them are real, and nearly all of them are 100% treatable without a doctor.

What I’m giving you here is the exact protocol you need to be doing in order to relieve your low back pain once and for all.

Whether it’s your disc, your muscles, your tendons, your actual spine, or some combination of them all, there is still plenty you can do to treat your pain yourself.


This is about taking control and responsibility of your body. You’re a Grown Ass Human who shouldn’t be dependent on someone else to treat your issues.

I’m gonna give you exactly what you need in 5 simple steps that you can do every morning with nothing but your body weight and those little eye crusties still hanging out on the corner of your ocular cavity.

“Low Back” Pain Morning Routine | 30 DAYS TO PAIN FREE

youtu.be

Step 1: Awareness: Move your pelvis

How are you living in your pelvis?

Are you anteriorly tilted?

Are you posteriorly tilted?

Are you neutral?

Are you already confused?

When you walk around, you have a tendency to ‘hang out’ in one of these positions.

If you’re overly anteriorly tilted, your pelvis is “facing forward.” This usually means you have weak glutes, weak abs, and tight hip flexors.

If you’re posteriorly tilted, your pelvis is “facing backward” or level (slight forward/anterior tilt is considered normal). This can mean that you have tight glutes, tight abs, kyphotic posture (a rounded upper back), or all three. I’ll get into kyphosis in another article. For now, this article on posture should satisfy your kyphotic curiosity.

BUT, for most people, these words mean nothing. Maybe you’re one of those people. That’s what this first ‘exercise’ is all about: building awareness between your mind and your hips.

It’s especially easy because you can just crawl out of your bed on your hands and knees and never have to actually stand up. This is a great bonus for those of you who are especially lazy in the morning.

A cat/cow sequence is how we are going to achieve that awareness. Check out the video for exactly how to flow through cat/cow.

Perform the sequence for 1-2 minutes or until you feel aware, and your hips are “awake” daily.

How to Fix “Low Back” Pain (INSTANTLY!)

youtu.be

Step 2: Pain relief: The JC low back sequence

JC is a savior for many of us in the fitness industry. I’m talking about Jeff Cavalier over at Athlean X, of course. He has consistently put out amazing high-quality fitness information for years now. He is one of the few Fitness Youtubers that is truly above reproach. I aspire to be like him.

Down to low back pain business…

JC has provided us with an exercise that is going to provide you with some immediate relief. By starting each morning with the JC Low Back Relief Sequence (JCLBRS for you military nerds that love acronyms), you’re going to get pain free and gain more awareness.

Specifically awareness of how to use your glute medius, which is the weak glute causing your low back to take the brunt of your weight and in turn, causing pain.

Check out the full video above of me walking you through it and the video attached to this section to see JC walk you through it a second time.

Perform the sequence one time on each side daily. The sequence includes a set of 5-10 reps and then the burnout hold.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Strong glutes useful in: force production, fighting, the bedroom, and pain relief

(https://www.grapplearts.com/develop-powerful-bridge-bjj/)

Step 3: Butt strength: Bridges

Time to take that newfound glute, hip, and low back awareness and apply it to some movement.

Elevated bridges are the perfect way to do just that. You’re going to be teaching your glute medius how to operate under a horizontal load (like what happens when you walk, run, or hike). You’re also going to learn to properly concentrically contract your spinal erectors, without hyper extending them. Lastly, you’re going to train how to posteriorly tilt your pelvis to get a maximum contraction in your posterior chain.

That’s a lot for one exercise.

Perform 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps daily.

Here’s some more on how to train your low back in a smart and safe manner.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Flutter Kicks rely heavily on engagement from the hip flexors. AVOID them and other exercises like crunches and sit-ups if you have tight hip flexors and/or low back pain.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Machiko Arita)

Step 4; Core strength: Side plank

Time to work your abs. Why? Because that’s how you attract a mate. Everyone knows that core definition is the singular way that most people choose a life partner, so of course, we need to do them every morning.

The real trick here is to choose an exercise that’s great for your core stability and building a shredded six-pack without working your already overactive hip flexors and potentially neutralizing the effect of the previous three steps. So don’t do the crunches from your PT test.

You’re going to do that with the side plank. But a real side plank, not that shit I see checked-out field grade officers doing during PT (looks like they’re just hanging out waiting for retirement.)

Watch the video for exact form cues. You’re going to:

  • keep your hips stacked,
  • keep your abs actively flexed by shortening the distance between your lowest rib and the top of your hips, this will also keep your spine in a neutral position
  • Keep your hips neutral/slightly posteriorly tilted by keeping your glutes engaged.
  • BONUS: abduct your top leg AKA lift your leg for additional core stress and some more glute medius work.

Perform 1-2 sets of 75% effort on both sides each morning. This is about training proper movement and muscular engagement, by staying at the 75% effort threshold you won’t push so hard that your form breaks down and potentially makes your low back issues worse.)

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

(Courtesy photo by the Indian Army)

Step 5: Spinal decompression: Hanging out

Time for some relief. Hang from your pull up bar or a door frame and decompress your spine.

This is something you should do whenever you have a chance. We spend all day with gravity compressing our spine together. Your low back ends up taking most of that pressure. By decompressing at the end, you are taking an opportunity to “reset” your spine each day into the proper posture and form that you just spent the last 5 minutes training.

Perform this for 1-2 sets of a max hold. (You’ll get some bonus grip strength work here as well.)

Here are some more great ways to relieve physical stress that you carry around all day.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

You need to train in what you want to be good at… that includes not being in pain.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nathaniel Stout)

When the results roll in.

You’ll start to feel relief almost immediately, but it’s going to take some time for all your pain to dissipate. That’s why this routine should be part of your life for the rest of your life. Consistency is key here.

We use our bodies every day, so we also need to treat/correct our bodies every day. That’s all this is.

If you want to feel something you’ve never felt before (like pain relief), you need to do something you’ve never done before.

Send me a message anytime to let me know how this morning routine is working to help relieve your low back pain at michael@composurefitness.com.

Don’t forget to join the Mighty Fit FB Group to surround yourself around like-minded people who also want to get strong, lean, and pain-free.
Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

More at www.composurefitness.com

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports
MIGHTY CULTURE

EXCLUSIVE: What Iran’s military training is like, according to an Iranian

Author’s note: The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the United States. In Iran, the media and the internet are closely monitored by the government. However, it’s impossible to keep track of everyone. And sometimes, despite the tremendous risk involved, an Iranian is eager to share their story and hit back at the pervasive propaganda that Iran’s government uses to control its people.

The vast military camp was on the outskirts of a small city. The soil was nearly frozen. There wasn’t a tree or any greenery in sight. Concrete buildings made up the complex where Farhad (a pseudonym for his real name) would receive his two months of mandatory military training. He wore light brown and dark green fatigues, a belt, and a pair of poorly manufactured combat boots.


First, Farhad marched for a while. After that, his picture was taken, along with the other conscripts. He then was shown to his barracks and bunk. While many training camps in Iran don’t permit leaving the base, he was allowed to go home every weekend.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Iranian soldier in basic training barracks.

(Screenshot of video posted on Youtube by Persian_boy.)

“Soldiers need food. Their food was shitty — rice with little pieces of meat — and this helped to lessen expenses,” he said.

The food may have been bad but remaining connected to his family was one of the benefits. He and the others there were allowed to call home anytime after 5 PM using the phone booths set up on the grounds of the camp.

As for the training he received, Farhad called it a “joke,” especially the shooting portion.

The firearm he was issued — a Heckler Koch G3 — has been around since 1959. If he would have been part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC, or Sepâh), he would have been issued an AK-47 instead. According to Farhad, you go out on the range one time and shoot a dozen bullets. Your results are written on a scorecard, and then it’s back to marching. “You march a lot,” he recalled.

Farhad further described what he learned about weapons: “Not much. Effective range. Pure fire range. Caliber. Rate of fire. Weight. How many bullets they take. How to discharge. How to aim. How to safely check a weapon. How to clean your weapon. How to carry it. How many ways there are to carry it. Different types of weapons in the military. Things like that.”

In addition, he didn’t receive any combatives or medical training. “They aren’t trying to make soldiers. They want a work force,” Farhad said.

More so than actually training in combat or tactics, the Islamic Republic of Iran is interested in creating soldiers submissive to its religious ideology. Farhad said that religious indoctrination was a major part of his training experience, but he and many others didn’t take the sermons seriously. In fact, they would question and mock the mullah’s lecture whenever they had the chance.

“The mullahs really got frustrated with us,” Farhad said. “No one cared about them and made fun of them when they could and laughed and argued with them and put holes in their arguments all the time.”

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Iranian soldiers marching.

(Screenshot of video posted on Youtube by Persian_boy.)

When asked if this resulted in a consequence for him or anyone else involved, Farhad said no. “We didn’t get in trouble. Pretty much everyone was doing it.”

Even the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the camp didn’t follow the written rules that governed it.

One night on watch duty, Farhad smelled something weird. There was a little place outside of the chow hall that was mostly blocked from view, and when he looked out there, he saw two NCOs smoking. It didn’t take long to figure out they were smoking marijuana, which is a felony for a soldier in the Iranian military. He investigated further in the morning, finding remnants from dozens of marijuana cigars on the ground.

Farhad’s boots and the frigid cold gave him the biggest problems, though. In addition to the blisters all over his feet from marching, he also had an infection to keep at bay. And despite how cold it was, the military didn’t provide their conscripts with warm enough clothing. During a particularly cold watch duty assignment, he and the others on duty passed around a poncho, each using it for a few minutes to keep warm.

When training concluded, there was a ceremony where everyone dressed their best, but, unlike basic training graduation in America, family and friends were not permitted to attend. To his recollection, only one conscript failed to complete the training.

Farhad then spent two years in the Iranian military, which only solidified the negative impression he started with.

“It’s such a shitty, unreliable, broken system,” he said. “Whenever I see these websites talking about Iran’s military might, it makes laugh. They have no idea what they are talking about.”

Resistance Radio: Fighting ISIS Over the Airwaves

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia plans its own V-22 to make paratroopers deadlier

Russia says its planning to design its own tilt-rotor aircraft like the US’ V-22 Osprey, according to The National Interest, citing Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“A tilt-rotor aircraft, or convertiplane, is planned to be created for Russian Airborne Forces,” Sputnik reported, citing a Russian defense industry source.

“Before the end of September 2018, it is planned to get the customer specification and start the experimental design work for this aircraft,” the source told Sputnik.


Russian defense contractor Rostec also said in 2017 that it was building an electric tilt-rotor aircraft, which it said would be completed in 2019.

Tilt-rotor aircraft are basically a hybrid of a helicopter and fixed-wing plane that has the speed and range of an airplane, but can also take off and land like a helicopter. The V-22 has a max cruising speed of 310 miles per hour.

The elite Russian Airborne Forces, or VDV, are often Moscow’s first troops on the ground, like in Afghanistan and more recently in Syria.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

A V-22 Osprey with rotors tilted, condensation trailing from propeller tips.

Numbering about 35,000 troops in 2010, VDV paratroopers were also deployed to South Ossetia during the Russo-Georgian War in 2008, and they blocked NATO troops from seizing the Pristina International Airport during the Kosovo War.

The VDV are also different than US paratroopers in that they’re known to drop in with armored vehicles and self-propelled howitzers.

If Russia actually builds this tilt-rotor aircraft — a big if given Moscow’s budgetary problems and inability to mass produce other new platforms like the Su-57 stealth jet and the T-14 main battle tank — it could be a deadly addition to the VDV.

This is especially true if Moscow heavily arms the prospective tilt-rotor, just as the US is currently doing.

“A transport aircraft/helicopter that could land [Russian] troops to seize an airhead, and then provide them with heavy fire support, would be invaluable,” The National Interest’s Michael Peck wrote.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This vet and real-life Santa makes wooden toys for kids every year

Where the Marine Corps has its Toys for Tots, the Army can count on its elderly retirees – at least one of them, anyway. As of Christmas, 2019, Army veteran Jim Annis turned 80 years old. For the past 50 Christmas seasons, the former soldier spent months creating hundreds of wooden toys for children who otherwise might not have anything to open on Christmas morning. When the Salvation Army comes through for these families, Annis comes rolling along right behind them.


Annis spends hundreds of dollars from his own pocket every year to make wooden toys for needy children. The one-man Santa’s Workshop spends much of his free time throughout the year crafting and painting these toys in preparation for Christmastime. By the time he’s ready to donate the pieces to the Salvation Army, Annis has created as many as 300 toys, finished and ready to hand out to the little ones.

“When the Salvation Army gives out the food and clothes to people in this area, I give out my toys,” Annis told Raleigh-Durham’s ABC-11 affiliate. “It feels like you’re sort of forgotten about at Christmas time.”

In case you’re bad at math, creating 300 toys per year for the past 50 years, makes for about 15,000 toys total. But for Annis, it’s not about the money. He was one of those needy children during his childhood. He came from a working family with five children to take care for.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Jim Annis, a one-man Santa’s Workshop.

(WTVD ABC-11)

Annis gets wooden scraps for free from homeowners and pays only for the tools of production and the acrylic paint for the toys. His costs run about id=”listicle-2641673298″,000 but his return on investment is the smiles of young kids who will get a toy for Christmas this year. Kids can get an array of cool, handmade toys, from fire trucks and dolls to piggy banks. Jim Annis will also make special gifts for American veterans and their loved ones.

“I have to sort of feel right in here,” Annis told North Carolina’s Spectrum News. “That’s the joy I know I’m giving some of the kids, I’m giving them something that I didn’t have a whole lot at Christmas time.”

If you want to donate to materials to this vet’s Christmastime cause, you can call Jim Annis at 919-842-5445.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Coast Guard busts another cocaine-carrying ‘narco sub’

Coast Guard crew members aboard the cutter Valiant intercepted a self-propelled semi-submersible carrying 12,000 pounds of cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean, arresting four suspected smugglers in the process.

The 40-foot vessel, of a type often called a “narco sub” (though most are not fully submersible), was first detected and tracked by a maritime patrol aircraft. The Joint Interagency Task Force South, a multinational body that coordinates law-enforcement efforts in the waters around Central and South America, directed the Valiant to intercept it.


A Coast Guard release didn’t give an exact date for the seizure, saying only that it took place in September 2019 and the Valiant arrived on the scene after sunset.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Coast Guard crew members aboard a “narco sub” in the Pacific Ocean with a suspected smuggler, September 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

The cutter launched two small boats carrying members of its crew and two members of the Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team. They caught up with the narco sub in the early morning hours and boarded it with the help of the Colombian navy, which arrived a short time later.

The crew members transferred more than 1,100 pounds of cocaine from the sub to the Valiant but were unable to get the rest because of concerns about the sub’s stability. (The total value of the drugs was estimated at more than 5 million.)

“This interdiction was an all-hands-on-deck evolution, and each crew member performed above and beyond the call of duty,” Cmdr. Matthew Waldron, commanding officer of the Valiant, said in the release.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Members of a US Coast Guard cutter Valiant boarding team transfer narcotics between an interceptor boat and a suspected smuggling vessel in September.

(US Coast Guard)

2 ‘momentous events’

Narco subs have appeared in the waters between the US and South America for years and have only gotten more sophisticated. But they are still homemade vessels, often built in jungles in Colombia, and can be unsteady on the open ocean, particularly when law enforcement stop them to board.

Narco subs typically cost id=”listicle-2640583643″ million to million to built, but their multimillion-dollar drug cargoes more than make up for the expense.

“Colombian traffickers like to use the semi-submersibles because they are hard to detect” and cheaper than full-fledged submarines, Mike Vigil, former director of international operations at the US Drug Enforcement Administration, told Business Insider in 2018.

The vessels are typically made of fiberglass and the most expensive component is the engine. Some even have lead linings to reduce their infrared signature, Vigil said.

Iran vows to hit back at the US for blocking oil exports

Bales of cocaine seized from a suspected smuggling vessel on the deck of the US Coast Guard cutter Valiant in September.

(US Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard in late 2017 said it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile smuggling vessels like narco subs.

“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels — 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in an October 2018 interview.

Schultz and other Coast Guard officials pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure. The service has pursued what Schultz called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.

For the Valiant, that meant this particular bust coincided with a mariner’s milestone: crossing the equator.

“There are no words to describe the feeling Valiant crew is experiencing right now,” Waldron said. “In a 24-hour period, the crew both crossed the equator and intercepted a drug-laden self-propelled semi-submersible vessel.”

Both are “momentous events in any cutterman’s career,” Waldron added. “Taken together, however, it is truly remarkably unprecedented.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

On Sept. 11, 2012, a retired SEAL sniper took a small team to Blackwater’s former facility in the swamps of Virginia where he shot at a target from 911 yards 79 times — once for every Naval Special Warfare casualty since 9-11, those killed in both combat and training.


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Until It Hurts features the target with the 79 bullet holes highlighted in red. (Photo: Eric Wickham)

He sent the first round downrange at 8:46 AM, the time the first airliner hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, in honor of Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts — the first SEAL killed during the war in Afghanistan. The shot found the target, and the bullet hole was labeled with Roberts’ name by a volunteer spotter downrange.

“I’d take the shot, and they’d find the bullet hole,” the sniper recalled. “They’d write the name down next to the hole. I’d hand the brass to my wife who had the list of names and she’d label it. It was kind of a sacred process.”

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Until It Hurts target artwork.

Several days after the shoot, the SEAL sniper’s wife convinced him to show the target to one of the contractors working on their house who had a brother who supposedly did “target art.” The SEAL Googled him — Ellwood T. Risk — and realized the guy was the real deal.

The contractor called his brother on the spot, and without hesitation the artist said, “I’m in; I’ll do it for free.”

Risk had been saving military-related front pages of major newspapers since 9-11, waiting for just such an opportunity. The result is a powerful piece of art called Until It Hurts.

Until It Hurts features the target with the 79 bullet holes highlighted in red. The target is flanked by the front pages with headlines announcing the news of the wars over the years. At the bottom of the piece the 79 names of the fallen are listed in chronological order.

Former Navy SEAL Jason Redman, a well-known wounded warrior, author, and founder of Wounded Wear, a company that specializes in providing free clothing to wounded vets, heard about the artwork and contacted Norfolk-area businessman Todd Grubbs, who eventually bought the piece at auction for $10,000. That money was put towards clothing for wounded vets and the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that funds education for the dependents of fallen SEALs.

Redman and Grubbs see the sale of the piece as just the beginning of its utility.

“The art should be perceived as a celebration of life,” said Grubbs, who has no desire to let Until It Hurts languish on a wall in his home.

“My biggest fear is we give guys clothing and they kill themselves in it,” Redman said. “We’re not helping them find their purpose. The American people aren’t helping. You see nothing on the news anymore. Even those we’re still losing guys. We have to keep the discussion going, to contextualize the sacrifice for the entire country. This artwork helps.”

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Former Navy SEAL and vet entrepreneur Jason Redman addresses the audience following the premiere of Until It Hurts in Norfolk, Virginia. (Photo: Eric Wickham)

Among Grubbs’ business concerns is film production, so naturally he thought of turning the artwork and the events surrounding it into a film. He enlisted the help of director Scott Hanson and together they created Until It Hurts, which premiered in Norfolk, Virginia on Feb. 21.

“Doing this documentary gave me the chance to work with SEALs and learn more about their families and what they do,” Hanson said following the premiere. “It makes me way more appreciative that I can do what I do.”

“It hits everybody in different ways,” Redman said. “A wounded warrior sees one thing, a Gold Star family member sees something else, and a civilian sees something else. And that’s what’s so great about it.”

“This was the first showing to a civilian audience,” Jake Healy, son of Senior Chief Dan Healy who was killed when the Chinook attempting to extract four SEALs trapped on a mountain was hit by an RPG — a tragedy well-documented in Marcus Luttrell’s book Lone Survivor and the associated major motion picture. “Their response to the movie tonight was powerful and reassuring.”

“I hope it will…highlight the sacrifice of Americans who understand what it took to make this country.” Redman said.

You can watch the full documentary right here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjUgPYiM2gg
WATM field correspondent Briggs Carroll contributed to this article.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Japan is bothered by the Korean Unification Flag

Ahead of the historic meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea on April 27, 2018, political emblems depicting unity have been rolled out across South Korea.

One of these is an outline of the full Korean Peninsula, like on the Korean unification flag seen prominently at the Olympics. Inside Peace House, where Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-In will meet, chairs have been engraved with the same outline and a miniature version of the flag will be placed on a dessert later in the day.

But not everyone views the symbols favorably.


The Korean unification flag features a set of disputed islands between Japan and South Korea that have been a source of tension for over a millennia.

Both South Korea and Japan claim the pair of nearly uninhabitable islets located in the Sea of Japan, which are controlled by South Korea. South Korea refers to the islands as Dokdo, while the Japanese refer to them as Takeshima.

Internationally, they have been given the name of Liancourt Rocks to avoid dispute.

Japan claims it acquired the islands in 1905 as terra nullius during its occupation of Korea, while Korea maintains it was illegally occupied and that Japan’s claims to the islands amount to continued imperialism.

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The Liancourt Rocks.u00a0South Korea refers to the islands as Dokdo, while the Japanese refer to them as Takeshima.

The islands holds significant symbolic importance to South Korea but Japan has protested the use of the islands in the Korean unification flag.

On April 25, 2018, Japan’s foreign ministry lodged a formal complaint about the use of the flag, which is set to be featured on top of a mango mousse served during the inter-Korean summit on April 27, 2018.

A Japanese official met with the South Korean embassy in Tokyo, telling them the use of the flag is “deeply regrettable and unacceptable for Japan,” according to NHK News.

The Japanese Embassy in Seoul has also lodged a complaint with South Korea’s foreign ministry.

This is not the first time the symbol has angered Japan.

In February 2018, Japan lodged a protest against the unification flag which was on display during a women’s ice hockey match between the joint North-South Korean team and Sweden.

South Korea later said it would not depict the islands on the flag it intended to use during the Olympics. But pictures of North Korea’s cheerleaders at the games show they appear to have used the controversial flag anyway.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the first successful carrier raid

In July 1918, militaries were experimenting with aircraft carriers, especially the American and British navies. But, as far as any of the Central Powers knew, carrier operations were an experiment that had borne only limited fruit. No carrier raids had significantly damaged targets ashore. And that was true until July 19, when a flight of Sopwith Camels took off from the HMS Furious and attacked German Zeppelin facilities at Tondern, Denmark.


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The British carrier HMS Furious with its split deck.

(Imperial War Museums)

America was the first country to experiment with aircraft carriers after civilian pilot Eugene Ely flew a plane off the USS Birmingham, a modified cruiser, in 1911. But as World War I broke out, the naval power of Britain decided that it wanted to build its own carrier operations, allowing it to float airfields along the coasts of wartime Europe and other continents.

This required a lot of experimentation, and British aviators died while establishing best practices for taking off, landing, and running the decks of carriers. One of the ship experiments was the HMS Furious, a ship originally laid down as a light battlecruiser. It was partially converted during construction into a semi-aircraft carrier that still had an 18-inch gun, then converted the rest of the way into a carrier.

After its full conversion, the Furious had a landing-on deck and a flying-off deck split by the ship’s superstructure. This, combined with the ship’s exhaust that flowed over the decks, made landing tricky.

The Furious and other carriers and sea-based planes had scored victories against enemies at sea. But in 1918, the Royal Navy decided it was time to try the Furious in a raid on land.

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Sopwtih Camels prepare to take off from the HMS Furious to attack German Zeppelin sheds in July 1918.

(Imperial War Museums)

On July 19, 1918, two flights of Sopwith Camels launched from the decks with bombs. There were three aircraft in the first wave, and four in the second wave. Even these takeoffs were tricky in the early days, and the second wave of aircraft suffered three losses as it was just getting going. One plane’s engine failed at takeoff, one crashed, and one made a forced landing in Denmark.

But the first wave was still strong, and the fourth bomber in the second wave was still ready and willing to get the job done.

So they proceeded to Tondern where German Zeppelin sheds housed the airships and crews that bombed London and British troops, and conducted reconnaissance over Allied powers. These airships were real weapons of terror against Britain and its subjects, and the military wanted them gone.

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Building housing German Zeppelins burns at Tondern in July 1918.

(Public domain)

Hitting Tondern was especially valuable as it was a convenient place from which to attack London. So the four remaining pilots flew over German defenses and attacked the Zeppelins there, successfully hitting two sheds which burst into flames.

Luckily, each of those housed an airship at the time, and the flames consumed them both. They were L.54 and L.60. The Zeppelin L.54 had conducted numerous reconnaissance missions and dropped over 12,000 pounds in two bombing missions over England. The Zeppelin L.60 had dropped almost 7,000 pounds of bombs on England in one mission.

While the destruction of two Zeppelins, especially ones that had already bombed England and so loomed in the British imagination, was valuable on its own, the real victory for England came in making exposed bases much less valuable.

The Western-most bases had been the best for bombing England, especially Tondern which was protected from land-based bombers by its position on the peninsula, but they were now highly vulnerable to more carrier raids. And the HMS Furious wasn’t Britain’s only carrier out there.

Germany was forced to pull its Zeppelins back to better protected bases, and it maintained Tondern as an emergency base, only there to recover Zeppelins that couldn’t make it all the way back home after a mission.

Germany lost another airship to a navy-based fighter in August, this time in a crazy aerial attack after Royal Air Force Flight sub-lieutenant Stuart Culley launched from a barge and flew his plane to the maximum altitude he could reach that day, a little over 18,000 feet, and shot down a Zeppelin with incendiary rounds.

This wasn’t the first or only time a fighter had caught a Zeppelin in the air, but it was one of the highest fights that had succeeded against a Zeppelin, and it meant that sea-based fighters had taken out three Zeppelins in less than a month, and all three losses had taken place in facilities or at an altitude where Germany thought they were safe.

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the most recent soldiers killed in Afghanistan was 5 when the war started

Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde’s short life spanned the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, from the euphoria over the fleeting early successes to the current doubts about the new strategy to break what U.S. commanders routinely call a “stalemate.”

When Conde was six years old, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Taliban had been defeated and the Afghan people were now free “to create a better future.”


He was seven years old when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities.”

When Conde was 12, then-President George W. Bush was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to declare that “the Taliban is gone from power and it’s not coming back.”

In 2009, when Conde was 13, then-President Barack Obama said he would “make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”

He sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, with a timeline for their withdrawal.

Obama wanted the withdrawal to be complete by the time he left office, but he left behind about 8,500 U.S. troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban and a new enemy — an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-K.

August 2017, when Conde was 21, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that discarded “nation building” in favor of a plan to drive the Taliban into peace talks and a negotiated settlement.

Trump acknowledged that his initial impulse was to pull U.S. troops out completely, but he agreed to boost troop levels from 8,500 to about 14,000.

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President Donald Trump

The presence of U.S. troops would now be conditions-based and not subject to artificial timelines. “We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” Trump said.

Late April, 2018, the Taliban announced the start of its 16th annual spring offensive.

On May 1, 2018, when Conde was 22, he was killed by small-arms fire in the Tagab District of Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. A second U.S. soldier was wounded.

Conde, of Loveland, Colorado, served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), of 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. His unit was expected to return to Alaska at the end of May 2018.

Also on May 1, 2018, the Trump administration took official note of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan by granting political asylum to former Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force, who had been training in the U.S.

Through her lawyer, she had successfully argued to immigration authorities that the chaos in Afghanistan, and death threats against her and her family, made it impossible for her to return.

On the same day that Rahmani won asylum and Conde was killed, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks devastated the Shash Darak district of central Kabul in what Afghans call the “Green Zone.”

Two suicide bombers had slipped past the estimated 14 checkpoints surrounding the district, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews reported.

The first set off a blast and the second, reportedly disguised as a cameraman, joined a pack of reporters and photographers rushing to the scene and triggered a second explosion.

At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed. A 10th journalist was killed on the same day in an incident in Khost province. (Short biographies of the 10 journalists can be seen here.)

Mattis put on spot over attacks

In response to May 1, 2018’s events, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, echoed what other commanders and Pentagon officials have said so many times before during America’s longest war.

They mourned the loss of a valorous soldier and the victims of the bombings. They said the strategy of increased airpower and the buildup of Afghan special forces is showing progress. They pledged to stay the course.

At a session with Pentagon reporters May 1, 2018, Mattis said the Taliban are “on their back foot.”

The recent terror attacks show that they are desperate, he said.

“We anticipated they would do their best” to disrupt upcoming elections with a wave of bombings aimed at discouraging the Afghan people from voting, Mattis said.

“The Taliban realize the danger of the people being allowed to vote,” he added. “Their goal is to destabilize the elected government. This is the normal stuff by people who can’t win at the ballot box. They turn to bombs.”

At a welcoming ceremony on May 2, 2018, for the visiting Macedonian defense minister, Mattis was challenged on how he could point to progress amid the wave of bombings and a recent series of watchdog reports on widespread and continuing corruption in Afghanistan.

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

“The message from this building has consistently been that the situation is turning around, that things are improving there,” Mattis was told. “How do you reconcile this difference?”

“First, I don’t know that that’s been the message from this building. I would not subscribe to that,” Mattis said. “We said last August NATO is going to hold the line. We knew there would be tough fighting going forward.

“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for and more importantly what we stand against,” he added.

“The Afghan military is being made more capable. You’ll notice that more of the forces are special forces, advised and assisted, accompanied by NATO mentors. And these are the most effective forces,” Mattis said.

“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people but, unfortunately, once in a while they get through because any terrorist organization that realizes it can’t win by ballots and turns to bombs — this is simply what they do. They murder innocent people,” he said.

For the long run, “We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the NATO mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” Mattis said.

Nicholson’s two-year plan to end the ‘Forever War’

“Actions like this only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Nicholson, who doubles as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said after the bombings May 1, 2018, and the death of Conde.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with our Afghan partners in defeating those who would threaten the people of this country, whose cries for peace are being ignored,” he said.

Like many of his troops, the 60-year-old Nicholson, a West Point graduate, has served multiple tours in Afghanistan. When he was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell as commander, he would go back to Afghanistan for the sixth time.

Since 9/11, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service” in 36 years in uniform, he told the Senate.

Nicholson is the son of Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, also a West Point graduate, and is distantly related the legendary British Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (1821-1857), who fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War.

Early on in his command, Nicholson was at the forefront on the military advisers who convinced Obama to approve the expansion of the air campaign against the Taliban and IS-K. In February 2017, he began arguing for more troops to partner with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.

Mattis later signed off on what was essentially Nicholson’s plan. And Trump, in coordination with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, authorized it in an address to the nation in August 2017.

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

In a video conference from Kabul to the Pentagon in November 2017, Nicholson said it would take about two years to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan under government control and drive the Taliban into peace talks.

“Why 80 percent? Because we think that gives them [the Afghans] a critical mass where they control 80. The Taliban are driven to less than 10 percent of the population; maybe the rest is contested,” Nicholson said.

“And this, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance, meaning they’re living in these remote, outlying areas, or they reconcile — or they die, of course, is the third choice,” he said.

Nicholson’s remarks contrasted with a simultaneous report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.

In his foreword to the IG’s quarterly report, Acting IG Glenn Fine said, “During the quarter, Taliban insurgents continued to attack Afghan forces and fight for control of districts, and ISIS-K terrorists launched high-profile attacks across the country.”

Fine added, “Internal political tensions increased in Afghanistan, and corruption remained a key challenge to governance despite positive steps by Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Justice Center.”

Fine also said that maintaining the accuracy of future IG reports made available to the public is becoming more difficult, since key statistical measures are now being classified.

“When producing this report, we were notified that information that was previously publicly released regarding attrition, casualties, readiness, and personnel strength of Afghan forces that we had included in prior Lead IG reports was now classified,” Fine said. “In addition, we were advised that ratings of Afghan government capabilities were now classified.”

The strategy — what strategy?

In announcing the strategy for Afghanistan in August 2017, Trump made clear that he was doing so with grave misgivings.

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he said.

The skeptics are many. “Why would anybody call this a strategy? We declared we wanted to win, but we didn’t change anything fundamentally that we’re doing,” retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told Military.com.

The focus now, as it has been for years, is on building up the Afghan military into a more effective force capable of holding and administering territory retaken from the Taliban, he said, “but that army assumes the existence of a functioning government.”

“We are creating a military that assumes the existence of a state that does not exist,” said Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“What it boils down to is that we can’t decide what we want,” Dempsey said. “The only consensus we have on Afghanistan is that we don’t want to lose.”

In her analysis of the Trump administration’s strategy, Brookings Institution scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that the president basically had three options — “full military withdrawal, limited counterterrorism engagement, and staying in the country with slightly increased military deployments and intense political engagement.”

“The option the Trump administration chose — staying in Afghanistan with a somewhat enlarged military capacity — is the least bad option,” Felbab-Brown said.

“Thus, the Trump administration’s announced approach to Afghanistan is not a strategy for victory,” she said.

“Staying on militarily buys the United States hope that eventually the Taliban may make enough mistakes to seriously undermine its power,” she said. “However, that is unlikely unless Washington starts explicitly insisting on better governance and political processes in the Afghan government.”

Watchdog reports contrast with claims of progress

The goal of better governance is dependent on an Afghan military as the enabler, but the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said May 2, 2018, that the number of Afghan soldiers and police has declined sharply in the past year.

In a report, SIGAR said that the combined strength of the military and police dropped nearly 11 percent over the past year, from about 331,700 in January 2017 to about 296,400 this January, well below the total authorized strength of 334,000.

“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told reporters.

At the end of January 2018, insurgents controlled or had influence over 14 percent of the Afghanistan’s 407 districts, SIGAR said, while the Afghan government controlled or influenced 56 percent. The remaining districts were contested, SIGAR said.

The report also noted the significant increase in the air campaign: “The total of 1,186 munitions dropped in the first quarter of 2018 is the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and is over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.”

In addition, the report indicated that Nicholson’s plan to bomb drug production centers and have the Afghan military interdict shipments in an effort to cut off Taliban funding was having little effect.

“From 2008 through March 20, 2018, over 3,520 interdiction operations resulted in the seizure of 463,342 kilograms of opium. But the sum of these seizures over nearly a decade would account for less than 0.05% of the opium produced in Afghanistan in 2017 alone,” SIGAR said.

Since 9/11, the U.S. has invested more than $850 billion in the war and efforts to bolster the Afghan government, but a recent drumbeat of reports from SIGAR and the Pentagon Inspector General’s office have highlighted widespread and continuing corruption.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2018, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called on Army Secretary Mark Esper to justify a $50 million contract that SIGAR charged was used to buy luxury cars such as Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for Afghan officials and pay for $400,000 salaries for no-show jobs.

“Please tell me that a senator 20 years from now is not going to be sitting here and going, ‘How in the world are taxpayers paying for Alfa Romeos and Bentleys?’ ” McCaskill said.

‘We’ve kind of been going about it wrong’

As of March 2018, there were roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to U.S. officials.

Of the 14,000, about 7,800 of these troops were assigned to NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.

The 7,800 number reflects an increase of 400 personnel from the deployment of the Army’s first Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, to Afghanistan.

In February 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a report on what those troops can be expected to accomplish this year that was at odds with the upbeat assessments of Mattis and Nicholson.

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency” and the “unsteady” performance of the Afghan military performance, the DNI’s report said.

Afghan troops “probably will maintain control of most major population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain,” the report said.

Mattis and Nicholson have singled out the SFAB as a key component in reforming and refining the operations of the Afghan security forces.

The SFAB concept takes specially selected non-commissioned and commissioned officers, preferably with experience in Afghanistan, and assigns them the train, advise and assist role in place of conventional Brigade Combat Team units.

Before the deployment, Army 1st Sgt. Shaun Morgan, a company senior enlisted leader with the SFAB, told Stars & Stripes that there were no illusions about the difficulty of the job ahead.

“So, we’ve been kind of going about it wrong for a while, I think,” Morgan said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to get on the right foot toward getting it right.”

Previously in Afghanistan, “we couldn’t get it through our heads that we weren’t the fighters,” Morgan told Stripes in a reference to the role of U.S. troops as partners and advisers to the Afghans who were to take the lead in combat.

“I think the bosses decided maybe this is the right shot, and it just makes sense to me,” Morgan said.

The Afghans also were under no illusions on the continuing threats posed by the Taliban and other insurgents, and the risks they take to go about their daily lives.

Shah Marai Faizi, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in the Kabul bureau, was among the nine journalists killed in May 1, 2018’s suicide bombings in Kabul. He was the father of six, including a newborn daughter.

In 2017, Shah Marai wrote an essay titled “When Hope Is Gone” that was read in part on the Democracy Now cable program.

“Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity,” he wrote. “I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five, and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects, and I don’t see a way out.”

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

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