China’s deployment of the Liaoning, an Admiral Kuznetsov-class carrier, has not seen anything equivalent to the Kuznetsov follies, but it is a note that China’s navy is becoming more capable by the year.
The carrier recently conducted flight deck tests of Chinese PLAN fighters and is cruising through parts of the disputed South China Sea, worrying allies in Japan and Taiwan.
Here are some photos that the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force took of Beijing’s latest show of force.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Luyang-class destroyers carry the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, which is comparable to the SA-N-6 Grumble used on the Kirov-class battlecruisers and the Slava-class cruisers. The Jiangkai II-class frigates carry the HHQ-16 missile, a knockoff of the SA-N-7 – the naval version of the SA-11 Gadfly.
The Liaoning can carry roughly two dozen J-15 Flankers — knock-offs of the Su-33. The carrier also will have a variety of choppers as well, most for anti-submarine warfare or for search-and-rescue missions.
The cover story of National Geographic magazine’s February issue, “The Invisible War on the Brain,” takes a close look at a signature injury of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars—traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by the shock waves from explosions. TBIs have left hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans with life-altering and sometimes debilitating conditions, the treatment of which can be extremely complicated. At Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, soldiers paint masks that help them cope with their daily struggles and help them reveal their inner feelings. We invite you to see the service members’ masks and read the full story here.
Impeccable in his Marine uniform and outwardly composed, McNair sits on the porch of his parents’ home in Virginia, anonymous behind a mask he made in an art therapy session. “I was just going through pictures, and I saw the mask of Hannibal Lecter, and I thought, ‘That’s who I am’ … He’s probably dangerous, and that’s who I felt I was. I had this muzzle on with all these wounds, and I couldn’t tell anyone about them. I couldn’t express my feelings.”
Wearing his mask—half patriotic, half death’s-head—Hopman confronts the battery of medications he takes daily for blast-force injuries he sustained while treating soldiers as a flight medic. “I know my name, but I don’t know the man who used to back up that name … I never thought I would have to set a reminder to take a shower, you know. I’m 39 years old. I’ve got to set a reminder to take medicine, set a reminder to do anything… My daughter, she’s only four, so this is the only dad she’s ever known, whereas my son knew me before.”
“Detonation happened, and I was right there in the blast seat. I got blown up. And all this medical study—nobody ever thought that they [blast events] were very harmful, and so we didn’t log them, which we should because all blast forces are cumulative to the body. On a grade number for me, it would probably be 300-plus explosions … I’m not going to not play with my children. I’m not going to let my injuries stop them from having a good life.”
Tiffany H., as she prefers to be known, was “blown up” while helping women in a remote Afghan village earn additional income for their families. Memory loss, balance difficulties, and anxiety are among her many symptoms. The blinded eye and sealed lips on her mask.
Suiting up before attempting ordnance disposal “is the last line. There’s no one else to call … It’s the person and the IED … and if a mistake is made at that point, then death is almost certain. They call it the long walk because once you get that bomb suit on, number one, everything is harder when you’re wearing that 100 pounds … Two, the stress of knowing what you’re about to do. And three, it’s quiet, and it seems like it takes an hour to walk.”
In 1944, the CIA’s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), distributed a secret pamphlet that was intended as a guidebook to citizens living in Axis nations who were sympathetic to the Allies.
The “Simple Sabotage Field Manual,” declassified in 2008 and available on the CIA’s website, provided instructions for how everyday people could help the Allies weaken their country by reducing production in factories, offices, and transportation lines.
“Some of the instructions seem outdated; others remain surprisingly relevant,” reads the current introduction on the CIA’s site. “Together they are a reminder of how easily productivity and order can be undermined.”
We’ve collected below some of the timeless instructions on how to be a terrible employee. What’s most amusing is that despite the dry language and specificity of the context, the productivity-crushing activities recommended are all-too-common behaviors in contemporary organizations everywhere.
See if any of those listed below — quoted but abridged — remind you of your boss, colleagues, or even yourself.
Organizations and Conferences
Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committee as large as possible — never less than five.
Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable”and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers.
Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw.
To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions.
Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.
Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can.
Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.
Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.
The Russian and Chinese armed forces are putting their military might on display on land, in the air, and at sea in a massive exercise in Russia’s far east, where China is learning lessons from Russia’s warfighting experience in Syria and other global hotspots.
Chinese troops, as well as helicopters and tanks, are participating in Vostok 2018, reportedly the largest drills in the history of the Russian army, and while the Chinese and Russian militaries have held drills together in the past, this year’s exercise is different.
“In the past decade, China-Russia military drills mainly focused on anti-terrorism and other non-traditional threats,” Major Li Jinpeng, the battalion commander for a Chinese artillery battalion, told Chinese state-run broadcaster CGTN, noting that these exercises appear focused on classical battle campaigns.
A military researcher told Chinese media that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army could learn from Russia how to “fight in cities, in deserts, and in mountains.”
In the age of renewed great power competition, China is pushing to build a modern fighting force that can win on the battlefield, whether that be the defense of the mainland, a fight over Taiwan, or an armed conflict in disputed waters. During the drills, Russia shared its wartime experiences with China, which has not fought in a conflict in decades.
“The Russian military is interested in seeing and assessing China’s progress in the military field,” Mikhail Barabanov, editor-in-chief of the Moscow Defence Brief, told the Financial Times recently, “I believe that for China the opportunity to get acquainted with the Russian armed forces is much more interesting since the Russian army has in recent years a great deal of combat experience in Ukraine, Syria, etc while China’s armed forces are completely deprived of modern combat experience and have not fought since 1979.”
Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)
A recent article in the Global Times explained that one of the reasons for the ongoing exercises is to learn from the Russian military. “The Russian forces that performed operations in Syria are among the participants of the military exercise. Undoubtedly, joining in such a military exercise with them is helpful for the PLA to become familiar with actual combat,” the article said. This particular point was driven home by Chinese state media as well.
“Almost all the Russian helicopter pilots in this drill have participated in the Syria conflict, so they have very rich real combat experience,” Senior Colonel Li Xincheng, a commander and veteran Chinese helicopter pilot, told CGTN, adding, “Their equipment has been tested in the real battlefield, which we can learn from.”
He added that the Chinese and Russian troops practiced complex strikes not commonly seen in Chinese military exercises. “Unlike the many drills before, this time from the top to the bottom, we have fighter-bombers, helicopters and tanks firing shells at the same time in a three-dimensional attacking system,” Li explained.
Russian state media confirmed by way of a commander that “generalized Syrian experience was used in the drills – from limited objective attacks by landing forces down to firing and reconnaissance rules.” Newsweek, citing the South China Morning Post, reported that Russia is compiling a textbook focused on its Syrian war experience and plans to share it with China.
China’s military is undergoing an extensive military modernization program designed to build a lethal force that is able to fight and win wars by the middle of this century. This effort has involved leadership changes, new recruitment standards, and enhanced training with an emphasis on actual live-fire combat exercises for war rather than the rough equivalent of a military parade, even though that still occurs.
“One of my soldiers told me that he fired so many shells in these drills that it is almost equivalent to his total over the past five years,” Captain Zhang Lei, whose armored vehicle battalion participated in the Vostok exercises, told Chinese state media in a commentary on the expenditure of ammunition during the drills.
Both Moscow and Beijing have stressed that the exercises are not aimed at any third party, but both countries have bonded over their mutual interest in challenging US hegemony. The Pentagon said that while the US respects Russia and China’s right to hold military drills, just as the US does with its allies and international partners, the US will be watching closely.
Featured image: Chinese military vehicles through a field during the Vostok 2018 exercises in Russia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Soldiers and United States Air Force Airmen unload an AH-64 Apache helicopter, for the soon to be activated 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, from a C-5 Galaxy at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Aug. 20, 2015. TheU.S. Army Alaska battalion will receive a total of 24 Apaches by April 2016.
Soldiers, assigned to 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, secure a landing zone after exiting UH-60 Black Hawks, from 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Official Page), during a training exercise at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, Republic of Korea, Aug. 20, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to the The 75th Ranger Regiment, conducts a simulated assault during Exercise Swift Response 15 at JMRC, in Hohenfels, Germany, Aug. 23, 2015. Swift Response 15 is aUnited States Army Europe – USAREUR-led, combined airborne training event with participation from more than 4,800 service members from 11 NATO nations.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 20, 2015) Sailors receive cargo in hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during an underway replenishment with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187). The John C. Stennis Strike Group is undergoing a composite training unit exercise and joint task force exercise, the final step in certifying to deploy.
ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 26, 2015) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Sea Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 delivers cargo from the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a vertical replenishment.
PORT HUENEME, Calif. (Aug. 24, 2015) Chief Utilitiesman Philip Anderton, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, musters his platoon as his daughter hugs him before departing on a scheduled deployment to the Pacific region. NMCB-3 will support construction operations throughout the U.S. Pacific Fleet, sustain interoperability with regional governments, and provide fleet construction support.
INDIAN OCEAN (Aug. 25, 2015) Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Alyssa Wynn fires the forward .50-caliber machine gun during a surface warfare live-fire exercise aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96).
Lance Cpl. Noah Soliz fires his M240-B medium machine gun during a live-fire squad attack course August 22, 2015, during Exercise Crocodile Strike at Mount Bundey Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia.
Marines assigned 1st Marine Division, run along hills during the Dark Horse Ajax Challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 20, 2015. The eight-mile course tested the Marines’ and Sailors’ endurance and leadership skills with trials spread across the San Mateo area.
Lance Cpl. Riley Remoket, with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fills a water bull at a water distribution site during typhoon relief efforts in Saipan, Aug. 19, 2015. The Marines and sailors of the 31st MEU were redirected to Saipan after the island was struck by Typhoon Soudelor Aug. 2-3.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone meets Lt. Gen. Timothy M. Ray, 3rd Air Force commander and 17th Expeditionary Air Force commander, upon his arrival to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 24. 2015. Stone, along with childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, were recently honored by French President François Hollande for subduing an armed gunman when he entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter.
An F-22A Raptor from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range during Red Flag 15-3 at Nellis AFB, Nev., July 31, 2015.
Maj. Jason Curtis, Thunderbird 5, and Capt. Nicholas Eberling, Thunderbird 6, fly back from Minden, Nev., Aug. 25, 2015.
Paratroopers assigned to 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment descend after jumping out of a C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 374th Wing from Yokota Air Base, Japan, over the Malemute drop zone at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 24, 2015.
Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay is preparing for heavy weather this weekend. The coastal forecast is calling for 10-15 ft swells and winds up to 45 knots on Saturday. The Coast Guard defines heavy weather as seas greater than 8ft and winds greater than 30 knots.
Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay has two 47 foot motor life boats. These boats have the ability to roll over and return to the upright position in 8-12 seconds.
Air Force pilot Capt. Brian Udell is one of the only pilots in history to survive after ejecting from a fighter at supersonic speeds. The force of the air moving at more than 768 mph on his body was so strong that it nearly killed him.
“It felt like somebody had just hit me with a train,” said Udell. “When I went out into the wind stream, it ripped my helmet right off my head, broke all the blood vessels in my head and face, my head was swollen the size of a basketball and my lips were the size of cucumbers. My left elbow was dislocated and pointed backward, the only thing holding my leg on was an artery, the vein, the nerve and the skin and my left leg snapped at the bottom half.”
His body was essentially being torn apart by the wind.
The following day Udell learned that his Weapon Systems Officer in the back seat was killed when he ejected. This video shows Udell describing his harrowing experience.
On April 17, 1970, the Apollo 13 spacecraft safely returned to earth after suffering major malfunctions on its journey to the Moon.
“Houston, we’ve had a problem,” Apollo 13 astronaut John “Jack” Swigert famously told the NASA Mission Control Center “Houston” during the Apollo 13 spaceflight.
200,000 miles from Earth, three astronauts and veteran test pilots were scrambling to adapt and overcome a seemingly impossible challenge. They were James Lovell — a Navy Captain and test pilot; Jack Swigert — a fighter pilot in the Air National Guard; and Fred Haise — a fighter pilot in both the Marine Corps and Air Force.
Two days into their mission to the Moon, an oxygen tank exploded, severely disrupting their supply of oxygen, electricity and water. They aborted their landing mission, and scrambled to implement creative and improvised solutions suggested by the support staff back in Houston.
They’d have to improvise a way to make a square filter fit into a round hole. They’d conjured up a makeshift lifeboat.
The support staff no longer cared what the spaceship had been designed to do – they had to figure out how to squeeze every bit of capability from the vehicle.
Overcoming nearly impossible odds, the crew guided the spacecraft back to earth, reentered the atmosphere and touched down in the Pacific Ocean, where they were recovered by the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima.
Featured Image: The crew of the Apollo 13 mission step aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, prime recovery ship for the mission, following splashdown and recovery operations in the South Pacific. Exiting the helicopter, which made the pick-up some four miles from the Iwo Jima are (from left) astronauts Fred W. Haise, Jr., lunar module pilot; James A. Lovell Jr., commander; and John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot. The Apollo 13 spacecraft splashed down at 12:07:44 pm CST on April 17, 1970. (NASA Image)
Being clean shaven every day in the military is an absolute must — unless you’re a special forces operator and are allowed to grow out a manly beard. Every morning, men (and some women) wake up during with a 5 o’clock shadow that is required to disappear before morning muster.
But the day you signed your DD-214 and no longer fall under the rules and regulations of shaving, it’s time to grow out that impressive separation beard — just because you can.
Not every beard is right for the individual. With several types of styles to choose from, it’s necessary to grow one that fits your specific personality. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you pick one out that fits your unique look.
Not to be mistaken for the “Homeless Man,” this style says “I work my ass for a living, but it’s usually somewhere outside in the cold.” It’s popular for keeping your face warm and catching food crumbs.
2. The Chuck Norris
One of our favorites, this traditional style relays to the world that not only can you be rugged, but you take enough time to trim up. This typically looks good enough to step into the boardroom for a presentation, then head right out to the gun range.
Chuck Norris doesn’t shave — he orders his beard to stop growing.
3. The “I’m not too worried about it”
This unique look informs the world you’re just chilling, you’re in no hurry, and whatever happens, happens.
Named after the talent actor-comedian Zack Galifianakis, this ensures your fellow man that you’re a hard worker, but you know how to crack a good joke and don’t take life too seriously.
5. The Fuzz
Not everyone can grow a full separation beard — some of us grow them in thin-to-thick patches.
This doesn’t inform the world you have low testosterone (the male’s dominant hormone) because it isn’t a facial hair growth factor — dihydrotestosterone is the chemical that promotes thick beard growth and unfortunately is linked to hair loss. Bummer!
We still respect your commitment.
6. The Shaggy
A fashionable look for those who received their separation paperwork and ran straight to the bar, leaving their razor or clipper behind in the barracks.
Retired Adm. William McRaven, a former Navy SEAL and special operations commander, is making a children’s book about his experiences and lessons learned from them.
The book, “Make Your Bed with Skipper the Seal,” is an adaptation of the 2017 bestseller “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World” for kids that includes “life lessons from Navy SEAL training,” publisher Little, Brown, and Company said.
“As Skipper the seal embarks on Navy SEAL training, he and his hardworking friends learn much more than how to pass a swimming test or how to dive off a ship,” the publishing house wrote in a description of the upcoming book.
“To be a great SEAL, you also have to take risks, deal with failure, and persevere through tough times—just as you do in life,” it said.
“I found that stories of adventure and overcoming challenges helped shape their character and inspired them to be their very best,” he added. “I hope that ‘Make Your Bed with Skipper the Seal’ is just such a book!”
McRaven’s first “Make Your Bed” book was based on a commencement speech he delivered to the 2014 graduating class at the University of Texas Austin, the admiral’s alma mater, and focused on ten important lessons he learned from training to become a Navy SEAL, who are among the military’s most elite special operators.
“They were simple lessons that deal with overcoming the trials of SEAL training,” McRaven wrote in the beginning of the book, “but the ten lessons were equally important in dealing with the challenges of life — no matter who you are.”
McRaven spent nearly four decades in the US armed forces, rising through the ranks and taking on various leadership positions. During his career, he led the 2009 rescue of Richard Phillips, then the captain of a merchant vessel that had been captured by Somali pirates, and oversaw the 2011 raid into Pakistan that eliminated terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
The admiral also has another book, “The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived,” that talks about some of the people he has met in his 65 years that have had an impact on his life. That book will come out in April. His first children’s book is expected six months later.
In addition to writing several books over the past few years, McRaven has also been an outspoken critic of the last administration, writing a number of widely-read opinion articles criticizing former President Donald Trump and members of his team.
One of his more famous op-eds was a 2019 article titled “Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President,” in which he said: “If this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office.”
War can be hell…and war can be absolute boredom. There are few better ways to pass the time than by playing cards. Anyone who served in the military and made it past basic training probably ended up in a game of cards with their fellow troops.
They’re easy to carry: small and lightweight, they fit into a rucksack, duffel bag, or Alice pack without having to sacrifice any piece of essential gear. Plus, they’re cheap. It just makes sense that the troops and playing cards would pair so well together.
Wartime decks have been used to help soldiers in the field learn about their enemies and allies, to identify aircraft, and even teach a little about American history. Even in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, American forces used playing cards to identify the most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Playing cards themselves can be traced back to 12th century China. Some scholars think they made their way to Europe through Italian traders. The cards (and maybe even the games) predate the United States. But Americans have their own love affair with cards, and the military is no different.
Early special decks were released depicting Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and (John Quincy) Adams as the kings of the deck. By the time of the Civil War, playing cards were in every American camp, Union or Confederate.
Since troops in the Civil War spent a lot of time in camp and had easy access to decks, alcohol, and firearms, a cheater could make the game go very badly for himself. The war actually shaped the way playing cards are printed, so players could hold a tighter hand.
Another innovation of that era was the design on the backs of cards. Before then, most were made with plain backs, ones that were easy to mark and see through. The new back designs made short work of that problem.
In 1898, the Consolidated Playing Card Company created a cheap deck and poker chips for troops deploying to the Spanish-American War. For World War I, the U.S. Playing Card Company released special decks just for a few specialties of service in the Great War, namely Artillery, Navy, Air Corps, and Tank Corps. The German High Command in WWI considered the game so important to morale, they called the cards kartonnen wapens – cardboard weapons.
Many playing card factories converted to war production during World War II, but that certainly didn’t mean no decks were printed. The aforementioned cards used to identify aircraft, known as “spotter cards,” were essential to the war effort.
During the Vietnam War, playing card companies sent deployed soldiers and Marines special decks comprised of just the ace of spades, believing the Viet Cong considered the symbol to be a deadly serious omen.
Watch below as magician Justin Flom recounts the oft-told story of a Revolutionary War soldier and his deck of cards, which acts as his bible, calendar, and almanac. Be sure to watch til the end for a magician’s tribute to American troops overseas.
In reporting the strike, Israel said it had done so in part to warn its adversaries in the region, like Iran. But surely Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries with spy services already knew the action Israel had taken.
It’s unlikely Iran or Syria needed a current reminder that Israel would fight in the skies over Syria to protect its interests after a massive Israeli air offensive downed an Iranian drone and reportedly took out half of Syria’s air defenses in February 2018.
But one element of Israel’s 2007 strike on a nuclear reactor near Deir Ezzor that bears repeating and reexamination is the fact that the terror group ISIS held control of that area for three full years.
If Syria had nukes, then ISIS might have, too
“Look at nukes as an insurance policy — at the end of the day, if you’ve got a nuke, it’s an umbrella for all of the other activity that could potentially spark conflict with your enemies,” Jonathan Schanzer, a Syria expert and the senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “If your enemies want to respond to you, they’re going to feel inhibited.”
This may have been Syria’s calculus in 2007 when it set about a clandestine nuclear weapons program, reportedly with the help of embedded North Koreans.
But in 2011, a popular, pro-democratic uprising in Syria sparked what would become a civil war that has dragged on to this day. During the conflict, Syrian President Bashar Assad has lost control of the majority of his country, with some parts under the control of rebel forces, some parts under the control of Kurdish forces, and from 2014 to 2017, much of the country under ISIS’ control.
ISIS held Deir Ezzor and the surrounding regions for three solid years, during which time they looted and pillaged whatever resources were available and ready for sale, including oil from the country’s rich oilfields.
If Israel had not taken out the reactor in 2007, it’s entirely possible ISIS could have taken custody of it. With access to radioactive materials, it’s possible ISIS could have cooked up a dirty bomb for use in terrorism, or even detonated a full-on nuclear device.
It’s reasonable to expect that a nuclear-capable ISIS would have more leverage, and could possibly force concessions from its opponents or prompt other nuclear states to strike first.
Instability makes Middle Eastern nuclear programs extra dangerous
“The Middle East is unstable,” Schanzer said. “One never knows when the next popular uprising or the next moment of intense instability might hit.”
Even states like Iran, where the current government has been in power since 1979, could fall prey to a popular uprising that could collapse the regime “overnight,” according to Schanzer.
“Imagine if in Syria today we were trying to track loose nukes,” Schanzer said. “Imagine if a country like Yemen had nuclear weapons.”
While nuclear weapons may deter state actors from invading a country or pushing it too far, they do not protect against domestic upheaval, like the 2011 Syrian uprising that became overrun with Islamist hardliners like ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Qatar’s Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah announced during a visit to Washington, DC on Jan. 28 that his country will expand the American Al Udeid Air Base.
The expansion will add more than 200 new housing units for officers and their families.
“It will very soon become a family-oriented place for our American friends there. We want more of the families to be stable and feel more comfortable in their stay,” al-Attiyah said at an event at the Heritage Foundation.
Al-Attiyah praised the U.S.-Qatar relationship, saying that the Qatari Military has learned much from their American partners. He also said that Qatar is interested in making the Al Udeid base permanent.
“Colleagues in the U.S. Department of Defense are reluctant to mention the word permanent, but we are working from our side to make it permanent,” Al-Attiyah said.
The Qatari defense minister repeated the plans to make Al Udeid a permanent U.S. base during a meeting on Jan. 30 with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
The base currently houses around 10,000 US military personnel and has been essential for air operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Qatar and the U.S. signed a military cooperation agreement after Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The Al Udeid Air Base was built in 1996, and the U.S. military moved its operations there in 2003, shortly after the invasion of Iraq.
The base is now the home of the U.S. Air Force Central Command and has proven essential for American air operations in the region.
“Qatar is strategically placed. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria — these are all hotspots in the region. I am not exaggerating when I say 80% of aerial refueling in the region is from Udeid,” al-Attiyah said. “We’re the ones that keep your birds flying.”
Military personnel from the U.K. and other allies are also stationed at Al Udeid.
The expansion comes at a diplomatically tough time for Qatar. Last June, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia instituted an economic and political embargo on Qatar, cutting off all diplomatic relations. The countries claim that Qatar supports terrorism and is destabilizing the region.
The embargo has not had the desired effect so far. Qatar has managed to deepen ties with the U.S. as well as other countries like Turkey, Oman, and Iran, allowing it to circumvent the blockade in certain ways.
The US has committed to pulling its forces, as well as NATO forces, out of Afghanistan in a serious bid to stop the 17-year-long war that’s claimed tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of US tax dollars.
Citing “significant progress” in peace talks with the Taliban, the hardline Islamist group that harbored Osama Bin Laden and became the US’s first target after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a US official told Reuters the US was working on a ceasefire and the timing of a pull out.
“Of course we don’t seek a permanent military presence in Afghanistan,” the official told Reuters on the same day Afghan President Ashraf Ghani gave a televised address saying: “No Afghans want foreign forces in their country for the long term.”
“Our priority is to end the war in Afghanistan and ensure there is never a base for terrorism in Afghanistan,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing on Jan. 28, 2019.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
(Photo by Patrick Tsui)
“Our goal is to help bring peace in Afghanistan and we would like a future partnership, newly defined with a post-peace government,” the official said. “We would like to leave a good legacy.”
President Donald Trump reportedly pushed for a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan at the same time he announced a troop pull out from Syria, which sparked widespread controversy, criticism, and the resignation of his defense secretary and top official in charge of fighting ISIS.
The US and NATO have fought in Afghanistan since 2001, when they toppled the ruling government that had harbored the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The US and NATO have lost about 3,500 troops in the battle that’s killed tens of thousands of Afghans and nearly 10,000 Afghan security forces fighters a year since 2014.
The Pentagon currently spends about billion a year on the Afghanistan war while other parts of the government contribute additional money to secure the country, build infrastructure, and fund essential programs as the government struggles to control all of its territory.
Trump campaigned explicitly against the war in Afghanistan, calling it a big mistake that left US soldiers fighting without purpose.
United States President Donald Trump.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anna Pol)
The Taliban recently agreed to a landmark concession, saying it would oppose “any attempts by militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage terrorist attacks abroad,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Talks in Qatar, now lasting over a week, have produced results that Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan called “encouraging.”
Afghanistan, sometimes called the “graveyard of empires” for its historic ability to resist outside rule from Alexander the Great, to Britain, to the Soviets, has proven a stalemate for the US, which has failed to lock down the entire country from Islamist control.