A contingent of more than 70 mountain troops from a motorized rifle brigade based in the North Caucasus republic of Karachai-Cherkessia is participating in the Druzhba-2018 exercises, Russia’s Southern Military District said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.
The military exercises are set to run through Nov. 4, 2018.
The Dryuzhba (Friendship) drills have been held annually since 2016. In 2017, more than 200 troops took part in the exercises held in mountainous Karachai-Cherkessia.
The purpose of the war games is to strengthen cooperation between the two countries’ militaries and exchange professional experience, particularly in counterterrorism.
The 2017 Dryuzhba (Friendship) drills.
There are Islamist militants in both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the North Caucasus.
Pakistan and Russia signed a defense cooperation agreement in 2014 that provides for cooperation on promoting international security.
The accord calls for the intensification of counterterrorism efforts and arms control activities as well as strengthening military cooperation and sharing experiences in counterterrorism operations.
Warm ties between Moscow and Pakistan’s regional rival India go back to the Soviet era, but Russia has also sought to improve relations with Pakistan in recent years.
Dover Air Force Base in Delaware is well known as the place where Americans killed in action abroad return home on their journey to a final resting place. Whether it was the Vietnam War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or any conflict or incident in between, most of America’s fallen heroes have been honored with a Dignified Transfer Ceremony when they arrive.
Now, some 170 years after having made the ultimate sacrifice in service of the United States, the remains of 11 soldiers killed during the Mexican-American war finally received their due honors at Dover Sept. 28.
According to a report by Fox News Latino, these American troops fell during the Mexican War at the Battle of Monterrey, which raged for three days in September 1846. American forces under Gen. (and future President) Zachary Taylor — a mix of regular troops and militia — decisively defeated a larger Mexican army under Pedro de Ampudia, Jose Garcia-Conde, and Francisco Mejia.
American casualties in the battle were somewhat light, with 120 dead, 43 missing, and 368 wounded. The fight ended when Ampuida surrendered the city of Monterrey, but Taylor’s decision to sign a two-month armistice and to allow the Mexican forces to fall back drew criticism.
Mexican casualties totaled 367.
The American troops whose remains have been recovered are believed to have been from the 1st Tennessee Regiment, a militia unit that served as part of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Volunteer Division under Taylor’s command, dubbed the Army of Occupation. At least 30,000 volunteers came from Tennessee, and 35 were killed during the war.
The United States not only secured Texas after a lengthy border dispute with Mexico, but it also received parts of New Mexico; Arizona; Colorado; Utah; Wyoming; Nevada and California in the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo.
The first of the skeletal remains were discovered in 1995, and other remains were found over the next 16 years. The return of the remains was negotiated by the Mexican government and the U.S. State Department. Middle Tennessee State University professor Hugh Berryman is slated to lead a team of scientists to try to identify the remains.
“After working for several years with the State Department and our U.S. consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, I was pleased to learn that the remains of these U.S. soldiers will finally be returned to American soil,” said Tennessee Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais in a statement. “This joint effort embodies the longstanding commitment to our men and women in uniform that the United States does not leave our fallen soldiers behind,” .
A government chemist testified Oct. 5 he found traces of the banned VX nerve agent on two women being tried in Malaysia on charges of murdering the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader.
The testimony was the first evidence linking VX to Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who are accused of smearing the nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a brazen assassination inside a crowded airport terminal inKuala Lumpur on Feb. 13.
Raja Subramaniam, who heads the government’s Center of Chemical Weapon Analysis, said he found VX in its pure form and VX precursors on Huong’s white jumper and found a degraded product of VX on Huong’s fingernails.
Huong was seen on airport surveillance videos wearing a white jumper emblazoned with the big black letters “LOL,” the acronym for “laughing out loud.”
The chemist, who is the only Malaysian with a doctorate in chemical weapons analysis, said laboratory tests also detected VX acid, a degraded product of the nerve agent, on Aisyah’s sleeveless T-shirt.
He said VX will degrade once it is exposed to the atmosphere, and even faster when it is in contact with water, leaving degraded products of VX.
“The presence of VX precursors and VX degradation products confirms the presence of VX itself,” he told the court.
Raja also confirmed that he found VX on Kim’s face, eyes, clothing, and in his blood and urine.
Aisyah and Huong have pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, which could bring a death penalty if they are convicted. They have not testified but their defense has said the women were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera TV show.
Raja earlier described VX as the “deadliest nerve agent created” and literature showed that 10 milligrams could be fatal. He said VX is oily and difficult to detect because it is colorless and odorless, and can be easily transported in a water bottle. He said Malaysia’s airports do not have the special equipment needed to detect VX.
Raja also said rubbing VX on the eyes and neck would be the fastest way to kill a person, compared to splashing or spraying the chemical. He said VX doesn’t evaporate quickly, making it a strategic choice because a person could be targeted without affecting the surroundings. It takes six days for a drop of VX to evaporate, he said.
He agreed with the prosecutors’ assertion that Kim didn’t inhale VX because no nerve agent was detected on a nasal swab.
The trial is to resume Oct. 9, with the judge, lawyers and the two suspects visiting Raja’s laboratory to see VX-tainted samples from the two women before they are formally submitted as evidence. This came after Raja told the court it would be safer to view the samples in the lab because the VX may still be active.
Gooi Soon Seong, lawyer for Siti, told reporters that detection of VX on the women was not enough to convict them.
“If I have the knife, it doesn’t mean I killed the person. They must have other stronger evidence,” he said.
He also said Raja was inconsistent and shouldn’t be afraid to open the VX-tainted samples since he testified VX could easily be washed off and doesn’t evaporate quickly.
Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, Huong’s lawyer, said the defense has another explanation of why VX was present on the Vietnamese and would reveal this later.
The VX-tainted evidence from Kim’s body and clothing was presented in court Oct. 4 in sealed plastic bags, and the lawyers and court officials wore surgical masks and gloves as they viewed it.
Earlier witnesses have testified Kim quickly suffered symptoms of chemical poisoning and died from acute VX poisoning within two hours of the attack.
VX is banned by an international treaty as a weapon of mass destruction but is believed to be part of North Korea’s chemical weapons arsenal. Kim was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s dynastic rulers but was believed to have been cast out by his father and had lived abroad for years. He reportedly never met current leader Kim Jong Un, who is widely believed to have perceived his older sibling as a threat and targeted him for assassination.
The trial is being closely watched by the Indonesian and Vietnamese governments, which hired the defense lawyers for both women.
Lawmakers in the Senate are slamming the brakes on any future plans to develop new camouflage and utility uniforms.
Buried inside the recently-passed Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 is a provision that would prevent the Defense Department from developing or fielding any new camouflage utilities until one year after the secretary of defense formally notifies the House and Senate Armed Services committees of the intent to do so.
Lawmakers and Defense Department officials have long had a sticky relationship over the issue of camouflage and the many patterns the various military services use. In 2009, Congress attempted to slip a provision into the defense budget that would require the services to adopt a common ground combat uniform. In 2013, lawmakers again inserted language requiring a common pattern. Some military brass pushed back, however; then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said the Corps planned to stick to its propriety MarPat camo “like a hobo on a ham sandwich.”
Development of new camouflage patterns can be costly–the Washington Post reported that the Army’s “universal” Army combat uniform camouflage cost $2.63 million to develop–and not all are great successes. The Navy has taken heat for its blue Navy Working Uniform Type 1 pattern, which is worn aboard ships, and which critics have said will only work as camouflage if sailors fall overboard.
A 2012 Government Accountability Office report found the Army stood to spend $4 billion over five years as it selected and fielded its next family of camouflage uniforms.
That process is ongoing; the Army is now fielding its Operational Camouflage Pattern, with plans to require its use for all troops by 2019.
The 2017 Senate version of the NDAA must still be reconciled with the House version, which does not include the camouflage provision. That’s expected to happen later this summer.
Editor’s Note: Christopher Molaro is the Co-Founder/CEO of NeuroFlow. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.
I wish I could’ve saved my soldiers.
I was 22 years old when I became a platoon leader overseeing and taking care of 40 soldiers in combat in 2010. At the time, I had only done one tour — 12 months — in Iraq. But many of my soldiers had served four or five tours and had seen much more than I had.
Our job was to drive up and down the International Highway, which connected Kuwait to Iraq, and build relationships with local Iraqi police and sheiks. But we also had to check for improvised explosives, or IEDs.
We didn’t get all of them. In one case, before heading out on a mission, a U.S. envoy truck came careening into our base, half blown to hell and torn to shreds. In the back: three dead bodies. We had missed an IED.
There’s a lot of guilt in seeing something like that, and it can lead to a major symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder called survivor’s remorse. There is a wear on the brain and the body that goes into being in the military, especially for those deployed.
But were you ever to suggest talking to a therapist, you’d be hard-pressed to find many service members who would take you up on it. In the military, getting mental health treatment is viewed as a weakness — which, besides the negative stigma, is just plain wrong. There were soldiers who’d give therapy a try, only to leave after a single session and say, “I don’t feel better. I need to get back to the unit. I need to help out. This is an hour out of my time when I could be spending that with my family.”
And within a few years, there were people in my unit who had attempted suicide. It’s been seven years since I left Iraq, and in that time we’ve lost two people who were in my unit, one of whom I directly oversaw.
(Photo courtesy of Chris Molaro)
As a platoon leader, I viewed it as my responsibility to take care of our soldiers beyond getting the mission done. But with the news of the suicides came a sense that I had failed as their leader. It was my responsibility to take care of these guys, just like they took care of us.
After I retired from the military in 2015, I went to business school in Philadelphia. It had become my mission to find out how I could make our soldiers know that therapy could actually work for them, if only they would stick with it. Just as you wouldn’t return to your normal, daily routine after breaking an arm and undergoing one session with a physical therapist, neither should you expect to be fully recuperated after one session with a mental health professional.
But, I soon realized, to get soldiers into therapy and keep them there, they needed to see — physically, with their own eyes — the progress they were making.
I read up on research that showed how you can use EEG technology, which measures electrical activity in the brain, to also measure one’s emotions. That was when a light bulb just went off, like, “Holy shit, you could make mental health as black and white as a broken arm.”
That meant therapists could measure and track the progress of patients, objectively. And by doing so, they could fight that negative stigma and give people more hope.
So I developed NeuroFlow. The idea is simple: Give therapists a technology that uses basic and affordable medical supplies, like EEGs or heart rate monitors, to examine the health of their clients. That way, patients could see how their heart races — literally — in real time as they talk about something traumatic. And then, over the course of their sessions, they would be able to see their heart rate slow down and return to a more relaxed state as they healed.
This is my new mission: helping the veteran community. With 20 vets killing themselves in the U.S. every day, there is still a lot of work to be done. So I can’t quite say my mission is complete … yet.
This article originally appeared on NationSwell. Follow @NationSwell on Twitter.
Pilots flying into Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday evening reported seeing a man in a jetpack flying at an altitude of around 3,000 feet and about 10 miles from the airport. The first pilot to see the mysterious aviator said he was only about 300 yards away from the plane.
You can hear the exchange of the actual transmission here.
“Tower, American 1997 — we just passed a guy in a jetpack”.
A second pilot also reported seeing a flying apparition in the sky in the same area.
The air traffic controller acknowledged the message and quipped, “Only in LA”.
He then sent a warning to other pilots to use caution when approaching LAX.
While one might think the pilots were seeing things or tired, aviation experts doubt that. Pilots are highly trained and have a great sense of vision and perception. For two pilots on two separate flights to notice the same man in a jetpack gives credibility to the story.
That begs the question. Who was this Rocketeer?
The FAA reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department to investigate it, but after a flyover of the area, the LAPD did not see any flying men.
Jetpack technology has been around for awhile. Anyone old enough to remember will recall the wonder of seeing one at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics. But the technology of jetpacks is limited by two things: altitude and fuel efficiency. Jetpacks can’t get too high off the ground and they can only be in the air for moments at a time. That is what makes this case so perplexing.
Was it a new military device? Did SpaceX create a new jetpack for their Mars mission? Is there a new tech company that is testing a new device?
Well, if there is one way to find out it’s the Feds. The FBI is now looking into the mystery and is hoping to find answers soon.
While there is some type of levity to the story (not the craziest thing to happen in 2020), there is concern of someone or something drifting into the path of an approaching plane. Pilots already must deal with birds and natural objects, but lately also have to keep an eye for drones, balloons and now…. Jetpacks.
After volunteering to deploy to Iraq four times, the Marine Corps finally sent Cpl. Jared Foster to Baghdad in February 2005. He was assigned as a personal security detail driver for VIPs in the Baghdad area when tragedy struck.
Just a month later after being sent to Iraq, Foster was just sitting down in his tent after a fire watch when a weapon discharged. With all the smoke in the tent, Foster thought a grenade had gone off. He was wrong.
“I saw smoke,” he told AZCentral in a 2007 interview. “Then I looked down because I felt something really cold, and when I lifted my hand up, it had blood all over it.”
Foster couldn’t move and couldn’t hear, but tried to yell for help. A .50-caliber rifle discharged from just five feet behind him. The shot should have torn him in half. Instead, it missed his spine and exited through his stomach.
His friends cut off his blouse to tend to his wounds and his intestines fell out. When they told him he was shot by a .50-cal, he didn’t believe them.
“Nah, that would rip your head off, he told them.” He lost consciousness shortly after.
What kind of BMG round went through Foster’s body isn’t clear but the various types of 50-caliber ammunition are commonly used to penetrate vehicle armor or chew through protective cover – like concrete.
Two years later, the Marine told AZCentral that he was evacuated to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center and subsequently underwent some 45 surgeries. He lost his tailbone and suffered damage to his large and small intestines. He was even told he would never walk again.
“I say I don’t have a butt to sit on now, and I really don’t,” Foster is quoted as saying in a Marine Corps Safety Corner. “The only thing that saved my life is I was maybe five to 10 feet away from the .50-cal when it went off, and it didn’t have time to tumble and pick up speed and velocity. It went through me, three feet of wood, four feet of a dirt berm, went another 300 yards and hit another dirt berm.”
Not only did Foster survive the wound, but he was also on his feet and walking within two years of being shot.
“The doctors said they didn’t know if they could save me,” he told the Marine Corps Safety Corner. “They didn’t know how to put me back together because they’d never seen anyone shot by a .50-caliber. The hole in my back was huge. But whatever they did worked.”
“We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith — which both sides are!” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s tweet frames the US suspending war games, seen as a massive win for both China and North Korea in the negotiations, as a thrifty move from the US.
While the military is a huge expenditure for the US, and military drills are costly, their financial cost is comparatively minor compared to the diplomatic bargaining chip they represented.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bridget Keane)
But military drills do more than cost money, they keep the US troops and South Korea safe and ready for combat.
Without military drills, the US forces in South Korea would wither and fail to meet readiness standards. Also, by letting North Korea dictate what the US military does, Trump sends the US down a slippery slope.
The US Army is using its developmental Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) heads-up display, which was created to help soldiers better wage war on future battlefields, to combat the novel coronavirus, the service revealed.
The Army recently tweaked the software for a number of IVAS prototype goggles to allow the devices to detect fevers, and soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia have been using them to scan hundreds of troops on base.
“That’s the genius of this system; we can use this technology today to fight the virus, even as we shape it into the combat system our Soldiers need tomorrow,” Brig. Gen. Tony Potts, who heads PEO Soldier, said in a statement.
The Army has been partnering with Microsoft to create a mixed-reality heads-up display for the dismounted soldier that offers a warfighter immediate access to dozens of valuable combat tools in digital space.
With this system, soldiers can see in the dark, shoot around corners, translate text, take photos and video, and track targets, among other things.
Based on Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, IVAS is the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team’s signature modernization effort, and the team has been pushing forward with its development even as the coronavirus continues to upend plans.
At the same time, the Army has figured out how to use its IVAS head-up display to help combat the virus.
The service is using the system to “rapidly assess the temperature of hundreds of Soldiers as they prepare for training” at Fort Benning, where thousands of soldiers go through a variety of different courses and training programs, the Army said in a statement.
One common symptom among individuals who have been infected by the coronavirus is a fever.
Last week, Tom Bowman, the director of IVAS Science Technology Special Project Office with C5ISR’s Night Vision Laboratory at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, realized that the HUD’s digital thermal sensors used to detect enemies in the dark could be repurposed to spot temperature spikes.
Modified IVAS heads-up displays were quickly sent to Fort Benning, Georgia. With these devices, which display scanned forehead and inner eye temperatures in the user’s goggles, soldiers were able to scan and process around 300 individuals in just 30 minutes.
The Army said that anyone who had a fever was sent to a nearby medical facility for evaluation.
Scanning was carried out indoors in a facility where commercial thermal referencing sources were used to calibrate the devices to room temperature.
“We’ve always planned for an agile software system and a digital platform that can be upgraded and adapted to use against emerging threats in the future. No one anticipated the next threat to emerge would be a virus, but that’s the enemy we face today,” Bowman said in a statement.
If everything goes according to plan, the Army intends to start fielding IVAS goggles to soldiers in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021, in summer of next year.
To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.
The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.
Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.
“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”
Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.
The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.
“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”
Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.
Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.
Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.
BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.
In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The secretary of the Army wants to accelerate research into hypersonic and other advanced weapons as part of the service’s push to modernize its offensive and defensive fires.
Hypersonic weapons, capable of flying at five times the speed of sound or faster, are the key to the service’s top modernization priority — long-range precision fires, Army Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C. Aug. 29, 2018.
“Long-range precision fires at the strategic level is the capability that we need to ensure we have overmatch in future conflicts, and I think that the way to get to it is through hypersonics.”
Esper said he has stressed to the cross-functional team responsible for developing a new generation of long-range precision fires that the Army must move faster to develop hypersonic technology.
“I am pushing them to go as fast as they can, move to the left,” he said, adding that the other services are also working on the technology.
“The services have been working together. We signed a joint agreement, if you will, in terms on how to proceed. The secretary of the Navy and the secretary of the Air Force and I meet constantly on this and other issues where we can work together. We all recognize that that is a key capability for all of us,” he said.
High Speed Strike Weapon
(Lockheed Martin photo)
The Army hopes to develop and field hypersonic weapons by 2028 at the latest, Esper said.
“This is one where, clearly, technology is an issue,” he said. “It’s not like there is one out there right now that I am aware of. … This is one that is going to take some technology development. We are pushing hard because we’ve got to get there first.”
The Army is also trying to accelerate efforts to develop directed-energy weapons for use in air and missile defense, another of the service’s key modernization priorities.
“I think what’s most exciting, and where the Army is making a good deal of progress, is on directed energy, and I think that is the future for the most part because of the volume and speed of shots that it gives you,” Esper said, adding that the service is “putting a lot of our investments” toward powerful lasers designed to be mounted on vehicles.
“We have some things now, and I want to get them out in testing as soon as possible. Within a few years, I want to get something out there,” Esper said. “Initial fielding is something else, but in terms of prototyping, seeing what it can do, I want to get it out sooner rather than later.”
Lasers are a challenge because they can travel a great distance, depending on their power, “so you have safety concerns you have to work through,” he said. “But like everything else, I am pushing folks to move left. Let’s get it out to the field. Let’s let soldiers experiment with it and see how they can best use it. … They will help shape how we think about the importance of lasers in terms of actually firing them, but also how do we integrate them as part of our formation against everything from small drones to cruise missiles to fast movers.”
The Army announced its ambitious plan to modernize its fleet of combat systems in October 2017. In addition to long-range precision fires and air and missile defense, the service has also stood up special cross-functional teams to focus on its next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a mobile network, and soldier lethality.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
From stories of MRE jalapeño cheese-packet mac cheese to homecoming meals made by family members, the fond memories of food while serving can be vivid and sometimes terrifying. Watch how Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets with each course inspired by the veterans’ stories from service.
Amuse: Habanero Truffle Mac Cheese with 3 Cheeses and Leek
David Burnell’s memory comes from the times serving in the Marines when he could take the time to enjoy a self-made concoction of mac and cheese using the jalapeño cheese packet and spaghetti noodle pack from the MRE.
Appetizer: Striped Bass Ceviche with Uni and Yucca Chip
Daphne Bye’s memory is from her father’s traditional Peruvian Ceviche, which he made for her every time she came home. Daphne was brought up on the flavors of South America and would always crave the Ceviche, homemade by her family, especially when away from home for extended periods of time.
1st Course: Short Rib Carne Asada with Platanos and Apricot Mojo
Max Tijerino’s memory comes from his childhood. While he was deployed in the Marines, he would crave his mother’s Nicaraguan version of Carne Asada with fried sweet plantains. It was a dish that would always take him back to being a child, growing up as the son of an immigrant mother in Miami.
Main Course: Beer-Can Roasted Chicken with French Pomme Puree
Jawana McFadden’s memory is from her time in Army training. Her mother, being a vegan, brought her up to eat meat very rarely which lead to Jawana being completely pork-free. During Army training the constant bacon, ham sandwiches, and pork chops forced Jawana to eat nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So coming home, Jawana’s mother went out of her way to make her a beautiful roasted chicken.
The Islamic State group, responsible for some of the worst atrocities perpetrated against civilians in recent history, appears on the verge of collapse.
After brutalizing residents living under its command for more than three years, the militants have now lost their self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa and are battling to hang on to relatively small pockets of territory in Iraq and Syria, besieged by local forces from all sides. Few, however, expect IS to completely go away, or for the bloodshed in the two countries and the region to end quickly.
Here’s a look at the Islamic State group, the rise and fall of its “caliphate” and what to expect next:
A ‘Caliphate’ No More
IS, which emerged from the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq, began its spread across the Mideast in early 2014, overrunning the Iraqi city of Fallujah and parts of the nearby provincial capital of Ramadi. In Syria, it seized sole control of the city of Raqqa after driving out rival Syrian rebel factions.
In June 2014, IS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from where its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared a self-styled “caliphate,” a declaration tantamount to an earthquake that would temporarily redraw borders and shake up the entire region.
IS promised justice, equality, and an Islamic, religious utopia. But over the next few years, it terrorized people living under its control, systematically slaughtering members of Iraq’s tiny Yazidi community, kidnapping women and girls as sex slaves, beheading Western journalists and aid workers, and destroying some of the Mideast’s spectacular archaeological and cultural sites.
IS also attracted a motley crew of foreign fighters, mostly marginalized European youths and other foreigners who took up its cause. But it alienated mainstream Sunni Muslims, who found IS’ crude interpretation of Islam also spreading in areas far from Syria and Iraq.
Creating a territorial caliphate created a target, and an international anti-IS coalition soon took shape.
The United States launched its campaign of airstrikes against IS in Iraq in August 2014, and a month later in Syria. In Iraq, it partnered with government forces working with state-sanctioned Shiite-led militias as well as Iraqi Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga. In Syria, it partnered with local Syrian Kurdish-led fighters, the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Supported by tens of thousands of US-led airstrikes, these forces drove IS militants from one stronghold after another over the years. The biggest blow came in July when Mosul, long regarded as IS’ administrative capital, was liberated.
In Syria, IS appears to be heading for collapse as the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, and Syrian government forces, backed by their Russian allies, are attacking them in separate, simultaneous offensives.
A senior SDF commander on Oct. 17 said his forces liberated Raqqa from IS militants and would formally announce victory soon after clearing operations to remove land mines and search for sleeper cells. Mayadeen, a town in the heart of Syria’s Euphrates River Valley near Iraq’s border where the militants had been expected to make their last stand, fell to Syrian government troops over the weekend.
In northern Iraq, the jihadis no longer hold any cities or towns after their stronghold of Hawija fell earlier this month. Iraq’s army is now gearing up to fight IS in its last territory — the sprawling desert Anbar province stretching all the way to the Syrian border. In Syria, IS still holds the town of Boukamal near the Iraqi border and scattered pockets of territory in the east.
The destruction of IS has come at a devastating cost for both Syria and Iraq, and immense suffering for those who endured the militants’ brutal reign.
The fighting and airstrikes have pulverized once thriving cities, turning them into tragic vistas of crushed apartment blocks, flattened homes and collapsed roads and bridges. In Ramadi, Mosul and Raqqa, the scope of the damage is staggering.
Two weeks ago, the US-led coalition announced it has returned more than 83 percent of IS-held land to local populations since 2014, liberating more than 6 million Syrians and Iraqis in the process. At least 735 civilians have been unintentionally killed by coalition strikes, although activists and war monitors estimate the toll to be much higher.
The nine-month battle to liberate Mosul resulted in the death of up to 1,500 Iraqi forces. At least 1,100 SDF fighters were killed in the battles for Syria’s Raqqa and Deir el-Zour up until late September, according to the coalition.
In the three years since IS began building its “caliphate,” it has killed thousands of people, displaced millions, and worked hard on infusing children with extremist doctrine.
Shifting of Sands
The rise of the Islamic State group and subsequent wars and alliances to bring about its defeat has worsened political and sectarian fault-lines in Syria and Iraq.
It gave unprecedented clout to Kurdish populations in both countries, unsettling their central governments, as well as Iran and Turkey, both battling Kurdish separatists within their own borders.
Under cover of the fight against IS, Iraq’s Kurds seized the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in 2014 — a move Baghdad has now reversed, moving into the city, seizing oil fields and other infrastructure in an attempt to curb Kurdish aspirations for independence.
The shifting and chaotic battlefields in Syria’s civil war, tensions between Kurds and ethnic Arabs, the presence of Shiite militias and government troops in predominantly Sunni towns and cities vacated by IS may lead to more violence.
In many ways, the fight over IS spoils and territories is only just beginning.
All forces battling IS will have to remain vigilant even after they recapture the last militant-held territory. In some ways, they now face an even more daunting challenge.
Hisham al-Hashem, an Iraqi writer and analyst, estimates there remain 8,000 jihadis in Iraq’s Anbar who will melt away “like salt in water” to wait for the right moment to launch their next insurgency or suicide attack.
IS affiliates continue to carry out swift attacks in Egypt and Libya, where the group gained a foothold and which could be its preferred theaters of retaliations. Before it broke away from al-Qaeda and rebranded itself as the Islamic State, al-Qaeda in Iraq waged a years-long insurgency following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, pushing the country to the brink of civil war.