Defense Secretary Mark Esper has made the Trump administration aware of his concerns with the appropriation of the US military’s uniforms by law-enforcement agencies as they face off with protesters in cities like Portland, Oregon, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday afternoon.
“We saw this take place back in June, when there were some law enforcement that wore uniforms that make them appear military,” Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said to reporters, referencing the George Floyd protests throughout the country earlier this year.
“The secretary has a expressed a concern of this within the administration, that we want a system where people can tell the difference,” he added.
The confusion became apparent after video footage and pictures showed law-enforcement officials, many of whom refused to identify themselves or the agency they were working for, wearing the US Army’s camouflage uniform as they confronted demonstrators.
This confusion has been compounded after other activists, such as members of the Boogaloo movement, wore pieces of the same uniform or carried with them military-style gear to the same protests throughout the country.
Customs and Border Protection’s immediate-response force, also known as the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, often wear military uniforms with custom patches.
Members of this group were sent to Portland to quell the protests, which went on for over 50 days and were linked to the defacement of federal buildings, according to CBP. The Border Patrol Tactical Unit’s actions at the protests were scrutinized after video footage showed its agents detaining someone suspected of assault or property destruction and whisking them away in an unmarked minivan. The incident prompted lawmakers to demand an investigation.
US Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, previously highlighted his concerns about the optics of law-enforcement officials dressing like military service members while responding to protests, saying there needs to be clear “visual distinction” between the two organizations.
“You want a clear definition between that which is military and that which is police, in my view,” Milley said during a congressional hearing on July 9. “Because when you start introducing the military, you’re talking about a different level of effort there.”
The Air Force announced Jan. 23, 2019, the details of the fiscal year 2019 Aviation Bonus program.
The fiscal 2019 AvB program is designed to augment continuing aircrew retention efforts across the Air Force, by offering experienced aviators bonuses for signing tier-based contracts, ranging from three to 12 years of continued service.
Congress raised the annual maximum aviation bonus from $25,000 to $35,000 in the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and required the Air Force to present aviation bonuses based on a business case analysis. The Air Force evaluates its rated inventory every year to ensure the AvB program is tailored to meet the service’s needs.
For the fiscal 2019 RegAF program, the following bonus amounts and contract lengths are being offered to active duty aviators whose initial undergraduate flying training service commitment expires in fiscal 2019:
Bomber pilots (11B), fighter pilots (11F) and mobility pilots (11M)
Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to 12 years
Lump-sum, up-front payment options of 0,000 exist for seven to nine year contracts and 0,000 for 10-12 year contracts
Lt. Col. Benjamin Bishop completes preflight checks before his first sortie in an F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Remotely piloted aircraft pilots (18X/11U) and special operations forces pilots (11S)
o Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to twelve years
Command and control/intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance pilots (11R) and combat search and rescue fixed wing pilots (11H)
Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to nine years and ,000 for contract lengths of 10-12 years
A lump-sum, up-front payment option of 0,000 exists for seven to nine year contracts
Combat search and rescue rotary wing pilots (11H)
Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to nine years
Combat systems officers (12X) and air battle managers (13B)
Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to six years and ,000 for contract lengths of seven to nine years
For aviators whose contracts have expired or who have never signed a previous AvB agreement, the following bonus amounts and contract lengths are being offered:
Pilots (11X) and RPA pilots (11U/12U/13U/18X)
Annual payments of ,000 to ,000 based on the three to six year rates of the member’s core community identification as set above for contract lengths ranging from three to nine years
Contracts may not extend the airman beyond 24 years of aviation service
Combat systems officers (12X) and air battle managers (13B)
Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to five years
Eligible airmen must have 19 years or greater of total active federal military Service and contracts may not extend the airman beyond 24 years of aviation service
The application window for airmen interested in applying for the fiscal 2019 AvB program will be open until Aug. 30, 2019. For full eligibility requirements and details about program changes in fiscal 2019, airmen should visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil.
The Polish president has bestowed a high honor on the US Army commander in Europe as Poland marked its Armed Forces Day with a military parade.
President Andrzej Duda bestowed the Commander’s Cross with a Star of the Order of Merit on Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of the US Army in Europe.
Some 1,500 Polish soldiers then paraded in Warsaw, while fighter planes and other aircraft flew in formation above.
Polish President Andrzej Duda. Wikimedia Commons photo by Radosław Czarnecki.
Poland’s marching soldiers were joined by a small unit of US troops, some of the thousands who deployed to Poland this year as part of efforts to reassure European countries concerned about possible Russian aggression.
US Ambassador to Poland Paul Jones said on Twitter that the Americans were proud to march alongside their Polish allies.
The U.S.-led coalition fighting against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria has rejected a claim by the Syrian army that a coalition air strike hit poison gas supplies and killed hundreds of people.
A Syrian army statement shown on Syrian state TV on April 13 said that a strike late on April 12 in the eastern Deir al- Zor Province hit supplies belonging to IS, releasing a toxic substance that killed “hundreds including many civilians.”
“The Syrian claim is incorrect and likely intentional misinformation,” U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the coalition, said in a statement. He said the coalition had carried out no air strikes in that area at that time.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 13 that it had no information on fatalities in a coalition air strike in Deir al-Zor and was sending drones to the area to monitor the situation.
An F-35A Lightning II soars over Hill Air Force Base during a demonstration practice Jan. 10, 2020, at Hill AFB, Utah. The team is now assigned to Air Combat Command at the 388th Fighter Wing.
There are so many things that make the super bowl one of our favorite times of the year; the halftime show, the food, the tailgates and oh yeah, the game. But there is nothing that gets you more amped up for kickoff than a fighter jet screaming over the stadium as the high notes of the national anthem are being hit.
How do they decide who gets to fly in the Super Bowl flyover? Well this year’s honors came down to luck.
Major Alex Horne displays the challenge coin that decided who would get to fly in the Super Bowl LIV flyover.
Tessa Robinson/We Are The Mighty
At The NFL Experience’s USAA Salute to Service lounge, We Are the Mighty spoke to members of VMAFT-140, specifically the F-35 pilots assigned to the flyover for Super Bowl LIV in Miami, FL. Marine Major Hedges told WATM, “It’s a dream to fly over the Super Bowl on game day and it’s hard to choose … so we did what most Marines would do. We tossed a coin.”
It came down to Major Adam Wellington (callsign “Zombie”) and Major Alex Horne (callsign “Ape”). They used their squadron coin to call it. The front of the coin has a blue background, emblazoned with the words VMFAT-501 Warlords with an F-35 set across some lightning, while the back mimics the squadron patch and is largely silver.
“I called blue,” Ape said. “I lost the toss.” He said he was crushed, of course, but still thrilled to be in Miami as part of the squadron and to experience Super Bowl fever, even if they aren’t going to the game.
The most interesting thing about pleading guilty to a capital crime in a military court is the defendant needs to be able to convince the presiding judge that he or she is actually guilty of the crime, and not just taking the deal to avoid the death penalty. Another interesting tidbit is that defense lawyers can only allow the defendant to make such a plea if they truly believe he or she is guilty.
So when Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez offered to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty for murdering two of his officers in Iraq, you’d think that would be a gift to the prosecution. You’d think that, you really would.
Lt. Allen left behind four children with his wife.
Martinez convinced his lawyers of his guilt and offered to plead guilty to premeditated murder, convince the judge, and avoid the death penalty. He was willing to testify that he threw a claymore mine into the window of a CHU occupied by his commanding officers, Capt. Phillip T. Esposito and First Lt. Louis E. Allen on a U.S. military base near Tikrit, Iraq in 2005.
The claymore exploded and tore the two sleeping officers to shreds, as it was designed to do. It was the first fragging accusation of the Global War on Terror. Witnesses told the 14-member jury that Esposito derided Martinez for his lax operation of the unit’s supply room. Another witness testified that she had delivered the murder weapon to Martinez a month prior. Another witness said Martinez simply watched the explosion happen, unconcerned about a follow-on attack. It was a well-known fact that Martinez and Esposito did not get along.
A temporary memorial for US Army officers Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen erected in Tikrit, Iraq in June 2005 after both officers were killed in an alleged fragging incident at Forward Operating Base Danger on June 7, 2005.
Martinez was arrested and transferred to Fort Bragg for trial. A New York Times investigation revealed that Martinez offered the guilty plea two full years before his trial ever took place – but the offer was rejected by the prosecution, who wanted to send Martinez to death row.
If the defense offered it to the prosecution, it means they truly believed their client was guilty, as per Army regulations. Then Martinez would have to convince the judge of his guilt. The judge could then accept or reject the plea. Martinez never made it to the judge. The Army took it to trial and lost their case against Martinez in just six weeks.
Esposito with his daughter Madeline before deploying in 2005.
The defense argued that all the evidence and witness accounts were purely circumstantial and since no one took receipt of the claymores, which was usual for the Army then, it can’t be proven that Martinez had access to them or even knew the rarely-used mines were available.
Martinez was cleared of the charges, released from prison, and honorably discharged from the Army. He died in January 2017 of unknown causes, and no charges have ever been filed for the deaths of Capt. Esposito and Lt. Allen.
More than $1 million in weapons parts and sensitive military equipment was stolen out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and sold in a vast black market, some of it to foreign buyers through eBay, according to testimony at a federal trial this week.
The equipment — some of it re-sold to buyers in Russia, China, Mexico, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine — included machine gun and rifle parts, body armor, helmets, gun sights, generators, medical equipment, and more.
John Roberts, of Clarksville, Tennessee, is being tried in Nashville on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to steal and sell government property, and violating the Arms Export Control Act. Six soldiers and his civilian business partner made plea deals in exchange for their testimony.
Roberts, 27, testified Aug. 30 that he did not know the soldiers were bringing him stolen equipment, and said the military items he bought and sold were commonly found in surplus stores, on eBay, and in gun stores.
“I didn’t try to hide anything,” Roberts said Aug. 30. “That’s why I filed taxes on everything I sold on eBay. I thought it was OK.”
Roberts said the soldiers told him the equipment was legally purchased from other soldiers or that the Army was discarding the equipment. He also said he didn’t know that he needed to have a license to export certain items overseas.
But a former business partner, Cory Wilson, testified that he and Roberts would find soldiers selling military items through classified ads or on Facebook, and then ask them for more expensive and harder-to-find items. It was “fast easy money,” Wilson said. Wilson pleaded guilty to buying and selling stolen military equipment, wire fraud, and violating the Arms Export Control Act.
The soldiers they targeted were often young and broke or needed money for drugs, Wilson said, so “there were a lot of items and good money to be made.”
Wilson and Roberts shared a warehouse in Clarksville where they stored the equipment, but Roberts said they were not sharing funds. Roberts said the two just had a shared interest in selling things on eBay.
Wilson said Roberts set up multiple accounts to sell the equipment on eBay. They removed packaging that identified it as government property and used fake descriptions on shipping labels to avoid suspicion, he said. Under questioning from Roberts’ defense attorney, David Cooper, Wilson acknowledged that he initially lied to investigators about knowing the equipment wasn’t allowed to be shipped overseas.
In 2014, the US Customs and Border Protection agency notified Roberts that it had seized a military flight helmet he tried to ship overseas. The Customs letter noted that he was required to have a license to export that item. Roberts said he didn’t remember reading that paragraph. Roberts also testified that he changed descriptions and values on shipping labels to minimize the risk of customs theft in other countries and to lower import taxes for the overseas buyers.
Michael Barlow, a former Fort Campbell platoon sergeant who pleaded guilty to theft of government property and conspiracy, testified that they started small, but eventually escalated to truckloads of military equipment. He said Roberts even gave him a “Christmas list” of items he wanted the soldiers to steal in Afghanistan and bring back to the United States.
“They wanted more and more, mostly weapons parts,” Barlow testified.
Barlow said his company came home with five large cargo containers filled with equipment as the US military drew down troops and closed bases in Afghanistan. Barlow said he and other soldiers sometimes got $1,000 to $2,000 per truckload.
One non-commissioned officer was even charging civilian buyers $500 to come onto Fort Campbell to select items for purchase, Barlow said.
Roberts said he was invited to come on the Fort Campbell military post to look at cargo containers belonging to Barlow’s unit. Roberts said he was told the containers needed to be cleaned out of “pretty used stuff,” and that he took some items. He said the transaction occurred in broad daylight in front of other soldiers.
The conspiracy allegedly continued from 2013 into 2016. Text messages between the soldiers and the civilians pointed to regular meet-ups to swap cash for ballistic plates, helmets, scopes, and gun sights, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sarah Perry, an agent with the Army Criminal Investigation Command.
One sergeant, identified in court as “E5 Rick,” texted Roberts about going “hunting” while on duty, which meant he was breaking into cars to steal equipment, Perry testified on Aug. 29.
The Army identified about five surplus stores around Fort Campbell that were selling military equipment through backdoor deals, she said.
Roberts’ defense attorney David Cooper asked Perry if she could prove that the equipment offered on eBay, or that Roberts had pictures of on his phone, was stolen from Fort Campbell. Perry said that in many cases she could not, because many of the stolen items did not have serial numbers, but were similar to items reported stolen.
Another former Fort Campbell soldier, Jonathan Wolford, testified on Aug. 30 that he and another soldier, Dustin Nelson, took about 70 boxes of weapons parts and other gear, some of it labeled with the name of their company, to Wilson and Roberts, who paid them $1,200. Wolford plead guilty to conspiracy to steal government property.
They were both in charge of their company’s arms supply room at the time, Wolford said, and started selling equipment that wasn’t listed in the company’s property books, including machine gun barrels, M4 rifle parts, pistol grips, buttstocks, and other items typically used to repair weapons.
Asked in court why he didn’t ask for more money, Wolford said, “I was making a little bit of money. I didn’t pay anything for it.”
“Back in the days when I got injured while serving overseas, the program to recover wasn’t like the WTB (Warrior Transition Battalion) is now,” explained Capt. David Espinoza, a wounded warrior athlete who is competing at the 2019 Army Trials, March 5-16, 2019.
Espinoza is a light-hearted, Florida-native, and also a Purple Heart recipient who has spent over a decade serving his country. Currently assigned to WTB-Hawaii, he is recovering from a motorcycle accident and receiving care at Tripler Army Medical Center. There he completed seven surgeries and received 26 pins in his left hand.
“The WTB is a great program because the unit has given me time to recover and get ‘back into the fight,'” he said. “And being a part of the WTB has also helped me to recover from my previous deployments.”
Espinoza was first led down the road to recovery in 2007 when the signal officer, a sergeant at the time, was deployed to Iraq. During a night convoy mission, Espinoza’s squad was ambushed by insurgents when his Humvee got hit by an IED and he fractured his left arm and femur.
Staff Sgt. Kohl McLeod, a wounded warrior athlete from Fort Benning gets ready to shoot a bow at archery practice during the 2019 Army Trials.
(Photo by Leanne Thomas)
“I saw a bright light and my life flashed right before me … it was like shuffling a deck of cards,” he said. “The first card was me as a kid … then I recalled my entire life, all the way to current time.”
That experience, he explained, “Was an eye-opener, and it makes me feel grateful for what I have now.”
While recovering from injuries sustained during combat, Espinoza entered the U.S. Army Reserves and said he made a full recovery but went through the experience alone. Now assigned to a Warrior Transition Unit and competing in adaptive sports, Espinoza has the opportunity to heal alongside soldiers who have faced or are going through similar situations.
“It’s an honor to experience this event with other fellow warriors,” Espinoza explained.
The 2018 Pacific Regional Trials was Espinoza’s first adaptive sports competition. There he established a baseline to see where he stands as a competitor.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement … mind, body, and soul,” he said. “This experience has made a big impact on me, and also for my family.”
Now a rookie athlete at the 2019 Army Trials, Espinoza is competing in seven of the 14 sports offered: cycling, powerlifting, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, rugby, and swimming.
“I’m really looking forward to competing in wheelchair basketball, but one thing I didn’t know is that I’m actually good at cycling,” the athlete explained. “It’s like a mind game and you’ve got to tell yourself ‘I’ve got this,’ because it’s seven laps, and those seven laps take a long time to finish.”
During the Trials, Espinoza, along with nearly 100 other wounded, ill, or injured soldiers and veterans are competing for the opportunity to represent Team Army at the Department of Defense Warrior Games, coming June 2019 to Tampa, Florida.
“Hopefully this experience keeps going so I can continue to learn and grow as I take this journey to the next level,” he said.
Only a few have gone through the extensive background checks needed to access Plum Island — where a secretive branch of the US government runs exercises to prepare for all-out cyber war.
The speck of land in the Long Island Sound, owned by the Department of Homeland Security is largely deserted. The main attractions are a defunct lighthouse and a center that studies infectious animal diseases.
It is also the perfect setting for the US government to stage mock cyber attacks on the power grid.
Every six months, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — part of the Pentagon — ferries over experts who work to jumpstart a dead grid, while warding off a series of cyber threats.
A map showing the location of Plum Island, New York.
The exercise prepares them for a worst case scenario: if hackers succeed in taking the US electric system offline.
The country’s security services blamed Russia, which had occupied Crimea shortly before, and would ultimately annex it from Ukraine.
The US has not yet seen an attack on its grid. But the FBI and DHS warned that Russian government hackers have in the past managed to access other critical infrastructure like the energy, nuclear, and manufacturing sectors.
DARPA staged what a cyber attack on the US power grid could look like in November 2018.
(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)
Walter Weiss, the program manager overseeing the DARPA exercises, told Business Insider that his team is one of many studying how to defend the grid.
Weiss also sent Business Insider images of the site where DARPA carries out its operations.
“What we do that’s different is that we start from the assumption that an attack would be successful,” Weiss said.
“What scares us is that once you lose power it’s tough to bring it back online… Doing that during a cyber attack is even harder because you can’t trust the devices you need to restore power for that grid.”
Without electricity, the experts cannot count on light, phone service, or access to the computer networks they need to restart the grid. Their only source of power are old-fashioned generators which need to be refueled constantly.
That means the the specialists cannot focus solely on fighting off cyber attacks, Weiss said, because so much of their focus is taken up with other things.
Experts have to jumpstart a dead grid during the exercise.
Without being able to communicate, the tiniest misstep can set the team back dramatically.
Practicing on Plum Island in particular is useful, Weiss said, because it mimics the isolation that could come with a full-scale cyber attack on the mainland.
“That’s something we like about the island: You have what you brought with you,” he said.
With the exercise, DARPA hopes to reduce how interdependent the different teams are, because it is so hard to coordinate. The less time they need to waste trying to stay in contact, the quicker they can get power back to a population waiting in darkness.
Especially in a developed country like the US, every aspect that citizens consider a basic necessity would be affected — from light, to communication, to running water, to transportation.
“I’m trying to think through whose life would still be normal in the US or in England without power,” Weiss said. “I’m having a really hard time.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia will deploy what’s been described as the deadliest nuclear weapon ever aboard mysterious submarines by 2020, Russian state media said, citing a Russian defense-industry source.
The “Poseidon” nuclear-powered torpedo — reputed to carry a 100 megaton nuclear warhead and meant to erupt underwater for maximum effect — will reportedly deploy aboard the Project 09852 sub Belgorod, which is a converted nuclear-powered cruise-missile sub expected to go on combat duty in 2020.
The Russian state news agency TASS said the new Belgorod subs could carry six of the Poseidon nuclear torpedoes, which are sometimes described as drones.
But Russia will reportedly not operate the mysterious submarine alongside its regular armed forces or other nuclear-powered subs. The Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research will run the ship, according to H.I. Sutton, who said the Belgorod would conduct covert missions with a smaller submarine in tow.
Silhouette of soviet Oscar-II class guided-missile submarine, or Project 949A, “Antey.”
“Russia operates a small number of very small, nuclear-powered submarines that are capable of diving in excess of several thousand meters,” Andrew Metrick, a research associate in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in 2016.
“It’s probably the most shadowy part of the Russian undersea apparatus,” he added.
The new Belgorod submarine is “not operated by their navy. It’s operated by a separate branch of their ministry of defense,” Metrick said.
In addition to six Poseidon torpedoes that experts say could wipe out almost all life on earth, Metrick and Sutton speculated the Belgorod could carry a smaller sub that could dive deeper to cut undersea cables and dramatically disrupt international communications and national economies.
A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo seen on Russian television in 2015.
Unstoppable 3rd-strike vengeance weapon
Russian President Vladimir Putin initially announced the Poseidon in a March 1, 2018, speech, in which he said US defenses could not stop it. Of course, the US has no defenses against any full-scale Russian nuclear attack, but in the case of undersea defenses, the US appears not to have even explored this avenue.
In that speech, Putin confirmed the existence of the Poseidon, which has horrified experts since images of it first leaked in 2015.
The US and other countries field nuclear-powered submarines capable of firing nuclear missiles, but the Poseidon represents a unique danger to life on earth. Most nuclear weapons seek to minimize radioactive fallout and simply destroy military targets. Russia took the opposite approach with the Poseidon.
The weapon is said to use a warhead, perhaps the strongest ever, designed to come into direct contact with water, marine animals, and the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over hundreds of thousands of miles of land and sea, and render them uninhabitable for decades.
In short, while most nuclear weapons can end a city, Russia’s Poseidon could end a continent.
Russia has also repeatedly threatened the US and Europe with the weapon, which it said it could park off a coast and detonate at a time of its choosing.
(Screenshot/YouTube via Russian Defense Ministry)
Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, previously told Business Insider that rather than a first- or second-strike weapon, he sees Russia’s new torpedo as a “third-strike vengeance weapon” designed to shatter NATO.
While a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia would cause incredible death and destruction, and plunge much of the world into the dark ages, a stealthy submarine designed to launch six “doomsday” devices would be the most deadly weapon in human history and pose a direct threat to life on earth.
The inclusion of a mini-sub, which experts speculate could destroy vital undersea cables and is operated by a shadowy branch of Russia’s military, suggests another clandestine purpose for this weapon.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis offered strikingly different perspectives on Russian President Vladimir Putin in the course of just a few hours on June 15, 2018.
Speaking with reporters outside of the White House, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama, not Putin, for the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.
“President Obama lost Crimea because president Putin didn’t respect President Obama, didn’t respect our country and didn’t respect Ukraine,” Trump said.
Trump also said it’s “possible” he could meet with Putin summer 2018.
This followed comments Trump made at the recent G7 summit in Canada in which he called for Russia to be readmitted to the group. Moscow was booted from the group (then the G8) due to its annexation of Crimea.
“Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run,” Trump said at the time. “And in the G7, which used to be the G8 — they threw Russia out — they should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”
Comparatively, as Trump called for America’s allies to rekindle relations with Russia despite its aggression in Ukraine, Mattis ripped into Putin at a graduation ceremony at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
“Putin seeks to shatter NATO. He aims to diminish the appeal of the western democratic model and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority, his actions are designed not to challenge our arms at this point but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals,” Mattis said.
Trump and his top advisers have often spoken of Russia and Putin in decidedly different terms, and he has been widely criticized for praising the Russian leader at various times in the past.
Moreover, the president has repeatedly downplayed Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election, even as his senior advisers have continuously warned that Moscow will meddle in future US elections.
Disrupting terrorist networks is inherently difficult, and success is difficult to measure. Clandestine by nature, these groups generally hide their internal functions, institutions, and various chains of command. While a potentially vast cadre of fighters, sympathizers, and suppliers wait in the wings, the outside world only glimpses a few leaders, who often serve as figureheads for their organizations.
With little else to go on, states often make targeting these leaders a key priority. From the Shining Path in Peru to ISIL in Syria and Iraq, security forces carry out operations to capture or kill mid- and upper-level leaders in the hopes that their absence will be the knockout blow necessary to defeat a terrorist organization. Recent attention has turned to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who is rumored to be still alive. Intelligence gathering and planning is likely underway in multiple countries to capture or kill the man who continues to lead one of the world’s deadliest terror groups. But is leadership decapitation, as this strategy is known, effective?
Leadership decapitation rests on a simple principle: taking out a key player in a terrorist group in the hope that his or her absence destroys morale and slows the group’s operational tempo. Such strategies can target both leaders – who may hold symbolic and strategic importance – and tactical experts who might be hard to replace, like bomb makers. The policy has played an important role in U.S. counterterrorism policy since 9/11, recently receiving praise from Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
While the logic is clear, the strategy’s results are mixed and depend on the terrorist group’s internal dynamics. Smaller, younger groups – variously defined – are more susceptible to the effects of leadership decapitation, as are groups without an established bureaucracy. Group type is thought to play a role as well, with religiously-oriented groups being better able to withstand the loss of a leader. Most vulnerable are groups that lean heavily on a single, charismatic leader who plays a central role in the organization.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Leadership decapitation has ended some groups. The capture of Abimael Guzman and 14 other leaders of the Shining Path in 1992 quickly reduced the group to a shadow of its former self. The group struggled to recover after the capture of Guzman, who exercised near-total control. After the assassination of Fathi Shaqaqi in 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) struggled to find a capable successor and only recovered years later.
However, not all groups fall into these categories. With its deep roots in a conflict that extends back decades, raids and airstrikes have killed a number of Al-Shabaab leaders, yet it continues to carry out deadlyattacks, including an October 2017 truck bombing that killed more than 500 Somalis. Al-Qaeda has suffered the loss of a number of key leaders, including founder Osama Bin Laden and leaders of its Yemeni and Syrian branches. Despite these losses from 2011 to 2015, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) managed to hang on and even expand its operations in Yemen until coordinated US-UAE operations in 2016 forced the group to engage in direct combat, which reduced – but did not eliminate – the threat posed by the group in Yemen.
Perhaps no group is more emblematic of resilience in the face of leadership decapitation than ISIL itself. Airstrikes, battles, and military operations have killed many of the group’s leaders within Syria and Iraq and its numerous regional affiliates. Despite this, the group has proven capable of finding replacements. When ISIL’s chief strategist and number two, Mohammed al-Adnani, was killed in late August 2016, the group announced his replacement about two months later. ISIL continues to maintain the ability to launch deadly attacks via its worldwide cells and those inspired by its calls to violence, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Egypt.
As evidenced above, ISIL does not fit the profile of terrorist groups vulnerable to the effects of leadership decapitation. Its well-known penchant for bureaucracy has allowed slain leaders to be quickly replaced. While the loss of ISIL leaders has likely impacted the organization, it arguably has been affected to a greater degree by the overwhelming firepower directed at the organization from every level, not just its leaders. US strikes have pounded the group’s military positions, financial stores, and its fighters at every level, not just its leader. The redundancy within ISIL’s organization and the lack of a single, charismatic leader mean that finding competent replacements is not a life or death decision for the terror group.
Lt. Col. Rod Coffey and the insurgent flag his unit captured in Diyala Province, Iraq, in 2008. The same banner would eventually be used by the Islamic State.
(U.S. Army photo)
The most frightening aspect of ISIL’s lethality comes from the cells and sympathizers strewn across the world. Central leadership can plan and order these attacks, but cells with organic roots in localized conflicts can also plan and influence their own operations. While ISIL has been reduced to a sliver of its former territory in Iraq and Syria, the threat posed by its worldwide affiliates is unlikely to disappear with Baghdadi.
To be fair, the choice to pursue terrorist leaders is not a purely strategic calculation. Arguments about the effects of leadership on terrorists’ operational capacity mean little to those who have lost loved ones or live in fear because of terrorist attacks. And when dealing with groups that have almost no public presence, targeting leaders is often one of the only options available. It would be unwise to dismiss these other considerations for pursuing a decapitation strike out of hand, just as it would be unwise to assume that killing Baghdadi or any other leader is necessarily a knockout blow.
There is little doubt that ISIL, while still dangerous, is a weakened organization. Recent success in pushing back the group – a refreshing change from 2014 and 2015, when it appeared ready to roll over much of Syria and Iraq – is owed to several factors. A growing international recognition of the threat posed by ISIL, a crackdown on those traveling to and from Syria and Iraq, and overwhelming firepower directed against the group in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere have all played a role in reducing the threat. However, there is little reason to believe that what threat remains of ISIL would disappear with Baghdadi, especially in light of the group’s demonstrated resilience and commitment to terror.
Everybody knows that the GI Bill is for college, but did you know you can use it for things other than a typical brick-and-mortar institution of higher learning? Here are four VA-approved ways you can use that benefit to better fit your goals in life.
*Note: While Veterans Affairs has confirmed that each of the schools listed here are approved institutions for using the GI Bill, you should always consult with your VA representative before making decisions regarding benefits.
1. Be the best bartender you can be!
While the GI Bill itself does not actually cover bartending school, try to find an accredited school with degree programs in culinary arts. If you can manage that, your course load will most likely include classes that involve various aspects of drinkology, an academic counselor at Culinary Institute of America told WATM.
The institute- which is best known as the CIA- is a VA-approved school.
2. Make Mary Jane your money making biotch
With the rise in the legalization of cannabis — both for medicinal and recreational purposes — across the country, professionals within the cannabis industry are going to be in high demand.
There are three different areas within the weed world to look at: chemists, horticulturist and dispensary managers.
Chemists and dispensary managers can be made through any traditional college route, but to be a cannabis grower, you can attend an horticulture school that offers degrees or certificates in horticulture.
3. Show everyone that you have the perfect face for radio
The Academy of Radio and Television Broadcasting offers an intensive course of study in radio and television broadcasting. Students at the Academy learn everything a normal college student learns in a four-year broadcasting degree- but in a much shorter time and without the requirement to invest in typical “core” classes.Core classes in math and science don’t typically translate into radio and television broadcasting, so the concept behind the school is to focus solely on broadcasting.
This cuts the typical four year program down to a mere seven months.
Tuition for the entire program is roughly $15,000.
4. Dive for buried treasure.
Well, be a commercial diver, anyway. The Divers Institute of Technology actually prefers veterans, and it is (and always has been) owned and operated by veterans.
The Divers Institute’s website claims, “you’ll get lots of hands-on, in-the-water training during your seven month program. We’ll teach you surface and underwater welding, cutting, and burning. You’ll learn diving physics and medicine, safety, rigging, salvage, hazmat, inland and offshore diving and more.”