On April 25, Iraqi troops drove out Islamic State militants from the largest neighborhood in the western half of the city of Mosul, a senior military commander said, a major development in the months-long fight to recapture the country’s second-largest city.
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul “fully liberated” in January, after officially launching the operation to retake the city in October.
In February, the troops started a new push to clear Mosul’s western side of IS militants, but weeks later their push stalled mainly due to stiff resistance by the Sunni militant group.
On April 25, special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi told The Associated Press that the sprawling al-Tanek neighborhood was now “fully liberated and under full control” of the security forces. Al-Saadi did not provide more details.
Also April 25, the government-sanctioned paramilitary troops, made up mainly of Shiite militiamen, launched a new push to retake the town of Hatra to the south of Mosul. The force’s spokesman, Ahmed al-Asadi, said the operation is being conducted from three directions with aerial support from the Iraqi Air Force. Al-Asadi did not elaborate.
Hatra is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site of the same name that was destroyed by IS as part of the militant’s efforts to demolish archaeological sites in and around Mosul. The extremists consider the priceless archaeological treasures — some dating back as far as 3,000 B.C. — as idolatry but have at the same time smuggled and sold many looted artifacts to fund their war.
Mosul fell to IS in the summer of 2014, along with large swaths of northern and western Iraq.
President Donald Trump canceled joint military exercises with South Korea as a concession to the North for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during his summit with Kim Jong Un in June 2018, but a White House statement released on Aug. 29, 2018, warned that, if he decides to restart the drills, the war games “will be far bigger than ever before.”
Negotiations between the US and North Korea have hit a snag. Aug. 24, 2018, the president canceled what would have been Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth trip to Pyongyang after receiving a reportedly “belligerent” letter that warned that talks are “again at stake and may fall apart.”
In the White House statement, Trump put the blame for the breakdown in bilateral negotiations on China, which the president accused of providing the North with assistance that Trump characterized as “not helpful!” He suggested that China is pressuring North Korea to act out due to Beijing’s dissatisfaction with the ongoing trade spat with Washington.
A report from Vox on Aug. 29, 2018, however, suggested that North Korea may be expressing frustration with the Trump administration’s failure to make a good on a reported promise Trump made to Kim in Singapore, a promise to sign a declaration ending the Korean War.
The president explained that, despite setbacks, he considers his relationship with North Korea to be a “warm one,” adding that he sees no reason to spend “large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games.”
He is apparently optimistic that his administration will be able to resolve disputes with both China and North Korea in an acceptable manner.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis explained Aug.28, 2018, at the Pentagon that the US suspended several large joint exercises in 2018 to provide space for American diplomats to negotiate with their North Korean counterparts to address key issues.
He left the door open for the possibility that joint drills with South Korea could resume should conditions require such an action.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The American commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria says a Russian air strike in northern Syria accidently struck U.S.-backed Syrian Arab forces and nearly bombed U.S. troops who are part of the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS) militants.
U.S. Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said on March 1 that Russian planes likely thought they were bombing IS positions in villages near Al-Bab to the northeast of Aleppo.
He said the confusion came amid “a very complicated battlefield situation where essentially three armies and an enemy force have all converged” within the same 1-kilometer area.
Townshend said U.S. military advisers were about four kilometers from the February 28 air strike and used “deconfliction channels” set up for communication between Russia and the United States to warn the Russian pilots off.
He said the information quickly reached the pilots, who then ended the bombing.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said “neither Syrian nor Russian aviation delivered strikes against areas designated by the U.S. side” as locations of pro-U.S. opposition forces.
Townshend said he believes the Russians thought they were attacking IS positions in the village. But he said IS fighters had withdrawn before the bombing, and opposition fighters from the so-called Syrian Arab Coalition had moved in.
The South China Sea is a powder keg, and one senior Chinese military officer seems interested in lighting the fuse.
Dai Xu, a People’s Liberation Army Air Force colonel commandant and the president of China’s Institute of Marine Safety and Cooperation, suggested at a conference in Beijing on Dec. 8, 2018, that the Chinese navy should use force to counter US freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, Taiwan News reported.
Taiwan News cited a report from Global Times, the nationalist, state-backed Chinese tabloid that hosted the conference, that quoted him as saying: “If the US warships break into Chinese waters again, I suggest that two warships should be sent: one to stop it, and another one to ram it … In our territorial waters, we won’t allow US warships to create disturbance.”
Dai, known for his hawkish rhetoric, argued that the US Navy’s operations are provocations aimed at undermining China’s sovereignty rather than an attempt to ensure freedom of navigation in international waters. The US Navy regularly sails destroyers and cruisers past Chinese-occupied territories in the South China Sea, while US Air Force bombers tear past on routine overflights that often ruffle Beijing’s feathers.
In the latest operation, in late November 2018, the US Navy sent the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville to challenge China’s claims near the Paracel Islands.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.
The Global Times is known for its often provocative articles, designed to differ from the more rigid state media outlets like Xinhua and appeal to an alternative audience. Dai’s rhetoric at the conference appears consistent with that, as he seemed to welcome an increase in tensions and suggest that confrontation in the South China Sea could create an opportunity for mainland China to retake Taiwan.
“It would boost the speed of our unification of Taiwan,” he was quoted as telling the conference, adding: “Let’s just be prepared and wait. Once a strategic opportunity emerges, we should be ready to take over Taiwan.”
Dai’s comments about the use of force in the South China Sea came on the heels of a near-miss incident in September 2018, in which a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer confronted the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during an operation in the Spratly Islands.
During the incident, which the US characterized as “unsafe,” the Chinese vessel appeared to make preparations to ram the American warship and force it off course. A foreign-policy expert described the showdown as “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
My great uncle deployed to Vietnam when he was around 21 years old. I didn’t know about his deployment until I found out I was deploying to Afghanistan in 2009. My uncle, unlike most of the friends and family I had, knew the reality of what was coming. He had already supported me as a military service member, but when the word deployment became a part of the conversation, everything changed.
It wasn’t until my first care package from my uncle arrived that I realized how deeply our paths were connected. The care packages he sent were different from all the other care packages I received. Each one told a story. It could have been the contents of the box or the letter it contained. But no care package was sent without thought and care of what he would have liked to have opened while serving overseas. It was different from all the other care packages because he had been on the receiving end before.
One care package he sent had the book, The Pearl by John Steinbeck. The book on its own would have been nice to have something to read, but there was a story that went with it. In one care package he received from a family in Coos Bay Oregon for Christmas in 1967, he received The Pearl and read it throughout his deployment. I read it too. And sitting on my bunk in my tent, I felt a connection. That book, unlike most of the books I received, made it home with me and sits on my shelf. And every time I see it, I think of my uncle and the bond we share.
Years later after coming home I wanted to do a series for my blog focused on deployment stories. I loved reading the stories in the letters from my uncle and it inspired me to search out more stories and create a series with stories from the past and present-day wars. Not surprisingly, I was excited to include my uncle in this series. So, I sent off my questions and waited for a response. To my surprise, the response was not full of distant stories and fond memories. Instead, I could feel the hurt and pain that deployment can sometimes bring when hidden inside for years. It was something I had struggled with at times as well. Dark memories are sometimes easier to keep hidden.
I was disappointed with his short answers, but I understood his pain. Even though I write and talk about my deployment, sometimes questions can hit me off guard and a wall can go up so fast. And so, I quickly expressed an apology for bringing up pain and thanked him for the answers I received while I also worked to change my questions to focus on the story and not the combat. I was not giving up hope that a story was there.
He responded with an apology and a chance to start again. He said he had reread his answers and realized he was blunt and grumpy. Instead of receiving one-word answers and angry responses I received pieces of history gifted to me through his words and photos. It was a treasured gift and opened my eyes to the history of the Vietnam War and the struggles and challenges he faced. You can read the full interview here.
And it may seem silly or trivial to say that one interview, one group of questions, could help someone who had been hurt so deeply from war and then by those who treated him with indifference on his way home, heal. But there is power in telling your story. There is power in bringing the darkness to light. He once told me, “Until you asked about it, it never occurred to me that anyone would be interested in my story because I made it home in one piece when so many of my buddies didn’t…”
But the story isn’t over. My uncle continues his healing journey and is signed up and waiting for his turn to attend an Honor Flight to Washington DC. He talked about the excitement, anticipation and so many other emotions of going to the Vietnam Memorial and what that trip means to him. He knows it is the next step in his journey and knows it will mean a lot to him.
I never thought my deployment experience would have such an impact on my uncle’s life. I did not realize that the path to my deployment would cause me to want to hear more stories and share more experiences with others. How many people are out there thinking no one wants to know about their experience because they came home alive? But it is through the stories of those who are still alive that we can honor the legacy of those we lost.
There is so much power in telling your story and it is part of the healing journey. It likely won’t be easy but it is so important to share.
Do you know someone who has deployed to Vietnam?
Be sensitive, open and sincere and ask them about their story. Know that they might not be ready to tell their story, but you will never know if you don’t ask. And even if you never hear their story the power of asking one question can help them realize they do have a story to share and that might just be the first step in their journey that they need.
NATO is about to kick off its largest military exercises since the Cold War, which will include more than 50,000 troops from 31 countries.
The military exercises, known as Trident Juncture 2018, will be held from Oct. 25 — Nov. 7, 2018, in Norway.
One of the countries participating in the exercises is non-NATO member Sweden, which has grown increasingly concerned about neighboring Russia, especially after Moscow apparently targeted it during a simulated nuclear strike in 2013.
Now, Sweden is bringing about 1,900 troops to Trident Juncture 2018, along with two stealthy Visby-class corvettes, the HMS Karlstad and HMS Nyköping.
The two corvettes will be integrated into Standing NATO Maritime Group One, which is basically NATO’s standing frigate force, Lt. Jimmie Adamsson, a public affairs officer for the Swedish Navy, told Business Insider.
Here’s what the corvettes can do.
The Swedish Visby-class corvette HMS Nyköping (K34) transits the Baltic Sea during BALTOPS 2017.
(US Navy photo)
Sweden has five Visby-class corvettes, with the first being delivered in 2002 and the last two, the Karlstad and Nyköping, in 2015.
The corvettes are mainly designed for anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures, but the Karlstad is used more as an attack and anti-surface warfare vessel.
HMS Karlstad comes alongside in Trondheim prior participating in Exercise Trident Juncture 18.
Adamsson said that the Swedish Navy has thus far been happy with the Visby-class corvettes. They have yet to see combat, and were delivered later than expected, but the stealth technology has proven capable in all aspects.
The Visby-class is designed to minimize radar signals, optical and infrared signatures, magentic signatures, and more.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Two Belgian physicists have analyzed both Russia and Turkey’s stories surrounding the Russian Su-24 that was shot down by a Turkish F-16 on Nov. 24. Their conclusion is that both countries are making claims that are physically impossible.
Physicists Tom van Doorsslaere and Giovanni Lapenta checked into Turkey’s claims and concluded that two of them were likely false. They reject the claim that the jet spent 17 seconds in Turkish air space and that the Turkish military issued ten warnings to the Russian jet.
The physicists also assert that Russia’s map showing the route of their jet is also bogus because the course change claimed by Russia could not have been caused by the relatively small missile that hit it.
It also said fire engines and trucks had arrived to fight a fire in one of the site’s buildings.
Two employees ran out of a building on the site screaming and on fire, with one of them showing chemical burns, the ABC 27 news channel reported, citing employees on the scene.
The explosion poses no threat to the public, the Franklin County Office of Emergency Management told Fox News.
(U.S. Army photo)
A Facebook page for the depot also confirmed that an explosion had taken place and that there “were injuries,” though not how many. It added that the incident had been “contained.”
The posts about the explosion were later deleted.
The source of the explosion remains unknown. Employees are not being allowed back into into the depot for fear of more blasts to come, ABC27 said.
According to the depot’s Facebook page, the army depot helps “deliver superior maintenance, manufacturing, logistics, life cycle support and service worldwide to the Joint Warfighter and our International partners.”
Featured image: A satellite view of Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania. The depot is the large, brown building in the center of the image.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As US Rep. Walter Jones continues a 15-year effort in Washington to re-designate the title of the Department of Navy, not everyone in his North Carolina home and military community sees the need.
Retired Marine Col. Pete Grimes of Hubert refers to the adage “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” when asked about Jones’ fight to re-name the Department of Navy the Department of Navy and Marine Corps.
Beyond the surface of the name change, Grimes doesn’t see any benefit to the organization by disrupting the status quo.
“Why change the name? What does it achieve? At the end, I can’t think of anything that would improve the stature of the Marine Corps,” Grimes.
Jones has seen things differently.
He first introduced a proposal to change the title of the department to Department of the Navy and Marine Corps in 2001 and has stuck to his belief that the two separate services deserve equal recognition.
The House Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018. As a member of the committee, Jones was involved in drafting the defense bill and has several measures attached, including the re-designation of the Department of Navy title.
“The Marine Corps is an equal member of this department, and therefore, deserves equal recognition in its title,” Jones said in remarks on getting the language included in the defense bill.
Jones said the defense bill is expected to go to the House floor for a vote in July. If successful, NDAA will then go to the Senate.
Retired Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Ball of Jacksonville, who served 23 years in the Marine Corps, said whatever name is used is a matter of perception and will vary by a person’s point of view. Regardless of the name, Ball said the operations of the two services are separate and should stay that way.
He said the organization as it is now has been working well.
“Leave it the way it is,” Ball said.
Brian Kramer, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, said the unique Navy-Marine Corps relationship is an exceptional one within the Department of Defense that should not be changed. He questions whether a name change now could lead to larger, negative changes later.
“I am a traditionalist, and on this issue I think the longstanding relationship between the Navy and the Marine Corps should remain unchanged. This relationship has served both services exceptionally well over the centuries. We ( Marines) are called ‘Soldiers of the Sea’ for a reason,” Kramer said. “Our roots are with the Navy, and I see the short-term ‘feel-good’ benefit of a name change having possible long-term negative consequences. Might this be a first step to the Corps being a separate service? I am not certain we want to go there.”
Retired Navy Capt. Rick Welton of Swansboro doesn’t have a particular opinion on the proposed change the Department of Navy’s title but agreed that the two services have long had a history of working together.
“We’ve been working as a team from the beginning,” Welton said. “We have depended on each other, worked with each other, and done outstanding things together.”
What started as wishful thinking by a bunch of vets hoping to one day become space shuttle door gunners is starting to take shape as the next steps in establishing a Space Force are underway.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence held a conference at the Pentagon on Aug 9 to discuss the latest plans and updates on the creation of the United States Space Force. To clear some of the fog surrounding it, it’s not about sending armed troops into space nor is it an over-the-top plan to fight aliens.
There is a real and current strategic advantage in using space to aid with Earthly conflicts through satellites operations and missile defense — both of which would fall under the purview of the new Space Force.
Vice President Mike Pence has championed our current space commands within the Air Force and the Navy.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)
Secretary Mattis opened up the briefing and announced that the Pentagon will release its latest space report to Congress, reinforcing the specifics on how they will move forward. He then welcomed Vice President Pence to take the podium.
Vice President Pence reiterated both the desire to push mankind back into space exploration and to utilize space for the rapid advancement of technology. He likened the establishment of the Space Force to that of the Air Force when it was first created.
“In 1939, at the start of the second World War, the U.S. Army Air Corps was still a fledgling organization… By 1945, the American military had nearly 30 times the number of planes and 85 times the number of pilots and support crews compared to just six years earlier and our allies emerged victorious from WWII because of the strength of our armed forces and because our armed forces adapted to meet the emerging threats of the day,” said Vice President Mike Pence.
Once you realize just how many U.S. satellites are in space, how little protection they have, and just how dependent our society is on their safety… you’ll stop thinking of the Space Force as a joke branch.
(Air Force illustration)
Our current military does, in fact, have a space command and has had one for decades. Expanding the space command into a full branch would give the tens of thousands of troops and civilian contractors currently working on the space mission far greater spending to continue and expand upon the responsibilities of the domain.
Founding the Space Force will firmly establish America’s leadership in space. In President Trump’s own words,
“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. And so we will.”
One of the first technologies announced was the fielding of a new generation of jam-resistant GPS and communication satellites. This also comes along with a new missile defense satellite that is “smaller, tougher, and more maneuverable than ever before.”
The need for dominance over space is growing by the day. China launched a missile that tracked and destroyed a test satellite in 2007. Russia has been designing an airborne laser that is said to disrupt satellites and claim to be creating missiles that could be launched mid-flight to destroy satellites. Both have claimed to have ability to move their satellites closer to our own — which could pose an unprecedented new danger.
Many more details about the new branch’s establishment will come soon as we move forward towards its eventual creation with a possible date set for 2020.
Marine Corps Lt. Col. William H. Rankin had flown combat flight operations in both World War II and the Korean War, but it wasn’t enemy fire that came closest to killing him during his military flying career. It was a summer thunderstorm over the east coast of the United States.
On July 26, 1959 Rankin and his wingman, 1st Lt. Herbert Nolan, were flying a pair of F-8 Crusaders from South Weymouth, Mass back to their home base at Beaufort, S.C. when they encountered a line of severe thunderstorms over North Carolina. Shortly after the fighters climbed up to 47,000 feet to go over the growing cumulonimbus clouds, Rankin heard a loud grinding noise followed by a loss of power from the jet’s only engine. About that time the jet’s fire warning light illuminated.
Rankin tried pulling the auxiliary power handle but it came off in his hand. He tried to restart the engine several times but had no luck. At that point, with the fighter in an uncontrollable dive and going nearly supersonic, he knew he only had one option left. He keyed the radio and matter-of-factly told his wingman he “had to eject” and then pulled the handle.
The senior Marine pilot wasn’t wearing a pressure suit, so as soon as he hit the surrounding atmosphere at that altitude his body was put through the ringer. The sudden decompression caused his stomach to swell, his ears, nose and mouth to bleed. The ejection tore his left glove from his hand, leaving it exposed to the brutally cold air. His skin immediately froze, which resulted in numbness and severe frostbite.
But things were about to get worse. In his memoir, The Man Who Rode the Thunder, Rankin describes his free fall like this:
I became conscious of my body tumbling, spinning, and cartwheeling through space. I spun like a pinwheel, my limbs trying to go in every possible direction at once. I spun on the vertical, diagonal and horizontal axis. I felt the enormous pulling, stretching effects of g forces. I was a huge stiff blob of helplessness! I recognized that my body was literally spreadeagled and the force was so great I could not move my hands or legs. Several times I tried to bring my arms in to my body but it was like pulling on a stone wall. The effect of the g forces on my arms and legs must have been to multiply their weight many times.
During his fall Rankin managed to strap his oxygen mask to his face, which was a crucial element if he was going to survive his ordeal. From his training he knew that it would take about three and a half minutes to fall from just under 50,000 feet to 10,000 feet where his parachute was designed to automatically deploy. He looked at his watch and saw that more than four minutes had gone by. He figured his ejection seat automatic chute mechanism had malfunctioned, so he manually deployed it.
But Rankin’s seat hadn’t malfunctioned. His descent had simply been slowed by massive updrafts created by the thunderstorm next to him, and as soon as his chute opened another powerful updraft filled it and rocketed him several thousand feet vertically a velocity of nearly 100 mph. Lightning flashed all around in what he later described as “blue blades several feet thick” and the thunder boomed so loudly he feared it would burst his eardrums. Rain pelted him from all directions. He felt like he was going to drown.
When he reached the top of the thunderstorm the updraft turned into a downdraft. It was totally dark as he was pulled into the center of the thunder cloud, and he plummeted downward at a rate he was sure would prevent his chute from opening. But his chute did open once he was under the storm, and as it did he caught another updraft that catapulted him back to the top of the cloud. Once at the top he was dragged back into the center of the storm and thrown as if by Thor himself toward the ground again.
Rankin was repeatedly buffeted through this cycle . . . a living hell he feared might never end. In The Man Who Rode the Thunder he describes what was going through his mind at that time:
There were times when I felt I might die of sheer exhaustion because it seemed as if either the storm might never end, or I was going to be swept along with it on its insane journey up the coast for as long as that journey might take—hours, days. This feeling was most intense when I decided to look at my watch and glimpsed the time during a flash of lightning. At first I thought what a wonderful thing it was not to have lost my watch all through ejection, decompression, blasts of air, and now this; and, then, what a silly thing, looking at the time! But when I saw that it was twenty minutes past six, I thought: My God, you should have been on the ground at least ten minutes ago! You are really trapped. You are really in the pattern of the storm and a part of it, a speck of human dust, up-over-and-down, up-over-and-down and that’s the way it’s going to be. But how long? For how long?
Finally the storm dissipated enough that he wasn’t dragged back up after shooting through it, and he was unceremoniously blown into a thicket of brush in the middle of a field near Ahoskie, N.C. He was wet and beat to hell and had to draw on his survival skills to make it through the dark to a dirt road where — after being passed by a number of vehicles that refused to stop — someone was finally kind enough to take him to the nearest hospital.
Colonel Rankin spent about 3 weeks in the hospital recovering from severe decompression shock, welts, bruising, and other superficial wounds. He eventually returned to flight status.
In 2009 he died of natural causes at the age of 89.
Kim Jong Un may enjoy being photographed frequently, but his desire to be at the center of state media attention may be irritating ordinary North Koreans.
Kim’s recurring presence in North Korean newspapers, like the Rodong Sinmun, now means major state visits must be commemorated with dozens of Kim photographs per issue, Daily NK reported Dec. 18.
On Dec. 9, Kim’s visit to Samjiyon in Yanggang Province was announced in the newspaper with 60 photographs from the location, with 50 out of the 60 pictures including Kim.
The attention-seeking Kim is drawing criticism from North Koreans, who say he is trying to repair his image following the execution of his uncle-in-law Jang Song Taek.
One North Korea source told Daily NK the “very common” photographs are a problem for smokers.
“People don’t like it,” the source said. “Among workers, who are looking for spare newspaper to roll up a cigarette, it is becoming increasingly hard to find a fragment without a portrait of Kim Jong Un.”
North Korea law forbids people from using pictures of Kim in derogatory ways, and travelers to North Korea have previously told UPI they are not allowed to fold a crease across a picture of Kim’s face or damage an image of him in newspapers.
Kim may be tightening his grip as he concludes his fifth full year in power.
Analysts at Seoul’s Institute for National Security Strategy said Dec. 18 that Kim has purged top officials Hwang Pyong So and Kim Won Hong, less than a week after a South Korean newspaper reported Hwang may have been expelled from the Workers’ Party for taking bribes.
The INSS also said economic sanctions could hit the elites, and Kim could purge more economic officials to assign blame as conditions worsen in the country, Yonhap reported.