Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis shared the thinking behind the new National Defense Strategy during a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington on Oct. 30, 2018.

The strategy, released in January 2018, sees Russia and China as the greatest threats with Iran and North Korea as regional threats. Violent extremism rounds out the threat matrix.

The strategy is based on a return to great power competition among the United States, Russia and China.


Power, urgency, will

Mattis told Stephen Hadley, the moderator of the event and former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, that in setting up the strategy, officials looked at threats from three different angles: Power, urgency and will.

“In terms of raw power right now, I look at Russia and the nuclear arsenal they have,” he said. “I look at their activities over the last 10 years from Georgia and Crimea to the Donetsk Basin to Syria and I can go on and on and on. In terms of just power, I think it is Russia that we have to look at and address.”

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

There are two threats that are most urgent right now: North Korea and the continuing fight against violent extremism. North Korea’s nuclear and missile program — in clear violation of United Nations sanctions — remains a problem, and the current fight against violent extremists from the Islamic State to al-Qaida to Boko Haram to other transnational terror groups must be fought.

“In terms of will, clearly it is China,” he said.

China is different than Russia. “Russia wants security around its periphery by causing insecurity among other nations,” he said. “They want a veto authority over the economic, the diplomatic and the security decisions of the nations around them.

“China seems to want some sort of tribute states around them,” he continued. “We are looking for how do we work with China. I think 15 years from now we will be remembered most for how … we set the conditions for a positive relationship with China.”

Cooperation

The United States is looking for ways to cooperate with China and that has been beneficial to both countries, Mattis said. He pointed to China’s vote against the North Korean nuclear program in the United Nations Security Council as an example. The United States will also confront China when it must as he pointed to the United States continuing freedom of navigation operations in international waters and airspace.

“I have met with my counterpart in Beijing and in Singapore 10 days ago, and he will be here 10 days from now to continue that dialogue as we sort it out,” Mattis said.

Also part of the strategy are U.S. strengths, and foremost among them is the country’s network of alliances and friends around the world. This network requires constant tending, the secretary said. He noted that just in the last month he has attended NATO meetings, consulted with Central and South American allies and journeyed to Manama, Bahrain, to meet with Middle Eastern allies and friends.

All of these were part and parcel of forming the National Defense Strategy.

South Asia Strategy

The secretary also spoke about the South Asia Strategy announced in August 2017 and how that is proceeding. Officials continue to follow the strategy and it is making progress, but it is slow. It entails far more than just the military and far more than just the United States, he said.

The strategy is a regional approach to the problem. It also reinforced the commitment to the area and realigned those reinforcements with Afghan forces. This was needed because the Afghans had an Army that wasn’t ready to have the training wheels taken off the bike, Mattis said. “Only the Afghan special forces had mentors from NATO nations with them,” he said. “And every time they went against the enemy, the Taliban, they won.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

But the rest of the Afghan forces were spread out around the country with no mentorship and no air support. The strategy changed that. The air support is crucial in giving Afghan forces the high ground in the mountainous country, “and that changes the tactical situation,” the secretary said.

Afghan forces are carrying the burden. They took more than 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September 2018, the secretary said, and they stayed in the field fighting. “And the Taliban has been prevented from doing what they said they were going to do, which was to take and hold district and provincial centers, also disrupt an election that they were unable to disrupt,” he said.

But the most important aspect of the strategy is reconciliation. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed to serve as a special envoy in Afghanistan specifically aimed at reconciliation between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. “He is hard at work on this, on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation effort,” Mattis said. “So this is the approach we’re trying to sustain right now. It is working from our perspective, but what is heartbreakingly difficult to accept is the progress and violence can be going on at the same time.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

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The surprising link between spirituality and performance

Throughout history, humans have often weaponized faith. This makes any discussion of the intersection between wellness and spirituality especially tricky because it can be divisive – which is counterintuitive to our relatively inclusive military and veteran cultures.


However, as a Marine I’m always ready to tackle tough things, and as a social scientist invested in teaching veterans how to optimize their performance at home and work, I cannot ignore the compelling data surrounding the positive effects of spirituality.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Maj. Alejandro Sanchez, chaplain, Puerto Rico Army National Guard, says a prayer during the ceremony that marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (U.S. Army photo)

What does spiritual fitness have to do with anything?

There are explicit, direct, trackable ties between resilient trait cultivation and spirituality. These ties include common-sense connections to things like behavioral health, social support, and philanthropic leanings, and the more mysterious connection between positive thoughts and their impact on us at a cellular level.

From Stanford to Duke University to Oxford, some really interesting research is being conducted globally on the ways in which spirituality and religiosity (self-reported connection to organized religion) can improve everything from healing and recovery time to pain tolerance and longevity. The protective effects faith offers when it comes to depression and anxiety conditions are especially significant.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
U.S. Army paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division, pray before the Chaplain’s Anniversary Jump onto Sicily Drop Zoneat Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2013. Deputy Chief of Chaplains, Brig. Gen. Charles R. Bailey led the prayer. Fort Bragg Chaplains celebrated the 238th anniversary of the Chaplains Corps with an airborne operation. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian P. Glass/Released)

Many scholars and scientists who are not religious do believe that at some level we’re wired for spirituality. For example, at the top of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sits transcendence – or the human need to connect with something bigger and outside of ourselves.

The protective factors offered by spirituality and religiosity are very powerful – even more powerful than many of the behavioral health practices that the military currently invests in financially. Because of this, the topic deserves a closer look in any honest conversation about building resilience.

So what’s the tie-in to resilience?

The links between spirituality, religiosity, and resilience can be found in three main areas that are significant not only statistically, but also practically in terms of health benefits.

1. Behavioral Health

People who identify as individually spiritual enjoy a number of benefits at the psychological and neurological levels. However, these health benefits are amplified and extended with higher levels of subjective religiosity – in particular when people take their spirituality a step further and practice it with some kind of community.

For example, binge drinking and promiscuous sex – which are high-risk for our bodies – are generally discouraged by major world religions. Religious people across demographics and age exhibit lower rates of smoking, alcohol abuse, drug use, and almost all risk-taking behaviors than their nonreligious peers. They also enjoy lower rates of depression and anxiety, better mental health, and even a slower progression of dementia.

In short, people who gather around an idea of virtue and live it out with community support are less likely to engage in physiologically high-risk behaviors. This tendency toward healthier living results in better long term health outcomes.

2. Social Support

People who are very religious tend to be members of a faith community and enjoy strong social ties as a result.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Chaplain Commander Dale Marta of the 14th Marine Regiment, HQ Battery leads a memorial service, in Agadir, Morocco, in honor of those that lost their lives on April 18 at the West Fertilizer Plant. A similar ceremony was held two days prior in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Many faiths encourage both the practice of gratitude and giving to others outside of the social contract (which is essentially the idea that if I do something nice for you, you’ll do something nice for me). They prompt members to give to people who can’t fulfil their end of the social contract. This is the essence of philanthropic giving, which has demonstrated physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.

Of course, you needn’t be spiritual to give generously, but religious Americans give significantly more both financially and in terms of volunteer hours than their nonreligious peers.

3. Positive Thought

Researchers have found an inexplicable link between the practice of prayer and lowered blood cortisol levels and increased high-level cognitive capabilities. Because the brain influences bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and the immune system, shifting what happens in the brain through spiritual practice can have significant physical impacts.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
U.S. Marines participate in a formation run prior to a physical-training competition. Elements of the 15th MEU are ashore in Djibouti for sustainment training to maintain and enhance the skills they developed during their pre-deployment training period.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry)

In fact, in prayer (unlike in meditation) the relationship centers of the brain light up. The parietal lobes light up too. These lobes are on the side of the brain and allow you to experience feelings of empathy. In the Christian tradition there’s a sacred text that speaks to being transformed by the renewal of your mind, and today we’re understanding that spiritual practice can actually grow your empathy and increase your ability to connect deeply with others.

Aren’t there downsides to religion?

It’s true that all of the benefits of a beloved social community can also turn negative. If acceptance lowers blood cortisol levels, rejection raises it. So many people have been battered by faith communities around the world. However, although finding an affirming community of faith is a complicated process, it is also important because it reinforces the helpful behaviors and activities listed above.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Butera (left), chaplain of the Fires Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, receives ashes from Capt. Robert Allman, chaplain of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. The Regiment hosted a prayer breakfast in observance of Ash Wednesday. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Joshua Edwards)

If you’re curious, but don’t have a tradition you feel drawn to, commit to doing some research. Maybe take a cultural literacy course on world religions to orient yourself. Then, carve out time to ask yourself big questions in a sincere way. Do some research, some learning, and look for an affirming faith community that feels like an authentic choice and fit.

The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.  

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Resources

This PTSD and trauma-engagement program welcomes veterans of all faith backgrounds. It provides resource for active duty servicemembers and veterans looking to bring spirituality to their day to day.

  • Big Question Inspiration
  • What has “faith” or “spirituality” looked like in my past? What does it mean to me?
  • How would I assess my current spiritual health? Do I spend time on it? Do I think about it at all?
  • What do I believe?
  • Where do I need to go to learn more?
  • Who can I reach out to as I figure this out?

About the Author

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Was your enlistment ceremony this cool?

World History was made yesterday at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where the U.S. Army and NASA utilized state of the art technology to provide the most unique Oath of Enlistment ceremony for new soldiers.

“We have an incredible opportunity to experience a dream all of us grew up with – the opportunity to touch the stars… Right now… 250 miles above us… flies the International Space Station, traveling at speeds that defy imagination, circling the planet every 90 minutes. Simply amazing,” said Brigadier General Patrick Michaelis, USAREC Deputy Commanding General. “Though NASA and the U.S. Army have been working together for the past 60 years, this is the first time to host a nationwide Oath of Enlistment from space for over 1000 soldiers in 150 different locations, where they will launch; no pun intended, their careers.”


Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

U.S. Army Recruiting Command

Twenty five recruits and their families came to celebrate the new soldiers embarking on their new careers via a live video stream from the International Space Station. Recruits got to ask questions to Army Astronaut Colonel Andrew R. Morgan, who has been in space since July 2019 and was selected as an astronaut in 2013. Morgan, a special operations physician, is the commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Army Astronaut Detachment at Johnson Space Center, Texas, and the space station’s flight engineer. Morgan is part of the U.S. Army Astronaut Detachment, which supports NASA with flight crew and provides engineering expertise for human interface with space systems. Additionally, Morgan is a combat veteran with airborne and ranger tabs and has also served as a combat diver. As an astronaut, he has completed seven spacewalks and one space flight to the International Space Station.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

U.S. Army Recruiting Command

The recruits tuned in from all over the United States and were able to ask Morgan questions via the video link at the Johnson Space Center. Impressively, it did not take long for the video connection to happen and it was less painful than the time it takes conference calls that occur within the domestic U.S. to get connected. There was a brief lag after each sentence, but nothing different than what a VOIP user experiences via Skype or Facetime.

Morgan welcomed everyone aboard the ISS. When asked if there was recruiting going on for new astronauts, he informed the recruits what standards are needed and shared with them that a strong STEM, science and engineering background with a Master’s Degree was necessary and that they need well-rounded individuals who have the education, but also other qualities.

Morgan opened his uniform zipper to reveal an Army Strong t-shirt, much to the cheers of the recruits. He later displayed all of the US military branch flags and allowed them to float across the screen. He also did a few somersaults.

Also joining in the celebration was the newest Army Astronaut, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Rubio. Rubio entertained live questions from the audience at the Johnson Space Center and gave them lots of advice when facing difficulties in their lives.

Aim high, recruits! Congratulations on your new careers. The sky is literally the limit.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

U.S. Army Recruiting Command

MIGHTY GAMING

Why this glitch in a popular video game is still being studied by biologists

Most experiments in which biologists — or, more accurately, epidemiologists — study how a disease spreads are done theoretically, involving only a pen and paper. They do their best to simulate the spread of various contagions and study outbreaks of the past, but nobody would dare spread a disease simply to study it.

In 2005, however, they were given the perfect test conditions and subjects: World of Warcraft players.


World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game made by Blizzard Entertainment set in a fantasy realm called Azeroth. In September of 2005, a new “raid” encounter — an experience that required 20 players — opened up, called Zul’Gurub. This was, basically, an ancient city loosely based on Mayan culture that belonged to a savage tribe of Trolls.

When players finally fought the final boss, the Serpent God Hakkar, they would contract a temporary “debuff” (or weakness) called “Corrupted Blood” that would slowly drain their health before spreading to another player.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
(Blizzard Entertainment)

Once a player was infected, they’d have to wait out the sickness or die in the process. It wasn’t much more than a nuisance to high-level players, as they could simply heal themselves and continue fighting, hoping to pry an epic sword from the Serpent Lord’s cold corpse. But the in-game plague didn’t just affect players.

In the game, you play one of several different fantasy roles, including paladins, druids, rogues, and (most relevant to this scenario) hunters. Hunters specialized in taming beasts that would then fight in their name. If a hunter’s pet contracted Corrupted Blood, the player could “dismiss” their pet, making it effectively disappear. The next time that pet was called to help, however, it would still have the disease — and it would still spread to nearby characters.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Just like what would happen with the swine flu, avian flu, and many others.
(Blizzard Entertainment)

Hunters of the world would (sometimes) inadvertently bring their infected pets back to large population hubs after completing the raid. There, they’d call forth their beast without realizing it was still infected. Then, the Corrupted Blood was transmitted to other players outside of the raid. This time, the infected players weren’t powerful heroes attempting to kill a god, but rather low-level noobies that would quickly die once affected by the plague, causing it to infect others.

This spread just like a real plague. Players, in search of safety, would evacuate large cities, bringing Corrupted Blood to outlying hamlets, just as with real plagues. Some players would knowingly infect themselves just to harass other players, akin to bio-terrorism.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
But this was less about spreading terror and more about having fun with your virtual enemies.
(Blizzard Entertainment)

It was fixed within a week and the game developers apologized for the bug (even though they intentionally recreated it a few years afterwards). But this was the perfect scenario that every epidemiologist dreams of recreating without risking their medical license.

Years after the virtual incident, many researchers published documents using information gathered from the digital plague. They tracked how animals that humans keep as pets might be the most prone to infecting others. They monitored how the disease spread through major population centers and how it traveled along pathways towards the outer reaches of the game. It even simulated surprisingly lifelike actions of bio-terrorists and how they can be dealt with.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Contain and control is the key.
(Photo by Jerry Stillwagon)

All in all, it was a mild annoyance to the players but it gave the Center for Disease Control and many researchers a realistic and ethically-sound testing environment.

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US F-22 pilots describe their conflict with Syrian jets while protecting US forces

In an interview with USA Today, the pilots of the F-22s who chased away Syrian jets bombing close to Kurdish forces with embedded US advisers revealed that the Syrian pilots had no idea they were being shadowed.


“I followed him around for all three of his loops,” one of the American pilots, a 38-year-old Air Force major, told USA Today. “He didn’t appear to have any idea I was there.”

Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, told USA Today that once the F-22 made radio contact, “The behaviour stopped. We made our point.”

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The situation in Syria is tense, as the US has limited forces on the ground, but has employed air assets to defend them. So the US effectively has told Syria that it can’t fly planes within a section of their own country.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said that in the event that Syrian planes get too close to US and US-backed forces that they “would advise them to steer clear in areas where we are operating,” adding that “we always have the right to defend our forces.”

Fortunately, in this case, the warning was sufficient.

“The big concern is really a miscalculation,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of US air operations in the Middle East told USA Today. “It can happen on either side.”

“We made it very clear to our folks from the highest levels: We’re not at war with the Russians or Syrians,” Corcoran told USA Today. “We’re not here to shoot down Russian or Syrian airplanes.”

But sending servicemen and women into combat with unclear, or delicate instructions is not an ideal case. Every second a pilot spends weighing the decision to fire or not could potentially cost that pilot’s life.

Luckily, no life or death decisions had to be made.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II

“I’m thinking how do I de-escalate this scenario to the best of my ability and also keep us in a safe position while doing so,” the other pilot involved told USA Today.

It seems also that the pilot’s leadership was behind them every step of the way. Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, the air commander in Qatar, made it clear he was ready to pull the trigger.

“I wouldn’t have hesitated,” said Silveria.

“All I needed at that point to shoot them down was a report from the ground that they were being attacked,” Silveria told USA Today. “We were in a perfect position to execute that with some pretty advanced weaponry.”

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Veterans in Congress call for ban exemptions for Iraqi interpreters

Iraqi nationals who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime should not be subject to a recent executive order halting immigration from Iraq, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday.


The letter, a joint effort by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, asks Trump to grant the request of Defense Secretary James Mattis to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order. Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.

The letter was also signed by Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans. Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa.

Related: Time is running out to help thousands of American allies who’ve been left behind

“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”

On his own, Moulton has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order. In a statement, he warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.

“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”

Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq. The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than a decade. Darweesh, who was granted a Special Immigrant Visa on Jan. 20, was ultimately released into the U.S. a full day later.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist, advises Iraqi Army soldiers with the 73rd Brigade, 15th Division, on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, March 25, 2015. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters Monday that the Defense Department is making a list of Iraqis who had worked to help U.S. troops for submission to the government agencies carrying out the executive order.

Special Immigrant Visas were created in 2008 for the express purpose of providing a special path for people from Iraq and Afghanistan who had assisted American troops to resettle in the United States, a recognition that these individuals and their families often faced greater danger because of their service.

“It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger. Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

Snipers from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain attended the International Special Training Centre’s Desert Sniper Course in July 2018 at the Chinchilla Training Area here.

ISTC is a multinational education and training facility for tactical-level, advanced and specialized training of multinational special operations forces and similar units, employing the skills of multinational instructors and subject matter experts.


The Desert Sniper Course is designed to teach experienced sniper teams skills for operating in desert environments.

“The students that come to this course all have prior experience,” said a U.S. Army sniper instructor assigned to ISTC. “We help them build upon what they already know in order to operate in a desert environment. During the course we teach them concealment techniques and stalking in desert terrain. This culminates with students conducting missions where they put their newly learned skills to the test.”

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

A sniper team from the Netherlands collects ballistic data during a nighttime range session during the International Special Training Centre Desert Sniper Course at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, July 9, 2018.

(Army photo by 1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek)

Because of the nature of their work, the snipers’ names are not used in this article.

Snipers operating in dry or barren environments must take extra measures to alleviate the effects of heat that can increase the challenges when constructing concealed positions, known as hide sites.

Unique camouflage requirements

“The biggest challenges snipers will encounter during most desert operations are the unique camouflage requirements, the heat and exposure to the harsh environment, and having to engage targets at extreme distances,” the U.S. instructor said.

The first week of the course gave students the opportunity to acclimate to the environment.

“We ease into operations by conducting ranges where they collect data for their rifles and learn about environmental considerations such as heat mirage and strong winds that affect their ability to make long shots,” the instructor said. “From there, they practice building hide sites and stalking to refine the skills they’ll need when conducting missions during week two.”

ISTC’s ability to conduct and train across various countries in Europe provides NATO and partner nations the opportunity to participate in cost effective training close to home.

“Spain is the perfect place to conduct this type of training,” a Spanish sniper instructor. “We have the right kind of climate and terrain to replicate the conditions that a sniper team will encounter when deployed in a desert. We also have the space needed to conduct ranges for long-distance shooting, something that is not easy to find in Europe.”

With snipers from multiple countries, the opportunity to share knowledge helped all those who attended.

“One of the greatest benefits is that our courses bring together knowledge and resources from so many places,” the ISTC operations and plans officer said. “By combining efforts and sharing knowledge, the nations that participate in course like Desert Sniper are able to reinforce alliances and strengthen their capability to work together.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

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This Somali war criminal has been guarding Dulles Airport for the last 20 years

As if you needed another reason to avoid what is widely considered the DC-area’s worst option in terms of airports, a CNN investigation revealed that one of Dulles International Airport’s security guards is a Somali man wanted for war crimes.


Yusuf Abdi Ali has lived in the area of Alexandria, Virginia for the past 20 years. He has been employed by the airport, one of an estimated 1,000 war criminals living and working in the United States.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
CNN video still of Ali on duty at Dulles

Everyone employed by Master Security, Dulles’ security contractor, undergoes “the full, federally mandated vetting process in order to be approved for an airport badge,” the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority told ABC News. The process includes a background check by the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration. Master Security employees working at Dulles must also be licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state in which Dulles is located.

“We have verified that all of these processes were followed and approved in this instance,” MWAA said in a statement.

Ali is the subject of a lawsuit from The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) on behalf of his alleged victims. He is accused of torturing people, burning villages, and conducting mass executions during The Somali Civil War from 1986 – 1991. Ali denies all accusations listed in the CJA lawsuit.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Yusuf Abdi Ali in a Canadian Broadcasting Company documentary about his a

Ali was a military commander under the regime of Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. He fled Somalia after the fall of the regime, eventually ending up in the United States in 1996.

The suit was dismissed by a circuit court which found the case lacked jurisdictional authority. A higher ruling allowed the suit to proceed and it is now waiting for review by the Supreme Court to determine if foreigners living in the U.S. can be held accountable for crimes committed abroad.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Ali in uniform under the Barre regime.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials estimate at least 360 arrests of human rights violators in the U.S. in the past 12 years. ICE has also deported more than 780 such cases. According to CNN, they currently have 125 active investigations. Ali’s airport credentials have been revoked and he is on administrative leave pending an ongoing investigation.

 

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US troops cleared after civilian deaths overseas

American troops were cleared of wrongdoing in the wake of 33 civilian deaths during a firefight in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which took place Nov. 2-3, 2016.


“The investigation concluded that U.S. forces acted in self-defense, in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict, and in accordance with all applicable regulations and policy,” a release from the headquarters of Operation Resolute Support said.

“The investigation concluded that U.S. air assets used the minimum amount of force required to neutralize the various threats from the civilian buildings and protect friendly forces. The investigation further concluded that no civilians were seen or identified in the course of the battle. The civilians who were wounded or killed were likely inside the buildings from which the Taliban were firing.”

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
U.S. Army Lt. Charles Morgan, with the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, throws a M67 fragmentation grenade during skills training at Kunduz province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avila /Released)

The furious firefight, which, according to a report by Reuters, left five members of a joint U.S.-Afghan force dead and fifteen wounded, also included the destruction of a Taliban ammo cache, which destroyed buildings in the area. At least 26 Taliban, including three leaders of the terrorist group, were killed, with another 26 wounded.

“On this occasion the Taliban chose to hide amongst civilians and then attacked Afghan and U.S. forces. I wish to assure President Ghani and the people of Afghanistan that we will take all possible measures to protect Afghan civilians,” Army General John Nicholson, the commander of Operation Resolute Support, said in a statement.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower/Released)

A 2015 operation in Kunduz was marred when an Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunship attacked a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, killing 42 people. A report issued in the aftermath indicated that the unmarked facility had been hit unintentionally. Sixteen personnel, including a two-star general, were disciplined after the attack.

“It has been determined that no further action will be taken because U.S. forces acted in self defense and followed all applicable law and policy,” the statement from Operation Resolute Support said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan just called a temporary ceasefire with the Taliban

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced a temporary cease-fire with the Taliban for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that caps off the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, though it was not immediately clear whether the militants had agreed.

The truce will last from June 12 until around June 20, 2018, Ghani said in a video message on June 7, 2018, as deadly militant attacks across Afghanistan showed no sign of easing during Ramadan.

Ghani said that Afghanistan’s security forces will “stop offensives” against Afghan Taliban militants but will continue to target the extremist group Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda, and “other international terrorist groups” and their affiliates.


The cease-fire is “an opportunity for Taliban to introspect that their violent campaign is not wining [sic] them hearts and minds but further alienating the Afghan people from their cause,” the president wrote on Twitter.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed declined to comment to RFE/RL on the matter.

Senior security officials said the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, a militant group affiliated to the Taliban, was also included in the unilateral cease-fire.

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said that foreign forces will also honor the cease-fire.

“We will adhere to the wishes of Afghanistan for the country to enjoy a peaceful end to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and support the search for an end to the conflict,” General John Nicholson said in a statement.

Ghani’s announcement comes days after the country’s top religious body issued a religious order, or fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden, or “haram,” under the principles of Islam.

Meeting in Kabul on June 4, 2018, the Afghan Ulema Council also appealed on both Afghan government forces and the Taliban and other militants to agree on a cease-fire, and called for peace negotiations between the sides.

A suicide bombing outside the gathering, attended by around 2,000 Muslim clerics, scholars, and figures of authority in religion and law from across Afghanistan, killed at least seven people, including several clerics.

A local affiliate of IS claimed responsibility.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan welcomed Ghani’s announcement, saying on Twitter that “there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.”

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on the Taliban to join the cease-fire, saying that the militant group “will not win on the battlefield.”

“The only way for them to achieve a solution is to sit down at the negotiating table,” he told reporters.

The U.S. State Department said that “the Afghan government’s offer of a temporary cease-fire underscores its commitment to peace as both a national and religious responsibility.”

It said it will allow the Afghan people to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday without fear of violence.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the announcement will be “an opportunity to reduce levels of violence and create space for talks to begin.”

However, a former Afghan army general, Atiqullah Amarkhel, expressed concerns that the cease-fire would give the Taliban a chance to regroup.

“From a military prospect, it is not a good move,” he told Reuters.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

The Taliban has stepped up its attacks against Afghan security forces as well as government officials across the country since the announcement of its spring offensive in April 2018.

In February 2018, Ghani offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations.

In return, the militants would have to recognize the Kabul government and respect the rule of law.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This WW2 pilot acquired a massive advantage after crashing

After joining the RAF in 1928, Douglas Bader was assigned to a flight squadron flying Bristol Bulldogs at Wrigley Airfield. During one of his flights, Bader was reportedly ordered not to perform any aerial acrobatics maneuvers or fly below 2,000 feet.


He didn’t listen.

While trying to show off his unique skills, Bader accidentally crashed his plane and ended up crushing both of his legs. The downed pilot was rescued and later fitted with prosthetic legs and had to relearn how to walk.

Related: This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

Reportedly, doctors determined he’d probably never fly again — they were wrong.

Now grounded, Bader learned new skills, like dancing and playing tennis and golf. His rehabilitation was going well, but he wanted to get back into the air and fly.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
A Bristol Bulldog on display at a U.K. aviation museum. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

For the next few years, Bader requested piloting roles in the RAF but kept getting denied. It was recommended he go to the Center Flying School to test his abilities with the new, modern planes. The biplanes he once flew were “out of the fight” and had since been replaced by the more modern fighters, like the Hurricane and Spitfire.

He passed the tests with flying colors.

By 1940, Bader was assigned to the 19th Squadron and was given a Spitfire to undertake flying patrol missions. Soon after, he finally saw action over Dunkirk as he provided overwatch during the evacuation and took down two German planes in the process.

While flying his plane, Bader discovered a shocking new advantage. Since he didn’t have legs, he was unlikely to black out from the effects of G-force.

When a pilot conducts aggressive maneuvering, blood flows out of the brain and travels downward, toward the legs. Since Bader was a double amputee, he managed to stay in the fight much longer than his enemies — his blood had nowhere to go.

After the conflict at Dunkirk, the now-experienced pilot was promoted to squadron leader.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy
Squadron Leader Douglas Bader (center) and fellow pilots of No. 242 Squadron. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The squadron mainly consisted of Canadians, and their morale appeared to be low due to a high casualty rate. As Bader began racking up kills once again, the men’s confidence quickly rose.

Bader managed to tally 25 confirmed kills before taking too much damage and crash landing once again.

Also Read: This WW2 Ace fought for both sides of the war

The Germans took the flying ace prisoner. He attempted numerous escapes but was recaptured each time. He’d remain a POW until 1945 when he was liberated from the prison camp by U.S. forces.

Learn more about this unique ace in the video below:

 

(Simple History | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch the 1950 Navy explain ‘vertical envelopment’

Generals “rediscover” vertical envelopment every few years, and even fairly casual followers of military news are sure to have heard the phrase. Even still, it’s a fairly wonky term that plenty of folks, even regular readers, military game players, and history buffs won’t necessarily know.

Luckily, it’s not too hard to explain. The Navy created a video in the 1950s to explain the concept — and its importance in Atomic-Age warfare — to its officers and sailors.


www.youtube.com

A quick bit of background that the Navy would’ve expected Marine and Navy officers to know, but average readers might not: Vertical envelopment is an evolution of an ancient strategy known as “envelopment.”

The idea was to surround (or envelop) your enemy, and it’s not exaggeration when we call this tactic “ancient.” One of the greatest historical uses of the strategy came at the Battle of Cannae, which, according to some sources, may have been the bloodiest battle in the history of the world. A massively outnumbered Hannibal of Carthage managed to draw Rome’s legions against his formation’s center. Then, Hannibal sent more mobile units around the Roman legions, hitting them on the flanks and rear.

The Roman legionnaires, now surrounded, were slowly whittled down by Carthaginians, leading to one of Carthage’s greatest victories. A few thousand legionnaires escaped, but the vast majority of them were killed.

The famous “pincer” movement, when an attacking force hits its enemy from two sides, is sometimes known as the “double envelopment.” It’s two forces working to surround the enemy at once.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

A screenshot shows the final maneuvers of Hannibal’s envelopment of Roman legions at Cannae. Hannibal’s forces are in blue, the legions in the large red block.

(Screenshot from TitusLabienus)

And, since most military units and hardware are directional, meaning that tanks and infantry are better at fighting what’s in front of them than what’s behind, envelopment leaves the surrounded force at a huge disadvantage as they try to re-direct forces to counter all the threats.

So, what’s vertical envelopment? It’s the use of aircraft to surround an enemy all at once by passing over them vertically and then coming down. While it was adopted as doctrine in the Marine Corps just before the Korean War, Allied and Axis paratroopers had conducted a sort of “light” version of vertical envelopment during World War II.

During some battles, including Operation Overlord on D-Day, paratroopers and glider troops were dropped into Nazi occupied Europe miles behind the German front line. As troop carriers were hitting the Germans on the beaches, the paratroopers were cutting off German supply lines and forming blocking positions behind the beaches.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

British glider troops unload gear on June 6, 1944.

(Imperial War Museum)

But there’s a key difference between the vertical envelopment of battles like D-Day and what the Marines figured out for the Korean War and later copied in Vietnam, Panama, and across the world.

During World War II, airborne and glider assaults were typically launched to seize key objectives behind enemy lines or eliminate deadly artillery. They typically hit their targets, seized the objectives, and then waited for the forward line of troops to catch up with them or fought their way to a rally point.

In true vertical envelopment, troops land at pre-planned areas behind enemy lines and might seize some objectives, but the focus still on surrounding an enemy force and forcing it to fight in 360 degrees.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Airborne troops in Carentan, France, June 1944. If the paratroopers were used in a true vertical envelopment strategy, they would’ve landed in German-occupied France and then headed back towards the beaches, assisting the troops landing in the amphibious assault. Instead, they were sent deeper into the country, securing key crossroads and waiting for the troops on the beaches to make their way south and east.

(U.S. National Archives)

So, on D-Day, a true vertical envelopment strategy would’ve seen paratroopers landing miles behind German positions and possibly still seizing some key objectives to the rear of the German force. But the paratroopers would have also fought their way back west and north, hitting the Germans on the landing beaches from the rear.

That seemingly small but extremely important detail was the big change that the Marines introduced in the late-1940s and proved in Korea with helicopters. Rather than dropping troops behind enemy lines solely to capture objectives, they also dropped Marines behind enemy lines to isolate and overwhelm the enemy’s forward lines. Defenders suffered a full, 360-degree envelopment, achieved thanks to vertical maneuvering.

That sounds great, bravo Marines — but what does that have to do with the Atomic Age and nuclear warfare? Well, the Marines knew in 1948 that the Soviets would soon get “the bomb.” Spoiler: The Soviets got it in 1949.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

U.S. Marines land in Vietnam. The Marines used vertical envelopment, surrounding an enemy using airborne or heliborne troops, heavily in Korea and Vietnam.

(U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant R. B. Williams)

The big strength of tactical nuclear weapons — weapons made for use on a battlefield as opposed to strategic nuclear weapons made to bring down cities or bases on their own — is that they can quickly destroy troop concentrations with just a few shots. D-Day relied on a huge troop concentration and a single nuclear weapon could’ve killed everyone, according to Dwight D. Eisenhower, a president and, ah, yes, the architect of D-Day.

So, the Marines came up with a plan. Disperse the troops before they reach an enemy’s nuclear range. Instead of sending out a concentrated thrust of landing forces in amphibious vehicles, send out dozens of helicopters with a squad in each in addition to the amphibious vehicles.

An enemy nuke would still be catastrophic, but it could only down a few helicopters at once if they were properly dispersed.

Meanwhile, enemy forces would be surrounded by dozens of squads of U.S. Marines, all fully armed, supplied, and on the attack. The Marines proved the value of the concept in Korea and the Army used it heavily in Vietnam. Today, it’s still used across the world, and paratroopers have adopted the tactic in many of their operations and exercises.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time Delta burned the barracks down

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

The Ft. Bragg Commanding General’s office agreed to allow us to use an unoccupied barracks for an assault scenario. Something Delta was in constant search of was new floor plans for Close Quarter Battle (CQB) training. The drive for constant realistic training revealed there was diminished value in repetitions in the same structure where everyone was familiar with the internal layout.


Our Operations Cell geniuses had a decent penchant for finding structures that were either brand new and uninhabited, or marked for destruction and again uninhabited. In the case of our barracks structure, it was marked for demolition… but the general would allow no undue damage to the structure, as it had to be in good condition for it to be… uh… torn down.

This all makes sterling sense if you happen to be a general grade officer.The rest of us just need to get in step and stay in our lanes!

Delta doesn’t shoot blanks; all combat training is done with live ammunition. We used special metal structures behind targets to catch the bullets. Faith abounded that there would be no”thrown rounds,” rounds that went wild and missed targets, rendering holes in walls and such.

The breach point — the planned entrance — had its door removed from its hinges and replaced with a throwaway door that we could fire an explosive charge on. Flash-bang grenades (bangers) do not spread shrapnel so they can be used in close proximity to the user, though they are still deadly, and are understood to cause fires in some cases.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Yes, explosive breaching is prone to start fires.

Outside the building several buckets of water were on standby in case of a small fire ignition. These were just routine precautions taken by our target preparation crews. Windows all had a letter “X” in duct tape from corners to corners to help contain the glass in the event that a banger shattered the window as they were so often known to do.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Anti-shatter treatment with duct tape.

Our A-2 troop was the first in on the target. They scrambled from their assault helicopters, blew open the breach point door, and scrambled in shooting and banging room-to-room as they moved. Shouts of: “CLEAR”,”ALL CLEAR”, “CLEAR HERE” echoed from the rooms, then:

“HEY… THERE’S A FIRE IN HERE… NORTH HALLWAY… IT’S SPREADING — GRAB A FIRE BUCKET!”

An assault team member close to the south exit dashed out after a fire bucket as other members stomped and slapped at the fire. He rushed back in with the fire bucket cocked back in his arms ready to douse:

“MOVE! I GOT IT, I GOT IT!”

He snapped his arms forward and let the contents fly as the men darted to the sides. The blaze exploded into an inferno that would have made Dante Alighieri exclaim: “Woah!” The order to “abandon ship” was called out by the troop commander as the men bailed out through every nearest exit. The entire wood structure was very soon totally consumed by fire and burned to a pile of ash that wasn’t itself even very impressive.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Use of explosives on an assault objective can lead to fires.

An investigation very quickly revealed that the engineers building out the target floor plan had used a bucket of gasoline to fill and refill the quick-saws they had been using to cut plywood used in the building. That same bucket unfortunately found its way painfully close to the fire buckets. The assaulter, at no fault of his own, grabbed the bucket and doused the otherwise manageable fire with petrol, causing it to run wild.

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

The gas-powered quick or concrete saw

“Sir… do you realize what this means??”

“Yes, Sergeant… the General is going to be a very very unhappy man.”

“No, no, no… screw the General… Hand is going to blister us with a derisive cartoon!!”

“My… my God, Sergeant… I hadn’t thought of that. You clean up here and I’ll go break the news to the men; they’ll need some time alone to process this.”

And the men were afraid of what awaited them when they returned to the squadron break room, but it was senseless to delay it any longer. In they strolled, the 20 of them… their assault clothes tattered and torn, their faces long and grim, their spirits craving the Lethean peace of the night.

There pinned to the wall was a completed product immortalizing the A-2 troop’s simple brew-ha-ha for all eternity. They stood and stared stupefied and still:

“There; it is done, men… and yet we’re all still alive. Nothing left to do but wait until the next jackass edges us off the front page. May God have mercy on us all!”

The event is depicted in the cartoon with the gross exaggeration of an entire Shell Corporation tanker truck on the scene rather than just a single bucket of benzine. Cartoons often wildly exaggerate to lend to the humor of the event. Nonetheless it was inevitable that some folks in the unit did query men of the A-2 troop: “Did you guys really spray gasoline on the fire with a Shell Tanker?”

Don’t hate me; I’m just the messenger.

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