How military techs pull details from captured explosives - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How military techs pull details from captured explosives

Most soldiers do not think much about what happens to improvised explosive devices once they are found and disarmed by friendly forces. Some may believe that IEDs are taken somewhere in a controlled environment to be safely detonated or disposed of properly.

Sometimes properly disposing of IEDs is the only thing to do.

However, most times, IEDs are sent to specialized laboratories where they can be analyzed and researched to help counter enemy forces.


The Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command here is one of the many facilities where enemy weapons such as IEDs are analyzed by highly trained and educated professionals in various disciplines of forensic science.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives

Denise Myers, a DNA analyst assigned to the Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command, labels containers that hold samples recovered from an item that will generate a DNA profile for a person of interest at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Aug. 9, 2018. The capabilities of the FXL-C provide critical intelligence to combat forces on ground.

(Army photo by Sgt. Carlos J. Garcia)

Dedicated technicians

“The great thing within our laboratory is that everyone is really passionate about the work we do,” said Roman Aranda, the supervisory chemist and laboratory manager for the FXL-C.

“The laboratory takes the anonymity away from the adversary,” he added.

Removing anonymity from enemy forces is a crucial advantage for any combatant commander in any area of responsibility. “The lab is a culminating point for everything that comes off the battlefield in order for the intelligence community to get those products and information distributed out to those that are on the ground,” said Army Maj. Allen Spence, the officer in charge of the laboratory operations, assigned to U.S. Army Central and attached to the FXL-C.

Flexibility

A forensic lab can adapt and move more quickly compared to stateside and other federal laboratories, Aranda said. The FXL-C networks with explosive ordinance device units, Special Forces and often with partner nations to protect and support U.S. forces.

They work closely with the Army Criminal Investigative Division and the Terrorism and Criminal Investigation Unit, Spence said. They also work with the FBI and the International Criminal Police Organization, more commonly known as Interpol, to push out information to 192 countries.

So far in 2018, the FXL-C has closed more than 440 cases, processed more than 45,000 exhibits, documented almost 650 latent prints and found more than 70 biometric matches.

The FXL-C’s accomplishments have come through modernization and research efforts that help support its four core principles: firearms and tool marks, DNA, chemistry, and electronics exploitation.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives

Timothy Kesterson, a latent print examiner assigned to the Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command, inspects a recovered piece of metal used as a pressure plate in an improvised explosive device uncovered in Centcom’s area of responsibility at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Aug. 9, 2018.

(Army photo by Sgt. Carlos J. Garcia)

Being deployed and closer to the battleground is an additional capability the FXL-C provides to ground forces.

“Working directly with the submitters, we can provide them what they need to know as fast as we can,” said Mark Chapman, an electrical engineer assigned to the FXL-C.

“This mission is critical to the Army, and it’s the focal point where everything meets,” Spence said.

“Our main goal is to find the smart guy that is developing these tools such as IEDs and unmanned aerial vehicles,” Chapman said. “Not so much that guy that is using them — they are still a target — but if we can find that smart guy and eliminate him, that’s the main challenge.”

The men and women of the FXL-C deployed to these forward laboratories put in long work days and sometimes nights. They also work every day of the week during their six-month tour, because they recognize the contribution it makes on the battlefield by exposing enemy forces new and old tactics.

“If it’s a new device that’s come out, we will find it and figure out how it works and we will get that information back out to the [intelligence] community,” Spence said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is upgrading its M4 rifles to be more durable and lethal

The U.S. Army has now produced at least 117,000 battle-tested, upgraded M4A1 rifles engineered to more quickly identify, attack, and destroy enemy targets with full auto-capability, consistent trigger-pull, and a slightly heavier barrel, service officials said.


The service’s so-called M4 Product Improvement Program, or PIP, is a far-reaching initiative to upgrade the Army’s entire current inventory of M4 rifles into higher-tech, durable, and more lethal M4A1 weapons, Army spokesman Pete Rowland, spokesman for PM Soldier Weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The heavier barrel is more durable and has greater capacity to maintain accuracy and zero while withstanding the heat produced by high volumes of fire. New and upgraded M4A1s will also receive ambidextrous fire control,” an Army statement said.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
(USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day)

To date, the Army has completed more than 117,000 M4A1 upgrades on the way to the eventual transformation of more than 480,000 M4 rifles. The service recently marked a milestone of having completed one-fourth of its intended upgrades to benefit Soldiers in combat.

The Army is planning to convert all currently fielded M4 carbines to M4A1 carbines; approximately 483,000,” Rowland said. “Most of the enhancements resulted from Soldier surveys conducted over time.” Rowland explained that the PIP involves a two-pronged effort; one part involves depot work to quickly transform existing M4s into M4A1s alongside a commensurate effort to acquire new M4A1 weapons from FN Herstal and Colt.

Army developers explain that conversions to the M4A1 represents the latest iteration in a long-standing service effort to improve the weapon.

“We continuously perform market research and maintain communications with the user for continuous improvements and to meet emerging requirements,” Army statements said.

Also Read: Army fielding new magazine optimized for M4/M4A1 Carbine and M855A1

The Army has already made more than 90 performance “Engineering Change Proposals” to the M4 Carbine since its introduction, an Army document describes.

“Improvements have been made to the trigger assembly, extractor spring, recoil buffer, barrel chamber, magazine, and bolt, as well as ergonomic changes to allow Soldiers to tailor the system to meet their needs,” and Army statement said.

Today’s M4 is quite different “under the hood” than its predecessors and tomorrow’s M4A1 will be even further refined to provide Soldiers with an even more effective and reliable weapon system, Army statements said.

The M4A1 is also engineered to fire the emerging M885A1 Enhanced Performance Round, .556 ammunition designed with new, better penetrating and more lethal contours to exact more damage upon enemy targets.

“The M4A1 has improvements which take advantage of the M885A1. The round is better performing and is effective against light armor,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl)

Prior to the emergence of the M4A1 program, the Army had planned to acquire a new M4; numerous tests, industry demonstrations and requirements development exercises informed this effort, including a “shoot off” among potential suppliers.

Before its conversion into the M4A1, the M4 – while a battle tested weapon and known for many success – had become controversial due to combat Soldier complaints, such as reports of the weapon “jamming.”

Future M4 Rifle Improvements?

While Army officials are not yet discussing any additional improvements to the M1A4 or planning to launch a new program of any kind, service officials do acknowledge ongoing conceptual discussion regarding ways to further integrate emerging technology into the weapon.

Within the last few years, the Army did conduct a “market survey” with which to explore a host of additional upgrades to the M4A1; These previous considerations, called the M4A1+ effort, analyzed by Army developers and then shelved. Among the options explored by the Army and industry included the use of a “flash suppressor,” camoflauge, removable iron sights, and a single-stage trigger, according to numerous news reports and a formal government solicitation.

The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine pull security with an M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner)

Additional details of the M4A1+ effort were outlined in a a report from Military.com’s Matt Cox.

“One of the upgrades is an improved extended forward rail that will “provide for a hand guard allowing for a free-floated barrel” for improved accuracy. The improved rail will also have to include a low-profile gas block that could spell the end of the M16/M4 design’s traditional gas block and triangular fixed front sight,” the report says.

Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in effort to identify and integrate emerging technologies into the rifle as they become available. As a result, it is entirely conceivable that the Army will explore new requirements and technologies for the M4A1 as time goes on.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What the world’s top 25 militaries have in their arsenals

President Donald Trump has reemphasized military strength, reportedly planning to ask for $716 billion in defense spending in 2019 — a 7% increase over the 2018 budget (though spending is currently limited by budget caps).


US defense spending is the highest in the world, more than the combined budgets of the next several countries. But US plans to ramp up acquisitions of military hardware will only add to an already booming arms industry.

More: Everything you need to know about the massive new defense bill

Between 2012 and 2016, more weapons were delivered around the world than during any five-year period since 1990.

Below, you can see the world’s top 5 militaries, as ranked by Global Firepower Index.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
(Screenshot from GlobalFirepower.com)

The ranking assesses the diversity of weapons held by each country and pays particular attention to the manpower available.

“Balance is the key — a large, strong fighting force across land, sea, and air backed by a resilient economy and defensible territory along with an efficient infrastructure — such qualities are those used to round out a particular nation’s total fighting strength on paper,” the ranking states.

But a few defining aspects of those countries’ ability to muster military power are not directly related to their armed forces.

Geographical factors, logistical flexibility, natural resources, and local industry all influenced the final ranking, Global Firepower said.

Also read: NATO’s second-largest military power is threatening a dramatic pivot to Russia and China

Each of the top 10 countries have a labor force of more than 30 million people. Three of the top five — the US, China, and India — have more than 150 million available workers.

The following 15 countries vary more widely in labor-force size — from 123.7 million in Indonesia to 3.9 million in Israel — but they still have more than 37.2 million workers on average.

Industrial and labor capacity are complemented by robust logistical capabilities, including extensive railway and roadway networks, numerous major ports and airports, and strong merchant-marine corps. Extensive coastlines and waterways also facilitate the movement of goods and people.

For the US, those logistical capacities have been tested by increasing activity in Afghanistan as well as efforts to built up its presence in Europe.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
Vehicles and other cargo are unloaded from the USNS Bob Hope by the soldiers of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, November 1, 2017. (US Army by Sgt. Jaccob Hearn)

The US Army’s 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade served as the logistics headquarters in Afghanistan in 2017. During its six-month deployment, the unit distributed more than 380 million gallons of fuel throughout Afghanistan — a landlocked country roughly the size of Texas.

“It’s not easy to [transport] fuel. You have to get it to the right place at the right time. You have to make sure it’s of the right quality, and you have to make sure you have storage on one end and distribution capability on the other end,” Col. Michael Lalor, the brigade commander, said in late February. “That’s what always kept me up at night.”

US Military Sealift Command (MSC), which oversees the US Navy’s fleet of mostly civilian-crewed support ships, is adding ships to boost its presence around Europe and Africa, in response to both insurgent activity and growing tensions with Russia — all of which have added tension to the US’s already strained supply lines.

Also read: The 25 most powerful militaries in the world 2018

In 2017, MSC moved twice as much ordnance, three times as many critical parts, and one-third as much cargo in Europe and Africa as it did in 2016.

“I definitely don’t see (activity) going down anytime soon,” Capt. Eric Conzen, MSC commander in Europe and Africa, told Stars and Stripes of his unit’s workload. “There’s a desire for it to increase.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

N. Korean expert jokes about bombing Kim Jong Un’s personal toilet

A top authority on North Korea has jokingly suggested the U.S. launch an unorthodox attack on the country’s leader.


Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk and the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterrey, California, has outlined a plan for the U.S. to strike Kim Jong Un’s personal toilet.

Writing at The Daily Beast over the weekend, Lewis was responding to increased chatter of a U.S. strike on North Korea. Though Lewis was approaching the issue in a tongue-in-cheek way, his writing nonetheless illustrates the dangers of and motivations behind using military force to send a message.

Basically, reports have come forth that the U.S. is tired of North Korea’s constant defiance and wants to carry out a limited strike in response. In theory, the use of force against a weaker opponent can serve as a reminder of who is in charge.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives

But while North Korea couldn’t really defend against a small U.S. strike, it doesn’t intend to defend. North Korea’s military posture is entirely offensive. While the country could do little to stop an incoming cruise missile or airstrike, it has long had artillery aimed at Seoul, South Korea’s capital of 25 million.

Lewis seems to think that the idea has some merit but that the difficulty lies in finding a target that’s important enough to matter but not big enough to provoke war. From The Daily Beast:

The central challenge, as we contemplate a ‘bloody nose’ option for a limited military strike, is finding a suitable target that represents Kim Jong Un’s nose — a target that will allow our strike to be intimidating and humiliating to Kim, but not the sort of broad assault that might prompt him to retaliate with his growing stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Lewis settles on a target of little strategic importance but great personal relevance to Kim: his port-a-potty.

Kim almost always observes North Korean missile launches from a private trailer. The launches normally happen in the middle of nowhere, so comforts like a port-a-potty suited for a supreme party leader need to be shipped in.

Related: POTUS and North Korea exchange nuclear threats

“Destroying the port-a-potty will deny Kim Jong Un a highly valued creature comfort, while also demonstrating the incredible accuracy of U.S. precision munitions to hold Kim and his minions at risk,” Lewis wrote. “It will send an unmistakable message: We can kill you while you are dropping a deuce.”

Lewis refers to his idea as hilarious, “a comedy and an action movie — both at the same time.” The U.S. military, however, may not be laughing.

Lewis’ playful idea represents a rather circumspect approach to selecting the right target to use military force to send a message. While the verbal, diplomatic, and economic messages the world has tried time and time again have failed to get through to North Korea, President Donald Trump’s administration has floated the idea of military action more than any before it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia wants to know why it failed to launch rockets into space

Russia’s latest space launch failures have prompted authorities to take a closer look into the nation’s struggling space industry, the Kremlin said Dec. 28.


A Russian weather satellite and nearly 20 micro-satellites from other nations were lost following a failed launch from Russia’s new cosmodrome in the Far East on Nov. 28. And in another blow to the Russian space industry, communications with a Russian-built communications satellite for Angola, the African nation’s first space vehicle, were lost following its launch on Dec. 26.

Asked about the failures, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Dec. 28 that authorities warrant a thorough analysis of the situation in the space industry.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
Luna satellite schematic as drawn by the CIA. (Image: CIA)

Amid the failures, Russian officials have engaged in a round of finger-pointing.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees Russia’s military industrial complex and space industries, said in a television interview that the Nov. 28 launch from the new Vostochny launch pad in Russia’s Far East failed because the rocket had been programmed to blastoff from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan instead of Vostochny. He accused the Russian space agency Roscosmos of “systemic management mistakes.”

Roscosmos fired back, dismissing Rogozin’s claim of the flawed programming. It did acknowledge some shortcomings that led to the launch failure and said a number of officials were reprimanded.

Rogozin quickly riposted on Facebook, charging that Roscosmos was “trying to prove that failures occur not because of mistakes in management but just due to some ‘circumstances.'”

The cause of the failure of the Angolan satellite hasn’t been determined yet. Communications with the satellite, which was built by the Russian RKK Energia company, a leading spacecraft manufacturer, were lost after it entered a designated orbit.

Also Read: 3 crew members return to earth from International Space Station

Russia has continued to rely on Soviet-designed booster rockets to launching commercial satellites, as well as crews and cargo to the International Space Station. A trio of astronauts from Russia, Japan and the United States arrived at the space outpost last week following their launch from Baikonur.

While Russian rockets have established a stellar reputation for their reliability, a string of failed launches in recent years has called into question Russia’s ability to maintain the same high standards for manufacturing space equipment.

Glitches found in Russia’s Proton and Soyuz rockets in 2016 were traced to manufacturing flaws at the plant in Voronezh. Roscosmos sent more than 70 rocket engines back to production lines to replace faulty components, a move that resulted in a yearlong break in Proton launches.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik is helped out of the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft just minutes after he, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Bresnik, Nespoli and Ryazanskiy are returning after 139 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 52 and 53 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The suspension badly dented the nation’s niche in the global market for commercial satellite launches. Last year, Russia for the first time fell behind both the U.S. and China in the number of launches.

While Russia plans to continue to use Baikonur for most of its space launches, it has poured billions of dollars in to build the new Vostochny launch pad. A launch pad for Soyuz finally opened in 2016, but another one for the heavier Angara rockets is only set to be completed in late 2021 and its future remains unclear, drawing questions about the feasibility of the expensive project.

Work at Vostochny also has been dogged by scandals involving protests by unpaid workers and the arrests of construction officials accused of embezzlement.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center received formal approval in late October 2018 to enter the production phase for the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb’s new guided tail-kit assembly, or TKA.

“This marks the completion of a highly successful development effort for the tail kit,” said Col. Dustin Ziegler, AFNWC director for air-delivered capabilities.

The AFNWC program office recently passed the Air Force review of the weapon system’s development and received approval to end its engineering and manufacturing development phase and enter the next phase for production of the tail kit. In the production phase, the testing environment will more closely approach real-world environments.


Known as Milestone C, the decision to enter this next phase marked the completion of a series of developmental flight tests. The program office completed a 27-month test program in less than 11 months, with 100 percent success for all of its 31 bomb drops. The accelerated schedule, as well as other risk mitigation strategies, enabled the program office to save more than 0 million in development costs, according to Ziegler.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives

A frontal view of four B-61 nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart.

(DoD photo by Phil Schmitten)

“The flight tests demonstrated the system works very well in its intended environment,” said Col. Paul Rounsavall, AFNWC senior materiel leader for the B61-12 TKA, Eglin AFB, Florida. “This development effort brought the first-ever digital interface to the B61 family of weapons and demonstrated the B61-12 TKA’s compatibility with the Air Force’s B-2 and F-15 aircraft. In addition, the TKA achieved greater than five times its required performance during developmental testing and is ready to start initial operational test and evaluation.”

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is responsible for the B61-12 nuclear bomb assembly. The Air Force is responsible for the B61-12 TKA, joint integration of the bomb assembly and TKA into the “all-up-round” of the weapon, and its integration with aircraft.

Headquartered at Kirtland AFB, AFNWC is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command and in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command. The center has about 1,100 personnel assigned to 18 locations worldwide, including Eglin AFB; Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts; Hill AFB, Utah; Kirtland AFB; and Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, in the U.S. and Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

U.S. Air Force relief mission to COVID-19 crisis in Italy begins from Ramstein AB

USAF C-130s Flew Self-Contained Care Unit to Aviano Air Base in Italy on Friday.


The U.S. Air Force has deployed a C-130J Hercules transport from the 86th Airlift Wing from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Italy’s Aviano Air Base in the ongoing coronavirus relief mission. The U.S. aircraft arrived on Mar. 20, 2020, and joins other relief aircraft in the region, including a number of Russian Aerospace Forces Il-76 transports that departed Russia earlier today.

Photos released by the USAF show Airmen from the 721st Aerial Port Squadron loading pallets of medical equipment on board a Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules transport.

Part of the cargo deployed to Italy in the U.S. relief mission is the En-Route Patient Staging System, or “ERPSS”. The system can support the medical transport of up to 40 patients in a 24-hour period. It is equipped with 10 patient staging beds for treatment of patients.

Commander of U.S. Air Force, Europe (USAFE-AFAFRICA), General Jeff “Cobra” Harrigian, told reporters, “The COVID-19 pandemic requires that we work with our allies and partners to [meet] the challenges together. This effort demonstrates our mutual support as we team together in response to this public health crisis. We are working closely with our Italian friends, the U.S. Department of State, and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) to ensure we provide the right equipment in a safe and timely manner. It’s our privilege to support the Italian response, and our continued commitment reflects the values of the American people to provide to whenever and wherever it is needed.”

How military techs pull details from captured explosives

A USAF Airman assigned to the 721st Aerial Port Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, loads pallets of medical supplies and equipment onboard a C-130J Super Hercules in preparation for relief flights to Aviano Air Base in Italy on March 20, 2020 in support of the COVID-19 relief effort.

(Photo: USAF Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)

The 86th Airlift Wing received one of their most recent, new C-130J Super Hercules transports from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Marietta, Georgia in early December, 2017. The C-130J Super Hercules is the most advanced version of the celebrated C-130, which first flew over 65 years ago in 1956. The C-130J is the only version of the C-130 that remains in production today. The aircraft features a fuselage that is 15-feet longer than previous versions of the C-130. The aircraft is also designed to work with advanced loading/unloading equipment for specialty palletized cargo like the En-Route Patient Staging System.

The aid from the U.S. military several days ago, and Russia’s air force beginning today, along with missions from China, Cuba and other nations, support the Italian government’s escalating response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Italian government has deployed troops in some areas to monitor quarantine and help slow the spread of the deadly disease.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

Experts have been warning for a while now that Al Qaeda is still very much a presence as a jihadist group, posing perhaps an even bigger long-term threat than ISIS.


And now, Al Qaeda is planning to challenge ISIS in its stronghold — Syria.

American and European officials told The New York Times recently that Al Qaeda has started moving veteran operatives to Syria as the group plans to escalate its fight with ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh), which operated under the Al Qaeda umbrella until the two groups split off and became rivals.

And though ISIS has been grabbing most headlines with its gruesome propaganda machine and bold proclamations about building a “caliphate” that will take over the world, Al Qaeda has been quietly focusing on its strategy to be the last group standing when the dust settles.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters carry their weapons on the back of a pickup truck during the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen in Arsal, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. | YouTube

Al Qaeda is now “taking an opportunity off of what ISIS did” to make itself a main focus of the West’s fight against terror, Ali Soufan, the CEO of strategic-security firm The Soufan Group, said earlier this month at a national-security conference at Fordham University in New York.

“What ISIS did made so many people in the Muslim world think, ‘Al Qaeda are the good guys. ISIS are the bad guys,'” said Soufan, a former FBI special agent who has investigated high-profile terror cases.

“Even when you hear some people testifying on Capitol Hill that, ‘It’s OK. Let’s support al-Nusra or let’s support Ahrar al-Sham because they probably will fight ISIS’ — well al-Nusra is … an official affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria,” he continued, referencing the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is fighting ISIS for control of territory in Syria.

While ISIS has made a show of its excessive violence — through beheading videos and other propaganda distributed online in several languages — Al Qaeda has been more cautious. The group holds the same brutal ideology to which ISIS subscribes, but it’s been more patient with winning over the Syrian population.

“You can see Al Qaeda taking advantage thinking strategically,” Soufan said. “ISIS is not thinking strategically. ISIS is just doing crazy stuff, a lot of violence, trying to bring a lot of people in.”

And while ISIS has lured thousands to its territory with its violent advertising and declaration of the “caliphate,” or pseudo-state ruled by a strict interpretation of Islamic law, recent reports indicate that fighter defections within the group are increasing and the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS territory has slowed. On top of that, the group has been losing territory without gaining much new land.

“ISIS is becoming like a smoke screen. We’re all looking at ISIS all the time. ‘Oh, look, ISIS, they did a video, or they put out another thing of Dabiq,'” Soufan said, referring to the group’s English-language online propaganda magazine.

He added: “They are technically more advanced than Al Qaeda, but I think Al Qaeda is looking into the long term.”

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
ISIS fighters in Syria | YouTube

Al Qaeda’s strategy seems to be predicated on waiting for Syrians to slowly come around to the idea of Islamic rule. That lowers the chance of a successful uprising if Jabhat al-Nusra is able to establish Syria as an Islamic “emirate” — land that would be controlled by the group and run under strict Islamic law, similar to ISIS’ so-called caliphate.

Charles Lister, a fellow at the Middle East Institute who has written a book on the insurgency in Syria, said at a recent event in Washington, DC, that Al Qaeda has sought to grow not just acceptance of its rule in Syria, but also support from the general population. He also assessed that Al Qaeda is playing a long game.

“This is an organization that has spent the last five years growing durable, deep roots in Syrian opposition and revolutionary society,” Lister said. “ISIS, on the other hand, has shallow roots. It hasn’t deigned to acquire popular support — it controls populations.”

Al Qaeda’s emirate might now come sooner rather than later — The Times reported that the Al Qaeda operatives being funneled into Syria have been told to start creating a headquarters in Syria and to lay the groundwork for establishing an emirate. The emirate would be in direct competition with ISIS.

Eric Schmitt wrote in The Times that Al Qaeda establishing an emirate in Syria would mark a “significant shift.” Al Qaeda has so far resisted declaring an emirate — it’s part of the group’s long-term strategy to avoid acting too hastily before leaders feel confident that fighters could hold the territory they seize.

Syrians on the ground seem to have been expecting this for a while.

Ahmad al-Soud, the commander and founder of the Syrian rebel group Division 13, told Business Insider earlier this year that “Nusra’s stated goal throughout all of Syria from when they first started until today is to turn Syria into an Islamic emirate.”

“They don’t want any other armed group in Syria except for them, and they want to turn it into kind of what Afghanistan was under the Taliban,” al-Soud said. “Once they … get rid of all the other groups, [Jabhat al-Nusra] can finally duke it out between them and ISIS for who’s the worst.”

Schmitt notes in The Times that “establishing a more enduring presence in Syria would present the group with an invaluable opportunity” because it would “not only be within closer striking distance of Europe but also benefit from the recruiting and logistical support of fighters from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.”

With the collapse of the ceasefire in Syria, the timing might be good for Al Qaeda to increase its presence there. The ceasefire — between the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels who oppose his rule — never applied to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, but it allowed the Syrian government and its allies to focus its fire on jihadists rather than moderate rebels.

Additionally, the West seems to have focused mostly on hitting ISIS in Syria — US officials are emphasizing operations to drive ISIS out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq and deprive them of more territory.

The dysfunction in Syria provides the perfect vacuum for Al Qaeda to move in and exploit.

Soufan explained:

Al Qaeda’s position is, “Let’s create a lot of these vacuums where there is no strong government, and let’s operate under a different name.” Bin Laden actually, before he died, in his letters, he was telling Al Qaeda, “Do not use Al Qaeda’s name. I do not want anyone to use Al Qaeda’s name, because the moment you use Al Qaeda’s name, the West and the locals are going to come and they’re going to beat you up.”

Al Qaeda has done this in Syria with Jabhat al-Nusra, which is always referred to as such rather than simply “Al Qaeda.”

Articles

DoD extends online military exchange shopping privileges to veterans

The Department of Defense announced a policy change that will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans of the military.


The veterans online shopping benefit will be effective this Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.

“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.

The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.

“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.

NOW WATCH: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former Air Force Officer accused of spying for Iran

The U.S. Justice Department has indicted a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer for aiding Iran in what Washington says was a cyberespionage operation targeting U.S. intelligence officers.

The indictment said Monica Witt exposed a U.S. agent and helped Iran’s Revolutionary Guards develop cybertargets in the U.S. military after defecting to Iran in 2013.


U.S. officials said Witt, who worked for years in U.S. Air Force counterintelligence, had an “ideological” turn against her country.

As part of its action on Feb. 13, 2019, the United States also charged four Iranian nationals who it said were involved in the cyberattacks.

It also sanctioned two Iran-based companies: New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company.

Former Air Force Intelligence agent charged with spying for Iran

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The U.S. Treasury said Net Peygard targeted current and former U.S. government and military personnel with a malicious cybercampaign, while New Horizon had staged international gatherings to back efforts by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign participants.

Witt herself was recruited by Iran after attending two international conferences organized by New Horizon, U.S. officials said.

They said Witt served as a counterintelligence officer in the air force from 1997 until 2008, and worked as contractor for two years after that.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A leaked recording shows Iran knew from the start it had shot down a passenger jet, Ukraine says

Iranian officials knew their military had shot down a passenger jet and lied about it for days, Ukraine said Sunday, citing a leaked audio recording of an Iranian pilot communicating with air-traffic control in the capital Tehran.


In the leaked audio recording — said to be from the night in January when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down — a pilot for Iran Aseman Airlines radioed the air-traffic control tower to say he saw the “light of a missile,” Reuters reports.

The control tower can reportedly be heard trying, unsuccessfully, to reach the Ukrainian passenger aircraft on the radio as the Iranian pilot says he saw “an explosion.”

How military techs pull details from captured explosives

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Aseman Flight 3768 was close enough to the airport in Tehran to see the blast, the Associated Press reported, citing publicly available flight-tracking data.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a television interview that the recording “proves that the Iranian side knew from the start that our plane had been hit by a missile.”

Ukraine International Airlines said, according to Reuters, that the audio was “yet more proof that the UIA airplane was shot down with a missile, and there were no restrictions or warnings from dispatchers of any risk to flights of civilian aircraft in the vicinity of the airport.”

UIA Flight 752 was flying from Tehran to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on January 8 when it was shot down shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 people on board. The incident happened just hours after Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and the country’s air-defense systems were on high alert.

Iran initially said the aircraft crashed as the result of a mechanical error, but reports quickly began surfacing in the US, Canada, and parts of Europe that intelligence suggested the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Iran vehemently denied the accusations.

On January 11, however, Iran acknowledged that it accidentally shot down the commercial airliner.

Though it blamed “human error,” Iran also sought to cast responsibility with the US, arguing that the killing of Soleimani had led to a dangerous spike in tensions that resulted in the accident. Still, Iranian citizens and international observers questioned why Iran didn’t ground civilian air traffic after its missile attack on US-occupied bases in Iraq.

Iran said it mistook the airliner for an enemy missile. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the incident a “grave tragedy” and an “unforgivable mistake.”

Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization is in charge of investigating aviation incidents, with one official saying Ukraine’s decision to release the confidential recording, which aired on Ukrainian television, had “led to us not sharing any more information with them.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel admits destroying Syrian reactor was a ‘message’

The Israeli military has formally acknowledged for the first time its destruction of a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, saying the airstrike removed a major threat to Israel and was a “message” to others.


Israel’s announcement on March 21, 2018, about Operation Out of the Box was widely seen as a veiled warning to archenemy Iran as it builds up its military presence in Syria.

Also read: Israeli and US troops will train to defend Israel from a massive attack

Israel has warned against the establishment of a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria, particularly in areas close to Israel, and in February 2018, it shot down an Iranian drone that it said entered its airspace.

“The message from the attack on the nuclear reactor in 2007 is that the state of Israel will not allow the establishment of capabilities that threaten Israel’s existence,” Israel’s military chief, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizencot, said.

“This was our message in 2007, this remains our message today, and will continue to be our message in the near and distant future,” he said.

Israel’s decision to go public and justify the decade-old strike against Syria comes after repeated calls in recent months by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the United States and the international community to take tougher action against Iran, which is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s closest ally.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
The president of the Syrian Arab Republic, Bashar Al-Assad

Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that Israel will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon — “not now, not in 10 years, not ever” — or to build missile factories in Syria that could threaten Israel, or provide advanced weapons for Hizballah, the Iran-backed Shi’ite group in Lebanon.

Throughout Syria’s seven-year civil war, Israel has carried out well over 100 air strikes, most believed to have been aimed at suspected weapons shipments destined for Hizballah forces operating alongside Assad’s forces in Syria.

Iran did not immediately respond to Israel’s warning and disclosure about its previous strike against the Syrian facility.

Related: Israelis shoot down an Iranian drone to find a cheap US ripoff

The Israeli military’s announcement was accompanied by the release of newly declassified materials, including photographs and cockpit video said to show the moment that an airstrike destroyed the Al-Kubar facility in the desert near Deir al-Zor, an area that was later overrun by the Islamic State extremist group.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said it was “very likely” that the site “was a nuclear reactor that should have been declared.”

Syria, a signatory of the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, has always denied that the site was a reactor or that Damascus engaged in nuclear cooperation with North Korea, which is believed to have supplied the reactor.

Articles

This is the first time American troops led the march in Paris on Bastille Day

PARIS, France – The U.S. led the way down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées for the Military Parade on Bastille Day as the country of honor in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I (WWI) here July 14, 2017.


This marked the first time ever the U.S. was selected as the country of honor – a tradition that highlights a symbolic gesture of friendship from the French government.

“It’s about the partnership – a strong partnership that was forged in war many years ago and endures today,” said Commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti. “France is one of our oldest and closest allies, and so the significance of being the county of honor in their parade today underscores the strength of that partnership – and that we must work to continue to strengthen that partnership.”

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
Almost 200 U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen assigned to units in Europe and the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, stand in ranks during a rehearsal for the Military Parade on Bastille Day to be held July 14, 2017. This year, the U.S. led the parade as the country of honor in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I – as well as the long-standing partnership between France and the U.S. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael McNabb/Released)

Altogether, almost 200 U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen from units in Europe and the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas, marched down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde in support of the military parade that serves as a tribute to the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789.

“I’m honored and privileged to be here commemorating such a historic event and celebrating the alliance between France and the United States,” said Air Force Senior Airman Jorge Diehl, assigned to the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “I think it shows a great deal of appreciation and trust for them to allow us to lead the parade. It’s taken a long time to build that trust.”

French President Emmanuel Macron officiated the parade attended by U.S. President Donald Trump and numerous French and U.S. senior military and civilian leaders – including Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David Goldfein, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

In all, this year’s parade included more than 3,700 participants and flyovers by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds; two F-22 Raptors; nine French Alpha Jets streaming blue, white and red contrails; and two French C-135s.

For the commander of U.S. troops, Army Maj. Jared Nichols, assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, the honor of participating was made even more special by the fact his great-grandfather served on the Western Front in France during WWI.

How military techs pull details from captured explosives
U.S. Soldiers from1st Infantry Division meet a French service member during a break in rehearsal for the Military Parade on Bastille Day to be held in Paris, France, July 14, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael McNabb/Released)

“My great-grandfather on my mother’s side was a private first class in the American expeditionary force; his name was Rupert Foust,” said Nichols. “He served as a medic in the 8th evacuation hospital, primarily dealing with clearing casualties off the battlefield and providing first aid. To be here to commemorate our entrance in a war to support [France] and the rest of the Allies and then also celebrate the French nation and their independence as well, is a great experience.”

It was an experience that wasn’t lost on Navy Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class John Holley, assigned to Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 37, Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. He believes the friendships forged here will be life-long.

“We’ve built a lot of camaraderie so far,” said Holley. “We’ve done a lot of exchanging of patches and telling of stories. We were able to learn why we were here, the history and the importance of it.”

Historically, the 1st Infantry Division was the U.S. Army’s first division – and was formed in June 1917 to serve in WWI. In 2017, as in 1917, the U.S. stands ready with its European Allies and partners to face emerging threats and an increasingly dynamic regional security environment.

“During the centennial of U.S. entry into WWI, we commemorate America’s sons and daughters who defended peace – many of them descendants of European immigrants who came to America seeking freedom, opportunity and a better life,” said Scaparrotti. “I just want to salute the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guard that keep Europe whole, free and at peace.”

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