North Korean delegates scheduled to meet their counterparts from South Korea in the first dialogue between the countries in over two years will cross the contentious military demarcation line (MDL) separating the border, South Korean news outlet KBS reported Jan. 8.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry said that the North Korean officials will walk across the MDL at 9:30 a.m. local time to the Peace House at Panmunjom, or “truce village,” according to KBS. The walk from the MDL to the Peace House is roughly 250 meters, South Korean news outlet YTN reported.
The Peace House, located in the South Korean portion of Panmunjom, was previously used to hold talks with North Korea, including the prospect of reunifying families separated during the Korean War in the 1950’s.
The itinerary for the historic trip has been fully planned out, according to Reuters, and the discussion will focus around the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, including the possibility of having North Korean athletes attend the event.
The MDL has seen escalated tensions in recent weeks, particularly due to several North Korean defections.
On Dec. 20, a “low ranking” soldier reportedly defected to South Korea, causing South Korean troops to fire warning shots towards North Korean border guards who approached the MDL in what appeared to be a search for their comrade.
In November, another defector crossed the border in a dramatic escape under a hail of gunfire. Video footage of the incident showed North Korean soldiers firing their weapons at the defector, and crossing the MDL in violation of the UN Armistice Agreement.
There’s been so much written lately about the heroes on the front lines. The selfless men and women bravely going to their jobs to serve their country and their communities. The ones who are knowingly going to work with patients or customers who could infect them. Yes, we rightfully applaud the truck drivers hauling supplies to replenish depleted stores. We extol the cook at our favorite restaurant who keeps making meals and the employees whose tips have been practically eliminated but still run our orders out to our cars. We watch with sheer amazement and horror as our doctors, nurses and medical staff go into the line of fire lacking basic, necessary protective equipment. We honor you all. We salute you all. We love and respect and are grateful For You All.
But this letter isn’t about that. Nope.
This letter is to you — the spouses of the mission essentials.
You are the ones left behind each morning. The ones left to deal with homeschool and meals and kids unable to play with their friends or understand their math homework that they didn’t quite grasp in a packet.
You are the ones left to carry the emotional burdens of children who are frustrated at a Zoom classroom and don’t understand why they can’t have a sleepover or go see grandma or even play at the park. You are the ones who field countless requests for snacks, a thousand utterings of, “I need help,” and even more declarations of, “I can’t do this.”
You put your own work on hold, your own health, your own sanity to muster one more ounce of patience, one more hug, one more deep breath, all while balancing that other nasty, invisible weight: the burden of your own anxiety. Anxious about the world. Anxious about your spouse. Anxious about their health and your health and your parents’ health and your kids’ health and their screen time and your elderly neighbor’s health and the teachers’ health and your job and your neighbor’s job and the economy and your kids’ education, and given your one hour of free time a week, why you suddenly identify with a character on Tiger King.
Here’s the thing: It’s all too much. And it’s going to feel like you’re failing.
Failing by definition means, “a weakness, especially in character; a shortcoming.” But if we’ve seen anything in this time of pandemic, we’ve seen your strength. Your resolve. Your gracious heart. We’ve seen you stay home and help flatten the curve. We’ve seen you take on additional responsibilities so your mission essential spouse could keep being mission essential. We’ve seen you offer encouragement to your friends on FaceTime when you have none to give yourself. We’ve seen you reassure your exhausted partner that everything will be okay, all the while knowing you will lie awake in the dark in the middle of the night, the echoes of your own fears so deafening you can’t fall back asleep.
We see you. You’re going to be okay. Reframe your measure of success to include a bar that allows for just getting by. Find time for gratitude. Make space for prayer or meditation or simply a silence that isn’t broken by fear or anxiety. We are all in this together and your best is good enough. As my seven year old reminded me yesterday, this is his first global pandemic. Ours too, bud. Ours too.
The next time you are browsing the aisles at Walmart, just think to yourself that the son of Sam Walton, the founder of the retail giant, was involved in special operations during the Vietnam War. Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group — or MACV-SOG — is a name so bland that it shielded the true nature of their top-secret work into deniable areas like Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. How did the 11th richest man in the world intertwine his legacy into one of the most notorious special operations units in U.S. military history?
John Thomas Walton was born in Newport, Arkansas, the second of three sons, and excelled at athletics. He was a standout football star on their public high school football team and was more of a student of life than academics. His father, Sam, opened Walton’s 5&10 in Bentonville, a small business in a small town known for its variety of hunting seasons. Walton had a modest upbringing and after only two years of college he dropped out to enlist in the U.S. Army. “When I was at Wooster [The College of Wooster in Ohio], there were a lot of people talking about the war in the dorm rooms, but I didn’t think they understood it,” Walton said.
Walton enlisted in the Army and became a Green Beret (Army Special Forces). “I figured if you’re going to do something, you should do it the best you can,” he said during an interview with Andy Serwer for Fortune magazine. Assigned to MACV-SOG after the Tet Offensive in 1968, Walton was stationed at FOB 1 in Phu Bai where members of Strike Team Louisiana conducted deep penetration reconnaissance missions. John Stryker Meyer, a teammate and friend of Walton’s, wrote, “In August of ’68, on one such mission, Walton’s six-man recon team was surrounded and overrun by enemy soldiers.” The firefight became so intense that the team leader, William “Pete” Boggs, called an airstrike (napalm) directly on their own position to break contact.
Extracted from page 119 of “On The Ground” by John Stryker Meyer and John E. Peters.
“That strike killed one team member, wounded the team leader and severed the right leg of the Green Beret radio operator Tom Cunningham Jr., of Durham, N.H. Another team member was wounded four times by AK-47 gunfire by an enemy soldier whom Walton killed,” Meyer wrote. As the team’s medic, Walton was responsible in setting up a triage point to tend to the casualties. He applied a tourniquet to Cunningham’s leg that had begun to hemorrhage. The tourniquet ultimately saved his life, but he later lost his leg. Facing hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers (NVA) and completely surrounded, Walton called in two extraction helicopters.
The first helicopter, piloted by South Vietnamese Captain Thinh Dinh, touched down and picked up members of the team, some of whom Walton personally carried. The enemy soldiers were now sprinting to prevent their escape. Bullets clanged off the chopper and whizzed by their bodies. A second helicopter was needed to get them all out, but realizing how dire the situation had turned, the first helicopter sat back down and picked up the entire team. Their weight was too much, and they barely managed to climb over the treetops. Walton’s determination to get his teammates out of harm’s way earned him the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor.
During a poker game on the night they returned to base, one of his teammates noticed that the skin on Walton’s wrist was burnt. It was evidence of just how accurate the NVA gunfire was. Walton, Meyer, and his teammates enjoyed poker, Scrabble, and other games that require thought. They spoke about their goals and the dreams they hoped to accomplish when they returned home. Walton’s was a life of adventure.
Meyer shares how Walton had inspirations to travel domestically on a motorcycle and to Mexico, Central, and South America by plane. He earned his pilot’s license and started his own business crop-dusting cotton fields in Texas and Arizona. Crop-dusting provided Walton a new challenge that helped his transition after Vietnam. His aerial theatrics featured ingenuity, too — Walton co-founded the company Satloc in 1999, which pioneered the use of GPS applications in agricultural crop-dusting. He also served as a company pilot for his family business.
John Walton, far right, is shown in uniform.
(Photo courtesy of John Stryker Meyer.)
It seemed Walton was always searching for his next greatest thrill. He briefly owned a sailing company called Marine Corsair in San Diego, and he regularly traveled to Durango, Colorado, for outdoor activities such as mountain biking, skiing, and skydiving. As Walmart’s success climbed, so too did Walton’s wealth. At one point, he was the 11th richest man in the world, with an estimated .2 billion net worth. However, despite the amount of money he made, he always stayed true to his modest roots. Meyer recalled a breakfast the pair had in Oceanside, California, and Walton arrived in a small Toyota hybrid.
John T. Walton died on June 27, 2005, when his custom-built CGS Aviation Hawk Arrow plane crashed in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. He was 58 years old. An investigation determined that loose flight control components were the cause of the fatal accident. Walton left behind a wife, Christy, and son, Lukas.
Though Walton’s name will always be immediately recognized as the heir to the Walmart empire, his legacy is also inextricably tied to MACV-SOG. Two years before his untimely death, Walton chartered his private jet to pick up the family of Thinh Dinh, the South Vietnamese pilot with whom he served decades prior. They reunited in Las Vegas, never forgetting the lasting bonds forged in war.
Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2
The Textron Scorpion has been competing for the OA-X contract lately, but while the Air Force seems all too willing to ignore what could be a very capable light-attack plane, it could soon find a launch customer. That customer is Saudi Arabia.
The Scorpion, a private venture by Textron, has been pitched as a potential trainer, light attack, or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) platform. The aircraft, which first flew in 2014, is capable of carrying 9,000 pounds of weapons, flying as high a 45,000 feet, reaching a top speed of 450 knots, and having a maximum range of 2,400 nautical miles, according to MilitaryFactory.com.
The Saudis signed a $110 billion arms deal with the United States earlier. Big-ticket items in the deal included four frigates based on the Littoral Combat Ship, as well as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile systems, and M1A2 Abrams tanks. However, the Scorpion could be an interesting pick for the Saudis.
The aircraft is easy to maintain – and its long range could be very useful given the vast distances involved on the Arabian Peninsula. It also comes cheap, allowing the Saudis to buy a lot of airframes. That last item becomes very important in an era where a new F-35 can cost as much as $100 million.
The production-ready version of the Scorpion will be at the Dubai Air Show in the United Arab Emirates. That plane will feature a Garmin 3000 avionics suite. You can see a video about the potential Saudi order of this plane below.
For active duty military members, playing video games can help release stress, build camaraderie and offer comforting familiarity in foreign environments. For veterans returning from combat, gaming can reduce isolation, renew connections with fellow service members and provide therapeutic benefits.
Recognizing the unique value of gaming for the military community, Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide Xbox Adaptive Controller units to 22 initial VA rehab centers across the U.S.
Launched in 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was created to make gaming accessible to players with limited mobility by enabling them to customize their setups and connect with external devices like buttons, switches and joysticks that accommodate their playing. The controller, which can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games, was developed after extensive consultation with gamers, accessibility advocates and nonprofits that work with gamers with limited mobility, including veterans.
Ken Jones, the founder of Warfighter Engaged, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that provides gaming devices to wounded vets, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller makes gaming accessible to a broader range of veterans.
“People just want to participate, and it’s going to allow them to do that,” he says. “It allows for a much bigger population of people to be included in gaming.”
Microsoft and VA partner to bring Xbox Adaptive Controller to Veterans with limited mobility
Gaming is a popular activity among the military community, but navigating a traditional controller can be difficult or impossible for injured veterans. The inability to game can mean the loss of connection to veterans’ military communities and to an activity that was a significant part of their lives during service.
The partnership with Microsoft aims to give veterans with limited mobility the opportunity to game again, get them more involved with their rehabilitation and increase social interaction, says Dr. Leif Nelson, director of National Veterans Sports Programs Special Events for the VA.
“We’re looking for platforms for veterans to interact with each other, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller can be that access point to get involved in this world and in the gaming community,” Nelson says. “Gaming is now everywhere in the world, and while people tend to think of it as isolating, we’re finding that it actually has the opposite effect and can increase interactions with other veterans and folks who are non-veterans. I think this can be a tool in the rehabilitation process to achieve a lot of different goals.”
For Jeff Holguin, gaming was a way to cope with the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder he experienced after being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2003 following an injury. He’d planned on a career in the military, but that identity was suddenly gone. Facing a series of surgeries and feeling adrift in the civilian world, Holguin isolated himself. He turned to gaming, an activity he’d enjoyed since childhood, and found the sense of inclusion he was craving.
“It gave me an outlet, a virtual efficacy within a world that I didn’t feel like I had a place in anymore,” says Holguin. “I made a lot of social connections and friends through that virtual space.”
Holguin went back to school, studying clinical psychology with a focus on trauma and PTSD. He has designed research for Microsoft around mixed-reality devices and learning outcomes and is also a clinical psychology doctoral intern at the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System in Prescott, Arizona. For Holguin, gaming provided a space where he could gradually reintegrate into post-military life.
“It was a sense of belonging and a sense of safety,” he says. “When you have trauma and you’re depressed, sometimes even just a little bit of stimulation is too much and you just don’t have the cognitive or emotional resources to deal with other people’s well-meaning interactivity.
“Gaming gives you what we might call exposure therapy, meaning you get a little bit of socialization, but when you’re ready to turn it off you can turn it off,” Holguin says. “Gaming provided some significant therapeutic value for me.”
Jamie Kaplan, a recreation therapist at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida, has been using gaming as therapy with his patients — about 25 percent of whom have had traumatic spinal injuries — for seven years.
Kaplan, himself an avid gamer, says gaming provides a range of therapeutic benefits. Manipulating a controller and pressing buttons, for example, can help with motor skills. Decisions made throughout a game, from choosing which character to play to which moves to make, requires cognitive processing and visual processing, he says.
“It’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, decision-making ability, information processing, cognitive processing,” Kaplan says. “We can assign a number of therapeutic values to gaming.”
Kaplan used various gaming systems and consoles with patients before getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller last fall. He particularly likes the Copilot feature, which was developed for Xbox One and links two controllers as if they were one, allowing players to team up on a game and share controls. The feature quickly became one of Xbox’s most popular ones and was built into the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
One of his patients, Kaplan says, was able to play with his brother for the first time in three years by using Copilot. “It’s amazing,” Kaplan says. “It allows me as the therapist to make up for whatever deficit the patient has in utilizing a regular controller or the adaptive controller.”
Kaplan uses games ranging from sports and racing games to virtual reality games and programs that allow veterans with limited mobility to try activities such as scuba diving, fishing or hiking. VR is useful for helping amputees work on balance, Kaplan says, and VR guided relaxation and meditation programs can help veterans reduce stress and anxiety — and potentially reduce reliance on pain medications such as opioids.
“I see chronic pain patients every day and tell them, ‘I’m not going to cure your pain; we’re just hoping to trick it for a little while,'” he says. “You’re distracting them from the pain by engaging them in gaming.”
Gaming has been part of Mike Monthervil’s life since his childhood growing up in Carrefour, Haiti, a suburban area southwest of Port-au-Prince. Monthervil’s family was one of the only ones in the neighborhood with a gaming system, but electricity was only available for part of each day. When the lights would come back on, Monthervil recalls, “every kid would be banging on our door to come and play a game.”
For Monthervil, gaming was a passion that also provided an escape from a challenging environment. “It was a very tough place to live. Kids don’t have a lot to do there,” he says. “Gaming made my childhood better. It took a lot of stress out for me.
“To this day, I still talk to the guys who are over there that I grew up with, that are still going through the hardship of being there,” he says.
Monthervil continued gaming after moving to the United States and later enlisting in the U.S. Army. Stationed in Afghanistan, he passed time playing games with his fellow soldiers between missions. But in July 2014, Monthervil sustained a serious spinal cord injury after falling backward into a ditch during a training session, leaving him unable to use his legs. He underwent surgery and spent nine months at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. There he met Kaplan, who helped him adapt his gaming to accommodate the dexterity limitations caused by his accident.
Kaplan gave Monthervil an adaptive controller to try several years ago, but it was cumbersome and difficult for him to use. After getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller, Kaplan created a custom set-up for Monthervil by adding a few additional buttons. Monthervil recently got one of the controllers at home and says it works better for him than any device he’s tried since his injury.
“Of all the adaptive stuff I’ve tried, it’s by far the best one,” says Monthervil, who’s 26.
Photo of Mike Monthervil gaming with the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
The Xbox collaboration is part of a strategic partnership between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dating back more than 20 years. Recent efforts under the partnership have focused on equipping VA employees with productivity and collaboration technologies, migrating VA legacy systems to the cloud and using advanced analytics in VA call centers to give veterans better information to make decisions about their benefits and medical care.
Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. Regulated Industries at Microsoft, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller collaboration is part of a broader effort to improve therapeutic and clinical care for veterans. But its fundamental goal is to harness technology to improve veterans’ lives, she says.
“It’s an example of using technology as a means to a much more significant end, which is a sense of belonging, being part of a team, a sense of reconnection, a sense of family,” she says.
Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, sees the collaboration as an ideal pairing of Microsoft’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in gaming with the vast reach of the VA, which serves more than 9 million veterans nationwide in its health care system.
“Everyone can play games, and we really focus on that as an organization,” he says. “With the VA being the largest integrated health care provider in the U.S., we thought it was a perfect opportunity to bring our focus on gaming and the great work that the VA is doing together.”
Microsoft will use feedback and data collected by the VA centers to determine how effective the Xbox Adaptive Controller is in serving veterans and how the device might be improved going forward, Townes-Whitley says. Nelson believes the initiative will serve not just existing gamers, but also veterans who weren’t previously into gaming.
“If we do our job well and we’re able to expose veterans to (the Xbox Adaptive Controller) as a possible tool or intervention in their rehab process, I expect to find successes even in those folks who have never gamed before in their lives,” he says.
A 2018 study found that gaming can relieve stress for veterans, help them cope with moods and provide a way to connect. Kaplan also sees the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an equalizer for veterans and others with disabilities.
“One of the biggest things kids and adults with disabilities face is the stigma of being different. Online, we’re all the same,” he says. “I could be missing my arms or my legs and you wouldn’t know it. Gaming really helps to promote that feeling of normalcy and feeling of belonging.
“I have a lot of respect for Xbox seeing and filling a need for making something that allows military members and anyone who has a disability to be able to game,” Kaplan says.
“I think it’s great for a mainstream company like Microsoft to be the one to take the first step. I hope it encourages other companies to do that.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Rangers from different units throughout the 4th Infantry Division put their physical and mental abilities to the test Jan. 10, 2019, during the 4th Inf. Div. Best Ranger Competition tryouts.
Rangers met at Iron Horse Park and began their morning with the Ranger Physical Fitness Test (RPFT), which included two-minutes of metronome pushups, two minutes of metronome sit-ups, one minute of metronome pull-ups and a 5-mile run. The metronome workouts used a device that produced an audible sound at a regular interval so that the exercise can be performed to a rhythm. Rangers followed the RPFT with an 8-mile foot march, directly into a 2.5-mile interceptor body armor (IBA) run, and concluded with a 600-meter swim.
1st Lt. Nick Rodriguez, with 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducts a pull-up Jan. 10, 2019, during a Ranger Physical Fitness Test.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
“The purpose of the tryouts was to identify the right population of Ranger qualified leaders who have the potential of continuing to train and prepare for the Best Ranger Competition,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Speichert, the coach for the 4th Inf. Div. Best Ranger Team. “The different back-to-back events allow me to assess the ability of these leaders to continue physical events without much rest in between.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Detwiler, with 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, runs down a hill during an 8-mile ruck march Jan. 10, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
Speichert said although the events are physically challenging, it’s important for Rangers to have mental strength and to understand how to work as a team.
1st Lt. Clayton Stanley, with 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, runs up a hill Jan. 10, 2019, during a 2.5-mile Interceptor Body Armor run on Fort Carson.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
“It’s important to have resiliency when you are going through 72 hours of back-to-back events and making decisions when you are tired and hurting,” he explained. “You also have to be a team player because one person doesn’t win the competition, both of the individuals have to execute every single task together to collectively win.”
1st Lt. Nick Rodriguez, with 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, catches his breath during a 600-meter swim Jan. 10, 2019, at Iron Horse Physical Fitness Center.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
Although the tryouts were challenging, Lt. Jacob Boyle, an infantry officer assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., was excited to train with the team and possibly represent the Ivy Division at Fort Benning for the competition.
“We have a great group of Rangers and I am excited about our 4th Inf. Div. team as we prepare for this upcoming competition,” said Speichert.
The squadron recently completed two successful sorties where a B-52 released eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range and eight more over the Precision Impact Range Area on Edwards Air Force Base.
“We are primarily looking to see safe separation from the external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam,” said Kevin Thorn, a 419th FLTS B-52 Stratofortress air vehicle manager. “We are ensuring that the bombs do not contact the aircraft, and/or each other, creating an unsafe condition. Additionally we are tracking the reliability of the bomb functioning.”
The PDU-5/B is a new-use or variant of an older Cluster Bomb Unit. The original designation for the weapon was the MK-20 Rockeye II, SUU-76B/B, and/or CBU-99/100. The designator changes depending on the type of filler used in the bomb, said Thorn. Having leaflets as a filler designates the bomb as a PDU-5/B.
According to the Air Force, PDU-5/B canisters can deliver about 60,000 leaflets and were deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom before any Air Force munitions began hitting targets in Baghdad.
The dispenser bomb can be dropped from helicopters and fighter jets, and now the 419th FTS is trying to see if the B-52 fleet can be used as well.
“The PDU-5/B is just another tool that the B-52 uses in its vast and reliable tool box,” said Earl Johnson, the B-52 PDU-5/B project manager. “Without the capability to carry PDU-5s on the B-52 aircraft, the impending shortfall on leaflet dispersal capability will jeopardize Air Force Central Command information operations.”
Johnson said testing the PDU-5/B on the B-52 is complete for now. The program is forecasted to return at a future date to test PDU-5/B releases from the B-52’s internal weapons bay.
Forty-five billion dollars. That’s how much the Pentagon says the Afghan war is costing American taxpayers, and, with no end in sight, they may have to keep footing that bill for years to come.
Lawmakers, skeptical about the prospects of victory, grilled the Trump administration Feb. 6 on the direction of the nation’s longest-running war, now in its 17th year. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing comes after a wave of shocking militant attacks in Kabul that killed more than 200 people.
Randall Schriver, the Defense Department’s top Asia official, said the $45 billion total for the year includes $5 billion for Afghan forces and $13 billion for U.S. forces inside Afghanistan. Much of the rest is for logistical support. Some $780 million goes toward economic aid.
The costs now are still significantly lower than during the high point of the war in Afghanistan. From 2010 to 2012, when the U.S. had as many as 100,000 soldiers in the country, the price for American taxpayers surpassed $100 billion each year. There are currently around 16,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Both Republican and Democratic senators highlighted the scale of the continuing outlay from Washington. Six months prior, President Donald Trump unveiled his strategy for turning the tide in the war, setting no time limit on the U.S. military’s involvement in the war-battered country, saying it would be based on conditions on the ground.
Tens of billions are “just being thrown down a hatch in Afghanistan,” said Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. “We’re in an impossible situation. I see no hope for it.”
Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts suggested that those funds could be more effectively spent in saving American lives by investing in treatment for those suffering from opioid abuse. He cited research that two months of Afghan spending could fund an opioid center in every county in the United States.
Painting a bleak picture of the Afghan political and security situation, Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon complained that every couple of years, U.S. administrations claim the corner is being turned in the Afghan war. He listed problems with corruption, government dysfunction and Afghan security forces, and said U.S. hopes of using military pressure to compel the Taliban to reach a political settlement were unrealistic.
“Why do the Taliban want a political settlement? They now control more territory than they did since 2001,” Merkley said.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who visited Kabul and met with President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan government members last week, conceded it wasn’t a “rosy situation.”
The attacks last month were a real shock to many people in the government,” Sullivan said. “I don’t want to come here and say, Henry Kissinger-like, that peace is at hand … but we’ve got a policy that we believe in. We want to stick to it.
He said the U.S. remains committed to brokering peace talks between the government and the Taliban. When Trump declared that the U.S. would no longer talk with the militant group, Sullivan said the president’s thrust was that “significant elements” of the Taliban are committed to violence and not prepared to negotiate. Sullivan said Ghani shared that view.
But Sullivan added that the insurgent group isn’t monolithic and the focus is on peeling off “those elements of the Taliban that we can reconcile with.”
Separately, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis defended the decision to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan, saying it was to prevent “another 9/11” being hatched from there. He told the House Armed Services Committee that the U.S. regional strategy “puts the enemy on the path toward accepting reconciliation.”
Russia’s armed forces are gearing up for Vostok-18, or East-18, a massive military exercise in the country’s far east from Sept. 11-15, 2018.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in August 2018 that about 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft would participate, using all of the training ranges in the country’s central and eastern military districts. Russia’s Pacific and Northern fleets and its airborne forces are also expected to join.
Shoigu said 2018’s iteration of the Vostok exercise would be “unprecedented in scale, both in terms of area of operations and numbers of military command structure, troops, and forces involved.”
But the size of the forces involved is not the only feature that has turned heads.
Forces from China and Mongolia also plan to take part. Beijing has said it will send about 3,200 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 other pieces of military hardware.
China’s Defense Ministry said the drills were meant to strengthen the two countries’ strategic military partnership and increase their ability to respond to threats and ensure stability in the region.
The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said China’s participation “speaks about the expansion of interaction of the two allies in all the spheres.”
Chinese forces have already joined their Russian counterparts in some military exercises.
Chinese warships have drilled with their Russian counterparts in the Pacific Ocean and the Baltic Sea. In summer 2018 Chinese warplanes were in Russia for International Army Games 2018, a multinational event.
August 2018, Chinese forces are taking part in Peace Mission 2018, an exercise organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional bloc led by Russia and China. (It’s the first exercise to include all eight SCO members.)
China’s Jian-10 fighter jet
But including China in the Vostok exercise hints at a significant geopolitical shift.
“China was seen as the potential threat or target in exercises like Vostok,” Alexander Gabuev, an expert on China at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told The New York Times.
“But it is now being invited to join as a friend and even a quasi-ally,” Gabuev added. “This is really unprecedented.”
The Soviet Union clashed with China along their shared border several times in the 1960s — once in a deadly Chinese raid on a Soviet border outpost that almost kicked off a full-scale war in early 1969.
The Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev normalized relations with China in 1989, and some 6 million Russians in Siberia now live alongside roughly 100 million Chinese in northern China, where trade relations have grown.
But eastern Russia’s vast expanse and sparse population make it a vulnerable area, and Russians there have expressed frustration with the growing Chinese presence and with concessions to Chinese commercial interests.
Amid heightened tensions with the West, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a concerted effort to build ties with China. Beijing, for its part, has also embraced Russia. Both have done so with an eye on the West.
United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Valdimir Putin.
The two have said they are building a “strategic partnership” and expressed shared opposition to what they describe as a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.
China’s defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, went to Moscow early 2018 on his first trip abroad, saying the visit was meant to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia.”
“I am visiting Russia as a new defense minister of China to show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation,” Wei said.
That rhetoric and statements about close ties don’t mean that Russia has dropped its guard, Gabuev said, noting that Chinese troops at Vostok-18 may be limited to training areas near the countries’ shared border with Mongolia, allowing Russian forces deployed elsewhere to carry out exercises designed with China in mind.
The Russian military “is not so naive that it is not preparing a contingency plan,” Gabuev told The Times.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Gilbert Bates knew what a lack of understanding between people could lead to: violence and war. Bates was a Civil War veteran of the Wisconsin artillery who knew that people were basically good, no matter what the rumors said. If there was an area that was supposed to be hostile and dangerous for Americans, Bates would set out to prove the rumors wrong.
And he did so on more than one occasion.
After the Civil War ended, Sgt. Bates returned to his Wisconsin farm. Tensions between North and South were still high, even though the war had resolved the major issues. Northerner and Southerner were still mistrustful of one another. But Bates knew the South was in the Union for good. The victory was hard-won, but won nonetheless. So when his Wisconsin neighbors began to circulate rumors that the South was rising once more in rebellion and that any Northerner was not safe down there, Bates set out to prove them wrong by marching across the South with the U.S. Flag in hand.
Bates’ march received so much notoriety at the time that even Mark Twain, the famous American author wrote of it, predicting that Bates would “get more black eyes, down there among those unreconstructed rebels than he can ever carry along with him without breaking his back.” But everyone who predicted his demise greatly exaggerated.
Bates walked across the unreconstructed South, some 1,500 miles, through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia to Washington, DC. He didn’t arrive on one leg and with an eye missing, as Twain predicted. The opposite was true, actually. Bates received genteel Southern Hospitality everywhere he went, even flying the American flag he carried over the former Confederate capital at Richmond. The only place he wasn’t allowed to fly it was over the U.S. Capitol building.
This march led to Bates taking on a bet. A wealthy friend of his bet the flag carrier that he could not do the same march across England without receiving a single insult. Bates, who had an incredible belief in the goodness of his fellow man took that bet.
Relations with England at the time of the Civil War were much different from the “Special Relationship” we enjoy today. In the 1860s, the British were more interested in King Cotton than supporting the United States against its rebels. In many ways, the English Crown supported the Confederacy, if not openly, then as an open secret. Still undeterred, Bates marched on foot – in full Union uniform – across the country. He walked some 400 miles from the border of Scotland to London to great fanfare. The English could not support him enough. He never paid for a meal or a place to sleep. By the time he got to London, the crowds swelled so much he had to take a carriage to the raise the Stars and Stripes next to the Union Jack.
Upon arriving, he telegrammed his friend, canceling the bet. To Bates, the event was worth more than any sum.
The dead Americans are reportedly military personnel assisting with training. According to the BBC, the Royal Jordanian Air Force released a statement saying that the shooting came after “an attempt by the trainers’ vehicle to enter the gate without heeding orders of the guards to stop.” The United States embassy in Jordan told the BBC that acknowledged “a security incident involving American personnel” and that they were “in contact with Jordanian officials.” According to multiple reports, the incident is under investigation
“The three service members were in Jordan on a training mission, and the initial report is that they came under fire as they were entering the facility in vehicles,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook. “We are working closely with the government of Jordan to determine exactly what happened. Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of these service members.”
In November 2015, a shooting at a police training center in Amman left five dead, including two Americans, and wounded seven others (including two more Americans). The shooter, a police officer, was killed by responding security personnel.
According the Royal Jordanian Air Force’s web site, al-Jafr airbase is home to Number 9 Squadron, equipped with the Northrop F-5E Tiger. Number 9 Squadron‘s roles include air defense and ground-attack. The Tiger is an older plane, having entered service in 1973. It was widely exported to a number of countries, including South Korea, the Republic of China, Jordan, Thailand, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Mexico, and Singapore.
Jordan has been part of the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). One Jordanian F-16 pilot has been killed while that country participated. After the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Moaz Youssef al-Kasasbeh, ejected from his crashing plane, he was captured by ISIS and later burned alive.
Despite President Donald Trump’s bold proclamation that a North Korean nuclear missile capable of hitting the US “won’t happen,” Kim Jong Un appears to be on his way — faster than many had thought — to an intercontinental ballistic missile that could flatten Washington.
But a nuclear-armed North Korea wouldn’t be the end of the world, according to some senior military officials.
“We can deter them,” retired Adm. Dennis Blair, the former head of US Pacific Command, said of North Korea at a National Committee for US-China Relations event. “They may be developing 10 to 15 nuclear weapons. We have 2,000. They can do a lot of damage to the U.S., but there won’t be any North Korea left in the event of a nuclear exchange. That’s not a good regime survival strategy, and even Kim Jong Un would understand that.”
The U.S. has to live with the fact that Russia, the world’s second-greatest nuclear power, openly opposes Washington’s foreign policy in nearly every dimension, and that Pakistan, a country rife with corruption and Islamist groups gaining traction within and around its borders, has nuclear weapons.
A senior Defense Department official with expertise in nuclear strategy told Business Insider that while the US has said it cannot and will not accept a North Korea armed with a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, that amounted more to an opening position in an ongoing negotiation than an intention to use military force to stop it.
F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornets from the USS Carl Vinson’s Carrier Air Wing fly over the carrier strike group flanked by two South Korean destroyers on May 3. US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown.
“You never undermine your official position going in,” the official told Business Insider. “You’re never going to voluntarily back away from that. You’re going to actively work to make sure they don’t get” an ICBM.
“The North Koreans having nukes is a bad thing, and we don’t want it,” the official said. “But if we lose that one, we survive it.”
Despite bluster on both sides — whether posturing that the US may attack to cripple North Korea’s nuclear program or that North Korea would use its nuclear weapons on the US or allies — the defense official and other experts Business Insider contacted said they found both cases extremely unlikely and undesirable.
“It’s always in the US’s favor to be somewhat ambiguous about what they will or won’t do,” said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate in the East Asia Nonproliferation Program. “That’s because there’s no good thing to do. They have to convince South Korean allies and North Korean adversaries that they’ll do anything to protect Seoul, even all-out nuclear war.
There’s a real risk that, even without nuclear weapons, Seoul would fall in a conflict with North Korea. Photo from Stratfor
“But those experienced military leaders know. They’ve run the models. They’ve run the numbers,” Hanham said. There’s just no way to fight North Korea “without chaos and enormous death and damage to the world.”
Because US nuclear weapons would have to fly over China or Russia and most likely would spread deadly fallout in South Korea or as far as Japan, nuclear conflict with North Korea would be likely to bring about World War III — a great power war between nuclear states that the world has developed nuclear weapons to avoid.
To an extent, the US already lives with and deters a nuclear North Korea daily. Hanham said that although it hadn’t been verified, North Korea most likely had a deliverable nuclear weapon that could hit the 10 million civilians in Seoul or the 25,000 permanent US troops stationed in South Korea.
So North Korea will continue on its path toward a nuclear weapon that could hit anywhere in the US — but like Russia, China, and Pakistan, it probably wouldn’t use it.
North Korea is squaring off with a superpower, and propaganda has offered insight into the targets the North might aim for in the event of a conflict.
North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons technology is advancing rapidly. The North successfully tested a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile Sunday that some observers suspect may be the foundation for a future intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the key to threatening the U.S. mainland.
“The objective is to preserve the regime, right?” Vipin Narang, a MIT professor with a deep knowledge of nuclear strategy, told The Washington Post. “You really have to stop the invasion. If you think you need nuclear weapons to do that, how do you deal with the fact that the U.S. is going to make you a smoldering, radioactive hole at the end of that? Well, if you can hold American homeland targets at risk, that might induce caution.”
The North is still developing the technology to strike the U.S. with an ICBM, despite their aggressive threats. Nonetheless, North Korean propaganda offers insight into the targets they might shoot for if they had one.
A North Korean photo from 2013 reveals a map, which some analysts call the “Map of Death,” identifying U.S. targets for potential nuclear strikes.
Open source intelligence analysts suspect that the four targets identified on the map are Hawaii, San Diego, Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, and Washington, D.C. The U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet is headquartered in Hawaii, and its home base is in San Diego. Barksdale is the headquarters for Air Force Global Strike Command, which is essential for U.S. nuclear deterrence and global strikes. The Department of Defense and other national security agencies are located in D.C.
Other analysts add Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where U.S. Strategic Command is located, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, home to nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers, according to WaPo. The North could also potentially threaten Seattle or San Francisco. North Korea revealed a propaganda video featuring a simulated nuclear strike on the latter during a state concert celebrating the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung last month.
An ICBM test is expected this year, according to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
While it cannot yet strike the U.S. mainland, North Korea has the weapons technology to hold Northeast Asia hostage.
Eager to stave off a U.S. invasion, the North, according to the rhetoric in their state media reports, would likely focus on U.S. military bases and high-profile strategic assets, like the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system being installed in South Korea.
North Korea launched a salvo of extended-range Scud missiles early March into the East Sea/Sea of Japan, with North Korean state media claiming the Korean People’s Army was rehearsing for strikes on U.S. bases in Japan. Open source intelligence reports revealed the North was aiming for Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, where a squadron of forward-deployed F-35s were stationed. When the USS Ohio made a port call to Busan last year, the North fired a missile into the sea. Open source intelligence, coupled with media reports at the time, revealed that the North was practicing bombing Busan.
The North’s newest missile, the Hwasong-12, has a range that puts Guam, specifically Anderson Air Force Base, within striking distance. The U.S. has a number of strategic bombers stationed in Guam, several of which have flown past the DMZ in a show of force.
“If the US goes reckless, misjudging the trend of the times and the strategic position of the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], all the US military bases in the operational theater in the Pacific, including Guam, will face ruin in the face of an all-out and substantial attack mounted by the army of the DPRK,” a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson told the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in August last year.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.