On July 31, 2020, the town of Stockton, California held a drive-by birthday celebration for a distinguished resident of The Oaks at Inglewood assisted living facility. A parade of local residents and first responders turned out to greet Marine Maj. Bill White a very happy 105 birthday.
Maj. White in January (Pegasus Senior Living)
“Feels just as good as it did at 104,” Maj. White said.
The outpouring of fanfare and support were a testament to Maj. White’s positive spirit and service to the nation. For his family members, who haven’t been able to visit him much because of the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration was a touching display.
“It’s very heartwarming and very just—it does get to you that there are so many people that love him and appreciate him for his service,” said Maj. White’s daughter Mary Huston.
Maj. White enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 1934. Before the outbreak of WWII, he was stationed in Shanghai. During the war, he fought on Iwo Jima where he earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered from a grenade. Maj. White continued his service after the war, spending 30 years in the Corps.
Maj. Bill White in his Marine dress white uniform (Bill White)
Maj. White’s dedication to service continued after the military. He served as a police officer and started a family. One of his favorite hobbies is scrapbooking.
“This started way back,” Maj. White said. “My mother, parents taught me to conserve and observe memories as much as possible.”
Maj. White made headlines back in February when he put out a call asking for Valentine’s Day cards to add to his collection of memories. He launched “Operation Valentine” the month before with a goal of 100 cards. By the end, Maj. White’s call had gone viral on social media and he received more than half-a-million cards and gifts from around the world including a special note from NASA and President Trump.
Like any good Marine, Maj. White keeps his uniform in good order and likes to wear it for special occasions. Looking sharp in his dress blues, Maj. White revealed that the secret to his longevity is keeping his mind sharp by reading. “Right now I’m trying for 106,” he said. “One at a time.”
Long before Britney started her Las Vegas residency at the Planet Hollywood Casino, visitors and residents got their nightly entertainment elsewhere – likely from a member of the Rat Pack but every so often, they would get a thrill watching the United States Air Force. Not the Air Force rock band Max Impact, they were there to see mushroom clouds.
Between 1951 and 1992, the United States military conducted more than 900 atomic explosion tests, setting off nuclear bombs at what we now call the Nevada National Security Site. Back then, the same area in nearby Nye County was known as the Nevada Test Site. Some 100 of those nuclear tests were atmospheric detonations, and from just 65 miles away, the blasts and the resulting mushroom clouds could easily be seen from Las Vegas.
So obviously, the nuclear detonations, the brilliant flash of the detonation, along with the seismic tremors were great Las Vegas entertainment. And while the best views were supposedly from the downtown Las Vegas hotels, that didn’t stop visitor and locals alike from driving to the best views of the blast along the desert horizon.
That’s not the sunrise in the background.
In the 1950s, the population of Las Vegas more than doubled in size, as tourists and visitors moved to take advantage of the casino gaming industry as well as the hospitality industry in the city. Some tourists flocked to Vegas just to see the magnificent nuclear explosions in the distance. The nuclear tests were always done in the early morning hours, and hotels and bars would create Atomic Parties, where guests drank until dawn, finishing the night with a blast.
These fire team leaders are working their way through the lower ranks just like their father and their father’s father did before them. They want to embody their ancestors’ leadership abilities and make an impact through hard work and sacrifice.
2. The “elbow or a**hole”
Although they somehow managed to sneak their way into a leadership role, this fire team leader couldn’t lead their way out of a paper bag. In fact, we’re not even sure if they know the difference between their elbow or their a**hole. No grunt wants to follow this guy to the liquor store, let alone the war zone.
3. The “know-it-all”
This type of motivator has read every infantry leader manual ever printed. Their only downfall is that they’ve never actually put their knowledge to use in a real combat situation.
4. The “overachiever”
These are the ones who volunteer for everything, thinking it will look good on their resume one day. We’re not hating on them, but sometimes they do get annoying.
5. The “smooth talker”
Beleive it or not, not every leader has to yell at you to get the point across. This type of leader is the perfect blend between rock-solid and go-with-the-flow because they’ve deployed before.
They buy all the little extra pieces of tech that aren’t issued at supply thinking it’ll make them a better leader. Truthfully, you don’t need the special edition bi-pod that tells the time in 8 different countries when you’re only humping a pack in one.
Hamilton and Burr are now friends. More accurately, the descendants of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are. Burr shot Hamilton in what has become probably the most famous duel in American history — and now you can watch their five-time great-grandchildren reenact the event.
The two Founding Fathers of the United States drew down on each other on July 11, 1804 in Weehawken, New Jersey. It was rumored that Hamilton, formerly the first Secretary of the Treasury, said some disparaging things about Burr during a society dinner. After a series of strongly-worded letters were exchanged and Hamilton refused to apologize, the two decided to settle it the very old-fashioned way.
Burr wasn’t the same after that.
Burr, a former Vice-President, fled the site and infamously tried to raise a personal army and cut out a piece of the nascent United States for himself after sparking a war with Spain in Florida. President Jefferson got wind of the scheme and had him arrested for treason. Burr was acquitted and lived in self-imposed exile in Europe for awhile. Alexander Hamilton died the day after the duel.
And Vice-Presidents stopped shooting people.
If you’re ever interested in seeing just how the Hamilton-Burr Duel went down, the good news is that now you can. In 2004, 200 years later, Douglas Hamilton, a fifth-great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton and Antonio Burr, a descendant of Aaron Burr’s cousin, met to re-enact the famous duel.
The Secret Service released a statement on April 2, 2019, responding to the report that a woman was able to get past checkpoints at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday, March 30, 2019, before being stopped by reception and detained by the Secret Service.
The Palm Beach, Florida, golf club is owned by President Donald Trump, who was golfing at another one of his clubs nearby at the time. However, the First Lady Melania Trump and others were present at Mar-a-Lago, according to the Miami Herald.
“The Secret Service does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity,” the agency said in a statement. “The Mar-a-Lago club management determines which members and guests are granted access to the property. This access does not afford an individual proximity to the President or other Secret Service protectees.”
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Tump.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)
According to the criminal complaint filed by Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich, the woman Yujing Zhang, a Chinese national, allegedly told a Secret Service agent that she was going to the pool. Mar-a-Lago staff were then charged with confirming whether she was an authorized guest.
Zhang eventually was screened and made her way to the reception desk, where she allegedly said she was going to an event that was not scheduled at Mar-a-Lago. The receptionist flagged this and according to the complaint, Zhang was taken offsite and questioned by the Secret Service.
Federal prosecutors charged Zhang with making false statements to federal agents and entering a restricted area — the complaint details the multiple signs identifying the area as “Restricted Building or Grounds,” and the signs reportedly state that “Persons entering without lawful authority are subject to arrest and prosecution.”
She was carrying a laptop, four phones, an “external hard drive type device,” and a thumb drive. According to court documents a preliminary check showed the thumb drive contained “malicious malware.”
Woman from China arrested in Mar-a-Lago security breach
Though she was screened for — and was not carrying any — items that could have caused physical harm, the event raised questions about security at Mar-a-Lago, as the club is open to members even when the president is in residence.
“It’s a hard position for Secret Service to be in to potentially deny a million-dollar committee member,” Don Mihalek, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association’s executive vice president, told The New York Times. “It puts Secret Service in a very difficult position because we don’t know who are members and who aren’t.”
The Secret Service, which is charged with the protection of the president and first family, said that “additional screening and security measures are employed,” when guests are in close proximity to the president.
But they also stated that “the practice used at Mar-a-Lago is no different than that long-used at any other site temporarily visited by the President or other Secret Service protectees.” It does not have the same permanent security apparatus as the White House.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For almost two decades, drone strikes have been the hassle-free, war crime tolerant way to sever the heads of any kind of terror cells operating against the United States in the war on terror. There’s just one big problem with that: Hellfire missiles make a big boom, and when that boom is misplaced, a lot of people die – innocent people. And that just creates more terrorists. Lockheed-Martin has finally created a weapon designed to minimize civilian casualties while taking out the bad guys with pinpoint accuracy.
Actually, knife-point accuracy.
Imagine this hellfire missile, but instead of explosives, it’s filled with pop-out blades.
The Hellfire missile is a staple of drones, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft throughout the U.S. military arsenal. The laser-guided, tank-busting workhorse is great for use on a conventional battlefield but not so great when used for surgical strikes.
The term “surgical strike” gets a whole new meaning with the Hellfire R9X projectile, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, has no explosives, but rather it drops 100 pounds of metal blades into a target, which includes long blades that deploy from the missile’s body right before impact. The shards hit with such force that they cut through concrete and sheet metal.
A U.S. airstrike using a Hellfire RX9 to kill al-Qaeda deputy leader Abu Khayr al-Masri in Syria in 2017. Above is the result of the surgical strike.
(New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness)
Also called “The Flying Ginsu” by the people who developed the missile, they say it’s the equivalent of dropping an anvil on a terrorist’s head, minimizing the damage to people and property in the vicinity of the weapon’s detonation. Since the weapon has no explosive effect, it is also sometimes referred to as “the ninja bomb.”
So far, the weapon has only been deployed around a half-dozen times, in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. It was the weapon of choice to kill a number of al-Qaeda operatives, including Jamal al-Badawi, the bomber behind the USS Cole attack in 2000 and it was the back-up plan to kill Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan compound.
Infantry soldiers often carry an array of supplies and gear that together can weigh anywhere from 60 to 120 pounds, said Capt. Erika Hanson, the assistant product manager for the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport.
But the SMET vehicle, which the Army expects to field in just under three years, “is designed to take the load off the soldier,” Hanson said. “Our directed requirement is to carry 1,000 pounds of the soldier load.”
That 1,000 pounds is not just for one soldier, of course, but for an entire Infantry squad — typically about nine soldiers.
Late May 2018, during a “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” in the courtyard of the Pentagon, Hanson had with her on display the contenders for the Army’s SMET program: four small vehicles, each designed to follow along behind a squad of infantry soldiers and carry most or all their gear for them, so they can move to where they need to be without being exhausted upon arrival.
“I’m not an infantry soldier,” Hanson said. “But I’ve carried a rucksack — and I can tell you I can move a lot faster without out a rucksack on my back. Not having to carry this load will make the soldier more mobile and more lethal in a deployed environment.”
The four contender vehicles on display at the Pentagon were the MRZR-X system from Polaris Industries Inc., Applied Research Associates Inc. and Neya Systems LLC; the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport from General Dynamics Land Systems; the Hunter Wolf from HDT Global; and the RS2-H1 system from Howe and Howe Technologies. Each was loaded down with gear representative of what they would be expected to carry when one of them is actually fielded to the Army.
(U.S. Army photos)
“Nine ruck sacks, six boxes of MREs and four water cans,” Hanson said. “This is about the equivalent of what a long-range mission for a light Infantry unit would need to carry.”
Hanson said that for actual testing and evaluation purposes, the simulated combat load also includes fuel cans and ammo cans as well, though these items weren’t included in the display at the Pentagon.
These small vehicles, Hanson said, are expected to follow along with a squad of soldiers as they walk to wherever it is they have been directed to go. The requirement for the vehicles is that they be able to travel up to 60 miles over the course of 72 hours, she said.
Three of the vehicles are “pivot steered,” Hanson said, to make it easier for them to maneuver in off-road environments, so that they can follow soldiers even when there isn’t a trail.
One of the contenders for SMET has a steering wheel, with both a driver’s seat and a passenger seat. So if a soldier wanted to drive that vehicle, he could, Hanson said. Still, the Army requirement is that the SMET be able to operate unmanned, and all four vehicles provide that unmanned capability.
All four contenders include a small, simplistic kind of remote control that a soldier can hand-carry to control the vehicle. One of those remotes was just a light-weight hand grip with a tiny thumb-controlled joystick on top. A soldier on patrol could carry the light-weight controller at his side.
More advanced control options are also available for the SMET as well, Hanson said.
“All can be operated with an operator control unit,” she said. “It’s a tele-operation where you have a screen and you can operate the system non-line-of-site via the cameras on the system.”
When soldiers on patrol want the SMET to follow along with them, they can use the very simple controller that puts a low cognitive load on the Soldier. When they want the SMET to operate in locations where they won’t be able to see it, they can use the more advanced controller with the video screen.
Hanson said the Army envisions soldiers might one day use the SMET to do things besides carry a Soldier’s bags.
“It’s for use in operations where some of the payloads are like re-trans and recon payloads in the future,” she said. “In that situation, it would be better for a soldier at a distance to be able to tele-operate the SMET into position.”
(U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)
The “re-trans” mission, she said, would involve putting radio gear onto the SMET and then using a remote control to put the vehicle out at the farthest edge of where radio communications are able to reach. By doing so, she said, the SMET could then be part of extending that communications range farther onto the battlefield.
One of the vehicles even has an option for a soldier to clip one end of a rope to his belt and the other end to the vehicle — and then the vehicle will just follow him wherever he walks. That’s the tethered “follow-me” option, Hanson said.
In addition to carrying gear for soldiers, the SMET is also expected to provide electric power to soldiers on patrol. She said while the vehicle is moving, for instance, it is required to provide 1 kilowatt of power, and when it’s standing still, it must provide 3 kW.
That power, she said, could be piped into the Army’s “Universal Battery Charger,” which can charge a variety of batteries currently used in soldier products. Vendors of the SMET have each been provided with a UBC so they can figure out how best to incorporate the device into their SMET submissions.
Hanson said the Army hopes that the SMET could include, in some cases, up to five UBCs on board to ensure that no soldier in an Infantry squad is ever without mobile power.
In November 2017, the Army held a “fly-off” at Fort Benning, Georgia, where 10 contenders for the SMET competed with each other. Only the developers of the vehicles were involved in the fly-off.
“From those, we down-selected to these four, based on their performance,” Hanson said.
To make its choice for the down-select, she said the Army looked at things like mobility and durability of the systems.
Now, the Army will do a technology demonstration to down-select to just one vehicle, from the remaining four. To do that, Hanson said, the Army will first provide copies of the competing SMET vehicles to two Army Infantry units, one at Fort Drum, New York, and one at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Additionally, Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will also get a set of the vehicles.
“Over the course of the tech demo, we’ll be getting feedback from the soldiers and the Marines on what systems best fill the need for the infantryman,” she said.
The technology demonstration, she said, will last just one year. And when it’s complete, feedback from soldiers and Marines will be used to down-select to just one system that will then become an Army program of record.
“I think the best part of the program is the innovative approach the team is taking to field them to soldiers before they select the program of record,” Hanson said. “That way, it’s the soldier feedback that drives the requirement, not the other way around.”
Hanson said she expects the program of record to begin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, after which the Army will go into low-rate initial production on the SMET. By the second or third quarter of FY 2021, she said, the first Army unit can expect to have the new vehicle fielded to them.
Hanson said the Army has set a base price of $100,000 for the SMET.
The two were taken into custody after an investigation by the Navy Criminal Investigative Service’s Carolinas Field Office out of Camp Lejeune. The two were later indicted on charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and aiding and abetting.
The Charlotte News and Observer reported that Martin and Tykoski used the social network MeetMe.com to lure the Marines in. Over a two-year period between 2013 and 2015, they hooked several Marines by convincing them they would be moving into to an off-base apartment.
On Jan. 30, Martin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, and on March 27 Tykoski pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Martin was sentenced to 57 months in prison and five years of supervised release while Tykoski was given five years of probation.
Both were also ordered to make restitution. Martin was ordered to pay $117,306.42m while Tykoski was ordered to pay $42,289.05.
“The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this district treat cases such as this one with high priority,” U.S. Attorney John Stuart Bruce said in the release. “There will continue to be vigorous prosecution of those who commit fraud and cybercrimes targeting members of the armed services and veterans.”
H. Andrew Goodridge, the NCIS Special Agent in Charge of the Carolinas Field Office, added, “This case reminds all of us to remain vigilant about what information we provide to strangers, it also demonstrates that NCIS is committed to pursuing those who exploit US service members.”
Units from the U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) began exercise Keen Sword at military installations throughout Japan and surrounding waters, Oct. 29, 2018.
The biennial exercise is the latest in a series of joint/bilateral field training exercises since 1986 designed to increase combat readiness and interoperability of U.S. forces and the JSDF.
“Keen Sword will give U.S. and Japanese forces an opportunity to practice critical air, maritime and amphibious capabilities essential for Japan’s defense and for regional security,” said Lt. Gen. Jerry P. Martinez, commander of U.S. Forces Japan. “Just as important, the exercise is a visible demonstration of the strength and durability of the U.S-Japan alliance and our shared pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
Approximately 10,000 U.S. service members from commands such as U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Forces Japan, 7th Fleet, 5th Air Force, 374th Airlift Wing, 18th Wing, 35th Fighter Wing, and III Marine Expeditionary Force will take part.
Two Royal Canadian Navy ships will participate in the maritime portion of the exercise for the first time, along with observers from several other partner nations. Martinez said, “These developments are a positive sign of our shared interest in expanding partnerships and increasing multilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.”
U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships are underway in formation during Keen Sword 15.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)
The U.S.-Japan alliance has been the cornerstone of regional peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region for nearly 60 years, and events like Keen Sword ensure that we will remain ready for the next sixty years,” Martinez added.
Exercises like Keen Sword provide the JSDF and U.S. military opportunities to train together across a variety of mission areas in realistic scenarios to enhance crisis response capabilities.
“On behalf of the 54,000 men and women of U.S. Forces Japan, I am proud to be a part of this alliance that is so essential to our two nations’ shared interests,” Martinez said. “We look forward to working side by side with our Japanese allies to make this important bilateral exercise a success.”
While the saga of Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a soldier assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured by Saddam’s forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is well known, the incredibly heroic story of the attempt to rescue that unit isn’t. Now, the brave Marine behind that rescue attempt is retiring.
According to a report by the Marine Corps Times, Sergeant Major Justin LeHew is set to retire after 30 years of service in the Marine Corps. His most recent assignment has been with the Wounded Warrior Battalion — East, based out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
LeHew became a legend while serving as a platoon sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, Task Force Tarawa during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When the chain of command learned about the dire situation the 507th Maintenance Company was in, they sent LeHew’s unit to try to rescue the soldiers.
According to his Navy Cross citation, when they arrived on the scene, LeHew helped his Marines evacuate four soldiers from the beleaguered maintenance unit. Then, an intense, three-hour-long firefight broke out. When an AAV-7 was destroyed, LeHew sprang into action.
One of the AAV-7s destroyed in the Battle of Nasiriyah. Justin LeHew earned the Navy Cross for heroism in retrieving dead and wounded Marines from a similar vehicle.
(USMC photo by Master Sergeant Edward D. Kniery)
According to a release by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he made multiple 70-yard sprints to the destroyed vehicle, retrieving nine dead and wounded Marines, picking body parts out from the wreckage — all while under fire from the enemy.
He received the Navy Cross for his actions while on another deployment to Iraq with C Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Around the time he was awarded the Navy Cross, he would again distinguish himself in combat — this time in Najaf. During a battle against insurgents, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire, helping, once again, to evacuate the wounded, including taking one Marine with a sucking chest wound straight to a forward operating base. For his actions, he received the Bronze Star with the Combat Distinguishing Device in 2005.
After his second tour in Iraq, LeHew held a number of senior leadership positions.
Chelsea George of Waynesville, or more recently known as Mrs. Missouri, is a fan of adventures.
Her husband, Capt. Tony George, currently serves at Fort Leonard Wood. He is the same way, she said, and with being part of a military family, she’s had quite the journey.
“My family, we’re currently on a quest to see all 50 states,” she said. “Every time we got orders somewhere, we were excited about the adventure.”
Her family first moved to the area for six months in 2013 during her husband’s Captains Career Course.
She said adjusting to the difference in regional lifestyle was difficult, but social connections made the transition easier.
“I think it’s really important to get plugged in with different groups, whether it’s volunteering or joining a club, because it can be kind of slow at first,” she said.
Out of her desire to integrate into the surrounding community, she was introduced to the Mrs. Missouri pageant, which she would win six years later after several back-to-back moves and returning to Fort Leonard Wood.
“It was a really good way to meet friends when I moved to a different state,” she said. “That was what initially got me into it, but it (also) gave (me) a platform to speak about things that are important to (me).”
Her platform was a choice riddled with emotions from years past, she said. To Chelsea George, there are few more important causes than skin cancer prevention.
“Ten years ago this year, I had my uncle Jamie pass away from melanoma,” she said.
He was 42 years old.
“It was five months from the day he was diagnosed to the day he died,” she added. “He had a big part in raising me.”
Because of her single mother’s working hours and pursuing a doctorate, she said, she spent several nights a week at her uncle’s house.
“He was this big, huge 6-foot 7-inch police officer in an area that was kind of rough, a suburb of Dayton, Ohio, where I lived,” she said. “To me, (he) was my hero, and nothing could touch him. (He) couldn’t be defeated.”
“Then, to see this terrible disease take him so quickly, it’s definitely something that really molded me and changed me going into adulthood,” Chelsea George said.
She was 19 years old.
“The phrase ‘grief is a process’ is definitely not a lie,” she said. “For a long time, I really couldn’t even talk about it without being super emotional.”
George was previously a licensed cosmetologist, and even though she wasn’t vocal about her platform yet, she volunteered to assist cancer patients who wanted to “look good (and) feel better.”
“Women who have cancer (would) come in and get a makeover,” she said. “You (would) teach them how to deal with things like losing eyebrows, how to apply makeup to cover that, how to pick a wig that’s best for (them).”
“It wasn’t melanoma-specific, because I knew I wanted to help (all) people with cancer, but I wasn’t ready to talk about my uncle Jamie and his story,” she added.
George would later graduate with a degree in exercise science and begin working at the Missouri University of Science and Technology Wellness Department. This education, coupled with a natural maturing in the grief process, she said, allowed her to open up about her hero.
“I finally got to the point where I could talk to people about it,” she said. “Working in the field of prevention specifically kind of led me to realize, ‘I can take what I know about prevention work and put it toward this thing that’s super important to me, and hopefully make the smallest bit of difference.'”
Bringing light to melanoma prevention and education carried her to the competition where she would ultimately be crowned Mrs. Missouri.
Even on stage, she said, it’s still a sensitive subject.
“I think there were 5 judges, and I cried with 4 of them,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s still hard to talk about, but it’s important to talk about. Knowing how important the message is, (even) if I stumble over my words, that’s okay, as long as the message gets out.”
The next year will prove to be a significant one for George as she advocates for her cause, celebrates her 10th wedding anniversary and competes for Mrs. United States in Las Vegas in August 2019.
“She worked so hard not only for the pageant but she’s worked on her education, getting her bachelor’s degree and working on her master’s degree, she’s holding down a full-time job and parenting two kids,” Tony George said. “I’m proud of her for all the work she’s done.”
The last Mrs. Missouri contestant to win the title of Mrs. United States was Aquillia Vang in 2012, a Waynesville resident at the time, and military spouse, whose husband, Maj. Neng Vang, was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood.
When most of Afghanistan was under Taliban rule in the late 1990s, the fundamentalist regime drafted a new constitution.
The document was never officially ratified, and it was unclear how much of it was ever implemented before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the extremist Islamic group from power.
But the constitution offers a glimpse into what kind of government the militant organization envisages as it prepares to negotiate a future power-sharing arrangement with the current Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani.
A political settlement made by the disparate Afghan sides is a key component of the peace deal signed by the United States and the Taliban on February 29 that is aimed at ending the 18-year war.
Under the deal, foreign forces will leave Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has agreed to launch direct negotiations with Afghan officials for a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing formula to rule the country.
Since 2001, the Taliban insurgency has vowed to drive out foreign forces and overthrow the Western-backed government in Kabul. But even as it seemingly pursues peace, it been vague about what kind of postwar government it envisions in Afghanistan.
Radical Islamic Seminaries
The Taliban emerged in 1994 following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first surfaced in ultraconservative Islamic seminaries in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees.
The seminaries radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought against the occupying Soviet forces.
The Taliban appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul alone.
The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce their ultraconservative brand of Islam. They captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.
In 1998, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar assembled some 500 Islamic scholars from across the country to draft a new constitution for the country.
After three days of deliberations, the scholars drafted a 14-page document — the first and only attempt by the Taliban to codify its views on power and governance.
‘Intensely Religious Roots’
In the document, power was centralized in the hands of an “Amir ul-Momineen,” or leader of the faithful. This supreme leader was the head of state and had ultimate authority. This was Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s spiritual leader and founder.
The constitution did not describe how such a leader would be selected or for how long he could serve. But it said the supreme leader must be male and a Sunni Muslim.
An Islamic council, handpicked by the supreme leader, would serve as the legislature and implement laws and policy. The government, headed by the head of the council of ministers — a quasi-prime ministerial position — would report to the Islamic council.
Under the constitution, Sunni Islam was to be the official state religion, even though some 15 percent of the population are Shi’ite Muslims.
The document stated that no law could be contrary to Islamic Shari’a law.
The constitution granted freedom of expression, women’s education, and the right of a fair trial, but all within the limits of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Shari’a law.
It is unclear how the document shaped the Taliban’s draconian laws and brutal policies during its Islamic Emirate, the official name of the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
The Taliban banned TV and music, forced men to pray and grow beards, forced women to cover themselves from head to toe, and prevented women and girls from working or going to school. The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engaged in adultery. Executions were common.
Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group, said the draft constitution reflects the “Taliban’s intensely religious roots” and reveals the importance placed on a “centralized authority” for a group that was “founded on a mission of restoring order to the country.”
The document was littered with contradictions and was never ratified. It was republished in 2005, a year after Afghanistan adopted a new constitution. But the document has disappeared from Taliban discourse in recent years.
“That may have been due to internal debate over certain articles, or just reflective of the group’s inclination to remain flexible in its policies, in part perhaps to prevent internal divisions over policy differences,” said Watkins.
‘Monopoly On Power’
As an insurgent group, the Taliban has preserved some of its key principles since it was overthrown in 2001.
Power is still centralized in the hands of an all-powerful leader, who oversees a shadow Taliban government in Afghanistan. The Taliban still enforces its strict interpretation of Islam in areas under its control. And it still regards Shari’a as the supreme law.
But analysts say the past two decades have changed how the Taliban views power.
The Taliban overcame a succession crisis after the death of Mullah Omar, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite its 18-year war against foreign and Afghan government forces.
“The group now operates in a strange combination of increasingly centralizing its control over its own membership, while also allowing it to decentralize in other ways,” said Watkins.
The Taliban has claimed recently that it is not the same group that ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.
In a public statement, the Taliban said it does not want to reestablish its Islamic Emirate and has attempted to project a more reconciliatory image.
But the Taliban’s ambiguity on women’s rights, free speech, and elections — key democratic tenets introduced in Afghanistan since 2001 — has raised fears among many Afghans that the extremist group will attempt to restore its severe regime.
The Taliban said in February 2019 that it is committed to granting women their rights and allowing them to work and go to school, but only as long as they do not violate Islam or Afghan values.
But in the same statement, the Taliban also suggested it wants to curtail the fragile freedoms gained by women, prompting a wave of concern from rights campaigners.
Analysts said the Taliban’s great ambiguity on key issues reflects the divisions within the group.
The Taliban’s political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to an accommodation in assuming power under a peace deal.
Meanwhile, hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan are reluctant to budge on their demands for a full restoration of the Islamic Emirate.
“There is a cocktail of views among the Taliban on power and governance,” said Javid Ahmad, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
“More than anything, Taliban leaders need an intra-Taliban dialogue to settle their conflicting views about a future Afghan state,” Ahmad added.
There are also intense differences among the Afghan political elite.
Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, generally support a centralized state that guarantees their control of the government. But non-Pashtuns, which constitute a majority of the population, believe too much power of the state is left in the hands of one individual, and support decentralization because it would enshrine a more inclusive and equitable distribution of power.
Direct talks between the Taliban and an Afghan negotiation team over a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement were expected to start on March 10.
But the launch of the negotiations has been delayed due to disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners and the formation of Kabul’s negotiating team.
Even when intra-Afghan negotiations begin, many expect them to be complex and protracted, possibly taking years, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and distributing power.
“It will be incredibly difficult to get the two parties to come up with compromises on every issue of governance,” Ahmad said, although he added that there were also reasons for hope.
Both the Taliban’s political vision and the Afghan political system are modeled on the centralization of power and the supreme role of Islam.
Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution prescribes that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” and sometimes appears at odds with more liberal and democratic elements within it.
Power is in the hands of a heavily centralized government. The president has the right to appoint and fire governors, mayors, police chiefs, district governors, and senators and has a tight grip on the country’s finances and how funds are spent and distributed.
“There is much more common ground in the legal and governance systems of these two than many of their supporters, on either side, care to admit,” said Watkins.
Do you remember when former President George W. Bush gave a speech congratulating America for completing the mission in Iraq back in 2003? That took place aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (and is probably a moment the former POTUS would probably like to take back for obvious reasons but let’s stay on track here).
In May of 2017, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was redelivered back to the Navy after undergoing nearly a four-year mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul.
Approximately 2.5 million hours of labor were committed to the overhaul and restoration of this legendary aircraft carrier.
The vessel’s upgrades include various repairs and replacements of ventilation, electrical, propellers, rudders, and combat and aviation support systems.
With the innovated modification to the rudders and propellers, the USS Abraham Lincoln can now tactfully turn around with minimal support.