Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

As the prospect of a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan is closer than it has ever been, the peace process with the Taliban could be derailed by competing agendas.

Longtime rivals Russia and the United States have backed separate negotiations with different stakeholders, muddling the complex process.

To highlight the confusion, the Taliban first sat down for talks with American negotiators in Qatar before meeting a delegation of powerful Afghan power brokers in Moscow for “intra-Afghan” talks.


Why two simultaneous negotiating processes?

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held a series of direct talks with Taliban negotiators in the Qatari capital, Doha, culminating in the basic framework of a possible peace deal.

Meanwhile, Moscow has organized two peace conferences — the latest on Feb. 5-6, 2019 — that have drawn representatives from Afghanistan’s neighbors, opposition politicians, and the same Taliban negotiators that met with the American delegation in Doha.

Taliban, Afghan Delegations Meet In Moscow

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Both processes have frozen out the Afghan government, which the Taliban has refused to meet. The militants see the Kabul government as a Western puppet and have said they will negotiate directly with Washington.

Analysts say Moscow is trying to promote itself as a power broker to challenge the U.S.-backed peace process.

Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul, says the Russian peace talks are fueled by “Russian political sniping against the [United States].”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Feb. 4, 2019, that the United States was trying to “monopolize” peace talks with the Taliban and was conducting talks in secrecy while keeping regional countries “in the dark.”

Haroun Mir, an Kabul-based political analyst, says it has been the Taliban’s strategy to have two simultaneous tracks for negotiations.

“The Taliban has insisted on negotiating first with the United States and then bypassing the Afghan government and initiating a dialogue with different Afghan political groups,” says Mir. “Thus far they have been successful in dividing the Afghan political elite who have supported the constitutional process in the past 18 years.”

What are the consequences of having two tracks?

Analysts say a major consequence is deepening divisions inside Afghanistan between President Ashraf Ghani’s administration and a host of powerful opposition politicians, including former President Hamid Karzai.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Among those who attended the Moscow meetings were key power brokers who have announced their candidacy to run against Ghani in the July presidential election.

Ruttig says for Moscow not to include the Afghan government was an “affront” and has the strong feel of election campaigning and Russia taking sides.

“A united ‘Kabul camp’ would be better, but maybe this is an illusion anyway,” says Ruttig. “But [unity] was clearly not the desire of the Russian government: this is divide and interfere.”

Ghani is reportedly furious about his administration being left out of both the U.S. and Russian talks.

The president’s office criticized the meeting in Moscow, saying that Afghan politicians attending the gathering were doing so “in order to gain power.” Meanwhile, Kabul fears Washington will make a deal in Doha with the Taliban behind their back.

Analyst Mir says by keeping the Kabul government out of the U.S.- and Russia-backed talks the Taliban wants to “reduce the legitimacy of the Afghan government to a minimum and thus further strengthen [its] bargaining position vis-a-vis the United States and extract maximum advantage.”

Who are the likely winners and losers?

Graeme Smith, an Afghanistan analyst and a consultant for the International Crisis Group, says no one has won or lost because all of the actors have stakes in the outcome.

“If these talks give birth to an inclusive intra-Afghan process, the people of Afghanistan could finally gain relief from the world’s deadliest war,” says Smith. “If the talks fail to include all sides and no durable peace results [from them], the people could suffer another collapse into civil war.”

Sidelined and frustrated, the weak, deeply unpopular Afghan government may feel it is the biggest loser so far.

Mir says it’s not just the government that stands to lose, but “all of those who have defended the constitutional process for the past 18 years.”

Analysts say the talks have given Russia the chance to burnish perceptions of Moscow’s global significance while dealing a fresh blow to Western influence.

Ruttig says Moscow’s role is another assertion that it is “back in the strategic game.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US Navy is training sailors on a weapon it’s getting rid of

The US Navy is having its sailors train on an aircraft carrier weapon system that the service is planning to rip out of its Nimitz-class carriers due to its ineffectiveness.

Sailors continue to train on the Anti-Torpedo Torpedo Defense System (ATTDS), a weapon system that was designed to counter one of the single greatest threats to an aircraft carrier — torpedoes, The War Zone reports, noting that the Navy recently released images of sailors aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower training on the ATTDS for a Board of Inspection and Survey.

The most recent training, which involved firing the weapon system, took place in late July 2019. The material survey for which the crew was preparing requires proficiency with all onboard systems, and that they are functional and properly maintained.


The ATTDS, part of the broader Surface Ship Torpedo Defense (SSTD) system, is installed and operational aboard the Eisenhower, as well as the USS Harry S. Truman, USS George H.W. Bush, USS Nimitz, and USS Theodore Roosevelt. But that doesn’t mean it actually works to intercept incoming torpedoes in time to save the ship.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Sailors stow an anti-torpedo torpedo aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph T. Miller)

The Navy has abandoned its plans to develop the SSTD and is in the process of removing it from the carriers on which it has been installed, the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation said in a report released earlier this year.

The anti-torpedo system was a 0 million project that never really went anywhere.

In principle, the Torpedo Warning System (TWS), a component of the ATTDS, would detect an incoming threat and then send launch information to another piece, the Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo (CAT), an interceptor that would be launched into the water to neutralize the incoming torpedo.

The DOTE report noted that the “TWS demonstrated some capability to detect incoming torpedoes,” but there were also false positives. It added that the “CAT demonstrated some capability to defeat an incoming torpedo” but had “uncertain reliability.”

The report also said that the anti-torpedo torpedo’s lethality was untested, meaning that the Navy is not even sure the weapon could destroy or deflect an incoming torpedo. The best the service could say is that there’s a possibility it would work.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Hector Felix, from Atlanta, fastens a bolt on an anti-torpedo torpedo aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph T. Miller)

Despite having plans to remove the SSTD from its carriers, a project that should be completed by 2023, the Navy continues to have sailors train on the system, even as the service reviews training to identify potential detriments to readiness.

“The Navy is planning to remove ATTDS from aircraft carriers incrementally through fiscal year 2023 as the ships cycle through shipyard periods,” Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) spokesperson William Couch told The War Zone.

“The Navy is sustaining the ATTDS systems that are still installed on some vessels, where it is necessary for the sailors to train with the system to maintain their qualifications in preparation for future deployments,” he added.

In other words, it appears that the reason for the continued training is simply that the system is on the ship and won’t be removed until ships have scheduled shipyard time, making the ability to operate it an unavoidable requirement.

INSIDER reached out to NAVSEA for clarity but has yet to receive a response.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy Search and Rescue saves the day once again

A Search and Rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island rescued an injured hiker at Deception Pass State Park on Oct. 21.


The SAR crew took off from NAS Whidbey Island around 5 p.m. Due to the injured hiker’s location and surrounding terrain, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue was unable to reach the man.

Upon arrival, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class John Siedler, a search and rescue medical technician, hoisted down to the scene and prepared the injured man for immediate extraction. The patient was transported to Island Hospital where he was delivered to a higher level of care.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Deception Pass State Park, Washington. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Tobias Haase.

This was the 35th rescue of 2017 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted seven searches and 15 Medical Evacuation missions this year, totaling 64 lives delivered to a higher level of care.

The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue/medical evacuation platforms for the EA-18G aircraft as well as other squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The amazing way France just honored this WW2 vet

Hundreds of people gathered in a South Georgia Medical Center lobby to honor a 93-year-old World War II hero.

George Aigen was bestowed the highest honor in France: induction into the French Legion of Honor as a knight, or chevalier, April 11, 2019, in Valdosta, Ga.

“More than 70 years ago, George Aigen risked his young life for the freedom of France and Europe,” said Louis de Corail, Consul General of France in Atlanta, who presented Aigen with the medal.


Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

George Aigen enters his pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

“France is what it is today, a free and sovereign country, thanks to the bravery of such veterans and thanks to the [United States]. We are now decades away from World War II and yet we still pay homage to veterans, the legacy of their courage and the fight for freedom in a time darkness and despicable ideologies came to power in Europe.”

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Matt Flumerfelt plays the French and United States national anthem and during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

In recent years, France made a special provision to honor all American veterans who risked their lives on French soil from June 6, 1944 to May 8, 1945, Aigen being one of them.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Veterans stand for the national anthem during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

In April 1945, as a 19-year-old Army corporal, Aigen fought alongside other soldiers in 1269th Combat Engineers Company B and was part of the group who liberated Dachau, the first concentration camp built by the Nazis in 1933.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Judy Hathcock, left, stands for the national anthem during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

In a previously recorded video interview, Aigen recounted what happened as they approached Dachau, “As I approached the gate, I was a 19-year-old corporal with a rifle in my hand. When we went up to the gate there was hellish chaos.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Joyce Aigen, left, and her daughter Judy Hathcock, stand for the national anthem, during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

“Everybody was looking for help, they were starving and in very bad shape. We brought in medical help, food and water, and helped as many as we could. Coming face-to-face with it, seeing it eye-to-eye … it was hell on earth. I always said the war was hell, but this is one step further.”

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

George Aigen listens to remarks during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

During the ceremony, the crowd reflected on the heroic and selfless actions of Aigen and all of the veterans who fought in the war and had a hand in the liberation of France.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

George Aigen salutes everyone in attendance at his pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

There are approximately 93,000 current Legion of Honor recipients, and for American veterans to qualify, they must have fought in one of the four main campaigns of the Liberation of France in Normandy, Provence, Ardennes, or Northern France.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Joyce Aigen, and her daughter Judy Hathcock, embrace during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

Although Aigen’s actions qualified for the Legion of Honor, the process was not automatic. At an after-hours work event in 2016, Aigen and his wife Joyce met Dr. Christine LeClerc-Sherling, a local college professor, who submitted the application.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Joyce Aigen gives remakrs during a pinning ceremony honoring her husband George Aigen.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

Within five days, the application was sent to the local consulate. From there, the two year journey began with the application traveling to the embassy in Washington D.C. then to Paris to be vetted. Ultimately, the official decree was signed by the President of the Republic of France, March 15, 2019.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

George Aigen, and his daughter Judy Hathcock, embrace during a pinning ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)

“At the time we thought it would be a four to 10-month process, but I can tell you that after these years, me and family are the most blessed from that wait,” LeClerc-Sherling said. “Being around George and Joyce has influenced my family so much. It made me a better citizen, a more committed family member and definitely a more loyal friend.

“George and Joyce are absolutely everything that is right with this world.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

Test shows that A-10 can obliterate Iran’s small boat swarms with ease

About 35 local boat captains simulated swarming attack maneuvers in fishing boats rigged with machine guns while fighter jets, attack helicopters, and the A-10 “Warthog” simulated attacks from above in the Choctawatchee Bay, Florida.


The Air Force at Eglin Air Force Base organized the simulation, called Combat Hammer, to address one of the more pressing threats to the US navy — attacks from swarming fast-attack craft.

Also read: The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

In the Persian Gulf, Iran has repeatedly used small, agile attack craft to harass US Navy ships in dangerous encounters that could lead to a broader conflict in a moment’s notice.

US Navy ships have had to go as far as firing warning shots at approaching vessels, but that was before Iranian-backed Houthi militants used a suicide boat laden with explosives to kill two aboard a Saudi Arabian Navy vessel off the coast of Yemen.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
An A-10 Thunderbolt IIs with the 74th Fighter Squadron from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., flies over the Gulf of Mexico Feb. 7 during Combat Hammer. The 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron’s Combat Hammer is a weapons system evaluation program at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

The Navy was already aware of the threat posed to their large, multi-million dollar ships by small, cheap ships — but the January Houthi attack demonstrated the threat was even more acute.

The Air Force’s annual Combat Hammer exercise sought in part to answer the question of how the Navy would deal with a large mass of erratic attack craft — and that involved A-10 Warthogs firing inert 30-millimeter rounds at unmanned ships.

The exercise also included attack helicopters, multi-role fighter jets, and Canadian F-18s dropping simulated guided munitions.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Local boat captains and mariners operate fishing boats equipped with makeshift guns and weapons invaded the Choctawatchee Bay area Feb. 6 during the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron exercise, Combat Hammer. The boat swarms helped create a realistic environment to provide exercise participants an opportunity to train like they fight. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

“We evaluate precision guided munitions against realistic targets with realistic enemy defenses,” said Lt. Col. Sean Neitzke, the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron commander in an Air Force statement. “There are plenty of places in the world where low-tech adversaries can mount 50-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers on small boats for use against us. They could also use other types of shoulder launched weapons, all of which could be a threat to American assets.”

Related: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

The situation described by Neitzke bears eerily similarities to the situation with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.

Patrick Megahan, an expert on Iran’s military with the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, told Business Insider that even without the Air Force, the US Navy has plenty of ways to counter the threat posed by Iranian-style swarm attacks.

“US Army Apache attack helicopters also frequently drill aboard US Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf for countering exactly this threat,” Megahan said of the swarming boats.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
An MH-60 Seahawk. | US Navy

“This doesn’t include the Navy’s own Hellfire-equipped Seahawk helicopters or the Marine Corps’s very capable attack helicopter squadrons that maintain an almost constant presence in the waters off the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In fact, two fully-load American attack helicopters would likely wreak havoc on an Iranian small boat swarm.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

These vets keep it real when answering whether they’d join the military again

In this latest episode of Vets Get Real, WATM talks to a group of former servicemembers about whether or not they’d join the military all over again if given the chance.


Be sure to keep an eye out for other episodes of Vets Get Real where WATM hosts discussions with vets on topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.

Editor’s note: If you have questions that you’d like to see Vets Get Real about, please leave a comment below.

 

Articles

North Korea is getting closer to a nuclear bomb that can hit the US

North Korea has spent decades developing nuclear devices and the missiles to launch them while threatening to flatten cities in the US, Australia, and Asia.


Though experts in the past could credibly dismiss those threats as fantasy, North Korea has recently made swift progress toward that end.

“I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if it happened in the next few months,” Mike Elleman, the senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Business Insider in May of the potential for a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test.

“They have a higher tolerance for risk. If it fails, it fails. I don’t think that greatly concerns them. They’re more interested in trying to demonstrate what they’re trying to do. [There’s] a lot of political messaging going on with these tests.”

North Korea first tested a nuclear device in 2006, and it has tested missiles since 1984. The missiles started with limited capacity and could be fired only at short ranges. Initial nuclear tests were weak and ineffective.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
A North Korean anti-aircraft missile drives through Pyongyang. (Photo by Stefan Krasowski via Flickr)

But now the country seems poised to make a leap toward missiles that could cross the globe with almost unlimited firepower.

Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist at Stanford University, told South Korea’s Yonhap News on June 26 that the North Koreans could produce tritium, an element that can turn an already devastating atomic bomb into a hydrogen bomb.

Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” told Business Insider that while atomic bombs release enormous amounts of energy through fission, hydrogen bombs increase that energy by combining it with fusion, the same reaction that powers the sun.

“There is no theoretical upper limit on the maximum yield of a hydrogen bomb, but as a practical matter, it can’t be too large or heavy to fit on its intended delivery system,” said Schwartz, who noted that the largest hydrogen bomb designed, Russia’s Tsar Bomba, had an explosive yield of 100 megatons.

Such a bomb, if dropped on Washington, DC, would flatten buildings for 20 miles in every direction and leave third-degree burns on humans 45 miles out, or past Baltimore.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
A huge expanse of ruins left the explosion of the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945 in Hiroshima. 140,000 people died because of the disastrous explosion.

“Those possibilities are sufficiently worrisome that I maintain that the crisis is here now,” Hecker said, not when North Korean missiles “are able to reach the US.” He added, however, that it would take more time for North Korea to weaponize hydrogen bombs. US spy satellites have recently seen increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site, but no conclusions can yet be drawn. In the past, North Korea has claimed it has built hydrogen bombs, though not credibly.

On the missile front, North Korea has made fast progress, surprising many experts contacted by Business Insider, who now say the country could test an intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as this year.

A recent rocket-engine test from North Korea could serve as a bad omen. In the past, North Korea has tested rocket engines less than a year before testing the missiles that would use them. Experts said North Korea’s latest rocket-engine test could indeed have been in preparation for an ICBM.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Hecker urged the US to diplomatically engage with North Korea to get it to adopt a “no use” policy with its nuclear arsenal, a concession from the total denuclearization the US currently demands.

Denuclearization so far has been a nonstarter with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who has written the possession of nuclear weapons into North Korea’s constitution as a guarantor of its security.

“North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon,” Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, previously told Business Insider. “They’re not going to stop ’cause they get bored.”

For now, it seems inevitable that North Korea will get it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how many US troops are in Syria

After suggesting in late March 2018, that the US would be pulling out of Syria “very soon,” President Donald Trump reportedly told his national security team that he is open to keeping troops in the country for the time being, but wants to look to pull them out sometime soon, a senior administration official told CNN.

The US has now been involved in Syria for about three and a half years, having started its military intervention there as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in September 2014. The military has carried out numerous operations in Syria against ISIS and other targets, according to the Department of Defense, and members of the US Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army are active in the country.


As of December 2017, there are approximately 2,000 US troops in the country. Four US soldiers have been killed in action in Syria.

The US has carried out over 14,989 airstrikes in Syria since 2014, according to the Pentagon.

While it is difficult to ascertain exactly how much the US military spent in Syria specifically, Operation Inherent Resolve as a whole has cost over over $18 billion as of February 2018, according to the Pentagon. The majority of these funds were spent on Air Force operations.

Since the US mission began, ISIS has seen its territory dwindle in Syria, and now almost all of its holdings have been conquered by local forces on the ground with US support.

US forces are fulfilling a variety of roles in the fight against ISIS

The US mission in Syria is aimed at defeating ISIS and its offshoots, providing coordination between air assets and troops on the ground and the anti-ISIS coalition. So far, this mission has largely been a military success — the group has reportedly lost over 98% of its territory since it stormed across Syria and Iraq in 2014.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
(US Army photo)

The US has also been supporting Syrian Kurds in Syria’s north, bolstering a coalition of forces led by the Kurds called the Syrian Democratic Forces by deploying coalition advisers to train, advise, and assist the group. The SDF has conquered swathes of territory from ISIS in northeastern Syria with support from US airstrikes and special forces and, according to the Pentagon, is leading the fight against the remnants of the Islamist group in the country.

But the incredibly fractured nature of the conflict lends itself to additional challenges, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business insider.

“It’s the most complex battlefield in modern warfare,” he said, explaining that there are active lines of communication open between US forces and other actors in the conflict like Turkey and Russia, which serve to avoid accidental military engagements and as deconfliction hotlines.

Pahon said that now that the active fight against ISIS is drawing down, the US is pivoting to civilian reconstruction efforts, clearing IEDs, and rebuilding civilian infrastructure.

“That’s a big challenge for getting people back into their homes, especially in populated areas like Raqqa,” Pahon said, citing numerous ways in which fleeing ISIS fighters have booby-trapped abandoned homes with explosives.

Pahon said part of the US civilian effort is training people on the ground on how to de-mine former urban battlefields.

He also pointed out that in addition to the military aspect of US operations in the country, other parts of the US government like the State Department and USAID are also active in reconciliation efforts, recovering water access, and rebuilding the power grids in destroyed towns and cities.

“It’s more than a military effort, it’s a whole of government effort,” he said.

Articles

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.


Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.

Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.

Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Afghan Air Force Brig. Gen. Eng A. Shafi. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.

The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.

Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.

But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo: USMC

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.

While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.

“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”

He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.

The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Kentucky Guardsmen train Afghans. DoD Photo by Lt.j.g. Bryan Mitchell

And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.

Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.

The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.

“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”

But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga

“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”

What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.

Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.

“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”

Articles

Does the U.S. Navy Need a 21st Century F-14 Tomcat?

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
A US Navy F-14D Tomcat aircraft flies a combat mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom | U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt. Lee O. Tucker


While the requirement for a carrier-based long-range strike capability is a frequent subject of discussion around Washington, the U.S. Navy’s need for improved air superiority capabilities is often neglected.

The service has not had a dedicated air-to-air combat aircraft since it retired the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in 2006. But even the Tomcat was adapted into a strike aircraft during its last years in service after the Soviet threat evaporated.

Now, as new threats to the carrier emerge and adversaries start to field new fighters that can challenge the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, attention is starting to shift back to this oft-neglected Navy mission — especially in the Western Pacific.

“Another type of new aircraft required is an air superiority fighter,” states a recent Hudson Institute report titled Sharpening the Spear: The Carrier, the Joint Force, and High-End Conflict, which is written by The National Interest contributors Seth Cropsey, Bryan McGrath and Timothy A. Walton. “Given the projection of the Joint Force’s increased demand for carrier-based fighter support, this capability is critical.”

The report notes that both the Super Hornet and the F-35C are severely challenged by new enemy fifth-generation fighter aircraft such as the Russian-built Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA and Chengdu J-20.

Indeed, certain current adversary aircraft such as the Russian Su-30SM, Su-35S and the Chinese J-11D and J-15 pose a serious threat to the Super Hornet fleet. It’s a view that shared by many industry officials, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and even U.S. Marine Corps aviators.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
US Navy photo

“Both F/A-18E/Fs and F-35Cs will face significant deficiencies against supercruising, long-range, high-altitude, stealthy, large missile capacity adversary aircraft, such as the T-50, J-20, and follow-on aircraft,” the authors note.

“These aircraft will be capable of effectively engaging current and projected U.S. carrier aircraft and penetrating defenses to engage high value units, such as AEW aircraft, ASW aircraft, and tankers. Already, the F/A-18E/F faces a severe speed disadvantage against Chinese J-11 aircraft, which can fire longer range missiles at a higher kinematic advantage outside of the range of U.S. AIM-120 missiles.

Nor does the F-35C—which suffers from severely reduced acceleration compared to even the less than stellar performance of other JSF variants — help matters. “Similarly, the F-35C is optimized as an attack fighter, resulting in a medium-altitude flight profile, and its current ability to only carry two AIM- 120 missiles internally [until Block 3] limits its capability under complex electromagnetic conditions,” the authors wrote.

“As an interim measure, the Navy and Air Force should significantly accelerate the F-35C’s Block 5 upgrade to enable the aircraft to carry six AIM-120 missiles internally.”

The F-35C was never designed to be an air superiority fighter. Indeed, naval planners in the mid-1990s wanted the JSF to be a strike-oriented aircraft with only a 6.5G airframe load limit with very limited air-to-air capability, according to one retired U.S. Navy official. Indeed, some naval planners at the time had discussed retiring the F-14 in favor of keeping the Grumman A-6 Intruder in service.

During this period, many officials believed air combat to be a relic of the past in the post-Cold War era. They anticipated most future conflicts to be air-to-ground oriented in those years immediately following the Soviet collapse. Together with a lack of funding, that’s probably why the Navy never proceeded with its Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter or A/F-Xfollow-on program.

The Navy’s F/A-XX program could be used to fill the service’s air superiority gap — which has essentially been left open since the F-14’s retirement and the demise of the NATF and A/F-X programs. But the problem is that the Navy is pursuing the F/A-XX as a multirole Super Hornet replacement rather than an air superiority-oriented machine.

“The danger in its development is that it suboptimizes the fighter role in the quest for a hybrid fighter/attack jet,” the Hudson Institute report notes. “This would leave the Joint Force without a carrier-based sixth generation air superiority fighter.”

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
US Air Force photo

As the Navy’s current director of air warfare, Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, has stated in the past, the authors also note that such “an aircraft could feature large passive and active sensor arrays, relatively high cruising speed (albeit not necessarily acceleration), could hold a large internal weapons bay capable of launching numerous missiles, and could have space to adopt future technologies, such as HPM [high-powered microwaves] and lasers.”

“This air superiority asset would contribute to Outer Air Battle integrated air and missile defense requirements and would be capable of countering enemy weapons, aircraft, and sensor and targeting nodes at a distance.”

Outer Air Battle, of course, refers to a Navy concept from the 1980s to fend off a concerted attack by hordes of Soviet Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire bombers, Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarines and surface action groups lead by warships like the Kirov-class nuclear-powered battlecruisers — as now deputy defense secretary Bob Work [he was the CEO of the Center for a New American Security at the time] described to me in 2013.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
These Soviet assets would have launched their arsenals of anti-ship cruise missiles from multiple points of the compass.

As Work described it, the Navy was relatively confident it could sink the Oscarsand surface ships before they could launch their missiles. They were far less confident about their ability to take out the Tu-22Ms before they could get into launch position.

The Tomcats, under Outer Air Battle, would try to “kill the archers” — the Backfires — before they could shoot and attempt to eliminate any cruise missiles that they launched. But, Work notes, no one knows how well it would have worked during a shooting war with the Soviet Union — and it’s a good thing we never got to find out. But with China’s emerging anti-access/area denial strategy, the threat is back.

While the F/A-XX and the Air Force’s F-X are in their infancy, it has become clear that they will be different aircraft designs that will probably share common technologies. The Navy does seem to be focusing on a more defensive F-14 like concept while the Air Force is looking for a more offensively oriented air superiority platform that could replace the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

“As you’ll see over the coming years, the differences between the primary mission and the likely threats will drive significant differences between the F/A-XX and F-X programs as well as legacy systems like the F-22 and F-35,” one senior defense official told me.

 

MIGHTY MOVIES

A veteran comedian needs your help to be the host of the 2019 Oscars

Comedian Kevin Hart stepped down from hosting the coming Academy Awards Presentation, leaving the job empty for the time being. Enter Adam Keys: A veteran and triple amputee, Adam lost his limbs after suffering from an IED attack in Afghanistan that left him with a massive infection. 100 surgeries later, Keys has never lost his sense of humor.

Now, he wants to showcase that humor by stepping up to host this year’s Oscar ceremonies.


Using the hashtag #Adam4TheOscars, Keys needs the support of the veteran community to get the attention of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences via social media – he’s even created the language and video, all we need to do is help by posting it (check out that information here). He’s also created a website, Adam4TheOscars.com, and an online petition for fans to sign and register their support.

Keys isn’t aiming for the Oscar job just because he wants to further his comedy career. As the video says, he wants to show that veterans aren’t broken and people with disabilities are as capable as anyone else. He wants to showcase that on Hollywood’s biggest night, with the whole world watching.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

There’s not much Adam Keys can’t do, despite his disabilities. As the video states, he climbed Kilimanjaro and performs stand-up comedy in the DC area. Considering how he came to his injuries, his spirit and good humor are the stuff of legend. The blast broke the combat engineer’s jaw, left shoulder, humerus, and ankles. It killed three of his friends and nearly killed him, too. He wasn’t even able to speak for two months.

When he came to, he thought he was still in Afghanistan and needed to know where his rifle was. He was in a hospital in Bethesda – and the nurse had no idea what he meant. He was a wounded warrior, but now he’s ready to move past that. He says terms like “disabled veteran”and “wounded warrior” don’t apply to him.

Yes, I was wounded,” he says. “But now I’m not. I want to get rid of that title and move past it, move forward. Move us all forward.”
Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

There’s literally nothing he can’t do.

The idea for hosting the Oscars in place of Hart came to him while watching TMZ, looking for material for his standup act. The thought occurred to him, why not? He’d be nervous, but he’s nervous before any show he does.

It will be a challenge for me,” Keys says. “I love challenging myself. And I get to help people and try to move us [veterans] all forward. I don’t know where it’ll take me, but anything is a step forward. I will hope I’ve done the right thing and made people proud of me, of us. Helping people is the added benefit.
Articles

Army may use precision-guided rounds for its legendary Carl Gustaf weapon

Army and industry weapons developers are working with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to explore the feasibility of precision-guided rounds for a man-portable, anti-personnel and anti-armor weapon known as the Carl Gustaf, officials said.


Current innovations involve a cutting-edge technology program, called Massive Overmatch Assault Round or MOAR, aimed at exploring the prospect of precision guided rounds for the weapon.

While the shoulder-fired infantry and Special Operations weapon currently uses multiple rounds and advanced targeting technologies, using a precision “guided” round would enable the weapon to better destroy enemy targets on the move by having the technology to re-direct with advanced seeker technology.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
These guys are stoked. | US Army photo

“We are exploring different kinds of seekers to pursue precision engagement capabilities,” Malcolm Arvidsson, Product Director, Carl-Gustaf M4, Saab, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The weapon, called the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, known as the Carl-Gustaf, was initially used by Special Operations Forces. Several years ago, it was ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan.

Related: US wants to issue special operators a new personal defense weapon

These innovations are still in early conceptual, research and testing phases. However, they are being pursued alongside a current Army effort to acquire an upgraded 84mm recoilless shoulder-fired Carl Gustaf weapon able to travel with dismounted infantry and destroy tanks, armored vehicles, groups of enemy fighters and even targets behind walls, Army and industry officials said.

Acquisition efforts for the weapon began when the Army was seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire, service officials said.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
The Carl Gustaf get its name from the Swedish weapons production factory known as Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori (“Rifle Factory of Carl Gustaf’s town”). | US Army photo

Designed to be lighter weight and more infantry-portable that a Javelin anti-tank missile, the Carl Gustaf is built to help maneuvering ground units attack a wide range of targets out to as far as 1,300 meters; its target set includes buildings, armored vehicles and enemy fighters in defilade hiding behind rocks or trees.

Following the weapon’s performance in Afghanistan with soldiers, Army weapons developers moved the weapon into a formal “program of record” and began to pursue an upgrade to the Carl Gustaf to include lighter weight materials such as titanium, Arvidsson said.

The upgraded M4 Carl-Gustaf, introduced in 2014, shortens the length and lowers the weight of the weapon to 15 pounds from the 22-pound previous M3 variant, he said. The first M3 variant of the weapon was introduced in the early 1990s.

“We use a steel that is half the weight and half the density. For the barrel, we have improved the lining pattern and added a more efficient carbon fiber wrapping,” Arvidsson added.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
US Army photo

The lighter weight weapon is, in many ways, ideal for counterinsurgency forces on the move on foot or in light vehicles in search of small groups of enemy fighters – one possible reason it was urgently requested for the mountainous Afghanistan where dismounted soldiers often traverse high-altitude, rigorous terrain.

At the same time, the anti-armor function of the weapon would enable infantry brigade combat teams to attack enemy vehicles in a mechanized, force-on-force kind of engagement.

The Carl-Gustaf is engineered with multipurpose rounds that can be used against armored vehicles and soft targets behind the walls. There are also pure anti-structure rounds to go through thick walls to defeat the targets behind a wall, Army and Saab developers explained.

The weapon fires High-Explosive air burst rounds, close combat rounds, and then the general support rounds, like the smoke and battlefield elimination, developers said.

Airburst rounds use programmable fuse to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.

Also read: This was the world’s longest-serving modern military rifle in active service

Air burst rounds can detonate in the air or in general proximity to a target. For instance, an airburst round could explode just above an enemy fighter seeking cover behind a rock or wall.

“I want to penetrate the target.  I want to kill a light armored vehicle.  I want to kill a structure.  I want to kill somebody behind the structure. With the gun, soldiers can decide how to affect the targets.  Really, that’s what the Carl-Gustaf brings to the battlefield is the ability to decide how they want to affect the battlefield — not call in air support and mark targets,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development, Land Domain, Saab North America, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The Army is evaluating a wide range of new technologies for its newer M4 variant to include electro-optical sights with a thermal imager, magnification sights of durable-optical sights, Saab officials explained.

Sensors and sights on the weapon can use advanced computer algorithms to account for a variety of environmental conditions known to impact the trajectory or flight of a round. These factors include the propellant temperature, atmospheric conditions, biometric pressure and terrain inclination,

“There are a number of parameters that the sight can actually calculate to give you a much harder first round probability of hit,” Walters said.

Some weapons use a laser rangefinder which calculates the distance of an enemy object by computer algorithms combing the speed of light with the length of travel – to determine distance.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ready for a new tattoo? The Air Force now has its own tattoo shop

No matter if you’ve been in for two months, two years or you are two generations removed from the military, everyone knows that tattoos and the service go hand in hand. Ever since the first tattoo shop opened its doors in America in 1846, ink has had a well-deserved place in the hearts and on the skin of service members.

Of course, tattooing didn’t get its start in America. Warriors from Maori tribes in New Zealand, to ancient Greeks, marked themselves to show strength, courage and confidence. Viking raiders tapped magical symbols into their skin using the ink made from sacrificial animals.


Even service members in the Revolutionary War were getting new ink to reflect their units and identities (not to mention to prevent being illegally conscripted by the British).

During the Civil War, pioneer tattooist Martin Hildebrant traveled to battlefields and inked various patriotic designs into service members’ skin. Records show that by 1925, as much as 90 percent of all US service members were tattooed; the Navy made up the bulk of those decorated. Apparently, sailors used new tattoos to showcase where they’d been, as a sort of secondary service record, and to showcase their achievements.

For example, a shellback turtle meant they’d crossed the equator, a golden dragon meant they crossed the International Date Line, and a golden shellback turtle meant they’d crossed both at the same spot.

But for as much as there’s always been ink in the military, there have also been regulations. It seems like every few years, some leadership gets it in mind that a new tattoo policy is in order. For years, there was a limit to the number of tattoos soldiers could have on their arms, but that’s no longer the case. However, the Army still doesn’t allow face, neck or hand tattoos, though a small ring tattoo can exist on each hand. As with all branches, there are always a few waivers that are granted by recruiters each year if it seems like a tattoo isn’t too distracting.

Just like the Army, the Air Force is revisiting some of its strict tattoo policies and lessening the regulations a bit. Before 2017, Airmen weren’t allowed to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. Now, they’re allowed to have full sleeves or large back pieces, which is a big deal for anyone who’s been stuck halfway through getting a tattoo only to have to stop because of regulations.

So it goes without saying that getting a tattoo is as much a rite of passage in the military as is getting that first haircut in basic training. Of course, barbershops have been embedded at installations worldwide for decades, but for new ink, service members have always had to go off base. That’s led plenty of people to wonder why there isn’t a place to get new ink and a fresh fade all at the same place. Now, that’s no longer the case.

Nellis Air Force Base, located just outside Las Vegas, now has its own tattoo shop, making it that much easier to get a new tattoo. Senior leadership at Nellis said in a press release that they’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for Airmen and to lead from the front. So naturally, an on-base tattoo shop makes sense.

This is the first tattoo shop to be inside any Air Force or Army installation, making it incredibly unique. Now, we can’t speak to the quality of work you might receive there, but it’s still pretty cool that leadership is finally recognizing that there’s a very real, inky culture within the military and are taking steps to provide that service.

Maybe the decision to open the tattoo shop on base is a signal that leadership hopes artists and the Airmen can better handle the Air Force guidance on tattoo size and placement. Of course, that’s not to say whether or not the tattoos will be any good, but at least they’ll be within regs.

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