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 TRENDING

The possible connection between defense cuts and deadly accidents

A staggering report from the Military Times concludes that accidents involving all aircraft of the US military rose 40% between the 2013 and 2017 fiscal years, and that those accidents resulted in the deaths of at least 133 service members.

The accidents are likely tied to the massive budget cuts that Congress put in place during the sequestration, as well as to an increase in flight hours despite a shortage of pilots.


The report is the first time the deadly crashes have been mapped against the sequester, showing the effect budget cuts may have on the military, according to Military Times Pentagon Bureau Chief Tara Copp, who authored the story.

Approximately 5,500 accidents occurred in the four year period, but the Military Times database records 7,590 accidents that have happened since 2011. They were divided in three categories: Class-A, Class-B, and Class-C.

Class-A was defined as an accident that resulted in “extreme damage, aircraft destroyed or fatality.” Class-B was defined as an accident that rustled in “major damage,” and Class-C as “some damage.”

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
A crashed CH-53 on the island of Okinawa, Japan.
(Kyodo News via NewsEdge)

Class-C accidents were the majority of the mishaps at 6,322. Class-B accidents were second at 744, followed by Class-A accidents at 524. The last three of those accidents, which killed at least 16 pilots or crew members, happened in the last three weeks.

In addition to the cost of life, the various categories also take financial costs into account. Class-A accidents cost the most, at $2 million or more. Class-B follows at $500,000 or more, and Class-C at $50,000 or more.

For 10 of the last 11 years, the military was funded through continuing resolutions under the Budget Control Act, which was signed in 2011. As the sequestration efforts ramped up in 2013, the military saw more cuts.

The budget cuts due to the sequestration efforts have long angered many in the Department of Defense. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in February 2018, that “no enemy in the field has done as much to harm the readiness of US military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps.”

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“Hopefully someone in Congress will wake up and realize things are bad and getting worse,” an active duty Air Force maintainer, who has worked on A-10s, F-16s, and F-15s, told Military Times. “The war machine is like any other machine, and cannot run forever. After 17 years of running this machine at near capacity, the tank is approaching empty.”

President Donald Trump signed a $700 billion defense policy bill in December 2017. Trump also signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill in March 2018, touting that it had the largest increase in defense spending in 15 years.

The Air Force has responded to the report with an announcement that they have launched an investigation into the large amounts of Class-C accidents. They also stressed that Class-A incidents have been on the decline.

“Any Class A accident is one too many,” Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen “Seve” Wilson said in an interview with Military.com.

“The safest year ever was 2014, and 2017 was our second safest year, so our Class A mishaps have been trending down,” he added.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy tradition that rewards ice cream for rescued pilots

Imagine you’re a Navy torpedo pilot in World War II. Your life is exciting, your job is essential to American security and victory, but you spend most days crammed into a metal matchbox filled with gas, strapped with explosives, and flying over shark-filled waters of crushing depths. But your Navy wants to get you back if you ever go down, so it came up with a novel way of rescuing you: ice cream bounties.


Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

The wake coming off this thing could easily drown even a strong swimmer.

(U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command)

Before helicopters were stationed on carriers after World War II, those massive ships had few good options for rescuing pilots who had to bail out over the sea. It’s not like they could just pull the floating city up alongside the swimming pilot and drop him a line. After all, carriers displace a lot of water and could easily swamp a swimmer. And rescuing a pilot like that would restrict or temporarily stop aircraft launches and recoveries.

So, carrier crews came up with a silly but effective way of rewarding boat crews and those of smaller ships for helping their downed pilots out: If they brought a pilot back to the carrier, the carrier would give them gallons of ice cream and potentially some extra goodies like a bottle or two of spirits.

The exact amount of ice cream transferred was different for different carriers, and it seems to have changed over time. But Daniel W. Klohs was a sailor on the USS Hancock in World War II, and he remembered being on the bridge the first time a destroyer brought back a pilot:

I told the captain (Hickey) that it was customary to award the DD with 25 gallons of ice cream for the crew and two bottles of whiskey for the Capt. and Exec. We ended up giving 30 gallons of ice cream because it was packed in 10-gallon containers. This set a new precedent for the return of aviators.

Carriers could rarely swing about, slow down, and pick up their own pilots, especially in the heat of battle. But a small destroyer or PT boat could fire a salvo of torpedoes at enemy subs and ships and then swing around and try to get a swimming pilot aboard.

Obviously, sailor to sailor, these rescues would’ve happened anyway. But the carriers figured that any goodwill they could foster in the other crews to rescue their pilots might help the aviators’ chances in the water. And while some submarines and other vessels had their own ice cream, it was a rare treat in most of the deployed Navy and Army. But carriers had massive freezers and stockpiles.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

​Destroyers like the USS Yarnall could look forward to some well-earned desert if they were the ones to pass an aviator back to his carrier.

(U.S. Navy)

Tom Kocurko spent World War II in the Navy, serving on cruisers and destroyers and even wading ashore with Marines to direct naval gunfire. It was while he was on a destroyer escorting a carrier that he found out about the ice cream tradition.

“We’d get 10 gallons of ice cream every time we picked up a pilot, which was a real treat. So we started joking, ‘Let’s shoot one down.”‘

For the pilots, this could feel a bit reductive. Lt. Cmdr. Norman P. Stark was a Hellcat pilot in World War II, and he was shot down while attacking Japanese positions on Okinawa. After a controlled dive and crash into the ocean, his fellow aviators marked his location and called for rescue. A floatplane from a battleship pulled him out.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Coast Guard pilot Lt. John Pritchard helped rescue air crews in Greenland and surrounding waters, eventually disappearing while rescuing crewmembers from a lost bomber. Small planes like his could land in the water, pick up pilots, and return to a cutter or other ship.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

But then the battleship transferred him to a destroyer, and the destroyer crew was happy to have him … because of the ice cream:

After disembarking from the canvas bag, I was greeted like a long lost brother. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that they weren’t seeing me, but what I was worth to them–10 gallons of ice cream. Destroyer crews loved to rescue pilots. A pilot returned to his carrier was exchanged for 10 gallons of ice cream.

A little later in his history, available here, Stark says:

The Yarnall came alongside the Wasp, shot a line which was made fast, and I was transferred back to my Carrier. This was a dry trip. The 10 gallons of ice cream was passed to the Yarnall, and as they pulled away, I saw grins, from ear to ear. At least I had finally ascertained my true value–10 gallons of ice cream.

As carriers began to receive their own rescue helicopters after World War II, the tradition became less important. A Naval Aviation News reporter asked a helicopter crew about it in 1958:

Does the carrier greet the rescue crew with special treatment when a pilot is saved, like the old practice whereby a carrier gave a destroyer five gallons of ice cream for returning a downed pilot?
“You kidding?” a pilot asks. “They give us a hard time for delaying operations!”

But the first helicopter rescue of a carrier pilot was actually effected by a civilian crew from Sikorsky there to sell the Navy on the value of rescue helicopters in 1947. Since the helicopter pilot was a Sikorsky employee and not a member of the carrier crew, the carrier ponied up 10 gallons per pilot rescued.

The Sikorsky crew had picked up three downed pilots and so was lined up for a 30-gallon bounty which the carrier gave them all at once on their last day aboard. The Sikorsky pilot had to quickly gift the ice cream back to the carrier crew in an impromptu ice cream social since he couldn’t possibly eat 30 gallons in mere minutes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the first veteran nonprofit designed to create insane custom vehicles

If a vehicle is a labeled “military grade” you can assume it was intended to take a beating. Or that it was built by the lowest bidder. If you see something labeled “Warrior Built,” know that it was designed and custom-made by a U.S. military combat veteran and probably some of his buddies.


But “Warrior Built” means more than that. It means “built by combat veterans for combat veterans.” It means “built with the cover values of honor, courage, and commitment.” It means “built with the unrelenting drive to make a difference.” And it means “built remembering the warrior ethos learned serving our country.”

“Warrior Built” is not just a standard of quality, it’s a real organization of veterans, founded by Nick Hamm, a combat-wounded Marine. As a retired First Sergeant, Hamm’s last military role was ensuring his people were taken care of. His people now extend beyond his Marines. They’re now his fellow veterans.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Warrior Built Founder Nick Hamm.

As a motorcycle enthusiast, he wanted to use the process of building a motorcycle from a handful of parts to an operational vehicle as a means of therapy. It develops vocational skills and brings fellow vets together, rebuilding the camaraderie they lost after leaving the military.

“Everyone possesses leadership traits — it’s about pulling those traits out of somebody,” says Hamm. “So Warrior Built reaches out to combat veterans. They’re all different, so we come together to accomplish the same mission, but we all have different things we bring to the table to accomplish that mission.”

Most importantly for the projects, veterans need to muster the imagination required to make a bucket of bolts roadworthy once more. This fuels their energy for other passion projects: dirt bike races, drag racing, off-road racing, concerts, and camping trips to spend time enjoying the fruits of their labor. Above all, vets get a chance to see if working in fabrication and mechanics is their calling.

One combat-wounded Marine named Gio lost an arm in an explosion while deployed. Now he’s riding a dirt bike with Warrior Built.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Gio uses an arm attachment to ride a dirt bike, like any other prosthetic.

“I don’t put a limit on myself, because there isn’t,” Gio says. “People look at me like I’m crazy when I get on this bike. I look at them and I say ‘you’re crazy for not trying it.'”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China tries to warn off Poseidon 6 times

Chinese forces deployed to the hotly contested South China Sea ordered a US Navy reconnaissance aircraft to “leave immediately” six times on Aug. 10, 2018, but the pilot stayed the course, refusing to back down.

A US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane flew past China’s garrisons in the Spratly Islands, giving CNN reporters aboard the aircraft a view of Chinese militarization in the region.


Flying over Chinese strongholds on Mischief Reef, Johnson Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, and Subi Reef, CNN spotted “large radar installations, power plants, and runways sturdy enough to carry large military aircraft.” At one outpost, onboard sensors detected 86 vessels, including Chinese Coast Guard ships, which China has been known to use to strong-arm countries with competing claims in the South China Sea.

Lt. Lauren Callen, who led the US Navy crew, said it was “surprising to see airports in the middle of the ocean.”

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

View from Spratly Islands.

The Chinese stationed in the area were not exactly kind hosts to the uninvited guests.

Warning the aircraft that it was in Chinese territory — an argument an international arbitration tribunal ruled against two years ago — the Chinese military ordered the US Navy plane to “leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding.”

Six warnings were issued, according to CNN, and the US Navy responded the same every time.

“I am a sovereign immune US naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state,” the crew replied, adding, “In exercising these rights guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states.”

The incident comes on the heels of a report by the Philippine government revealing that China has been increasingly threatening foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea.

“Leave immediately,” Chinese forces in the Spratlys warned a Philippine military aircraft in early 2018, according to the Associated Press. “I am warning you again, leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences,” the voice said over the radio.

The US Navy has noticed an increase in such queries as well.

“Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities in the South China Sea,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a representative for the US 7th Fleet, told the AP, adding, “These communications do not affect our operations.”

Of greater concern for the US military are recent Chinese deployments of military equipment and weapons systems, such as jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. While the US has accused China of “intimidation and coercion” in the disputed waterway, Beijing argues it is the US, not China, that is causing trouble in the region.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to comment on Aug. 10, 2018’s exchange between the Chinese military and the US Navy.

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

MIGHTY FIT

Lying to medical might not be such a bad idea.

“Don’t tell medical sh*t!” That’s the advice I got before I went to Marine Corps OCS in the summer of 2011.

“If you tell them you’re jacked up in any way they will DQ you before you even get started.” I wanted to become a Marine, I wanted to be at the school, but I did not want to be there any longer than I needed to be. Fessing up to any old injuries or conditions would be one way to end up in Quantico longer than I wanted or having to come back again next summer.

This was a common trend I witnessed throughout my entire career. Marines hiding injuries and other medical issues so they could keep their job and achieve mission accomplishment.

As it turns out, there is actually some evidence to suggest that this isn’t as stupid as I used to think it was.


Allow me to walk you through the three most common ways people deal with injuries to get a little deeper into this sh*t.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

You’re not gonna get out of Fallujah if you can’t get over some chapped lips

(Marine Corps Times)

The mentally weak

We all know “that guy,” the one who always had a chit from medical explaining why they couldn’t PT. This is the guy who would turn chapped lips into a week of light duty on doctor’s orders.

When you stop all movement, training, and physical output because of a rolled ankle or some nonspecific lower back pain, a few things are guaranteed to happen.

You become more deconditioned than necessary. You get in worse shape than you were previously in. For those of you who are barely scraping by as it is this could be the last nail in your coffin for getting accepted to an elite program or finishing a difficult school.

You develop a fear of movement. If you roll your ankle running on a trail and then you cease running altogether, you will become afraid of the trail that supposedly injured you and of running. This may translate to a shorter or slower stride, which will both cause you to be slower in general. Again, this is not good.

Lastly, you will become less resilient. By folding due to a minor injury your mental toughness takes a major blow. Learning to overcome the small stuff is what gives you the strength to overcome the big sh*t. Resiliency is a muscle that must be trained.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

At least get a band-aid you ninny.

(https://youtu.be/zKhEw7nD9C4)

The mentally stubborn

The guy who could be bleeding from both ears and keeps on swinging. Dude your brain is bleeding, stop and reassess the situation.

Similarly, this is the person who ignores the doctor’s orders altogether and goes right back to the same activity that caused the injury at the same intensity as before.

When you suffer an injury, even something as simple as a minor ankle roll (I know I keep talking about ankles, but it’s the most common injury among otherwise capable military personnel) you are no longer operating at 100%. That’s okay.

By smartly reducing your training load to an amount that doesn’t cause more pain, you can live to train another day. The stubborn mind doesn’t do this though. Often the stubborn mind increases training volume in order to beat the weakness out of them.

Statistically, this is stupid. If you continue to blast your body into oblivion, you will be of no use to anyone. Knowing when to dial it back is an art that this individual has yet to master.
Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Don’t take time off from this place, just adjust your training.

(Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash)

The Goldilocks zone

This is a bit of a baby bear, poppa bear, mamma bear situation. The middle of the road (mamma bear) is where the most survivability and quickest recovery is found.

When you get injured, you are by definition deconditioned. You are slightly less capable than you were before the injury.

The smartest thing to do is to dial things back as little as possible so that you can still train but aren’t making the issue worse. In this training Goldilocks zone, you risk neither becoming a baby-backed-b*tch like the mentally weak do nor an armless-legless-fool like the stubborn mind does.

Military doctors take the most conservative route possible to hedge their positions. If you continue training and get injured further, the doc may get chewed out or lose their position. BUT if doc says do nothing and you fail out of your school due to missed training days or overall mental weakness…well it’s a lot harder to blame medical personnel for your lack of tenacity.

You know what doc is gonna say, and you can pretty much assume that your SNCO is going to say the exact opposite, choose the more measured approach. This may mean reducing your running pace, lowering the weight on the bar, or slightly modifying the exercise you are training. The less you change things, the easier it will be to get back to where you previously were.

Be as mentally strong as possible without being stupid. Add that to your list of adages to live by.

MIGHTY FIT is making big moves to put out content that you not only want to read but also want to live. Take 2 minutes and let us know here what you’d like to see from MIGHTY FIT.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy initially denied Grace Hopper’s enlistment. Then she revolutionized computers.

Grace Hopper, WAVE mathematician, assigned to Harvard University to work on the computation project with a Mark I computer, was instrumental in ushering in the computer age. Hopper went on to become a Rear Admiral, held a Ph.D. from Yale, and tried to enlist during WWII but was rejected because of her age. As a computer scientist, Hopper made significant strides in coding languages. Here’s a profile of her life and how she directly impacted yours.

Who was she?


The fact that you’re able to read any of these words on your device is thanks, in part, to Grace Hopper, one of the most formidable American computer scientists. Serving as a Navy Rear Admiral, Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer. Her impact on our modern lives is significant and nothing to be trifled with; let’s take a look at how Hopper directly impacted everything we do today.

In 1934, Hopper earned a Ph.D. in math from Yale. Her dissertation was published the same year. By 1941, she was an associate professor at Vassar.

Hopper’s great grandfather was an admiral in the U.S. Navy and fought in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. At the onset of WWII, Hopper tried to enlist in the Navy but was turned away because of her age. At 34, she was too old, and her height to weight ratio was too low for Navy standards. Hopper’s enlistment was also denied based on the criteria that her job as a mathematician was valuable to the war effort.

Undeterred, Hopper took a leave of absence from Vassar in 1943 and then joined the United States Navy Reserve. She was one of several women who volunteered to serve in WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Service), as part of the US Naval Reserve.

What were her contributions?

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Hopper had to receive an exemption to enlist because she was fifteen points underweight. After training at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smooth College, Hopper graduated first in her class in 1944. She was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard. There, she and Howard Aiken co-authored three papers on the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, also known as Mark I.

Mark I was used during the war effort during the latter part of WWII. It helped compute and print mathematical tables and directly contributed to the Manhattan Project. Specific sets of problems were run through the Mark I to help create simulation programs to study the atomic bomb’s implosion.

Despite her contributions, Hopper was denied a transfer to the Navy at the end of the war because of her “advanced” age of 38.

Hopper moved on to the private sector and set at work recommending the development of a new programming language that would entirely use English words. She was told that this was impossible since computers didn’t understand English and it took three years for the idea to be accepted. That was the beginning of COBOL – Common Business Oriented Language, a computer language for data processors. During this time, Hopper served as the director of the Navy Programming Languages Group and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1973.

What was her impact?

Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve as a commander in 1966 at the age of 60. She was then recalled to active duty in August 1967 for what started as a six-month assignment but turned into an indefinite appointment. Then in 1971, she retired again … only to be called back once more to active duty. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt presided over her promotion in 1973.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

(Wikimedia Commons)

A joint resolution originating in the House of Representatives led to her promotion in 1983 to commodore by special appointment from President Reagan. Hopper remained on active duty for several years after the mandatory retirement age. IN 1985, the rank of commodore was renamed rear admiral, and Hopper became one of the Navy’s few female admirals.

Admiral Hopper’s career spanned more than four decades, and she retired in 1986. She was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded by the DoD.

At the time of her retirement, Admiral Hopper was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the Navy. To commemorate her 42 years of service, Hopper’s retirement ceremony was held aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy. Admiral Hopper is interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Posting ‘Revenge Porn’ is now illegal under the UCMJ

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law in December, provides the military justice system new tools to prosecute service members who maliciously distribute sexually explicit images of others.


The 2018 NDAA adds Article 117a to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. “The new article is titled ‘Wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images’,” said Lt. Col. Jay L. Thoman, a judge advocate and the chief of the Army’s Criminal Law Policy Branch.

The “Marines United” scandal of 2017 was a driving force behind the addition of Article 117a to the UCMJ, Thoman said.

As part of that scandal, more than 30,000 active duty and retired armed forces members were initially accused of being involved in the distribution or viewing of private, intimate, or sexually explicit imagery. A portion of the distributed material included images of female service members and military spouses.

“Posting compromising pictures of fellow service members not only works to undercut the trust within the unit but is completely counter to the values the services represent,” Thoman said. “It has the potential to destroy unit cohesion, hurts the victim, and is destructive.

Also Read: Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

“With the implementation of Article 117a, there is now a clearer way to bring offenders to justice,” Thoman said.

“It seems that Congress wanted to make sure that this type of behavior was unmistakably not acceptable. Criminalizing the conduct sent just that message,” Thoman said.

With the passing of the 2018 NDAA, those who distribute the kinds of images that were part of the “Marines United” scandal are now on notice that they could be found “guilty of wrongful distribution of intimate visual images or visual images of sexually explicit conduct and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

More clarity

Article 117a, now part of the UCMJ, goes to great lengths to clarify what constitutes wrongdoing, and defines specific terminology, Thoman said.

According to the article, the accused should know that the person depicted in the image retains a reasonable expectation of privacy.

In addition, the accused should know that the broadcast of imagery was likely to cause “harm, harassment, intimidation, emotional distress, or financial loss to the person depicted in the image, or harms substantially the depicted person’s health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation, or personal relationships.”

To provide even further clarity, lawmakers defined in detail the language used in the law.

The term “broadcast,” for instance, means to “electronically transmit a visual image with the intent that it be viewed by a person or persons.”

The term “sexually explicit conduct” is defined to include “actual or simulated genital-genital contact, oral-genital contact, anal-genital contact, or oral-anal contact, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, bestiality, masturbation, or sadistic or masochistic abuse.”

Other terms defined include “distribute,” “intimate visual image,” “reasonable expectation of privacy,” and “visual image.”

A necessary change

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law in December, provides the military justice system new tools to prosecute service members who maliciously distribute sexually explicit images of others. (Photo from U.S. Army)

According to Thoman, there was a limit to the actions the U.S. military legal system could take against a service member prior to inclusion of Article 117a in the UCMJ.

“While it has been illegal to create an indecent photo of an unknowing subject, if they willingly participated, the legality of forwarding that picture to a third party was uncertain,” he said.

An example of this most commonly occurs in a relationship turned bad. If two Soldiers are dating, Soldier A can legally take a graphic picture of themselves and then send it to Soldier B, in most situations.

“However, just because it is legal does not necessarily make it a good idea,” he added.

Soldier B cherishes the picture and did not think of showing it to anyone else until the relationship sours and the two Soldiers breakup. Soldier B, still feeling angry about the breakup, forwards the picture to Soldier A’s squad. While Soldier B is temporarily upbeat about thinking of such an easy way to get back at Soldier A, in all likelihood, Soldier B has just committed a federal crime, Thoman said.

According to Thoman, the legal analysis to get to a federal conviction is now more straightforward for that case.

The accused knowingly distributed an image of another person. The image depicted the private area of that person. The person was identifiable. The identified person did not give their consent. The accused knew the person depicted had a reasonable expectation of privacy and was caused emotional distress as a result of the distribution. Finally, under the circumstances, the accused’s conduct had a reasonably direct and evident connection to a military environment.

Finding support

In addition to the changes to the UCMJ, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program officials want to ensure that support is available to Soldiers impacted by the illegal broadcast of intimate or sexually explicit imagery.

Also Read: Navy adds new regulation after ‘Marines United’ cyber bullying scandal

Considered to be a form of sexual harassment, victims of the crime as spelled out in Article 117a who choose to receive services will receive support from a victim advocate who can provide crisis intervention. That intervention includes such things as referrals to behavioral health, chaplains, special victim witness liaisons, and the victim witness assistance program.

Additionally, Soldiers will have access to safety planning, accompaniment to interviews and appointments, and assistance with obtaining a military or civilian protective order, according to LeWonnie Belcher, SHARP program office branch chief for communications, outreach, and leadership engagement.

According to Thoman, the implementation of Article 117a fills a gap in military law. And while technology will continue to evolve, he said, the new law was written broadly enough to accommodate those changes.

“I think ‘revenge porn,’ as it is commonly called, is a growing issue across society,” Thoman said. “Because of that, we see an increase in the frequency in the military as well. Ultimately, Article 117a could help prevent that divisiveness in the future that could disrupt a unit when something like this happens.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The weapons the Army, Air Force, and Navy all want desperately

Russian and Chinese advancements in hypersonic weaponry are driving the US military to field a viable hypersonic strike weapon within the next couple of years.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly developing a common boost-glide vehicle to clear the way for each of these services to bring American hypersonic weaponry to the battlefield in the near future.

For the Army, that’s the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The Air Force is building the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) and the Navy is pursuing its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon, The Drive reported Oct. 11, 2018, citing an Aviation Week report. There is the possibility these systems could be deployed as early as 2021.


“There is a very aggressive timeline for testing and demonstrating the capability,” Col. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 10, 2018. The progress already made “is a result of several months of cooperation between all three services to collaborate on a common hypersonic glide body.”

The Navy is responsible for designing the boost-glide vehicle, as the fleet faces the greatest integration challenges due to the spacial limitations of the firing platforms like ballistic missile submarines, the colonel explained.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

U.S. Army Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers from the 1-426 Field Artillery Battery operate an M109A6 Paladin Howitzer at at Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 18, 2018

(US Army photo by Spc. John Russell)

“Everybody’s moving in the same direction,” he added, further commenting, “The Army can get there the fastest. It will be in the field, manned by soldiers, and create the deterrent effect that we are looking for.”

As the boost-glide vehicle is unpowered, each service will develop its own booster technology for launching the relevant weapons, which fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The goal for the Army’s AHW is for it to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 8, giving it the ability to cover 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes, The Drive reported.

The Air Force has already awarded two hypersonic weapons contracts in 2018, and the Navy just awarded one in October 2018. The Army’s LRPF CFT is focusing on producing a long-range hypersonic weapon, among other weapons, to devastate hardened strategic targets defended by integrated air defense systems.

The US military’s intense push for hypersonic warfighting technology comes as the Russians and Chinese make significant strides with this technology. Hypersonic weapons are game-changers, as their incredible speeds and ability to maneuver at those speeds make them invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems, making them, in the simplest of terms, weaponry that can not be stopped.

Russia is expected to field its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle in 2019, and China has conducted numerous tests of various hypersonic glide vehicles and aircraft, most recently in early August 2018, when China tested its Xingkong-2 hypersonic experimental waverider, which some military experts suspected could be weaponized as a high-speed strike platform.

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

Articles

Reaper drones can now be armed with JDAMs

Airmen from the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing and the 26th Weapons Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, made history earlier this week by employing the first GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition from an MQ-9 Reaper.


While the JDAM has been around since the late ’90s, the munition has just recently been validated and now proven for real world engagements marking a significant step in the Reapers’ joint warfighter role.

“We had a great opportunity to drop the first live GBU-38s in training,” said Capt. Scott, a 26th WPS weapons instructor pilot. “The GBU-38 is a weapon we’ve been trying to get on the MQ-9 for several years now and we had the opportunity to be the first to drop during training.”

While waiting for the aircraft to approach the target area, members of the weapons squadron waited anxiously. After the bombs successfully struck their practice targets in a controlled environment, the entire room cheered.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
The MQ-9 Reaper can be armed with Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser guided bombs. Now the Air Force has added the JDAM to the drone’s arsenal. (Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

For the past 10 years skilled MQ-9 aircrew have been employing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, but the JDAM brings new global positioning system capabilities to the warfighters.

“The GBU-38, just like the Hellfire and GBU-12, is a very accurate weapon and the fact that it’s GPS-guided gives us another versatile way to guide the weapon, specifically, through inclement weather onto targets,” Scott said.

The JDAM being added to the arsenal is another step in furthering the attack capabilities of the MQ-9 Reaper force.

“There’s definitely times when I could’ve used the GBU-38 in combat prior to this,” Scott said.

Not only does the GBU-38 perform through poor weather conditions, it also helps the munitions Airmen and the weapons load crew members who load them.

“The GBU-38 has a 20 minute load time compared to the GBU-12, which has a 30 minute load time,” said Senior Airman Curtis, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member. “The GBU-38 is a quicker load compared to the GBU-12 and gets the plane in the air quicker.”

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Incorporating this new munition into the total strike package will give MQ-9 aircrews additional capabilities.

“Our job at the weapons school is to train to the highest standard possible,” Scott said. “We’re going to take the GBU-38 and incorporate it into our advanced scenarios, prove the weapon and integrate with all Air Force assets. What that gives us is the ability to take it downrange and employ in the most demanding circumstances possible.”

The JDAM will add flexibility and efficiency to the targeting process. Aircrews will continue to employ the AGM-114 Hellfires and GBU-12s downrange in addition to the GBU-38 that is now ready for combat.

“The overall impact of the GBU-38 is aircrew will have more versatility for the commanders to provide different effects and make a difference for the guys on the ground,” Scott said. “It has a different guidance system and it opens the bridge to more GPS-guided weapons in the future.”

Articles

WW2 fighter pilot and founder of Enterprise Rent-A-Car dies at 94

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks


Jack Taylor, the founder of Enterprise Rent-a-car who served as a fighter pilot during World War II, died last week at the age of 94 according to an announcement made by the company.

Taylor served as an F6F Hellcat pilot in the Pacific Theater during World War II, flying from the U.S.S. Essex and U.S.S. Enterprise (his company’s namesake). He was attached to Carrier Air Group 15, led by the top Navy ace of all time, Commander David McCampbell. CAG 15, which sustained more than 50 percent casualties during the war, was one of the most decorated combat units in the history of U.S. Naval Aviation. Taylor, who served as McCampbell’s wingman on several combat missions, was twice decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also received the Navy Air Medal.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Jack Taylor.

After the war, he worked as a sales rep for a Cadillac dealership before getting into the leasing business with a fleet of 7 cars. His breakthrough idea was renting cars at places other than airports for those who needed an extra car around the neighborhood for whatever reason. His company, Executive Leasing, eventually became Enterprise. The company is among the world’s biggest rental car brands, with annual revenues at nearly $20 billion.

Taylor also a philanthropist. Since 1982, he personally donated more than $860 million to a wide variety of organizations including Washington University and the symphony orchestra in his hometown of St. Louis.

Years later, Taylor reflected back on how well his military service had prepared him for his business success, saying, “After landing a Hellcat on the pitching deck of a carrier, or watching enemy tracer bullets stream past your canopy, somehow the risk of starting up my own company didn’t seem all that big a deal.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

FBI arrested instagram ‘troll’ accused of impersonating Parkland shooter

Prosecutors have accused a man of sending threatening and harassing messages on Instagram to relatives and friends of people killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Brandon Fleury, a resident of Santa Ana, California, said he sent the threatening messages for nearly three weeks using numerous Instagram accounts, according to a criminal complaint filed in the US District Court of Southern Florida and seen by INSIDER.


“One post threatened to kidnap the message recipients, while others sought to harass the recipients by repeatedly taunting the relatives and friends of the [high school] victims, cheering the deaths of their loved ones and, among other things, asking them to cry,” the affidavit said.

Following the search warrant on his home, Fleury said he created multiple Instagram profiles referencing Nikolas Cruz, who is accused of killing 17 people in the Parkland shooting.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks

Nikolas Cruz being arrested by police in Florida, Feb. 14, 2018.

At least five accounts with usernames such as “nikolas.killed.your.sister,” “the.douglas.shooter,” and “nikolasthemurderer,” were traced to an IP address linked to Fleury’s home during the course of a law-enforcement investigation.

Some of the messages contained emojis with applauding hands, a smiling face, and a handgun:

“I killed your loved ones hahaha”

“With the power of my AR-15, I erased their existence”

“I gave them no mercy”

“They had their whole lives ahead of them and I f—–g stole it from them”

“Did you like my Valentines gift? I killed your friends.”

“Little [AS] will never play music again,” one message said on New Year’s Eve, in an apparent reference to the death of 14-year-old student Alex Schachter, who performed in the school’s marching band and orchestra.

Fleury said in a statement that he posted the messages “in an attempt to taunt or ‘troll’ the victims and gain popularity,” according to the FBI. Fleury also said he had a “fascination” with Cruz and other mass shooters, and specifically targeted the victims’ family, who he said were “activists” with large followings on social media.

Multiple news outlets cited authorities who said Fleury did not show remorse for his actions.

Law-enforcement officials investigated similar threats made on Instagram in 2018. Two days after the Parkland shooting, a 15-year-old Florida teen was arrested on charges of threatening to kill people in the same school district. The teen at the time “appeared to be remorseful and claimed his post was a joke,” according to the Broward Country Sheriff’s Office.

This article originally appeared on INSIDER. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is looking for ways to keep generals from misbehaving

Struggling with an embarrassing series of misconduct and behavior problems among senior officers, the Army is putting together new mental health, counseling, and career management programs to shape stronger, more ethical leaders.


The programs stem from a broader worry across the military about the need to bolster professionalism within the officer corps while holding accountable those who abuse their power. The Army plan appears to focus more on building character than berating bad conduct.

In recent years, general officers from the one-star to four-star level have violated the military code of conduct they’ve lived under and enforced — often for decades. Some infractions involved extramarital affairs, inappropriate relationships with subordinates, or improper use of government funds.

Also read: This is why ‘General Butt Naked’ was the most feared warlord in Liberia

“The idea that we’ll be perfect, I think, is unrealistic, but we can be better and we strive to be better,” said Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, tasked by the Army’s top officer to review the problem and devise ways to strengthen the senior officer corps. “Competence is no longer enough. Character is as or even more important.”

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Maj. Gen. John G. Rossi, Feb. 11, 2015. Photo by David Vergun.

Among the incidents fueling the order was the suicide of Maj. Gen. John Rossi shortly before he was to become lieutenant general and assume control of Space and Missile Defense Command. Army leaders worry they missed opportunities to deal with the high levels of stress and self-doubt that reportedly led Rossi to hang himself.

In the past nine months, the Army found two senior officers guilty of misconduct, forcing them out of their jobs and demoting them as they retired. One lost two stars; the other lost three.

“We recognized senior executive leaders, with varying amounts of stress, lacked a holistic program that focuses on comprehensive health,” said Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff. The military has strived to combat stress disorders, suicide, and other problems, he said, but the focus often has been on enlisted troops or lower-ranking officers.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
General Mark Milley. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marisol Walker.

A new emphasis on senior leaders is needed, he said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Cardon said several pilot programs have started and others are under discussion.

The Army, he said, needs to better help officers manage stress, organize calendars, make time for physical fitness, take time off, and reach out to mentors or coaches for support.

Cardon said a key effort is finding ways to build self-control and self-awareness, ensuring officers and their families can quickly recognize and deal with problems that arise. Ethical behavior should be reinforced.

More reading: That time a Navy admiral left Marines hanging during a Japanese attack

“Most generals are very good at morphing themselves,” Cardon said. “They can be with the troops and they present this persona. They can be with the secretary and they present that persona. They’re very good at it and they get even better. The challenge is how do you uncover all that, and I think this is where that self-awareness, self-control, self-mastery has to help us out.”

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon. Photo by David Vergun.

Accurate numbers of senior Army leaders who have been disciplined or fired from a job for bad behavior are limited and unreliable. Some officers quietly retire or move to a different post, sometimes with an official reprimand in the file. Or sometimes without.

In response to a request for data, the Army said there have been nine general officers “relieved of duty” among active duty, the National Guard, and Army Reserves since 2012. Two high-profile cases in which senior officers were forced out and demoted weren’t included in those statistics due to complicated legal or administrative reasons, making it clear the numbers underestimate the problem.

One pilot program, said Cardon, creates a one-stop health care facility replacing the military’s often far-flung, disjointed, multistep system. It’s modeled after executive clinics that take a more in-depth, holistic approach to medical care.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Gen. Arthur Lichte. The US Air Force has stripped retired Gen. Arthur Lichte of two ranks and docked a portion of his retirement pay due to sexual misconduct. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse.

Other ideas focus on time management, encouraging high-level officers to take longer vacations. He said every general should take 10 to 14 uninterrupted days off each year to unplug, breaking with a military culture making them believe they’re too important to disconnect.

On schedules, officers would be urged not to overbook themselves. Packing their calendars with events all day and every evening can increase stress and make it difficult to prioritize.

The role that chaplains, mentors, executive coaches, and colleagues can play is being studied, and how individual or group discussions might help.

Too often, three-star and four-star generals working as base commanders are posted in remote locations around the world and have few or no equals in rank to socialize with or ask for advice. They can become isolated, ego-driven, or surrounded by subordinates afraid to challenge them on inappropriate behavior.

Why Russia and US are having separate Taliban peace talks
Army Maj. Gen. Wayne W. Grigsby. Grigsby has since been demoted by the Army and forced to retire after an investigation determined that he had an inappropriate relationship with a junior officer. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie.

A possibility, said Cardon, are programs strengthening officers’ relationships with spouses, who often notice problems first. Ninety percent of the approximately 330 active duty generals are married, he said.

Army officials stress only a minority of general officers are problems.

“We have tolerated people doing things they shouldn’t be doing because we say all of them are extremely competent and really good at what they do. And that’s not good enough now because you’re not only damaging yourself, you’re damaging the institution,” Cardon said. “We have great trust with the American people, every time one of these things happens, you’re putting a nick in that.”