Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps - We Are The Mighty
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Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps

Moscow has for the first time test-fired its Iskander-M tactical ballistic missile outside the Russian soil during a drill in Tajikistan, targeting a simulated terrorist camp located 15 kilometers from the Tajik-Afghan border.

Colonel Yaroslav Roshchupkin, an aide to the commander of Russia’s Central Military District, made the announcement on June 1 in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast.


Roshchupkin added that Uragan (Hurricane) rockets were also used in the joint military exercise named Dushanbe-Antiterror 2017 from May 30 to June 1 in Tajikistan.

Russia’s show of missile readiness took place amid mounting concerns over the deployment by the US Air Force of long-range nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress bombers and 800 airmen to the UK in support of joint exercises with NATO allies and partners taking place across Europe in June.

The NATO exercises are to take place near Russia in the Baltic Sea, the Arctic and along Russia’s border with several NATO partners.

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps
This is what a normal B-52 Stratofortress can carry. Add AMRAMMs and other high-tech stuff, and you get what a Megafortress can carry. (USAF photo)

On June 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated the expansion of US missile systems across the world is a “challenge” to his country and necessitates Moscow’s response in the form of a military build-up in the region.

The Russian president also warned against the negative impact of Sweden’s potential NATO membership on bilateral Moscow- Stockholm ties.

He said Russia will have to take additional security measures should Sweden join the Western military alliance.

“If Sweden joins NATO, it will negatively affect our relations because it will mean that NATO facilities will be set up in Sweden so we will have to think about the best ways to respond to this additional threat,” Putin said, adding, “We will consider this [membership] as an additional threat for Russia and will search for the ways to eliminate it,” Putin added.

Watch the actual test launch of the Iskander-M missile during Russia’s recent anti-terror exercise.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The opening scenes of Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn introduce viewers to a charismatic and devoted father deep in the joys of parenthood. Crawling on the floor, swimming and blowing out birthday candles with his toddler and infant sons, he is right where he should be. Until the day he isn’t. Through interviews, reports and a thoroughly researched investigation, the filmmaker poses some incriminating questions.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Was it the mechanic who told him his helicopter was cleared for flight two hours before it slammed tail-first into the ocean? Was it the manufacturer who produced the faulty wiring blamed for the explosion? Was it the upper ranks of the Navy who disregarded multiple letters of concern purportedly choosing flight hours over safety? How about the Congressional and Executive branches of our government that teamed up with arms manufacturers and focused on new bloated defense contracts instead of investing in the people and machinery already in place?

Van Dorn’s wife, Nicole, living in the shadow of her husband’s unnecessary death, is on a mission to find out. Catalyzed by her and others’ search for answers, this gripping 2018 documentary investigates events leading up to Navy lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn’s death one month before his 30th birthday. His untimely demise occurred during a training exercise when an explosion killing three of the five crewmen aboard caused the crash-prone helicopter to fall from the sky into frigid waters below. Van Dorn was not the only one who had expressed concerns about the safety of this aircraft, nor was he the only one to die in it as a result of misguided leadership and mechanical failure.

Written, directed, and narrated by Zachary Stauffer as his first feature documentary, this film offers a sobering look into chronic institutional failings that have resulted in 132 arguably preventable deaths. Diving unforgivably into one family’s agonizing loss, Stauffer invites us to ponder heavy questions while constructing a wall of outrage in his viewers. What is the price of a life? How many lives does it take before change takes place? When will avarice and the “just get ‘er done” attitude stop undermining the American defense establishment?

Built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the MH-53E Sea Dragon is the Navy’s nearly identical version of the Marine Corps’ CH-53-E Super Stallion. Since entering service in 1986, it has never succumbed to enemy fire but holds the worst safety record in the Navy’s fleet making it the deadliest aircraft in military history. The 53-E is a powerful machine used by the Navy for dragging heavy equipment through water to sweep for mines while the Marine version is used for transporting people and gear.

Stauffer explains that due to issues with these aircraft that cropped up even in their initial test flights at the manufacturer and in training missions, the Navy tried to get away with using less powerful helicopters and alternate minesweeping tactics but nothing was as effective as the relic Sea Dragon. Since they were fated to be replaced at some point, the higher ranks avoided investing too much into them so funding for spare parts and maintenance was lean. Members of Congress allegedly chose the path of greed and corruption when defense contractors offered them flashy new weaponry and vehicles as well as comfortable retirement packages. The upper echelons flourished while those training, fighting, and dying on the ground, as well as the American taxpayers, suffered needlessly as top-down decision makers claimed their hands were tied.

With fewer and fewer resources, those maintaining the Sea Dragon had to do more with less. They began cutting corners and developing bad habits. When voicing their worries in person or through over a dozen letters and memos to the upper ranks, they were “belittled, humiliated and cut down,” as one pilot explained. More than 30 years before Van Dorn’s crash, Sikorsky recommended replacing the faulty Kapton wires on all Navy aircraft. This was suggested not once, not twice, but three times before the Navy decided to start looking into the issue. Eventually they named Kapton as the highest ranked safety risk in the fleet and devised a long-term plan to replace it in phases but claimed to never have enough funding to refit all the wiring in the 53s. Only months prior to Van Dorn’s crash the Pentagon re-budgeted funding away from this critical project. Thus, problems that had been escalating over decades while the issue was known and actively overlooked perpetuated, yet the birds were still allowed to fly.

By the time Van Dorn signed on the dotted line in 2010, the run-down helicopters that required about 40 hours of maintenance for a single hour of flight time should have been retired. He and his wife made the decision together to request a spot in the squadron flying 53s because others told them it was an ideal position for a family man who wanted to be home for dinner every night.

Van Dorn was one of those who voiced his opinions about the safety of this aircraft. In an ominous voice recording foreshadowing his own death, he stated “If anyone should care about what’s happening on that aircraft, it should be me and the other pilots, I think. It makes sense to me, because I’m the one who’s going to get in it and have something terrible happen if it doesn’t go right.” His wife Nicole later explained that, “He felt that no matter what he said or what he wrote or who he complained to, nothing was changing.”

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps

On a particularly cold morning in January 2014, Van Dorn’s own portentous sentiments were realized 18 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Chafing from a single nylon zip tie exposed naked wiring to a fine spray of fuel causing it to arc, sending a blast of fire into the cockpit. Hours later Nicole lay on her husband’s chest just before they pronounced him dead.

Dylan Boone, a Naval aircrewman and one of two survivors of the wreck declared, “You don’t expect to give up your life for this country because you were given faulty equipment.”

Dynamic cinematography combined with a subtly haunting score by composer William Ryan Fritch creates the backdrop for this solid investigative report. Crisp and flowing visuals paired with thrilling military footage complement the feelings portrayed by those interviewed. These primary sources include Van Dorn’s mother, wife, friends, and fellow airmen as well as a mechanic, pilots, a general, a Pentagon Analyst and a military reporter. Throughout the documentary they and the narrator explain the multifaceted issues connected to Van Dorn’s death and the trouble with the 53s from a variety of angles.

Woven skillfully together, a poignant story is told of decades of negligence that continues to result in tragedy. Wholesome home movies of a young involved father raising two sons with his lovely wife are contrasted with the aching void ripped into the Van Dorn family’s home after his death. Stirring visions of military life ignite the urge to join in viewers who have ever felt compelled to do so, whereas the deep frustration of stifled dreams and a scarred body and soul are almost tangible to someone who has been there before as hard truths are drawn out throughout the film.

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps

Centering on the death of a handsome, beloved father, husband and seaman who was liked by all humanized an issue that might have otherwise been unrelatable. Utilizing the audience’s heartstrings as a focal point was a powerful way to bring attention to a predicament that could have been swept under the rug. Despite the fact that the C-53 airframes experienced serious accidents more than twice as often as the average aircraft and that internal investigations were performed with alarming results, the Navy continues to risk its servicemembers’ life and limb to keep these helicopters performing their critical mission in the air. With this in mind, this documentary might just put enough pressure on the Navy to make the changes necessary to save an untold number of lives.

Winner of the Audience Award in Active Cinema at the 2018 Mill Valley Film Festival, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is an intriguing and effective piece of military reporting presented in comprehensible terms for the layman. It is a successful examination of not only the serious failings of a controversial aircraft and the misled priorities keeping it aloft, but also hints toward the fact that anyone who brings up the disturbing issue of safety of these helicopters will be forced out of service. I would recommend this professional-level documentary, especially to anyone with interests in the military or national defense.

The Navy, the Pentagon, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin declined to participate in this well-researched film. Major funding to make this documentary possible was provided by supporters of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Investigative Studios.

After viewing this film, you can decide for yourself who killed Lt. Van Dorn. Regardless of the answer, his unwarranted death will not have been completely in vain if it successfully carries out his final mission: righting the deep and longstanding problems with the CH-53 helicopters, thus preventing the death and destruction of countless others just as it ultimately took him.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is available for purchase or streaming through Amazon.


Articles

This is how it could go down if China and India went to war

A war between the world’s largest Democracy and the world’s largest Communist state may not seem likely to the casual observer. But not only is it possible, it’s happened before. Only things were very different back then.


China was facing an economic collapse in the early 1960s in the years following the Great Leap Forward. The country was struggling to feed its people, let alone support an all-out war. India, on the other hand, was on an economic upturn. Militarily, however, India was unprepared and could only field 14,000 troops, compared to China’s exhaustive manpower.

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps

In 1962, Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong invaded India for granting asylum to the Dalai Lama and not supporting the Chinese occupation of Tibet (Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was an outspoken critic of the occupation). The Chinese won the harsh mountain war, fought without Navies or Air Forces, at 14,000 feet.

Mao later told Sri Lankan and Swedish delegations the war was essentially to teach India a lesson.

Potential causes of a new Sino-Indian War

The 1962 war only lasted a month, resulting in slight border changes and a now-ongoing dispute on just where the border is — namely in two areas called Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, which could re-spark a conflict today. But any border disputes could turn the mountainous region hot. The most recent standoff in August 2017 was about an obscure plateau in the Himalayan Doklam Plateau region, which borders India, China, and Bhutan. India supports Bhutan’s claim to the area, while both major powers have scores of troops in the region.

The spark for that standoff is an unfinished road from China.

China also supports India’s arch rival Pakistan, turning any conflict into a potential two-front war. But India doesn’t take it all laying down. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi confronted China’s assertiveness from his first day in office – when he invited the exiled Tibetan government to his swearing-in ceremony.

The two countries clashed along their border several times, including one incident over Tibet in 1967 and another near miss 1987 over Arunachal. There were also smaller incidents in 2013 and 2014 in Ladakh, where India has since loaded the area with infantry, tanks, and reserves to be prepared for any potential aggression from China.

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps
Chinese People’s Liberation Army during the Moscow Victory Day Parade

But the very likely spark that could drive the two Asian giants to war could come from a clash over resources. In this case it wouldn’t be over oil, it would be over water. Both countries have an eye on the fresh water and hydroelectric power from the Tsangpo–Brahmaputra River.

Water is not the only resource in question, though. Earlier in 2016, China prevented India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls the trade of nuclear material and tech.

Technology and Numbers

China and India are now economic powerhouses, 2nd and 7th (respectively) in world GDP rankings. Militarily, India is number four on the GlobalFirepower rankings and boasts the largest standing volunteer army at 1.13 million troops with 2.1 million in reserve. Ranked number three on the same scale, China’s armed forces have 2.3 million active troops with another 2.3 million in reserve.

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps
Indian Army Soldiers of the Madras Regiment.

China’s technology is superior to India’s, but not by much. The Chinese air forces also vastly outnumber India’s somewhat antiquated air force. The Chinese also have a homegrown version of the F-35, which can outmatch India’s 50-year-old MiG-21s. The Chinese J-20 is currently the best best for Chinese air superiority, if it’s operational in time for such a conflict.

India is working with Russia on developing a 5th-generation Sukhoi fighter with capabilities similar to the American F-22. But the Indian air force has been outnumbered and outclassed on many occasions and still came up with a win. Training and experience count for a lot. More on that in a minute.

India’s Navy matches China’s with two aircraft carrier groups but China still edges India in technological capability — barely. China also dwarfs India’s tank and submarine corps, with five times as many of each. China also has twice as many warships and military aircraft.

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps
The STOBOR Carrier, INS Vikramaditya.

India’s advantage is that, despite China’s superiority in merchant marine, its sea lanes come very close to Indian waters. This would force the Chinese to divert ships used for a blockade to protect their shipping. This is why both countries invest in developing submarines and anti-sub technology.

No matter what, the air and sea war would be a slugfest. Even so, the primary conflict would likely be between two land armies. Or three if Pakistan decides to take advantage of the situation.

Joota on the ground

The problem with the major border disputes is that the border in question is high in the Himalayas, making quick thrusts and land grabs unlikely. A large disparity in ground troops between the opposing forces will decide who advances. China may have the manpower to make taking the disputed provinces possible.

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps

A significant difference in India’s favor is that its troops are battle-hardened and have a long tradition of fighting to defend India’s borders. The Indian Army has been fighting Pakistan, terrorism, and a host of insurgencies for decades. Its last war ended in 1999, and it has employed significant paramilitary and special operations forces ever since.

The Chinese haven’t seen real fighting since the 1979 war with Vietnam. That war lasted just shy of four weeks, with each side claiming victory. The Chinese wanted to punish Vietnam for being in the Soviet sphere while proving to the world the USSR could not protect its allies. It didn’t work. The Vietnamese repelled the Chinese People’s Liberation Army using only border militias.

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps
A Vietnamese military officer standing on the wreckage of a destroyed Chinese tank in Cao Bang during the Sino-Vietnamese War.

The truth is, the Chinese PLA, for all its growth and advances in technology, has not truly been tested since the Korean War. China’s biggest equalizer is its ballistic missile force, capable of hitting well inside India.

China’s biggest advantage is its economy. If it suffers no sanctions as a result of an invasion, it could sustain a protracted war much longer than India. In this instance, India’s best hope is to strangle Chinese shipping using its sizable submarine force. India sits with its boot on the neck of the Chinese economy.

Related: The 10 most powerful militaries in the world

If it came to a nuclear exchange, India would not fare well. China has a stockpile of ballistic missiles and with major Indian cities so close to the Chinese border, it doesn’t even need longer-ranged weapons to annihilate major urban centers. Conversely, India has few of these and primary targets in China are much further away. Luckily, both countries have a “no first use” policy, making a nuclear exchange unlikely.

How it plays out

India invading China is highly unlikely. The Indian Army would not have the ground force necessary to drive through the Himalayas and sustain such a push.

This war would be fought with light infantry, mountain troops, and light armor. China has the advantage in numbers, but India has experienced veteran soldiers. Even aircraft would have trouble fighting in these mountains, but the Indian Army has developed specialized attack helicopters just for this purpose: the HAL Druv and HAL Light Attack helicopters.

China has very few airfields in the area, which would limit its ability to provide air cover, whereas India’s Air Force maintains considerable assets in the area.

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps
Indian Army HAL Light Combat Helicopter.

India also has multiple layers of anti-air and anti-missile defense and is developing more. China would have to get the bulk of its ground forces across the Himalayas as fast as possible, or the war would grind to a halt.

Any halt to the Chinese advance would be a de facto win for India. China would have to completely capture the disputed territories and move into India to be able to claim victory. China’s only real chance to progress into the subcontinent is to perform an Inchon Landing-style maneuver from the sea, but that would require going through India’s submarine force unopposed.

Frankly, no matter what the provocation might be, these two countries are better off being friends. Growing economies and technological capabilities serve only to bolster the rest of the world’s growth. Any conflict between the two would be explosive and bloody, requiring a lot of manpower and ending with a massive loss of life and little to show for it. The geography and population density between the two countries makes both of them unconquerable.

Articles

5 Army myths that just won’t die

The rumor mill is one of the most amazing things about Army service. Conjecture seems to travel through the Private News Network at speeds rivaling any military vehicle. Unfortunately, the PNN is not the most accurate place to get news and there are certain urban legends that show up time and again. Here are five of the rumors that just won’t die.


1. “These soft new soldiers could get a break in basic by just raising their stress cards.”

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps

It seems like every time the Army graduates a class of basic trainees, the rumor pops up that this class was issued the fabled “stress cards.” These legendary pieces of paper would allow soldiers to take a time out if basic was getting too stressful and challenging, but the cards were never supposed to provide a break.

Snopes researched this myth and found an example of cards referencing stress in Navy recruits, while Stars and Stripes found a card that was issued to new soldiers. Neither card allowed for a time out though. The Navy card listed resources stressed sailors could turn to instead of running away or committing suicide. The Army cards served as a reminder to training cadre that recruit stress was real and should be managed.

For both services, there are reports of recruits trying to get out of training by raising the card, but training cadre were not obliged to provide a time out. A 1997 federal advisory committee recommended the use of the cards end due to the widespread misconception that they could be used to take a break.

2. “The Army was drugging us in basic. That’s why we didn’t want to have sex.”

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

Soldiers in basic may be surprised to find they can go months without sex and not miss it during training. In whispered conversations over dining facility tables, this is blamed on the Army lacing the food or water with saltpeter or other anti-libido drugs.

Stars and Stripes addressed this rumor and every branch of service provided an enthusiastic denial of the myth. In the article, a spokeswoman for the Kinsey Institute addressed the likely cause of soldiers’ lowered sex drive.

“Most people when they are under stress are not interested in sex,” Jennifer Bass told Stars and Stripes. “There are other things going on that are more important that they have to take care of physically and emotionally, and usually those two have to be working together for sexual response to happen.”

The rumor sometimes manifests as the Army drugging deployed soldiers, but the real cause of the dampened libido overseas is probably the physical and emotional stress of combat.

3. “Really, my granddad’s uncle had an M-16 with Mattel right on the grips.”

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps
Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The story goes that the first shipments of M-16s to U.S. troops in Vietnam had handgrips stamped with the Mattel logo, since Mattel had been subcontracted to make the parts in the first few runs of the new rifles.

While a great story, it’s not true. Snopes thinks the rumor started due to a joke among service members. The M-16 was plagued with problems when it first debuted with U.S. troops. Since it was made of plastic and did not function well as a weapon, troops joked that it was a toy using the tagline of the largest toy manufacturer of the time, “You Can Tell It’s Mattel… It’s Swell!” Mattel also manufactured a toy version of the weapon, likely adding to the myth.

The rifle was originally created by Armalite, and it had been producing the M-16 for export for over three years before the U.S. placed an order in 1962. Armalite had supplied an order to the Federation of Malaysia in late 1959, followed by orders for testing in India and fielding by the South Vietnamese. Manufacturing of the design was licensed out in 1962 to Colt who made the weapons finally delivered to U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1965. Colt, Armalite, and yes, even Mattel, have all denied involvement the toymaker had any part in manufacturing parts for the M-16.

4. “Hollywood doesn’t get our uniforms right because it would be against the law.”

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps

Military movies are filled with annoying inaccuracies, something WATM has been happy to point out on multiple occasions. The rumor when it comes to uniform errors is that federal law prohibits civilians from wearing military uniforms, so Hollywood changes aspects of the uniform to get around the law.

First, the law exists but it applies whenever someone fraudulently wears the uniform, even if they intentionally get details wrong. Also, there are exceptions written into the law to protect artistic performances.

Since actors are allowed to wear the uniform while performing, Hollywood could legally portray the uniform properly just as easily as they display it incorrectly. Typically, movies gets the uniforms wrong because the crew doesn’t know better or doesn’t care. At the end of the day, it’s a costume designer outfitting the actors, not military technical advisors.

5. “Starbucks doesn’t support the troops!”

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps
Photo: US Army Sgt. Carmen Gibson

Many companies have been accused of not supporting the troops for various reasons, but Starbucks seems to be the one who gets criticized the most due to a myth that they openly voiced a lack of support to the Marines. The origin of the Starbucks myth is actually well established. A Marine Corps sergeant heard that some of his peers had requested free Starbucks coffee and been turned down.

The sergeant blasted out an email requesting true patriots boycott Starbucks. Starbucks addressed the accusations, saying that the corporation doesn’t provide free coffee to any organization besides non-profit charities, and the policy wasn’t meant as a comment on military service members. Starbucks employees receive free coffee from the company, and Starbucks allowed its employees to donate this coffee to troops deployed. The company itself just didn’t directly donate any beans.

The originator of the email later apologized, but the myth that Starbucks once voiced opposition to war veterans persists. Starbucks has made a few large overtures to the military community to prove its loyalty. They’ve sent care packages to troops, introduced programs to hire more veterans, and used profits from stores in military areas to fund local veteran charities. In 2014, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced a $30 million donation to support research into PTSD and brain trauma.

Articles

This recreational drug could be used to treat post-traumatic stress

Thirty percent of the current veteran population is suffering from some level of post traumatic stress, according to VA statistics. Treatments vary, but researchers and doctors are aggressively responding to the crisis.


As marijuana begins to gain traction in treating veteran PTS (the Veterans Administration maintains its position that marijuana has only an “anecdotal effect” on veteran post-traumatic stress) researchers are examining other recreational drugs to treating the unseen wounds of war. And the newest drug under scrutiny is methylene-dioxy-meth-amphetamine, better known as “MDMA,” “Molly,” or “ecstasy.”

Russia wants to use this ballistic missile on terrorist camps
Pure MDMA in crystal form (wikimedia commons)

Pure MDMA is of interest to neuroscientists because of its effect on human empathy, fear, and defensiveness. In a recent Popular Science article, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mithoefer said that 83 percent of his treatment resistant patients not only responded positively to MDMA treatment, they soon showed no symptoms at all.

Other reports show the drug works in treating end-of-life anxiety and alcoholism. Rick Doblin, who runs the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, thinks the FDA could allow the use of MDMA as a viable treatment option as early as 2021.

In studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, MDMA was found to be addictive in “rare cases.” One being a veteran self-medicating with MDMA to treat his own post-traumatic stress. Clearly, more study is needed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon: Taliban keeps ‘close ties’ with Al-Qaeda affiliate

Al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate in Afghanistan maintains “close ties” to the Taliban and has an “enduring interest” in attacking U.S. troops, the Pentagon says in a new report.

Under a February deal between the Taliban and the United States, the insurgents agreed to stop terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a safe haven to plot attacks.


But in a report published on July 1, the Department of Defense said Taliban militants have continued to work with Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

AQIS “routinely supports and works with low-level Taliban members in its efforts to undermine the Afghan government, and maintains an enduring interest in attacking US forces and Western targets in the region,” the department said in a semiannual security assessment compiled for Congress.

Citing Al-Qaeda statements, the report said the group’s regional affiliate also “assists local Taliban in some attacks.”

The Pentagon report, titled Enhancing Security And Stability In Afghanistan, said that despite “recent progress” in the peace process in Afghanistan, AQIS “maintains close ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan, likely for protection and training.”

It said that any “core” Al-Qaeda members still in Afghanistan are focused mainly on survival, and have delegated regional leadership to AQIS.

“AQIS’s interest in attacking US forces and other Western targets in Afghanistan and the region persists, but continuing coalition [counterterrorism] pressure has reduced AQIS’s ability to conduct operations in Afghanistan without the support of the Taliban,” according to the report, which covers events during the period between December 1, 2019, to May 31 this year.

It comes after a United Nations report released a month ago said that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy, and intermarriage.”

The UN report added that the Taliban “regularly consulted” with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and “offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties.”

However, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad downplayed the findings, saying the report largely covered a period before the U.S.-Taliban agreement.

The deal is at a critical stage at a time violence in Afghanistan has continued since a three-day cease-fire at the end of May. The Afghan National Security Council said June 30 that, since February, the Taliban had on average staged 44 attacks per day on Afghan security forces.

Under the accord, the United States agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan from 12,000 troops to 8,600 by mid July. If the rest of the deal goes through, all U.S. and other foreign troops will exit Afghanistan by mid-2021.

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

Articles

8 things vets learn while transitioning out of the military

 


Transitioning service members experience many changes as they navigate their way through the private sector. There are important things to understand as you make this jump into unknown territory.

Here are eight things I learned as a transitioning veteran.

1. Start expanding your network a year prior to separation from the military.

LinkedIn is a huge resource for finding a career that fits your needs (Read: 7 Ways to Leverage Social Media in Your Job Search). Having a large number of connections increases your visibility to the industry’s hiring managers, talent acquisition specialists and recruiters. Do yourself a favor and join LinkedIn if you have not already.

2. Research and learn how your occupation is different in the private sector.

Be open to a steep learning curve. You may have a lot to offer, but it may not be the exact direction or goal of the company you are interviewing with.

3. When you interview, play up your strengths.

Hiring managers and recruiters look through hundreds of resumes every day. Make your resume stand out by placing your summary of qualifications at the top. Remember, they need quick information. You may be retired from the military or you may have only served one enlistment. Regardless, try to fit all of your experience on one page. Boil it down to the fine points and list your experience in translatable terms.

4. You may have to take a pay cut from your last pay grade in the military.

It’s important to include health insurance when negotiating your salary. Remember that the private sector has a financial ladder to climb as well. Be reasonable, but make sure you are covered when negotiating your salary. The insurance that the military provides is worth $10-12k annually – not including deductibles. If you have a family, you can expect to pay $500 and up per month for health insurance premiums, depending on the company’s benefits program. If you have a family, the selected reserve may be a good option to retain your health benefits at a much lower cost.

5. Your career path in the private sector may not have existing processes put in place.

This can affect accountability up and down the chain of command. It’s important to give and receive constant feedback to eliminate silos in communication where processes may lack.

6. Don’t seek the approval of others, especially if you are in a senior management position.

While asking questions in the military shows that you want to learn and improve the process, to the private sector it can give the impression that you are incompetent. Research as many things as you can on your own before asking questions. Image and trust go hand in hand.

7. Remember that you are no longer in a contract.

People may have the tendency to feel protective of their positions. “One team, One fight” is just a formality in the workplace, but it does not always hold true every place you may work. If you choose to step in and be a “team player,” make sure you ask permission first. Perception is everything in corporate America and, unfortunately, that can determine a corporation’s measure of trust with you.

8. Research your state’s requirements for terminations and layoffs.

Employers can terminate due to restructuring, loss of profit or lack of performance. It’s important for you to understand what your rights are for the state you work in if you ever experience this. Unlike the military, a business is for profit – every decision affects the bottom line.

More from GI Jobs:

This article originally appeared at GI Jobs. Copyright 2015. Follow GI Jobs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Graphic novel series explores the life of the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor

Mary Walker, the only woman to be issued a Medal of Honor, is about to get some prime-time coverage, thanks in part to a graphic novel series produced by the Association of the U.S. Army. The latest edition of “Medal of Honor,” shines a light on the bravery and valor of Mary Walker, the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree and the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor.

Dr. Mary Walker attended Syracuse Medical College before the start of the Civil War. Her parents encouraged her to pursue her education, and she graduated in 1855 with a medical doctor degree – the first woman to do so in the almost 100-year-old United States.


She knew she wanted to serve her country, she just didn’t know how it would happen. Dr. Walker worked in private practice for a few years until the Civil War broke out in 1861. Despite her best efforts to join the Army, she was denied on the grounds of being a woman. And since she’d worked so hard to earn a medical doctorate, Dr. Walker was nonplussed at the suggestion that she join the Army as a nurse.

Instead, she decided to volunteer and work for free at a temporary hospital set up at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. There, Dr. Walker continued to face discrimination, as the male surgeons refused to address her as “Dr.” and instead regulated her duties to that of an assistant.

By 1862, Dr. Walker was living in Virginia and working at field hospitals throughout the state. A year later, her medical credentials were finally accepted by the Army. This was only because of the recommendation of Maj. Gen. William Sherman and Maj. Gen. George Thomas. Without their letters of recommendation, it’s likely that Dr. Walker would have continued to work as an unpaid surgical assistant, despite being a highly trained doctor.

With her recommendation letters in hand in hand, Walker moved to Tennessee and was appointed as a War Department surgeon, which is equivalent to today’s rank of either a First Lieutenant or Captain. Her position in Tennessee was paid.

Dr. Walker quickly became well-known among the troops and units. She would routinely risk crossing enemy lines to tend to wounded personnel or civilians. It was during one of these forays into enemy territory that Dr. Walker was captured by Confederate forces. Dr. Walker was sent to the infamous Castle Thunder Camp, located in current-day Richmond, Virginia. She was held as a POW for about four months and was eventually exchanged in a POW swap for Confederate medical officers.

Castle Thunder was mainly used for civilian prisoners, not POWs, so it’s not entirely clear what Dr. Walker witnessed and experienced during her time as a POW, but it probably wasn’t pleasant. But, true to her nature, Dr. Walker saw an opportunity instead of internment. While imprisoned, she cared for the ill and the wounded at Castle Thunder. She is credited with having saved several lives while waiting for her own life to resume outside the prison walls.

After being released by the Confederate Army, Dr. Walker worked as a medical director at a hospital for women prisoners in Kentucky. She was routinely seen wearing men’s clothes and was arrested several times for impersonating a man, always stating that the “government” gave her permission to dress that way. She was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson even though she’d never officially been commissioned as an officer. That’s why her medal was rescinded in 1917, just two years before she died. Dr. Walker refused to return the medal and wore it until she died.

Due in part to the efforts of her family, President Jimmy Carter restored her Medal of Honor in 1977. As part of the Army’s efforts to bring to light the courageous acts of service personnel, Dr. Walker’s story is now available in graphic novel form. Her story is the third installment of 2020. A final issue for 2020 will feature Holocaust survivor and Korean War veteran Cpl. Tibor Rubin. Read Dr. Walker’s graphic novel here.

Articles

Separation delayed for Green Beret who allegedly beat up Afghan commander

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland is being forcibly separated from the U.S. Army because officials say he beat up an Afghan commander, but he recently received a extension on the period in which he can appeal this decision.


In 2011, the Green Beret and Bronze Star recipient admitted to assaulting a local Afghan police commander who he says laughed about raping a boy in Kunduz province. Martland was recommended for involuntary separation through the Army’s qualitative management program in 2015, but wishes to remain in the Army. Then-Army Secretary John McHugh gave him a temporary reprieve. He now has until May 1, 2016 to file an appeal.

 

Martland, an 11-year veteran currently assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, had the support of California Representative Duncan Hunter, himself a Marine Corps veteran, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Hunter sent a letter to Senator Pat Roberts stating that Martland he has “the full support of his command and immediate leadership.”

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Martland (left) with General Petraeus (center).

Capt. Daniel Quinn was with Martland during the assault and has since left the army.

Quinn and Martland were told by the boy and his mother that the boy was tied to a post and raped repeatedly. Quinn verified the story with locals from other villages. The two Green Berets invited the commander to their base. Martland says he and Quinn only roughly removed the commander from their shared base, while the commander alleges Martland beat him up.

“After the child rapist laughed it off and referenced that it was only a boy, Captain Quinn picked him up and threw him,” Martland wrote in a statement ordered by Rep.Hunter. Martland then proceeded to “body slam him multiple times,” kick him in the rib cage, and put his foot on his neck. “I continued to body slam him and throw him for fifty meters until he was outside the camp,” Martland writes. “He was never knocked out, and he ran away from our camp.”

The incident lasted no more than five minutes, according to the statement.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia is hiring mercenaries to fight in Syria

Bloomberg has reported that the Feb. 7, 2018 attack on U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters by forces aligned with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was actually conducted by Russian mercenaries, and that at least 100 of them died in the failed attack.


The attack happened just five miles east of the “de-confliction” line between the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Russian-supported Syrian government in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region.

Some 500 “pro-Assad” fighters attempted to attack an SDF headquarters, but were repelled by American artillery and airstrikes that were called in by U.S. advisers on the ground. Russian nationals were suspected of being part of the attack, but no casualties were reported, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he did not think there were any Russian casualties.

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Fighters of the Euphrates Liberation Brigade, part of the Manbij Military Council of the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the city of Manbij in northern Syria. (Wikimedia Commons photo from Kurdishstruggle.)

Bloomberg, however, reported that three Russian sources told them the attack was conducted by Russian mercenaries, and that as many as 200 Russian “contract soldiers” died in the attack.

Russia has denied that any of its forces were killed or wounded in the attack, but evidence that Russians had died have slowly begun to surface on Russian social media.

Also read: How militants shot down a Russian fighter in Syria

It is unclear who was paying the mercenaries involved in last week’s attack, or what group they were a part of, but reports of a Russian private military company (PMC) by the name of Wagner have surfaced throughout the last few years.

Reports of Wagner mercenaries in Syria

This incident is not the first time Russian mercenaries have been reported to be operating in Syria. Stratfor, an American geopolitical intelligence firm, recently reported that Wagner mercenaries had served in Ukraine, Syria, and parts of Africa.

In September 2017, two Wagner operators were reportedly taken prisoner by the terrorist group ISIS in Syria’s Deir Ezzor region, and in August 2016, Sky News interviewed Russian men who claimed to be mercenaries who fought at the Battle of Palmyra.

Related: Thousands of Russian private contractors are fighting in Syria

The independent Russian media outlet Fontanka published an investigation from 2016 that claimed that as many as 2,500 men from Wagner were operating in Syria. They reported that they had a training base in Russia’s Krasnodar Krai region, and that many of the men in the group had fought in Ukraine’s Donbas war on the side of the separatists.

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In early February 2018, Igor Girkin, the former defense minister for the self-declared Donetsk Peoples Republic, a separatist region backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine, said Russian mercenaries operating in Syria who died in combat were cremated on sight, so as to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement.

“‘No body, no criminal case’ — this Russian investigative principle is being creatively used in the military campaign,” Girkin said on the Russian social media website VKontakte. “It is possible to dispose of a considerable number of bodies without anyone noticing. What can I say? There has never been such cynicism in our country.”

Russian mercenaries are reportedly being used for two purposes: to achieve objectives that the poorly trained and equipped Syrian Arab Army are not capable of achieving alone, and to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement in Syria.

The tactic is not unheard of. The U.S. employed mercenaries during its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their deaths were not reported in official counts. The U.S. continues to rely on PMCs in active warzones around the world.

If accurate, the losses sustained last week would make the number of Russian military deaths five times higher than the official count — and that does not even include previous losses sustained by Wagner.

Articles

19 photos that show what Army sappers do

Sappers are the Army’s experts in mobility on the battlefield. They stop the enemy from moving around and clear obstacles that inhibit the U.S. infantry and other ground troops. To do these jobs, they have to know how to fight an enemy, construct infrastructure like bridges and fences, and destroy enemy obstacles with explosives and tools.


Here are 19 photos that show their mission:

1. Engineers clear routes through enemy territory for maneuver forces.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Joshua Edwards

2. To do this, they detect enemy mines, IEDs, barbed wire, trenches, and other obstructions.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Joshua Edwards

3. If an obstruction or explosive is detected, the engineers ‘interrogate’ (sapper speak) the obstacle and decide what to do.

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Photo: US Army National Guard Spc. Adam Simmler

4. Once they identify a threat, they may mark it so infantry units know where the safe path is.

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

5. But they often decide to blow the obstruction up. Sappers are known for their skill with explosives.

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Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

6. When the enemy is hiding in a building, the sappers can cut through the walls or doors to get to them.

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker

7. They could also just blow the door off the hinges or a hole in a wall. Again, sappers blow up a lot of stuff.

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Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

8. Once the building is open, they can force their way inside but will often leave the task of searching the building to the infantry or other maneuver units.

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Roger Ashley

9. When the enemy protects the objective with barbed wire and other obstacles, the engineers use Bangalore torpedoes to blow open a path.

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Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret

10. Another specialty of engineers is getting themselves and equipment to hard to reach places. Here, sappers create improvised rafts to cross a lake.

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Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

11. They also have proper boats, like the Zodiac, that they’ll use to cross the water.

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

12. Sappers can even drop directly into the water with their equipment and boats via a helicopter.

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Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

13. They’ll climb up cliff faces or repel from ledges to open a route or block an enemy.

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Photo: Joint Hometown News Service Benjamin Faske

14. Sappers use many different explosives, including missiles, to complete their missions.

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Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

15. Javelin Missiles are most commonly used to destroy enemy armored vehicles.

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Photo: US Army Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

16. Engineers may aim to hit an enemy tank or armored vehicle while it’s in a choke point, preventing other vehicles from crossing there.

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Photo: US Army 251st Engineer Company

17. Enemy ground units can be stopped or slowed with mines. Claymores fire a barrage of steel bearings at enemies.

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Photo: US Army

18. For more security, the sappers and other engineers can put up fences or other obstacles.

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Debralee Best

19. This prevents enemy soldiers from getting to friendly forces as easily.

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Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Darrin McDufford

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pakistan’s new PM want an end to the war in Afghanistan

Pakistan’s former sports-celebrity-turned politician, Imran Khan, in his televised election victory speech July 26, 2018, pledged to tackle poverty and endemic corruption through a revamped governance system in the country.

Khan delivered the speech as about 90 percent of the results from July 25, 2018’s parliamentary polls already had been compiled. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PT) party was well ahead of its main rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of jailed former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.


Almost all the main rival parties have alleged the polls were rigged and manipulated in favor of Khan, allegations the independent Election Commission of Pakistan rejected.

Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Mohammad Raza strongly defended the voting process as free and fair. “These elections were 100 percent transparent and fair … there is no stain,” Raza insisted while speaking to reporters early July 26, 2018.

The commission admitted that its electronic reporting system collapsed shortly after vote counting began late July 25, 2018, causing unprecedented delays in announcing results.

Khan also promised to provide any assistance required to investigate the rigging charges, though he declared the polls as “the fairest in Pakistan.”

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Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Mohammad Raza

Analysts say partial election results suggest Khan’s party, with the help of smaller groups and independents, is poised to establish governments not only at the center but possibly in three of Pakistan’s four provinces.

Khan pledged in July 26, 2018’s speech to deliver on campaign promises, saying he would turn Pakistan into an “Islamic welfare state.”

The would-be government, he said, would not use the palatial prime minister’s residence in Islamabad and would use the space for other priorities as it focuses on good governance and economic challenges facing the country.

“I would be ashamed to live in such a large house. That house will be converted into an educational institution or something of the sort,” he said. “Our state institutions will be stronger, everyone will be held accountable. First I will be subjected to accountability, then my ministers and so on.”

Khan acknowledged while speaking to VOA on the eve of the election that the economy is the biggest challenge facing Pakistan.

“The only way we can overcome this is by revamping the way we do governance in this country, strengthening institutions and then spending it on our human beings,” Khan noted. This is “the rock bottom” for Pakistan, he warned.

“Never have we fallen so low as we have right now in terms of human development, in terms of the cost of doing business, in terms of our economy going down the drain. So, the challenges are huge but they can only be done … if we change the way we do governance in this country.”

Sharif’s party has been for months accusing the military of covertly helping Khan’s election campaign, charges both Khan and the military have strongly denied.

The PML-N’s electoral chances also have been shaken by Sharif’s conviction in absentia earlier this month on corruption charges involving expensive properties he and his family held overseas.

Sharif, who immediately was placed in custody after returning from Britain nearly two weeks ago, has denounced the verdict as politically motivated. He accused a covert military-judiciary alliance of trying to keep him out of politics and undermining the integrity of his PML-N party.

Khan and his party were instrumental in leading street protests and fighting legal battles to win the conviction in corruption cases against Sharif.

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Imran Khan

Foreign policy

In his brief speech, Khan also spoke about how his party intends to deal with foreign policy challenges facing Pakistan.

Years of wars in Afghanistan have inflicted unprecedented sufferings on Afghans and they need peace, he said. The new government will make all possible efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan to ensure peace in Pakistan, Khan vowed.

“I also want to build relations with Afghanistan to a point where we have open borders just like those within the European Union,” he added.

Khan said he would seek a mutually beneficial and balanced relationship with the United States.

“We want to improve our relations with India, if their leadership also wants it. This blame game that whatever goes wrong in Pakistan is because of India and vice versa brings us back to square one. If they take one step toward us, we will take two, but we at least need a start.”

The election is just Pakistan’s third peaceful transition of power. The military has ruled the Muslim-majority nation of more than 200 million people for nearly half of the country’s 71-year-history.

July 25, 2018’s vote was disrupted by militant attacks and incidents involving gunfire between political rivals.

The deadliest incident occurred in Quetta, capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, where a suicide blast ripped through a crowed of political activists, voters and security personnel, killing more than 30 people. The Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for the bloodshed.

The campaign leading up to the July 25, 2018 vote had been marred by violence that left more than 170 people dead.

This article originally appeared on Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of Dec. 8

Tomorrow, almost 70,000 U.S. troops and veterans will pack Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field to watch two college football teams with records that could barely be called “winning” go head-to-head for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy.


Usually, when 70,000 American troops are hanging out, they’re either defending South Korea or taking Iwo Jima from the Japanese. This time, it’s for the Army-Navy Game.

Even if you’re not a fan of Army, Navy, sports, America, or fun, you can still enjoy these memes.

13. Who did this and why did it take you so long?

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They still only award it to E-7 and above.

12. This week we remembered Pearl Harbor.

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That’s only because the Navy doesn’t have the right weapons… yet.

11. How do we show the Saudis what freedom means to us? (via Maintainer Nation)

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Read: The reason Army helicopters are named after native tribes will make you smile

10. When deployed, sand can be a nuisance. (via Decelerate Your Life)

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At home, it can be handy.

9. How to avoid going to the PX barber before Christmas leave.

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And avoid being recognized for anything but the boss you are.

8. I’m all for esprit de corps, but… (via Coast Guard Memes)

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And take your Axe Body Spray with you.

Check out: A patriotic US hacker hijacked North Korean propaganda to play ‘the Final Countdown’

7. How to get Stan/Eval to ban bells.

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6. How to find all the synonyms of ‘penis.’

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And probably all the words for sex acts.

5. Christmas shopping in the barracks. (Via People of the PX)

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Black Friday deals are insane.

Also Read: 3 Key differences between Recon Marines and Marine Raiders

4. Watch out for the gunpowder in the food.

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Also, beware the Ether Bunny.

3. This is why they still make pennies. (via Decelerate Your Life)

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2. The Air Force’s dog is a full-bird piloting a C-130.

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Pilot shortages are a b*tch.

1. Why memes are important.

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Everything you need to know before visiting a recruiter.

Now read: An enormous family of 41 are all training at the same post