Russia’s military leaders have reportedly called its intelligence service “deeply incompetent” after Western investigators accused its agents of being behind the nerve agent poisoning in England and an attempted hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog.
Photographs showing Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Borishov, two men accused of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal.
(London Metropolitan Police)
The GRU was described in the meeting, MBK said, as “deeply incompetent,” “infinitely careless,” “morons,” and people that “would still wear the budenovka” — a phrase that means being outdated. The budenovka was a military hat worn in the late 1910s and early 1920s, shortly after the Russian tsar was deposed.
The defense leaders are also considering a “big sweep” at the GRU and ask some of its generals to leave, MBK said.
MBK was founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a prominent Kremlin critic.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal buying groceries in Salisbury, England, days before he was poisoned with military-grade nerve agent.
( ITV News)
in September 2018 the UK accused two Russian men of traveling to Salisbury, England, and poisoning Skripal and his daughter with military-grade nerve agent this March, and said they were GRU agents traveling under pseudonyms.
The two men also went on national Russian TV to say that they only visited England to visit a cathedral.
Investigative journalism site Bellingcat, however, has since identified Petrov as Dr. Alexander Mishkin, “a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” and Boshirov as Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated officer with the GRU.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov told RT’s editor-in-chief they had nothing to do with the Skripals’ poisoning. Sept. 12, 2018.
In early October 2018, the Netherlands also accused four Russian GRU agents of trying to launch a cyberattack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world’s chemical weapons watchdog. The OPCW was, at the time, investigating the nerve agent attack on Skripal and a reported chemical attack in Douma, Syria, where Russian jets have bombed.
The men — two tech experts and two support agents — were caught red-handed and attempted to destroy some of the equipment to conceal their actions, Dutch authorities said.
The Netherlands then determined that they were agents of the GRU after finding that one of their phones was activated near the GRU building in Moscow, and discovering a receipt for a taxi journey from a street near the GRU to the Moscow airport, the BBC reported.
Mark Urban, a British journalist who recently wrote a book about Skripal, wrote in The Times on Oct. 9, 2018: “It would be surprising if this series of compromised operations did not trigger some realignment in Moscow, a further round of struggle between the spy bosses.
“The mockery of the GRU for its recent upsets, both globally and on Russian social media, must have rankled. Whatever the intentions of the Salisbury operation, they cannot have included opening decorated heroes of the agency up for ridicule,” Urban added, referring to Chepiga and Mishkin.
Two military agents are testifying that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl helped them understand insurgents better and provided a “gold mine” of information after he was returned in a prisoner swap.
The agents were called by the defense to testify Oct. 31 at Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing. He pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009. He faces life in prison.
The agents say the information that Bergdahl gave them will help train troops on how to survive future imprisonments. Bergdahl was held by the Taliban for five years.
Prosecutors have sought to show a military judge the severe wounds that troops suffered while searching for Bergdahl.
Gut-wrenching testimony at the sentencing of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will likely continue with officials who treated the soldier following his brutal five years of captivity by Taliban allies.
The defense began with Bergdahl himself describing his experience in enemy hands. And that served as a dramatic counterpoint to the emotional testimony of the final prosecution witness, Shannon Allen, whose husband can’t speak and needs help with everyday tasks after being shot in the head while searching for Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Bergdahl faces up to life in prison for endangering his comrades after pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He told the judge Oct. 30 he didn’t mean to cause harm when he walked off his post in 2009.
In January 2018, an Afghan National Army position near Kunduz was assaulted and knocked out during a precision night raid. The attackers were using laser targeting systems and wearing night vision. The attack came from a special Taliban fighter unit called “The Red Unit,” a team of insurgents carrying American weapons and technology, attacking the police in Kunduz in daring night raids. By 2018, The Red Unit had wiped out several police posts around Kunduz.
This isn’t your grandaddy’s Mujahideen. Probably.
Raids in Kunduz saw The Red Unit killing the defenders of police outposts, occupying the fortifications while they looted it for food and weapons, destroying whatever vehicles and weapons they couldn’t take, and then leaving the scene – without taking any casualties themselves.
The special insurgent forces carry M4 rifles and Russian-made night vision, along with laser targeting systems on their rifles. The only difference is they’re also sporting traditional garb and wearing head scarfs around their faces. Rumor has it they go into combat riding in a Ford truck or armored humvee. They make these quick strikes on outposts in order to avoid air strikes.
No one knows where they’re getting this advanced gear.
How do drones never catch these video shoots mid-production?
“Night-vision equipment is used in ambushes by the insurgents, and it is very effective,” said Maj. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry told the New York Times. “You can see your enemy, but they cannot see you coming.”
But in the heart of its “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, the group suffered at least one important setback: losing a substantial portion of its oil-exports income,according to the Iraq Oil Report.
Without the major source of revenue and foreign currency, the group might have a reduced ability to maintain the appearance of state-like services and functions inside the caliphate, potentially harming its ability to hold on to territory as global efforts against the group intensify.
The Iraq Oil Report’s December 28 story is one of the most detailed accounts of the jihadist group’s oil infrastructure that’s publicly available. It’s based on interviews with over a dozen people living in ISIS-controlled areas, including anonymous oil-sector workers. The story also includes descriptions of documents from the nearly 7 terabytes of data seized from the compound of Abu Sayyaf, the ISIS oil chief for Syria killed in a US Special Forces raid in May.
The story provides a mixed picture of ISIS’s oil resources 16 months after the start of a US-led bombing campaign against the group.
The US was slow to understand the strategic value of targeting ISIS’s oil infrastructure, viewing oil platforms, refineries, and vehicles “as a financial target with less battlefield urgency, rather than military targets,” according to Iraq Oil Report.
Even with the loss of nearly all of its oil fields in Iraq, ISIS still controls a single conventional refinery in the country, in Qayyarah, near Mosul.
Less efficient open-pit refining techniques and continued control of oil fields in Syria mean that fuel prices within the Islamic State have stabilized somewhat in parts of the caliphate after fluctuating wildly over the past year and a half.
The report contains one piece of evidence that the Middle East may be well past the heyday of the ISIS oil economy. ISIS’s once formidable oil-export economy, which used to produce $40 million in revenue a month for the group, has all but evaporated.
As the story recounts, ISIS oil exports were once a highly centralized operation, with middlemen like tanker-truck drivers paying about $10 to $20 per barrel at the point of sale.
ISIS would then recuperate the apparent discount on the barrel of oil through a series of tightly imposed transit taxes. The oil would hit the Turkish market through truckers or ISIS officials bribing officials in either Turkey or Iraqi Kurdistan.
The caliphate’s oil industry was staffed using 1,600 workers, most of whom were recruited from around the world. Because of global disruptions to the oil industry, even an illicit non-state group like ISIS didn’t have trouble running an international recruiting drive for skilled labor, as workers were “enticed with ‘globally competitive’ salaries at a time when the oil industry was undergoing waves of layoffs.”
Those days are apparently over.
US airstrikes have destroyed hundreds of ISIS-linked tanker trucks and cut into ISIS’s refining capacity. Low global oil prices have made smuggling a losing business proposition as well, especially in light of fuel shortages within the caliphate itself.
“The group can no longer generate enough fuel to comfortably meet demand within its own territory, as evidenced by high and volatile prices: there is virtually nothing left to export,” the article states. “Global crude prices are now so low that, even if smugglers were able to cross international borders, the expense of the trip – measured in fuel, time, and bribes – would likely erase any profits.”
Overall, the export business is “defunct,” the Iraq Oil Report states, and the article pushes back against “press reports” suggesting that ISIS is “financed through smuggling routes that have been largely dormant for more than a year.”
At the same time, ISIS has proven remarkably resilient, keeping control over a large swath of Iraq and Syria despite a handful of battlefield defeats and the loss of its oil exports. And as the Iraq Oil Report article says, ISIS’s control over territory stems from the weakness of the Iraqi state and the alienation of Iraq’s Sunni minority from the government in Baghdad. The loss of ISIS’s oil revenue doesn’t solve the deeper, underlying problems that enable the group’s control over so much of the country.
Still, reduced exports cut off ISIS’s access to foreign currency and reduces its ability to provide social services to people living under the group’s control — something that undermines its claim to ruling over a state-like political entity. It’s highly unlikely that ISIS will ever reconstitute the $1 million-a-day-type revenue streams it was able to establish by mid-2014.
The reported end of large-scale ISIS oil exports also shows that the US-led campaign against ISIS has at least fulfilled one strategic objective, even as the group continues to hold substantial territory and carry out attacks around the world.
“We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight. We’ll always be with you. No one’s ever really gone.”
A few more surprise credits include Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker (who, in addition to providing great trailer voiceover, will return, I suspect, as a Force Ghost, which really is canonically what they’re called) and Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa (via archived footage reportedly from filming The Force Awakens).
OG Force Ghosts from Return of the Jedi.
Since J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated release of The Force Awakens, it’s been clear that this trilogy is designed to pass the torch to the next generation of characters, including Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, and of course, (U.S. Marine) Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. Episode IX will close out the triptych.
According to Disney CEO Bob Iger, this film will also close out the Skywalker saga, prompting the franchise to take a little hiatus.
“We have not announced any specific plans for movies thereafter. There are movies in development, but we have not announced them. We will take a pause, some time, and reset because the Skywalker saga comes to an end with this ninth movie. There will be other Stars Wars movies, but there will be a bit of a hiatus,” Iger told Bloomberg.
Challenges for this film will be to provide a satisfying resolution to a storyline that has spanned 40 years with some of the most beloved characters ever created (and a fan base whose vitriol has the capacity to rival even the military community’s yes I am looking at you in the YouTube comment section of our Mighty Minutes…).
More than that, Episode IX will also have to resolve the battle raging in Kylo Ren, the trilogy’s main antagonist — who also happens to be the son of Leia and Han Solo. That’s a lot to ask of one movie, but no matter what happens, it’ll be fun to watch it play out.
I get the sense that her family background will actually be significant…
(Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Episode IX)
Should someone tell these guys that Rey is taking on a TIE fighter (variant unknown).
(Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Episode IX)
The look on Billy Dee Williams’ face when he finally got the call from Disney.
(Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Episode IX)
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker will open on Dec. 20, 2019, and the good tickets will sell out so buy them early and maybe buy some extra to sell on ebay. You’re welcome. And may the Force be with you, obviously.
The gym is a high-intensity environment where you lift heavy weights, get an epic pump, and parade around to show off your muscle gain. It’s no secret that gym-goers admire others’ physiques — both men and women alike.
People commonly hit the chest press to get their blood pumping, swing up the EZ-curl bar while working their biceps, and others grunt loudly as they rep out those last few squats — these are all good looking gym classics. There are plenty of exercises we do to impress our fellow man, but there are a few that some people swear off because they are far too embarrassing to do in public.
The following motions may look awkward as hell, but there’s no denying that they’re great for building strength.
This is probably the worst-sounding name in exercise history. No, it doesn’t involve having relations with a monkey.
Just hearing the name will make you crack a smile — until it’s time for you to do it 12 to 15 times. That’s when sh*t can get real embarrassing.
The motion may be aerobic, but it looks utterly ridiculous — and everyone around is bound to crack up and laugh at you. Sure, the exercise improves balance and stimulates your core, but is it really worth it?
In order to beef up your legs, you must work them out. Our hamstrings are a massive part of the lower body and, when exercised, release natural human growth hormones. Despite its effectiveness, a lot of men will avoid this exercise when the gym is crowded due to how awkward the position is.
This is another productive lower-body movement that focuses on your core and glutes. This is a fairly common exercise in the gym — but most people will try and hide to the side of the room to get it done. Let’s face it, the hip-thrusting motions make it look like you’re humping thin air.
If you’re trying to strengthen your core and lower back, “good mornings” are the perfect exercise to add to your routine. However, like many of the other motions we’ve mentioned, some men and women may feel a little vulnerable while conducting this motion in the middle of the gym.
The hip abductor machine is the perfect piece of gym equipment for working on your core strength and tightening your obliques. Unfortunately, in order to use it properly, you have to spread your legs wide open — which can be a little awkward for some people.
Looking at a complete stranger while doing this exercise can send them the wrong message… It happens more than you think.
This muscle-building movement requires you to use the cable machine and an extension rope. With your back against the machine, you have to tug the rope through your legs, which closely resembles whipping out your… you get it.
It might be an effective exercise, but many many gym-goers find it to be a little too weird to do in a crowded gym.
It may surprise amateur historians to discover that wars can take a humanitarian turn. There are many, many recorded instances of exceptional displays of humanity, even during the most brutal fighting. Considering the Nazis’ monstrous reputation, it would surprise many others to discover that kind of kindness among the German officers in World War II.
Even in the Wehrmacht’s most desperate days, there were some among them who retained their humanity in the middle of one of the world’s deadliest conflicts. In the Hürtgen War Cemetery in Hürtgen, Germany, you’ll find a small monument to one of these brave souls.
“No man hath greater love than he who layeth down his life for his enemy.”
As the Allies pressed their post-Normandy advantage against the Nazis in Europe, they began to outrun their supply lines. Unfortunately, the men and materiel required to bring down the Nazi regime weren’t as fast at replacing the men and materiel who were actively taking down the regime. The Allies were forced to slow down and, in some places, pause as their supplies caught up to their breakneck drive toward Germany.
This lull gave the Germans time to regroup and rest.
The worst was yet to come.
Before the Allies could enter Germany, there were a few things they had to consider. They had to cross the Rhine, the city Aachen was under siege and refused to surrender, and the Allies were afraid the Germans would destroy the Ruhr Dam. To avoid this, the Allies needed to enter the dense woods that lay between the city and the dam and do it before the Germans thought to blow the dam.
During the relatively brief lull in the fighting, the Germans made good use of the Hürtgen Forest. Its hills and ravines were loaded with minefields, booby traps, barbed wire, and anything else they could think of that might halt the Allied advance or end it entirely. What’s more, deep inside the woods were the overgrown and abandoned remains of the concrete Siegfried Line. The advantage in numbers and air superiority the Allied troops enjoyed would be completely negated by the forest. The dark woods were now almost impenetrable, and the Allies were walking into it.
This is not the place you want to assault.
For four months, the Allies sent men into the German-held meat grinder trying to dislodge the Nazis. Among the Germans trying to keep the Americans out was a Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld. Lengfeld was a young officer who had just taken command of his unit in November 1944, after his commander was killed in combat. He and his men were holed up in a lodge of some kind, sheltering themselves from the elements and trying to stave off their hunger. Next to their shelter was a minefield known as the Wilde Sau.
An American attack pushed Lengfeld’s Germans from their shelter, but his men quickly counterattacked and retook it the day after. The U.S. troops scrambled out so fast that one of them walked right into the Wilde Sau and immediately stepped on a mine. The man survived and began calling for help.
None came. And to this day, no one knows who the wounded American was.
This road once bisected the Wilde Sau minefield.
Lieutenant Lengfeld ordered his troops that no one was to fire at any Americans who would come for the man. Hours passed, the man begged anyone within earshot to help him. But no one came. The man cried for his compatriots the entire time, but still, no one came to his aid. Lengfeld decided he would help, and took a team of his medics along a road that led to the minefield. He was determined to help the man, but while his team had placed anti-tank mines along the road, he did not know the location of anti-personnel mines. Lengfeld stepped on one immediately, shredding his back. He would die later that night.
In 1994, a monument was erected at the Hürtgen Forest Cemetery, bearing the name and wartime deeds of Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld. It read:
Here in Huertgen Forest on November 12, 1944, Lt. Lengfeld, a German officer, gave his life while trying to save the life of an American soldier lying severely wounded in the “Wilde Sau” minefield and appealing for medical aid.
The monument was placed there by the American members of the 22nd Infantry Regiment to honor Lt. Lengfeld.
The plane, known as the Kunlong and developed independently by China, took off from the water and landed steadily after a 14-minute flight, according to China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency.
The 121-foot-long aircraft is about 40 feet tall and has a 127-foot wingspan, making it roughly the size of a Boeing 737. It has a range of 2,800 miles and a cruising speed of about 310 mph, and it can fly for up to 12 hours.
Powered by four WJ-6 turboprop engines — Chinese-made versions of a Russian engine — it has a maximum takeoff weight of about 59 tons on land and about 54 tons on water.
It’s the third-largest aircraft designed and built in China, after the Y-20 military transport plane and the C-919 commercial passenger plane.
It can carry up to 50 people for maritime search-and-rescue operations and scoop up about 12 tons of water in 20 seconds during firefighting operations.
It’s designed to take off and land in waves up to 6.5 feet high. While it has a flight ceiling of just under 20,000 feet, it can cruise as low as about 160 feet.
Aerial view: China’s AG600 amphibious aircraft makes maiden flight from water
Beijing approved a development plan for the AG600 in 2009 and unveiled it in July 2016, when it rolled off an assembly line in Zhuhai in southern China. It made its first flight in December 2017 and carried out its first on-water tests in September 2018.
Its chief designer, Huang Lingcai, said in May 2017 that the manufacturer, state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, was aiming to get an airworthiness certification by 2021 and start deliveries by 2022.
It’s designated primarily for civil operations and intended for the Chinese market. As of December 2017, there had been 17 orders from the Chinese government and Chinese companies.
But its capabilities lead observers to think it could be used to transport troops or conduct surveillance in disputed waters like the South China Sea.
Beijing could use it to justify more buildup in the South China Sea
Xinhua has said the aircraft could “be used to monitor and protect the ocean” and called it the “protector spirit of the sea, islands, and reefs.”
The state-owned China Daily newspaper in December 2017 described Huang as saying the AG600 could make round trips from China’s southern island province of Hainan to James Shoal at the southern edge of the South China Sea without refueling.
Collin Koh, a security expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, told the South China Morning Post in September 2018 that “the AG600 would be suitable for the quick transport of troops and materials and could also provide other support such as evacuating garrisons in the South China Sea or even out to the Spratlys.”
“Beijing will also use it to justify any further buildup in the region, saying the aircraft can be used for the common good, such as providing support to foreign vessels in the area and for search and rescue,” Koh added.
China’s land-reclamation projects in the South China Sea have helped it expand its presence in the area, which is covered by overlapping claims made by several countries.
In addition to building runways, communications facilities, barracks, and hangars, China has militarized several of its outposts in the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands, adding various point-defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles.
Satellite imagery released in 2018 by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative showed at least four airstrips in the Spratlys and the Paracels capable of handling military aircraft.
The AG600, which can take off and land in water as shallow as 8 feet, could be used to link those islands.
In early 2016, China appeared ready to start reclaiming land at Scarborough Shoal, a group of rocky outcroppings about 130 miles from the Philippine coast. But it backed down after the US warned of consequences, and the Philippines has since said that building at Scarborough is a “red line.”
In 2018, China’s air force said it landed bomber aircraft, including the H-6K strategic bomber, on islands in the South China Sea as part of an exercise it described as preparation for “the West Pacific and the battle for the South China Sea.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters coordinated close air support with Navy SEALs, trained with F-15Es and A-10s, dropped laser-guided bombs and practiced key mission sets and tactics in Idaho as part of initial preparations for what will likely be its first deployment within several years, senior service officials said.
“We are practicing taking what would be a smaller contingent of jets and moving them to another location and then having them employ out of that location,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, former Director, F-35 Integration Office told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
Harrigian said the Air Force plane would likely deploy within several years and pointed to mini-deployments of 6 F-35As from Edwards AFB in Calif., to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho as key evidence of its ongoing preparations for combat.
“They dropped 30-bombs – 20 laser-guided bombs and 10 JDAMS (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). All of them were effective. We are trying to understand not only how we understand the airplane in terms of ordnance but also those tactics, techniques and procedures we need to prepare,” Harrigian explained.
During the exercises at Mountain Home AFB, the F-35A also practiced coordinating communications such as target identification, radio and other command and control functions with 4th-generation aircraft such as the F-15E, he added.
The training exercises in Idaho were also the first “real” occasion to test the airplane’s ability to use its computer system called the Autonomic Logistic Information System, or ALIS. The Air Force brought servers up to Mountain Home AFB to practice maintaining data from the computer system.
A report in the Air Force Times indicated that lawmakers have expressed some concerns about the development of ALIS, which has been plagued with developmental problems such as maintenance issues and problems referred to as “false positives.”
“This is a new piece of the weapons system. It has been challenging and hard. You have all this data about your airplanes. We learned some things that we were able to do in a reasonable amount of time,” Harrigian said.
F-35A “Sensor Fusion”
The computer system is essential to what F-35 proponents refer to as “sensor fusion,” a next-generation technology which combines and integrates information from a variety of sensors onto a single screen. As a result, a pilot does not have to look at separate displays to calculate mapping information, targeting data, sensor input and results from a radar warning receiver.
Harrigian added that his “fusion” technology allows F-35A pilots to process information and therefore make decisions faster than a potential enemy. He explained how this bears upon the historic and often referred to OODA Loop – a term to connote the Observation Orientation, Decision, Action cycle that fighter pilots need to go through in a dogfight or combat engagement in order to successfully destroy the enemy. The OODA-Loop concept was developed by former Air Force strategist Col. John Boyd; it has been a benchmark of fighter pilot training, preparation and tactical mission execution.
“As we go in and start to target the enemy, we are maximizing the capabilities of our jets. The F-35 takes all that sensor input and gives it to you in one picture. Your ability to make decisions quicker that the enemy is exponentially better than when we were trying to put it all together in a 4th generation airplane. You are arriving already in a position of advantage,” Harrigian explained.
Also, the F-35 is able to fire weapons such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile “off boresight,” meaning it can destroy enemy targets at different angles of approach that are not necessarily directly in front of the aircraft.
“Before you get into an engagement you will have likely already shot a few missiles at the enemy,” Harrigian said.
The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.
The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.
The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Deployment
Once deployed, the F-35 will operate with an advanced software drop known as “3F” which will give the aircraft an ability to destroy enemy air defenses and employ a wide range of weapons.
Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.
Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.
As per where the initial squadron might deploy, Harrigian said that would be determined by Air Combat Command depending upon operational needs at that time. He did, however, mention the Pacific theater and Middle East as distinct possibilities.
“Within a couple years, I would envision they will take the squadron down range. Now, whether they go to Pacific Command or go to the Middle East – the operational environment and what happens in the world will drive this. If there is a situation where we need this capability and they are IOC – then Air Combat Command is going to take a hard look at using these aircraft,” he said.
As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sought to raise his international standing, a figure seen by his side almost constantly during his meetings with world leaders is none other than his younger sister Kim Yo Jong.
Kim Yo Jong appeared destined for a powerful career from a young age. Kim Jong Il once bragged to foreign interlocutors in 2002 that his youngest daughter was interested in politics and eager to work in North Korea’s government.
It’s completely unclear where she was or what she was up to between 2000 and 2007.
In the following years, she conducted a lot of behind-the-scenes work for her father, Kim Jong Il, and brother Kim Jong Un. She played a particularly significant role in helping Kim Jong Un take over instead of his older brothers.
Her first public appearance was in 2011 at Kim Jong Il’s funeral.
Kim Yo Jong’s first recorded public appearance: The North Korean princess appeared among the mourners at her father’s funeral at the end of 2011.pic.twitter.com/GWPw4dgbZU
Kim Yo Jong made headlines in 2017 after she was promoted to a top position in her brother’s government: the head of the propaganda department of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
That’s not just a fancy title — Kim Yo Jong plays a crucial role in controlling her brother’s public image.
Kim Yo Jong’s role in the North Korean regime is not just ceremonial. She’s actually working, protecting the image of her brother Kim Jong Un and making sure that everything runs smoothly.pic.twitter.com/hWsQnPIZzr
In public, Kim Yo Jong appears to have greater freedom than other top government officials in North Korea, occasionally appearing in photographs unaccompanied, rather than constantly being in the presence of Kim Jong Un.
Some have speculated that she was promoted partly in an effort to continue Kim Jong Un’s dynasty. While she’s out of the line of succession, some believe she could take over the country’s leadership if something happens to Kim Jong Un before his kids are old enough to rule.
It wouldn’t be an unprecedented role for her, either. Kim Yo Jong once briefly took control of the country’s affairs while her brother was ill in 2014, according to a South Korean think tank run by North Korean defectors.
She stepped onto the world stage in February 2018. In a rare show of diplomacy between the two Koreas, Kim Yo Jong traveled to South Korea for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Everyone’s eyes were on Kim Yo Jong at the start of the games. She shared a historic handshake with South Korean President Moon Jae In, and both broke out in smiles.
During the opening ceremony, she sat right behind US Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Kim Yo Jong and Pence did not speak with each other.
Her interaction with South Korean leaders was a rare show of diplomacy and warmth. Given her experience in propaganda, she likely knew exactly what she was doing to try and curry favorable attention.
In April 2018, she played a crucial role in the peace talks between the two Koreas. Leaders from the two nations met at the Demilitarized Zone, and Kim Yo Jong was notably the only woman at the table.
Though she stayed well away from the spotlight, leaving that to her brother, it was clear Kim Yo Jong played a significant role in orchestrating the talks and ensuring the day ran smoothly.
She was her brother’s right-hand woman when he and Trump signed the agreement acknowledging North Korea’s intentions to denuclearize.
Kim Yo Jong sparked curiosity at one point, when she switched out the pen that was provided for the summit with her own ballpoint pen. It’s unclear why she swapped the pens, but some have speculated that it was for security reasons.
Anyone else spot this? There were two “Donald Trump” signing pens, NK official came in and shined up the one for Kim, then at the last minute Kim Yo Jong pulled out her own per to use instead of the one provided. Kim used that and back it went in her blazer. (Pool video)pic.twitter.com/dZWEK22IdF
It has become increasingly clear over the past several years that Kim Yo Jong was one of her brother’s most trusted officials, and her power in the regime was only growing.
But in the Hermit Kingdom, no one’s position is ever truly secure under the mercurial leadership of Kim Jong Un. He’s known for turning on family members quickly when they fall out of favor — and it remains to be seen whether Kim Yo Jong is an exception.
Kim Yo Jong was not listed as an alternate member of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea politburo — the party’s top decision-making body — and did not appear at any high-profile events during an important party gathering in April 2019.
She also missed a meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin later that month, fueling speculation that she had been demoted.
One theory is that Kim Jong Un ordered her to lie low after his failed summit with Trump in February 2019.
But in early June 2019, Kim Yo Jong was spotted for the first time in 52 days, suggesting she was back in her brother’s good graces.
In October 2019, North Korean media released strange photos of Kim Jong Un riding a white horse atop a mountain with historic and symbolic significance.
Experts told Business Insider that the photos are packed with political meaning — and could foreshadow a frightening military advancement.
Since then, her profile has only grown. In March 2020, Kim Yo Jong made her first-ever public statement, insulting South Korea as a “frightened dog barking” after the country condemned one of North Korea’s live-fire military drills.
“Such incoherent assertion and actions… only magnify our distrust, hatred and scorn for the South side as a whole,” Kim Yo Jong said in the statement.
The following month, Kim Yo Jong was reinstated as an alternate member of the Workers’ Party of Korea politburo, suggesting that all has been forgiven since the collapse of last year’s summit.
Given these recent developments, it’s clear that Kim Yo Jong’s power has grown tremendously in recent years, fueling speculation that no other family members besides her could take over.
The US military gave or took fire in some form or another in at least seven countries in 2018: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya.
Here’s a breakdown of America’s military involvement in each country.
U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Birmingham, an infantryman with 1st Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, from Alpena, Mich., keeps on eye on a wadi in Andar, Afghanistan, April 21, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Guffey)
The war in Afghanistan
At least 15 US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in 2018 in a war that entered its 18th year in October 2018.
The deadliest incident of the year occurred in late November 2018, involving a roadside bomb that ultimately claimed the lives of four US service members. This marked the largest loss of life in a single incident for the US in Afghanistan since 2015.
There are currently roughly 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
Members of 5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting 50. Cal Weapons training during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.
(US Marine Corps photo)
The fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria
The US military also continues to be active in Iraq and Syria in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group, conducting airstrikes and advising local forces on the ground.
At least 10 US service members were killed in Iraq in 2018, though none of the deaths were a direct result of enemy action.
Human rights groups have accused the US-led coalition of reckless behavior and “potential war crimes” in the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
While civilian casualties are still being assessed for 2018, a report from the monitoring group Airwars said the US and its allies may have killed up to 6,000 civilians via strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2017 alone.
The US has been waging a campaign against the Islamic State group since August 2014.
The US fired more than 118 missiles, more than twice the number it used in an attack on Syria’s Sharyat Airbase on April 7, 2017.
Shadow wars in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan
Under Trump, the US has also dramatically increased the number of drone strikes in places the US is not currently at war.
In 2018, there have been a slew of strikes in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan, where the US is fighting what have been dubbed “shadow wars.”
The US conducted at least one drone strike in Pakistan in 2018, at least 36 in Yemen, and at least 39 in Somalia, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has been tracking US drone strikes in these countries for years.
As the numbers above show, the US military has been particularly active in Somalia in 2018, where it’s been focusing on aiding local forces in the fight against the Islamist militant group al Shabaab, which is an al Qaeda affiliate.
In June 2018, Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Conrad was killed in southwestern Somalia when militants attacked his team as it worked alongside Somali and Kenyan troops.
The US has also been active in Libya in 2018, where it’s launched roughly half a dozen air strikes against militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
(Official US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ned Johnson)
The war on terror entered its 18th year in 2018
The various operations in which the US took or gave fire in 2018 were linked to the so-called “war on terror.”
Since the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the US has spent nearly trillion on the broad, ill-defined conflict, which has claimed nearly 500,000 lives, according to an annual report from the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs.
According to the report, America is conducting counterterror operations in 76 countries, and nearly 7,000 US troops have been killed since the war on terror began.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Army has barred its soldiers from using TikTok following mounting fears from US lawmakers that the Chinese tech company could pose a national security threat.
Military.com was the first to report the new policy decision, which is a reversal of the Army’s earlier stance on the popular short-form video app.
A spokeswoman told Military.com that the US Army had come to consider TikTok a “cyberthreat” and that “we do not allow it on government phones.” The US Navy took a similar decision to bar the app from government phones last month.
South Korea scrambled fighter jets after five Chinese military aircraft entered the country’s Air Defense Identification Zone, or KADIZ, on Dec. 18.
The deployment of two Chinese bombers, two fighters jets, and a reconnaissance plane follows South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official said the Chinese planes entered Korea-claimed airspace from the southwest — and also flew into Japan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, or JADIZ, South Korean newspaper Maeil Business reported.
“After our military noticed the aircraft approaching the KADIZ from the west, we used a hotline with the Chinese military to confirm whether or not it was Chinese military aircraft, and to take countermeasures,” the South Korean official said.
South Korea scrambled F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets in response to the incoming flights — two Chinese H-6 fighter jets, two J-11 fighters, and one TU-154 reconnaissance aircraft.
Chinese aircraft last flew in Korea-claimed airspace on Jan. 9, when they deployed six H-6K bombers, a KJ-200, a propeller airborne early warning and control aircraft, and a Y-9 reconnaissance plane.
The Chinese flights came as Beijing’s foreign ministry said the summit between Xi and Moon was a “success,” South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the two sides agreed to “improve and develop the relationship” and to “respect the interests of our neighbors.”
The summit in Beijing was eclipsed by brutal beatings of South Korean photojournalists, which were met with protests in Seoul.
“Chinese security guards kicked Korean journalists in the face and engaged in a group attack,” protesters said Dec. 15. “It is a barbarous act, and it is hard to believe it could happen in a civilized country.”