A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was with Saddam from the very beginning and on through to the very end when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 spread him and his compatriots to the winds. The next thing he knew, he was the King of Clubs on the U.S. military’s now-famous most-wanted Baathist decks of cards.


Unlike most of the people who appeared on the deck, Al-Douri was one of seven figures who managed to completely evade capture. Also unlike most of his fellow Baathists, the 77-year-old Baath party chairman also kept fighting the fight for Saddam’s Iraq – a fight he continues to this day.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

He was said to have helped the rise of ISIS.

The United States left Iraq as a ruling force back in 2011. By then, most of the people featured on the deck of cards were either captured, killed, or some combination of the two. The only exceptions were seven individuals who managed to flee the invasion and then evade capture somehow. Al-Douri was one of these evaders. Not only did he manage to evade capture for the entire duration of the Iraq War, but he also launched his own insurgency against the Americans, calling it the Naqshbandi Army.

Its full name is the Army Men of the Naqshbandi Order, and its ideology is a blend of pan-Arab nationalism (like the Baath party before it) and fundamentalist Islamic beliefs. They clashed with other Sunni groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq while fighting a guerrilla war against the Americans. The entire group operated in independent cells of seven to ten men. Al-Douri was said to be leading this group from neighboring Syria.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

So brave.

In April 2015, it was believed Al-Douri was killed by a Shia paramilitary group in Iraq’s Salahuddin Province, but DNA testing was inconclusive, and his insurgent group denied the reports. Al-Douri appeared on television and other media later, discussing events that took place after his death, so it was soon widely accepted that the body found was not Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. With the Americans (mostly) gone from Iraq, Al-Douri and his fighters have started to turn their attention to Iranian forces in the country, troops Al-Douri fought as a Baathist for years during the Iran-Iraq War.

He has since declared that Iranians will be the groups next targets in the coming years, blaming Iran for “directly invading” Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has promised to form a special team to kill or capture Al-Douri, but one has yet to materialize.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is straight up going to Skynet us all

Air Force leaders met with scientists and industry members May 17, 2018, at the Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Science Summit to chart how the service will utilize emerging technologies in the future.

The summit, hosted by Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Stephen Wilson, focused on how to operationalize AI and quantum information science with briefings from experts from headquarters Air Force Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance directorate, Air Force Research Labs, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, and technology industry leaders.


“The world is changing,” Wilson said. “We will change at scale. As noted in the National Defense Strategy, we must continue to learn and adapt faster. We’re here to ensure we have that architecture and infrastructure to empower our Airmen.”

The implications of AI and quantum information science are wide-ranging. From harnessing, processing, protecting and using massive quantities of data to improve decision making, to changing business practices with predictive, conditions based aircraft maintenance, AI and quantum science can revolutionize how the Air Force flies, fights and wins.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
(Photo by Anders)

But widely utilizing these technologies requires more than building upon current Air Force science and technology investments, according to leaders. It will require embracing the technology as a culture.

As well, pursuing game changing capabilities with industry will drive further change, especially in how the service works with industry and academic partners according to Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.

“Acknowledging the paradigm shift that commercial industry now leads in many areas of technology development is important,” Roper said.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
Talos, an ancient mythical automaton with artificial intelligence

Experts from multiple leading technology industries shared their own insights from the AI and quantum science realms at the summit.

Wilson said continued partnership with industry is essential to posture the service with capabilities for dominance in the digital age.

“Digital speed, not industrial speed, will win the next war. There are things we need to do now to be the Air Force of the future,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons to plant your Victory Garden

America didn’t just call on the troops to wage war, she called upon all her people to fight food shortage and a depression with gardens — “Victory gardens” — to be specific. In the early 1940s, when food rationing came into place, everyday Americans were turning up their yards to produce not just enough food for their families, but for their neighbors as well.

It’s safe to say a worldwide pandemic has given us cause to unearth the history of Victory Gardens and take the matter of a potential food shortage into our own, capable hands.

Here’s a thing or two you need to know about how to raise your shovels as your grandparents or great grandparents did long ago.


Canned food was limited 

Canned food was rationed both to preserve tin for military use but also to decrease the strain on food transportation. Reducing “food miles” with sustainable urban agriculture was exactly how families and friends stayed supplied with fresh produce. Put down the can of lima beans you’re never going to eat and pick up some seeds instead.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

The know-how

Victory gardens were pushed at a national level, and informational pamphlets (pre-internet) were distributed. Community committees were organized to both assist newcomers and inform neighbors of what was being grown and where. Luckily for us, there’s a whole internet full of information, and local agricultural extensions to call, ensuring social distancing is still met.

So easy a child could do it 

Children participated in gardening both out of necessity and to ensure all that good food knowledge didn’t go to waste. Need something for your kids to do? Let them tend to your budding garden at home; it’s a delicious form of education.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

It doesn’t take a farm

The average American lawn has more than enough space to grow everything your family needs and more. Learning what plants like to cohabitate in the soil will maximize your growing potential.

Never forget 

How to rely on ourselves has been a skill lost to the “lazy” days of supermarkets stocked to the brim with internationally-grown produce. It may have taken a pandemic, but re-educating America on how to fend for themselves needs to be a skillset we value once again. We need to pass down precious knowledge of food and to become aware once again of the immense value food has in our lives.

Great things have happened throughout history during times of struggle. Every single one of us has the opportunity to make this world better, stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Articles

Trump’s new national security adviser could undo early foreign-policy changes

President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, is considering shaking up the White House’s foreign-policy team, giving him more latitude to access and control the Department of Homeland Security and other defense agencies, The New York Times reported Wednesday night.


Citing two anonymous officials, The Times said McMaster could undo changes the Trump administration made during its first days in office.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster in 2014 (U.S. Army photo)

Among those changes under consideration, according to The Times:

  • Bringing the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back into a cabinet-level committee.
  • Rejoining the Homeland Security Council with the National Security Council. Their initial separation was seen as a way to limit the power of Michael Flynn, who resigned as national security adviser last week.

It was unclear whether McMaster would attempt any changes that would affect the standing of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was given a seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee. That move alarmed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers because of Bannon’s lack of experience in foreign policy.

With Flynn out of the picture, McMaster, who has bipartisan and military support, may head both security councils. But one senior official who supported Bannon’s role told The Times it wouldn’t change under any reorganization.

Additionally, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said this week that while McMaster had full autonomy to organize his staff, Trump would have to approve any changes to Bannon’s status.

Related: Here’s how McMaster differs from Flynn on Russia

Critics of Bannon’s seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee have been calling for his removal. Mike Mullen, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed “grave concern” over Bannon’s position.

“Given the gravity of the issues the NSC deals with, it is vital that that body not be politicized,” Mullen said in an NPR interview published on Wednesday.

“Bannon’s presence as a member of that body politicizes it instantly,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Billionaire discovers aircraft carrier USS Lexington, lost in 1942

Silence, darkness and cold. Those were the only things surrounding the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) since she plummeted to her deep-sea grave on the sea floor two miles below the surface of the war-torn Pacific on May 8, 1942.


Until March 2018.

Like an improbable plot from one of Clive Cussler’s “NUMA Files” adventure novels, billionaire explorer Paul Allen and his own private fleet of deep-sea scientists used a remotely piloted submarine to discover the wreckage of the USS Lexington on March 4, 2018. She lies on the bottom in 10,000 feet of water about 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia where she sank. Photos show her deck guns still trained at a black liquid sky waiting for phantom Japanese Zeros, Val dive bombers and Kate torpedo bombers that disappeared into antiquity decades ago.

The wreck was discovered from Paul Allen’s private research vessel, the R/V Petrel, on March 4, 2018 at about 8:00 am local time in the Pacific. Brilliant color images of the Lexington and some of her aircraft were transmitted to the surface and shared around the world over the last 24 hours.

Also read: 4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

One of the most remarkable photos shows a beautiful, colorful Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter from U.S. Navy Fighter Squadron 3 (VF-3) that was aboard the USS Lexington at Coral Sea. The aircraft wears the “Felix the Cat holding a bomb” insignia common along with four Japanese kill markings on the right side of its fuselage below the canopy. The aircraft sits with its canopy open and its beautiful blue upper wing and fuselage and gray lower surface paint livery. It is the first time anyone has seen the aircraft since she was sent to the bottom in 1942. Despite the crushing depth, corrosive seawater and decades gone by, it remains in amazingly good condition.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
A Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bomber of VT-2 photographed in the wreck of the USS Lexington.

Researcher Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Allen, was quoted earlier today on Geekwire.com in a story by writer Kurt Schlosser as saying that the USS Lexington was on a priority list of ships to locate by Allen’s team.

“Based on geography, time of year and other factors, I work together with Paul Allen to determine what missions to pursue,” Kraft said. “We’ve been planning to locate the Lexington for about six months and it came together nicely.”

More: Watch the Royal Navy blow up a WWII-era bomb at sea

Underwater images and video taken by the remotely operated submersible launched from the research vessel R/V Petrel also show large deck guns on the carrier along with aircraft like the F4F Wildcat and others. The advanced submersible robot camera vehicles used by Allen’s team can submerge to a depth of nearly 20,000 feet and transmit high-resolution video and navigation data to the surface.

Allen’s team also found the fabled USS Indianapolis in 2017. The cruiser Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine after a secret mission to deliver the first atomic bomb in 1945. The terrifying ordeal of the Indianapolis survivors became famous after it was featured in a monologue by the fictional character “Quint” in the Peter Benchley novel and movie, “Jaws”.

In 2015 Paul Allen’s team also located the wreck of the Japanese mega-battleship, “Mushashi“, sister ship to the giant Yamato battleship. Mushashi and Yamato remain the largest battleships ever constructed. Both were sunk in WWII.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
The USS Lexington off Honolulu, Hawaii in February, 1933 with Diamondhead in the background. (U.S. Navy History Heritage Command)

Significant history also surrounds the discovery of the USS Lexington making Allen’s find even more extraordinary.

The USS Lexington was the first full-sized fleet aircraft carrier to be sunk by aircraft launched from an enemy aircraft carrier in WWII. The Lexington took hits from several torpedoes and bombs launched from Japanese aircraft as it fought alongside the USS Yorktown with an opposing force of three Japanese carriers. Her deployment in the region was a critical strategic deterrent to an anticipated Japanese invasion of the Australian mainland that never came. About a year earlier the smaller Royal Navy HMS Hermes, one of the first purpose-built aircraft carriers, was sunk by Japanese dive bombers.

Related: This Navy ship scored America’s first submarine kill of WWII

After the USS Lexington took multiple hits from Japanese aircraft on May 8, 1942, a massive explosion tore through her spaces at 12:47 PM. Gasoline vapor from the ruptured port aviation fuel tanks exploded. The giant explosion destroyed the ship’s main damage control station, but air operations continued despite the fires. Remarkably, all of the surviving aircraft from the morning’s strike were recovered by 2:14 PM.

Moments later at 2:42 PM another major explosion tore through the forward part of the Lexington, igniting fires below the flight deck on the hanger deck and leading to a power failure. Though assisted by three destroyers, the damage control parties were overwhelmed after a third explosion ripped through her hull at 3:25 PM. That explosion, the death blow to Lexington, cut off water pressure to the hanger deck preventing fire crews from containing the fire there. As a result, a final, enormous explosion from fuel and ammunition stored in her hold and magazines ignited an uncontrollable inferno on board.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
One of the final explosions on board the USS Lexington when she sank on May 8, 1942. (U.S. Navy History Heritage Command)

Shortly after 3:28 PM her commander, Captain Frederick Sherman, issued the order to abandon ship. Despite multiple explosions and fires on board Lexington a remarkable 2,770 crewmen and officers were rescued. Tragically, 216 were killed in the Japanese attack on the ship and in the fire-fighting efforts that followed. The USS Lexington was scuttled (purposely sunk) by several torpedoes fired from the USS Phelps to prevent her hulk from falling into Japanese hands.

The discovery of the USS Lexington wreck and the images made by Paul Allen’s research team provide a unique and invaluable insight into WWII history. This treasure of historical data would have likely remained lost forever if it weren’t for the wealthy investor’s remarkable drive for discovery and commitment to research.

Articles

This is why deployed Marines don’t eat Charms candy

They don’t even put Charms in MREs anymore. Because if everyone is just going to chuck the candy out the Humvee window, that’s just a gross waste of high-fructose corn syrup.


A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
And that is candy corn’s job.

Those who aren’t new to the service and have ever deployed with Marines probably saw the same scene at some point. Hungry Marines pour into their MREs and take out their favorite parts and toss the rest into the MRE box (a process known as ratf*cking). Let’s face it, some MRE parts are definitely better than others.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
Look, I like wheat snack bread, and I don’t need jalapeno cheese spread to eat it.

No matter what an individual’s tastes were, one item was always discarded: the Charms candy. The reason for that was a mixture of superstition and because the younger guys knew someone would slap the candy out of their hands or out of their mouths for the cardinal sin of even opening the wrapper.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
The look you get when the smell of Charms fills the humvee. (HBO)

The simplest answer is that Marines grow up in the Corps learning that Charms are just plain bad luck. Whether it was learned from saltier Marines or experienced firsthand, those things might as well be pure evil.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

Eating Charms is like begging for the world’s largest thunderstorm to rain down on you and your platoon – even in the desert. Or they might set off a roadside bomb. Some think you’ll get mortared just for opening an MRE with Charms in it – unless you bury it.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
Some troops have been known to donate them to the more persistent local children – at high velocity. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Grant Okubo)

The luck varied as much as the flavors did. As Sgt. Kenneth Wilson told Agence France-Presse just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a lemon-flavored Charm could cause a vehicle breakdown. The green ones were the ones that brought the rain. Raspberry meant certain death.

You might as well be eating apricots.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it’s like to fly a nuclear bomber for fun

The Blackburn Buccaneer was a fast-attack jet of the Royal Navy designed to kill Russian cruisers from just above the waves with conventional and nuclear weapons in engagements lasting only a minute or so. Now, a retired oil company CEO has bought a retired Buccaneer and flies it around South Africa.


Blackburn Buccaneer – British Nuclear Bomber

www.youtube.com

The plane was sent to the fleet in 1962 and served for over 30 years. The need for the jet came in 1952 when Russia introduced the Sverdlov-class cruisers. These were a class of cruisers valuable for defending the Russian coasts and attacking British and other carriers at night when the British would be unable to launch planes.

Britain could either build a new fleet of its own to counter Russia’s new fleets and the Sverdlov cruisers or, it could find a way to negate the new Russian assets. The British decided to build a new plane that could launch day or night, and that could quickly attack enemy ships and get away before the ship could retaliate.

This was a tall order against the Sverdlov which had cutting-edge radar and anti-aircraft weapons. British designers got around this by making the Buccaneer capable of flying just over the waves, below the radar of the enemy ships. And when they reached the target, the Buccaneers would launch their weapons in less than a minute and make their escape.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

A Blackburn Buccaneer with its wings folded.

(Paul Lucas, CC BY 2.0)

The Buccaneer was supposed to eventually receive a custom-made nuclear air-to-surface missile, but actually spent most of its career carrying conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. Despite the failure to create the nuclear air-to-surface missile, the Buccaneer was equipped with nuclear free-fall bombs.

The aircraft performed plenty of training in the Cold War and were used for a number of missions, including extensive duties in Iraq during the Gulf War, but was retired in 1994 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

And that was where Ian Pringle came in. A successful oil businessman, Pringle had the money to scoop up a Buccaneer when it went up for sale. He had the plane transported to Thunder City, South Africa, where civilians are allowed to fly nuclear-capable aircraft.

Once there, he took lessons in how to fly the aircraft, a dangerous process. His plane was an operational one, and so it only has controls in the front seat, so his trainer had to sit in the back seat and coach him from there. If Pringle had panicked in flight, there was no way for the instructor to take over.

But Pringle figured it out, and now he races the plane low over the grass of South Africa when he can. The plane was made to allow pilots to fly just above the water, and so he can take it pretty low to the grass.

He’s one of only two civilians ever to fly the plane, though he obviously can’t fly it with missiles or bombs on board.

Articles

The Navy may park its most advanced ship on Kim Jong Un’s doorstep

The U.S. offered to send its “most advanced warship” to the Korean Peninsula to curb threats from North Korea, South Korean defense officials revealed.


A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) during first at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic. (U.S. Navy)

Admiral Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, suggested stationing the stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt at a South Korean naval base at either Jeju Island or Jinhae to deter North Korea, Ministry of Defense spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said at a press conference Monday.

The $4 billion multipurpose destroyer is armed with SM-6 ship-to-air missiles, Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles, and anti-submarine weapons.

Responding to North Korean provocations, South Korea has been calling on the U.S. to deploy strategic assets to the peninsula on a permanent basis. Pyongyang conducted two nuclear tests and around two dozen ballistic missile tests last year, and 2017 began with multiple threats of an impending intercontinental ballistic missile test.

“A deployment of strategic assets is something that we can certainly consider as a deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and military threats,” Moon explained, “We haven’t received any official offer in regard to the deployment of the Zumwalt, but if the U.S. officially makes such a suggestion, we will give serious consideration.”

“If the U.S. officially makes such a suggestion, we will give serious consideration,” he further said.

Some observers believe Harris’ proposal should not be taken literally and should, instead, be treated as a sign that the U.S. is committed to defending South Korea.

Given some of the Zumwalt’s issues, it is questionable whether the U.S. would actually deploy the Zumwalt to the Korean Peninsula.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis assured South Korea this weekend that the U.S. will stand by it against North Korea. “The United States stands by its commitments, and we stand with our allies, the South Korean people,” he explained.

“We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region, Mattis added, “America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad. Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”

Mattis reportedly agreed to send strategic assets to the peninsula.

The U.S. is expected to send the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Carl Vinson and its accompanying carrier strike group, as well as strategic bombers, to South Korea to take part in the Key Resolve military exercise.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

With ISIS on the run, Iraqi guns turn toward each other

Nothing united Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds like the mortal threat posed by the Islamic State. But with the terrorist group now in full retreat on the battlefield, it didn’t take long for Iraq’s old sectarian animosities to resurface — presenting a major new headache for the Pentagon and the Trump administration.


With Islamic State now driven out of its major bastions in Iraq and Syria and on the verge of being wiped out as a military force in the Middle East, those deep-seated cleavages within the region are re-emerging in fresh rounds of political and sectarian infighting.

Washington’s remarkable feat of uniting lifelong enemies in the region into a military coalition formidable enough to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria appears to be coming apart at the seams. Since September’s referendum by Iraqi Kurds — a vote aimed at charting a path toward an independent Kurdish state — US-backed forces in the fight against Islamic State have quickly turned their guns on one another.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
A Kurdish peshmerga soldier takes the lead during urban combat maneuvering training held near Irbil, Iraq, Oct. 29, 2015. Army photo by Spc. Tristan Bolden.

Iraqi government forces, backed by Shiite militias trained and equipped by elite troops from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, rapidly and violently recaptured critical territories in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk and Sinjar governorates this month.

Kurdish peshmerga, who claimed the contested territories after driving out Islamic State fighters in 2014, were quickly outgunned by Baghdad’s troops and the Iranian militias known as Popular Mobilization Units — which only months before had fought alongside the peshmerga in the battle for Islamic State’s Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.

Meanwhile, defense officials in the White House and the Pentagon continue to tout the cohesiveness of the anti-Islamic State coalition, brushing off concerns that the politically, ethnically, and religiously diverse factions will undermine efforts to build a united Iraq.

That rosy assessment, said one former US ambassador to the region, puts the coalition’s entire victory at risk.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee Meeting, along with Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 22, 2017. Photo from US State Department.

“The ISIS fight is over, and the new fight for the region is unwinding now,” former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said. With the fall of Mosul in July and the collapse of Islamic State’s self-styled capital of Raqqa this month in Syria, regional players are reverting to their sectarian loyalties in an attempt to secure their holds on power, he said.

“Nobody in Irbil is thinking of the ISIS threat [anymore]. No one in Baghdad is thinking about it,” said Mr. Jeffrey, now a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The US government has not gotten its head around that yet.”

Related: This is SecState’s plan to welcome Taliban into Afghan government

But remarks by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson seem to indicate that mentality is shifting, at least among the US diplomatic corps. In his harshest rebuke yet of Iranian military influence in the coalition, Mr. Tillerson demanded that Tehran pull back its paramilitary forces from Iraq. “Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” he said alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a joint press conference in Doha.

“Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors,” the top US diplomat said. Pentagon officials reiterated their faith in all members of the coalition days earlier, telling reporters that the US-led coalition remains as robust as it was since the early days of the war.

“The coalition is very strong. And again … I think the relationship is very strong,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at the Defense Department on Oct. 20.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.

Referendum fallout

While underlying ethnic and sectarian tensions were a constant threat to unravel the US-backed coalition, Irbil’s decision to press ahead with its independence referendum vote was the trigger that brought tensions to the fore, Mr. Jeffrey said.

“I do not know what they were doing, but they missed this one,” he said regarding Irbil’s inability or unwillingness to anticipate the regional fallout from the referendum vote, which Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the United States all opposed.

The decision unleashed a new round of violence in northern Iraq over the past several weeks. The result was the Kurdistan Regional Government’s secession of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and handing over Sinjar to the Iranian-backed militias federalized by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during the height of the war against Islamic State.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
Kurdish pershmerga soldiers securing an oil field in Kirkuk, Iraq. Photo from Voice Of America.

The referendum vote stirred decades-old conflicts suppressed during the Islamic State fight, a former top Iraqi diplomat said. The referendum vote in Iraqi Kurdistan and ensuing aftermath “is a clear example where the political leadership have not been able to resolve some of the core challenges they have been facing since 2003,” former Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily said Oct. 23.

“Even if the government can find some solutions to these new crises, the underlying challenges in relation to political and social harmony requires much more soul searching by all stakeholders who instigated a needless referendum in which [Iraq] will feel its consequences for some time to come,” he said in a statement.

Outside players

Besides fueling internal strife, the referendum created openings for world powers aside from the US to expand their influence in the country. Baghdad’s reliance on the Shiite militias armed by the IRGC, which the Trump administration placed on the official list of recognized terrorist groups this month, has further cemented Tehran’s sphere of influence in the country.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo from CounterExtremism.com

“The US has been sidelined in this crisis, [and] that is a dangerous precedent,” Jennifer Cafarella, the senior intelligence planner at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, told The Washington Times shortly after the recapture of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces.

“Mr. al-Abadi does get to claim this as a win,” Ms. Cafarella said, but she noted the armed support from Iran undermines the legitimacy of that victory in Kirkuk. “This was not a unilateral operation by Iran” in Kirkuk, but the thinly veiled presence of military advisers from Iran only shows Tehran’s reach into Iraq, she added at the time.

Tehran is not the only US adversary wading into the growing problem of Iraqi Kurdistan. On Oct. 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would maintain economic and diplomatic ties with the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, but urged Irbil to continue dialogue with Baghdad.

Also Read: Iran commands a secret 25,000-man ‘foreign legion’ in Syria

“We understand the hopes of the Kurdish people as it concerns their striving to strengthen their identity, their self-awareness,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters during a joint briefing with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari.

“However, we believe it is correct to realize those desires, those hopes exclusively via the Iraqi government and taking fully into account the significance the Kurdish question has on a regional scale, and taking into account the need to avoid additional sources of instability in the region,” he added, according to Reuters.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

However, analysts say Russia’s overtures and seeming support for Kurdistan’s referendum effort is Moscow’s attempt to fill the vacuum of support left behind by Washington. Moscow is reportedly attempting a similar effort to persuade US-backed forces in Syria to abandon their American patrons and side with Russia.

Turning support of American proxy fighters in Syria to Russia has always been part of Moscow’s regional strategy for the country, said Christopher Kozak, a research analyst specializing in Syria at the Institute for the Study of War.

“Russia’s role is to co-opt our US-[backed] forces on the ground” once Islamic State is defeated in Syria, Mr. Kozak said in a September interview. “They see the best option is to have some kind of regime rapprochement [with the SDF] and remove the US. That would be the best position from the Russian perspective.”

While it remains unclear what Moscow’s strategy for Iraqi Kurdistan may be, a robust Russian presence in northern Iraq coupled with its already formidable military presence in Syria, would give Moscow the opportunity to press its interests deeper into the Middle East as the US military posture in post-Islamic State Iraq begins to wane.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 advantages “military brats” have in life

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Childhood is complicated in its own right. You’re starting to glimpse the way the world works but it doesn’t really make sense. You try on different personalities to find the right fit like jeans at the department store. You’re pretty sure if you sit too close to the TV, you won’t go cross-eyed, despite what the adults say. There’s a winged fairy that slips in your room in the middle of the night to discreetly buy old teeth that have fallen out of your mouth.


Now let’s throw into the chaos a parent who is often absent because of their job, to uphold the values and safety of the nation. This parent or parents have been the reason your life’s uprooted every two to three years, and you’ve had to roll with it. It’s never been up to you, but somehow you’ve found pride in the path you are on.

Few know what it takes to be a “military brat,” and there are times it can feel more like a burden than a privilege. These children are collectors of experiences, good and bad, and richer for it. Military brats have a level or vocabulary and self-awareness beyond their age. How can I describe these kids who sacrifice precious time with their active duty parent, while enduring move after move? Resilient. Astute. Optimistic.

It’s no surprise that some of the most famous and successful people in our society are military brats… Kris Kristofferson, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis and even… SHAQ?

From an outsider perspective, it may seem as though the life of the military brat is full of contradictions. I hate moving but I love having lived in different countries. I am proud of my parent but I’m frustrated when they work so much. Learning how to say goodbye gets easier, but not really. Yet despite all these challenges, there are certain advantages military children can take with them for life, long after their parents have separated from military service.

So, to shed a little light on the oft-misunderstood life of the so-called “military brat,” I did some interviewing of my own. Here are the advantages brats say they’ve gained that help them even after their parents have become veterans:

Language Skills

Being bilingual is not exclusive to military kids, but when I polled my friends’ children, the love of learning and speaking different languages was so strong that it deserves a place. They met new friends in other countries when kids at their new school would come over and ask about their English. They found excitement and acceptance in the phrase, “¡Hola! ¿Como te llamas?” As the kids got older, they had a harder time retaining a language not taught in American curriculum, like Italian, but they said when they visited the country, it came right back to them.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

Flexibility 

Moving is tough. It’s a constant hustle of unpacking and repacking. It means making new friends and then saying goodbye. It also means playing baseball with the Alps as your outfield, and being personally invited to a gaucho’s (Argentinian cowboy) ranch to pet their goats and eat homemade empanadas. They understand the chance to travel comes with moving often, but there is a trace of exhaustion to hear them talk about it.

When I asked two sisters what their favorite thing is about being a military kid, one said, “Moving all over the world.” When I asked what their least favorite thing was, the other said, “Moving all the time.” It’s complicated.

Possessions are easy come, easy go. After all, the smaller amount of “stuff” you have, the less you have to pack up and move. One girl even said she likes to leave some things behind for her friends to remember her. Yet despite all the moves, you learn to be flexible. Life’s an adventure.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

World Perspective

The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page.” – St. Augustine

It’s a big sentiment, and these kids get it. Every single one said they get to see cool things no one else gets to see, or that they’ve probably been to more countries than most adults. While the moving is exhausting, the flip side is that it has afforded them some beautiful sights that sets them apart from non-military kids. Traveling gives you a whole other perspective on the world and this is a skill that brats can take with them in any profession.

Tech-Savvy

It’s easy to vilify the effects of social media, but we forget that for those who move around a lot it is a means to keep in touch. The sisters who lived in Argentina practice their Spanish by talking to their old friends on the phone. Through email and messaging on Instagram, this generation of military brats is able to continue friendships and gain perspectives of old acquaintances across the globe using the latest technology…even Snapchat. Impressive.

People Skills 

Like playing the piano, if you practice social skills you will get better at it. One teen said because he’s met so many people, social skills come easy to him now, and that includes speaking in public. He learned from his dad how to greet people, and attributes it with enthusiasm to being a military kid. Oh, and he was just given the Principal’s Award out of his entire class this year, by the way.

It can make a kid nervous at first — that’s understandable, but the overwhelming consensus is: “worth it.”

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

Department of Defense

Discipline

While this may not be the most fun advantage for military kids growing up there is definitely a sense of discipline that is learned from an early age. Whether it’s keeping your room “inspection ready” or just learning so say “sir or ma’am,” the values military children learn often translate into success in college, careers and even in their own families.

Sense of Service 

No, not all brats are going to follow their parents footsteps and join the military. While some do, most military children choose their own path in life but they never truly give up the sense of service. This can often translate into roles in their community or in some cases even elected offices. It’s this commitment to others that truly distinguishes brats from their peers.

Thanks!

A special thanks to the kids who let me pry into the wonders and difficulties of their unique lives. Garrison, Lily, Veronica, and to the countless other “military brats,” we all say thank you!

Now, please excuse me while I cry and watch videos on Youtube of parents coming home early from deployments to surprise their kids.

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC). If you are in the Los Angeles area, you can request a free Lyft ride to take advantage of their benefits for veteran families.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How African nations boosted a strong anti-terror force to fight jihadis

A new African military force to counter growing extremism in the Sahel region should see victories “in the first half of 2018,” France’s president said Dec. 13 after hosting a summit to boost support for the five-nation effort.


President Emmanuel Macron announced new pledges for the force known as the G5 Sahel, one from Saudi Arabia of $100 million and another of $30 million from the United Arab Emirates, in a bid to speed up the full deployment of the military effort by Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania.

Nearly five years after France intervened to route Islamist extremists in northern Mali, then controlled by an al-Qaeda affiliate, the threat has spread to neighboring countries in the volatile Sahel, the sprawling, largely barren zone south of the Sahara desert. The growing extremism has also spawned new jihadi groups, including one claiming affiliation with the Islamic State group.

In recent months, local security forces and the 12,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali have been prime targets. Attacks often occur in the border regions of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, where four U.S. soldiers were killed earlier this year.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
French President Emmanuel Macron arrives at the reviewing stand for the Bastille Day military parade in Paris, July 14, 2017. Macron and Trump recognized the continuing strength of the U.S.-France alliance from World War I to today. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)

Besides the leaders of the five-nation force, delegations representing Europe, the African Union and international organizations were in attendance.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the urgency of making the force fully operational.

“Islamic extremism is propagating. We can’t wait,” she said.

The G5 force is expected to grow into a 5,000-strong army by March but needs soldiers, training, operational autonomy, and funding. Macron said he sees it at full strength as planned.

France’s 4,000-strong counterterrorism force in the region since 2014, known as Barkhane, will help the G5 with critical air, intelligence, and other support, Macron said, and “we will win victories in the first half of 2018.”

“We need to win the war against terrorism in the Sahel zone and it’s in full swing,” Macron said. “There are attacks every day.”

Also Read: This Nigerian woman stopped hunting antelope to shoot terrorists

The force launched in Mali in July with Macron present. He has taken the lead in persuading partners to help make it viable, arguing that the fate of the Sahel region affects Europe.

“Terrorists, thugs, and assassins” must be eradicated, he said in July.

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Wednesday evoked the possibility that Islamic State group fighters fleeing a collapsed “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria would turn up in the Sahel.

“We know that our time is running out,” Keita said.

The new force carried out a single test operation in early November involving 350 forces from Burkina Faso, 200 from Niger and 200 from Mali, according to the French Defense Ministry.

The budget to launch the force is 250 million euros ($293 million), with 400 million euros ($470 million) needed down the road, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said on RFIradio.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
A U.S. Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Niger Army soldier during marksmanship training as part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, Feb. 28, 2017. Niger was one of seven locations to host tactical-level training during the exercise while staff officers tested their planning abilities at a simulated multinational headquarters in N’Djamena, Chad. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Klutts)

A special funding conference is planned for February. The United States earlier this month said it has pledged $60 million, though the Trump administration has opposed putting in U.N. resources.

French officials estimate that the extremists in the Sahel region number no more than 1,000, compared to several thousand in northern Mali in 2013, when France intervened. But the numbers are deceptive, failing to reflect the danger and difficulty of hunting down an enemy in region the size of Europe.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, raised the specter of the chaos in Libya, which has become a base for extremists and a popular route for the trafficking of migrants, many of them coming from the new force’s five member countries.

“This is a fight against terrorism, against trafficking of all kinds, and what happened in Libya is an illustration,” Mahamat said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis again accuses Russia of violating a key nuclear treaty

The U.S. defense secretary has again accused Russia of violating a key Cold War arms control treaty, calling the unresolved and increasingly tense dispute with Moscow “untenable.”

Jim Mattis’s remarks on Oct. 4, 2018 after a meeting of NATO military leaders were the latest in a series of increasingly blunt statements by U.S. officials regarding the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.

Russia has repeatedly denied U.S. assertions, first made publicly in 2014, that a ground-launched cruise missile Moscow has developed, and reportedly deployed, is in violation of the agreement, known as the INF treaty.


After years of public criticism of Moscow, U.S. officials in 2017 started becoming more aggressive in their approach. And Russia acknowledged the existence of a missile identified by Washington, but denied that it had violated the treaty.

In early October 2018, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said U.S. forces might have to “take out” the Russian missiles if the dispute continues. She later clarified that she wasn’t referring to an actual U.S. military attack.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 14, 2018.

(NATO photo)

“Russia must return to compliance with the INF treaty or the U.S. will need to respond to its cavalier disregard for the treaty’s specific limits,” Mattis said in Brussels.

“The current situation with Russia in blatant violation of this treaty is untenable,” he said.

Congress has backed funding for a new missile program to counter the Russian weapon, and Mattis said in early 2018 that defense planners were working on new low-yield nuclear weapons to force Russia back into compliance.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed Mattis’s comments, saying Russia was imperiling the treaty, which is widely considered a “cornerstone” of European security.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

China showed off some of its latest drone models and projects at this year’s Dubai Airshow and it looks like many spectators were interested.


China has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of drones it has sold to foreign countries in recent years, and that could be a troubling development for the United States.

The global military drone market has been dominated by the US. American-made models like the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 Reaper, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk have been deployed around the world in a number of countries.

In large part, China poses a threat to America’s dominance in the drone industry for its ability to make more products that are, at the very least, just as good if not better than the competition, but at a lower price.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

China is building impressive and inexpensive drones

The most well-known and used Chinese drones are the CH-3, CH-4, CH-5, and the Wing Loong.

The CH-3 and CH-4 propeller-driven drones are essentially Chinese versions of the Predator and Reaper, respectively, and have similar capabilities. The CH-5 has a current range of 4400 miles over 60 hours, and a planned upgrade that will bring it up to 12,000 miles over 120 hours.

The CH-5 also has a 2,000 pound payload, and the capability to house electronic warfare systems inside it.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
China’s Wing Loong. China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

The CH-3 and CH-4 have price tags around $4 million, whereas the Predator and Reaper can cost $4 million and $20 million respectively. The Wing Loong, another Chinese counterpart to the Predator, is priced even lower, at just $1 million. Even the CH-5, which is currently China’s deadliest drone in service, costs “less than half the price” of a Predator.

The prices are so low in part because the Chinese drones are not as sophisticated as their American counterparts. The Chinese drones are not satellite-linked, for example, meaning they cannot conduct operations across the globe the way Predators and Reapers can.

The Chinese drones are still very capable — all are sold with the ability to carry large amounts of ordinance, and many nations have decided to turn to them in order to fill in the gap left by the US.

The US has restrictive regulations and policies

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Lower prices, however, may not the only reason behind China’s increased drone sales.

A large part of China’s increased market share looks is linked to regulations and policies that have been in place in the Unites States for years.

In 1987, the US signed the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary pact of 35 nations aimed at preventing the mass proliferation of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles by requiring them to have heavy regulations and tight export controls.

Currently, under the agreement, drones that can fly over 185 miles and carry a payload above 1,100 pounds are defined as cruise missiles. The Predator and the Reaper, both of which can carry payloads of 3,000 pounds or more, are thus subject to these regulations and controls.

The US has been hesitant to sell drones with lethal capabilities to other countries — especially in the Middle East, because of a fear that they could potentially end up in the wrong hands, and challenge Israel’s dominance in the region.

In fact, the only nation apart from the US that uses armed American-made drones is the United Kingdom.

China, on the other hand, is not constrained by the Missile Technology Control Regime because it never signed it. This means that its products are not under the intense regulation and controls that American drones are.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Additionally, China has traditionally not been as cautious as the the US about selling weaponry and equipment to countries known for human rights violations or in volatile regions and has sold drones to many nations.

In Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have purchased a number of Wing Loongs, and Turkmenistan operates the CH-3. In Africa, Nigeria has used CH-3 drones against Boko Haram. Pakistan and Myanmar both operate CH-3’s as well.

By far though, the biggest market is the Middle East.

In 2015, desperate in its fight to counter ISIS gains, Iraq bought a number of CH-4s. After giving up on buying drones from the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned to China and are using CH-4s and Wing Loongs in their campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan and Egypt have purchased Chinese drones as well.

China is even willing to set up factories overseas, which could bypass export restrictions entirely.

China’s future drone projects are even more impressive

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
China’s Cloud Shadow (Image Kevin Wong @defencetechasia Twitter screengrab)

Last year, at the Zhuhai 2016 Airshow, the public was able to get a glance at some of the newest drones China plans to build and export. Among those was the Cloud Shadow, a semi-stealth drone with six hardpoints capable of carrying up to 800 pounds of ordinance.

There was also the CH-805, and concept CK-20 stealth target drones, which are designed to help train pilots and test air defenses.

Finally, there was the SW-6, a small “marsupial” drone with folding wings capable of being dropped from larger aircraft. Its intended mission is to conduct reconnaissance, but it is considered a prime candidate for China’s drone “swarm” project; dozens, potentially hundreds of small drones linked together in a hive mind and capable of swarming and overwhelming targets.

China has also just successfully shattered the record for the highest flying drone. Previously held by the US RQ-4 Global Hawk, the bat-sized drone was able to fly at a staggering 82,000 feet- 22,000 feet higher than the Global Hawk.

Also Read: This is what China plans to do with its air force of the future

Though the drone did not have a camera or any weapons, it did carry a terrain mapping device and a detector that would allow it to locate and mark ground troops, and was virtually undetectable.

In addition to all this, China is also looking to increase its satellite capabilities, something that could make China’s drones just as advanced as their US counterparts.

In an attempt to combat the loss in sales, the Trump administration, which has not been subtle in its hopes to get foreign countries to buy more American-made defense products, is trying to ease restrictions on the sale of American-made drones.

This includes things like renegotiating the Missile Technology Control Regime, and allowing a number of countries that are not deemed risky to be able to get fast tracked orders.

A Saddam Hussein loyalist still fights an insurgency in Iraq
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Though probably interpreted as a way to help the defense industry make more profits, there is actually some logic behind the push. The more China sells drones to countries that are US partners, the more they will become reliant and closer on China.

“It damages the US relationship with a close partner,” Paul Scharre, a Senior Fellow and Director at the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security told the Wall Street Journal. “It increases that partner’s relationship with a competitor nation, China. It hurts US companies trying to compete.”

For now, Israel dominates the military drone market, with 60% of international drone transfers in the past three decades coming from the small nation.

However, China sellls far more armed drones, and is gaining momentum on overall drone sales as well. If current trends continue, China could profit immensely in a market that could be worth $22 billion by 2022.