US special operations commandos rescued an American hostage during an early morning raid on Saturday, according to Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs.
“U.S. forces conducted a hostage rescue operation during the early hours of 31 October in Northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen held hostage by a group of armed men,” said Hoffman. “This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State. No U.S. military personnel were injured during the operation.”
The New York Times reported that the unit who conducted the raid is the US Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6. They identified the American born hostage as 27-year-old Philip Walton. Walton is the son of missionaries and lives with his wife and young daughter on a farm outside of Massalata, close to the Nigerian border.
Walton was abducted from his backyard on Monday after the captors demanded money from him in front of his family. After offering $40, he was taken away by the assailants on motorbikes and a ransom of $1 million was announced shortly after, said the New York Times.
Approximately 30 SEALs parachuted into the area of the captors’ camp after intelligence resources tracked the kidnappers and Marine special operations assets located their position in northern Nigeria, according to multiple news sources.
ABC News reported that during the raid, a short and intense firefight ensued and six captors were killed with the seventh running off. Walton was apparently unharmed during the firefight.
One counterterrorism source told ABC News, “They were all dead before they knew what happened.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Saturday, “Outstanding work by the U.S. military today in freeing a U.S. citizen taken hostage in Niger and reuniting him with his family.”
South Korea’s sports minister, Do Jong-hwan, suggested that North Korea host some events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic games in an attempt to engage Kim Jong Un and promote peace, the Guardian reports.
The idea reflects a larger effort by South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-in, who seeks to revive the old “sunshine policy” whereby South Korea makes overtures of friendship and unity to the North to ease military tensions.
Moon has also pushed for both Koreas to host the 2030 World Cup, saying “if the neighboring countries in north-east Asia, including North and South Korea, can host the World Cup together, it would help to create peace.”
North Korean athletes have made limited appearances at global sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics, with two gold medals in Rio’s 2016 games. In soccer, the North Koreans haven’t fared as well.
Do said the Winter Games could go down as the “peace Olympics,” and help to “thaw lingering tensions” between the North and South, according to the Korea Herald.
But building stadiums and holding games in North Korea would raise two major questions: How sound is investment in a nation that continues to threaten its neighbors and enemies with an ever-evolving nuclear missile program, and would international travelers feel at ease visiting the country that just released a US detainee in a coma?
The first thing one might notice about the barracks at a military base is that there are a lot of nice, shiny, new cars parked there. It’s not a secret that troops like to buy new vehicles when they join the military. When someone with a love for cars and speed learns how to rebuild and maintain jet engines, like many in the military do, no one should be surprised that they use those skills in their post-military career.
Pictured: The TAPS Class of the future.
Arthur Arfons didn’t actually become a jet engineer when he joined the Navy in 1943. He was a diesel mechanic who worked on landing craft in the Pacific Theater of World War II, even landing at Okinawa to support the Marines invasion of the Japanese island. He may have been a Petty Officer Second Class, but his mechanic’s skills were first-rate. It was just something he loved to do. By 1952, he had returned to his native Ohio and started building drag racing cars with his brother, Walt.
That’s how Art Arfons would make history.
Art Arfons in the “Green Monster 2.”
In their first outings, they used a classic V6 Oldsmobile engine that barely peaked at 85 miles per hour. Their next attempt was a significant step up. They put an Allison V12 aircraft engine, normally used in a Curtiss P-38 Lightning fighter plane. Called the “Green Monster 2,” and painted to resemble the nose of a P-38, it would break the existing land speed record by clocking at 145.16 miles per hour.
When Art Arfons split from Walt, he somehow picked up a General Electric J79 jet engine from a scrap dealer. The engine had sucked up a bolt and was considered unsalvageable by the U.S. military. Art bought it from scrap for just 0. GE and the U.S. military were very much against Arfons purchasing the J79, considering it was Top Secret technology at the time.
The “Green Monster” featuring a Starfighter engine arrives to set a record.
Arfons rebuilt the jet engine, capable of 17,500 pounds of static thrust with its four-stage afterburner. His newly rebuilt engine, normally used in an F-104 Starfighter, was put into the next iteration of his “Green Monster” vehicles (he named all his vehicles “Green Monster”), where he used it to set the land speed record three more times between 1966 and 1967, topping out at 576 miles per hour.
On Monday, Politico reported that Michael Flynn, the retired general and national security adviser to President Donald Trump, would advise the Trump administration to back Montenegro’s entrance into NATO — a move sure to infuriate Russia.
Flynn has longstanding ties to Russia — most notably, he received payment to attend a gala event for Russia Today, a Russian propaganda outlet. On that occasion, he dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite that, the US backs Montenegro’s bid to join NATO, and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has backed its bid for over a year. During this time, the small Balkan nation faced increasing pressure from Russia — including a failed coup in October that may be tied back to Moscow.
A special prosecutor in Montenegro said in November that Russian nationalists tried to sway the country’s October election with a plot to kill Milo Djukanovic, the Western-leaning prime minister.
“The organizers of this criminal group were nationalists from Russia whose initial premise and conclusion was that the government in Montenegro led by Milo Djukanovic cannot be changed in election and that it should be toppled by force,” Milivoje Katnic, special prosecutor for organized crime in Montenegro, said at the time.
Flynn’s backing of Montenegro’s entrance into NATO would seemingly fly in the face of Trump’s proposal to try to befriend Russia, as Russia sees NATO expansion as aggression against its interests.
Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow and NATO expert at the Atlantic Council, told Politico, “No NATO candidate country has ever faced such a dire attack or threat in the process of finishing its membership into the alliance.”
However, Flynn is not alone among Trump appointees in striking a more hawkish tone toward Moscow. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley also signaled a hawkish approach, saying that “the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” Russia officially denies a military presence in Eastern Ukraine, where fighting has recently reignited.
Before Montenegro can join NATO, it’s accession bid must be approved by all 28 current NATO states and two-thirds of the US Senate.
The M1A2 SEP Abrams has ruled the world of armor since Operation Desert Storm. But that was over 25 years ago – and tank design innovation hasn’t stood still.
In fact, everyone is trying to get a better tank — particularly the Russians. Well, if a major tank in your inventory had a very poor performance like the T-72 did in Desert Storm, you’d be looking to upgrade, too.
Russia’s first effort at an upgrade was the T-90 main battle tank. According to Globalsecurity.org, the T-90 is an evolutionary development of the T-72. It has the same gun as the tank that flopped during Desert Storm, but it did feature some new survivability enhancements, like the TShU-1-7 Shtora-1 optronic countermeasures system.
The tank saw a lot of exports, most notably to India, which has plans to buy up to 1,600 of these tanks, according to Sputnik International. Syria used T-90s acquired from Russia in 2015, according to Al-Masdar News, and Algeria also has a substantial arsenal of T-90s, according to a report from Russia’s Interfax news agency.
The T-90, though, is not quite capable of standing up to the Abrams, largely due to the fact it is still an evolved T-72.
The T-14 Armata, though, is a very different beast. According to Globalsecurity.org, it bears more of a resemblance to the Abrams and Leopard 2 and has a remote-controlled gun in an unmanned turret. Specs on that site note that it not only has a new 125mm gun, but also carries two AT-14 anti-tank missiles. According to the London Telegraph, British intelligence has claimed that “Armata represents the most revolutionary step change in tank design in the last half century.”
Ben Barry of the International Institute for Strategic Studies noted that the combination of the Armata’s ability to take a larger gun in the future and its active protection system could be game-changers.
T-14 Armata (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
“This has the potential to greatly reduce the firepower of Nato infantry. Of course, there are few Armata yet, and it is not clear how rapidly they will enter service,” an IISS land warfare specialist and former British army brigadier told the Telegraph. “But as they do, they will increase the effectiveness of Russian armoured forces.”
Could the Armata take down the Abrams? That remains to be seen. It’s not like the Abrams has stood still since it was introduced in 1980. And an M1A3 version is reportedly in development, according to a 2009 Army Times report.
President Donald Trump’s senior advisers said they have proposed sending additional troops to Afghanistan to weaken the Taliban in an effort to bring about negotiations.
In order to send the reinforcements, Trump must approve the recommendation by his senior military and foreign policy advisers aimed at breaking a military deadlock in the war that began in 2001, U.S. officials told The New York Times. The proposed additional troops would work together with a greater number of Afghan forces and operate more closely to the front lines.
The new strategy, which is supported by top Cabinet officials, would give the Pentagon the authority to set troop numbers in Afghanistan and to carry out airstrikes against Taliban militants.
U.S. officials told The Washington Post the new plan expands the U.S. military role in Afghanistan to stem an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban to force it back to the negotiating table with the Afghan government.
The recommendation was created after a review of the 15-year war — America’s longest — conducted by the Department of Defense, the Department of State, U.S. intelligence agencies and other government agencies.
In Afghanistan, there are 13,000 international troops — 8,400 from the United States — assisting the Afghan security forces, mainly in training and advising roles, but U.S. troops also carry out counter-terrorism operations.
The proposed plan would send an additional 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces. The U.S. government would request NATO nations to send thousands of troops. The final number of how many U.S. troops would be sent depends on how many troops NATO allies are willing to send.
Trump is expected to make a decision before the May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.
The Taliban frequently launches attacks, generally targeting Afghan troops, international troops and government officials. In April, the Taliban launched an attack in which it killed more than 140 soldiers stationed at Camp Shaheen, which serves as a headquarters of the Afghan National Army.
With the latest dustup over comments allegedly made by Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump questioning America’s nuclear weapons use rationale, WATM thought it would be worth looking into how popping off a couple nukes on, say, ISIS might actually look.
So what would happen if America or another nuclear power were to use a single, small, nuclear bomb to end a conflict?
To destroy a city with a small nuclear weapon such as the B61 bomb—capable of explosions from .3 kilotons to 340 kilotons—while minimizing fallout and other repercussions, it would be best to detonate the weapon on the surface at its minimum .3 kiloton yield. This is roughly 2.5 percent the strength of the blast at Hiroshima.
Based on the math, .3-kiloton explosion in the ISIS capital of Raqqa, for example, could be aimed to destroy major infrastructure such as roads without directly hitting the National Hospital or major mosques.
When the bomb went off, a flash of light would fill the sky, blinding anyone looking at it.
A searing heat would accompany the flash, superheating the surfaces of buildings, streets and anything else in the area. Paint, plastics, glues, papers, living tissue and so forth would immediately burn and begin to rise as black carbon. This effect would kill everything in an approximately 160-yard radius from the blast area.
In the following instant, the massive overpressure wave from the blast would rock the surrounding landscape. The wind generated by this blast would pick up all the black carbon, loose objects, sand and rubble, and blast it out from ground zero and up into the atmosphere.
This shockwave would be especially strong — compared to the size of the explosion — in a dialed-down bomb like the B61 at a .3-kiloton setting. Between the searing heat and the shockwave, everyone within approximately 340 yards of the blast would be killed nearly instantly.
All of this would happen in the first second after the bomb detonated.
In the area surrounding ground zero, going from about 340-750 yards, many people would survive the initial explosion with severe burns, internal injuries from the pressure blast, and blindness.
This would produce an estimated 4,400 casualties and 8,900 injuries, according to nuclearsecrecy.org‘s Nuke Map.
In the minutes that followed the blast, fires would quickly spread everywhere there is material to burn. Emergency crews would have to juggle between fighting the fires and treating the wounded.
With the sudden increase in debris and damage to infrastructure, first responders would be unable to move the wounded to hospitals. Surviving doctors — which Raqqa already has a shortage of — would be pressed into service treating the wounded.
Given the Islamic State’s known disdain for civilians, it’s likely these doctors would be ordered to treat militant fighters first.
The irradiated debris from the blast and the fires, including burnt plastics and other toxins, would settle on the ground starting in the first few hours after the detonation. As this material settled, much of it would end up in the Euphrates River which runs to the south of the city center. This would poison the water supplies downriver, including much of Syria and the bulk of Southern Iraq.
Any attempt to render humanitarian aid in the area would be hampered by the severe health risks of operating in an irradiated environment. While all branches of the military have personnel and units trained to operate in a nuke zone, only a small number are true specialists.
And most of these specialized forces are assigned to domestic counterterrorism missions — meaning that pre-staging them forward or deploying them to assist after a nuclear attack would weaken America’s ability to respond to an attack at home.
Meanwhile, there is little evidence that a nuclear attack on the ISIS capital would actually stop them.
Nuclear attacks are designed to work two ways. First, the attack damages infrastructure and the physical warfighting capability of the enemy. But ISIS has relatively few infrastructure needs. It doesn’t manufacture tanks or planes, and it can build suicide vehicles and bomb vests nearly anywhere.
The second way a nuclear attack stops an enemy is by delivering such a psychological blow that they stop fighting. But ISIS fighters are already happy with being cannon fodder and suicide bombers. Martyrdom is martyrdom, nuclear or otherwise.
A nuclear attack on a Muslim city, even the ISIS capital, could also prove to be a prime recruiting tool. It might be used as an example that America doesn’t care about Muslim lives, and “Remember Raqqa!” would be a rallying cry for recruiters and fighters for the rest of the war.
Using the weapons against any other enemy would be even worse. While ISIS would survive and be able to recruit after suffering a nuclear attack, China or Russia could respond with an actual nuclear attack. The resulting exchange would guarantee a nuclear winter.
So maybe it’s best to keep using nuclear weapons as a last-resort deterrent instead of just another weapon in the armory.
All 176 people on board were killed when a Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed in Iran early on Wednesday morning.
Authorities in Iran and Ukraine, as well as at the airline, have offered statements and press conferences, but a number of key unanswered questions are still swirling.
Investigations have kicked off amid rampant speculation that current political tensions between the US and Iran could have contributed to the plane crash.
Information about who was on the passenger jet — Flight PS 752 — and what happened before the crash remain lacking.
Here are the unanswered questions.
What happened on the flight?
A complete timeline of the flight is yet to emerge.
We know that the plane took off at 6:12 a.m. local time on Wednesday and lost contact about two minutes later.
But we don’t know exactly what time it crashed — just that it was only in the air for a few minutes, based on flight-tracking software, and that the debris was found about six miles from the airport from where it took off.
Authorities also said the plane burst into flames shortly after takeoff, but whether the plane was already on fire before it crashed to the ground is not yet clear.
A video shared by the partially state-run Iranian Students’ News Agency appears to show the plane on fire in the air before hitting the ground and filling the sky with flames, but the video’s content and connection to this crash has not yet been verified.
Who was killed?
Ukraine’s foreign minister said that the victims mostly came from Iran and Canada.
Sky News identified the three UK citizens on board, while the airline identified the pilots as Volodymyr Gaponenko, Alexei Naumkin, and Sergey Khomenko. All had a minimum of 7,600 hours on Boeing 737 planes. Vice also identified some Canadian victims.
Ukraine International Airlines said it will post the passenger list on its website “after final confirmation of their presence on board of the aircraft.”
Was the plane shot down?
Some aviation experts have argued that the plane was likely shot down; others have said it was too early to speculate about the cause.
But the idea that the plane was deliberately downed, including shot down by a missile, is speculation at the moment, and its account is contradicted by authorities.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe” until official investigations were done. He said, “Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe.”
Iranian authorities said in the hours after the crash that it had been caused by technical problems, dismissing the idea that it could have been a terrorist or military attack.
President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Qassem Biniaz, an official at the Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, told state news agency IRNA that an engine caught fire and the pilot was unable to regain control, The New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk refused to rule out the idea that the plane could be downed by a missile, but cautioned against speculation before the investigation.
CFM, the French-American maker of the jet engine, said that any speculation on causes was premature, according to Reuters.
“We have no further information at this time. Any speculation regarding the cause is premature,” the company said.
Ukraine’s embassy in Tehran initially dismissed the idea of terrorism or a rocket attack soon after the crash, blaming an engine failure instead. But that statement was later replaced by one that says the cause is unknown and is being investigated.
According to Reuters, the embassy said the earlier statement was based on preliminary information but was not official, and that Iranian authorities had asked the embassy to remove it.
It also said that the plane was one of the best in its fleet and had an experienced crew. The airline had never had a fatal flight before.
The airline’s vice president of operations, Ihor Sosnovsky, said the airline doubted the crew had made mistakes: “Given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal.”
The plane model, the Boeing 737-800 NG, has been in the air since the 1990s, and is considered the most popular aircraft in use today. It has been involved in some crashes in the past, though no recent crashes have been attributed the plane’s design.
The crash may ramp up pressure for Boeing as it deals with the fallout of two fatal crashes by two 737 Max planes in 2018 and 2019, both of which were believed to be caused by a flawed flight-control system.
But the 737 model involved in Wednesday’s crash does not use the same software believed to have played in a role in those doomed flights.
Boeing said in a Wednesday statement: “This is a tragic event and our heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed.”
How will the investigations work?
Under international rules, Iran must investigate the crash, though typically a number of different investigations take place into plane crashes.
Ukraine International Airlines said it would take “all measures” to determine the cause of the crash, and that Ukraine, Iran, and Boeing representatives would also be involved.
But Boeing, a major American company with close ties to the US government, may face problems in getting involved with the investigation because of US sanctions on Iran and newly heightened tensions between the two countries.
It is not clear what the role the independent US National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates plane crashes, will play. It said it is “monitoring the developments” and is working with US agencies to “determine the best course of action.”
Investigators have not yet released a timeline for when they expect to release any preliminary conclusions. Final reports usually take months to complete.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
What Iran billed as a “100% indigenously made” fourth-generation fighter with “advanced avionics” immediately registered with aviation experts as a knockoff of the F-5 Tiger, a US jet that first flew in 1959.
Iran still has a few F-5s and even F-14s in its inventory from before the Islamic Revolution, when it maintained relations with the US.
Joseph Dempsey, a defense and military analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, tweeted a useful comparison.
But according to Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the real Kowsar project isn’t the F-5 Tiger reboot, but a new system of avionics simply parked in the F-5 as a placeholder.
Bronk said the real Kowsar wasn’t a fighter at all, but a jet trainer and a light attack plane that could save Iran’s air force.
The state of Iran’s air force
“The Iranian air force is an interesting mix,” Bronk told Business Insider. “They’re, unquestionably, extremely good at making use of older equipment against endless predictions” that those systems will break down — for example, Iran still flies US-made F-14s and F-4s, while the US abandoned those airframes decades ago.
But somehow, Iran, even under intense sanctions designed to ensure it can’t get spare parts from the US, keeps them flying.
“Given the state of their economy and the embargoes, that is pretty impressive,” Bronk said.
Even with the impressive feat of workmanship that is an Iranian F-14 flying in 2018, when asked to describe Iran’s air force’s fighters against a regional foe like Saudi Arabia, Bronk said that “‘hopelessly quaint’ would not be too far off the mark.” Matched against Israel or the US in air power, Iran sees its chances sink from bad to much, much worse.
An Iranian F-4 Phantom II armed with an AGM-65 Maverick.
But besides quaint aircraft having no chance against upgraded Saudi F-15 gunships, Iran has another problem in its shortage of pilots and trainer aircraft, which is where the real Kowsar comes in.
“Iran has been relying for a long time on basically a bunch of increasingly old veteran pilots, a lot of whom were trained by — or were trained by those who were trained by — the US before the revolution,” Bronk said.
Therefore, Iran needs to drum up its own indigenous fighter-pilot training program — and that’s the real purpose of the Kowsar: to train the next generation of Iranian fighter pilots.
“It’s not a bad play,” Bronk said. “It makes the most of the limited technology options they have.” Meanwhile, according to Bronk, Iran’s Gulf Arab enemies have ignored domestic training and had to bring in mercenaries from other countries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Afghanistan set new records for opium production in 2016 despite an $8.5 billion USD counternarcotics campaign investment by U.S agencies, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) stated in its latest quarterly report to Congress.
The report said that opium production increased 43 percent in 2016, while poppy eradication hit a 10-year low and was “nearly imperceptible.”
It said that the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conduct an annual survey with financial contributions from the United States and other donors.
UNODC estimated that the potential gross value of opiates was $1.56 billion USD — or the equivalent of about 7.4 percent of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — in 2015.
“The latest 2016 UNODC country survey estimates opium cultivation increased 10 percent, to 201,000 hectares, from the previous year,” the report said adding that “the southern region, which includes Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul, and Daykundi provinces, accounted for 59 percent of total cultivation. Helmand remained the country’s largest poppy-cultivating province, followed by Badghis and Kandahar.”
“Deteriorating security conditions, a lack of political will, and the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics’ ineffective management all contributed to the paltry eradication results in 2016,” the report said.
Poppy “cultivation remained near historically high levels compared with the past several decades.”
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s “narcotics industry — coupled with rampant corruption and fraud — is a major source of illicit revenue,” the report said.
The “opium trade provides about 60 percent of the Taliban’s funding.”
“Since the collapse of the Taliban government, the opium trade has grown significantly and enabled the funding of insurgency operations. Taliban commanders collect extortion fees for running heroin refineries, growing poppy, and other smuggling schemes,” according to the report.
“Powerful drug networks, mainly run by close-knit families and tribes, bankroll the insurgency and launder money. There have been media reports and allegations of corrupt government officials participating in the drug trade,” it said.
The Taliban is an Islamic extremist group that ruled Afghanistan until the U.S military intervention following the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attack in New York and Washington, D.C. that killed more than 3,000 people. The Taliban allowed al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as its training base for attacks against the U.S. and other western nations.
“Traffickers provide weapons, funding, and material support to the insurgency in exchange for protection, while insurgent leaders traffic drugs to finance their operations,” the report said.
Afghanistan “remains the world’s largest opium producer and exporter — producing an estimated 80 percent of the world’s heroin.”
John Sopko, head of SIGAR, recommended that President Donald Trump establish “a U.S counternarcotics strategy, now years overdue, to reduce the illicit commerce that provides the Taliban with the bulk of their revenue.”
Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.
“Until America is prepared to have its grandchildren stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our grandchildren, we won’t be successful,” — Mullah Ghafoordai – tribal elder in Eastern Afghanistan
It was a profound and decisive moment – which seemed to reverberate throughout mountain villages in Eastern Afghanistan…… an anti-Taliban Afghan tribal elder told Green Beret Michael Waltz he could no longer cooperate with US Special Forces in the fight against insurgents in his country.
Waltz had spent months having tea with friendly Afghans and tribal leaders in the area and, he reports, made great progress with efforts to collaborate against the Taliban. They shared information, allowed US allied Afghan fighters to be trained by Green Berets and, in many cases, joined US forces in the fight.
The tribal elder’s comments were quite a disappointment for Waltz, who vigorously argues that the fight against the Taliban, terrorists and many insurgent groups around the world – will take 100 years to win.
Waltz recalled that President Obama’s 2009 announcement that the US would be withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2011, engendered new risk and danger for Afghans cooperating with US forces.
Although, in the same speech, Obama announced US troop numbers would increase by thousands in the near term, a declaration of an ultimate withdrawal created a strong impact upon friendly Afghans, Waltz said.
Obama’s announcement, which has been followed by subsequent efforts to further draw-down the US presence, changed the equation on the ground in Afghanistan, compromising the long-standing cooperation between the friendly Afghan tribal elder and Waltz’s team of Green Berets in fight against the Taliban, Waltz argued.
“It is going to take multiple generations of winning hearts and minds,” Waltz recalled, explaining his frustration and disappointment upon seeing a long-standing collaborative partnership collapse amid fear of Taliban retribution.
Although much has happened regarding permutation of the US-Afghan strategy since that time, and specifics of Obama’s intended withdrawal date subsequently changed, there has been an overall systematic reduction of US troops in recent years.
During July 6, 2016 U.S. President Obama said he would draw down troops to 8,400 by the end of his administration in December 2016; this approach greatly increased pressure on US Special Forces, relying even more intensely upon their role as trainers and advisors.
Green Berets had already been among the most-deployed US military units, often deploying as many as 10-times throughout the course of their career.
“Green Berets don’t easily ask for help and do not easily identify themselves as having an issue, but it is OK to say you have a problem. The Green Beret Foundation understands the mindset of “America’s Quiet Professionals”, and because of this, we are in a good position to help identify needs and render assistance,” Ret. Maj. Gen. David Morris, Chairman of the Board of the Green Beret Foundation, told Scout Warrior.
While there have been many who both supported and opposed Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, sparking years of ongoing debate, Waltz maintains that impact of the 2009 announcement upon the US Special Forces’ effort in Afghanistan brought lasting implications and spoke to a larger issue regarding US-Afghan policy.
“We are in a war of ideas and we are fighting an ideology. It is easy to bomb a tank, but incredibly difficult to bomb an idea. We need a long-term strategy that discredits the ideology of Islamic extremism,” Waltz added. “We are in a multi-decade war and we are only 15-years in.”
Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.
“This was kind of the premise behind George W. Bush’s freedom agenda. These ideologies have narratives that specifically target disaffected young men who see no future for themselves or their families,” Waltz explained.
Some of the many nuances behind this approached were, quite naturally, woven into a broader, long-term vision for the country including the education of girls and economic initiatives aimed at cultivating mechanisms for sustainable Afghan prosperity.
The reality of a multi-faceted, broadly oriented counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is the premise of Waltz’s book – “Warrior Diplomat,” which seeks to delineate key aspects of his time as a Green Beret.
The book chronicles this effort to attack Taliban fighters with so-called “kinetic” or intense combat techniques – alongside an equally intense commensurate effort to launch an entirely different type of attack.
Diplomatic or “non-kinetic” elements of the war effort involved what could be referred to as war-zone diplomacy, making friends with anti-Taliban fighters, learning and respecting Afghan culture, and teaching them how to succeed in combat.
“While Green Berets perform direct combat missions, their core mission as the only Unconventional Warfare unit in the US inventory, is to train, coach, teach and mentor others. A 12-man A-Team can train a force of 1,000 – 2,000 fighters and bring them up to an acceptable measure of combat readiness. If you stop and think about it, that is 1,000 to 2,000 of our sons and daughters who do not have to go to war because of this training,” Morris said.
Addressing the issue of cultural sophistication, Morris explained how Green Berets are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language.
Citing the Taliban, ISIS and historic insurgent groups such as Peru’s Shining Path – and even the decades-long Cold War effort to discredit communism, Waltz emphasizes that the need for a trans-generational, wide-ranging approach of this kind is by no means unprecedented.
Iran’s missile strike on the Islamic State on June 18 appears to have been a massive failure, after only two of the seven missiles fired actually hit their targets.
Two of the Zolfaqar short-range missiles missed their targets in Syria by several miles, while three others did not even make it out of Iraqi airspace, according to Haaretz. Despite the apparent failures, Iranian state-affiliated media heralded the attacks as a success, referring to them as a “new and major” stage in the country’s fight against ISIS.
The strike was “a great deal less impressive than the media noise being made in Iran around the launch,” Israeli military sources told Haaretz.
The launching of an Iranian Fateh-110 Missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Iranian legislators claimed the strike was also a sign to the US that Iran’s ballistic missile program will not be deterred by sanctions.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a radical paramilitary wing, claimed it conducted the strikes in response to ISIS’s attack in Tehran earlier this month.
Iran’s larger, longer-range missiles have struggled with accuracy problems in the past, as many lack global positioning satellite receivers. The Zolfaqar missiles, a derivative of the Fateh-110 heavy artillery rocket, were fired from Iran’s western provinces, likely in an effort to maximize range and accuracy. June 18th’s strike was the first use of the missiles in combat, meaning it could have been as much a test as anything else. Iran has a large and diverse ballistic missile arsenal with weapons that comparatively more developed than the Zolfaqar.
An agency spokesman told Hawaii News Now that the password is authentic, and had been used for an “internal application” that he believed was no longer being used.
While these computers are unrelated to the system that sent the false missile alert, the photo raises questions about the approach to information security at the agency. (On the other screen, another note reminds the user to “SIGN OUT.”)
Writing down passwords isn’t a strict security no-no. Some experts say that keeping a hard copy of a password in your wallet is defensible — if you can keep the piece of paper secure. But a note on a monitor is not secure, especially if it’s for computer systems dedicated to keeping people safe.
The photo has already drawn some ridicule from those in the operational-security industry.
Here’s what the system that sent the false alert on Jan. 13 looks like:
This is the screen that set off the ballistic missile alert on Saturday. The operator clicked the PACOM (CDW) State Only link. The drill link is the one that was supposed to be clicked. #Hawaiipic.twitter.com/lDVnqUmyHa