MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

In the mid-1990s, U.S. oil company Unocal attempted to secure a gas-pipeline deal with the Taliban, which had seized control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, after a devastating civil war.


It was the United States’ first attempt to forge a partnership with the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which was not recognized by the international community.

Unocal even flew senior Taliban members to Texas in 1997 in an attempt to come to an agreement.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who had served as a State Department official when Ronald Reagan was president, worked as a consultant for the now-defunct company.

Khalilzad, who met with the Taliban members in the city of Houston, publicly voiced support for the radical Islamists at the time. The “Taliban does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran — it is closer to the Saudi model,” Khalilzad wrote in a 1996 op-ed for The Washington Post. “The group upholds a mix of traditional Pashtun values and an orthodox interpretation of Islam.”

Negotiations over the pipeline collapsed in 1998, when Al-Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. By then, the terrorist group, led by Osama bin Laden, had relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan, where it was offered safe harbor by the Taliban.

Suddenly, the Taliban went from a potential U.S. economic partner to an international pariah that was hit by U.S. sanctions and air strikes.

Three years later, the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime after Al-Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that killed nearly 3,000 people.

But now, after waging a deadly, nearly 19-year insurgency that has killed several thousand U.S. troops, the Taliban has regained its status as a potential U.S. partner.

On February 29, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement aimed at ending the United States’ longest military action. The deal lays out a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for various security commitments from the insurgents and a pledge to hold talks over a political settlement with the Afghan government — which it so far has refused to do.

The deal — signed before a bevy of international officials and diplomats in Doha, Qatar — has given the Taliban what it has craved for years: international legitimacy and recognition.

Meanwhile, the agreement has undermined the internationally recognized government in Kabul, which was not a party to the accord.

The architect of the deal was Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, who secured a deal following 18 months of grueling negotiations with the militants in Qatar. The Afghan-born Khalilzad had served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq in the intervening years since working as a Unocal adviser.

“There’s a 20-year bell curve, from 1998 to 2018, when the Taliban went from partner to peak pariah and now back to partner,” says Ted Callahan, a security expert on Afghanistan. But the “changes that have occurred have been less within the Taliban movement and more based on U.S. instrumentalism and war fatigue.”

The extremist group’s transformation to a potential U.S. ally was considered unthinkable until recently.

During its brutal rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban oppressed women, massacred ethnic and religious minorities, and harbored Al-Qaeda.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, fueled the illicit opium trade, and sheltered several terrorist groups.

“U.S. officials are selling the Taliban as a partner when it is anything but,” says Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at a Washington-based think tank, the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, and editor of the Long War Journal. “This is a fiction made up by U.S. officials who are desperate for a deal that will cover the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Radicalized In Pakistan

The Taliban, which means “students” in Pashto, emerged in 1994 in northwestern Pakistan following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first appeared in ultraconservative Islamic madrasahs, or religious schools, in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees. Funded by Saudi Arabia, the madrasahs radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought the Soviets.

The Taliban first appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul.

The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce its ultraconservative brand of Islam. It captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.

Neighboring Pakistan is widely credited with forming the Taliban, an allegation it has long denied. Islamabad was among only three countries — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to recognize the Taliban regime when it ruled Afghanistan.

The Taliban was led by its spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed cleric who was a mujahedin. Omar died of natural causes at a hospital in Pakistan in 2013, with the group’s leadership covering up his death for two years. He was believed to be leading the Afghan Taliban insurgency from within Pakistan.

War-weary Afghans initially welcomed the Taliban, which cracked down on corruption and lawlessness and brought stability across much of the country.

But the welcome was short-lived. The religious zealots enforced strict edicts based on their extreme interpretation of Shari’a law — banning TV and music, forcing men to pray and grow beards, making women cover themselves from head to toe, and preventing women and girls from working or going to school.

The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engage in adultery. Executions were common.

Besides its notorious treatment of women, the Taliban also attracted international condemnation when in 2001 it demolished the 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, a testament to the country’s pre-Islamic history and a treasured, unique world cultural monument.

‘We Were All Scared’

Orzala Nemat is a leading women’s rights activist in Afghanistan. Under Taliban rule, she risked her life by creating a network of underground girls schools across the country. Classes were held secretly in living rooms, tents, and abandoned buildings. The teachers were often older girls or educated women.

Girls attending the classes would often come in twos to avoid suspicion and carry a Koran, Islam’s holy book, in case they were stopped by the Taliban.

“We were all scared,” says Nemat, who now heads a leading Kabul think tank. “They would probably flog us, put us in prison, and punish us [if we were caught].”

Under the Taliban, Isaq Ahmadi earned a living by playing soccer for one of the dozen teams created and funded by various Taliban leaders in Kabul. While the Taliban banned many sports and other forms of public entertainment, soccer and cricket thrived.

“It was a very difficult and dark time,” he says. “There were no jobs, food shortages, and no public services.”

During Taliban rule, the United Nations said 7.5 million Afghans faced starvation. Even then, the Taliban restricted the presence of aid groups in Afghanistan.

The Taliban regime generated most of its money from Islamic taxes on citizens and handouts from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, its only allies. The Taliban failed to provide basic needs and Kabul lay in tatters after the brutal civil war of 1992-96.

U.S.-Led Invasion

The Taliban attracted the world’s attention after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The regime had harbored bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the terrorist attacks. But the Taliban steadfastly refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders for prosecution and, in October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan.

By December, the Taliban regime was toppled with help from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Most Taliban leaders, including Al-Qaeda founder bin Laden, evaded capture and resettled in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the southwestern city of Quetta, where its leadership is still based.

By 2005, the Taliban had reorganized and unleashed a deadly insurgency against foreign troops and the new democratically elected government in Kabul. Despite U.S.-led surges in troops and an escalation in air strikes, international and Afghan forces were unable to stop the Taliban from extending its influence in the vast countryside.

The Taliban enjoyed safe havens and backing from Pakistan, a claim Islamabad has denied. The insurgency was also funded by the billions of dollars the group made from the illicit opium trade.

Today, the militants control or contest more territory — around half of the country — than at any other time since 2001.

Meanwhile, the Kabul government is unpopular, corrupt, bitterly divided, and heavily dependent on foreign assistance. Government forces have suffered devastatingly high numbers of casualties against the Taliban.

Negotiating An End To War

In the fall of 2010, U.S. officials secretly met a young Taliban representative outside the southern German city of Munich. It was the first time the Taliban and the United States showed they were open to talks over a negotiated end to the war.

But in the intervening years, meaningful U.S.-Taliban talks failed to take off, hampered by mutual distrust, missed opportunities, protests by the Afghan government, and the deaths of two successive Taliban leaders.

For years, U.S. policy was to facilitate an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process between the Kabul government and the Taliban. But with the Taliban refusing to negotiate with state officials — whom they view as illegitimate — the peace process was deadlocked.

Controversially, U.S. policy changed in 2018 when Khalilzad was appointed as special envoy for peace and he opened direct negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar without the presence of the Afghan government. Eighteen months later, the sides signed the landmark deal aimed at ending the war.

“The U.S. has been sidelining the Afghan government for years, first by refusing to allow it to be involved with negotiations, then by signing the deal without the Afghan government as a partner,” Roggio says.

“The Taliban maintains the Afghan government is merely a ‘puppet’ of the U.S,” he adds. “The U.S. has done everything in its power to prove this point.”

Road Map For Afghanistan

The prospect of the Taliban returning to the fold as part of a future power-sharing agreement has fueled angst among Afghans, many of whom consider the militants to be terrorists and remember the strict, backward societal rules they enforced when they were in power.

More than 85 percent of Afghans have no sympathy for the Taliban, according to the Asia Foundation’s 2019 survey. Urban respondents (88.6 percent) were more inclined than rural respondents (83.9 percent) to have no sympathy for the militants.

But the Taliban’s adherence to ultraconservative Islam and the Pashtun tribal code has struck a chord with some currently living under the movement’s thumb in rural Afghanistan, which has borne the brunt of the war and where life has improved little. But those ideas are largely alien in major urban centers that have witnessed major social, economic, and democratic gains over the past 18 years.

“The main difference is that the Taliban of today, like Afghans generally, are more worldly in terms of their exposure to media, their increased engagement with various international actors and, at least for the leadership, the greater wealth they command, both individually and as a movement,” Callahan says.

But the Taliban’s “fundamental approach to governing, which is very maximalist and involves the imposition of a uniform moral order, stands in stark contrast to the more liberal norms that have evolved since 2001, mainly in urban areas.”

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, millions of girls have gone to school and continue to study, women have joined the workforce in meaningful numbers, and dozens of women are members of parliament and work in the government or diplomatic corps.

Afghanistan also has a thriving independent media scene in an area of the world where press freedoms are severely limited. Under the Taliban, all forms of independently reported news were banned.

There was only state-owned radio, the Taliban’s Voice of Sharia, which was dominated by calls to prayer and religious teachings.

The independent media have come under constant attack and pressure from the Taliban and Islamic State militants, which have killed dozens of reporters. The attacks have made Afghanistan one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists.

The Taliban has been projecting itself as a more moderate force, pledging not to monopolize power in Afghanistan. But few believe that the militants have changed.

“There is little difference between the Taliban of 1994 and the Taliban of today,” Roggio says. “If anything, the group has become more sophisticated in its communications and negotiations. Its ideology has not changed. Its leadership has naturally changed with the deaths of its leaders [over the years], but this hasn’t changed how it operates.”

Red Lines

The Taliban has said it will protect women’s rights, but only if they don’t violate Islam or Afghan values, suggesting it will curtail some of the fragile freedoms gained by women in the past two decades.

Many Afghan women fear that their rights enshrined in the constitution will be given away as part of a peace settlement with the Taliban. The constitution guarantees the same rights to women as men, although in practice women still face heavy discrimination in society, particularly in rural areas.

But the Taliban has demanded a new constitution based on “Islamic principles,” prompting concern among Afghan rights campaigners. As an Islamic republic, Afghanistan’s laws and constitution are based on Islam, although there are more liberal and democratic elements within it.

Farahnaz Forotan launched an online campaign, #MyRedLine, in March 2018. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan women have joined the campaign to speak about the freedoms and rights they are not willing to give up in the name of peace with the Taliban.

Forotan, a journalist, says she wanted to let Afghan decision-makers know that peace cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights and freedoms of the country’s women.

“Almost everything has changed from that time,” she says, referring to Taliban rule. “We have made a lot of progress. We have a civil society, an independent press, and freedoms. People are more aware of their social and political rights.”

Many Afghans support a negotiated end to the decades-old war in Afghanistan, but not at any price.

“I support the peace process with the Taliban, but only if women’s freedoms are safeguarded,” says Ekram, a high-school student from the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, a relatively peaceful and prosperous region near the border with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

“Under no circumstances do we want a peace deal that sacrifices our freedoms and democracy,” Ekram says. “That wouldn’t be peace at all.”

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

Articles

This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams

The House Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony June 7  that was both encouraging and disturbing about PTSD programs and allegations that some vets are faking symptoms to get a disability check.


The Department of Veterans Affairs has greatly expanded its treatment programs for mental health problems overall, and for post-traumatic stress disorder in particular, said Dr. Harold Kudler, acting assistant deputy under secretary for Patient Care Services at the VA.

In fiscal 2016, the VA provided mental health treatment to 1.6 million veterans, up from 900,000 in 2006, Kudler said. Of the overall figure, 583,000 “received state-of-the-art treatment for PTSD,” including 178,000 who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he added.

Kudler said the number of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn veterans receiving VA treatment for PTSD has doubled since 2010, while VA services for them have increased by 50 percent.

In addition, the VA is increasingly open to alternative treatments for PTSD, including the use of hyperbaric chambers and yoga, but an Army veteran who went through VA treatment for PTSD said the expansion and outreach leave the program open to scams by veterans looking to get a disability check.

A Veterans Affairs benefit advisor briefs 910th Airlift Wing reservists on their VA benefits following a long-term deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Kocin)

Brendan O’Byrne, a sergeant with the 173rd Airborne Brigade who served a 15-month tour in the remote Korengal valley of eastern Afghanistan, told the committee he was overwhelmed by “crippling anxiety, blinding anger” compounded by drinking when he left the service in 2008.

After four years, he was given a 70-percent disability rating for PTSD and was immediately advised by administrators and other veterans to push for 100 percent to boost his check, O’Byrne said.

“Now, I don’t know if they saw something that I didn’t but, in my eyes, I was not 100 percent disabled and told them that,” O’Byrne said. But they continued to press him to go for a higher rating. His arguments for a lower rating went nowhere, he said.

In VA group counseling sessions, “I realized the sad truth about a portion of the veterans there — they were scammers, seeking a higher rating without a real trauma. This was proven when I overheard one vet say to another that he had to ‘pay the bills’ and how he ‘was hoping this in-patient was enough for a 100-percent rating.’ I vowed never to participate in group counseling through the VA again,” O’Byrne said.

“When there is money to gain, there will be fraud,” he said. “The VA is no different. Veterans are no different. In the noble efforts to help veterans and clear the backlog of VA claims, we allowed a lot of fraud into the system, and it is pushing away the veterans with real trauma and real PTSD.”

Committee members, who are accustomed to hearing allegations of fraud and waste within the VA but rarely about scamming by a veteran, did not directly challenge O’Byrne’s allegations, but Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., told him he was unique. “That’s the first I’ve ever heard of a vet wanting to reduce the amount of benefits they’re receiving,” Bost said.

O’Byrne was a central figure in the book “War” by author Sebastian Junger, who also testified at the hearing on “Overcoming PTSD: Assessing VA’s Efforts to Promote Wellness and Healing.”

Junger said society must share the blame for the prevalence of PTSD. “Many of our vets seem to be suffering from something other than trauma reaction. One possible explanation for their psychological troubles is that — whether they experience combat or not — transitioning from the kind of close communal life of a platoon to the alienation of modern society is extremely difficult.”

Then there is politics. “In order for soldiers to avoid something called ‘moral injury,’ they have to believe they are fighting for a just cause, and that just cause can only reside in a nation that truly believes in itself as an enduring entity,” Junger said.

“When it became fashionable after the election for some of my fellow Democrats to declare that Donald Trump was ‘not their president,’ they put all of our soldiers at risk of moral injury,” he said.

“And when Donald Trump charged repeatedly that Barack Obama — the commander-in-chief — was not even an American citizen, he surely demoralized many soldiers who were fighting under orders from that White House,” Junger said. “For the sake of our military personnel — if not for the sake of our democracy — such statements should be quickly and forcefully repudiated by the offending political party.”

U.S. Air Force illustration by Alex Pena

The allegation that some veterans are bilking PTSD programs is not a major concern for Zach Iscol, a Marine captain who fought in Fallujah and now is executive director of the non-profit Headstrong Project.

“If there are people taking advantage of us, that’s OK, because we have a bigger mission,” Iscol said, but he also noted that Headstrong does not give out disability payments.

In partnership with Weill Cornell Medical College, the project’s goal is to provide free assistance with experienced clinicians to post-9/11 veterans for a range of problems, from PTSD to addiction and anger management.

Iscol said Headstrong currently has about 200 active clients, and “on average it costs less than $5,000 to treat a vet.” He cautioned there are no panaceas for treating PTSD, and “there’s no simple app that will solve this problem. I don’t think you can design a one-size-fits-all for mental health.”

The witnesses and committee members agreed that PTSD is treatable, but disagreed over the types and availability of treatment programs and whether the VA is adequately funded to provide them or should rely more on non-profits.

The issue of the estimated 20 suicides by veterans daily came up briefly when Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., a retired Marine lieutenant general, questioned Kudler on VA programs to bring down the rate.

VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin has made combating veteran suicides a major priority and has focused on making treatment available for veterans with less than honorable discharges.

Kudler said there is a “counter-intuitive” involved in addressing the veteran suicide problem. About 14 of the 20 daily suicides involve veterans who never deployed and experienced combat trauma, he said. “It would be premature to say we know why.”

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

What is the USPHS and what does it do?

If you watched the White House press briefing on COVID-19 today, you might have wondered what the Coast Guard folks were doing on tv for a Presidential Address about a global pandemic. And then, upon further inspection of their uniforms and seeing the “USPHS” and a cross embroidered over the left breast pocket where it usually says, “U.S. Coast Guard,” you might have been wondering, “Who are these people and what do they do?”

Introducing the U.S. Public Health Service.


WATCH: Trump gives coronavirus update at White House

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What is the USPHS? 

According to their website, “Overseen by the Surgeon General, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is a diverse team of more than 6,500 highly qualified, public health professionals. Driven by a passion to serve the underserved, these men and women fill essential public health leadership and clinical service roles with the Nation’s Federal Government agencies.

For more than 200 years, men and women have served on the front lines of our nation’s public health in what is today called the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. The Commissioned Corps traces its beginnings back to the U.S. Marine Hospital Service protecting against the spread of disease from sailors returning from foreign ports and maintaining the health of immigrants entering the country. Currently, Commissioned Corps officers are involved in health care delivery to underserved and vulnerable populations, disease control and prevention, biomedical research, food and drug regulation, mental health and drug abuse services, and response efforts for natural and man-made disasters as an essential component of the largest public health program in the world.”

And, fun fact: they wear uniforms.

Uniforms 

According to their site, “Few things inspire pride and esprit-de-corps more than the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) uniform. By wearing the uniform, Commissioned Corps officers display a profound respect for their country, their service, and themselves. Uniforms promote the visibility and credibility of the Commissioned Corps to the general public and the Nation’s underserved populations whom officers are devoted to serving.

The PHS uniform traces its roots back to 1871 when John Maynard Woodworth, the first supervising surgeon (now known as the Surgeon General), organized the service along military lines. The uniforms reflect the proud legacy and tradition of the more than 200-year-old service. Uniforms link today’s officers to their heritage and connect them to past officers. Since they represent the Commissioned Corps history and tradition, rigorous standards apply to wearing the uniform and every officer upholds those standards with pride.

Similar to the other services, the Commissioned Corps has several uniforms including the Service Dress Blues, Summer Whites, Service Khakis, and Operational Dress Uniform (ODU) Woodland Camouflage. Each uniform reflects the great responsibility and privilege that comes with being a commissioned officer.

View how the ranks and grades of the Commissioned Corps compare to the other six uniformed services of the United States.”

U.S. Public Health Services Lt. Cmdr. Angelica Galindo, conducts a patient assessment at the Escuela Elemental Urbana in Cidra, Puerto Rico. U.S. Air Force photo/Larry E. Reid Jr.

So are they in the military? 

Nope. They’re non-military uniformed service that is not trained in arms. But they are trained in health care. In fact, Corps officers serve in 15 careers in a wide range of specialties within Federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In total, Corps officers have duty stations in over 20 federal departments and agencies.

KOYUK, Alaska – United States Public Health Service Veterinarian Doctor Mary Anne Duncan examines one of two dogs owned by Koyuk residents. Duncan and USPHS Veterinarian Doctor Wanda Wilson walked through the community of 350 to examine 48 dogs and three cats. Coast Guard photo/Walter Shinn

But what do they actually do? 

Careers are available in the areas of disease control and prevention; biomedical research; regulation of food, drugs, and medical devices; mental health and drug abuse; and health care delivery. USPHS has physicians, dentists, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, health services, environmental health, dietitians, engineers, veterinarians and scientists.

Articles

Netflix won’t block movies and shows for deployed US troops

Not too long ago, We Are The Mighty listed the awesome movies and television U.S. troops would not be able to watch on Netflix while deployed due to the streaming company’s decision to actively enforce its ban on users who access the site via Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs.


Because of restrictions in licensing certain content to certain countries, Netflix has to block users who attempt to access its U.S. servers while overseas. Netflix would even ban users who attempt to circumvent its geographic restrictions. This included U.S. troops who deploy all over the world but still watch streaming content from the good old U.S. of A. Understandably, they were very upset, as Netflix can give troops the feeling of being at home (at least for 22 minutes an episode), but that’s not the end of the story.

Yes, 10 seasons of Futurama are on Netflix. That’s also not the end of the story.

Netflix wants to remind U.S. troops that cheap, online, streaming content exists in the Land of the Free because of the brave. It exempts military bases from the geo-restriction policy and, according to Netflix, always has.

“Netflix always exempts U.S. military bases around the world,” Anne Marie Squeo, a spokeswoman for Netflix, told Stars and Stripes. “They will still be able to access the U.S. catalog.”

The Avengers is not available on Netflix.

Certainly good news for everyone on base, but many troops overseas live off-base. Those troops will have to suck it up and accept the catalog of the country in which they live. It is important to note that while Netflix has a catalog in 192 of Earth’s 196 countries, some catalogs are more diverse and expansive than others.

The service is not yet available in China, probably due to the Chinese government’s myriad restrictions on media. Syria, North Korea, and the Crimean Peninsula do not get Netflix service because they are currently facing U.S. government sanctions. That’s too bad because North Korean cinema is really, really something else.

The company says it will spend $5 billion in the next year in hopes that eventually all its content will be available to all its subscribers, regardless of location.

MIGHTY FIT

4 tips to help you get the most out of your intermittent fasting

Paleo, Ketogenic, and the South Beach diet are a few of the famous plans that countless people from around the nation use to shed those unwanted pounds. Since most troops can’t be nearly as selective with their food choices as civilians can, finding a healthy way to lose body fat before the physical assessment can be rough.

After all, the MREs we scarf down during deployment aren’t exactly low-carb meals.

Today, intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular trends to hit the fitness world. The idea, in brief, is to eat all your meals within a structured time frame and then go several hours without eating a single calorie. IF has been proven to manage two vital chemicals in our body: growth hormones and insulin.

Growth hormones help the body produce lean muscle, burn fat, and reduce the effects of aging. Elevated insulin levels block the benefits of growth hormones and cause weight gain. Yet many people who are on this structured plan may want to see quicker results that will positively benefit the body – that’s the whole point of IF, after all.

So here’s out you can get the most from your structured fasting plan.


Extend the length of your fasting window

Many people will fast for 16 hours a day and only eat their meals within an eight-hour window. However, consider extending the window to 18 to 20 hours if your body will allow it. Many people have a hard time going that long without eating. To combat the hunger, people who intermittent fast regularly drink large amounts of water to fill their stomachs up. This is just a temporary fix. Keep in mind it can sometimes take the body time to adapt to this type of meal plan structure.

The longer our insulin levels remain low, the more our bodies feed off stored energy.

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Perfect form!

Hit the gym while fasting

Intense workouts mean we’re burning some serious calories. While you’re already fasting, working out during that window adds to your body’s caloric deficit — which means you’re going to lose even more weight.

However, listen to your body — many people will feel too weak at the gym when they first start using this meal plan.

Lift heavy at the gym

Although fasting will use up the glycogen stored in our muscles on its own, by lifting heavy at the gym, the body turns to other sources of fat storage to restore that glycogen into your muscles.

Lose fat while gaining muscle.

It’s totally a win-win.

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Eating ice cream will elevate your insulin, but rubbing it on your face is fine.

Avoid foods that spike your insulin

Once your fasting window has closed, and you’ve finally eaten something after several hours of going without food, to keep your insulin levels as low as possible, its recommended you avoid intaking in meals that contain a high amount of carbohydrates and sugar.

Eating clean proteins and healthy fats will raise your insulin levels, but not at the high rate as carbohydrates and sugars do.

MIGHTY CULTURE

We have to talk about this week’s ‘SEAL Team’ death

WARNING: This post contains spoilers from Season 2 Episode 19.

This week, SEAL Team tackled one of the most dangerous threats to military veterans: suicide.

U.S. veterans have a higher suicide rate than civilians — and the number is staggeringly higher among female veterans. According to a 2016 study by the Department of Veterans Affairs, on average 20.8 service members commit suicide every day; of those, 16.8 were veterans and 3.8 were active duty, guardsmen, or reservists.

Since 2001, the total number of fatal casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan is 6,995.

There were more than 6000 veteran suicides each year from 2008-2016 alone.

It’s a critical threat, one that must be acknowledged and addressed — which is why it’s important that shows like SEAL Team tell their stories.

According to ‘former frogman’ and SEAL Team writer Mark Semos, the suicide in the episode ‘Medicate and Isolate’ was inspired by the death of a real U.S. Navy SEAL.


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwr-5VXnzA3/ expand=1]Mark Semos on Instagram: “For those of you who tuned into last night’s episode of @sealteamcbs: Brett Swann’s character was based on Ryan Larkin, a former SEAL who…”

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In the episode, Brett Swann (played perfectly by Tony Curran) struggles with many issues that are common among veterans — and he’s lucky enough to have a buddy helping him navigate the labyrinth of the VA system: long waits, over-taxed doctors, and confusing procedures are among the basics of what can be expected.

Swann is certain he has an undiagnosed TBI (traumatic brain injury) but the VA doctor is unable to treat it because there’s no proof that it is service-connected. A 45-minute episode isn’t long enough to get into the details of Swann’s options, so the writers deftly cut to the finish: Swann wasn’t going to get the treatment he desperately needed. Certainly not right away.

I can’t communicate strongly enough how disorienting and discouraging it is to finally seek help only to be turned away, especially for veterans, who were trained by the military to “suck it up.”

Some get lucky and find advocates (I highly recommend the DAV, a non-profit that, among other initiatives, helps veterans with disability claims), some patiently wade through the murky system, but others…

…well, it’s becoming painfully clear that others give up hope.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwp5pE8n0L0/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “It’s hard to promote tonight’s episode as it’s about a subject that is sadly more truth than fiction. Rather than entertain I hope that it…”

www.instagram.com

Just this month, two more veterans died by suicide at VA facilities. So while the Department of Veterans Affairs does provide treatment for millions of veterans, the truth is that it isn’t enough.

For a country that spends more on its defense budget than the next seven countries combined (China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan), it reflects the DOD’s priorities when VA hospitals and facilities don’t have the funds to meet the staffing and medical needs of its veterans.

There is hope

I have seen a trend where veterans are coming together to support each other, to maintain the strong community we had during service. As more and more veterans lose friends, the fear of talking about suicide is diminishing.

This is critical because veterans have to know where to turn for help.

There is a crisis hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (or anyone in need can send a text message to 838255)

There are organizations like 22KILL, which raises awareness and combats suicide by empowering veterans, first responders, and their families through traditional and non-traditional therapies.

And there are shows and films depicting these stories, raising awareness, and removing the stigma of unseen injuries and mental health.

There are many who are wary of sending the message that veterans are all traumatized or unstable; if anything, this episode is further proof of the opposite. SEAL Team employs a lot of veterans who are professionals in the entertainment industry.

Who better to tell the story of those among us who need our help?

MIGHTY HISTORY

Medic remembers what it was like to land on Omaha Beach

Charles Norman Shay was just a young private in the 1st Infantry Division when he landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 — D-Day. He was in the first wave, landing some time around 6:30 while the German defenses were still untouched, firing artillery and machine guns into the open holds of boats as American troops attempted to land.


Charles Shay – Returning to the Beaches of Normandy 74 Years Later

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Shay was relatively lucky, landing in chest-deep water and finding small obstacles to take cover behind as he made his way to the sands. Still, that meant he had to move forward with minimal cover as German rounds and shells rained down. On the most hotly contested beaches of Normandy, entire companies were cut down before firing a shot.

Shay and the other medics on the beaches had the option of sticking to cover or trying to survive in the water, floating with just their nostrils exposed to minimize the chance that German machine guns found them.

Shay, instead, started transiting into and out of the water, grabbing wounded and drowning men and pulling them to shore where he and others could render aid. This was an extremely hazardous move. While unarmed medics rendering aid are technically protected by the Geneva Convention, another medic on the beach organized a similar effort and many of the soldiers who helped him were gunned down for their efforts.

The young medic would later receive America’s Silver Star and France’s Légion d’Honneur for his valor in Europe in World War II.

Today, Shay is a tribal elder of the Penobscot Tribe in Maine. There’s a memorial park on the bluffs overlooking Omaha Beach named for him that honors the sacrifices of American Indians who landed at Normandy.

The Allies landed 156,000 troops on D-Day across five beachheads. It was the fulfillment of a promise to the Soviet Union to open a new front against Nazi Germany as Soviet forces fought on the opposite side of Europe. Less than a year after D-Day, as the armies landed at Normandy crunched onward toward Berlin, Hitler killed himself in a bunker and German leaders sued for peace, ending the war in Europe.

MIGHTY HISTORY

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

After the bodies of ten American airmen in their B-24 Liberator were found in the Mao’er Mountains in a remote area of central China, the local villagers did the most extraordinary thing: They banded together to dig an entirely new road to make sure those airmen could be retrieved and returned to their families.


In 1997, the remains of these World War II-era airmen were repatriated to the United States from China. The bodies were entombed in the B-24 where they died, at the very top of China’s tallest mountain, impassable by most. But Chinese farmers on the hunt for herbs came across the rusted sarcophagus in October 1996.

From that day on, it was the mission of the locals to get these ten airmen home.

The summit of Mao’er Mountain is not the easiest place to get to.

Some 52 years before they were found, the ten airmen were flying their second mission in complete darkness. They had just come from a successful raid against Japanese ships of the coast of Taiwan in August, 1944. They could not have predicted they were about to run into the 6,000-foot-tall mountain.

The crash spread debris across the mountain’s dangerous steep and slippery slopes, where it all stayed exactly as it landed for more than half a century before the two farmers came across the wreckage. When discovered, Chinese officials sent video and photo of the site to then-President Bill Clinton. In a show of gratitude for the United States’ wartime efforts, 500 locals of Xingan County banded together for two months to cut a path and dig a road to the crash site so the bodies could be extracted.

American C-47 carrying supplies for Chinese troops. Flying the mountains in China was dangerous for even the more experienced pilots.

By January, 1997, a team of forensics experts from the U.S. POW/MIA Office were able to traverse the mountain path the the site. It was still a treacherous climb, but the road made it all possible. Without the locals’ effort, getting the remains of the airmen back to the U.S. would have been nearly impossible.

Fifty years ago these brave young men scattered their blood over this beautiful region,” Liang Ziwei, director of foreign affairs in Xingan told a group of assembled reporters.

Identified by their dog tags, they were indeed young – the youngest was just 19 and the oldest was only 27. Their families were notified and the remains sent to Hawaii for official identification.

Humor

6 ways Austin Powers is way more operator than you

In 1997, Britain’s biggest playboy and best special agent Austin Powers rocked movie-goers with his bad teeth and groovy personality.


Completely backed by the powerful Ministry of Defense, Powers stopped at nothing to take down his most villainous arch-enemy, Dr. Evil, who commonly held the world hostage while putting his pinky in his mouth.

Kinda looks like Putin. (Source: New Line/ Screenshot)

Against all odds, Powers continually did his part to finish his mission, regardless of what planet or time period it took place in.

Related: The nice old man in the popular military meme is actually operator AF

So check out six ways Austin Powers is more operator than you’ll ever be.

6. He volunteered to be cryogenically frozen.

Austin was so patriotic to his country he agreed to be frozen stiff until Dr. Evil returned.

What an awful facial position to be frozen in. (Image via Giphy)

5. He has a car that can freakin’ time-travel.

While you’re driving in a hybrid, he’s chasing down terrorists jumping through time.

James Bond has nothing on Austin. (Image via Giphy)

4. Austin is known for taking out his enemies with a judo chop.

It doesn’t have to look awesome, it just needs to be effective.

He’s the only spy who can take a person out with toothpaste. (Image via Giphy)

3. Women find him completely irresistible.

In fact, some women have been known to explode because of his insanely good dance moves.

Admit it. You can’t resist him either. (Image via Giphy)

2. He’s practically rocket- and fall-proof.

Just as long as Austin has someone to stand in front of him bracing the impact — he’s good to go.

The secret to staying alive is using a female villain as a shield. (Image via Giphy)

Also Read: Newly released video shows just how operator Keanu Reeves can be

1. He can detect if there is a mole in the area.

Some operators train for years gaining the experience to find a government mole. Austin Powers found one in just a few moments.

Nothing gets passed Austin. Nothing. (Image via Giphy)Can you think of any more? Comment below.
Articles

Trump announces plan to boost carrier force to 12

President Donald Trump visited the aircraft carrier PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), and announced plans to boost the Navy’s carrier force to 12.


In a speech given during the visit, the president announced the 12-carrier goal, which would bring the force up to a level it has not been at since 2006, according to a Navy listing of ship force levels.

President Donald J. Trump tours Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Trump visited March 2, 2017 to meet with Sailors and shipbuilders of the Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier during an all-hands call inside the ship’s hangar bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell/Released)

“After years of endless budget cuts that have impaired our defenses, I am calling for one of the largest defense-spending increases in history,” the President said.

Currently, the force is at 10 carriers, all of which are nuclear-powered. The Gerald R. Ford is slated to commission later this year, to replace USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was taken out of service in December 2012, being formally decommissioned last month. The new aircraft carrier has seen numerous delays due to problems with its advanced systems.

President Donald J. Trump speaks with Sailors in the hangar bay aboard Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Trump visited March 2 to meet with Sailors and shipbuilders of the Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier during an all-hands call inside the ship’s hangar bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard/Released)

“In these troubled times, our Navy is the smallest it’s been since World War I.  That’s a long time ago.  In fact, I just spoke with Navy and industry leaders and have discussed my plans to undertake a major expansion of our entire Navy fleet, including having the 12-carrier Navy we need,” the President said.

“Our military requires sustained, stable funding to meet the growing needs placed on our defense. Right now, our aging frontline strike and strike-fighters — the whole aircraft; many, many aircraft — are often more likely to be downed for maintenance than they are to be up in the sky,” the President also said, noting the problems that have plagued Navy and Marine Corps aviation units.

President Donald J. Trump salutes the rainbow sideboys before his departure of the aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell/Released)

In his address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, 2017, President Trump called for the elimination of the sequester as it pertained to defense spending. It came on the heels of what the Washington Times reported was a proposed $54 billion increase in the defense budget.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. seeks to seize Iran gasoline shipments heading to Venezuela

U.S. prosecutors have filed a lawsuit to seize the gasoline aboard four tankers that Iran is currently shipping to Venezuela, the latest attempt to increase pressure on the two sanctioned anti-American allies.

The civil-forfeiture complaint filed in the District of Columbia federal court late on July 1 claims the sale was arranged by an Iranian businessman with ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.


Since September 2018, the IRGC’s elite Quds Force has moved oil through a sanctioned shipping network involving dozens of ship managers, vessels, and facilitators, according to the lawsuit.

“The profits from these activities support the IRGC’s full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad,” the prosecutors alleged.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations said that any attempt by the United States to prevent Iranian lawful trading with any country of its choosing would be an act of “piracy.”

The four tankers named in the complaint — the Bella, Bering, Pandi, and Luna — are carrying 1.1 million barrels of gasoline, the U.S. prosecutors said.

The Justice Department said on July 2 that U.S. District Judge James Boasberg issued a warrant to seize all the gasoline on the vessels, “based on a probable cause showing of forfeitability.”

The United States has been pressing for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s ouster with a campaign of diplomatic and punitive measures, including sanctions on its energy sector.

The South American country is suffering from a gasoline shortage amid a ravaging economic crisis.

Tensions have been on the rise between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when the United States withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered the Iranian economy.

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

Articles

How Russia guaranteed a Union victory in the Civil War

It’s hard to determine which is more surprising: the British aching to send troops and materiel to aid the Confederacy during the Civil War or that the first “Special Relationship” was between the U.S. and Russia against the British. Both of these facts are true and for the latter negating the former, we can thank one Cassius Marcellus Clay.


Clay was more than just a namesake for the greatest boxer of all time. He was also a politician, representative, officer in the Mexican War and Civil War, abolitionist, and ambassador with a pedigree in badassery. This man once frightened an opponent so much that the man killed himself the night before they were supposed to duel, which is probably the only duel story to top Andrew Jackson’s.

There was also a lot of screaming. Probably.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, he tapped Clay to be his ambassador to the Imperial Russian Court in St. Petersburg. Since the Civil War broke out before Clay left for Russia in 1861 and there were no Federal troops in Washington at the time, Clay raised an Army of 300 volunteers to maintain an active defense of the capital until troops arrived.

The Kentucky politician started his life born to a family of planters (who fought in both the Revolution and the War of 1812) and became one himself before his foray into politics. Despite being a wealthy planter from Kentucky, the Yale-educated Clay became a staunch Abolitionist, opposed to slavery in any form, which would eventually cost him his seat in the legislature.

He started an anti-slavery newspaper called True American which immediately earned him death threats. He was threatened so often and he was so steadfast in his beliefs, he had to seal himself and his press in his office in Lexington, defending the building with two four-pounder cannons.

While giving a speech promoting the abolition of slavery, he was attacked by six brothers for expressing these views. They beat him, stabbed him, and tried to shoot him, but Clay fought off all six with his Bowie knife, killing one of them in the process.

Minus the gunshot wound, this is the only way my brain will process the way that scene started.

Clay was so infuriating to his pro-slavery opponents, they hired a political gun to assassinate him. The would-be assassin shot Clay in the chest, but the bullet didn’t kill him. Despite being restrained by the assassin’s friends, Clay drew his Bowie knife and cut off the man’s nose and left ear, then gouged out his eye before throwing him over a wall and into a nearby river.

The Russian-British rivalry raged during the American Civil War. British politicians openly advocated intervention in the war and even had a secret plan to burn Boston and New York in sneak attacks from Canada. E. D. Adams’ Great Britain and the American Civil War notes the U.S. considered Russia a “true friend” and was suspicious of British neutrality while Secretary of State William Seward actively advocated war with France.

While in St. Petersburg, Clay won the support of Russia for the Union cause and convinced Tsar Alexander II to threaten worldwide war with England and France to keep them from intervening on the side of the Confederacy, with whom they both sympathized. The Russian Baltic Fleet arrived in New York harbor in in September 1863 and the Russian Far East Fleet arrived in San Francisco that October. The Tsar ordered his Navy to be under Lincoln’s command if war broke out.

Clay was recalled by Lincoln in 1862 and commissioned a Major General in the Union Army. He refused to accept the commission unless Lincoln freed slaves under Confederate control. The President ordered him to Kentucky to assess the effect of Emancipation on the population there, as Kentucky was seen as a vital border state. When Clay returned, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He left for Russia again the next year and served there until 1869, where he helped secure the Purchase of Alaska, presumably because the Tsar was afraid of him.

In his later years, Clay had so many enemies, he kept cannons to defend his home and office. His daughters became staunch Women’s Rights advocates.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Lawyers and policy and technical experts from the US Defense Department are in New Delhi, meeting with Indian officials to discuss a military-communications agreement that would boost the interoperability of the two countries’ armed forces.

The discussions — part of preparations for the 2+2 dialogue between the two countries’ foreign and defense secretaries, to take place in Washington in July 2018 — are a step forward, according to The Indian Express, as Delhi has been reluctant to sign the agreement, known as Comcasa, since it signed a military logistics agreement with the US in 2016, when the US named India a “major defense partner.”


India’s reservations stem in part from a lingering issue in the growing US-India military relationship: Delhi’s use of Russia-made weapons platforms.

Russia has long been India’s main weapons supplier. Delhi worked with Moscow to develop the BrahMos anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile, and India also fields Russia’s S-300 air-defense system.

India’s operational aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, is a Russian Kiev-class carrier-cruiser overhauled by Moscow for the Indian navy that carries Russian-made aircraft. India also operates squadrons of Russia-made MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft.

Indian Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya

India signed a $6 billion deal with Moscow in late 2016, agreeing to lease a Russian-made nuclear submarine, to buy four Russian frigates, to purchase the advanced S-400 air-defense missile system, and to set up a joint venture with a Russian firm to produce military helicopters.

India’s Defense Ministry is concerned that many of its Russian-made weapons, as well as its indigenous weapons systems, will not be compatible with Comcasa, according to The Indian Express, which also reports that defense officials are wary of US intrusions into their military communications systems.

The US has been seeking deeper relations with India for years. Delhi has bought $15 billion worth of US arms since 2008, and the US recently renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command in recognition of India’s growing role in the region.

India sees the S-400 as a way to increase its air defenses, especially amid its growing rivalry with China. But its purchase has been an issue for Washington.

Delhi has said it will go ahead with the purchase of the missile system, despite the recent Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which aims to deter foreign individuals and entities from doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

“In all our engagements with the US, we have clearly explained how India and Russia’s defence cooperation has been going on for a long time and that it is a time-tested relationship,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said early June 2018. “We have mentioned that CAATSA cannot impact the India-Russia defence cooperation.”

India reportedly wants an exception to CAATSA for its defense deals with Russia and plans to raise the issue during the 2+2 dialogue meeting.

“The S-400 deal has been on for a very long time, and we have reached the final stage of negotiations,” Sitharaman added. “That explains it.”

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has told Congress that “national security exceptions” must be made to CAATSA, which went into effect in January 2018.

Mattis said that while some countries with which the US is seeking stronger ties are looking “to turn away” from Russian-made weapons, those countries also need to keep doing business with Moscow for the time being.

“We only need to look at India, Vietnam and some others to recognize that eventually we’re going to penalize ourselves” by pursuing strict adherence to CAATSA, Mattis told senators in April 2018.

“Indonesia, for example, is in the same situation — trying to shift to more of our airplanes, our systems, but they’ve got to do something to keep their legacy military going,” Mattis added.

President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

China was the first foreign country to receive the S-400, but Turkey has also acquired it, adding to tensions with its NATO partners, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar also reportedly considering purchasing it.

Despite India’s commitment to the S-400 deal and Mattis’ emphasis on logistical considerations, the US is still cautioning India and other US allies about doing business with Russia.

US officials have indicated to India that not signing the Comcasa agreement could preclude India from getting high-end military equipment, like Predator drones, the sale of which the US approved in May 2018.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the House Armed Services Committee, told Indian broadcaster NDTV in late May 2018, that the US was disappointed with India’s deals with Moscow, particularly the S-400 purchase, which he said “threatens our ability to work interoperably in the future.”

While there would be some “flexibility” in the law for countries with traditional defense ties to Moscow and sanctions on Delhi were unlikely, Thornberry said, the “acquisition of this technology will limit, I am afraid, the degree with which the United States will feel comfortable in bringing additional technology into whatever country we are talking about.”

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