Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

A new breakaway Afghan Taliban faction that has close ties to neighboring Iran and opposes efforts aimed at ending the 18-year insurgency in Afghanistan has emerged.

The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami, or Party of Islamic Guardianship, is believed to have split from the mainstream Taliban soon after the United States and the militant group signed a landmark peace agreement in February.


The formation of the splinter group underlines the possible divisions within the Taliban, which has seen bitter leadership transitions and growing internal dissent in recent years.

It is unclear whether the new splinter group will rally broad support but its emergence could pose a new hurdle for the U.S.-Taliban deal, which has been undermined by violence, disputes, and delays.

Under that agreement, international forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by July 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Afghan government.

‘Early Stages Of Forming’

Antonio Giustozzi, a Taliban expert with the Royal United Services Institute in London, said it appears the new splinter group is based in Iran, which shares a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan and has a sizeable Afghan population.

“It’s still in the early stages of forming,” said Giustozzi, adding that the military strength and the leadership of the faction is unknown.

An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that the new splinter group has not been “officially announced.” The official said members of the group included radical Taliban commanders and members of small Taliban offshoots.

A new report by a United Nations monitoring team made public on June 1 said that “at least one group of senior Taliban” had “formed a new group in opposition to any possible peace agreement.”

The breakaway faction was “composed mainly of dissident senior Taliban members residing outside Afghanistan,” said the report, which was based on information provided by Afghan and foreign intelligence and security services, think tanks, experts, and interlocutors.

Iran Building Taliban ‘Combat Capabilities’

The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami joins a growing list of Taliban factions that support continued fighting against Afghan and international troops.

“There are several Taliban leaders, fronts, and commanders who oppose peace and are linked to Iran,” said Giustozzi.

Among them, he added, is Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban and the head of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction that is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

That is despite Haqqani’s op-ed in February in The New York Times, in which he voiced support for the peace deal with the United States.

Haqqani, who is the Taliban’s operational chief, has a million U.S. bounty on his head. He is the son of the late radical Islamist leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Al-Qaeda-linked network blamed for some of Afghanistan’s deadliest suicide attacks.

The Haqqani network has strong ties to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. But Giustozzi said the network is “getting closer” to Iran as Islamabad and Riyadh cut funding to it.

Other Iran-linked Taliban leaders who oppose peace efforts include Mullah Qayum Zakir, a powerful battlefield commander and the former military chief of the Taliban until 2014. A former inmate in the infamous U.S. prison at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, Mullah Zakir has the backing of hard-line field commanders.

Mullah Zakir leads a conservative Taliban faction along with Ibrahim Sadr, the Taliban’s former military commission chief. In October 2018, Sadr was among eight Taliban members designated global terrorists by the U.S. Treasury Department.

“Iranian officials agreed to provide Ibrahim with monetary support and individualized training in order to prevent a possible tracing back to Iran,” the Treasury Department said, adding that “Iranian trainers would help build Taliban tactical and combat capabilities.”

An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the new splinter group included the followers of Sadr.

The officials said the new group also includes members of the Feday-e Mahaz (Suicide Brigade) a small, hard-core offshoot of the mainstream Taliban.

The group is believed to be led by Haji Najibullah, a loyalist to radical Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, who was killed in a U.S.-led attack in Helmand Province in 2007.

The group, vehemently against reconciliation with Kabul, has claimed several high-profile assassinations over the years.

‘Material Support’

Iran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, when the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan. Tehran also provided help to U.S. forces as they toppled the Taliban regime. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.

Tehran has confirmed it has contacts with the Taliban but insists that it is aimed at ensuring the safety of Iranian citizens in Afghanistan and encouraging the Taliban to join peace talks.

But U.S. officials have accused Tehran of providing material support to the Taliban, an allegation it denies.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in January accused Tehran of “actively working” to undermine the peace process in Afghanistan, adding that Iran was supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network.

In a report released in November, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said Iran provides financial, political, training, and material support to the Taliban.

“Tehran does not seek to return the Taliban to power but aims to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in the event that the Taliban gains a role in a future Afghan government,” the report said, adding that Iran’s support enabled it to advance its interests in Afghanistan and attain “strategic depth” in the country.

Taliban Divided Over Peace

The emergence of the Taliban splinter group has exposed serious divisions within the militant group.

The Taliban is believed to be divided over a peace settlement.

Its political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to a peace deal but hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan demand the restoration of the Taliban regime that ruled from 1996 to 2001.

Internal Taliban divisions have intensified after the death of founder and spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.

Some Taliban commanders accused his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, of covering up Mullah Omar’s death and assuming leadership of the extremist group without proper approval.

Mullah Mansur struggled to quell the internal dissent and reconcile feuding factions, with some commanders splitting from the group and challenging his leadership.

Mullah Mansur was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.

The succession of Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, a low-key Islamic scholar who was Mullah Mansur’s deputy, was also opposed.

But experts said the Taliban has overcome the succession crises, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite a deadly war against foreign and Afghan forces.

Borhan Osman, an independent analyst and a leading expert on Islamic extremism and the militant networks operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, said divisions within the Taliban are not yet visible.

“So far the Taliban has been successful in spinning the agreement with the United States as an outright victory,” he said.

Osman said the Taliban’s unity will be tested during intra-Afghan talks, when Afghan and Taliban negotiators will discuss a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing deal.

The negotiations were scheduled to start in March but were delayed by disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners by the government and escalating militant attacks.

“The Taliban will be forced to come up with specific positions on issues and present their vision for a future Afghanistan,” said Osman.

The Taliban has been ambiguous on key issues, including women’s rights, the future distribution of power, and changes to the Afghan Constitution, reflecting the divisions within the group.

Many expect intra-Afghan negotiations to be complex and protracted, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and the sharing of power between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Taliban Offshoots

Internal rifts and rivalries have led to the emergence of various Taliban offshoots over the years, although many lack the military strength and support to pose a threat to the mainstream group.

The High Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — led by Mullah Mohammad Rasul — has been engaged in deadly clashes with fighters from the mainstream Taliban in southern and western Afghanistan since 2015, leaving scores dead on both sides.

The clashes have left the offshoot severely weakened, experts said, with many considering the group to be militarily irrelevant.

Mullah Rasul is believed to receive arms and support from Afghan intelligence in an attempt to divide the militant group.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force needs a new A-10 mechanic

The U.S. Air Force is searching for a new company to rebuild wings on the A-10 ground-attack plane after ending an arrangement with Boeing Co., officials said.


The service plans to launch a new competition for the re-winging work and award a contract sometime after Congress appropriates full-year funding for fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1, they said. (The government is currently running on a short-term funding measure known as a continuing resolution, which lasts through Feb. 8.)

During a speech in Washington, D.C., Gen. Mike Holmes, the head of Air Combat Command, touched on the contract with Boeing and the planned future deal.

“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he said. “It was a contract that was no longer cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure where we were going to go, and so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”

When contacted by Military.com for additional details, Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the Air Force at the Pentagon, confirmed the planned contract will be “a new and open competition.”

Also read: Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Boeing has been upgrading A-10 wings for the Air Force since June 2007, according to Cassaundra Bantly, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based company. The contract calls for replacing up to 242 sets of wings, and the company has so far received orders to replace 173, she said.

“Boeing stands ready with a demonstrated understanding of the technical data package, tooling, supply chain, and manufacturing techniques to offer the lowest risk option and quickest timeline for additional wings for the A-10 Warthog,” Bantly said in an email.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

She added, “The ordering period on the current contract has expired, so the U.S. Air Force is working on an acquisition strategy for more wings. Boeing would welcome a follow-on effort for additional A-10 wings.

“We’re currently in the process of delivering the remaining wings on our contract,” Bantly said.

During a briefing at the Brookings Institution, Holmes said the Air Force requested funding in the fiscal 2018 budget to continue rebuilding wings on the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog. The aircraft, popular among ground troops though a budget target for previous leaders, recently returned to Afghanistan to conduct close air support missions.

Stefanek recently told Military.com the Air Force plans to use $103 million authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy goals and spending limits for the fiscal year, to award a contract for the A-10 work, establish a new wing production line and produce four additional wings.

That work “is all that money funds,” she told Military.com last week.

Further reading: The Air Force seems to have persuaded Congress to pay up for the A-10

Once the Air Force receives the funding, the competition can be announced. Whichever defense contractor wins the contract will pay for the startup to include four sets of new wings.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
An A-10 Thunderbolt II returns to mission after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the skies of Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, May 8, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. William Greer)

However, because the wings will be considered a “new start” program, the work can’t begin under a continuing resolution — the program is dependent on the fiscal 2018 and succeeding 2019 appropriations.

“In the [FY]19 program that we’re working, we also buy more wings,” Holmes said.

With a new contract, like “all new contracts” the first set of wings will be expensive as engineers work through the design phase, Holmes said, referring to working through the production line kinks that come at the start of programs.

How many more A-10s will get new wings still remains in limbo.

Air Force officials have said the service can commit to maintaining wings for six of its nine A-10 combat squadrons through roughly 2030.

“As far as exactly how many of the 280 or so A-10s that we have that we’ll maintain forever, I’m not sure, that’ll depend on a Department of Defense decision and our work with Congress,” Holmes said.

On the exact squadron number, he clarified, “It’s not a decision that we have to make right away. It’ll depend on what we have, what we need and what’s useful on the battlefield year-to-year as we go through it.”

Of the 281 A-10s currently in the inventory, 173 have already been outfitted or are in the process of being outfitted with new wings (though one of the newly re-winged planes was destroyed in a crash), Stefanek said. That leaves 109 aircraft remaining in the inventory still slated to receive the upgrades, she said.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
US Air Force members troubleshoot an electronic error on an A-10 Thunderbolt II on April 25, 2007, on the flightline at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The service has struggled with its message on how it plans to keep the fleet flying since the aircraft’s retirement was delayed until at least 2022.

Facing financial pressure, the Air Force — driven by spending caps known as sequestration — made multiple attempts in recent years to retire the Warthog to save an estimated $4 billion over five years and to free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to replace the A-10 and legacy fighters.

Holmes added that as more F-35 amass themselves across U.S. bases, “I won’t be able to just add those on top of the [fighter] squadrons that I have.”

Related: Watch how the A-10 Warthog’s seven-barrel autocannon works

The service is looking to grow its fighter fleet to stay competitive against near-peer threats such as Russia and China. To do so, it believes it needs to increase its number of fighter squadrons from 55 to 60.

But that means it needs a variety of aircraft to sustain the fight, not just a regurgitation of old planes. Whether this means the Air Force is still weighing retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s is unclear. Holmes did not speak to specific aircraft fleets when addressing fighter requirements.

“We’ll have to make some decisions” of what kind of aircraft to move or divest, he said. Preferred basing for F-35 bases is old F-16 Fighting Falcon bases, he said. The Air Force has been moving Vipers around various bases or into new training units since the F-35 has come online.

More BRRRRRT: Here’s what’s next for the A-10

— Editor’s note: This story was updated to add comments from the Boeing spokeswoman beginning in the sixth paragraph.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at Oriana0214.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Especially now, Memorial Day remains a time to honor America’s fallen military heroes

SAN ANTONIO – May 20, 2020 – Only 55% of Americans know the true meaning of Memorial Day, with many confusing it as a salute to all veterans*. To elevate Americans’ understanding, USAA today announced a Memorial Day national tribute that encourages all Americans to honor the more than 645,000 fallen military heroes even during this time period when the traditional parades and large gatherings have been cancelled or minimized.

PoppyInMemory.com is a virtual destination hosted by USAA that pays tribute to military members who lost their lives in conflict, and showcases the meaning of the poppy flower which became a remembrance symbol inspired by the World War I poem, “In Flanders Fields.” The site offers users a variety of ways to engage, including dedicating a virtual poppy to a hero that gave their life in battle, the ability to learn about each military conflict and the losses suffered, and information on the many ways in which Americans can #HonorThroughAction this Memorial Day.


Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

“During today’s trying times, we are inspired by all the acts of heroism around us,” said Wayne Peacock, USAA CEO. “Those heroic acts serve as a reminder that Americans have always triumphed through adversity because of their willingness to sacrifice for something larger than themselves. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who have put their lives on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic. This Memorial Day, even as we remain physically separated, we ask our country to come together as they do every year and honor the memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to defend the freedoms we hold dear.”

Americans will notice that several military veterans, athletes, entertainers and ardent military supporters will join USAA to #HonorThroughAction by sharing on social media what Memorial Day means to them. On Snapchat, USAA is debuting its first ever augmented reality Snapchat Lens, a unique experience that brings USAA’s Poppy Wall of Honor to life digitally through the Snapchat app. The USAA Lens will allow Snapchatters to dedicate their own poppy to a fallen loved one by interacting with a digitized version of the Poppy Wall of Honor.

This year’s “Poppy in Memory” is a digital-only continuation of an experience that has run the past two years and featured the temporary Poppy Wall of Honor installation on the National Mall near the Korean Way Memorial in Washington, D.C.

*Source: The Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix April 9-11, 2019 among 2,025 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

Content provided courtesy of USAA.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This viral letter from Santa helps military, first responder parents

When Stephanie Lynn found out that her husband had to work on Christmas, she came up with a way for her family to still celebrate the holiday together. In a letter from Santa that’s going viral, the mom explains to kids of military and first responder families that Christmas will be happening on a different day this year.

“I know sometimes your mom or dad can’t be home on Christmas Day because they’re working — keeping us safe and healthy,” the letter, which Lynn shared to Facebook on Dec. 11, 2018, reads. “I want your whole family to have a very special Christmas morning — together.”


Santa goes on to explain that he and the elves have set up special delivery days for the kids, from Dec. 23 to 27, 2018 (Lynn and husband Brent will be celebrating with her kids on the morning of the 24th, she says). There’s also an “other” option for families who aren’t able to be together during Christmas week.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

“Always remember, Christmas isn’t about a box on the calendar, but the feeling we keep in our hearts,” Santa writes. “Thank you for being such great children, and sharing your moms and dads with us all when we need them the most.”

Lynn’s letter is receiving a lot of attention on social media, with almost 42,000 shares so far and over 7,100 likes, as parents in similar situations understand the struggle of “juggling shift work… on-call hours, deployments, TDYs, etc.”

Even NORAD, the popular Santa tracker, is spreading the word about Mr. Claus’ special deliveries, noting that while they do not report on them, those days are “no less special than the date of December 24.”

Because of the letter’s popularity, Lynn has since created other versions (the original was just for military and first responders) for medical professionals, pilots and flight crews, divorced families and just general use. “Merry Christmas- whatever day that may be for your family!” she writes.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

Explosion at Army ammunition factory with volatile history

An explosion inside an Army ammunition factory in Missouri on April 11 left one person dead and four others injured.


The Army Joint Munitions Command, which is tasked with managing military weapons and equipment, confirmed that the explosion occurred in a mixing building at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in the city of Independence, local outlet KY3 News reports.

The man killed in the explosion reportedly worked at the plant for 36 years.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. (U.S. Army photo)

Manufacturing ammunition is “dangerous work, and our employees risk their lives to protect our men and women in uniform,” said Lt. Col. Eric Dennis, commander of the plant, according to KSHB Kansas City. “This is a sacrifice they make to support our country, and I am humbled by the ultimate sacrifice this employee made today.”

An explosion injured six people at the same factory in 2011 in a construction area where the powder is loaded. All of the nearly 1,800 employees were sent home following the most recent unexpected detonation. Investigators are still trying to decipher how the explosion occurred.

Federal investigators fined the 707,000-square foot facility three times in the last decade (2008, 2011, 2012) for workplace safety violations.

The private contractor operating the plant in 2011 was initially charged $28,000 for safety issues, and paid $5,600 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which cited “serious” problems with the handling of potentially dangerous chemicals.

The property holds more than 400 buildings, including nine warehouses. The plant primarily generates and tests small-caliber ammunition.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why former NFL player decided to join the Army

A former NFL Arizona Cardinals cornerback is training for his new team — the Army.

Spc. Jimmy Legree is in his second week of Basic Combat Training; after he graduates he’ll continue training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become a communications specialist.

Serving in the military was one of his childhood goals, said Legree, who is assigned to D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery.


“I went a different route by going to college and playing football, but once that window was closed I reverted back to my Plan A, which was joining the military,” said Legree, who graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2013.

There are similarities between football and BCT, and it was an easy transition for him, he said.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

Spc. Jimmy Legree, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Okla.

(Fort Sill Tribune staff)

“You have your head coaches and that’s similar to drill sergeants who are correcting any mistakes that you make, said Legree, who played two seasons for the Cardinals.

“In football you wear a helmet and shoulder pads, and here you wear your ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) and all your equipment.”

Former Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman is an inspiration for him, said Legree.

“He is definitely inspiring — his passion for the game, and his passion for the country was motivation for me,” Legree said.

Legree’s parents were not in the military, but other extended family members and some of his friends have served in the armed forces, he said. His brethren of former teammates supported his decision to join the military.

Legree enlisted at Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Once they (recruiters) found out I played for the NFL they were all ecstatic, but definitely excited to get me enlisted, get me going.”

Legree is treated no different than the other 215 trainees in the battery, said Capt. Steven Paez, D/1-19th FA commander. The trainees came here to become professional American soldiers and everyone is treated the same.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

Spc. Jimmy Legree (with mouthpiece) practices combatives Dec. 11, 2019, with Pvt. Anthony Randolph at Fort Sill, Okla. Legree, who played two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training.

(Fort Sill Tribune staff)

Paez said he learned Legree had played in the NFL when he was serving him Thanksgiving dinner. (It’s an Army tradition where senior leaders serve junior soldiers the holiday meal.)

“I noticed he was a little older (age 28) than everybody else, and I asked him what he was doing before he got here. He said, ‘I was in the NFL.'”

Legree is not the oldest trainee in the battery, Paez said. The oldest is 34 years old; the youngest is 17.

Senior Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jason Aqui, D/1-19th FA, described Legree as a mature, humble, positive, and quiet trainee.

“I’ve definitely noticed that he brings the platoon together to accomplish its tasks,” Aqui said. He was also one of the more physically fit trainees coming into BCT.

Drill sergeants will take advantage of Legree’s maturity and put him into leadership positions as the 10-week BCT progresses, Aqui said.

The battery will graduate Feb. 21, 2019, and Legree said he is already thinking of a long military career.

Military Life

4 of the best things about being stationed at Camp Pendleton

Twentynine Palms, Camp Lejeune, and Quantico are just a few of the Marine Corps bases that house those who’ve earned the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. Although the various duty stations each offer their own benefits, none compare to the awesomeness that is Camp Pendleton.

In 1942, the government purchased land in Southern California from a private owner for $4,239,062. The property was soon named in honor of Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton for his outstanding service, thus creating Camp Pendleton. Some might tell you there are downsides to be stationed there, but, in general, it’s considered the best. Here’s why.


Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

The Marine Corps Exchange located on the main side of the base. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, it’s not Marine Corps-quality.

It has everything you need

Shopping, recreation centers, and schools are just a few amenities that make the historic property a full-scale, working city. The Camp has been designed and developed to fulfill the every need of those stationed within the gates.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

There’re so many activities

The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and Universal Studios are just a few of the places you can take your family to visit on a sunny afternoon. The drives will take you typically take around an hour or so, depending on traffic, but since you live so close, you don’t have to spend money on a hotel room — which makes sh*t cheaper.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

Visit Camp Pendleton today and notice there’s not a cloud in f*cking skies!

(Photo by Marine Sgt. April L. Price)

That SoCal weather

Do you like doing PT in the pouring rain? Well, if you do, Camp Pendleton isn’t the place for you. According to U.S. Climate data, Camp Pendleton receives an average of 13.3 inches of rain per year. Compare that to the national average of 32.25 inches.

Camp Pendleton is starting to sound pretty impressive, isn’t it?

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

Members of the Western Army Infantry Regiment, Japan Ground Self Defense Force, and Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit play a game of football on the Del Mar Beach at the conclusion of Exercise Iron Fist 2013

(Photo by Sgt. Christopher O’Quin)

It has its own beach

The beach in Del Mar has places where you can camp or rent small cottages for a few days. These private areas can get you close to the ocean enough to hear waves crash onto the shoreline while keeping you near enough to the base to hear the Marines call out their famous and well-rehearsed cadences as they run by.

It’s a perfect location.

Military Life

Why death iconography is a beloved part of military culture

Take a look at the naming convention of any combat arms battalion. Chances are that alpha company is “Assassins,” bravo company is “Barbarians,” and, because there’s no clever, hardcore, historical fighter that starts with ‘C,’ charlie company will be “Reapers” or something.


Toss in the occasional Spartans, outlaws, rebels, anarchists, dragons, zombies, gladiators, and make sure to leave some clever pun for headquarters (something like “Troubleshooters” — get it? It’s an IT thing and it’s because they shoot trouble. Hey, don’t you roll your eyes at me, I didn’t make it up…).

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
Let’s not forget everyone who uses The Punisher’s skull on everything…
(Courtesy Photo)

Recently, the Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, issued a directive to ban any and all “death symbology and iconography” from the Australian Army, effective immediately. This includes all of the above-mentioned names and forbids the use of symbols like skulls and weapons in logos (which, technically, should include the most Australian special operations unit, the 1st Commando Regiment, whose logo pictures a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife stabbing a boomerang. Just sayin’).

Lieutenant General Angus Campbell said,

“Such symbology… is always ill-considered and implicitly encourages the inculcation of an arrogant hubris and general disregard for the most serious responsibility of our profession — the legitimate and discriminate taking of life.”

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
Because infantrymen from a country where everything can kill you shouldn’t be associated with things that can kill you.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

With the utmost respect towards the Australian Chief of Army, hardcore names and symbols don’t take away from the seriousness of combat. It never has and never will. It boosts the morale of our troops while demoralizing the enemy. If even a single life of any American, NATO, ANZAC, and any other allied troop is saved by the psychological impact of these symbols, then repeatedly telling troops they’re hardened killers is worth it.

Death iconography bands the troops together because it’s a fun symbol to be associated with. It’s powerful. It hypes them up for the ultimate reality — some of them will fight in combat and see real consequences. The symbols serve as warnings to the enemy that these people are not to be messed with.

MIGHTY GAMING

5 of the best Call of Duty games from the past decade

Call of Duty has become a staple of military gamers. Both casual and hardcore gamers can enjoy picking up a controller and going a few rounds with their buddies in the barracks while waiting for their command to tell them it’s time to clean weapons at the armory or reorganize that connex container. While it’s a great pastime, there are plenty of titles to choose from, and not all of them are as good as the others.

Since the first release in 2003, Call of Duty has been the title of around 15 video games with the most recent being Black Ops 4, and there is another one on the way later this year. While a lot of people enjoy the multiplayer in the game, the franchise has also done a great job with storytelling in several of its installments.

It’s tough to choose from the 15 title roster, so we’re going to look at titles from the past decade that gave us a great story to play:


Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

That last mission is one of the best.

(Activision)

World at War

Okay, okay, this one was released in November of 2008 so not technically from the last decade, but it’s January 2019 so deal with it. This game needs to be on this list. The reason for this is that World at War featured some more mature thematic elements, showing World War II as a tragic and horrific event and showing that there’s a lot of moral gray areas.

The game also gave you control of a Russian character to see their side of the war, as well as giving birth to the Black Ops series.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

You fight off a Russian invasion of the United States.

(Activision)

Modern Warfare 2

While the first Modern Warfare installment was great, its sequel built on the strengths of its predecessor and made an even better game. This game’s story felt more like a military-action thriller, giving you a mystery to uncover, while still bringing realistic, war-related thematic elements and even serving up some controversy as a side dish.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

Sgt. Woods is one of the best characters in the entire series.

(Activision)

Black Ops

The first game in the series to start in Vietnam, going into the Cold War, this game seriously delivered on some awesome story. This game also featured some of the best three-dimensional characters in the franchise and gave us a taste of Vietnam, something we want more of.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

This series is a lot of fun.

(Activision)

Black Ops II

The third installment of the series and definitely worth mentioning, Black Ops II was the first in the line-up of futuristic warfare games. Building off the story of the previous installments of the Black Ops series, this story gave you some insight into the ripple effect of one’s actions, showing how the previous two story-lines bled into the future.

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This also led to the creation of the best fictional unit for stolen valor.

(Activision)

Ghosts

Not loved by many but there are some of us who loved the story and the concept. This game really focuses on what brotherhood means as it follows two literal brothers as they fight to stop an organization known as the “Federation of the Americas” and their father’s former teammate.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel just asked for their spy back

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked President Donald Trump to allow Jonathan Pollard — a convicted spy — to immigrate to Israel, according to Channel 2 news.


Pollard was released in November 2015 after serving 30 years of a life term in a US prison. During his time in prison, Israeli officials repeatedly sought to secure his release.

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Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The former Navy intelligence officer pleaded guilty to spying for Israel from June 1984 until his arrest in November 1985.

Also Read: The most damaging spy in US history just walked free

Israel may be trying to capitalize on goodwill projects that have recently gone into effect to benefit the Palestinians.

Pollard’s parole terms, according to the Times of Israel, “require him to stay in his New York home from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., to submit any computer he uses for inspection, and to wear a GPS monitoring device at all times.”

Netanyahu reportedly told the Trump administration that Pollard would continue to be subject to the same restrictions if he was allowed to immigrate to Israel.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What IBM’s Watson is doing in the Army’s motor pool

The Army recently drove tactical trucks with sensors, electronics, and other applications powered by commercially-developed artificial intelligence technology — such as IBM’s Watson — as a way to take new steps in more quickly predicting and identifying mechanical failures of great relevance to combat operations.


Described by participants as a “bake-off,” an Army-industry assessment incorporated attempts to use AI and real-time data analytics for newer, fast-evolving applications of conditioned-based maintenance technology.

Also read: These 6 military vehicles would make awesome Zords

Advanced computer algorithms, enhanced in some instances through machine learning, enable systems, such as Watson, to instantly draw upon vast volumes of historical data as a way to expedite analysis of key mechanical indicators. Real-time analytics, drawing upon documented pools of established data through computer automation, can integrate otherwise disconnected sensors and other onboard vehicle systems.

“We identified some of the challenges in how you harmonize sensor data that is delivered from different solutions. Kevin Aven, partner and co-account lead, Army and Marine Corps, IBM Global Business Services, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

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This cargo truck, the M1083A1P2, represents today’s current fleet of medium tactical vehicles. (Photo by U.S. Army)

Watson, for example, can take unstructured information from maintenance manuals, reports, safety materials, vehicle history information, and other vehicle technologies and use AI to analyze data and draw informed conclusions of great significance to military operators, Aven explained.

When created, IBM stated that “more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses,” according to IBM Systems and Technology.

Related: This is why the Army is replacing the Hummer

Faster diagnostics, of course, enable vehicle operators to anticipate when various failures, such as engine or transmission challenges, may happen in advance of a potentially disruptive battlefield event. Alongside an unmistakable operational benefit, faster conditioned-based maintenance activity also greatly streamlines the logistics train, optimizes repairs, and reduces costs for the Army.

Army wheeled tactical vehicles, which include things like the family of medium tactical vehicles and emerging Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, are moving towards using more automation and AI to gather, organize, and analyze sensor data and key technical indicators from onboard systems.

“We identified Army data challenges, delivered new sensors – and used different approaches – invariably bringing on different ways that data can be delivered to the Army,” Aven added.

Faster computer processing brings substantial advantages to Army vehicles which increasingly rely upon networked electronics, sensors, and C4ISR systems.

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Multiple vendors took part in the industry “bake-off” event, which included participation from the Army Research Laboratory (ARL); the ARL is among a number of Army and DoD entities now accelerating development and integration of AI into a wide range of military technologies.

“We know there is going to be unmanned systems for the future, and we want to look at unmanned systems and working with teams of manned systems. This involves AI-enabled machine learning in high priority areas we know are going to be long term as well as near term applications,” Karl Kappra, Chief of the Office of Strategy Mangement for the Army Research Lab, told Warrior Maven in an interview. “We also know we are going to be operating in complex environments, including electromagnetic and cyber areas.”

Technical gains in the area of AI and autonomy are arriving at lightning speed, offering faster, more efficient technical functions across a wide range of platforms. Years ago, the Army began experimenting with “leader-follower” algorithms designed to program an unmanned tactical vehicle to follow a manned vehicle, mirroring its movements.

More: Pentagon will aggressively implement new Electronic Warfare strategy

Autonomous or semi-autonomous navigation, quite naturally, brings a range of combat advantages. A truck able to drive itself can, among other things, free up vehicle operators for other high-priority combat tasks.

AI-enabled CBM can function through a variety of methods; sensor information can be gathered, organized, and then subsequently downloaded or wirelessly transmitted using cloud technology.

IBM’s Watson also drew upon this technology when contributing to an Army Stryker “proof-of-principle” exercise last year wherein the service used cloud computing, AI and real-time analytics to perform Conditioned Based Maintenance functions.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Six firms are scrambling to make the Army’s new SAW

Textron is gambling that its 14 years of work on case-telescoped weapons research will satisfy the U.S. Army‘s ambitious requirements for an M249 squad automatic weapon replacement.

The service recently awarded Textron and five other gunmakers a contract to build prototype weapons for its Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle program.

The contract awards are the result of a Prototype Opportunity Notice the Army released in March 2018 in an effort to develop a futuristic replacement for the three-decade-old M249. The Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, or NGSAR, is one of the Army’s primary efforts under its soldier lethality modernization priority.


“The NGSAR will address operational needs identified in various capability-based assessments and numerous after action reports,” according to the PON solicitation document.

“It will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a rifle, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality,” the document continues. “The weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition, improving soldier mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy.”

Wayne Prender, vice president of Applied Technologies Advanced Programs at Textron Systems, talked to Military.com about his firm’s approach to the prototype effort.

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Sgt. Carl Hawthorne of the 273rd Military Police Company (Rear Detachment), District of Columbia National Guard, fires tracer rounds from an M249 machine gun during crew-served weapon night fire training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., May 5, 2012.

(Photo by 1st Lt. Miranda Summers Lowe)

“We are leveraging and building upon our lineage of lightweight squad weapon technologies that we have been working on over the last 14 years,” he said.

Textron was notified in late June 2018 of the contract award to deliver one prototype weapon, one fire control system, and 2,000 rounds of ammunition within 12 months, Prender said.

Military.com has asked the Army to identify the other five companies that were awarded contracts, but the service did not have an answer by press time.

The Army intends to evaluate the prototypes in an attempt to refine the requirements for the NGSAR.

“It was disclosed at industry day: The result of this prototype opportunity will be yet another full and open competition,” Prender said.

The Army wants the prototype weapons — including sling, bipod and suppressor — to weigh no more than 12 pounds and have a maximum length of 35 inches, according to the PON document.

The weapon must have a sustained rate of fire of 60 rounds per minute for 15 minutes without requiring a barrel change, the document states.

Under the weapon controllability requirement, a soldier “firing standing with optic at a 50-meter E-Type silhouette given 3 to 5 round burst must be able to engage in 2-4 seconds placing two rounds 70 percent of the time on target,” it adds.

The Army also wants ammunition to weigh 20 percent less than the current brass-cased ammo, the document states.

This is where Textron has invested a large amount of research into its case-telescoped ammunition technology. The futuristic cartridges — featuring a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell — offer significant weight reductions compared to conventional ammo.

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Linked 5.56mm ammunition stands upright on a table behind the firing line as soldiers of the 23rd Engineer Company, 6th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Engineer Brigade, U.S. Army Alaska, train with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

Textron has developed light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program, an effort the Army has invested millions of research dollars into over the last decade.

In 2017, the company unveiled its new Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, chambered for 6.5mm.

Despite Textron’s experience in this arena, Prender admits it will not be easy to deliver what the Army wants.

“They have some pretty aggressive goals with respect to lethality and weight and size and some other performance characteristics,” he said. “All of those things individually may be relatively easy but, when you start stacking them all together, that is really where it becomes complex and you need a new design.”

Prender would not give specifics about the prototype Textron is submitting, but said “we are taking lessons from all of our case-telescoped projects to include the 5.56mm, 7.62mm and the intermediate caliber — all that information is informing this new design.”

“There is not an easy button here. Certainly, we think our case-telescoped solution is an ideal one to meet these requirements … but there is development that is necessary over and above what we have done to date,” he added.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

We stole these memes from sergeant major’s secret stash. Keep them hidden.


1. Dreams do come true (via Air Force Nation).

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Of course, that feeling wears off. Unlike your contract.

2. Secret Squirrel finally gets his origin movie:

(via Devil Dog Nation)

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Spoiler: He’s joining for a girl but loses her to Jody.

SEE ALSO: This is what happens when a hero Army veteran tries to save a CVS

3. Yeah, you’re going to have to clean that a few more times (via The Salty Soldier).

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
Also, the armorer is about to leave for the next 8 hours for mandatory training.

4. Different motivations result in different standards:

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
We’re sure it all tastes the same.

5. Those poor kids (via Team Non-Rec).

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
The Air Force didn’t even bring them a heavy caliber.

6. Getting the coolest jump wings sometimes means going to extremes …

(via Do You Even Jump?)

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
… like, you know, treason

7. Spiderman can complain all he wants (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
His web-slinging antics are the subject of this briefing is about that lawdy, dawdy everybody has to attend.

8. Chief just has a little different tone depending on the audience (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
Also, the knife is different. And the blood.

9. We still need your Brrrrrt, you beautiful beast.

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
We will call. Trust us, we will call.

10. “Shouldn’t have met 1SG’s eyes, dude.”

(via Pop Smoke)

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

11. “Oh, you’ve done hours of digital training?”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal

12. The Air Force PT program leaves something to be desired:

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
But hey, they’re limber.

13. Seriously, start a write-in campaign:

(via Decelerate Your Life)

Iranian links: New Taliban splinter group emerges that opposes U.S. Peace Deal
One hero we can all get behind — with fixed bayonets.

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