Here's the latest from the Taliban-US-Afghanistan peace talks - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the latest from the Taliban-US-Afghanistan peace talks

The Taliban has reportedly made a major concession to the US during their peace talks in Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal.

As US diplomatic officials and leaders of the insurgent group discuss the end of the 17-year war in Afghanistan, one source familiar with the talks told the Journal that the Taliban has agreed to oppose “any attempts by militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage terrorist attacks abroad.”


The concessions, if finalized, would seem to support an eventual US withdrawal on the grounds that Afghanistan, even under the Taliban, would not become a safe haven for terrorists to train and launch attacks outside the country. The Taliban continues to use brutal tactics against civilians and coalition forces, including suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices to gain control of more of the country against the faltering government.

US negotiators, now in their fourth day of talks in Doha, Qatar, have sought assurance that the Taliban would not support militant groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Here’s the latest from the Taliban-US-Afghanistan peace talks

During a Sensitive Site Exploitation mission, a U.S. Navy Seal talks to local Afghani villagers about the movements of Al Qaida and Taliban, Jan. 24, 2002.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Tim Turner)

Sources familiar with the talks have told the Journal that that was previously a promise the Taliban was not willing to make due to the group’s relationship with al-Qaeda.

The group formerly led by Osama bin Laden formed in Pakistan but was able to establish roots in Afghanistan in the 90s. After the terror attacks on 9/11, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar refused to acknowledge Bin Laden’s role in the attacks or cooperate with US authorities, according to the Journal.

Although he would later acknowledge al-Qaeda’s responsibility, Taliban militants, who are still carrying out attacks on Afghan forces and coalition partners, hold Bin Laden in high regard. Because of this, leaders of the insurgency have previously refused to take steps to oppose al-Qaeda, sources told the Journal.

Their stance appears to have softened, as Taliban leadership has now reportedly agreed to oppose militant groups in Afghanistan; sources also told the Journal the leaders are no longer demanding an immediate and complete withdrawal of US forces, which American officials have argued might lead to civil war.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 Facts about Dwight Eisenhower’s time at West Point

Earlier this month, cadets arrived at West Point for “R day” or reception day, though social distancing and mask policy prompted by COVID-19 made this tradition look different than times past. Dwight Eisenhower, the school’s most famous alum, went through his own R-day in 1911. Even though the general and, later, president, will forever be associated with the Academy, a closer review of the history shows Eisenhower and West Point weren’t a perfect match. Here are five facts about Dwight Eisenhower’s time at West Point you might not know.


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(US Army)

1. West Point wasn’t Eisenhower’s first choice.

It’s true. The academy that features a statue of Eisenhower, a leadership development program named for him and a theatre named after him, wasn’t Eisenhower’s first choice. Eisenhower initially preferred the Naval Academy. That makes sense because when Eisenhower was evaluating schools in 1910-1911, the U.S. demonstrated its military power through the Navy. Alas, Eisenhower, 20 at the time of his application, was too old for the Naval Academy, so he gave West Point a try. After some effort, Eisenhower was accepted, and he arrived at West Point on July 14, 1911.

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2. Eisenhower was forced to join the “awkward squad” in his first weeks at West Point.

When students arrive at West Point, they are called plebes and hazing quickly begins. Upperclassmen at West Point initiate new students into the Army culture through rigorous physical and emotional tests known as the “beast barracks,” which involve a great deal of drilling. Having grown up in a rough-and-tumble farming town in Kansas, Eisenhower had no problem with the physical end of the ordeal. But he just could not catch onto the marching tempo and was forced to join similarly challenged plebes in the “awkward squad” until he could get the timing right.

3. Eisenhower didn’t like the hazing at West Point. 

Eisenhower didn’t enjoy the beast barracks and did all he could to undermine the system of hazing. Years later he described the cadet instructors as “obnoxious and pestiferous.” Later in his plebe year, Eisenhower and a fellow cadet broke a minor rule. As punishment, an upperclassman ordered them to report in “full-dress coat.” Eisenhower took the order literally and showed up sans pants, an act of defiance that drove his tormenter mad. Years later Eisenhower savored how that upperclassman let out “the cry of a cougar.” Eisenhower recalled later in life that when he was an upperclassman, he shamed a cadet over a job the young man had held. After that incident, Eisenhower resolved to no longer harass plebes. Eisenhower was no bully.

4. Eisenhower broke the rules at West Point — a lot. 

Eisenhower constantly broke the rules and regulations at West Point. The list of his demerits runs nearly 10 pages. Biographer Carlo D’Este writes that Eisenhower “seemed to relish every opportunity to outwit an instructor or upperclassman.” Eisenhower’s willful disregard for the rules pertaining to dancing, for example, brought him to the attention of the commandant. Eisenhower ignored an order not to, in his words, “whirl” a professor’s daughter during a dance. His willfulness led the commandant to demote him, confine him to barracks and order him to walk 22 laps.

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(Wikimedia Commons)

5. Eisenhower was almost denied a commission at the end of his schooling at West Point.

Academics at West Point in the early 20th century did not encourage independent thinking. Instead, lessons involved what Michael E. Haskew called “mind-numbing rote memorization.” That approach led Eisenhower to devote his energies to football, a sport he had played in high school. Two weeks after competing against the legendary, Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe, Eisenhower suffered a major knee injury. That injury and others almost led an Army doctor to recommend that the future general be allowed to graduate but not receive a commission.

Eisenhower said he was fine with that and thought about a life in Argentina. When the doctor suggested he be commissioned in the Coast Artillery, Eisenhower objected, so West Point officials eventually settled on a commission in the infantry. Eisenhower graduated in 1915 and was deployed to the Mexican border, one of the least sought-after deployments in that era. In his first few years, Eisenhower’s requests to see combat in World War I were repeatedly denied, and he was pressured to coach football. Only through dogged persistence was he able to build a career for himself outside the confines of stateside training.

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The class that graduated in 1915 would be referred to as the “Class the Stars Fell On.” (Wikimedia Commons)

Ultimately, the best parts of college for Eisenhower were the lessons he learned about leadership and the friends he made among his classmates. Those classmates, collectively known as the “class the stars fell on,” eventually rose high in the ranks and formed a cadre of allies Eisenhower would call upon later. Eisenhower sharpened his skills as a leader and realized that humiliating people did not motivate them. The obligations of service – duty, honor, country – so ingrained over those West Point years inspired Eisenhower throughout his military career, highlighted by his command of the D-Day invasion, and a political career that concluded with two terms as President of the United States.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force flew this awesome A-10 over Normandy this D-Day

The Michigan Air National Guard’s 107th Fighter Squadron flew a specially painted A-10C Warthog over the beaches of Normandy on June 5, 2018, to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

D-Day is one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history, with 156,000 allied troops landing on five beaches and about 13,000 paratroopers dropping behind German lines.

And the 107th, which took part in the invasion, flew a pair of A-10s, multiple C-130 Hercules and even dropped paratroopers over the beaches of Normandy to commemorate the historical event.

It was the first time the 107th was assigned a mission in France since World War II.

Check out the photos below:


Here’s the specially painted A-10 Warthog, which was actually painted in 2017, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 107th squadron.

Here's the specially painted A-10 Warthog, which was actually painted last year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 107th squadron.


Source: The Aviationist

The paint job was inspired by the 107th’s P-51 Mustangs, which took part in the D-Day invasion.

The paint job was inspired by the 107th's P-51 Mustangs, which took part in the D-Day invasion.

Here’s a close-up. The emblem on the side is for the 107th’s nickname, the Red Devils.

Here's a close-up. The emblem on the side is for the 107th's nickname, the Red Devils.


Source: The Aviationist

And it flew with another A-10 over Normandy on June 5, 2018.

And it flew with another A-10 over Normandy on Tuesday.

Here’s a close-up of the emblem.

Here's a close-up of the emblem.

The two A-10s flew with multiple C-130s over Normandy as well.

The two A-10s flew with multiple C-130s over Normandy as well.

The C-130s even dropped paratroopers in commemoration of the D-Day anniversary.

The C-130s even dropped paratroopers in commemoration of the D-Day anniversary.

During World War II, the 107th operated L-4, L-5, A-20 and Spitfire aircraft, and was later fielded with F-6As, the reconnaissance version of the P-51 Mustang.

During World War II, the 107th operated L-4, L-5, A-20 and Spitfire aircraft, and was later fielded with F-6As, the reconnaissance version of the P-51 Mustang.


Source: US Air Force

In the lead-up to D-Day, the 107th flew 384 missions between December 1943 and June 1944 to photographically map the French coast before the invasion.

In the lead-up to D-Day, the 107th flew 384 missions between December 1943 and June 1944 to photographically map the French coast before the invasion.

The 107th lost one aircraft during the recon mission. Lt. Donald E. Colton was killed in action near Roven, France, on May 9.

Source: US Air Force, Michigan Veterans Affairs

The 107th flew more than 1,800 after May 1944, participated in four campaigns after Normandy, and even received the Presidential Unit Citation.

The 107th flew more than 1,800 after May 1944, participated in four campaigns after Normandy, and even received the Presidential Unit Citation.


Source: US Air Force, Michigan Veterans Affairs

US Air National Guard photos

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army wants missile to kill enemy targets beyond 900 miles

U.S. Army modernization officials want to field a new mid-range missile that can kill targets at triple the distance of the 500-kilometer-range Precision Strike Missile (PrSM). For context, that’s enough range to fire from Washington, D.C. and hit Florida.

The new surface-to-surface missile that the Army wants — which would be capable of operating between 500 kilometers to 1,500 kilometers, or 310 to 930 miles — could be positioned in strategic areas in the Pacific island chains to deter China, Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team (LRPF CFT), said in a recent service news release.


“What a dilemma that would create for our adversary,” Rafferty said. “How we would change the calculus in a second, if we could deliver this kind of capability out there.”

Modernization officials hope to introduce the new mid-range missile sometime in 2023, according to the release. The effort is currently a research project by the officials at the LRPF CFT, Field Artillery School, Fires Capability Development Integration Directorate, and Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.

The long-range precision fires effort is the Army’s top modernization priority and the focus of several strategic-range weapons programs.

The PrSM recently completed a successful April 30 test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The next phase of testing will include four shots, one to be fired out into the Pacific Ocean from the California coastline.

“We’ll go to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and we’ll test it out into the ocean and see how far it will go,” Rafferty said in the release.

If successful, the PrSM will have a maximum range of 500 kilometers, or 310 miles, compared to 300-kilometer, or 186-mile, range of the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) it will begin replacing in 2023.

The Army is also working with the Navy to develop and field a hypersonic missile battery by 2023. The joint-service effort successfully tested a common hypersonic glide vehicle across the Pacific in March. An Army unit is slated to start training on the system without the live rounds next year, according to the release.

The Pentagon is under pressure to develop hypersonic and other long-range weapons because adversaries such as Russia and China are pursuing similar weapons. In early October, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the successful test launch of the new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile.

In 2019, Putin had said the Zircon would be capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of 1,000 kilometers, or 620 miles.

The Army is also working on a strategic long-range cannon — capable of shooting out to 1,000 kilometers, or 620 miles — to offset the cost of expensive hypersonic missiles.

But the project is not without controversy, Rafferty said in the release, adding its feasibility is being examined by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

“We’re going to get a fair evaluation,” he said. “They appreciate the operation and utility in our approach of a volume of fire with more affordable projectiles.”

Even if the system is not expected to be fielded soon, Rafferty said that science and technology projects such as strategic long-range cannon will ultimately help with deterrence.

“It’s not just moving units around and fielding systems,” he said in the release. “It’s also where our research and development is and where our science and technology investment is. So, we’re having an effect with our approach to this.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 CONUS installations that feel like a vacation

Seeing the world is just one of the many reasons for joining the military. But what if dreamy vacation living was possible within the continental borders? Taking advantage of what is possible within a day’s drive is one way to save thousands on airfare and explore more of what our country has to offer.


Strategize your next PCS choice with these staycation worthy locations. From the beaches to the mountains, and east to west, settling into ‘home’ at any one of these installations is easy to do.

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Mountain Home AFB, Idaho (Air Force)

Nestled at the foot of the Sawtooth Range, and within a half day’s drive to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, Mountain Home AFB is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. There’s world-class skiing at Sun Valley in the winter with plenty of roadside accessible hot springs along the way. Idaho isn’t on your radar because she’s everyone’s best-kept secret.

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NAS Whidbey Island, Washington (Navy)

Craggy coastlines, tide pools teeming with sea life, and million-dollar views are how to describe this installation just over an hour north of Seattle. The barrier islands of the Puget Sound are home to seductively slow island life, away from traffic, and a ferry away from Olympic National Park or the San Juan Islands. Watch both whales and submarines surface from one of the dozens of state parks by the fire and on the beach.

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Fort Carson, Colorado (Army)

Located just outside the Garden of the Gods, this Army Installation is another ruggedly beautiful spot to call home. The state exudes adventure in all terrain types, like sand dunes, snow-capped peaks and breathtaking arch formations. Colorado experiences all four seasons, providing a little something for every preference. Your PT test is sure to stay on point during the winter season with infamous ski resorts like Breckenridge and Telluride to choose from.

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Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia (Air Force and Army)

What we love about JBLE is the easy accessibility to all the major east coast metropolitan cities. Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City are all a connected train ride away. National history, monuments and bustling nightlife make life on this coastline more than noteworthy. In addition to city life, Virginia is home to Shenandoah National Park and fall foliage, which draws crowds year-round. Tapping into history or the political pulse of the country are all possible here.

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MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina (Marines)

Life in the low country is slow and sweet. The tidewater region is situated between Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, two historic southern towns rich with seafood and charm. A subtropical climate provides beach access year-round, with plenty of sunshine to boost any mood. Another point to love is the affordability of the region compared to other, more high-cost stations, putting more vacation dollars into your pocket.

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Sector Key West, Florida (Coast Guard)

The southernmost point in the continental U.S. is as beautiful as you can imagine. Dolphins, coral reefs and sailboats are all at your doorstep, which is likely oceanfront. Lesser known, yet completely noteworthy interests like the Hemingway Home and Dry Tortugas National Park are also found here. Key West also boasts several shipwrecks to explore in turquoise waters, making a dive certification a card you need in your wallet.

It’s all about location, and there’s plenty to choose from during your military career. Europe and Hawaii are not the only prime spots to be had, and this list is proof. Experiencing life in varied climates and states provides a perspective unlike any other when the time comes to settle down after service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what National Guard units across the country will be doing on Election Day

From New Jersey to Washington state, National Guard members across the country are gearing up for election-related missions — ranging from cybersecurity support to responding to civil unrest — in an already record-breaking year for state activations.

Governors have continued to activate National Guard troops in the final days leading up to the presidential election, which has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. Soldiers and airmen are supporting polling stations, leading cybersecurity missions, and even preparing for civil disturbances in the wake of what could prove to be a contentious election in which results might not be known for weeks.

As of Friday, 10 states were actively planning for Guard members to handle election-related missions and 15 were indicating they plan to do so. Those missions include working polling stations and cybersecurity missions.

No Uniforms, No Weapons

Armed troops won’t be guarding polling places on Tuesday.

Leaders in several states said the hundreds of Guard members activated by their governors will be wearing civilian clothes and won’t be carrying weapons. That’s true in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Nebraska, officials from those states say.

“Our service members are placed on state active duty, and they show up in civilian clothes to the polling stations, so any member of the community that is coming into a polling station isn’t going to be able to recognize that they are in the Guard,” said Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, assistant adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard. “They are going to look like anyone else from the community.”

Several hundred Guard members assisted at polling places during the primaries, Military.com reported this summer. They were under strict orders to stay out of the actual voting process, filling gaps created during the pandemic since older people who tend to volunteer at polls were staying home to prevent contracting COVID-19.

In New Jersey, one of the states where Guard members assisted during the primaries, troops are helping process mail-in ballots. The country has seen a huge uptick in mail-in ballots during the pandemic. About 240 New Jersey National Guard soldiers and airmen are already supporting 18 counties’ board of elections, Lt. Col. Barbara Brown, a Guard spokeswoman there, said.

“This support is an extension of the Guard’s active role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey,” she said. “The [New Jersey National Guard] is fully capable and prepared for this mission.”

Guard members in other states, such as Washington and Delaware, are taking on cybersecurity missions. U.S. intelligence officials warned earlier this month that Iran and Russia obtained voter registration information, and were already attempting to interfere in the election.

The National Guard has 59 cyber support units, Wayne Hall, a National Guard Bureau spokesman, said.

“Each state is different and has the advantage of tailoring its National Guard forces to their specific requirements to support elections, especially the states with cyber units,” he said. “We consider this flexibility one of the National Guard’s primary strengths.”

The National Guard for Washington State has been working with state officials since the 2018 midterm elections, performing vulnerability assessments on firewalls and ensuring that software is up to date, Air Force Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, assistant adjutant general for the Washington Guard, said this week.

“One of the unique things about the Guard is we dip into the talent that we’ve got in the civilian areas so having companies like Microsoft and Amazon … allows us to draw those folks into the Guard that have got cutting edge experience working in a tech company is able to pair that with the military training they have,” Welsh said. “And then when we have issues like we are having with our election system, we’ve got some really, really talented and qualified folks to do that work.”

Bracing for Conflict

Guard members say they’re not anticipating trouble at the polls, but if a problem breaks out, they say troops working on election day would respond the same way a civilian would.

“In that case it’s a 911 event to call in local law enforcement to handle any violence or any threats of violence,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, adjutant general for the Nebraska National Guard, said.

If violent protests erupt after the election, Guard officials said it will be up to state leaders to coordinate with law enforcement units for potential National Guard response.

“I think the chief executives of each state are already thinking about these kinds of issues and they would be the focal point for any use of the National Guard for any civil unrest or disturbance following the election,” Bohac said.

After a long and often contentious campaign though, some National Guard members have for months been preparing to respond. In Tennessee, the Guard has a contingency plan to support the state highway patrol, Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, the Tennessee National Guard’s adjutant general, said.

“That has been a pretty established drill we have been executing since May and we do have a number of contingency plans,” he said. “We do talk with them more frequently; we have had a number of planning meetings just so we have a multitude of options that might be available.”

Guard personnel would primarily be tasked with providing protection for state and local facilities to free up the highway patrol to conduct law enforcement activities, Holmes added.

“We know our mission,” he said. “We have had to deploy for civil unrest, so we have a very good working relationship with them.”

In New Jersey, the Guard has a reaction force to assist the state for contingency responses when requested by proper authorities, Brown said.

“Our 8,500-member force remains committed to responding to our state and its citizens during times of need,” she said. “We live, work and raise families in these communities and will stay during this critical time for as long as we are needed.”

For now, though, leaders say they’re focused on ensuring troops aren’t burned out after a busy year for the National Guard.

“Our state leadership worries about our Guardsmen being overworked during our state call ups, but they work with our soldiers and airmen to ensure they are getting the rest they need and they are rotated out so they can take leave,” Joseph Siemandel, director of public affairs for the Washington National Guard, said.

The state activations follow National Guard missions for the pandemic, wildfires, border missions and protests across the country. Missions inside the U.S. peaked for the Guard in June, when more than 86,000 of its soldiers were engaged in domestic missions.

The National Guard provided 8.4 million days of support for domestic operations in fiscal 2020, which ended on Sept. 30.

“Due to all the peaks we’ve had, there’s no way that we would have been close to that in any previous year,” Hall said.

The missions haven’t come without controversy though, particularly after tens of thousands of Guard members were called on to support law enforcement personnel in responding to protests in dozens of states following the May death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody.

As Americans brace for the possibility of more unrest, National Guard leaders say they’ve reinforced law enforcement earlier this year and are prepared to do so again.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US withdraws from Cold War nuclear arms pact with Russia

The US is officially withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia due to alleged violations of the 1987 pact by Moscow, the Trump administration said Feb. 1, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the withdrawal after a series of tense conversations with the Russians failed to save the agreement, which dates from the closing years of the Cold War.


“Countries must be held accountable when they break the rules,” Pompeo said at the Department of State. “Russia has jeopardized the United States’ security interests. We can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it.”

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

In a statement, the White House said that Russia has, for too long, “violated the [INF Treaty] with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.”

The weapon at the heart of the dispute is the Novator 9M729, which NATO refers to as SSC-8. The US argues that the missile, which US intelligence believes has been deployed to hold most of Europe at risk, violates the range restrictions of the INF Treaty.

“These new missiles are hard to detect, they are mobile, they are nuclear capable,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said recently. “They can reach European cities and they reduce the warning time.”

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

In a statement on the decision to withdraw, NATO allies said they “fully support” the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw.

“The United States has fully adhered to the INF Treaty for more than 30 years, but we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions,” the White House said in its statement, “We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other.”

In the same statement, President Donald Trump said the US will “move forward with developing our own military response” to alleged violations of the pact by Russia. Moscow has insisted it will take steps to counter whatever Washington pursues, signaling the start of a new arms race.

While the administration remains focused on Russia rhetorically, the move is believed to be a response to China’s growing arsenal of intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

One example is the DF-26, which China claims could be used to sink a US aircraft carrier or strike US bases in the Pacific.

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

popular

Tom Cruise ‘Deepfake’ videos fortell the future of warfare

The Greek tragedian Aeschylus famously wrote: “In war, truth is the first casualty.”

Well, in this new era of so-called “hybrid” or “gray zone” warfare, truth is not only a casualty of war — it has also become the weapon of choice for some of America’s contemporary adversaries.

Recent “deepfake” videos of the actor Tom Cruise illustrate the power of the new technological tools now available to foreign adversaries who wish to manipulate the American people with online disinformation. The three videos, which appear on the social media platform TikTok under the handle @deeptomcruise, are striking in their realism. To the naked eye of the casual observer, it’s difficult to discern the videos as fakes.

Equally as stunning is an artificial intelligence tool called Deep Nostalgia, which animates static, vintage images — including those of deceased relatives. Together, these technological leaps harken back to the famous line by the writer George Orwell: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

The technology now exists for America’s foreign adversaries, or other malign actors, to challenge citizens’ understanding of their present reality, as well as the past. Coupled with the historic loss in confidence among Americans for their country’s journalistic institutions, as well as our addiction to social media, the conditions are certainly ripe for deepfake disinformation to become a serious national security threat — or a catalyst for nihilistic chaos.

“The internet is a machine, but cyberspace is in our minds. As both expand and evolve faster than we can defend them, the ultimate target — our brains — is closer every day,” Kenneth Geers, a Cyber Statecraft Initiative senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

According to a September Gallup Poll, only 9% of Americans said they have “a great deal” of trust in the media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly.” On the other hand, when it comes to trusting the media, six out of 10 Americans, on average, responded that they had “not very much” trust or “none at all.” Those findings marked a significant decline in Americans’ trust for the media since polling on the topic began in 1972, Gallup reported.

“Americans’ confidence in the media to report the news fairly, accurately and fully has been persistently low for over a decade and shows no signs of improving,” Gallup reported.

That pervasive distrust in the media leads to increased political polarization and is bad for America’s democratic health, many experts say. Americans’ loss of trust in the media could also portend a national security crisis — especially as contemporary adversaries such as Russia and China increasingly turn to online disinformation campaigns to exacerbate America’s societal divisions.

In fact, Russia already used deepfake technology in its disinformation campaign to influence the 2020 US election, said Scott Jasper, author of the book, Russian Cyber Operations: Coding the Boundaries of Conflict. In advance of the election, Russian cybercriminals working for the Internet Research Agency created a fake news website called “Peace Data,” which featured an entirely fictitious staff of editors and writers, multiple news agencies reported.

“Their profile pictures were deepfakes generated by artificial intelligence,” Jasper told Coffee or Die Magazine. “The fake personas contacted real journalists to write contentious stories that might divide Democratic voters.”

A Soviet doctrine called “deep battle” supported front-line military operations with clandestine actions meant to spread chaos and confusion within the enemy’s territory. Similarly, modern Russia has turned to cyberattacks, social media, and weaponized propaganda to weaken its adversaries from within. According to an August State Department report, Russia uses its “disinformation and propaganda ecosystem” to exploit “information as a weapon.”

“[Russia] invests massively in its propaganda channels, its intelligence services and its proxies to conduct malicious cyber activity to support their disinformation efforts, and it leverages outlets that masquerade as news sites or research institutions to spread these false and misleading narratives,” wrote the authors of the State Department report, Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem.

Some experts contend that the cyber domain has become the proverbial “soft underbelly” of America’s democracy. In the past, America’s journalistic institutions served as gatekeepers, shielding the American people from foreign disinformation or propaganda. However, due to the advent of social media and the internet, America’s adversaries now enjoy direct access into American citizens’ minds. Consequently, the ability to manufacture video content indistinguishable from reality is an exponential force multiplier for adversaries intent on manipulating the American people.

The emerging deepfake threat spurred the Senate in 2019 to pass a bill mandating that the Department of Homeland Security provide lawmakers an annual report on advancements in “digital content forgery technology,” which might pose a threat to national security.

According to the Deepfake Report Act of 2019: “Digital content forgery is the use of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, to fabricate or manipulate audio, visual, or text content with the intent to mislead.”

However, the bill died in the House and has not become law.

The advancement of deepfake technology has been meteoric. Just a couple of years ago, the casual observer would have been able to rather easily tell the difference between genuine humans and their computer-generated, deepfake doppelgangers. Not anymore. Much like the advent of nuclear weapons, the Pandora’s box of deepfake technology has officially been opened and is now impossible to un-invent.

The potential dangers of this technological leap are practically boundless.

Criminals could conceivably concoct videos that offer an alibi at the time of their alleged crimes. Countries could fabricate videos of false flag military aggressions as a means to justify starting a war. Foreign adversaries could generate fake videos of police brutality, or of racially charged acts of violence, as a means to further divide American society.

“I think it’s a safe assumption that video manipulation is a key short-term weapon in the arsenal of less reputable political-military organizations needing to shape some opinions before the contents can be disputed,” Gregory Ness, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity expert, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

There are certain commercially available artificial intelligence, or AI, tools already available to detect deepfake videos with a fidelity surpassing that of the human observer. Microsoft, for example, has already developed an AI algorithm for detecting deepfakes.

Some cybersecurity experts are calling on social media platforms to integrate these deepfake detection algorithms on their sites to alert users to phony videos. For his part, Geers, the Atlantic Council senior fellow, was skeptical that social media companies would step up on their own initiative and police for deepfake content.

“Social media profits from our negativity, vulnerability, and stupidity,” Geers said. “Why would they stop?”

The overarching intent of disinformation campaigns — particularly those prosecuted by Moscow — is not always to dupe Americans into believing a false reality. Rather, the real goal may be to challenge their belief in the existence of any objective truths. In short: The more distrustful Americans become of the media, the more likely they are to believe information based on its emotional resonance with their preconceived biases. The end goal is chaos, not brainwashing.

“If we are unable to detect fake videos, we may soon be forced to distrust everything we see and hear, critics warn,” the cybersecurity news site CSO reported. “The internet now mediates every aspect of our lives, and an inability to trust anything we see could lead to an ‘end of truth.’ This threatens not only faith in our political system, but, over the longer term, our faith in what is shared objective reality.”

Some experts say the US government should get involved, perhaps by leveraging the power of the Department of Defense, to patrol the cyber domain for deepfake videos being spread by foreign adversaries. The Pentagon, for its part, has already been called in to defend America’s elections against online disinformation.

In the wake of Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Defense partially shouldered the responsibility of defending against foreign attacks on America’s elections. By that measure, it’s certainly within the bounds of national security priorities for Washington to leverage the US military’s resources to root out and take down deepfake videos.

“Governments will inevitably step in, but what we really need is for democracies to step up and create innovative policies based on freedom of expression and the rule of law,” Geers said.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Alleged Russian assassins claim they are simple tourists

Two men accused by London of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent have told Russia’s state-funded RT television station they visited the British city of Salisbury in March 2018 as tourists.

The two men, who looked similar to the pictures of the suspects released by Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, denied having played any role in the murder attempt.


“Our friends had been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town,” one of the men said of Salisbury in a short clip of the interview played by RT on Sept. 13, 2018.

www.youtube.com

“Maybe we did [approach] Skripal’s house, but we don’t know where is it located,” one of the two men claimed.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman called the interview “an insult to the public’s intelligence,” saying it was full of “lies and blatant fabrications.”

British officials have accused the suspects of smuggling the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok into Britain in a fake perfume bottle and smearing some of the substance on the front door of Sergei Skripal’s home in Salisbury, where the former intelligence officer settled after being sent to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap in 2010.

The attack left Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, 34, in critical condition, but both have recovered after weeks in the hospital.

The men interviewed by RT denied carrying the fake women’s perfume bottle with them.

“Isn’t it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume?” one of the two men was quoted as saying by the Kremlin-funded RT.

“The customs are checking everything, they would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it.”

They also said they stayed less than one hour in Salisbury due to poor weather.

“We went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere,” one of the two men said, referring to local landmarks.

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A picture taken on Fisherton Road in Salisbury on March 4, 2018, and released by the British Metropolitan Police Service on Sept. 5, 2018, shows Aleksandr Petrov (right) and Ruslan Boshirov.

In the statement, the British government said the interview reflected more “obfuscation and lies” by Moscow.

“The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service — the GRU — who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country,” it said in a statement.

“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March 2018,” the statement said. “Today — just as we have seen throughout — they have responded with obfuscation and lies.”

The RT interview was aired a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country had identified the men Britain suspects of poisoning Skripal and his daughter, but claimed they were civilians.

“They are civilians, of course,” Putin said on Sept. 12, 2018, contradicting the British government’s assertion that they were officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as the GRU.

Following Putin’s declaration, May’s spokesman said that Britain’s attempts to get an explanation from Moscow over the poisoning had always been met with “obfuscation and lies.”

The two suspects are GRU officers, the spokesman reiterated, adding, “The government has exposed the role of the GRU, its operatives, and its methods, this position is supported by our international allies.”

Early September 2018, British authorities announced that they had charged two Russian men, identified as Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with carrying out the poisoning on March 4, 2018.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said on Sept. 9, 2018, that Britain will catch the two men and bring them to prosecution if they ever step out of Russia.

Calling the poisoning a “sickening and despicable” attack, Javid said it was “unequivocally, crystal-clear this was the act of the Russian state — two Russian nationals sent to Britain with the sole purpose of carrying out a reckless assassination attempt.”

The poisoning led Britain, the United States, the European Union, and others to carry out a series of diplomatic expulsions and financial sanctions against Moscow.

It has further damaged already severely strained relations between Russia and the West and has been a cause for solidarity at a time when Western officials accuse Moscow of seeking to cause rifts in relations between Western countries.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Disney unveiled a free ‘bedtime hotline’ and it’s pure magic

There’s something special about the magic of Disney. With Disney’s continued support of our service members and military families with the Armed Forces Salute deep discount and the special military accommodations, we love supporting them.

Now, you can bring that magic to bedtime. Whether it’s for you, your little one, a grandchild or just that Disney lover in your life, calling for a bedtime message is easy, fun, and best of all, it’s free.

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The author’s daughter sound asleep at Disney. Photo/Tessa Robinson

For a limited time (until April 30), ShopDisney.com is offering bedtime messages from some of our favorite Disney characters. Callers can choose a special goodnight greeting from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy or Goofy. The messages are so endearing, tucking your little one in for the night and telling them to have sweet dreams.

Simply dial: 1(877) 764-2539 and after a quick message you’ll be able to select which character you’d like to hear from. Disney also offer free printable sleep activity cards and sleep progress cards to help your child see bedtime as special, not scary.

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Even though spring break trips are canceled and the legendary theme parks have shut down all over the world in response to COVID-19, we all could use a little Disney magic.

When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you
If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.

Sweet dreams from Disney!

popular

6 things you didn’t know about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

One of the greatest tragedies of war is when a troop falls and is lost amidst the chaos of combat — the troop’s body, for whatever reason, cannot be properly identified. To pay homage to these unknown troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Anonymous troops who have fallen in some of America’s greatest wars are interred within a tomb to honor those unaccounted for.

Every year, approximately four million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to these men and women. Most gather in solemn awe as they watch the proceedings at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.


Highly-trained Tomb Sentinels protect every inch of the hallowed ground, 24 hours a day. Although the site is rich with history and tradition, there are many facts about the Tomb that most don’t know.

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​Edward F. Younger recreating his selection at the Arlington National Cemetery, VA.

The first soldier chosen for the special tomb

In March of 1921, Congress approved a plan to return an unknown soldier from the first World War, burying him with full honors in a tomb at the memorial amphitheater in Arlington.

On Memorial Day of that same year, four American troops were exhumed from cemeteries in France. The deceased were placed in four identical caskets and placed in front of Army sergeant and World War I veteran, Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat and given the distinct opportunity of choosing the first unknown soldier to be buried.

At the chapel, Younger paced around the caskets, holding roses. The coffin upon which he placed the roses was his choice. He made his selection and the casket sent back home aboard USS Olympia and buried at Arlington. The others remained in France and were transported to the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery and laid to rest.

The second soldier chosen

After the end of World War II, it was time to begin the selection process anew in order to honor those who fell. Unfortunately, the Korean war had also reared its ugly head, postponing the process. It wasn’t until 1958 that proceedings resumed.

On May 15, 1958, four unknown heroes were placed in identical caskets before Master Sgt. Ned Lyle, a Distinguished Service Cross recipient who had proved his valor in Korea. It was up to him to select the soldier to be entombed and represent those lost in the Korean War.

The decorated master sergeant placed a wreath atop his selection, followed by an honorary hand salute.

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The two Unknown’s casket as they make their trips to Arlington

(LionHeart FilmWorks)

The third soldier chosen

The third unknown soldier, who would symbolize those lost in World War II, was selected aboard the USS Canberra just 11 days later. Hospital corpsman and Medal of Honor-recipient William R. Charette made the final selection.

Two unknowns were presented to Charette — one from the Pacific theater, the other from the European. The selected casket was returned to Arlington and the other was given an honorable burial at sea.

The unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were placed into the tomb at the same time.

The final soldier chosen

The Unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was selected by Medal of Honor-recipient Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. during a military ceremony at Pearl Harbor in 1984. The Unknown arrived at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984.

President Ronald Reagan presided over the funeral and awarded the Unknown with the Medal of Honor.

In 1998, the body was exhumed and the DNA was tested. The body was later be identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down in Vietnam, 1972.

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The Greek sculptures depicting peace (left), victory (center), and valor (right).

(LionHeart FilmWorks)

The white-marble sarcophagus’ design

The sarcophagus is built using seven rectangular pieces of white marble and weighs 79 tons. The west-facing panel reads, “here rests, in honored glory, an American soldier, known but to God.” The north and south-facing panels display six inverted wreaths, signifying the major campaigns of World War I.

On the east-facing are three Greek figures, representing peace, victory, and valor.

The Tomb Sentinels

In April 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24 hours day. The guard changes every 30 minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.

Those who wish to become a Sentinel are hand-picked and undergo strict training. 60 percent of the hopefuls will not graduate the rigorous program.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran gets VA health care at home

It used to be difficult for Marine Veteran Kenneth Schmitt to load his wheelchair into his car and drive to the nearest VA facility. He no longer drives, and now receives VA medical care through the VA home based primary care program.


Angela Gard, assistant nurse manager of community-based care at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, said home based primary care allows Veterans to stay in familiar and comfortable surroundings, remain functional and maintain quality of life.

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Marine veteran Kenneth Schmitt and RN Farrah Mosely during a home based primary care visit in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

Veterans Affairs

A nursing home alternative

“We try to keep people in their houses longer instead of going to a nursing home,” she said. “They’ve lived there forever. It’s not very often that they want to move.”

Schmitt, who lives in rural Wisconsin, receives his primary care at home through the Union Grove VA Clinic. The clinic, located about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, serves about 3,500 Veterans a year as they face the challenges of disability, aging and chronic disease.

“It works really well for Mr. Schmitt, who lives out in the country,” said Farrah Mosley, a registered nurse based at the Union Grove clinic.

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Mosley does home based primary care from the Union Grove VA clinic.

Veterans Affairs

“For example, Mr. Schmitt is a diabetic,” Mosley said. “So, the dietician comes in and completes a nutrition assessment and collaborates with the Veteran to develop a plan of care with goals and outcomes. He has done really well with it and he has really brought his numbers down.”

Schmitt said he appreciates the care and the convenience offered by the program now that he doesn’t drive.

“I have been without a license for almost two years now,” Schmitt said. “Before that I had a power wheelchair that I loaded in my car, but it was so stressful. Even if someone was trying to help, it would just wear me down. By the time I would get back home, I was done for. Takes away a lot of stress.”

Learn more about VA home based primary care.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Kim Jong Un should fear the Lancer

Recently, a B-1B Lancer took part in Vigilant Ace 18, a massive U.S.-South Korea joint air exercise. According to FoxNews.com, the Lancer simulated strikes in the eastern part of the country, which drew the expected condemnation from North Korea.


This is not the first time this year that B-1s have participated in drills on the peninsula. Similar exercises took place in May and July. North Korea blustered then, too. So, why are the B-1Bs such a big deal to the belligerent state?

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A B-1B Lancer releases its payload. There’s a lot of bombs there. (USAF photo by Steve Zapka.)

Maybe the North Koreans know that, despite what they tell people about Kim Jong Un, there’s no way he can keep the Lancer from inflicting a lot of hurt. You see, next to the A-10, the B-1B Lancer could possible be the most effective weapon against North Korea’s army. GlobalSecurity.org estimates North Korea has over 3,500 main battle tanks and 560 light tanks.

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A North-Korean-built M-1978 KOKSAN displayed at the Al Anbar University campus in Ramadi, Iraq is to be removed by U.S. Forces. (USMC photo)

But the B-1B Lancer has a way of dealing with a lot of tanks: It’s called the CBU-97. This is the weapon that enables the Lancer to protect the Baltics from Russian aggression. A B-1B can carry up to 30 of these internally, plus at least 14 more on rarely-used, external pylons.

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CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Centre. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a little math: Each CBU-97 has 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each with four “skeets” that fire an explosive projectile capable of going through the top of an enemy tank. A single B-1B carrying 30 of these can, therefore, deliver 1,200 “skeets” in one sortie. Each B-1B Lancer has the potential firepower to handle about 30 percent of North Korea’s tank force.

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A CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition cluster bomb equipped with the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser Kit. This is called the CBU-103. (US Air Force photo)

And you can safely bet it wouldn’t be just a single B-1B. Other B-1B Lancers might carry CBU-89 cluster bombs, which dispense GATOR mines in a mix of anti-tank and anti-personnel varieties. Others still might the CBU-87 cluster bomb, containing 202 BLU-97 bomblets. The fact is, North Korea’s army is primarily made up of massed ground forces — the kind of target that cluster bombs are really good at dealing with.

It makes sense that North Korea fears the Lancer. Especially since Secretary of Defense James Mattis just decided that the United States wasn’t going to give up cluster bombs after all.