The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks - We Are The Mighty
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The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

The Pentagon has announced plans to replace the Afghan air force’s inventory of Russian-built Mi-17 “Hip” utility helicopters with American ones, stating that the purchase has turned out to be a bad deal.


According to a report by the Washington Times, the Hips will be replaced by UH-60 Blackhawks. The Russian-built helicopters reportedly were maintenance nightmares, with the Afghan Air Force unable to keep up with the logistical supported needed to address constant breakdowns.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
A UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter lands as U.S. Army paratroopers secure the area in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, July 23, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team and the helicopter crew is assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The soldiers evacuated a wounded insurgent. (US Army photo)

The Hips were initially chosen because defense planners thought Afghan pilots would be more familiar with the Russian-built helicopters. The Obama Administration had praised the Mi-17 in its last report on operations in Afghanistan, calling it the “workhorse” of the Afghan air force. The report noted that 56 Hips were authorized, and 47 were available.

According to Militaryfactory.com, the Mi-17 “Hip” has a crew of three and can carry a wide variety of offensive loads, including rocket pods, 23mm gun pods, and even anti-tank missiles. Army-Technology.com notes that the Russian-built helicopter can carry up to 30 troops.

Over 17,000 Mi-17s and the earlier version, the Mi-8, have been built since the Mi-8 first flew in 1961. The Hip has also been widely exported across the globe, being used by over 20 countries, including China, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Iraq.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
Egyptian Mi-17. (Wikimedia Commons)

By comparison, the UH-60 Blackhawk, which also has a crew of three, can only carry 11 troops, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin. However, the 13th Edition of the Combat Leader’s Field Guide notes that with the seats removed, a Blackhawk can carry up to 22 troops.

The Blackhawk is limited to door guns as its armament. Militaryfactory.com notes that the Blackhawk is used by 26 countries, including Poland, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Argentina, Thailand, and Israel.

Some countries have both the UH-60 and Mi-17 in their inventories, notably Iraq, Argentina, China, Thailand, and Mexico.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army chief is ready for the F-35 overhead

The US Army wants the F-35 to support its ground troops.

It’s that simple. We hear volumes of information about the Marine Corps vertical-take-off-and-landing F-35B, Navy carrier-launched F-35C, and Air Force F-35A — but what does the Army think of the emerging Joint Strike Fighter?

Does the Army think the 5th-Gen stealth fighter would bring substantial value to targeting and attacking enemy ground forces in close proximity to advancing infantry? What kind of Close Air Support could it bring to high-risk, high-casualty ground war?


“When you are in a firefight, the first thing infantry wants to do it get on that radio to adjust fire for mortars and locate targets with close air support with planes or helicopters. You want fires. The F-35 has increased survivability and it will play a decisive role in the support of ground combat,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.

Gen. Milley’s comments are quite significant, given the historic value of close air support when it comes to ground war. His remarks also bear great relevance regarding the ongoing Pentagon evaluation assessing the F-35 and A-10 Warthog in close air support scenarios.

Over the years, close-air-support to Army ground war has of course often made the difference between life and death — victory or defeat. The Army, Milley said, wants next-generation close-air-support for potential future warfare.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

(US Army photo)

“We fight with the Navy, Marines and Air Force. Our soldiers have never heard an Air Force pilot say ‘I can’t fly into that low-altitude area,’ These guys take incredible risk. If there are troops on the ground, they are rolling in hot,” Milley said.

While Milley of course did not specifically compare the A-10 to the F-35 or say the Army prefers one aircraft over another, he did say the F-35 would be of great value in a high-stakes, force-on-force ground war.

Long-revered by ground troops as a “flying-tank,” the combat proven A-10 has been indispensable to ground-war victory. Its titanium hull, 30mm cannon, durability, built-in redundancy and weapons range has enabled the aircraft to sustain large amounts of small arms fire and combat damage — and keep flying.

At the same time, as newer threats emerge and the high-tech F-35 matures into combat, many US military weapons developers and combatant commanders believe the JSF can bring an improved, new-generation of CAS support to ground troops. Thus, the ongoing Office of the Secretary of Defense comparison.

Accordingly, the Pentagon-led F-35/A-10 assessment is nearing its next phase of evaluation, following an initial “first wave” of tests in July 2018 Vice Adm. Mat Winter, Program Executive Officer, F-35 program, recently told a group of reporters.

“Mission performance is under evaluation,” Winter said.

Pre- Initial Operational Test Evaluation test phases, are currently underway at Edwards AFB and Naval Air Station China Lake, officials said.

“Mission performance is being evaluated in the presence of a robust set of ground threats and, to ensure a fair and comparable evaluation of each system’s performance, both aircraft are allowed to configure their best weapons loadouts and employ their best tactics for the mission scenario” a statement from the Director, Operational Test Evaluation said.

Upon initial examination, some might regard a stealthy, 5th-Gen F-35 as ill-equipped or at least not-suited for close air support. However, a closer look does seem to uncover a handful of advantages — speaking to the point Milley mentioned about survivability.

Long-range, computer-enabled F-35 sensors could enable the aircraft to see and destroy enemy ground targets with precision from much higher altitudes and much farther ranges than an A-10 could; the speed of an F-35, when compared to an A-10, would potentially make it better able to maneuver, elude enemy fire and get into position for attack; like the A-10s 30mm gun, the F-35 has its own 25mm cannon mounted on its left wing which could attack ground forces; given its sensor configuration, with things like a 360-degree Distributed Aperture System with cameras, the F-35 brings a drone-like ISR component to air-ground war. This could help targeting, terrain analysis and much-needed precision attacks as US soldiers fight up close with maneuvering enemy ground forces.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Two A-10C Thunderbolt IIs.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter)

An F-35 might be better positioned to respond quickly to enemy force movement; in the event that enemy air threats emerge in a firefight, an F-35 could address them in a way an A-10 could not, obviously; an F-35 would be much better positioned to locate enemy long-range fires points of combat significance and destroy hostile artillery, mortar or long-range-fires launching points. Finally, while the A-10 has a surprising wide envelope of weapons, an F-35 could travel with a wider range of air-ground attack weapons — armed with advanced targeting technology.

Also, fighter-jet close air support is by no means unprecedented. F-22s were used against ISIS, F-15s were used against insurgents in Iraq — and the F-35 recently had its combat debut in Afghanistan.

There are, however, some unknowns likely to be informing the current analysis. How much small arms fire could an F-35 withstand? Could it draw upon its “hovering” technology to loiter near high-value target areas? To what extent could it keep flying in the event that major components, such as engines or fuselage components, were destroyed in war? How much could A-10 weapons and targeting technology be upgraded?

Regardless of the conclusions arrived upon by the ongoing assessment, it is likely both the A-10 and F-35 will perform CAS missions in the immediate years ahead.

When it comes to the Army and the F-35, one can clearly envision warfare scenarios wherein Army soldiers could be supported by the Marine Corps F-35B, Navy F-35C or Air Force F-35A.

“We don’t fight as an Army, we fight as a joint force. What makes us different is the synergistic effect we get from combining various forces in time and space,” Milley said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran’s latest war game practiced closing the Strait of Hormuz

Iran is expected to launch a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf intended to show it can close the Strait of Hormuz, according to CNN, citing two US officials.

“We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman,” Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for Centcom, said in a press statement. “We are monitoring it closely and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways.”


“We also continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards, and laws,” Urban added.

The Strait of Hormuz is a sea passage into the Persian Gulf between Iran and Oman, through which about 30% of the world’s oil supply passes.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Iran’s fast-attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.

(Fars News Agency Photo)

President Donald Trump has lately been in a war of words with the leaders of Iran.

In June 2018, Trump threatened sanctions on countries that purchase oil from Iran, to which Tehran responded by threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.

Trump, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani , and even a powerful Iranian general, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani , have also been bickering back and forth over the past couple of weeks.

CNN reported that US officials viewed the expected Iranian military exercise as alarming for three reasons: It comes as rhetoric between the two nations heats up, it will be a larger exercise than previous ones, and Tehran usually holds such exercises later in the year.

The US thinks the Iranian military exercise will include about 100 naval vessels, most of which are small boats, as well as air and ground forces, CNN reported.

Iran has repeatedly used small fast-attack craft to harass US Navy warships over the past several years.

Nevertheless, these Iranian threats are most likely a bluff.

“In the event Iran choose to militarily close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and our Arabian Gulf allies would be able to open it in a matter of days,” retired Adm. James Stavridis previously told CNBC.

And Iran most likely knows this, prompting the question of whether Iran has other intentions.

James Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Turkey who now serves as an expert at the Washington Institute, previously told Business Insider that Tehran was bluffing about closing the Strait of Hormuz to rattle markets and raise the price of oil.

“They’re doing this to spook consumers,” Jeffrey said.

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

Articles

We did 20 pushups for the troops. Here’s the hilarious video to prove it.

The non-profit American Corporate Partners called out We Are The Mighty recently for the Give Them 20 campaign, and we happily obliged.


Give Them 20, a campaign launched on Memorial Day, is similar to last year’s “Ice Bucket Challenge,” only this time people are encouraged to shoot creative videos that feature them “giving 20” of an exercise, such as pushups, sit-ups, or pull-ups. It has already had considerable star power behind it, from celebrities like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and is meant as a way of raising awareness for veterans.

“More than 1 million veterans are in the process of returning home and 2 million veterans are already back,” ACP Chairman and Founder, Sid Goodfriend, said in a statement. “Let’s salute all of our service members this summer by giving them 20.”

Beyond just raising awareness, the campaign also encourages people to become mentors for veterans, hire them, or donate to the cause.

At We Are The Mighty in Los Angeles, our office is filled with military veterans from every branch. But we got called out and we figured we could do our part. As you’ll see, we had some fun in the process.

Now it’s Article 15 Clothing, The Pat Tillman Foundation, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s turn.

Watch:

 

Check out the Give Them 20 website for many more videos (including cool celebrity ones)

NOW: 15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

MIGHTY TRENDING

FBI moves to seize painting stolen by Nazis

U.S. authorities have moved to seize a French painting that was taken by Nazi forces from a Ukrainian museum near the end of World War II.

Manhattan federal prosecutors said in a statement on March 21, 2019, that the painting — called An Amorous Couple, by Pierre Louis Goudreaux — was stolen from the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of the Arts in Kyiv around 1943.

U.S. officials said the painting had been missing for years, held by a London private collector and then in Massachusetts. It resurfaced in 2013 when it was listed on a website for an unnamed New York auction house.


The FBI determined it was bought from a Missouri auction house in 1993 by a New York dealer who had consigned it to the auction house.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

The Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of the Arts in Kyiv.

The prosecutors said they were seeking a court order to seize the painting and return it to the Kyiv museum.

In recent years, U.S. officials have stepped up efforts to locate art seized from Ukraine by Nazi forces and return it to Ukraine.

In December 2018, U.S. authorities moved to claim a 107-year-old painting of Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible that was stolen from a Ukrainian art museum during World War II.

That painting by Mikhail Panin, called The Secret Departure Of Ivan The Terrible Before The Oprichnina, was part of the permanent collection of a museum in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro before the war.

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

Articles

QUIZ: Who said it, Tupac or Patton?

General Patton and Tupac are two very different historical figures. One is a legendary World War II hero, while the other is hip-hop royalty. Patton is immortalized in stories of military exploits and Tupac’s songs transcend time — he’s like the Elvis of the Hip-Hop genre.


Despite their differences, they both have a similar outlook on life. We gathered some of their most famous quotes to make this quiz. Did the Hip-Hop martyr or the World War II general say these things?

MIGHTY HISTORY

What the Marines overcame to win during Desert Storm

The ground war of Desert Storm lasted all of 100 hours. After giving Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army the Noah’s Ark treatment and raining death on them for 40 days and 40 nights, the Army and Marines very swiftly moved in and expelled the entire army all the way out of Kuwait and deep into their own territory.

But it wasn’t all Iraqi troops surrendering to helicopters en masse.


On Feb. 22, 1991, the First Marine Division already had 3,000 Marines and Corpsmen 12 miles inside of Kuwait. The grunts were on foot, carrying heavy packs along with their weapons for all of those 12 miles since the wee hours of the morning. They crossed a minefield and evaded Iraqi armor to do it, and they had already stormed Iraqi positions and taken prisoners. That’s when the Marines were informed that President Bush called a halt to the invasion to give Saddam time to leave Kuwait on his own.

Up until this point, some of the 92,000 Marines in the area of responsibility had already seen action, defending Saudi Arabia from Iraqi border attacks, Iraqi artillery attacks, and even an Iraqi amphibious assault on the Saudi city of Khafji. In each of these encounters, Marines were left unimpressed with the performance of the Iraqis on the battlefield, so they changed their tactics to make the best use of their speed and armor while making up for their lack of supplies – but the new plan required new logistical plans in the middle of the Saudi desert, which Navy Seabees accomplished in a hurry. The stage was set.

By the 20th of February, the First Marine Division was staged along the minefields that protected the Kuwaiti border with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Marine engineers discovered a path through the mines by watching Iraqi defectors walk through the minefield. The Marines simply mimicked that path and within hours were miles inside Kuwait. The Marines, some carrying up to 100 pounds, walked for 30 miles and then crawled through a minefield. In chemical warfare gear.

Marines along the line began to break through the minefields so their heavy armor could roll through. At least three separate locations drove two lines through the mines under enemy fire. They did the same thing through an inner minefield. Once the Marines were through, they carried on to where the enemy was and began taking out the entrenched defenders immediately. Resistance was uncoordinated and incomplete. The First and Second Divisions invading Kuwait might have met more resistance, but Marines were landing all over the area.

Meanwhile, a Marine landing of reserve troops was going down in Saudi Arabia. For days before landing, these amphibious Marines had conducted training exercises throughout the Persian Gulf, making the Iraqis believe a large amphibious invasion of Kuwait was coming. Instead of that, the Americans moved that Marine force back to Saudi Arabia and replaced its force. That force held up 10 Iraqi divisions and 80,000 Iraqi troops who were just waiting to pounce on the invading Americans. All the while, their cities in Western Kuwait would fall.

Marine artillery was at work as well, destroying 9 APCs, along with some 34 tanks. By the time President Bush declared a cease-fire, Marines had defeated 11 Iraqi divisions, destroyed 1,600 tanks and armored vehicles, and taken 22,000 prisoners.

Shortly after the Marine advance, everything was over. Kuwait was liberated, and Iraqis were back in Iraq.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Iran surpasses 1,000 deaths with highest 24-hour rise yet; Hungary eases border closure

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 201,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.


Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.


Iran

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus has reached 1,135, with 147 deaths over the past 24 hours — the highest 24-hour rise yet — state TV reported on March 18, as President Hassan Rohani defended his government’s response to the outbreak.

Iran has been the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, with a total of 16,169 confirmed cases, roughly 90 percent of the region’s cases.

Iran has been accused of acting too slowly and of even covering up initial cases.

But Rohani on March 18 rejected criticism of his government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, telling a government meeting that authorities have been “straightforward” with the nation, and that it had announced the outbreak as soon as it learned about it on February 19.

“We spoke to people in a honest way. We had no delay,” Rohani said.

Government officials pleaded for weeks with clerics to completely close crowded holy shrines to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The government finally shut down the shrines this week.

“It was difficult of course to shut down mosques and holy sites, but we did it. It was a religious duty to do it,” Rohani said.

The outbreak has cast a shadow over the Persian New Year, Norouz, that begins on March 20.

It was later announced that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will pardon 10,000 prisoners, including political ones, to mark Norouz.

“Those who will be pardoned will not return to jail,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told state TV on March 18, adding that “almost half of those security-related prisoners will be pardoned as well.”

Judicial officials had previously announced the temporary release of 85,000 inmates to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Iran’s prisons. They confirmed that those freed included political prisoners, which Iranian authorities describe as “security-related prisoners.”

Pakistan

The Pakistani government has confirmed the country’s first fatality from coronavirus in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The South Asian country had a total of 260 confirmed cases of the infection as of late March 18, including 19 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“With deep regret I confirm the death of first Pakistani due to coronavirus. A 50-year-old male from Mardan city recently returned from Saudi Arabia. He developed fever, cough, and breathing difficulty and tested positive for the COVID-19,” Health Minister Zafar Mirza tweeted.

A 36-year-old man from Hangu district also died of the respiratory disease after returning from Turkey to Islamabad via Dubai, according to a spokesperson for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government.

Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been put in quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst-affected countries.

Amid the steep rise in known cases, Pakistani authorities have moved to discourage crowds and gatherings.

Islamabad on March 17 announced that all gyms, swimming pools, religious shrines, and children’s parks would remain closed for three weeks.

Health officials in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, urged the public to avoid unnecessary social contacts or traveling and to stay indoors.

Governments around the world continue to take sweeping measures to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, which has now infected more than 201,000 people and killed over 8,000.

Ukraine

The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and other lawmakers will be tested for the novel coronavirus after one of their colleagues tested positive on March 18, local media has reported.

Authorities are trying to trace everyone who has been in contact with lawmaker Serhiy Shakhov of the Dovira (Faith) parliamentary group since he entered the legislature earlier in the week following a trip to an unspecified European Union member state.

Shakhov appeared on Ukrainian television on March 12-13, according to deputy Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, and participated in a meeting of the parliament’s Environment Committee on March 13.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the infected lawmaker’s voter card was registered in parliament on March 17 and was used to vote, although Shakhov was absent.

“Unfortunately, his colleagues are guilty of multiple voting,” Zelenskiy said about the widespread phenomenon in parliament that is now punishable by law.

Ukraine, which has confirmed 16 cases of the respiratory illness and two deaths in four regions and the capital, Kyiv, closed its borders to foreigners for two weeks starting on March 16.

Authorities have also canceled air, rail, and bus connections between cities and regions, and shut down the subway in all three cities where they operate, including Kyiv.

Moldova

Moldova on March 18 reported its first death from coronavirus.

“A first Moldovan citizen died of the coronavirus infection last night. This is a 61-year-old woman,” Health, Labor, and Social Protection Minister Viorica Dumbraveanu said.

The woman had recently returned from Italy and was suffering from several illnesses, Dumbraveanu said.

The manager of the Chisinau hospital where the woman died told the media that the woman’s village has been placed under quarantine.

Moldova, a nation of 3.5 million sandwiched between EU member Romania and Ukraine, reported 30 confirmed coronavirus cases as of March 18.

Moldova’s parliament on March 17 imposed a 60-day state of emergency in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

The country, one of the poorest in Europe, has already temporarily shut its borders and suspended all international flights from March 17.

Hundreds of thousands of Moldovans have been working abroad, many of them in Italy and Spain, two of the countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Separately, Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniester declared a state of emergency until April 5 in the wake of the outbreak.

Transdniester declared independence in 1990 and fought a bloody war with Moldova two years later. It is unrecognized by the international community but is unofficially backed by Russia, which stations hundreds of troops in the region.

Romania/Hungary

Hungary on March 18 moved to relax a sweeping border closure after thousands more travelers – many angry and lacking supplies — clogged its crossings with Austria to the west and Romania to the east.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government on March 17 closed its land crossings to foreigners as well as border crossings at airports to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Thousands of travelers were massed on March 18 at the Nickelsdorf-Hegyeshalom border crossing between Austria and Hungary, after missing a window of several hours allowed by Budapest overnight for those who wanted to transit the country on their way to Romania and Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, some 7,000 people who had reached the Romanian border to the east overnight were facing another hours-long bottleneck due to health checks imposed by Bucharest.

The two-pronged crisis prompted Budapest to reopen the border with Austria at noon on March 18 until the easing of the blockage to the west, and to allow daily passage for Romanians and Bulgarians from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. on preapproved routes, according to a statement by Romania’s Foreign Ministry.

Austrian authorities on March 18 advised drivers to keep away from the Hungarian border as the traffic jam there grew to 45 kilometers and protests broke out among stranded travelers.

“There is no use in coming to the border,” said Astrid Eisenkopf, the deputy governor of Austria’s Burgenland Province, which neighbors Hungary.

Most of the delayed Romanians are workers returning from Italy and Spain, the world’s second- and fourth-most affected countries by the virus, but also from other Western countries.

Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.

On March 18, Romania reported 29 more confirmed cases, bringing the total to 246, as well as 19 recovered cases. There have been no coronavirus deaths inside the country.

But specialists warn that Romania has so far tested only some 3.000 people for the coronavirus, while in other countries the number of those tested was in the tens of thousands.

Hungary reported having 50 confirmed coronavirus infections on March 17, with one death.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria announced it has entered into a fiscal deficit and Ukraine said it is seeking a bigger lending program from the International Monetary Fund beyond the .5 billion for which it was asking.

Confirmed cases in Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest but least indebted country, spiked by 30 percent on March 17 to 81. The government in Sofia banned all foreign and domestic holiday trips until April 13.

Kosovo

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti has fired Interior Minister Agim Veliu for purportedly spreading “panic” about coronavirus after he backed a presidential call for a state of emergency over the pandemic.

Kurti announced Veliu’s dismissal on March 18, just hours after Veliu said he supported a proposed state of emergency that has divided officials in the Balkan country.

President Hashim Thaci late on March 17 signed a decree declaring a state of emergency. It has been sent to Kosovo’s parliament, which has 48 hours to either accept or reject the move.

But Kurti has rejected calls for a state of emergency. He said it would cause “unnecessary panic.”

“At this time, when the entire public administration is making the utmost efforts to minimize the damage caused by the coronavirus, the heads of central institutions, including those in the government cabinet, need to prove maturity both in decision-making and in making statements,” Kurti said in his announcement about firing Veliu.

The move may resonate far beyond the debate about how to react to the coronavirus pandemic.

It could cause a rift in the governing coalition that took power in Kosovo just over a month ago.

Veliu is from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which is in a fragile coalition with Kurti’s Self-Determination party.

LDK leader Isa Mustafa gave Kurti until the end of the week to “annul the decision to dismiss Veliu and make a decision to abolish the tariffs” on Serbian imports.

Pristina is under huge pressure from the European Union and the United States to revoke the 100 percent import tariff it imposed on goods from Serbia in November 2018.

The tariff came in response to Belgrade’s diplomatic campaign to encourage some of the 110-plus countries that have recognized Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008 to reverse their position.

Kosovo says it has confirmed 19 cases of the coronavirus since the first infected person was discovered on March 13.

Most cases are people who had traveled to nearby Italy or had been in contact with others who’d been to Italy.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina declared a state of emergency to enable coordination of activities between its two autonomous regions.

“We are focusing in all ways on how to alleviate the consequences of the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Zoran Tegeltija told reporters.

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has confirmed its first three cases of the coronavirus in a group of travelers returning from Saudi Arabia.

Kyrgyz Health Minister Kosmosbek Cholponbaev said on March 18 that the three Kyrgyz citizens are from the southern Suzak district in the Jalal-Abad region.

The infected had returned to Kyrgyzstan on March 12, he said. They are 70, 62, and 43 years of age.

Authorities in the district have sealed off the villages of Blagoveshchenka, Boston, and Orta-Aziya. They’ve also set up 19 checkpoints nearby, regional officials said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Nurlan Abdrakhmanov said in a statement that as of March 18, all foreigners are banned from entering Kyrgyzstan.

Elsewhere In Central Asia

In neighboring Kazakhstan, the Health Ministry said on March 18 that the number of coronavirus cases had reached 36, after three more infections were confirmed in Almaty.

Kazakhstan has declared a state of emergency until April 15. As of March 19, the cities of Nur-Sultan and Almaty will be in lockdown.

Uzbekistan announced on March 18 that its total number of confirmed cases had reached 15.

So far, no coronavirus cases have been officially announced in the Central Asian former Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The new coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries worldwide. It has infected more than 201,000 people and killed more than 8,000, with the number of people now recovered at more than 82,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

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

Articles

That time Marines in a firefight called customer service for help with an M-107

When you need help, there’s nothing embarrassing about asking for it. Especially when the pressure is on to get it right as soon as possible.


Rifles are no different. And if you have to call an arms manufacturer for a problem there, it’s probably a big deal.

Related video:

 

That’s why Barrett Firearms Manufacturing provides service for its products long after they enter military service. Most notably, the beloved Barrett M-107 .50-caliber rifle.

Don Cook is a Marine Corps veteran who has been working at Barrett for 17 years. In an interview with National Geographic, he recalled the time he received an interesting call on the customer service line — a call from troops in an active firefight.

“It’s probably one of the biggest highlights in my life to be able to help a Marine unit in a firefight,” Cook told NatGeo.

He picked up the phone and heard what was happening in the background. Without being able to see the weapon, he was able to diagnose the problem.

The Marines bent the ears of the weapon’s lower receiver up during the previous night’s maintenance. When they saw action the next day, the rifle wouldn’t fire every time they pulled the trigger.

Cook told them they needed to bend the ears back down. Given the lack of tools and time, he suggested the Marines use the bottom of the carrier as leverage to bend the ears back and get the weapon firing again.

Within 30 seconds, the Marines had their rifle back in action. They thanked Cook for his help and got back in the fight.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Air strikes in eastern Syria have killed 26 fighters from an Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary group following a deadly attack on U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Iraq.


The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the March 12 strikes near the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal were probably carried out by the coalition.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

But a spokesman for the coalition said in an statement to AFP that it “did not conduct any strikes in Syria or Iraq last night.”

Later in the day, U.S. Defense Secretary Mike Esper blamed Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia groups for the attack on the coalition at the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

But he did not confirm whether the U.S. or its allies had carried out the eastern Syria attack.

However, Esper said that “all options are on the table” as Washington and its allies try to bring those responsible for the attack, which killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier and wounded a dozen others when a barrage of Katyusha rockets were launched from a truck later discovered several kilometers from Camp Taji.

Syrian state media reported that in the attack in eastern Syria, unidentified jets hit targets southeast of Albu Kamal with only material damage.

However, the Observatory said camps of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella grouping of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, were hit in the strikes, which came after a rocket attack on the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “underscored that those responsible for the [Camp Taji] attacks must be held accountable,” the State Department said of a phone call between the two.

Iraq’s military said caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered an investigation into what he called “a very serious security challenge and hostile act.”

No-one claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but the United States has accused Iran-backed militias of previous attacks on Iraqi bases hosting coalition forces.

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, told a Senate hearing that the attack was being investigated.

But he noted that Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah “the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. civilian and coalition forces in such an incident Iraq.”

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

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U.S. President Donald Trump on March 12 said it had not been fully determined whether Iran, which has backed a number of anti-U.S. militia groups in neighboring Iraq, was responsible for the Katyusha attack.

Washington blamed that militia for a strike in December that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led U.S. President Donald Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.

In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Terrorist leader behind 2017 ambush of green berets killed

A senior official with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara was killed in a strike on a terrorist camp in Mali involving French warplanes and commandos, the French defense ministry confirmed Aug. 27, 2018.

The lifeless body of Mohamed Ag Almouner, a senior leader for the ISIS affiliate that claimed responsibility for a deadly ambush that left four American Green Berets dead in Niger in 2017, was found on the battlefield by a French-led unit after an airstrike by two Mirage fighter jets Aug. 26, 2018, according to a report from Stars and Stripes, which cited a statement from the French military.


An unidentified member of the group was also killed.

In October 2017, armed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara militants ambushed US and Nigerien troops. Five Nigeriens and four Americans were killed while another ten people were wounded. During the firefight that ensued, US and Nigerien forces managed to kill nearly two dozen terrorists.

The four American special operations soldiers who lost their lives in the fight were: Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Bryan Black. The US Army Special Forces team leader Capt. Michael Perozeni, who was singled out for blame in an investigation into the ambush during which he was wounded, is reportedly being considered for a silver star, the military’s third-highest valor award for gallantry.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson.

(US Army photos)

The US military maintains a presence in Niger to “provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” US Africa Command spokesman US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo told CNN after the incident in 2017.

France has deployed thousands of troops to West Africa for Operation Barkhane, an effort to eradicate Islamist militants in the region.

Aug. 26, 2018’s airstrike also ended the lives of two civilians. “The French criteria for opening fire are particularly strict and aim at avoiding civilian casualties,” the French military said in a statement, “The proven presence of civilians near the target would have led to the cancellation of the mission. An investigation is underway to determine how civilians were hit during this strike.”

US Africa Command said that it “routinely works with our French partners in the Sahel region, who provide a bulk of the force with more than 4,000 military forces,” adding that the US remains ” committed to assisting the French-led operations to degrade violent extremist organizations and to build the defense capacity of … Mali and its neighbors.”

Featured image: A French Air Force Mirage F1CR.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump optimistic about ‘good talks’ with North Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed optimism on Jan. 10 that a diplomatic opening with North Korea that emerged this week in talks with the South could lead to broader dialogue to quell tensions in the region.


Trump’s upbeat mood after months of escalating threats over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development programs came as the UN Security Council said it welcomes “possibilities for confidence-building and trust-building on the Korean peninsula” that emerged this week.

Also Read: Why the US is suddenly willing to talk to North Korea

“We have certainly problems with North Korea,” Trump said at a news conference, but “a lot of good talks are going on right now. A lot of good energy… Hopefully, it will lead to success for the world, not just for our country, but for the world.”

“Who knows where it leads?” he said.

The move toward dialogue began with an agreement between North and South Korea on Jan. 9 to reopen talks between their militaries and welcome a team from the North to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month at the first formal talks between the two sides in more than two years.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office on Jan. 10 said that Trump indicated in a phone conversation that there would be no military action of any kind while the two Koreas continue to hold talks.

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks
President Donald J. Trump (right) and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea at the United Nations General Assembly. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The White House said Moon and Trump agreed that, as long as the North refuses to discuss curbing its nuclear development, the global community should continue to exert “maximum pressure” through stiff sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the UN council this year.

But, at the same time, the White House said, “Trump expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.”

Trump has previously scoffed at what he said was the futility of talking with the North.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK is sending another warship to the Persian Gulf

The UK is deploying an additional frigate and a support ship to the Persian Gulf region, although the UK Ministry of Defence said the deployments were not related to increasing tensions in Iran.

The Type 45 frigate HMS Duncan is in transit to the region, as the UK announced it would also deploy Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and support ship RFA Wave Knight. The moves were reported first by Times of London reporter Lucy Fisher and confirmed by MoD.

British frigate HMS Montrose successfully stopped Iranian gunboats from seizing a tanker on July 10, 2019.


The MoD issued a release confirming that the ships would be deployed as part of Operation KIPION, its “commitment to promoting peace and stability as well as ensuring the safe flow of trade, and countering narcotics and piracy.”

“RFA WAVE KNIGHT’s role is to deliver food, fuel, water and other essential supplies to [Royal Navy] and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) ships,” according to the release. The MoD states that the HMS Kent will take over for the HMS Duncan, a warship currently deploying to the Gulf to “maintain a continuous maritime security presence” in the region.

The news caps off over a month of high tensions between Iran, the US and its allies.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that a UAE-based tanker has gone missing in the Strait of Hormuz.

The 190-foot, Panama-flagged Riah oil tanker entered Iranian waters and stopped transmitting location data more than two days ago, according to the AP. Capt. Rajnith Raja from data firm Refinitiv told the AP that losing the signal from the Riah was “a red flag.”

The Riah was last heard from in Iranian waters, near Qeshm Island, the AP reported, citing a US defense official. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US designated as a terrorist organization earlier this year, has a base on the island.

Escalating tensions: Iran calls on United Kingdom to release oil tanker

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The US official told the AP that the US “has suspicions” that the Riah is in Iranian hands.

On July 4, 2019, the government of Gibraltar, a British territory, seized an Iranian tanker it said was carrying oil to Syria through the Straits of Gibraltar; Iran vowed retaliation, and attempted to block a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz a week later. Britain sent a second warship to the region to replace the HMS Montrose, which had been patrolling the British tanker and prevented the seizure.

Britain has agreed to release the Iranian tanker under the condition that it will not transit to Syria.

In June 2019, Japanese and Norweigian tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman; the US blamed Iran for the attacks, but Iran has denied responsibility.

The US has proposed a plan for a coalition of allies to patrol Iranian and Yemeni waters as incidents in the Gulf increase.

“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said July 2019.

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