The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying 'iceberg' theory about terror networks in Europe - We Are The Mighty
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The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe
The aftermath of the explosion inside the Brussels metro. | Twitter


At least 34 people were reported killed and dozens more wounded after explosions ripped through Zaventem Airport and a metro station in Brussels on Tuesday morning.

The attacks came days after Saleh Abdeslam, a suspect in last year’s Paris attacks, was arrested in the Belgian capital, which is also the de facto capital of the European Union.

Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said on Tuesday that the Brussels attacks were in line with an “iceberg” theory of terrorist plots.

That theory purports that, just as for every iceberg seen above water, the underlying mass of a terror network and its plots are not immediately visible — or, “for every attacker, there are usually three to four additional people who helped facilitate the plot.”

“That the eight attackers in Paris used more explosive belts than ever before seen in the West suggests a sizeable European terrorist facilitation network,”Watts wrote for War on the Rocks in November.

He added: “The iceberg theory of terrorist plots suggests we should look for two, three, or possibly four dozen extremist facilitators and supporters between Syria and France. This same network is likely already supporting other attacks in the planning phase.”

Belgian officials have long been aware of the existence of an ISIS-linked terrorist cell in Brussels, believed to be centered in the district of Molenbeek. Belgium’s interior minister, Jan Jambon, has called Molenbeek “the capital of political Islam in continental Europe,” and multiple suspects have been arrested there in connection to the Paris attacks.

Outside Belgium, at least 18 people have been detained across Europe since November for their alleged roles in the Paris attacks, The New York Times reported last weekend.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe
View from exterior of Zaventem Airport | Instagram

‘Considerable planning and coordination’

Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels bear a shocking similarity to the methods employed by ISIS in Paris on November 13, experts said. Those attacks are believed to have been coordinated by ISIS’ external operations wing, using multiple attacks across the city to overwhelm the police and evade capture.

Just as the Paris attackers planned their assault for at least three months prior to the attack, experts believe the attacks that rocked Brussels on Tuesday morning were most likely months in the making, the timing driven more by a desire to act before being disrupted than by revenge for Abdeslam’s arrest.

“Twin coordinated attacks on Belgian transport sites. Maybe revenge for Abdelslam, but planned and prepped ages ago,” ISIS expert Michael Weiss, author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” tweeted on Tuesday.

Will McCants, author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” agreed.

“Plots like this take weeks or months to put in motion,” McCants told Business Insider on Tuesday. “If the attackers are associates of Abdeslam, then they probably moved up the timetable of a preexisting plot to avoid capture.”

Significantly, traces of explosives were found in a Brussels apartment rented by the terrorists weeks before they carried out the terrorist attacks, The New York Times reported, suggesting the existence of a makeshift bomb factory in the heart of Belgium’s capital.

Terrorism expert Mia Bloom, professor of communication at Georgia State University and author of two books on terrorist-recruitment methods, told Business Insider “a plot of this caliber requires considerable planning and coordination.”

“It is likely that Abdeslam’s cell has been plotting this prior to his arrest (there was a substantial arms cache found),” Bloom said.

She added: “Coordinated attacks (multiple attacks in the same location, happening around the same time) tend to require the most planning. While it’s impossible to know for certain, in my humble opinion, it is highly unlikely that these attacks took only a few days.”

Geopolitical and security analyst Michael Horowitz largely echoed this sentiment in a statement to Business Insider.

“I think that more than a retaliation, the attacks (likely planned months ago), were in reaction to it: The cell was likely concerned that Abdeslam would talk and his capture eventually lead to dismantling of their own cell.”

JM Berger, coauthor of “ISIS: The State of Terror,” said in an email to Business Insider that while it was “very early to draw any major conclusions,” it was “certainly possible this attack had already been planned and the timetable was moved up after the arrest.”

A sophisticated ‘foreign infrastructure’

Analysts say the terrorist network’s ability to evade law enforcement after the Paris attacks long enough to plan and execute a major attack in the heart of the EU, even if its timeline was disrupted by Abdeslam’s arrest, is testament to the deep networks jihadists have consolidated across Europe.

The CT [counter-terrorism] federal police are actually very good,” Ben Taub, freelance contributor for The New Yorker on jihadism in Europe, tweeted on Tuesday. “It’s a numbers issue. Can’t keep up. Networks too deep.”

Articles

Navy extends hardship duty pay for one year

The Department of Defense has approved the Navy’s request for an extension to hardship duty pay for deployed sailors. Though the Navy requested the extra money for two years, the current funding expires in September, 2017, and does not include new money for Marines.


According to the Navy, an “extended deployment” consists of 221 consecutive days in an “operational environment” (aka: deployment), and the sailor assigned to those areas will earn $16.50 per day, “not to exceed $495 per month.” That amount is not dependent on rank or time in service. (Photo from U.S. Navy)

“The Navy is in high demand and is present where and when it matters,” said Vice Adm. Robert Burke, Chief of Naval Personnel. “Hardship Duty Pay – Tempo is designed to compensate sailors for the important roles they continue to play in keeping our nation safe during extended deployments around the globe.”

A Marine Corps financial office source said the reason the authorization was only approved for a year has more to do with politics than logistics.

During an election year, it is difficult to get additional funding for programs, he said.

“There are going to be budget cuts across the whole of the federal government in order for any progress on the national debt to be made,” the Marine financial office source said. “The next administration’s defense and fiscal policies will ultimately determine the fate of [Hardship Duty Pay- Tempo].”

A Navy spokesman said the service has paid out nearly $16 million over two years to about 24,000 sailors from 1,129 commands or units.

“This is something that the Navy wants for our sailors as we believe it positively affects sailors’ morale,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel. “It’s one small way to help them during long and difficult deployments away from home.”

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe
(Photo from U.S. Navy)

The Marine officer, however, was hopeful that “since it was reauthorized after its first go or ‘trial run,’ I think we can conclude that it was determined to be a success by our legislators in Congress and by the Department of the Navy’s upper echelon decision makers. Thus, I’m optimistic that it will continue in the future.”

Right now the reauthorization only applies to the Navy and does not include the Marine Corps. The same financial officer noted that though the extension of Hardship Duty Pay- Tempo does not apply to Leathernecks, he is hopeful that the Corps will issue its own extension.

The Marine finance officer didn’t believe that the lack of guidance for Hardship Duty Pay for the Corps would be a morale hit.

“If it turns out that Marines are not given HDP-T, I’m sure there will be a small level of frustration at first,” he said. “But Marines have always and will continue to put the needs of their country first, and are honored to do so. I have no doubt that what little frustration does occur will dissipate quickly.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

A 64-year-old Frenchman accidentally ejected himself from a fighter jet because he was stressed out by the ride

A 64-year-old man in France accidentally ejected himself from a fighter jet flying at 2,500 feet aboveground after pressing a button in panic because he was stressed out by the ride.

According to a recently published report from a French government agency, translated by CNN, the man’s company had organized the surprise ride in a Dassault Rafale B jet as a gift in March 2019.

Investigators with France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, who published their report in early April, found that once the man was in the air, he became so stressed by the ride that he pressed the ejector button in panic and was thrown from the aircraft, where he then parachuted down to the ground.


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His parachute in the air, far from the aircraft.

France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety

According to the investigation, the man, whose name has been withheld in the report, had no experience with military aircraft and had no interest in flying in a Dassault Rafale B jet before his company surprised him with the ride.

He was wearing a smartwatch at the time of the flight, which allowed investigators to record him having a heart rate between 136 to 142 beats per minute just before taking flight. A normal heart rate for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

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The man safely landing on the ground.

France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety

The man then got in the jet, which took flight in a three-plane exercise. It was 2,500 feet above the ground when he pressed the eject button.

His helmet wasn’t properly attached, according to the report, and went flying in midair. But he landed on the ground with no serious injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital to be evaluated.

The pilot landed the plane safely, too, and experienced minor facial injuries in the incident.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New Russian propaganda claims bears are afraid of Putin

Russian state TV has dedicated an entire show to documenting Vladimir Putin’s activities and praising him.

In the first episode of Rossiya-1’s new show, which aired on Sept. 4, 2018, the Russian president can be seen hiking around the Russian countryside, while his employees compliment almost everything about him, from his physical fitness to his “very empathetic” personality.

The show — named “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin.” — aired during prime time on Sept. 3, 2018, with the first episode lasting an hour long, The Guardian reported.


Clips from the episode showed wholesome activities such as Putin hiking with his ministers and picking berries in the Russian hills. Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu can be seen complaining about his legs hurting several days after his hike, in what is most likely praise for Putin’s fitness levels.

The episode also showed footage of Putin’s recent hiking holiday in Siberia. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman and a guest on the show, said jokingly according to The Guardian: “This is wild nature, there are bears there. Bodyguards are armed in an appropriate manner, just in case. Although if a bear sees Putin — they aren’t idiots — they will behave themselves properly.”

Rossiya-1 also showed Putin meeting with schoolchildren and musicians. Peskov said: “Putin doesn’t only love children, he loves people in general.”

www.youtube.com

Protests in Russia

The series comes as Putin is going through one of the lowest points in his presidency. August 2018 the president broke a 13-year-old promise to increase Russia’s retirement age, a decision which meant Russian workers could miss out on a pension altogether due to lower life expectancies in Russia than in Western countries.

Thousands of people around the country protested against the reforms in summer 2018, and Putin’s popularity rating plummeted to a four-year low, at around 67%.

Around 10,000 Russians across the political spectrum demonstrated against the pension reform on the streets of Moscow, while other small protests took place in cities like St Petersburg and Vladivostok, the Independent reported.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A protest against the Russian government’s proposal to raise the retirement age in Omsk in June 2018.

(Al Jazeera English / YouTube)

“Cult of personality”

Putin’s critics said the show was fostering a cult of personality.

Ilya Barabanov, a BBC journalist in Moscow, tweeted in response to the show on Sept. 4, 2018: “We must somehow record that in September 2018 we returned to the cult of personality.”

US journalist Susan Glasser also told CNN this was a “classic Kremlin project to elevate Vladimir Putin and to humanize him at a time when he’s under increasing fire from his own public.”

“It’s not an accident that this is occurring,” she added. “It seems to me right at a time when he’s embroiled in a real political controversy.”

The Kremlin has denied being behind the program, despite the broadcaster being state-run. Peskov, who appeared the show, said according to Agence France-Presse: “This is the project of [state TV company] VGTRK, not the Kremlin’s.

“It is important for us that information about the president and his work schedule is shown correctly and without distortion.”

Peskov added that Putin does not plan to be in the show.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO chief warns against new ‘Cold War’ with Russia

NATO does not want “a new Cold War” with Russia, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the end of a four-day parliamentary assembly of the alliance.


“We are concerned by…[Russia’s] lack of transparency when it comes to military exercises,” Stoltenberg said on October 9 in the Romanian capital, Bucharest.

He mentioned the Zapad exercise that Russia held with Belarus in September, which brought thousands of troops close to NATO’s eastern members and caused concerns about Moscow’s intentions given its military interference in Ukraine.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

At the same time, Stoltenberg said: “Russia is our neighbor…. We don’t want to isolate Russia; we don’t want a new Cold War.”

He said the 29-member alliance has stepped up jet patrols over the Black Sea in “response to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine.”

Romanian and Bulgarian pilots have conducted air exercises in the Black Sea in recent months, designed to reassure NATO members after Russia’s interference.

Russia occupied and seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and backs separatists in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine.

At the end of the parliamentary session in Bucharest, NATO also announced the launch of a new multinational force in Romania, its latest move to protect its eastern flank and to check a growing Russian presence in the Black Sea.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Justin T. Updegraff

Initially, a small force composed mostly of troops from 10 NATO states including Italy and Canada as well as host Romania, the land, air, and sea deployments are expected to complement some 900 U.S. troops already in place separately throughout the country.

“Our purpose is peace, not war,” Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told the session.

“We are not a threat for Russia, but we need a long-term NATO strategy; we need dialogue from a strong position of defense and discouragement,” he said.

Articles

The F-35 hits an unusual snag: the US dollar

The F-35 program has hit another snag, this time not an expensive production mishap or overrun, but the strength of the dollar itself.


At Lockheed Martin’s 2017 Media Day, Jeff Babione, general manager of the F-35 program, laid out the “blueprint for affordability,” or the defense giant’s plan to bring down the cost of the Joint Strike Fighter to below $85 million in the coming batches.

But therein lies a problem.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

With about half of the F-35s Lockheed Martin intends to build in the next five years heading out to foreign countries, even in house belt-tightening and big initial investments to help ramp up to economies of scale can’t offset the strong dollar.

Asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter if the dollar’s high exchange rate with foreign currencies is a problem for the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world, Babione said, “I think it is.”

“We’ve had some of our customers come up and raise the concern that this may potentially hurt their buys,” said Babione, who noted that some elements of production cannot move outside of the country to help mitigate costs for foreign buyers.

“We have some 1,700 suppliers in seven countries around the world. Many of the countries that are buying the F-35 produce parts for the F-35,” said Babione. But still, Babione concluded that currency exchange rates not withstanding, the best tactic is just to get the F-35’s price down, period.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe
A pilot takes the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft up for its first night flight near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 18, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“What I think I can do is drive the price down so whatever the exchange rate is, it’s affordable,” Babione said.

As of today, the most expensive F-35 is the Navy’s troubled variant, which remains under a review announced by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis as it’s being compared to Boeing’s F-18 Advanced Super Hornet package.

Meanwhile, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters that Lockheed Martin’s blueprint for affordability was “just ok,” and suggested revisiting the supply chain instead of simply seeking bigger upfront investments, as Defense News notes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army releases new graphic novellas to deal with cyber threats

Since World War II, the Army has been using comic books to train soldiers on specific duties and reduce casualties through improved situational awareness.

The trend continued through the Vietnam War. At that time, the Army discovered a training deficiency and produced a comic book to educate soldiers about proper weapon maintenance.

Fast forward to today, the Army is facing a new challenge.


Advancements in cyber and smart technologies have the potential to alter the landscape of future military operations, according to Lt. Col. Robert Ross, threatcasting project lead at the Army Cyber Institute, West Point, New York.

The U.S. military, allied partners, and their adversaries are finding new ways to leverage networked devices on the battlefield, Ross said.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

The Army Cyber Institute at West Point, New York, has partnered with Arizona State University Threatcasting Lab to produce a series of graphic novellas such as “1000 Cuts.”

(US Army photo)

“The use of networked technology is ubiquitous throughout society and the leveraging of these devices on future battlefields will become more prevalent; there is just no escape from this trend. Technology is integrated at every level of our Army,” he said.

Keeping with the Army’s legacy of producing visual literature to improve readiness, the ACI has partnered with Arizona State University Threatcasting Lab to produce a series of graphic novellas, Ross said.

The lab brings together military, government, industry, and academia experts to envision possible future threats.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

The graphic seen here is from the novella titled “1000 Cuts.”

(US Army photo)

Through their research, the workshop develops potential cyber threat scenarios, and then explores options to disrupt, mitigate, and recover from these future threats.

Each graphic novella considers what cyber threats are plausible in the next 10 years — based on a combination of scientific fact and the imagination of those involved, Ross explained.

“This project is designed to deliver that understanding through visual narrative,” he said. “Technical reports and research papers do not translate as well to the audiences we are looking to influence. Graphic novellas are more influential of a medium for conveying future threats to not only Army organizations at large, but down to the soldier level.”

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

The graphic seen here is from the novella titled “Insider Threat.”

(US Army photo)

The novella titled “1000 Cuts” depicts the psychological impact that a cyber-attack could have on soldiers and their families. In the story, these attacks were enough to disrupt a deployed unit, leaving them open to an organized attack, Ross said.

“Given the exponential growth in soldiers’ use of [networked] devices … 1000 Cuts presents an extremely plausible threat. It demonstrates how non-state actors can leverage technical vulnerabilities within the cyber domain to their advantage in the land domain,” Ross said.

“The visual conveyance of a graphic novella enables leaders to not only envision these scenarios but retain the lessons that can be drawn from them as well,” he added.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

The Pentagon’s inside info on North Korea’s true military strength

It’s almost springtime, that special time of year where the weather starts to turn, the flowers bloom, and the United States and South Korea hold the massive combined Foal Eagle and Key Resolve (formerly known as “Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration” or RSOI). The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) rattles its saber for two reasons. First, it will raise tensions whenever it needs something; money, food aid, or concessions from the United Nations, things of that nature. The second reason is the Foal Eagle/Key Resolve exercise.


The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd SBCT, 25th Infantry Division, fire M795 projectile 155 mm rounds on Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, South Korea, March 22, 2015. U.S. Army Solders run a live-fire exercise during joint training exercise Foal Eagle 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Samantha Van Winkle)

These exercises serve the dual purpose of preparing for a potential North Korean invasion while reminding the North of just how devastating an invasion would be for them. This reminder has become more important than ever in recent years, as the North nullified its agreement to the 1953 armistice, which ended the Korean War. Since then, it had grown its military force and nuclear arsenal and become ever more belligerent toward the West. The war never ended, only the shooting. Now the North claims it has the authority to start shooting again.

Related: The ten worst armies in the world

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

The isolated North lives (ostensibly) under Songun, a policy of putting their limited resources toward the military first, before any other person or institution. It also prioritizes the military in the affairs of state, which is a partial explanation of why they accept the sanctions that come with their development of nuclear weapons. The DPRK currently boasts the fourth largest army on Earth, but is that really a formidable force? Ask Saddam Hussein if a large army makes the difference between winning and losing a war.

Related: 21 Facts about the First Gulf War

A 2015 Congressional report from the Pentagon says the Korean People’s Army (the land component of the North Korean Armed Forces) fields 950,000 troops, 4,200 tanks, 2,200 armored vehicles, 8,600 pieces of field artillery, and 5,500 multiple rocket launchers. The report reads “North Korea fields a large, conventional, forward-deployed military that retains the capability to inflict serious damage on the ROK, despite significant resource shortfalls and aging hardware.” Simply put, the North can rain death and destruction on the South, and it doesn’t even have to cross the 38th Parallel (the current land border) to hit the South Korean capital.

Korean People’s Army

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

4-5% of the DPRK’s 24 million people are in the Korean People’s Army, with another 25 to 30 percent are assigned to a reserve or paramilitary unit. 70% of its ground forces and 50% of its air and naval forces are deployed within 100 kilometers of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The report says that few of its weapons systems are modern and some are as old as the 1950s.

Korean People’s Navy

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

The North Korean Navy floats  60,000 sailors, 430 patrol combatant ships, 260 amphibious landing craft, 20 mine warfare vessels, about 70 submarines, 40 support ships between two seas, the Yellow Sea to the West and the Sea of Japan to the East. Its specialty is amphibious landings and the DPRK has the largest submarine force in the world as well, though many are coastal subs and midget subs. The DPRK is working on developing a homegrown design for a ballistic missile submarine.

It’s also important to note that North Korea does not have a blue water navy. The navy is centered around an aging fleet of coastal defense forces. They might still be a little nervous about the Inchon Landing, also known as General MacArthur’s Rope-A-Dope.

Korean People’s Air Force

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe
Glorious People’s Revolutionary Top Gun.

With 110,000 troops, over 800 combat aircraft, 300 helicopters, and more than 300 transport planes North Korea boasts the OLDEST fleet of aircraft in the world. Its fighters are 1980s MiG-29s bought from the Soviet Union and some MiG-23 and SU-25 ground attack aircraft. The pilots are not well trained because training burns fuel and fuel is definitely one thing North Korea does not have. Its oldest aircraft are 1940s An-2 COLT aircraft, a single-engine biplane.

Its air defense systems are mostly aging but with the deteriorating air force, the North relies on its ground-base air defense systems. In a 2010 military parade, it showed off a surface-to-air SAM system that looked a lot like the formidable Russian s-300, which Iran sought so desperately to bolster its own air defense systems.

Related: Here’s how a war with Iran would go

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

Special Forces

The most highly trained, most well-equipped, best fed forces the Korean People’s Army can muster (only with North Korea would you have to mention how well-fed they are). Asymmetric warfare will grow to be a cornerstone of the DPRK’s armed forces, especially as its conventional forces continue to decline in strength and quality.

Nuclear Weapons and Ballistic Missiles

As previously mentioned, the North wants the ability to launch ballistic missiles from its submarine fleet, but so far those attempts have failed. Still, the North also pursues intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental U.S. Those two types are the Hwasong- 13 and Taepodong-2. Testing on these missiles is forbidden by UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which forbids the country from using ballistic missile technology. The North is likely using satellite launches to cover for its missile testing, its most recent test was February 7th, 2016, launching a Kwangmyongsong satellite into orbit.

North Korea also fields a cyber army as a cost-effective, low-risk way to disrupt enemy operations.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe
Or to stop bad movies from being released. Where were you when Eagle Eye was coming to theaters, North Korea??

They have extensive external and internal intelligence and security agencies, as well as special units that infiltrate the South to establish pro-North Korea groups and political parties to foment unrest.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

The latest reports on the war in Afghanistan seem to contradict the government assurances that victory is within reach, painting a picture of a bloody conflict with no end in sight.

In November 2018, 242 Afghan security force members were killed in brutal engagements with Taliban insurgents, The New York Times reported Nov. 15, 2018. Militants almost wiped out an elite company of Afghan special forces in an area considered the country’s “safest district,” and officials told Voice of America Nov. 15, 2018, that more than 40 government troops were recently killed in Taliban attacks near the border.


Over the past three years, more than 28,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani revealed in a rare admission.

“Since 2015, still much regrettable, but the entire loss of American forces in Afghanistan is 58 Americans. In the same period, 28,529 of our security forces have lost their lives,” the president said, according to the Times. For Afghanistan, this figure works out to roughly 25 police officers and soldiers dying each day.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Are the losses horrific? Yes,” he added, saying that this does not mean the Taliban are winning.

But there are real questions about whether the scale of these losses is sustainable.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis highlighted just how devastating the war has been for the Afghan security forces in an October 2018 speech. “The Afghan lads are doing the fighting, just look at the casualties,” he explained. “Over 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September.”

The Afghan government controls or influences only 55.5 percent of the country, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) introduced in its most recent quarterly report to Congress, noting that this is the lowest level of control in three years. In November 2015, the government controlled or influenced 72 percent of the country.

Hamid Karzai, former Afghan president, told the Associated Press that the blame for these losses rests on the shoulders of the US.

“The United States either changed course or simply neglected the views of the Afghan people,” Karzai told the AP. His views reflect what has been reported as a growing aversion for the NATO mission.

Signs that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating come as the US and its coalition partners ramp up their air campaign against Taliban forces. Coalition bombing in Afghanistan is at a 5-year high, according to the latest airpower report from US Air Forces Central Command, and the year isn’t out.

US Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan who narrowly escaped an assassination that left two senior Afghan officials dead and a US general wounded, recently told NBC that the war in Afghanistan “is not going to be won militarily. He added that the “the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily,” a view that may not be shared by Taliban commanders.

Caitlin Foster contributed to this report.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

B-2 stealth bombers are learning new tricks, sending message to Russia

Three US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, airmen, and support equipment from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri arrived in the United Kingdom on Aug. 27, 2019, for a Bomber Task Force deployment.

It’s not the first time B-2s have flown out of RAF Fairford, the Air Force’s forward operating location for the bombers.

The presence is a “continuation” of what the US military and European partners have done since Russia seized Crimea in 2014, said Jim Townsend, adjunct senior fellow in the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “It’s a matter of just continuing to show that we can operate at any level, whether it’s with a B-2 or it’s a lower level, [and] then we can operate where we need to in Europe, including in the Arctic.”


But within days of arriving the B-2s had done several new things that may have been as much about sending a message to rivals as they were about testing pilots and crews.

“B-2s and bombers have always been as much about the signaling as the capability,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

See what the B-2s have been up to and for whom their message is meant.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

Airman 1st Class Austin Sawchuk, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing, marshals in a B-2 on the flight line at RAF Fairford, Aug. 27, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber lands at Keflavik Air Base in Iceland, Aug. 28, 2019. It was the B-2 bomber’s first time landing in Iceland.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

A day after arriving in the UK, a B-2 landed in Iceland — the bomber’s first time there.

Using “strategic bombers in Iceland helps exercise Keflavik Air Base as a forward location for the B-2, ensuring that it is engaged, postured and ready with credible force,” US Air Forces Europe said in a caption on one of the accompanying photos.

Despite that phrasing, “Iceland is not considered a forward operating location similar to RAF Fairford,” US Air Forces Europe said in an emailed statement.

“Training outside the US enables aircrew and airmen to become familiar with other theaters and airspace and enhances enduring skills and relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges in support of the National Defense Strategy,” the statement said.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

509th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 bomber at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

US Air Force fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

Astride sea lines between the North Atlantic and the Arctic, Iceland also likely provides “geographical advantages in terms of things we’re worried about the Russians doing,” Skaluba said. “There’s probably, for certain missions or certain mission sets, a little bit of an advantage to use [Keflavik] over UK bases.”

Russian forces are increasingly active in the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Arctic, the Norwegian Sea, and in the GIUK Gap, which refers to the waters between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK — “so in and around Iceland with their own kind of high-end capabilities including nuclear subs and advanced fighters,” Skaluba said.

“So I think that this is a signal that the US, the UK, [and] NATO, are watching Russia closely, in clearly a little bit of, ‘Hey, we can match you with high-end capabilities in this geography,'” Skaluba said.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber taxis at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

The message may not only be for Russia.

“There’s a lot of Chinese investments,” Skaluba said. “There’s a big Chinese embassy in Reykjavik. I think that it’s in the first instance about the Russians, but there’s clearly some broader signaling going on, and I don’t think it’s a mistake that there’s a big Chinese presence in Reykjavik and that we landed the bombers there.”

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

UK F-35B Lightning fighter jets fly with US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers for the first time, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

A day after the Iceland landing, B-2s flew along the English coast with Royal Air Force F-35Bs. It was the first time the stealth bomber had flown with the British Joint Strike Fighter — and with any non-US F-35.

Source: The Aviationist

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit flies above the English countryside near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

Two US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers fly alongside two RAF F-35B Lightnings near the White Cliffs of Dover, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit flies along the English coast near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

Like the B-2, the F-35 is a stealth aircraft, meant to evade air-defense systems like the ones stationed around Europe, particularly Russian systems across Eastern Europe.

Russia’s Baltic exclave, Kaliningrad, bristles with anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, weaponry, and Moscow has added such A2/AD systems to Crimea since its 2014 seizure.

Russian “A2/AD capability [runs] from the high north through Kaliningrad, down to Crimea and all the way down into [Russia’s] base at Tartus in Syria,” Ben Hodges, former commander of the US Army in Europe, told Business Insider in late 2018, creating what he called “an arc of A2/AD.”

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A US Air Force B-2 bomber over the English countryside near Dover, Aug. 29, 2019.

(Royal Air Force)

The first-of-its-kind joint flight also came at a time when the US-UK special relationship might not be in the best shape, Skaluba added.

“This is kind of a reminder that the UK is the US partner of choice in security and defense, and frankly the UK is one of the few militaries globally that can…operate with the US at the high-end of the capability spectrum,” Skaluba said.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker to receive fuel over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker for refueling over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

The US has been more active in the Arctic in recent years, largely out of concern about competition in the region, particularly with Russia and China, as climate change makes it more accessible.

In October 2018, a US aircraft carrier sailed above the Arctic Circle for the first time since the Cold War.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

The B-2s first Arctic flight may have been made possible by changing conditions there. “But really it’s about the signaling,” Skaluba said.

The US, NATO, and Arctic countries are concerned “that Russia is being more aggressive on the security front in the Arctic,” and China has sought a larger role in the region. “We’re seeing competitor moves into the Arctic in different ways,” Skaluba said.

Russia shares an Arctic border with Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and all three countries are close to the Kola Peninsula base that is home to both Russia’s Northern Fleet and nuclear weapons storage and test facilities.

Norway is the only one of the three that is a member of NATO, but all the Nordic countries have kept a close eye on Russian missile tests in the region and on its Arctic combat forces.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

“There was a time right after Crimea when the Obama administration didn’t want to do anything to provoke the Russians,” Townsend said.

“So just sending B-52s over the Baltic was something that had to be cleared at a pretty high level,” Townsend said, adding that there has always been recognition of not wanting to provoke Russia by sending bombers close to its borders. “For whatever reason, the feeling must’ve been that was worth doing this time around.”

Skaluba also pointed to a recent speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a meeting of the Arctic Council, in which Pompeo said the Arctic had “become an arena of global power and competition.”

Within the eight-member Arctic Council, which includes Russia, “there’s still a lot of practical cooperation … but I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that Pompeo got everybody a little bit upset … talking about [how] we need to talk security issues, and then the US sends some big-time military assets up into the region.”

“So I think this a bit of a banging of the drum or pounding on the table from the US that we need to think about the Arctic in security terms, and on our own we’re going to do that, no matter what anybody else does. But it’s a clear signal to the Russians and the Chinese, no doubt.”

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A B-2 stealth bomber takes off from Lajes Field in the Azores, Portugal, Sept. 9, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Ricky Baptista)

The B-2s have continued to train around Europe in September, including a trip to the Azores where the bombers conducted hot-pit refueling, in which ground crew refuels an aircraft while its engines are running, allowing it to get back into the air as quickly as possible.

“As a fulcrum point of the Atlantic Air Bridge, Lajes Field provides the US Department of Defense and allied nations a power-projection platform for credible combat forces across Europe and Africa,” US Air Forces Europe said in a release.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

A B-2 performs a touch-and-go at RAF Fairford, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

The bombers also performed touch-and-go drills at Fairford, during which the bombers land and take off again without coming to a complete stop, allowing pilots to practice many landings in a short period of time.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s official: President orders Pentagon to create space command

U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the establishment of a space command that will oversee the country’s military operations in space.

Trump signed the one-page memorandum on Dec. 18, 2018, directing the Department of Defense to create the new command to oversee and organize space operations, accelerate technical advances, and find more effective ways to defend U.S. assets in space, including satellites.


The move comes amid growing concerns that China and Russia are working on ways to disrupt, disable, or even destroy satellites on which U.S. forces rely for navigation, communications, and surveillance.

The new command is separate from Trump’s goal to create an independent space force, but could be a step in that direction.

Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Vice President Mike Pence said: “A new era of American national security in space begins today.”

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Codie Collins)

Space Command will integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military, Pence said, adding that it will “develop the space doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures that will enable our war fighters to defend our nation in this new era.”

It will be the Pentagon’s 11th combatant command, along with well-known commands such as Central Command and Europe Command.

Space Command will pull about 600 staff from existing military space offices, and then add at least another 1,000 over the coming years, the Associated Press quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying.

Its funding will be included in the budget for fiscal year 2020.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

There will be a special exhibit at the National Mall this Memorial Day

This Memorial Day weekend, the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor will return to the National Mall in Washington D.C., featuring 645,000 poppies — each one representing an American service member who has fallen since World War I.

This year, in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the USAA Poppy Wall will also include a video featuring paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division.


The red poppy became synonymous with fallen Allies during the First World War when the hardy bloom painted the heroes’ graves red, and it has remained a symbol of their sacrifice ever since.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

USAA’s poignant exhibit will feature a clear wall stretching 133 feet long and 8.5 feet tall filled with the red bloom, making a striking contrast to the National Mall. From Friday, May 24 through Sunday, May 26, visitors can see the wall on the southwest side of the Reflecting Pool — between the Lincoln Memorial and the Korean War Memorial.

Also read: This is how the poppy became a symbol for fallen troops

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

In addition to the exhibit in Washington D.C., everyone is invited to dedicate a poppy in tribute to a fallen service member. During a time when many Americans celebrate the beginning of summer with a long weekend, there are those who can never forget the price paid for that freedom.

Related: 7 things you didn’t know about Memorial Day

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe
MIGHTY TRENDING

Here are a few ways the ‘storming of Area 51’ could end

If you’ve been on the internet at all for the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen news regarding the Facebook event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” It started out mostly as a joke – if you couldn’t tell by the name of the group that’s hosting it being called “Sh*tposting cause im in shambles” and the only actual plan set forward is to “Naruto run faster than their bullets.” Even the date of September 20th is a reference to the anniversary of Leeroy Jenkins storming Upper Blackrock Spire by himself in World of Warcraft.

That was until, at the time of writing this article, 1.6 million people clicked “Going,” another 1.2 million are “Interested,” and a four-star general at the Pentagon had to be debriefed by some poor lower-enlisted soldier about the intricacies of a 1997 Japanese manga series about a teenage ninja with a fox demon inside him.

Which begs the question: “But what if it wasn’t a joke?” Well. It’s really circumstantial.


Something tells me that this place will probably undo most of the plans to storm Area 51.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Absolutely nothing happens

Anyone who’s ever thrown a party using Facebook’s Event page can tell you that not all people are going to show up. Of the supposedly millions that said they’d be willing to attend, I can safely say that it will be nowhere near that number in reality.

In case there are those people that ordered a plane ticket to Nevada and are too stubborn to cancel, it doesn’t look likely either. It’s still going to be a logistical nightmare. The meet-up location at the Area 51 Tourist Attraction is still 72.4 miles from the actual “Area 51.” Unless you drove there or are renting a car, there’s no way in hell anyone is willing to walk that distance in the Nevada desert for a joke.

Everyone gets there, makes a few videos for YouTube, and goes their merry way and this all becomes a funny joke that we reference every now and then. For reference on where this meet up is supposed to happen, the video below is where “millions” of people are supposedly going to congregate. Good luck with that.

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

Imagine wanting to raid Area 51 to see all the futuristic alien tech just to come face-to-face with a row of these…

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Lauren Main)

They can, in fact, stop all of them

This possibility is also semi-broken down into ways that it would end in complete failure. The only difference is where the raid is stopped.

My personal guess for most likely scenario on this list is that local law enforcement would probably break up the unlawful gathering outside of a middle-of-nowhere gift shop/brothel long before anyone made a move to storm the actual installation. Given the potential crowd gathering with the sole intent on committing a federal crime, the police will probably be on scene with riot gear ready.

If, by some stretch of the imagination, the raid manages to not get stopped somewhere in the desert or single road onto the installation, they’ll be greeted by armed guards along the way. The defense contractors currently guarding the site would probably have their numbers bolstered from troops at nearby Nellis Air Force Base, Creech Air Force Base, and more.

The same rules of engagement that govern military operations would still likely apply. Violently engaging with a crowd of American citizens would be the absolute final resort if this line in the sand had to be reached. The “cammo dudes” today normally shoo away would-be onlookers without the use of deadly force. Anyone who’s made it this far would more than likely be detained without trouble.

But, you know, the use of deadly force IS authorized for just such an occasion…

The Brussels attacks hint at a worrying ‘iceberg’ theory about terror networks in Europe

Face it. The Fermi Paradox is real. If intergalactic aliens exist out there, they wouldn’t give a flying f*ck about stopping by Earth. Would you care about stopping by an anthill lifetimes out of your way?

(Image Credit: NASA)

Full and official disclosure (of how boring Groom Lake actually is)

Okay. Let’s finally get this out of the way because the mystery surrounding Area 51 is so enticing that it’s spawned countless conspiracy theories about what actually happens over there. Here goes…

There’s no way in hell that this could work as advertised. No amount of Kyles to punch the drywall out of the fence or Karens to speak to the managers will get you a Banshee from the Halo series. And I hate to break it to the other anime fans out there, but even by the show’s standards, if they’re still are able to casually have a conversation with each other while running at top speeds – they haven’t broken the sound barrier (at 1,125 ft/s.) Most calibers of ammunition probably used by any guard are still much faster.

That doesn’t mean this could all be a waste. Even by some strange miracle they actually do manage not to get turned into paste on first sight, they’d probably be in the exact same boat as if one of the many Freedom of Information Act requests got approved. They’d learn that it’s not that interesting.

It’s officially known as Groom Lake, and it’s just a testing ground far enough away from any civilian interference for top-secret aircraft like the U-2 spy plane and the precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird. Logically speaking, the timelines match up with “suspected” UFO sightings. Through the use of Google Satellite, you can also see countless craters in the ground still leftover from missile testing. The only reason they’re out there is because it’s one of the most remote locations in the continental U.S.The U.S. military is still developing new top-secret aircraft and missiles, and the area is still marked off for that reason. CIA documents released in 2013 showed this.

However, the large crowd outside their gates (or the possibility of a large crowd) could be enough for the government to go on record to say that there’s nothing extraterrestrial going on.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information