Britain would struggle to match Russia’s military capabilities on the battlefield, Chief of the General Staff Nick Carter has said in a speech.
In a Jan. 22 address to the Royal United Services Institute, a British defense and security think tank, Carter said Russia is building an increasingly aggressive expeditionary force while already demonstrating its use of superior long-range missiles in Syria.
The speech — approved by Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson — warned that Britain risks falling further behind potential adversaries unless it increases investments in its military operations.
Williamson has made it clear that he wants more funding for the NATO country’s military.
“The threats we face are not thousands of miles away but are now on Europe’s doorstep,” Carter said. “We have seen how cyberwarfare can be both waged on the battlefield and to disrupt normal people’s lives.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said last year that Russia had “mounted a sustained campaign of cyberespionage and disruption” against other countries.
“The time to address these threats is now — we cannot afford to sit back,” Carter said.
“Our ability to preempt or respond to threats will be eroded if we don’t keep up with our adversaries.
“We must take notice of what is going on around us or our ability to take action will be massively constrained.
“Speed of decision-making, speed of deployment, and modern capability are essential if we wish to provide realistic deterrence.”
The head of the air force, Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach, has also warned that Russia is an increasing threat.
Britain’s defense spending has been hit hard by government-ordered austerity following the 2008 financial crisis.
Reports have suggested the government is contemplating combining elite units of paratroopers and the Royal Marines as part of plan to reduce the number of military personnel by 14,000. That would represent a 10 percent reduction from the current staffing level of 137,000.
Ships from the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group are deploying without their carrier and accompanying air wing after the flattop suffered an unexpected electrical problem that required maintenance, the Navy revealed Sept. 12, 2019.
The destroyers USS Lassen, USS Farragut, and USS Forrest Sherman, along with the cruiser USS Normandy, will set sail from their homeports in Norfolk, Virginia, and Mayport, Florida, in the near future. These ships will be accompanied by helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Squadron 72 out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, however, will remain behind.
The move is unusual. Normally, if a carrier is down for maintenance or some other reason, it will simply be replaced with another carrier. But, the East Coast carrier fleet is currently short a suitable alternative in the inventory due to maintenance backlogs and delivery delays, among other issues.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) underway in the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
In late August 2019, the Truman aircraft carrier experienced an “electrical malfunction within the ship’s electrical distribution system requiring analysis and repair,” US Fleet Forces Command spokesman Capt. Scott Miller told USNI News, which first reported the news of both the electrical issue and the unusual deployment.
US 2nd Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis characterized the latest developments as “unfortunate” in talks with USNI News. “The situation with Truman frankly is unfortunate,” he told the naval affairs outlet. “Obviously, we’re working really hard to fix it, and we will fix it, but it’s unfortunate — nobody wanted that to happen certainly.”
The Navy said Sept. 12, 2019, that “repairs are progressing and all efforts are being made to deploy the carrier and air wing as soon as possible.” But, as there are still a number of unknowns surrounding the issue, it is unclear when the Truman will again be ready to sail.
USS Harry S. Truman in drydock at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
“Not having the aircraft carrier,” Lewis explained to USNI News, “it does detract from the symbolism and the deterrent effect, no question.”
“The aircraft carrier is a behemoth beast with an amazing capability, it shows up off your shores, and if you’re not our friend you become our friend quickly if you know what’s good for you. There is no question that that effect is lost with smaller ships.”
The deploying ships have formed a Surface Action Group, and the admiral insists that these ships bring the kind of capability to confront both low- and high-end threats.
Explaining that the ships have anti-submarine, air-and-missile defense, and strike warfare capabilities, he insisted that this is a “very capable group” that is ready “to do the nation’s bidding in this great power competition,” an apparent reference to 2nd Fleet’s role in countering a resurgent Russia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Army’s new strategy to improve marksmanship will eliminate a shortcut that units use for individual weapon qualification — a long-standing practice that has eroded lethality over the years, infantry officials said.
Army officials at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia are awaiting final approval of the new marksmanship manual that will prepare the Army for a new, and much more challenging, qualification test.
The new course of fire — which forces soldiers to make faster decisions while firing from new positions — will drastically update the current, Cold War-era rifle qualification course. That course required soldiers to engage a series of pop-up targets at ranges out to 300 meters.
The stricter qualification standards will also do away with the practice of using the Alternate Course of Fire, or Alt. C, to satisfy the annual qualification requirement, Sgt. 1st Class John Rowland, marksmanship program director at Benning’s Infantry School, told Military.com.
Alt. C is an Army-approved 25-meter course in which soldiers shoot at targets scaled down in size to represent actual target sizes out to 300 meters. At that short range, however, the trajectory of the 5.56mm bullet is extremely flat and unaffected by wind, making it easier to score hits, experts say.
Pvt. Bobby Daniels of D Company, 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, makes an adjustment to his M-4 rifle during combat familiarization training at Fort Benning.
“It is an approved qualification that largely has been abused, based off of lack of training management and proper planning. And it has come at the cost of lethality,” Rowland said. “That is going to be very impactful for units because they are very used to not being very proactive and not being able to fall back on, ‘well we’ll just do Alt. C.’ And that is no longer going to be the case.”
Army training officials at Benning have been spent the last two years validating the training strategy and course of fire for a new marksmanship qualification standard that is designed to better prepare soldiers for the current operational environment, according to Melody Venable, training and doctrine officer for the Infantry School.
“We have visited various units across the Army, and we have tested and validated parts of it as needed,” Venable said.
Soldiers who have shot the new course “are doing very well at it,” Venable said.
“They appreciate the training that the training strategy provides, and they enjoy the course of fire because it’s more realistic,” she said.
The new qualification course is designed to use the current marksmanship ranges across the Army.
“It’s still 40 targets; it’s still 40 bullets,” Rowland said. “It’s the same targets that people have been shooting at for years.”
But the new course adds the standing position to engage targets on two occasions during the course in addition to the kneeling and prone positions. The course requires soldiers to change magazines on their own and seek cover on their own while they engage multiple targets at the same time, Rowland said. The current course consists mainly of one-at-a-time target exposures.
Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning.
The next milestone in the effort will come when Brig. Gen. David Hodne, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, signs the new manual that will guide the marksmanship effort so it can be published and sent out to the active force, National Guard and Reserve, Venable said.
Once that happens, leaders throughout the Army will have time to provide feedback on any challenges they might face in putting the new qualification strategy into action.
“Units have 12 months from the time of publication to provide the Infantry School and the MCOE with feedback on their issues with implementation of the training strategy or the course of fire,” Venable said, adding the many of the ranges across the Army are likely to require some updating.
“At this time, we are not there with a hardcore implementation date. … We don’t know all the second- and third-order effects that the changes are going to produce.”
But one of the clearest differences of the new qualification standards is that Alt. C is no longer a valid qualification, Rowland.
“That is going to be a huge change for the Army,” he said.
Army units can still use Alt. C to extend their annual qualification rating by six months if a deployment or high operational tempo prevents them from going to a range and qualifying with the new course of fire, Venable said.
“In areas where they don’t have range access — let’s just say they are downrange and they are 250 miles to a primary range — units can use Alt. C because they can’t get a range. However, they have to have a general officer approve the use of Alt. C,” Venable said. “They still have to come back and shoot the [new] course of fire to qualify.”
Using Alt. C extends a soldier’s current rating of marksman, sharpshooter or expert, but it cannot change it, Rowland said.
“If you are marksman and you conduct a validation event [with Alt. C] and you get a perfect score — you are still a marksman; you are not expert,” Rowland said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Sunbaked skin presses against the butts of rifles, as sweat runs down foreheads, brimming along chin straps and soaking into shirt collars. Their eyes scan the urban terrain, searching for enemies from the surrounding grassy hills of Camp Guernsey, Wyoming.
Marines and airmen from around the globe trained together for the first time in the advanced tactical course from June 9-20, 2019.
“Move, I have you covered,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Roman, Marine Corps Security Forces Training Company instructor.
Shots ring out and echo through a desolate neighborhood of tan shipping containers stacked and strewn about. Feet pound and guns sway as a small-fire team run to their next sheltering place. A cadre calmly walks behind, eyes watching for mistakes.
“A small mistake in training could cost you your life in a real-world situation,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Koritar, 90th Ground Combat Training Squadron training instructor. “Correcting mistakes in a controlled environment will instill muscle memory and effective tactical decision making will become normal.”
A machine gun lets loose from a dark window aimed for a dilapidated shack near their shelter. The sound reverberates through their rib cages as they press forward to their objective.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicholas Ponce, 90th Security Support Squadron tactical response force member, holds down a tactical angle during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
“It’s important to break their fears,” Koritar said. “When it comes to ‘the moment’ we don’t want them to freeze and cause the potential death of others.”
Getting the students into a normalcy of hearing gunfire and moving forward, despite inner fears, is paramount to molding a successful tactical response force and is one of the goals of ATC.
The team stacks up for their next move, communicating each other’s positions. All the while, covering down on different tactical angles, with their M4 carbine, watching for a shooter.
From a window overlooking an open courtyard, shots are fired. With the distraction from another fire team, they can move towards their objective. Passing by windows, one member scans for possible targets, while his partner watches their back.
“Clear. Move,” Roman said after each window.
Marine Corps Sgt. Spencer Hockaday, Marine Corps Security Forces Training Company instructor, rappels Aussie-style down the Cheyenne Fire Department training facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., June 17, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
The modified shipping containers now tower overhead, blocking them from view of their counterparts in the courtyard windows.
They clear out a makeshift building, planning to move farther into the city. Lined up at the door, an airman sends out cover fire as the team makes a run for shelter.
Pop! A plume of white smoke escapes a training improvised explosive device set off by the first airman’s advance between two buildings.
“The first two,” said Staff Sgt. Mathew Nason, 90th GCTS training instructor. “You’re dead.”
The mission must press on.
“We get them exposed in the urban environment or with the payload transporter van so they know what to look for,” Koritar said. “The trip wire and IED training is important, it’s a simple attack and the threat is real.”
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ryan Mason II, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force member, and Senior Airman Kevin Freese, 341st Security Support Squadron TRF, navigate terrain during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
In the clouds a UH-1 Huey from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, banks to land in an open field for infiltration and exfiltration exercises down the road. Another team runs, heads tucked down, below swishing blades to load up.
Over the course of 11 days, the students learned a multitude of skills, including: urban operations, rappelling down a 56-foot rappel tower, helicopter operations, close quarters combat and PT van and vehicle assaults.
“I am learning a lot of new stuff I haven’t seen before and the stuff I already know, I am just practicing and getting better at it,” said Airman 1st Class Jose Villalvazo-Vazquez, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force member. “At the end, no matter if you know it or not, practice is what helps you perfect it.”
Not only does every student need to polish their individual skills, they also learn to work as a cohesive team.
“At the beginning of this course one of the classes’ weaknesses was team cohesion,” Koritar said. “We have guys who come from different bases, who have never worked together. When they walk into our door we teach them to have accountability, to take care of their people and to meet and rise to a higher standard every day.”
Airman 1st Class Benjie Phillips and Senior Airman Alvaro Aguilera, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force members, clear a multi floored building during training at the Cheyenne Fire Department training facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., June 17, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
The course mixes the members into groups and expects them to quickly learn how to communicate and work as a cohesive team. Communication is important during combat situations; however, there is a more prominent reason for a team like this to bond together.
“I tell these guys, you’re going to eat together, sleep together, you’re going to hang out on your off time together, to build that foundation to trust their buddy,” Koritar said. “You want all of your guys on the same page, that tight-knit community where they are ready to die for their buddy if need be.”
Creating a team that would walk through hell together isn’t a tranquil task. It leaves sweat stains, dirt-streaked faces and bruised and bloody limbs.
“We have been failing, we’ve been growing, we’ve been getting to know each other. That’s what it means to learn,” said Villalvazo-Vazquez.
To protect one of America’s greatest assets, it takes dedication, pride and a well-taught team. The perfect team is constantly looking for improvements, budding to be the best and is willing to train and work in the most grueling of conditions.
“The goal is to take a trained member from any base and have the tactics across the board to be the same throughout,” Koritar said.
The ATC had their first blend of students including Marines and airmen from around the globe; some traveling from as far as, Aviano Air Base, Italy and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
U.S. Air Force Airmen disembark a UH-1 Iroquois, during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
“Integration of different people including Marines, allows us to see different aspects in training,” said Airman 1st Class Damion Rodriguez, 91st SSPTS TRF member. “The mixed course forces us to get to know other people, how they see things, and how they work and cope with responsibilities and tasks given.”
The learning and improvement observed throughout the training wouldn’t be a possibility without a central location and experienced cadre shaping members to TRF standards.
“These exercises are beneficial to the students because they don’t always have the training areas or the equipment and resources to actually make these complex scenarios happen,” Koritar said. “At Camp Guernsey we have the training ranges, time and cadre to help evaluate and mold these guys and help them become successful and do the TRF mission.”
After gallons of water have been converted into sweat and uniforms abused by rocks and dirt, the students skilled in all areas of the TRF mission earn the right to graduate. Thus allowing them to be placed on any fire team and not miss a beat, ensuring America is continuously under protection from adversaries around the globe.
U.S. troops are still ready to “fight tonight” against North Korea despite the indefinite suspension of major military training exercises on the Korean peninsula, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
Army Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the 28,500 U.S. troops on the peninsula, is confident “that we still have the readiness required to be able to respond to any aggression,” Air Force Lt. Gen. David Allvin told the House Armed Services Committee.
If Abrams “felt like he was not able to achieve the readiness to accomplish the mission for which he was assigned, he would certainly come up voicing that, and we’d be hearing that,” said Allvin, director of strategy, plans and policy for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. “The overall posture remains strong.”
The large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises were suspended in 2018 by President Donald Trump as too costly and “provocative” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who repeatedly branded them as practice for an invasion.
However, Allvin said that readiness has been maintained through more than 270 small-scale exercises with South Korean forces in 2019.
He said U.S. troops had conducted 273 of 309 “planned activities” with the South Koreans last year, giving the combined force the fighting edge to deal with any threat mounted by North Korea.
The readiness of U.S. forces is crucial as diplomatic leverage to maintain prospects for resuming long-stalled negotiations with North Korea on disarmament and denuclearization, said John Rood, the under secretary of Defense for Policy, but he cautioned that Kim’s next steps are impossible to predict.
A top North Korean official last month also threatened that the U.S. would be receiving a “Christmas gift” that the U.S. and regional allies suspected might be the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile or a resumption of underground nuclear testing, but there was no follow-through.
“We are watching very carefully what they are doing,” Rood said. “We don’t know clearly the reasons why North Korea did not engage in more proactive behavior, which they seemed to be hinting they were planning to do in December.”
To maintain pressure on the North, the U.S. is continuing to ask South Korea to pick up more of the cost for the presence of U.S. troops on the peninsula, he said.
Japan recently launched a new class of destroyer with top-of-the line US missile-defense technology, and despite Japan’s mostly defensive posture, China portrayed the ship as a dangerous menace.
The seven decades since World War II, which concluded with the US dropping two atomic bombs on Japan, have seen the rise of a strong US-Japanese alliance and peace across the Pacific.
Japan, following its colonization of much of China during the war, renounced military aggression after surrendering to the US. Since then, Japan hasn’t kept a standing military but maintains what it calls a self-defense force. Japan’s constitution strictly limits defense spending and doesn’t allow the deployment of troops overseas.
“It’s not a big deal that they have this ship,” Veerle Nouwens, an Asia-Pacific expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider. “They’re using it for military exchanges or diplomacy. That’s effectively what it’s doing by going around to India, Sri Lanka, and Singapore.”
The new destroyer isn’t a radical departure from Japan’s old ones and will spend most of its time training with and visiting neighboring militaries. The destroyer isn’t exactly a rubber ducky, but it has one of the more peaceful missions imaginable for a warship.
One reason it may have drawn rebuke from Beijing is simple geography. This destroyer will have to pass through the South China Sea, and that is extremely sensitive for Beijing, which unilaterally claims almost the whole sea as its own in open defiance of international law.
China’s Global Times state-linked media outlet responded to the ship’s launch by saying it was “potentially targeting China and threatening other countries,” citing Chinese experts.
“Once absolute security is realized by Japan and the US, they could attack other countries without scruples,” one such expert said, “which will certainly destabilize other regions.”
The various territorial claims over the South China Sea
China’s real game
“China seeks full control over the South China Sea,” Nouwens said. “We can say that quite squarely. It seeks to displace the US from its traditional position from its regional dominance in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific more widely.”Since World War II, the US, particularly the US Navy, has enforced free and open seas and a rules-based world order. Imposed at a massive cost to the US, this order has enriched the world and specifically China, as safe shipping in open waters came as a given to businesses around the globe.
But now, Nouwens said, “China is threatening to lead to a situation where that may not be a given anymore.”
“When other countries do it, it’s threatening,” Nouwens said. “When China does it to other countries, it’s fine.”
That the only two countries to ever engage in nuclear war can now work together as partners looking to protect the rights of all countries on the high seas might represent a welcome and peaceful development.
But for Beijing, which fundamentally seeks to undermine that world order to further its goals of dominating Asia, it’s cause for worry.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon is trying to finalize an order for 12 new ballistic missile submarines, the lead ship of which will be named USS Columbia (SSBN 826).
The Navy hopes to place the order before the Trump administration takes office.
According to reports by the Daily Caller and USNI News, the order will permit the Navy to start the process of designing and building the submarines. The Congressional Research Service reports that the sub will carry 16 Trident ballistic missiles, a decrease from the 24 missiles carried by the 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines presently in service.
Four other Ohio-class submarines were converted to fire BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and to support SEALs with covert commando raids.
According to the CRS report, the Columbia-class submarines are expected to be 560 feet long and 43 feet in diameter, roughly the size of the Ohio-class submarine. The vessels will have technological improvements, notably a reactor that will not require refueling as well as taking advantage of techniques used to build the Virginia-class submarines, including modular construction and the use of open architecture to make upgrades easier.
Earlier this year, BreakingDefense.com reported that the vessels will be built by Electric Boat.
This would be the ninth ship to carry the name USS Columbia in U.S. Navy service. The eighth, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, is still in service and has the hull number SSN 771.
A 2013 Navy release states that the first Columbia-class boomer is expected to begin construction in 2021, enter service in 2027, and undertake its first deterrence patrol in 2031. According to a report by USNI News, each sub is expected to cost about $8 billion.
The Islamic State group, responsible for some of the worst atrocities perpetrated against civilians in recent history, appears on the verge of collapse.
After brutalizing residents living under its command for more than three years, the militants have now lost their self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa and are battling to hang on to relatively small pockets of territory in Iraq and Syria, besieged by local forces from all sides. Few, however, expect IS to completely go away, or for the bloodshed in the two countries and the region to end quickly.
Here’s a look at the Islamic State group, the rise and fall of its “caliphate” and what to expect next:
A ‘Caliphate’ No More
IS, which emerged from the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq, began its spread across the Mideast in early 2014, overrunning the Iraqi city of Fallujah and parts of the nearby provincial capital of Ramadi. In Syria, it seized sole control of the city of Raqqa after driving out rival Syrian rebel factions.
In June 2014, IS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from where its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared a self-styled “caliphate,” a declaration tantamount to an earthquake that would temporarily redraw borders and shake up the entire region.
IS promised justice, equality, and an Islamic, religious utopia. But over the next few years, it terrorized people living under its control, systematically slaughtering members of Iraq’s tiny Yazidi community, kidnapping women and girls as sex slaves, beheading Western journalists and aid workers, and destroying some of the Mideast’s spectacular archaeological and cultural sites.
IS also attracted a motley crew of foreign fighters, mostly marginalized European youths and other foreigners who took up its cause. But it alienated mainstream Sunni Muslims, who found IS’ crude interpretation of Islam also spreading in areas far from Syria and Iraq.
Creating a territorial caliphate created a target, and an international anti-IS coalition soon took shape.
The United States launched its campaign of airstrikes against IS in Iraq in August 2014, and a month later in Syria. In Iraq, it partnered with government forces working with state-sanctioned Shiite-led militias as well as Iraqi Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga. In Syria, it partnered with local Syrian Kurdish-led fighters, the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Supported by tens of thousands of US-led airstrikes, these forces drove IS militants from one stronghold after another over the years. The biggest blow came in July when Mosul, long regarded as IS’ administrative capital, was liberated.
In Syria, IS appears to be heading for collapse as the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, and Syrian government forces, backed by their Russian allies, are attacking them in separate, simultaneous offensives.
A senior SDF commander on Oct. 17 said his forces liberated Raqqa from IS militants and would formally announce victory soon after clearing operations to remove land mines and search for sleeper cells. Mayadeen, a town in the heart of Syria’s Euphrates River Valley near Iraq’s border where the militants had been expected to make their last stand, fell to Syrian government troops over the weekend.
In northern Iraq, the jihadis no longer hold any cities or towns after their stronghold of Hawija fell earlier this month. Iraq’s army is now gearing up to fight IS in its last territory — the sprawling desert Anbar province stretching all the way to the Syrian border. In Syria, IS still holds the town of Boukamal near the Iraqi border and scattered pockets of territory in the east.
The destruction of IS has come at a devastating cost for both Syria and Iraq, and immense suffering for those who endured the militants’ brutal reign.
The fighting and airstrikes have pulverized once thriving cities, turning them into tragic vistas of crushed apartment blocks, flattened homes and collapsed roads and bridges. In Ramadi, Mosul and Raqqa, the scope of the damage is staggering.
Two weeks ago, the US-led coalition announced it has returned more than 83 percent of IS-held land to local populations since 2014, liberating more than 6 million Syrians and Iraqis in the process. At least 735 civilians have been unintentionally killed by coalition strikes, although activists and war monitors estimate the toll to be much higher.
The nine-month battle to liberate Mosul resulted in the death of up to 1,500 Iraqi forces. At least 1,100 SDF fighters were killed in the battles for Syria’s Raqqa and Deir el-Zour up until late September, according to the coalition.
In the three years since IS began building its “caliphate,” it has killed thousands of people, displaced millions, and worked hard on infusing children with extremist doctrine.
Shifting of Sands
The rise of the Islamic State group and subsequent wars and alliances to bring about its defeat has worsened political and sectarian fault-lines in Syria and Iraq.
It gave unprecedented clout to Kurdish populations in both countries, unsettling their central governments, as well as Iran and Turkey, both battling Kurdish separatists within their own borders.
Under cover of the fight against IS, Iraq’s Kurds seized the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in 2014 — a move Baghdad has now reversed, moving into the city, seizing oil fields and other infrastructure in an attempt to curb Kurdish aspirations for independence.
The shifting and chaotic battlefields in Syria’s civil war, tensions between Kurds and ethnic Arabs, the presence of Shiite militias and government troops in predominantly Sunni towns and cities vacated by IS may lead to more violence.
In many ways, the fight over IS spoils and territories is only just beginning.
All forces battling IS will have to remain vigilant even after they recapture the last militant-held territory. In some ways, they now face an even more daunting challenge.
Hisham al-Hashem, an Iraqi writer and analyst, estimates there remain 8,000 jihadis in Iraq’s Anbar who will melt away “like salt in water” to wait for the right moment to launch their next insurgency or suicide attack.
IS affiliates continue to carry out swift attacks in Egypt and Libya, where the group gained a foothold and which could be its preferred theaters of retaliations. Before it broke away from al-Qaeda and rebranded itself as the Islamic State, al-Qaeda in Iraq waged a years-long insurgency following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, pushing the country to the brink of civil war.
The Inspire Up Foundation launched their Spark and Inspire boxes for 2021. There are 100 free boxes that are up for grabs, each filled with over $100 worth of items said to empower, uplift and encourage the recipient.
Eligibility for the box requires those who register to be a military member, veteran, first responder or be a spouse of one. Their title sponsor for the quarterly boxes is the Military Lending department of Caliber Home Loans, it’s thanks to them that the boxes increased from 50 to 100 for 2021. Previous boxes included items like $100 Lowe’s gift cards, coffee mugs, t-shirts, blessing bags to give to the homeless and books written by prominent military community members.
In each box the organization works hard to feature a veteran-based business and this next one is no exception. They’ve partnered with Black Rifle Coffee company to provide each recipient with a bag of their original and much loved grind for the winter Activate box.
The reason behind the creation of the initiative was simple according to Inspire Up’s Chief Financial Officer and WATM writer, Jessica Manfre. “What initially prompted it was watching military spouses around us struggling during the pandemic,” she explained. After partnering with an Air Force spouse who teaches resiliency, the idea was born. “We know we can’t solve the world’s problems with a box of stuff, but it is our hope that it sparks and inspires the recipient to keep going and find joy even in the midst of hardship.”
Spark and Inspire is an initiative run by five military spouses, all affiliated with different branches of service. It was their hope that by continually creating conversation around empowerment, service to others and living a purpose-filled life – they could create a ripple of change.
“We recognize that the pandemic and all of the negative impacts it comes with is going to be around for a while. Our non-profit is committed to continually seeking out ways we can connect our communities with each other and help create spaces to come together,” Manfre said. Inspire Up has hosted a number of virtual opportunities for military spouses with partners like Military Families Magazine. Through these events they talk about the issues weighing on the military community and work on solutions together to target them.
While this may all be virtually – for now – the organization hopes to expand to in-person mini events later in 2021. The boxes of “joy” as Manfre called it, is just the beginning for what the team hopes to accomplish.
So how do you get your hands on one of these for yourself or someone you know? It’s simple, click here to visit their website and simply follow their social media channels @inspireupfdtn to look for your chances to win.
Hussein Farrah Aidid left the United States Marine Corps and attempted to be a warlord like his father, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who is a central figure in the story of Black Hawk Down.
Mohamed Aidid was the leader of the Habr Gidr clan, who vied for power in the wake of the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre’s Somali regime. Aidid not only diverted food aid and relief supplies, his fighters ambushed 24 Pakistani peacekeepers. The United Nations offered a $25,000 reward for his capture, and he was targeted by Task Force Ranger. TF Ranger’s hunt for Aidid led to the ill-fated Battle of Mogadishu that resulted in the death of 18 American troops.
Aidid had four wives. His first wife, Asli Dhubad, gave birth to five children. Hussein Farrah Aidid was the first of those five. He was born in a remote area of Somalia in 1962. At the age of 14, he emigrated to the United States at a time when Somalia was ruled by the dictator Barre whose authoritarian government was enjoying a brief thaw in relations with the U.S. Hussein graduated from high school in Covina, California two years later before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Aidid was an artilleryman, assigned to Battery B, 14th Marines at the Marine Corps Reserve base in Pico Rivera, California. He deployed in support of Operation Restore Hope, the U.S.-led task force in Somalia whose aim was to disrupt the personal army of Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The elder Aidid controlled the strongest faction in the ongoing power struggle in the country.
The UN mandate was to “establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia.” Essentially, Restore Hope aimed to protect the delivery of food and other humanitarian aid, keeping it from falling into the hands of Aidid’s personal army. The Marines deployed the younger Aidid because he was the only one in the ranks who could speak Somali.
He returned to the U.S. and became a naturalized citizen. In 1995, Aidid told his command he would miss drill for a while because he was traveling outside the U.S. He returned to Somalia and began preparing for his role in the Habr Gidr militia.
The elder Mohamed Farrah Aidid continued his struggle for power, even declaring himself President of Somalia in 1995, a declaration no country recognized. He was shot in a battle against former allied warlords in July 1996 and died of a heart attack during surgery.
The younger Aidid vacillated between being more conciliatory than his father to being as warlike as his father. Initially he vowed to crush and kill his enemies at home and overseas. He continued his father’s policies, especially the pacification of the countryside, which most saw as an authoritarian power grab. Forces loyal to Aidid were known to rob and kill civilians in their controlled territories. Other allied factions left the young leader’s camp because they did not see dedication to the peace process.
The younger Aidid eventually softened, renouncing his claim to the presidency and agreeing to UN-brokered peace agreements in 1997. An ardent anti-Islamist, he assisted the Bush Administration in tracking down the flow of arms and money through Mogadishu, gave up the sale and use of landmines, and helped Somali government forces capture the capital from the al-Qaeda-allied Islamic Courts Union in 2006. He was hired and fired as deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of Public Works. He defected to Eritrea in 2007.
”I always wanted to be a Marine,” he told The Associated Press. ”I’m proud of my background and military discipline. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
During its development in the late 1960s, the C-5 Galaxy was more than $2 billion over budget – more than $7 billion in today’s dollars, and well more than the cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The troubled program nearly broke the back of its developer, the Lockheed Corporation, and was the subject of House and Senate investigations once Congress found out about it. Enter A. Ernest Fitzgerald, once Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Management Systems, suddenly reduced to managing a bowling alley in Thailand before being dismissed altogether.
The reason for his dismissal was the disclosure of secret material… to the U.S. Congress. Eventually, he would be reinstated and, for the rest of his tenure in the Defense Department, he would be known as the “Most Hated Person in the Air Force.”
The C-5 Galaxy carries almost anything in the world but almost sunk Lockheed and the US Air Force.
Fitzgerald not only divulged the information to Congress, but he also testified before a Senate subcommittee on the subject of government waste, specifically targeting the C-5A program. He knew that just by testifying before the committee, he would be the subject of reprisals by his peers and his superiors. The program was years behind schedule and costing the government billions in its development. Lockheed, the civilian agency working on the program, even needed a bailout from the government to keep the C-5 program from taking the company down with it.
The expected reprisal was swift and harsh. Fitzgerald, a civil servant since 1965, lost his tenure, then lost his Pentagon position. He was transferred to managing chow halls and bowling alleys in Thailand before his job was eliminated completely. The entire process took less than a year and was approved by President Nixon himself.
“Get rid of that son of a b*tch.” – President Richard Nixon on Ernest Fitzgerald. No joke.
The C-5 Galaxy program was just the beginning for the man who preferred the term “truth teller” to “whistleblower.” His testimony to Congress was repaid in full by the Civil Service Commission when they forced the Pentagon to restore Fitzgerald. The man was shut out from oversight of weapons development, but secrets are hard to keep in the Pentagon. He continued to inform Congress about cost overruns and inefficiencies.
When Boeing overcharged the government for cruise missiles, Fitzgerald was there. When the Air Force paid 6.55 for plastic stool caps that cost 34 cents to produce, Fitzgerald told the world. He was even invited to show the American taxpayers on Late Night With David Letterman. Eventually, he was the go-to guy for whistleblowers in the Pentagon who wanted to leak info about fraud, waste, and abuse.
During the thick of the 1991 Gulf War, anti-Iraqi coalition forces were mounting some 2,000 air sorties against Iraqi targets in the Middle East. In retaliation, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fired scud missiles at Israel.
The U.S. obviously wanted to keep that from happening.
Now, if you’ve been keeping track, the Israelis don’t take kindly to threats. Or attacks. Especially scud missile attacks. Over the course of 17 days, Iraq fired 39 Scud Missiles at the highly populated coastal cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa. An estimated 147 Israelis were killed.
To give you an idea of how Israel tends to retaliate to this sort of thing, the 1972 Munich Olympics attack killed 11 Israelis. In response, Israeli intelligence – the Mossad – launched Operation (no joke) WRATH OF GOD. They hunted down every Arab plotter of the Munich massacre and killed them. For 20 years.
Only the Mossad wasn’t about to wait 20 years to ice Saddam.
In 1992, they came up with Operation Bramble Bush, their plan to assassinate the Iraqi dictator. One agent, Nadav Zeevi, was tasked to find a pattern in Saddam’s movements. Then, the Israelis would track the dictator to where he would spend a longer amount of time. Once Saddam settled into a location, the Israelis would have their revenge.
But instead of an air strike, Israel wanted to mount a “glamorous” commando raid, using Sayeret Matkal special operators in a kill, definitely not capture mission. One version of the proposed raid had commandos launching missiles at Saddam during a funeral.
Israel mounted crazy, balls-out commando raids in the past. Their legendary raid on Entebbe featured a caravan of cars designed to resemble Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s entourage. They flew into Uganda, landed at the airport, drove off to the terminal, killed every terrorist, and then took their hostages to waiting planes in a hail of gunfire.
Unfortunately for history, they had to abort the idea. It was difficult to track Saddam because of the sheer number of his body doubles. Agent Zeevi even thought to just watch the dictator’s mistresses, but the body doubles also fooled the mistresses.
To make matters worse, a dry run in Israel’s Negev Desert went horribly awry. Troops training for the raid in 1992 accidentally fired a live missile, killing five IDF soldiers. The accident led to officials canceling the operation.
They thought they might try again in 1999, waiting until Saddam was in a designated location. 40 operators divided into two groups; one within 200 meters of the location, painting the location as a target, the other six miles away, firing three Midras missiles on that target.
That plan was scrapped because the Americans and British were bombing Iraq anyway. And in the end, they didn’t have to assassinate the dictator. But let their effort be a lesson: just leave Israel alone.