The US is beginning to draw down from fighting in Iraq - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is beginning to draw down from fighting in Iraq

American troops have started to draw down from Iraq following Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State group last year, according to Western contractors at a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq.


In Baghdad, an Iraqi government spokesman on Feb. 5 confirmed to The Associated Press that the drawdown has begun, though he stressed it was still in its early stages and doesn’t mark the beginning of a complete pullout of U.S. forces.

Dozens of American soldiers have been transported from Iraq to Afghanistan on daily flights over the past week, along with weapons and equipment, the contractors said.

Sgt. Adonis Francisco, Alpha Company, 2-113th Infantry Battalion, patrols along a catwalk at the Camp Bucca Theater Internment Facility, the largest detention center in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo)

An AP reporter at the Al-Asad base in western Iraq saw troop movements reflecting the contractors’ account. The contractors spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations and declined to reveal the exact size of the drawdown.

“Continued coalition presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need and in coordination with the government of Iraq,” coalition spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon told the AP when asked for comment.

Government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said, “The battle against Daesh has ended, and so the level of the American presence will be reduced.”

Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for ISIS.

Al-Hadithi spoke just hours after AP reported the American drawdown — the first since the war against ISIS was launched over three years ago.

One senior Iraqi official close to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said 60 percent of all American troops currently in-country will be withdrawn, according to the initial agreement reached with the United States. The plan would leave a force of about 4,000 U.S. troops to continue training the Iraqi military.

Also Read: Iraqis want Shia militias to disarm in the wake of ISIS defeat

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

A Pentagon report released in November said there were 8,892 U.S. troops in Iraq as of late September.

The U.S. first launched airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq in August 2014. At the time, the military intervention was described as “limited,” but as Iraq’s military struggled to roll back the extremists, the U.S.-led coalition’s footprint in the country steadily grew.

“We’ve had a recent change of mission and soon we’ll be supporting a different theater of operations in the coming month,” U.S. Army 1st Lt. William John Raymond told the AP at Al-Asad.

He spoke as he and a handful of soldiers from his unit conducted equipment inventory checks required before leaving Iraq. Raymond declined to specify where his unit was being redeployed, in line with regulations as the information has not yet been made public.

The drawdown of U.S. forces comes just three months ahead of national elections in Iraq, where the indefinite presence of American troops continues to be a divisive issue.

Al-Abadi, who is looking to remain in office for another term, has long struggled to balance the often competing interests of Iraq’s two key allies: Iran and the United States.

While the U.S. has closely backed key Iraqi military victories over IS such as the retaking of the city of Mosul, Iraq’s Shiite-led paramilitary forces with close ties to Iran have called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The prime minister has previously stated that Iraq’s military will need American training for years to come.

The Iraq drawdown also follows the release of the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy that cited China’s rapidly expanding military and an increasingly aggressive Russia as the U.S. military’s top national security priorities.

“Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last month in remarks outlining the strategy.

Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December after more than three years of grueling combat against the extremists in a war Iraqi forces fought with close U.S. support. In 2014, at the height of the Sunni militant group’s power, ISIS controlled nearly a third of Iraqi territory.

A soldier with the United States Army shows off a captured ISIS flag. (US Army photo)

While ISIS’ self-styled caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria has crumbled and the militants no longer hold a contiguous stretch of territory, in Iraq, the group continues to pose a security risk, according to Iraqi and American officials.

ISIS maintains a “cellular structure” of fighters who carry out attacks in Iraq aimed at disrupting local security, U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. James Glynn told reporters during a Pentagon briefing last month.

Glynn pledged continued support for Iraq’s security forces, but acknowledged U.S.-led coalition “capabilities” in Iraq would likely shift now that conventional combat operations against the group have largely ceased.

There were some 170,000 American troops in Iraq in 2007 at the height of the surge of U.S. forces to combat sectarian violence unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion of the country to oust dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. troop numbers eventually wound down to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier’s passion for boxing is an inspiration to others

Puddles of sweat begin to form as the sound of 50-ounce gloves hitting a punching bag echo throughout the gym.

A buzzer goes off. That’s the signal to the drenched-in-sweat Sgt. Larry Mays that the warmup has ended and the real workout is about to begin.

The unit supply NCO with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, used that warmup routine to help earn first place in the Colorado Golden Gloves heavyweight division in April 2019.


“It’s a prestigious tournament that the state of Colorado holds on a yearly basis,” explained Mays. “I’ve been training since October of last year and it’s exciting to see that all my hard work paid off.”

Even though the Lambert, Mississippi native began his training for the Colorado tournament in October 2018, his journey with the sport started much earlier.

U.S. Army Sgt. Larry Mays, a unit supply noncommissioned officer assigned to 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, hits a punching bag, May 11, 2019, at local boxing gym in Colorado Springs.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)

“I started fighting (when) I was in elementary school. I started with (mixed martial arts), taekwondo and Jiu-Jitsu,” said Mays. “I kept fighting as a way to stay in shape and relieve stress.”

While training in those combat sports, Mays’ coach recommended he try boxing as a way to help him with his MMA skills.

“I pretty much fell in love with (boxing) after that and never went back to MMA,” he explained. “It’s not an easy sport, but I love that there is always a challenge and something new to learn.”

Although boxing was a big part of his life, Mays said he found himself working odd jobs and bringing little income into his household.

With encouragement from his coaches, friends, and family members, Mays enlisted in the Army in 2012.

“I wanted to get out of Mississippi and I always wanted to join the military, so it was the perfect time to make that change,” said Mays.

He learned to adapt quickly to the military lifestyle.

“To me, my mindset with boxing and my military career are very similar,” he said. “You have to stay disciplined, have a clear and strong mind, and never back down from a fight.”

U.S. Army Sgt. Larry Mays, a unit supply noncommissioned officer assigned to 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, hits a speed bag May 11, 2019, at local boxing gym in Colorado Springs.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)

His ability to stay committed to his passion of boxing and effectively balance his career and family life began to inspire other soldiers in his unit.

“I would see him working long hours, helping his soldiers and then still see him going to the gym after work to train — that’s dedication,” said 1st Lt. Wilbert Paige, platoon leader, HHC, 704th BSB, 2nd IBCT. “He is a great example, not only to the junior soldiers in the company but to everyone, from top to bottom.”

Paige added that he hopes to see Mays in the “big leagues” in the future.

“He is a great example of what not quitting, putting in hard work and staying dedicated to your goals looks like,” said Paige. “He is the type of person who can do whatever he puts his mind to, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.”

With the support of his family and now his unit, Mays said he hopes to continue boxing and to ultimately do it professionally.

“This road of life I am on is kind of falling into place, I have come a long way,” said Mays. “I just want to be the guy who made it from nothing. I want to be the best soldier, best NCO and best boxer I can be.”

He hopes others see his journey as a way to encourage themselves to follow their dreams, Mays added.

“I want to be an inspiration to not only soldiers but to everyone,” he said. “You have to look at every day like a fight. Keep pushing even when you might be falling down because you can’t expect good things to happen if you don’t even try.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

The Air Force’s ongoing pilot shortage has been a cause for concern. This summer, the Air Force announced that they were increasing bonuses in an effort to keep pilots. How has that worked out?


According to a report from BreakingDefense.com, the situation’s gone from a bad deficit of 1,500 pilots this summer, to an ugly shortage of 2,000 pilots. To combat this shortage, the Air Force formed an Aircrew Crisis Task Force, upped flight pay to as much as $1,800 a month, and increased bonuses as high as $35,000 — all with no luck.

Airmen from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, participated in Red Flag Alaska, a national exercise aimed to provide high-intensity combat training for pilots in a controlled environment at Eielson Air Force Base, Fairbanks, Alaska, in May 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Jordyn Sadowski)

It should be noted that when increased flight pay was announced, the hike wasn’t to take effect until Oct. 1, so we could still see the impact of this change. Still, there are other factors that have been weighing heavily on airmen.

“Surge has become the new normal,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said. “Less than one percent of Americans serve in uniform and protect the rest of us, and they’re carrying a heavy burden. We are burning out our people because we are too small for what the nation is asking of us.” A lack of budget is also causing problems, Wilson said.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. USAF photo by Scott M. Ash.

“The fiscal 2018 continuing resolution is actually delaying our efforts to increase the readiness of the force, and risk accumulates over time,” Wilson said Nov. 9, during the State of the Air Force address. “We are stretching the force to the limit, and we need to start turning the corner on readiness.”

To illustrate the situation, WATM noted in February that at the end of the Cold War, the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons — a total that has declined to 55 today. The Air Force is not the only service affected by a lack of personnel and budget. In June of 2016, the Marine Corps had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to address an airframe shortage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This former SEAL serves by helping burn victims

Ryan Parrott was a Navy SEAL on his first deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom when the vehicle he was in hit an improvised explosive device. Parrott was launched out of the vehicle and suffered a mix of first-degree and second-degree burns – and he got the nickname “Birdman.”


Parrott would serve eight years with the SEALs, but when he left the military, an encounter would change his life’s direction. Parrott met an Army Ranger who had suffered third-degree burns while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was angered when the Ranger told him that things were as good as they would get after three dozen surgeries.

U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center surgeon, Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Christopher Burns, center, uses a surgical instrument to prepare a wound for surgery while, Burn Center Director, Col. (Dr.) Evan M. Renz, left, and OR technician Spc. Dennis Ortiz look on during the first surgery procedure performed in the new Burn Center OR on May 25 at the new consolidated tower of the San Antonio Military Medical Center. (DOD photo)

“I decided I could continue to serve my country away from the battlefield,” he told the online media outlet. Decided to channel his anger at the Ranger’s difficulty at getting treatment into action, Parrott founded Sons of the Flag, a non-profit organization intended to help fund research into burn treatments, and to also train doctors on how to treat patients suffering from burns.

Since it was founded in 2012, Sons of the Flag has connected over a thousand burn survivors to treatment. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what the charity does. It also has provided direct support to burn survivors and families, including rent assistance, utility assistance, travel costs, and assistance with special medication needs not covered by insurance.

Army veteran and burn survivor Omar Aviles. (Youtube screenshot)

Families of burn victims also receive “go bags” filled with essentials like water bottles, chargers for cell phones, snacks, toiletries, and a new blanket for while their loved one is being treated. The charity also steps in to help children and teenagers who suffer serious burns, providing items used for entertainment and rehabilitation as well as establishing pediatric “burn camps” for young survivors who may face bullying as a result of the lasting scars from serious burns.

In roughly five years, this charity has been making an impact, primarily in the Texas area. For more information on Sons of the Flag, go to https://sonsoftheflag.org/. One thing for sure – with this SEAL on a mission, survivors of serious burns have a much better chance at a good life.

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 20 edition)

Here are the 5 news items you need to know about as you get your week started:


Now: Russia’s huge military upgrade hit another snag — and Putin is not happy

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 countries where Russian mercenaries are known to operate

Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in April 2018, that the US killed hundreds of Russians during a large firefight in Syria in early February 2018.

“In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match,” Pompeo said. “A couple hundred Russians were killed.”


The Russians were part of Wagner Group, or Vagner Group, a private mercenary company reportedly contracted by the Syrian government to capture and secure oil and gas fields from ISIS.

The Wagner Group started getting attention in 2014 when its mercenaries fought alongside Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, before moving to Syria.

While little is still known about the shadowy mercenary group, they are believed to be operating in at least the following three countries:

1. Syria

1. Syria

There are currently about 2,500 Wagner mercenaries in Syria, according to the BBC, but the figures have varied.

In 2015-2016, Wagner mercenaries moved from Ukraine to Syria, Sergey Sukhankin, an associate expert at the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv, told Business Insider in an email.

The mercenary group was contracted by Syria’s state-owned General Petroleum Corp to capture and secure gas and oil fields by ISIS, reportedly being given 25% of the proceeds, according to the Associated Press.

A Russian journalist who helped break the story about the mercenaries killed by the US military in February died earlier this month after mysteriously falling from a balcony.

2. Sudan

Wagner mercenaries were sent to Sudan in early January 2018, according to Stratfor.

The Wagner mercenaries were sent to Sudan “in a conflict against the South Sudan” to back up Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s government “militarily and hammer out beneficial conditions for the Russian companies,” Sukhankin said.

The mercenaries are also protecting gold, uranium and diamond mines, Sukhankin said, adding that the latter is the “most essential commodity.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a cozy relationship with al-Bashir. The two leaders met in Moscow in late 2017, where al-Bashir asked Putin for protection from the US.

The Hague has had an arrest warrant out for al-Bashir since 2009 for crimes against humanity.

3. Central African Republic

In early January 2018, Stratfor reported that Wagner mercenaries might soon be sent to CAR, and Sukhankin said that there are now about 370 mercenaries in CAR and Sudan.

Sukhankin said that Wagner mercenaries have the same general mission in CAR — protecting lucrative mines and propping up the government regime.

In December 2017, the UN allowed Russia to begin selling weapons to the CAR, one of the many ways Moscow is trying to influence the continent. The CAR government is trying to combat violence being perpetrated by multiple armed groups along ethnic and religious lines.

“Russian instructors training our armed forces will greatly strengthen their effectiveness in combating plunderers,” President Faustin-Archange Touadera said in early April, according to RT, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“The Russian private sector is also seeking to invest in the country’s infrastructure and education,” RT reported.

“Moscow seems more interested in filling its coffers through the Wagner deals than in preparing for a massive investment drive [in Africa],” Stratfor reported.

The Wagner Group might also be operating in other countries now or in the future.

The Wagner Group might also be operating in other countries now or in the future.

“Potentially, the Balkans if any conflict erupts,” Sukhankin said. “The Russians had sent PMC’s in 1992 to Bosnia. In case something occurs, this might happen once again.”

Wagner mercenaries might also soon be sent to Libya, one Wagner commander told RFERL in March 2018.

“There are many fights ahead,” the commander told RFERL. “Soon it will be in Libya. [Wagner] is already fighting in Sudan.”

Russia has been engaging more and more with Libya since 2016, supporting the faction led by military commander Khalifa Haftar. Meanwhile, NATO backs the the Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

Wagner commanders said that demand for their mercanaries will continue to grow as “war between the Russian Federation and the United States” continues, RFERL reported.

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

Articles

VA chief asks Senate for help to fire ‘terrible managers’

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday the civil service appeals process prevents the agency from firing “terrible managers,” and that the Senate must act to reduce the impact of the Merit Systems Protection Board and excessive government employee union-backed due process requirements.


“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence. … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.

Shulkin was promoted to VA’s top job by President Donald Trump after being appointed by former President Barack Obama as undersecretary. Those positions have given Shulkin direct experience with the extent to which union-backed rules block the firings of poor performing employees.

VA Photo by Robert Turtil

“We had to wait more than a month to fire a psychiatrist who was caught on camera watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a patient,” he said. “Because of the way judges review these cases they can force us to take terrible managers back who were fired for poor performance, we recently saw that with one of our executives in San Juan.”

Shulkin was referring to DeWayne Hamlin, a corrupt hospital director and whistleblower retaliator, who was fired Jan. 20 but was then quietly returned to work, as the The Daily Caller News Foundation reported exclusively Monday.

“We need new accountability legislation and we need that now,” Shulkin said. “The House has passed this and we’re looking forward to the Senate considering this.”

The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs reported the “VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 earlier this week for a vote by the full chamber. The measure is co-sponsored by senators Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, and Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat.

DeWayne Hamlin. DoD Photo by Joseph Rivera Rebolledo

“We currently have 1,500 disciplinary actions pending, people that either need to be fired, demoted, suspended without pay for violating our core values,” Shulkin said.

“The expedited senior executive removal authority given to us in the Choice Act isn’t working, we weren’t able to use that because of constitutionality issues.”

“The accountability bill we are seeking that we hope the Senate authorizes still maintains due process for employees but shortens to the time and gives more authority to the secretary’s decision on why these accountability actions are being taken so the courts will be more deferential to the secretary’s opinion.”

In addition to the Hamlin controversy, a federal appeals court ruled that the VA may not even be able to fire Sharon Helman, who is a convicted felon for her misconduct as the head of the Phoenix VA, where dozens died waiting for care as managers reported false data on wait-times in order to get bonuses.

Sharon Helman (Right). (DoD Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lewis Hunsaker)

Helman is represented by the law firm of Shaw, Bransford  Roth (Roth), which makes its living trying to block employees of all levels from being fired. Employees are encouraged to appeal any discipline, however well-deserved, because a former Roth lawyer created an insurance company that pays for fired employees to hire Roth.

The premiums on that insurance plan are billed to taxpayers, thanks to a law pushed by the firm’s lobbyists.

Concerned Veterans of America Policy Director Dan Caldwell also encouraged the Senate to approve the accountability measure, saying Shulkin “is working to move the VA in a better direction, but the problems will not be solved until Congress takes action. They should also remember that the VA’s problems are not due to a lack of resources.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy orders ships in the Pacific to stay at sea at least 14 days between port calls over coronavirus concerns

The US Navy has given ships operating in the Pacific new port-call guidance amid concerns over the coronavirus.

All US Navy vessels operating in the 7th Fleet, which oversees operations in the Asia-Pacific region, have been instructed to remain at sea for at least 14 days after stopping in any country in the Pacific before pulling into port elsewhere, US Pacific Fleet told Insider Thursday.


The move is being taken out of “an abundance of caution,” a Pacific Fleet spokesman said.

The novel coronavirus, a severe respiratory illness that originated in Wuhan, China, late last year, has an incubation period of up to 14 days, during which time the infected may be asymptomatic.

Ships should monitor sailors between port calls, Pacific Fleet said.

A US Navy spokesperson told CNN’s Ryan Browne, who first reported the news on Twitter, that while “there are no indications that any US Navy personnel have contracted Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” at this time, Pacific Fleet “is implementing additional mitigations to prevent Sailors from contracting COVID-19.”

The US military has already taken several drastic measures in response to the coronavirus, which has infected over 80,000 people in at least 40 countries and killed nearly 2,800 people, with the vast majority of cases and deaths in China. The majority of these measures have been taken in South Korea, home to more than 28,000 US troops and the first US service member to test positive for the virus.

The US Navy’s 7th Fleet, which is headquartered in Japan, where about 50,000 US troops are stationed, has started screening everyone accessing the fleet’s warships and aircraft, Stars and Stripes reported on Monday.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pacific Thunder, aka why North Korea cries, kicks off in South Korea

One of the largest joint combat search and rescue exercises in the Pacific region, Exercise Pacific Thunder 18-1, kicked into full swing yesterday at Osan Air Base, South Korea.


This year, the exercise is the largest it has ever been. More than 20 U.S. Air Force squadrons and nine South Korean air wings are involved, giving the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 33rd and 31st Rescue Squadrons opportunities to train in simulated combat search and rescue missions all while working alongside their South Korean counterparts.

Also read: A-10 looks like it’s here to stay after new Air Force upgrades

“Pacific Thunder originally started in 2009 as a one-week exercise between the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 33rd Rescue Squadron, and has since grown into a [Pacific Air Forces]-level exercise,” said Air Force Capt. Travis Vayda, the 25th Fighter Squadron Pacific Thunder 18-1 coordinator.

Although the annual exercise now has a vast range of units participating, it is still centered on the 25th Fighter Squadron, which operates A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, and the 33rd Rescue Squadron, which operates HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters.

“Combat search and rescue is one of the most important mission sets we have in the A-10 community because we are really the only fixed-wing asset in the Air Force who trains to the CSAR mission,” Vayda said. “We are the close muscle, so essentially we are the bodyguards of the person on the ground and the helicopters that are rescuing them. Obviously in a CSAR [situation], you don’t want to have another type of shoot down or anything happen.”

An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron from Kadena Air Base, Japan, prepares for a combat search and rescue mission during exercise Pacific Thunder 18-1 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Oct. 23, 2017. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gwendalyn Smith

Realistic Training

During the exercise, the 33rd Rescue Squadron is able to directly work with A-10 pilots from the 25th Fighter Squadron, a level of joint training that both units typically have to simulate.

“The realism of the exercise gives us an opportunity to really see how the 25th FS operates,” said Air Force Capt. Dirk Strykowski, the 33rd Rescue Squadron’s HH-60 Pave Hawk flight lead. “Back in Kadena, we pretend as best we can to know what these guys are going to sound like on the radio, what calls they’re going to make and what kind of information they are going to provide, but being able to come up here and refresh what that’s actually going to be like is probably the biggest take away from the exercise.”

Related: Will this year’s massive military exercise finally provoke North Korea?

To make the exercise even more realistic, pararescuemen and survival, evasion, resistance and escape personnel from the 31st Rescue Squadron are not only participating in rescue missions, but also role-playing as isolated personnel.

“The intent of this exercise is to train like you fight, and we are trying to replicate that as best we can,” Strykowski said. “We have a lot of support from our pararescue and SERE. They’re out there on the ground now pretending to be downed pilots. So every step of the way, we are making it as realistic as it can get.”

Through combined CSAR training, exercise Pacific Thunder enhances the combat effectiveness between U.S. and South Korean air forces. Exercises like Pacific Thunder ensure the region remains ready to “Fight Tonight.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

Women’s Soccer — Army West Point at Navy (Friday, 10/12, 7:00PM EST)

The 2018 Star Match between the Army and Navy women’s soccer teams lies ahead this Friday night at 7 p.m. in Annapolis. A key part of the Star Series presented by USAA, the Mids will host their service academy rivals from New York in a matchup of two of the Patriot League’s top-five teams.

Navy comes into the contest at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility with a 8-4-3 record and a 4-1 mark in Patriot League play, while Army will enter at 6-3-5, 2-2-1 in league action.


MIGHTY TRENDING

The 10 worst armies in the world

Wars should be like taking off Band-Aids: If a country can’t get it over with fast, maybe it shouldn’t think about shedding blood. When a country is this bad at war, it probably runs the risk of just slowly bleeding to death. There are many, many examples of this in both history and in today’s newspapers — and we’ve collected our favorite examples. This episode of “Fixer Upper: Armed Forces Edition” has seen a lot of changes since 2015.


Related Video

Since the last list of the world’s worst armed forces, Iraq turned the whole “losing half the country” thing around and started showing up for work, so its army is probably a little better now — and that meant it was time for a new list of the World’s Worst.

There are also a few new faces on this updated list. When considering this year’s candidates, I actually created some criteria. It was important to consider what the armed forces of a country needs versus what it has and what a country’s priorities really are. I also considered how much sh*t the country (or its leadership) talk versus what it actually accomplishes.

Some things never change, though. Like North Korea’s pride in a jet from 1964.

But keep in mind this is not about criticizing the people who fight wars on the front lines. For the most part, it’s about criticizing the governments and policymakers who fund, train, and equip these armies and then expect them not to get annihilated once they go into battle.

There are many countries with extremely substandard defense forces, but most of those aren’t going around rattling sabers, either. For example, Gambia has about 2,000 troops with old weapons and uniforms that don’t match, but they spend most of their time fighting HIV and wizards, not threatening to invade Senegal.

And though there are many armed forces engaged in fighting around the world, many of those aren’t actually from a recognized country.

Stop trying to make an Islamic State happen. It’s never gonna happen.

This year’s list gave Mongolia a break for going the extra mile and having a Navy despite being totally landlocked. We also said goodbye to the Philippines. After the Manila Standard called our 2015 assessment of the Philippines’ armed forces “spot on,” incoming President Rodrigo Duterte decided to spend $6.6 billion upgrading the AFP. To be clear, no one here is taking credit for this.

No one should ever take credit for anything Duterte does. Seriously. Google it.

Also leaving this year’s list is ” Africa’s North Korea,” Eritrea. At the time of this writing, the country is looking to end its war with Ethiopia and maybe even stop “drafting” all of its men to work in forced labor. Also missing from the list is Somalia, whose armed forces is pretty much subsumed by U.S. special operations along with Kenyan and Ethiopian troops.

These are the forces that make the KISS Army seem even more formidable than they already do.

This was only a matter of time.
(KISS Army)

Good to know those old Soviet ushankas found a home.

10. Tajikstan

The latest hand-me-downs from Russia to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Tajikistan include two classes of helicopter from the 1960s, tanks from the 1970s, and personnel carriers from the 1980s. This is still a big step up from the absolutely nothing they got from the fall of the Soviet Union. That’s just the equipment. It doesn’t get much better for the troops on the ground in an army where even the doctors will haze them to death. If the hazing doesn’t get them, the disease, hunger, or terrible conditions might. This is why no one wants to join the Tajikistan army… except when they’re kidnapped and forced to go.

But congrats to the Tajik armed forces, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018. This is only weird because independent Tajikistan is 27 years old.

Why does the brick have to be on fire, comrades? I’m not sure that adds anything to the experience.

9. Russia

Many might be surprised to see Russia on a “worst armies” list, but the country’s biggest wins of the last few years include:

  • Not starting World War III in Syria.
  • Air strikes on poorly-armed Syrian rebels.
  • Fighting Ukraine to a draw.
  • Building a Navy it can’t crew.
  • Annexing a peninsula with no electricity, fresh water, or money.
  • Hypersonic missiles that fly only 22 miles.
  • Finally building a robot tank after 30 years and failing at it.
Russia seems strong because it doesn’t let anyone tell it what to do. But all it wants to do is beat up on its weaker neighbors and generally be an asshole to Washington — and this is the source of its true power. It can fight a war. It can conquer countries.
But that all depends on who it fights. Just look what happened when Russian “mercenaries” accidentally fought a professional army in Syria.

Spoiler: They died.

Yay, you did it. After everyone else did it first.

8. Turkey

President Erdoğan is a lot more aggressive with Turkey’s armed forces than he used to be, both in use of force and imprisoning generals he thinks started a coup against him in 2016. That’s what dictators do. But as ISIS fighters approached the Turkish border with Syria, Turkey did very little about it. Erdoğan only cared about consolidating power, (something he finally did with the most recent election) while Turkey’s longtime enemy, the Kurds, cleared ISIS from the area.

Fast-forward to when Turkey did act in Syria, months after the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters defeated ISIS in northern Syria. Turkey invaded and immediately started attacking – you guessed it – the Kurds. Turkey has always had a reason to hate Kurds, but it’s poor timing to exercise those demons on a de facto ally in the middle of a war they were winning to help protect Turkey.

The only goal of the Turkish invasion is to keep the Kurds from getting their own country, the ultimate geopolitical dick move.

Some Nigerian army officers actually sell their weapons and ammo to Boko Haram.

7. Nigeria

If you thought it was bad that Nigerian military members were fired for making a strategic retreat or that Nigerian troops could only run away from Boko Haram because neither their weapons nor vehicles worked, remember: it can always be worse. Especially for Nigerian women.

After escaping the terror of living under Boko Haram and being “liberated” by Nigerian troops, women can now expect to be exploited for sex by Nigeria’s military. Their troops can also be almost as bad as Boko Haram itself.

As for the troops’ welfare, senators are more likely to have armored cars than front-line troops. And when the country did decide to invest billion into its military, it was immediately funneled into personal bank accounts of government ministers – to the tune of .2 billion, more than the original investment.

“Congratulations on graduating from Not Going AWOL 101, soldiers.”

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kevin P. Bell)

6. Afghanistan

First of all, let’s understand that the U.S. is never, ever going to leave Afghanistan — ever. If we really planned to leave Afghanistan, we’d give them something more effective than old prop planes and uniforms we don’t want. When U.S. troops do give the ANA reasonably modern equipment, the ANA turns right around and deserts them in the next Taliban attack. So the U.S. then has to go destroy their own Humvees. And while some call the Afghan Air Force a win for U.S. training, they should remember that when the Taliban get its hands on those planes and laser-guided munitions and the U.S. has to blow those up, too.

Most of the funding for the ANA goes toward salaries, essentially begging ANA troops not to kill their fellow troops or NATO allies. This is a game the ANA can’t win when the Taliban is offering three times as much to do the opposite. So, even though the ANA called the 60mm mortar a “game changer” for ground troops, the Taliban will still pay a king’s ransom for them to fire it into a friendly base. The United States has sunk billion into an Army that can’t win — or even fight. Hell, they pass basic training just by not going AWOL.

To top it all off, the older generals are being forced to retire from the Afghan Army. Remember what happened the last time the U.S. pushed to fire a whole big chunk of another nation’s army? The Iraq War and, eventually, ISIS.

“And now it’s ready to fire, abuela.”

5. Venezuela

The number one PT score for Venezuela’s army is probably in running, because that’s all they’ve been doing lately. When a Venezuelan soldier’s choices are limited to either working for free and potentially starving to death or to desert entirely, the choice becomes clear.

So, what does an embattled President do when his army starts crumbling? Tell civilians the U.S. is going to attack and then show them how to defend the country.

Which is exactly what Venezuela’s military did. Cool.

“Mexico: At least we aren’t Syria.”

4. Mexico

Mexico militarized its law enforcement then sent its military into Mexico to fight of violent drug cartels… and still lost. The country was divided into five security zones and then invaded by the armed forces. Then they become just as corrupt and criminal as the local law enforcement they replaced.

To make matters worse, when the army takes out any kind of cartel leadership, it creates a power vacuum and then a war among the cartels. The strategy of removing high-level kingpins has resulted in a 60-percent increase in violence that the Mexican military can’t control, despite fully occupying its own country. They’ve been at this since 2006 and it’s taken a heavy toll on the Mexican military and Mexican people. In the last few years, Mexico quietly became the second deadliest conflict, surpassed only by Syria.

That means you’re actually safer in Kabul than in Cabo.

No one ever did that to Saddam either.

3. North Korea

Of course North Korea makes the list again. Despite the recent Singapore Summit, there is no one better at rattling a saber than a North Korean named Kim. In fact, Kim Jong Un is really just following the North Korean game plan to get concessions from the United States:

  1. Create a scene
  2. Threaten all-out war with the South
  3. Get talked down at the last minute
  4. Get rewarded for not starting the war you had no intention of starting in the first place.
But to make step two seem plausible, North Korea needs to have a credible threat. So while it does have hundreds of artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, a city with 9.8 million people, it also has the world’s oldest air force and trains its pilots using the power of imagination, mostly because it can’t afford jet fuel. Its navy is just considered a “nuisance” and we would all be amazed if its army had enough food for the time it takes to actually kill those 9.8 million people.

Do they get issued photos of Bashar al-Assad?

2. Syria

Syria’s armed forces are so awful, they can’t win a civil war with the help of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the U.S. and Kurds fighting ISIS for them. In fact, anyone can feel free to violate Syria’s sovereignty. Turkey, the GCC, Europe, and Israel are doing it without repercussions on an almost daily basis. So, naturally, what do Syria’s armed forces do? Threaten to attack the U.S. and Israel. As if they didn’t have enough problems.

And when they do win, it’s not exactly clean. Chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and starvation are the primary tactics used for the now-seven year long civil war there. It’s not exactly the way to convince the civilian population that Assad is the right leader for them. Seven years down, five to go.

What billion a year buys you.

1. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia talks a lot of smack about a war with Iran but even when it brings its full military might to bear, it can’t keep a coalition together, let alone finish off an Iranian proxy. They’ve been fighting the Houthi-led insurgents in Yemen since 2015 and with the help of half of Yemen, all of Sudan, Morocco, the U.S., the UAE, Senegal, France, Egypt, Jordan, and Bahrain, they still fail to win the war.

This coalition has every numerical and technological advantage on sea, land, and air and they’re just being manhandled, the result of overconfidence and a dash of hubris. The Saudis thought 150,000 battle-hardened Houthis would just roll over after a few airstrikes. “Winning” was the extent of their plan and, if it didn’t work for Charlie Sheen, it sure as hell isn’t going to work for Saudi Arabia.

Not only have they failed to win after three years and heavily outnumbering and outgunning the Houthis, they’ve lost coalition partners and turned the entire country into a humanitarian disaster. That’s what you get for relying on another country’s military to bail you out of everything for 20 years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israeli military tweets missile strike against Iranian targets in Syria

Israel’s Defense Forces says they have begun striking Iranian targets inside Syria, tweeting that they are targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards elite forces, the Quds.

Israel has not provided any other details, but it’s military warned Syria on Twitter not to “harm” Israeli forces or territory.

Tensions have escalated quickly between forces within the two neighboring countries.


Netanyahu: “We have a defined policy: to harm Iranian entrenchment in Syria.”

“We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory,” Haaretz.com reported the IDF as saying, adding that the IDF hit targets belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite unit Quds Force.

The move is a calculated response by the IDF which said earlier on Jan. 20, 2019, that it intercepted missiles launched out of Syria toward Israel.

Syrian media say air defenses managed to repel “an Israeli aerial attack,” following reports of strikes in and around the Syrian capital Damascus early on Jan. 21, 2019.

Associated Press reports that earlier on Jan. 20, 2019, the IDF said it had intercepted a rocket over the Golan Heights.

The statement is a surprising break with protocol for an Israeli military with a reputation for adhering to its own discipline and systems.

The IDF very rarely signals its intent with a statement to media or via any public admissions most particularly when considering its largely covert military operations in Syria.

With so much at stake, Israel has sought to keep its profile and involvement in the bloody and drawn out civil war to a minimum.

According to Syrian military the IDF began intensive airstrikes, launching groups of missiles shortly after 1 a.m. local time. Reports via the BBC suggest that the Syrian air defenses destroyed most of the missiles before they hit their targets.

On Jan. 20, 2019, Syrian state media confirmed that air defenses successfully protected the international airport south of Damascus.

Syrian state TV said the war torn nation’s air defenses “prevented” the attack, saying Israel targeted 6 missiles near Damascus International Airport. State TV said that 5 were intercepted while the last was “diverted.”

Witnesses heard explosions overnight and while the damage remains uncertain, the BBC reports that the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights believes Israeli rockets were directly targeting Damascus.

The operation comes after Israeli said that “a rocket was fired at the northern Golan Heights and was intercepted by the Iron Dome Aerial Defence System”.

While Israel rarely confirms or denies it’s strategic operations inside Syria, or elsewhere, but with the political future of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the spotlight, the prime minister issued a warning himself while in Chad on Jan. 20, 2019.

After Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile shield intercepted a rocket fired toward the Golan Heights, Netanyahu, released a a statement reminding his constituents if Israel’s standing policy.

Israel’s Iron Dome

“We have a defined policy: to harm Iranian entrenchment in Syria and to harm anyone who tries to harm us.”

Netanyahu has previously claimed that Israel has destroyed hundreds of Iran-linked objectives in Syria, including a weapons facility linked to Hezbollah two weeks ago.

In May 2018, Israel said it destroyed almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure inside Syria in its such biggest assault since the start of the Syrian civil war 8 years ago.

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

Articles

4 other ways the US could shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile

There’s been a lot of talk about North Korea’s nuclear missile potential, as recent tests have worried officials that Pyongyang could lob a nuke at the American homeland.


But the U.S. has some tools to shoot down a potential ICBM streaking toward CONUS. A lot of the anti-missile focus has centered on the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system.

One battery of six launchers – each with eight missiles – is being deployed to South Korea to protect that ally from a North Korean missile that either goes astray or is deliberately fired at South Korea.

But are there other options? The good news is that not all of America’s missile-defense eggs are in the THAAD basket. Here are some of the other options out there.

A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

1. MIM-104 Patriot – including Patriot PAC-3

This system has been doing the anti-missile thing since Operation Desert Storm.

Batteries in Saudi Arabia and Israel intercepted numerous versions of the SS-1 Scud fired by Saddam Hussein’s regime. An official DOD report from 1996 noted an 80 percent success rate in Saudi Arabia and a 50 percent success rate in Israel using the MIM-104C versions. Designation-Systems.net notes that the MIM-104E version has been in service since 2002, while the PAC-3 version came into service in 2003.

Japan Flight Test Mission 1, marked the first time that an Allied Navy ship has successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target with the sea-based midcourse engagement capability provided by Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense. The JFTM-1 test event verified the new engagement capability of the Aegis BMD configuration of the recently upgraded Japanese destroyer, JS KONGO (DDG-173).

2. RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3

The Navy’s SM-3 system is probably one of the most reliable missile killers in the inventory. According to a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet, the SM-3 has hit its target in 27 out of 34 tests. That is a 79.4 percent success rate.

Furthermore, this system has one advantage over THAAD and Patriot: Being ship-based, it can be moved to a more ideal intercept position. The system is also very capable – Designation-Systems.net credits the RIM-161A missile with a range of over 270 nautical miles – and the RIM-161D is being tested now.

The system forms the basis of “Aegis Ashore.”

According to the Missile Defense Agency website, Aegis Ashore is being deployed in Romania and Poland. With the proven Aegis system, it would not be surprising to see more Aegis Ashore complexes built.

As part of a joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense test, an AQM-37C cruise missile target was launched from an aircraft July 31 west of Kauai, Hawaii. The USS John Paul Jones, positioned west of Hawaii, detected, tracked and launched a SM-6 Dual I missile, resulting in a third successful target intercept This was the third event in a series of joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense tests.

3. RIM-66 SM-2 and RIM-174 SM-6 Standard Missiles

These missiles, while primarily intended to kill aircraft, have gone six-for-six in tests anti-missile tests, according to the Missile Defense Agency. While not as capable as the SM-3, they can still take out an incoming missile before it does damage.

Both systems, it should be noted, could also be used from Aegis Ashore systems — in essence, creating a very powerful air-defense network in addition to defending against ballistic missiles from North Korea.

A Ground-Based Interceptor is transported to its silo. (Missile Defense Agency photo)

4. Ground-Based Interceptor

This system adds a way to thin out incoming missiles as well. According to the Missile Defense Agency, 30 of these missiles are deployed between Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A fact sheet from the Missile Defense Agency notes that the system’s shown a 52.97 percent success rate in 17 tests.

There are two problems with the GBI, of course: There are only 30 deployed, and none are on the East Coast.

The Missile Defense Agency website notes they are looking into new technologies, as well, especially for what they call Early Intercept.