US European Command announced August 4 that 10 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, an MC-130J Commando II, and approximately 270 Air Force personnel will deploy to Estonia to train with allied air forces.
“We are strong members of the NATO Alliance and remain prepared with credible force to assure, deter, and defend our Allies,” Maj. Gen. Jon K. Kelk, Air National Guard assistant to the commander, US Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa, said in an August 4 EUCOM press release. “When we have the opportunity to train with coalition air forces, everyone benefits.”
The airmen and aircraft will deploy from bases in the US and Europe to Amari Air Base from August 4 to 20 to participate in the Forward Training Deployment, or FTD.
The A-10s are from the 175th Wing, Warfield Air National Guard Base, Maryland. The MC-130J is from the 352nd Special Operations Wing, RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom.
While deployed, the A-10s are scheduled to train with Finnish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Finland, Spanish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Estonia, and multinational joint terminal air controllers in Latvia, according the release.
Known officially as the Thunderbolt II and more commonly as the Warthog, the A-10 entered military service in the late 1970s and has flown in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.
The twin-engine aircraft is designed to decimate tanks, vehicles, and other ground targets with its GAU-8 Avenger, a 30mm seven-barrel gatling gun, and up to 16,000 pounds of ordnance, including Mk-82 and Mk-84 bombs, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and laser-guided munitions.
The Air Force has made several attempts to retire the decades-old aircraft beginning in fiscal 2015 in an effort to save money, but congressional opposition has forced the service to reset the date for the earliest possible retirement of the A-10 to 2021.
The MC-130J Commando II is designed to fly clandestine, or low visibility, single, or multi-ship low-level air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft.
It can perform infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply missions for special operations forces in hostile territories.
Taiwan is pursuing a two-pronged upgrade to its armed forces as people on the island worry about recent shows of force by powerful rival China during a political stalemate.
Last week, the Taiwanese navy signed a memorandum of understanding with two local companies to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against a stronger adversary, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price is not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.
Taiwan’s ambition to design its own submarines stems partly from China’s pressure against other governments to avoid selling the island any arms.
Last week the Taiwan president called the submarine project “the most challenging aspect” of a broader plan to foster an independent local defense industry, per a local media report.
Taiwan now operates two Dutch-designed Hai Lung submarines, bought in the early 1980s, and two Guppy II-class submarines dating back to 1946. China has the world’s third most powerful armed forces overall, with Taiwan in 19th place, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database.
The navy has not fixed on a number of submarines to develop as part of the agreement signed Tuesday, the defense ministry spokesman said.
“Because in the past, Taiwan has the technology to build boats, we hope to make use of this domestic industry,” said senior Taiwan legislator Lee Chun-yi. “We hope we can use the construction (of submarines) to encourage domestic industries, and there’s a definite help for Taiwan’s defense sector.”
Separately, U.S. President Donald Trump may approve a sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan in the first half of the year according to media reports from Washington.
“Without speaking to any specific cases, we can say that under long-standing U.S. policy, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are … based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs,” said Sonia Urbom, spokesperson for The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which unofficially represents U.S. interests in Taipei.
“Defensive arms are helpful for Taiwan’s security,” Lee said. “We hope for them and welcome them. We also all hope the United States can have a closer military dialogue and that the United States will approve this package as soon as possible and let Taiwan process it as soon as possible.”
Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said Monday the government would urge Washington to make the arms sale.
The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama stopped an arms sale to Taiwan in December. Some analysts expect Trump at least to unblock it. The United States may sell advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in the next package, news reports from Washington say.
“I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as urgency,” said Ross Feingold, Taipei-based analyst with an American political consultancy. “The time has come to make a decision and the Obama Administration decided to punt, and now the Trump Administration is following up in a reasonable and appropriate time frame.
“A better question would be what’s going to come next because we are simply approving things that were on the table and under discussion already,” he said.
Chinese officials fume when other countries, especially the United States, sell weapons to Taiwan. Taiwan is looking to Trump because he risked China’s anger by speaking to Tsai by phone in December and his staff has taken a tough line against Beijing’s military expansion at sea.
China temporarily cut off some exchanges with the United States in 2010 when Obama approved a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan. After Washington announced a $1.83 billion package in 2015, China formally protested to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Some see Obama’s decision to stop an arms deal in December as a goodwill gesture toward China, and say approval by Trump would risk China calling off any cooperation with the United States on containing North Korea.
People in Taiwan have been particularly on guard since the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the only ship of its type in the Chinese navy, sailed around Taiwan in December and January. Taiwan is just 160 kilometers away from China at its nearest point.
This month China flew 13 aircraft east of Taiwan, near Okinawa. Taiwan’s defense ministry is also watching as Beijing builds military infrastructure in the disputed South China Sea.
“China is doing some activities in the South China Sea recently, and even though they’re not always directed toward Taiwan, in the Pacific region it’s stronger and stronger, so people in Taiwan feel that without the ability to resist we will be diminished in terms of bargaining position,” said Ku Chung-hua, a standing board member in the Taipei-based political action group Citizens’ Congress Watch.
Taiwan frets because the Communist leadership claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island despite opinion polls showing most Taiwanese oppose China’s goal of eventual unification. The two sides talked regularly from 2008 to 2015 but stopped after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year.
Tsai takes a more guarded view of relations with China than her predecessor and Beijing is seen using military displays as well as diplomatic and economic measures to pressure Taiwan back into talks. China has not renounced the use of force, if needed, to reunify with the island.
Taiwan’s parliament would need to allocate money separately for a U.S. arms package, but the China threat is marshaling public support in favor, analysts say. The existing military budget for this year comes to $10.24 billion, or 2.05 percent of the Taiwan GDP.
“With the cross-Strait situation not only stagnant, but in some respects deteriorating, this is as good a time as any both to garner domestic support within Taiwan to purchase weapons and to hope for a sympathetic ear in Washington,” said Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with American think tank The Stimson Center.
Navy Veteran Gabriel George came to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in 2018 filled with energy and excitement. Returning for his second time to the clinic, George says his first time at the clinic was life-changing.
He joined the Navy in July 2004 where he served as a corpsman and deployed twice.
A few weeks after arriving home from his second deployment, he was involved in a devastating motorcycle accident. While heading home from bible study, a car pulled out in front of him. He awoke three weeks later in a hospital to find he had broken his C2 and C5 vertebrae, six ribs, his collar bone and scapula; he had collapsed both his lungs; suffered a traumatic brain injury; and permanently paralyzed his right arm.
After the injury, George says he spent a lot of time living on the couch and watching tv.
initially, he had low expectations at the clinic, and thought his paralyzed arm would prevent him from doing many activities.
“No way. I can’t do that,” he said, when he learned archery would be one of the sports he’d be introduced to.
But instructors showed him how to draw the bow by biting down on a mouth tab, and with that first pull and release of the arrow something woke within him.
Navy Veteran Gabriel George returned for his second time to participate in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. George says the clinic got him moving and off the couch after suffering injuries from a motorcycle accident.
After archery, he went to sailing. As a Navy Veteran, George had lived aboard ship, but he’d never sailed a small vessel. He found the experience exhilarating, and says he felt connected with the water, pulling lines and working the sail.
“(It’s) at the top of the list of healing. Being able to find something you can do, moving just one body part, the rest of the body wants to follow and move too,” George said.
By the end of his first clinic, he was looking for a way to extend the experience. With Blunk’s help, George signed up for a sailing clinic near his home in Florida before the week in San Diego was finished.
“The very next morning I went out and found an archery shop and bought a bow,” he said about the moments after he arrived home.
Blunk says George’s experience is similar to many of the Veterans she’s seen benefit from adaptive sports therapy.
“Often I hear so many people saying I can’t do that. And then once they do try, it’s healing,” she said. “Once a Veteran sees they can do one sport they are inspired to keep trying other sports.”
George continues to participate in sports programs whenever and wherever he can.
“I was doing nothing before the (National Veterans) Summer Sports Clinic,” he said. “I bought a house and I don’t know why, because now, I’m never home.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Residents of a northern Russian village were informed this week that they were living in a “danger zone” due to unspecified “work” being done a little more than 1 mile away at a secretive weapons testing site where the Russian military has been developing its new arsenal of so-called doomsday weapons.
An internet post advised the roughly 500 residents of the White Sea coastal village of Nyonoksa that five buses were ready to evacuate them as a precaution due to activity planned for July 7 to 8 at the nearby military weapons facility, which has been operational since the 1950s for the development and testing of sea- and land-based cruise missiles.
The warning paralleled another for mariners in the White Sea, issued by the port authorities of Arkhangelsk, which was to last from July 6 to 10. The maritime warning proscribed sea vessels from entering an area beginning off the coast of Nyonoksa and the nearby town of Severodvinsk and extending northeast.
A Russian Federation air force Su-27 fighter participates in Vigilant Eagle 13. Photo by Mary Kavanagh, Canadian Forces Artist Program/Released.
No further information was given regarding the exact nature of this week’s test. But the Nyonoksa weapons testing facility has seen extraordinary activity in recent years — including some high-profile accidents that put civilian lives at risk.
In December 2015, an errant cruise missile from the facility hit an apartment block in Nyonoksa, starting a fire. There were no injuries, according to news reports at the time. And in August last year, the botched test of a nuclear-powered cruise missile off the coast of Nyonoksa killed five civilian and military specialists, injured others, and spiked radiation levels in nearby civilian settlements.
The explosion happened when a barge reportedly attempted to recover a nuclear-powered Burevestnik cruise missile from the seabed. Those killed included members of a special nuclear reactor development team from Rosatom, Russia’s national nuclear energy corporation.
The 9M730 Burevestnik — known as the “Skyfall” among NATO militaries — is a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile with virtually unlimited range. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the experimental weapon in March 2018 along with several other “doomsday” weapons. A video presentation of one weapon system showed a simulated attack on Florida.
A U.S. F-22 Raptor intercepts a Russian bomber near Alaska on June 10. Photo courtesy of NORAD.
Putin, who touted Russia’s new weapons as “invincible,” warned the U.S. to take Russia’s military might seriously.
“You will have to assess that new reality and become convinced that what I said today isn’t a bluff,” the Russian president said. “It’s not a bluff, trust me.”
However, the Burevestnik has reportedly hit some snags, the August 2019 nuclear accident most notable among them. Moscow never confirmed that its Burevestnik cruise missile was behind last August’s accident. Yet, referring to the NATO name for the Russian weapon, in a tweet last year President Donald Trump cited the “failed missile explosion in Russia” as the “‘Skyfall’ explosion.”
Following the breakdown of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia last year, and with Moscow and Washington increasingly at loggerheads over a broad gamut of geopolitical issues, Putin has embarked his country’s military on a crash-course program to develop new weapons.
Apart from the Burevestnik, in 2018 Putin unveiled other new weapons that he touted would be able to defeat U.S. missile defense systems. Among those was the Avangard hypersonic vehicle, supposedly capable of flying at Mach 27. The Avangard reportedly went operational in December.
Russia is also reportedly developing a nuclear-powered underwater drone — the “Poseidon” — that will creep up to an adversary’s coast, detonate a nuclear weapon, and create a 500-meter, or 1,640-foot, tsunami.
According to some scientific journal reports, Russia may also be resurrecting some Soviet-era antisatellite missile programs, particularly one missile known as Kontakt, which was meant to be fired from a MiG-31D fighter.
Whereas the Soviet-era Kontakt system comprised a kinetic weapon intended to literally smash into U.S. satellites to destroy them, the contemporary Russian program — incidentally, also named Burevestnik, although unrelated to the novel nuclear-powered cruise missile — will likely carry a payload of micro “interceptor” satellites that can effectively ambush enemy satellites.
Thus, with Russia’s many advanced weapons systems in development, this week’s so-called optional evacuation of Nyonoksa is not necessarily suggestive of any extraordinary development, experts say. However, the news also comes amid reports in late June that radiation levels across northern Europe were reading above normal — a phenomenon that some scientists attributed to likely weapons tests by Russia in the Arctic.
On June 23, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) reported that scientists in Sweden had detected unusually high levels of radiation. Weather patterns suggested northern Russia was the point of origin.
According to open-source radar satellite imagery, a Russian ship previously associated with testing of the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone was off the coast of Nyonoksa on June 23. Some experts speculate that a failed test of the Poseidon could be the culprit behind the recent radiation spike.
There’s no other way to put it. This week was full of horrific events and terrible news.
Yet, in the midst of all the bad that happened this week, there were some rays of goodness. Because that’s what memes are supposed to be about – making a joke and putting a smile on someone’s face after a sh*tty day.
There are many children still here today because of the quick-thinking PFC Glendon Oakley. An all-veteran A Cappella group called Voices of Service performed a breathtaking rendition of See You Again on America’s Got Talent and made it to the live rounds. Across the country, many unclaimed veterans – deceased veterans without contactable next of kin – are having their brothers and sisters-in-arms attend their funerals.
The world’s too full of fighting and bickering over mundane BS. I’ll let someone else tell you that everything is on fire, but I say we just take a breather and remember that there is still some good in the world. Anyways, here are some memes.
An audio recording of the high-pitched sound that American intelligence officials believe caused U.S. diplomats in Cuba brain damage was released Thursday afternoon.
The Associated Press released the first publicly disseminated recording October 12th. The first of many audio recordings taken in Cuba has led U.S. intelligence operatives to believe the Cuban government is using an unknown sonic device to attack Americans and other foreigners on the island.
The U.S. Navy is currently investigating the strange recording, hoping to glean some information about what is harming American diplomats in Cuba.
Victims often described a sound similar to chirping crickets before experiencing any symptoms, but not all of the attacks have produced an audible sound. Some were described as inaudible, which is causing some concern among investigators who believe the attackers are developing, or even already employing, more sophisticated methods.
The U.S. has confirmed 21 cases, and American intelligence operatives incurred arguably the worst damage reported thus far. U.S. spies have suffered brain damage, unrelenting hearing loss and other severe outcomes.
Reports of ongoing, mysterious attacks befalling U.S.-government personnel and other foreign citizens in Cuba are complete “nonsense” and “without evidence,” Cuban Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel said Sunday.
“Some unnamed officials are propagating unusual nonsense without any evidence, with the perverse aim of discrediting the impeccable reputation of our country as a safe destination for foreign visitors, including from the United States,” Diaz-Canel, the likely successor to Cuban President Raúl Castro, said Sunday.
Castro has also rejected any notion that the Cuban government is behind the attacks.
The U.S. Department of State has responded to the reported attacks, ordering all nonessential personnel in Cuba to evacuate the island. The State Department also issued a travel warning for all Americans not to visit the island nation until the attacks are resolved.
As the military services moved to admit women into previously closed special operations and ground combat jobs in 2016, Army officials were tasked with looking for ways to get the best performance out of female troops in order to minimize injury and boost their opportunities to succeed.
And they discovered one unlikely culprit that was holding some women back: chronic iron deficiency.
While it’s well known that women tend to be more iron-deficient than men for various reasons, the scope of the problem, and its impact on overall performance, was eyebrow-raising.
About a quarter of the women who enter the Army training pipeline have an iron deficiency, said Scott McConnell, who discussed Army Training and Doctrine Command’s efforts to improve training at the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services on Wednesday. After several weeks of training, that figure can double, he said.
“That impacts your body’s ability to carry oxygen to the vital organs. And so iron deficiency can actually be reflected in poor aerobic fitness levels and physical performance,” McConnell said.
In February 2016, the Army announced it would begin providing iron-rich multivitamins to female soldiers. And, McConnell said, the move has made a difference.
“The statistic we have is that the iron supplements can actually shave two minutes off the two-mile run time,” he said.
As services address the challenge of preparing female troops to meet stringent physical standards designed for men, they’re gaining new insights about the way nutrition affects performance – insights that have the potential to benefit the total force.
Since the services began opening previously closed jobs last year in response to a mandate from then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter, it has become clear that it’s completely possible for women to meet minimum infantry requirements.
To date, 14 female Army officers, 16 noncommissioned officers, and 21 junior enlisted soldiers have been assigned to infantry positions in the active component and Reserve, according to Army data presented Wednesday.
On the Marine Corps side, nine officers and 63 enlisted women have graduated military occupational specialty school for previously closed fields, including one in the rifleman MOS.
At the same time, it’s evident that women face greater physical hurdles just because they’re built differently than men and have different average capability ranges.
And that’s where tools such as nutrition, supplements and smart training can help.
While the Corps has not announced a specific new supplement regimen, the service is working to overhaul its entire approach to fitness and health with the new Force Fitness Division activated this year. Part of what the division will do, officials have said, is review meal options in chow halls with an eye to making offerings healthier and more conducive to peak performance.
Brian McGuire, the Corps’ deputy force fitness branch head, told DACOWITS members Wednesday that the service is also looking to offer “post-exercise nutritional supplementation” to boost Marines’ performance and recovery. Officials are also setting up some young officers at The Basic School with wearable devices that measure biometrics and performance and may serve as a warning measure against heat sickness and other injuries.
And while standards to enter various ground combat jobs are the same whether you’re male or female, the Marine Corps is making some changes to the way it trains in order to avoid injury while maximizing performance.
“We have reduced running mileage,” McGuire said. “Because lather, rinse, repeat shows us that shorter, harder, faster has equal or greater benefit than longer, slower, less intense.”
On the Army side, McConnell said other aids, such as the calcium-rich performance nutrition bar introduced as a bedtime supplement for recruits earlier this year, are also proving useful.
“We have found that when soldiers have food in their stomach, they are actually less susceptible to heat injuries,” he said. “That’s actually one of the other aspects of this nutrition bar, and who would have thought, in the 21st century, that we’re kicking over that rock and understanding something that we did not understand.”
The Isonzo campaign, fought in present-day Slovenia from June 1915 to November 1917 between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is one of the bloodiest series of battles during World War I, yet is hardly remembered outside of the countries involved. A dozen engagements that often ran into each other ended up costing 1.7 million casualties, and the stalemate was only ended with the disastrous Italian defeat at Caporetto.
After Italy entered the war in May 1915, the Isonzo Valley presented the only real option for serious offensive operations into Austria, since the remainder of the front was mountainous terrain heavily fortified by the Austro-Hungarians. But the Isonzo River, called the Sloca River today, presented a formidable obstacle, and the fortifications in the hills overlooking the river made any crossing almost impossible.
The Italian Army’s Chief of Staff, Luigi Cadorna, believed that a determined attack could break through the enemy lines, seize the strategic towns of Gorizia and Trieste, and set the stage for a march on Vienna. He assembled two field armies for the offensive, and the Austro-Hungarians, despite disastrous losses in the fighting in Serbia and Galicia, foresaw the coming attack and assembled 100,000 men for the defense.
Cadorna, like many of his contemporaries, was a firm believer in the offensive and the frontal assault, but operations in the area would not be easy. The Isonzo River was prone to flooding, and the terrain difficulties surrounding it were extreme, with enemy fortifications dug in atop steep rocky slopes. The Italian army was also suffering from a shortage of modern artillery, making a direct attack even more hazardous.
The Italian offensive began on June 23, sparking the First Battle of Isonzo. Italian soldiers found themselves charging head-long uphill into barbed-wire and fortifications that their artillery had been unable to break up, and attempting to cross the Isonzo while under ferocious Austro-Hungarian counter-barrages. The fighting raged until Austro-Hungarian reinforcements arrived and stopped the offensive in its tracks. The Italian Army had suffered nearly 15,000 casualties, nearly double the enemies, while achieving practically no real gains.
This was a pattern that was to repeat itself throughout 1915 in three more failed Italian assaults, resulting in a quarter of a million casualties with no significant success. Cadorna showed himself particularly incapable of learning from the carnage, and was himself usually as far as 50 kilometers behind the front lines. He was also a savage disciplinarian, routinely ordering the execution of soldiers for cowardice and straggling.
A fifth attack in March of 1916 also failed, but then an opportunity seemed to present itself. After appeals from the French to lessen the pressure they were feeling at Verdun from the Germans, the Russians launched a massive offensive under General Aleksei Brusilov against the Austro-Hungarians at Lusk in modern day Ukraine. The Austro-Hungarians desperately shifted troops north from the Italian front, and Cadorna took advantage of this weakness. The sixth attack launched on August 6 was the Italian’s only real success of the entire campaign, seizing territory along a 20-km front and the town of Gorizia, but at the cost of over 50,000 Italian casualties.
The Italians continued to launch offensives into 1917, and despite Italy’s terrible losses the Austro-Hungarians were beginning to feel the war of attrition. They simply did not have the manpower the Italians had, and and their lines near Gorizia were on the brink of collapse. At last, appeals to Germany for reinforcements were answered, and a combined offensive was launched against the Italians at Caporetto, who were all forward deployed with no reserves for a defense in depth.
At 2 a.m. on October 24, a massive artillery barrage featuring high explosives, smoke, and huge quantities of chemical weapons caught the Italian 2nd Army completely by surprise. Their lines were broken almost immediately by special German stormtrooper units practicing new assault tactics featuring flamethrowers and the mass use of hand grenades. By October 30 the Italians had withdrawn past the Tagliomento river. Italy had lost over 300,000 men in a week, most of them taken prisoner.
The scale of the disaster led to the dismissal of Cadorna, shook the Allied governments, and led to France and England hurriedly rushing reinforcements to Italy. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians could not sustain the offensive, but Isonzo as a viable front for the Italians was essentially gone. Two and half years and more than a million and a half casualties from both sides had resulted in no gains to speak of.
Even in the carnage of World War I, the Isonzo campaign stands out for bloodshed concentrated in a single sector. Cadorna in particular was one of the most callous, stubborn, and unimaginative generals in a war noted for such leaders, and the Italian Army paid a terrible price for his ruthlessness and incompetence. The Isonzo and the disaster at Caporetto became a byword for failure in Italy, and the disillusionment caused by Italy’s massive losses in the war with little to show for it played a large role in the rise of fascism and dictator Benito Mussolini. Like so much of World War I, the Isonzo campaign played its own role in sparking World War II over 20 years later.
Last month’s massive breach of federal employees’ data allegedly at the hands of Chinese hackers, made public Thursday, indicates a treacherous new reality in the global cyber game.
“It’s very serious indeed,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, the founder of Eurasia Group, told Business Insider.
“China’s offensive cyber capabilities have consistently surprised the United States in terms of breadth and sophistication of attacks.
“The latest attacks revealed yesterday show millions of existing and former US government employees with their private data now in the hands of the Chinese state.”
The Obama administration has refrained from making any official statements about China’s role in the attack on the Office of Personnel Management, since it is still so difficult to trace a data breach back to its original source.
An unnamed official told Reuters that information taken includes security clearance information and background checks going back decades.
“This is deep. The data goes back to 1985,” the official said. “This means that they potentially have information about retirees, and they could know what they did after leaving government.”
Reuters notes that the Office of Personnel Management “conducts more than 90% of all federal background investigations, including those required by the Department of Defense and 100 other federal agencies.”
The data includes details about the private lives of more than 4 million US government workers.
These federal employees “are the people who hold US secrets,” national security expert Douglas Ollivant explained to Business Insider, referring to the employees’ varying levels of government security clearance.
“And now the hackers likely have access to blackmail-able levels of information, such as the employees’ passports, Social Security numbers, history of drug use or psychological counseling, foreign contacts, etc.”
Whether the attack was state-sponsored remains to be seen, but few doubt that the stolen personnel data will ultimately end up in the hands of the Chinese government.
“This is a really big deal,” Ollivant added. “Some might consider it an act of war.”
Further, the alleged hack is part of Beijing’s evolving cyber-espionage operation.
“Having a large database of personal information on key individuals that have access to critical infrastructure or classified information gives China an advantage in whatever agenda they have,” Mark Wuergler, a senior cybersecurity researcher at Immunity Inc., told Business Insider.
“By breaking into one organization it points in the direction of the next juicy target to siphon data from, or add to, an arsenal of leverage over a superpower,” Wuergler said.
The Chinese are masters of the long game, Wuergler added, and Chinese hackers have been known to infiltrate servers and maintain their access for a year or more to quietly spy on their targets.
“They are really good at what they do, and when they break into something it’s not just smash and grab,” Wuergler said, noting that hackers in the OPM network had been there for months before they were even detected.
According to Wuergler, a “complete overhaul” of the network and systems we use today would be needed to deter attacks like this in the future.
As Bremmer sees it, however, such efforts at deterrence would be largely futile given China’s determination to remain embedded in American networks.
“There’s no effective defense against these attacks and, as we’ve seen, there’s also no effective deterrence,” he said. “China isn’t trying to engage in ‘integrity’ attacks against the US — they don’t want to destroy American institutions and architecture as, after all, they’re hugely invested in American economic success.”
That said, Bremmer added: “We should be very clear: China is at virtual war with the United States, and the threat is far higher than that of terrorism, which gets the lion’s share of attention — and, in the post-9/11 world, funding.”
Distant footsteps lightly echo through the empty passageway. Two figures of different height walk briskly through the hall toward a heavy steel door labeled “General Surgery: Authorized Personnel Only.” Attached at the hand, the smaller of the two, stops abruptly pulling his mother to a halt.
She sharply whispers something in Spanish to her frightened son. The boy inches toward the now-opened door, as the bright lights expose the sweat on his sun-kissed forehead. What the anxious boy doesn’t realize is that this room has a familiarity to him. He was a patient in it once before — when he was only 8 months old. And now, same as then, he is in good hands.
Pedro Daniel Anton, 8, returned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) to receive further care for his cleft lip and palate. His mother, Petronia Eche, reflects on her first experience with the Comfort caring for her son during Continuing Promise 2011, in Peru.
“In 2010, he was born with a cleft palate and when he was 8 months old and the ship came to provide care, we came for his surgery,” said Petronia, translated from Spanish. “They were very helpful, we received so much support when we had his first surgery. It was a great surgery, we were very well attended and my son came out well.”
Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt, an oral surgeon from Pembroke, Ontario, performs surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
After his initial surgery, Petronia knew he needed more surgery to improve his quality of life, but had little to no success in getting the follow-up, in Peru.
“I have tried in the past to get his follow-up surgery done but we have been denied continuously,” said Petronia. “But I never gave up. As a mother I knew I needed to be there with him, I never gave up on this because I only want the best for my son.”
After more than seven years from his initial surgery, Comfort returned to Paita, Peru. Petronia’s prayers were answered and she knew he needed to get aboard to get the care he needed.
“What a coincidence, it must be fate that we are here again,” said Petronia, on the verge of tears. “We were in such a long line, sleeping outside in the lines. I was losing my spirits in the wait, but I decided to keep waiting. And out of so many people, we are here.”
Pedro and his mother arrived to the ship under the impression that he was going to have surgery on an umbilical hernia in his abdomen. When the doctors looked at his cleft lip, they realized that they had an opportunity and the resources to give him further care.
Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt (left), an oral surgeon from Pembroke, Ontario, and Capt. Michael Carson, an oral surgeon from Portsmouth, Va., perform surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
“Initially, I came because he has an umbilical hernia, but the doctors told me that he needed both surgeries,” said Petronia. “Knowing that made me nervous, but I have trust in the doctors and in God. Many of the doctors here in Paita tell me they can’t help my son but here they said they can do it.”
When the call came in to the medical ward that Pedro and his mother were in, they were overcome with emotion. They both found the courage and strength to stand, take each other’s hand, walk up to surgery to complete the journey, and fulfill the reason why they were on the Comfort.
“I’ve told the doctors, that my son’s life is in their hands,” said Petronia, overcome with emotion and tears flowing down her cheeks. “I’m so appreciative of this because, here in Peru, we don’t have the money to pay for these surgeries, I have tried but we just don’t have enough. But, as a mother, I kept trying to find a way for him to get the surgery. I had faith in God and I would tell my husband that one day—someone would come to help us.”
Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt, an oral surgeon aboard Comfort, was the attending surgeon with Pedro for his cleft lip operation. He said it is common for a cleft lip and palate patient to return for further surgeries as they grow and start cutting teeth and forming a stronger jaw. He was also glad to see a repeat patient because it is a rarity that the Comfort’s doctors are ever able to follow up with the patients they treat.
Capt. Michael Carson, an oral surgeon from Portsmouth, Va., performs surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
“It was very rewarding to see him here again,” said Schmidt. “I wasn’t personally involved with his care the first time, but cleft lip and palate are complicated cases that need follow-up and repeated procedures over time in a staged manner. Without this, he would not have been able to return to full function. He wouldn’t be able to eat normally, he wouldn’t be able to have normal speech and he would be at higher risk for health issues such as infections in his sinus.”
When Pedro was brought to the operating room, the surgeons and staff operated on his umbilical hernia first, completing the operation in about 20 minutes. Then, Schmidt and his staff took over for the next part of his surgery, which was very complex and took much longer.
“The patient had an alveolar cleft*, so basically what has happened in that case, is that the upper jaw of the maxilla** didn’t have bone connecting it all the way through and there was a hole where that should have been extending from the mouth to the nose,” said Schmidt. “So what we did, is we opened up that area, reconstructed the gums in that area to create a new floor of the nose.”
“We made sure there was a good seal on the palate side,” continued Schmidt. “And then we used some bone from his hip so that we can reconstruct it. We brought that bone and then we placed it into the defect that was there so that we could grow new bone and create a new full shaped maxilla that will be able to support teeth and have teeth erupt through there.”
Pedro’s surgery was a success and the hole connecting his mouth and nose, including the gap in the bone, was repaired.
“We are very excited about the procedure and I feel we got a really good result,” said Schmidt. “Checking up with Pedro right before he left the ship, he seemed to be in good spirits, and we are expecting a very good recovery for him.”
Oral surgery is performed on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
Feeling jubilant and blessed, Pedro and his mother made their way to disembark Comfort. With their journey one step closer to its completion, Petronia embraced many doctors, nurses and staff before heading back to Paita. With her heart full of graciousness and exuberance, her and her son boarded a small boat to go back ashore.
“I have to be strong for my children,” said Petronia. “I encourage them to be strong, we have suffered together throughout his journey and I am thankful to God that he is going to be okay now.”
Comfort is on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras, the embarked medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership, and solidarity with the Americas.
*An Alveolar Cleft is an opening in the bone of the upper jaw that results from a developmental defect and is present at birth. This area of the jaw that is missing bone is otherwise covered by normal mucosa and may contain teeth. (dcsurgicalarts.com)
**The maxilla forms the upper jaw by fusing together two irregularly-shaped bones along the median palatine structure, located at the midline of the roof of the mouth. The maxillary bones on each side join in the middle at the intermaxillary suture, a fused line that is created by the union of the right and left ‘halves’ of the maxilla bone, thus running down the middle of the upper jaw.(healthline.com)
ISIS has made alarming gains in Iraq and Syria over the past week.
On May 17, ISIS fighters took Ramadi, a city just 70 west of Baghdad, after a battle in which the jihadist group advanced into the city behind a wave of suicide bombers. Capturing Palmyra, a former Assad regime bastion in Syria, proved easier, as a collapsing Syrian military essentially vacated the city in the face of the ISIS advance.
And an 11-month US-led bombing campaign hasn’t prevented ISIS from taking and holding additional territory. This week, ISIS has looked formidable, while the US’s strategy has seemed particularly ineffective and aimless. On May 21st, reports began circulating that ISIS controlled half of Syrian territory.
But such claims about ISIS’s degree of territorial control obscures how and why the group has been successful so far — and how it might eventually be defeated. ISIS doesn’t really “control” half of Syria.
As these maps from the Institute for the Study of War demonstrates, ISIS has a sliver-shaped core of direct administrative control, insulated by hundreds of square miles of desert where the jihadist group and other militant forces maintain a degree of operational capability.
There are gradients of ISIS control in Syria, and understanding them hints at how the group can be successfully countered.
“ISIS’s fighters are likely clustered in key defensible terrain,” Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria conflict analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider. Cafarella explained that ISIS focuses its efforts and manpower around the populated and strategic areas along the Euphrates river.
“There’s little actual human terrain in close proximity to ISIS in eastern Syria that ISIS does not already control,” she said. “Beyond that is the vast Homs Desert, where ISIS has been able to operate with impunity.
“But it’s too inhospitable for any military to decisively hold and of low enough strategic value that is can’t be considered an exclusively ISIS-governed area.”
As Cafarella says, the desert in the east of the country is at least “maneuverable terrain by really all military forces.”
The issue is that ISIS currently has free reign there — the Assad regime, for instance, doesn’t have on the ground intelligence, the capacity, of perhaps the willingness to discover and then bomb ISIS convoys traveling across Syria’s desert east.
“We still don’t have the ground partner necessary to contest ISIS-held terrain inside of Syria in any meaningful sense,” says Cafarella.
In Syria, ISIS has a small core area of control, a wider area of operational freedom, and no real ground-level counter-force pressuring the group.
What it doesn’t have is an administrative entity that actually comprises half of the country’s territory.
In other areas, over-emphasis on ISIS’s territorial control can have an even more distorting impact on the group’s actual reach. In Libya, it’s been frequently reported that ISIS rules over territory, with The New York Times reporting in March that ISIS had a foothold in Sirte, along the Mediterranean coast. On May 21st, Reuters reported that ISIS had captured the city.
In reality, ISIS doesn’t really control any territory in Libya, or at least not in the same sense as in Iraq and Syria.
“The places they’re said to be in control of are heavily contested,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “It hasn’t captured cities and imposed an administrative structure.”
The idea that ISIS has territorial control in Libya “directly feeds into ISIS propaganda,” says Gartenstein-Ross. It shows that the “caliphate” has spread beyond Iraq and Syria, and that he group can fight and hold territory far beyond its center of power. An exaggerated sense of ISIS’s Libya capabilities may have been part of what convinced the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram to pledge allegiance to ISIS in March.
Understanding the nature and extent of ISIS’s territorial control is especially important amidst growing criticism of the US’s strategy against the group. Gartentstein-Ross explained that ISIS has adjusted its own battlefield approach, opting for small-scale attacks over vulnerable large-scale mobilizations. Furthermore, the group is only opening fronts against forces they are relatively certain they can defeat, like the Iraqi military.
“They’re using smaller and more mobile units that are better at evading the air campaign,” says Gartenstein-Ross.
ISIS’s tactics are adjusting to the US’s now 11-month-old air campaign, but this doesn’t mean the group is invincible. ISIS took Palmyra because the Syrian regime fled, and it took Ramadi because the Iraqi Security Forces aren’t a viable or a competent fighting force.
On the other hand, ISIS has an apparent unwillingness to contest areas held by battle-hardened Iranian-supported Shi’ite militia groups in both Iraq and Syria, and has made little progress against Kurdish forces in either country.
So even as the group expands, it’s clear that it isn’t on an inevitable victory march across Iraq and Syria.
“I don’t think their capability should be overstated vis a vis the full range of their opponents,” says Gartenstein-Ross.