The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Precision U.S. strikes conducted Oct. 23 targeted two of al-Qaida’s most senior leaders in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced last night.


The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
(Photo from DoD)

In a statement, Cook said officials are still assessing the results of the strikes, which targeted Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi.

“Their demise would represent a significant blow to the terrorist group’s presence in Afghanistan, which remains committed to facilitating attacks against the United States, our allies and partners,” the press secretary said.

Qatani served as al-Qaida’s emir for northeastern Afghanistan, assigned by the group’s leadership to re-establish safe havens for the terrorist organization, Cook said. “He was a senior planner for attacks against the United States, and has a long history of directing deadly attacks against U.S. forces and our coalition allies,” he added.

Utabi is assessed to have been involved in efforts to re-establish a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to threaten the West, Cook said, and in efforts to recruit and train foreign fighters.

After an extensive period of surveillance, the United States targeted the al-Qaida leaders at what was assessed as command-and-control locations in remote areas of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Cook said.

“If these strikes are determined to be successful,” he added, “eliminating these core leaders of al-Qaida will disrupt efforts to plot against the United States and our allies and partners around the world, reduce the threat to our Afghan partners, and assist their efforts to deny al-Qaida safe haven in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Lawyers and policy and technical experts from the US Defense Department are in New Delhi, meeting with Indian officials to discuss a military-communications agreement that would boost the interoperability of the two countries’ armed forces.

The discussions — part of preparations for the 2+2 dialogue between the two countries’ foreign and defense secretaries, to take place in Washington in July 2018 — are a step forward, according to The Indian Express, as Delhi has been reluctant to sign the agreement, known as Comcasa, since it signed a military logistics agreement with the US in 2016, when the US named India a “major defense partner.”


India’s reservations stem in part from a lingering issue in the growing US-India military relationship: Delhi’s use of Russia-made weapons platforms.

Russia has long been India’s main weapons supplier. Delhi worked with Moscow to develop the BrahMos anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile, and India also fields Russia’s S-300 air-defense system.

India’s operational aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, is a Russian Kiev-class carrier-cruiser overhauled by Moscow for the Indian navy that carries Russian-made aircraft. India also operates squadrons of Russia-made MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Indian Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya

India signed a $6 billion deal with Moscow in late 2016, agreeing to lease a Russian-made nuclear submarine, to buy four Russian frigates, to purchase the advanced S-400 air-defense missile system, and to set up a joint venture with a Russian firm to produce military helicopters.

India’s Defense Ministry is concerned that many of its Russian-made weapons, as well as its indigenous weapons systems, will not be compatible with Comcasa, according to The Indian Express, which also reports that defense officials are wary of US intrusions into their military communications systems.

The US has been seeking deeper relations with India for years. Delhi has bought $15 billion worth of US arms since 2008, and the US recently renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command in recognition of India’s growing role in the region.

India sees the S-400 as a way to increase its air defenses, especially amid its growing rivalry with China. But its purchase has been an issue for Washington.

Delhi has said it will go ahead with the purchase of the missile system, despite the recent Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which aims to deter foreign individuals and entities from doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
(Russian Ministry of Defense)

“In all our engagements with the US, we have clearly explained how India and Russia’s defence cooperation has been going on for a long time and that it is a time-tested relationship,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said early June 2018. “We have mentioned that CAATSA cannot impact the India-Russia defence cooperation.”

India reportedly wants an exception to CAATSA for its defense deals with Russia and plans to raise the issue during the 2+2 dialogue meeting.

“The S-400 deal has been on for a very long time, and we have reached the final stage of negotiations,” Sitharaman added. “That explains it.”

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has told Congress that “national security exceptions” must be made to CAATSA, which went into effect in January 2018.

Mattis said that while some countries with which the US is seeking stronger ties are looking “to turn away” from Russian-made weapons, those countries also need to keep doing business with Moscow for the time being.

“We only need to look at India, Vietnam and some others to recognize that eventually we’re going to penalize ourselves” by pursuing strict adherence to CAATSA, Mattis told senators in April 2018.

“Indonesia, for example, is in the same situation — trying to shift to more of our airplanes, our systems, but they’ve got to do something to keep their legacy military going,” Mattis added.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

China was the first foreign country to receive the S-400, but Turkey has also acquired it, adding to tensions with its NATO partners, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar also reportedly considering purchasing it.

Despite India’s commitment to the S-400 deal and Mattis’ emphasis on logistical considerations, the US is still cautioning India and other US allies about doing business with Russia.

US officials have indicated to India that not signing the Comcasa agreement could preclude India from getting high-end military equipment, like Predator drones, the sale of which the US approved in May 2018.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the House Armed Services Committee, told Indian broadcaster NDTV in late May 2018, that the US was disappointed with India’s deals with Moscow, particularly the S-400 purchase, which he said “threatens our ability to work interoperably in the future.”

While there would be some “flexibility” in the law for countries with traditional defense ties to Moscow and sanctions on Delhi were unlikely, Thornberry said, the “acquisition of this technology will limit, I am afraid, the degree with which the United States will feel comfortable in bringing additional technology into whatever country we are talking about.”

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

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The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

From 2001 to 2003, the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq was in a state of conflict between autonomous Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the terror group, Ansar al-Islam. The group was made primarily of Al-Qaeda veterans of the Afghanistan War and was carving out an enclave in the major city of Halabja. Locals from the Islamic Group of Kurdistan rose up to support Ansar al-Islam. The CIA also suspected the terror group of manufacturing poison and chemical weapons in the region. To address this threat in northern Iraq and put more pressure on Baghdad, the U.S. planned to open a second front during the 2003 invasion of Iraq from the north through Turkey.

However, Turkey refused to allow U.S. forces to cross their border into Iraq for the purpose of invasion. Although this development halted the mechanized 4th Infantry Division, thousands of paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-14 Infantry Regiment were inserted from the air to form an ad hoc northern coalition. Their push south was paralleled by paramilitary operators of the CIA’s Special Activities Division and Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group. The roughly 40 CIA officers and Green Berets supported the 7,000-strong Kurdish Peshmerga fighters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party who wanted to defeat Ansar and Islamic Kurdish fighters and push south to join the fight against Saddam.

On the morning of March 21, 2003, Operation Viking Hammer kicked off in northern Iraq. Directed by the U.S. advisors, a total of 64 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck Ansar and Islamic Kurdistan forces. However, the ground assault was postponed until the conventional U.S. forces were in place for their parallel push south. The attack was scheduled for March 28.

On the eve of the attack, the Islamic Group of Kurdistan surrendered. They had already lost 100 fighters during airstrikes on March 21 and were heavily demoralized. The attack the next morning was met with heavy resistance from the Ansar fighters. However, the U.S. advisors called in airstrikes on the Ansar positions and the Peshmerga were able to push through. They reached their first checkpoint, the town of Gulp, hours ahead of schedule.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
The mountainous terrain was difficult to navigate and fight through (U.S. Army)

The bulk of the surviving Ansar forces fell back to the town of Sargat where they consolidated for a final stand. As the Peshmerga fighters and their U.S. advisors approached Sargat, they were pinned down by heavy mortar and machine gun fire. The town’s location deep in the valley blocked radio signals and prevented the Americans from calling in airstrikes or friendly reinforcements. Instead, Green Berets used a Barrett M82 .50-caliber rifle to take out Ansar machine gun crews while Peshmerga forces brought up artillery to destroy the Ansar mortar positions. It took three hours, but the Ansar forces were eventually driven from Sargat.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Green Berets during Operation Viking Hammer (U.S. Army)

As they routed the Ansar fighters into the hills, the Peshmerga were again pinned down by machine gun fire. However, the elevated battleground allowed U.S. advisors to call in airstrikes into the night. Once darkness fell, four AC-130 gunships battered the retreating Ansar forces as they retreated toward the Iranian border. Some fighters were reportedly arrested by Iranian forces while others were sent back across the border and captured by Kurdish forces. However, the Kurds allege that many Ansar fighters were given refuge in Iran.

Operation Viking Hammer resulted in the destruction of Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq and allowed Kurdish fighters to continue south to attack Saddam’s forces from the north. Traces of poisonous Ricin and potassium chloride were discovered in Sargat, as well as chemical suits, nerve gas antidotes and manuals on manufacturing chemical weapons. Peshmerga casualties were light with three fighters killed and 23 wounded.

In addition to the 100 Islamic Kurds who were killed in the initial airstrikes, an estimated 150-200 Ansar fighters were killed during Viking Hammer. There were no American casualties. Seven Green Berets were awarded the Silver Star for their actions around Sargat and several CIA officers were awarded the rare Intelligence Star for extraordinary heroism in combat. The operation has been lauded as one of the greatest Special Forces engagements in modern history.

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US general suspects Russia is supplying the Taliban

VOA News


Ra may be supplying the Taliban as they fight and NATO forces in Afghanistan, a top commander said Thay.

“We have seen the influence of Ra of late – an increased influence – in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander and General, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Scaparrotti did not elaborate on what kinds of supplies might be provided or how direct Ra’s involvement could be.

His comments are built on suspicions raised last month by General John Nicholson, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, who testified that Ra is giving the Taliban encouragement and diplomatic cover. Nicholson did not, however, address whether Ra was supplying the terrorist group.

“Ra has been legitimizing the Taliban and supporting the Taliban,” he told VOA’s Afghan service in an interview last month.

Ra, which had an ill-fated intervention in Afghanistan that started in 1979 and ended nearly a decade later, has been trying to exert influence in the region again and has set up six-country peace talks next week that exclude .

VOA Afghan contributed to this report.

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Navy orders stand-down of littoral combat ships after breakdowns

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
The littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) underway in the Pacific Ocean | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney


After the littoral combat ship USS Freedom sustained major engine damage July 11 because a seal malfunction allowed seawater to seep in, the commander of Naval Surface Forces quietly ordered all LCS crews to observe a stand-down, halting operations to review procedures and engineering standards.

“Due to the ongoing challenges with littoral combat ships, I ordered an engineering stand-down for LCS squadrons and the crews that fall under their command,” Vice Adm. Tom Rowden said in a statement. “These stands down allowed for time to review, evaluate and renew our commitment to ensuring our crews are fully prepared to operate these ships safely.”

The reviews were completed by Aug. 31, Navy officials announced Monday, adding that every sailor in each LCS crew with a role in engineering will observe retraining.

The training, officials said, will take place over the next 30 days. During that time, leadership of the Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, will review the current LCS training program and recommend any other changes they see fit.

The school’s engineers will also supervise current and future training efforts. They will develop a knowledge test and specialized training for LCS engineers, to be deployed to them by Oct. 5. A separate, comprehensive LCS engineering review is being conducted by the commander of SWOS, Capt. David A. Welch, and is expected to take between 30 and 60 days.

“From there, more adjustments may be made to the engineering training pipeline,” officials with Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.

The Freedom, the first of its class made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Marinette Marine, returned to its San Diego homeport Aug. 3 to address the damage it sustained to one of its diesel propulsion engines, which Navy officials said will require an engine rebuild or replacement.

It remains unclear what caused another LCS, the USS Coronado, to be sidelined with damage to one of its flexible couplings assemblies Aug. 29.

Upon its return to Pearl Harbor Sept. 4, the Coronado was met by a group of maintenance experts sent by Rowden to inspect the ship, officials said. The experts investigated the ship’s engineering program, but no information has been released about the cause of the problem or whether it might be related to previous engineering casualties.

“A preliminary investigation will provide an initial assessment and procedural review of the situation, and any shortfalls will be addressed quickly to get the ship fixed and back on deployment,” officials said.

The Coronado, so far the only trimaran-hulled Independence-variant LCS made by Austal USA to suffer an engineering casualty, had been just two months into its maiden deployment.

The Freedom and the Coronado are the third and fourth littoral combat ships to experience engineering casualties inside a 12-month span.

Last December, the LCS Milwaukee broke down during a transit from San Diego and Halifax, Nova Scotia when a clutch failed to disengage when the ship switched gears. The ship had to cut short the transit in order to be towed to Joint Base Little Creek, Virginia, for repairs.

In January, the LCS Fort Worth was sidelined in Singapore when it broke down in what officials said was a casualty caused by engineers failing to properly apply lubrication oil to the ship’s combining gears. After eight months in port in Singapore for repairs, the Fort Worth departed for its San Diego homeport in August.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russians are messing with global GPS

On May 15, 2018, under a sunny sky, Russian President Vladimir Putin drove a bright-orange truck in a convoy of construction vehicles for the opening of the Kerch Strait Bridge from Russia to Crimea. At 11 miles long, it is now the longest bridge in Europe or Russia.

As Putin drove across the bridge, something weird happened. The satellite navigation systems in the control rooms of more than 24 ships anchored nearby suddenly started displaying false information about their location. Their GPS systems told their captains they were anchored more than 65 kilometers away — on land, at the Anapa Airport.


This was not a random glitch, according to the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, a security think tank known as C4ADS. It was a deliberate plan to make it difficult for anyone nearby to track or navigate around the presence of Putin, it said.

‘All critical national infrastructures rely on GNSS to some extent’ — and the Russians have started hacking it

The Russians have started hacking into the global navigation satellite system on a mass scale to confuse thousands of ships and airplanes about where they are, a study of false GNSS signals by C4ADS found.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Putin driving two construction workers across the Kerch Strait Bridge.

GNSS comprises the constellation of international satellites that orbit Earth. The US’s Global Positioning System, China’s BeiDou, Russia’s Glonass, and Europe’s Galileo program are all part of GNSS.

Your phone, law enforcement, shipping, airlines, and power stations — anything dependent on GPS time and location synchronization — are all vulnerable to GNSS hacking. A 2017 report commissioned by the UK Space Agency said that “all critical national infrastructures rely on GNSS to some extent, with Communications, Emergency Services, Finance, and Transport identified as particularly intensive users.” An attack that disabled GNSS in Britain would cost about £1 billion every day the system was down, the report said.

The jamming, blocking, or spoofing of GNSS signals by the Russian government is “more indiscriminate and persistent, larger in scope, and more geographically diverse than previous public reporting suggested,” said a recent Weekly Intelligence Summary from Digital Shadows, a cybersecurity-monitoring service.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

This diagram shows GPS signals for a ship jumping between the accurate location at sea and a false location at a nearby airport.

(C4ADS)

Nearly 10,000 incidents of ships being sent bad location data

The C4ADS study found that:

  • 1,311 civilian ships have been affected.
  • 9,883 incidents were reported or detected.

Until the past couple of years, C4ADS thought the Russians used GNSS jamming or spoofing mostly to disguise Putin’s whereabouts.

For instance, a large area over Cape Idokopas, near Gelendzhik on the Black Sea coast of Russia, appears to be within a permanent GNSS-spoofing zone. The cape, believed to be Putin’s summer home, or dacha, contains a vast and lavish private residence — “a large Italianate palace, several helicopter pads, an amphitheatre, and a small port,” C4ADS said. It is the only private home in Russia that enjoys the same level of airspace protection and GNSS interference as the Kremlin.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

C4ADS thinks Putin’s summer home is protected by a permanent GNSS-spoofing zone.

(C4ADS)

‘Russian forces had developed mobile GNSS jamming units to provide protection for the Russian president’

“The geographical placement of the spoofing incidents closely aligns with places where Vladimir Putin was making overseas and domestic visits, suggesting that Russian forces had developed mobile GNSS jamming units to provide protection for the Russian president,” Digital Shadows said. “The incidents also align with the locations of Russian military and government resources. Although in some areas the motive was likely to restrict access to or obstruct foreign military.”

Ships sailing near Gelendzhik have reported receiving bogus navigation data on their satellite systems.

“In June 2017, the captain of the merchant vessel Atria provided direct evidence of GNSS spoofing activities off the coast of Gelendzhik, Russia, when the vessel’s on-board navigation systems indicated it was located in the middle of the Gelendzhik Airport, about 20km away. More than two dozen other vessels reported similar disruptions in the region on that day,” C4ADS said.

An million superyacht was sent off course by a device the size of a briefcase

Most of the incidents were recorded in Crimea, the Black Sea, Syria, and Russia.

Perhaps more disturbingly, GNSS-spoofing equipment is available to almost anyone for just a few hundred dollars.

“In the summer of 2013, a research team from The University of Texas at Austin successfully hijacked the GPS navigation systems onboard an million superyacht using a ,000 device the size of a small briefcase,” C4ADS said. “The experimental attack forced the ship’s navigation systems to relay false positioning information to the vessel’s captain, who subsequently made slight course corrections to keep the ship seemingly on track.”

Since then, the cost of a GNSS-spoofing device has fallen to about 0, C4ADS said, and some people have used them to cheat at “Pokémon Go.”

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

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We just got our most extensive picture yet of ISIS’ mysterious and reclusive leader

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan


The world knows little of the Islamic State terror group’s brutal leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but a new article from counterterrorism expert Will McCants provides one of the most extensive accounts yet of his background.

McCants, director of the Project on US Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution, wrote an upcoming book on the Islamic State — aka ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh — and researched Baghdadi’s life to explain his rise to become one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.

Since Baghdadi became the self-proclaimed “caliph” of ISIS in 2014, he has only appeared in public once, at a mosque in Mosul, Iraq. He was rumored to have died in an air strike earlier this year, but ISIS subsequently released a statement from him along with proof that he was still alive.

Even with new information about his life tricking out in the press, Baghdadi — aka Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Al-Badri — remains a mysterious and reclusive figure.

Here’s what we know now about his background, as laid out by McCants in his Brookings essay:

  • Baghdadi was raised in a lower-middle-class family in Iraq. His relatives claimed to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • His father taught at a mosque. When Baghdadi was a teenager, he led neighborhood children in Quran recitations.
  • Baghdadi’s family had ties to late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Two of his uncles were involved with Saddam’s security services, and two of his brothers served in the military under Saddam. One died during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
  • Members of Baghdadi’s family were also thought to be Salafis, who follow a strict form of Islam that has been associated with ISIS’ extreme interpretation.
  • Baghdadi was thought of as a quiet type, but when he read the Quran, his “quiet voice would come to life” and he would pronounce “the letters in firm, reverberating tones,” according to McCants.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

  • He was also known for having a temper. Once, when he saw women and men dancing together at a wedding, he got upset and forced them to stop.
  • Even in his youth, Baghdadi developed a reputation for being pious and following a strict interpretation of Islam. His nickname was “The Believer,” and one of his brothers told McCants that Baghdadi “was quick to admonish anyone who strayed from the strictures of Islamic law.”
  • Baghdadi wasn’t a strong student in high school, but he went on to earn a doctorate degree in Quranic studies. He reportedly wanted to study law for his undergraduate degree, but his grades weren’t good enough, so he studied the Quran instead.
  • He became a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that seeks to establish Islamic states across the Middle East, but his views were more extreme than those of many of the others in the group. Baghdadi was reportedly drawn to the extremists, including his older brother, who wanted to overthrow un-Islamic rulers.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Photo: Youtube.com

  • Outside his religious studies, Baghdadi was fond of soccer. He was the star of a soccer club at a mosque at which he taught, and people compared him to the famous Argentinian player Lionel Messi. (This fits with an interview published earlier this year with a man who said he knew Baghdadi before he became ISIS’ “caliph.”)
  • Baghdadi is thought to have two wives and six children. McCants reports that the caliph’s first wife, Asma, was the daughter of Baghdadi’s maternal uncle.
  • He was initially involved with al-Qaida, which sent him to Syria after he was released from his detainment at the US-run Camp Bucca in Iraq in the early 2000s. There, he was tasked with “ensuring that AQI’s online propaganda was in line with its brand of ultraconservative Islam,” according to McCants. Today, ISIS is known for its online propaganda that’s highly effective at recruiting young people to join the terror group.
  • After ISIS broke away from al-Qaida, he was put in charge of religious affairs in some areas of Iraq. He became valuable to ISIS because the group needed religious scholars to establish legitimacy.

This telling of Baghdadi’s background suggests that his radicalization began long before he was imprisoned at Camp Bucca in the early 2000s. Although he was captured as a “civilian detainee” while he was visiting a friend who was wanted by American authorities, it’s clear Baghdadi had already begun forming his extremist ideology by this point.

These details water down the notion that Baghdadi was radicalized while in American detention.

And Baghdadi likely knew what he was doing.

“For the ten months he remained in custody, Baghdadi hid his militancy and devoted himself to religious instruction,” McCants wrote.

He was also able to meet and befriend ex-Baathists who would later join him in ISIS. The group’s leadership is now thought to be made up largely of former Saddam loyalists, but that doesn’t mean Baghdadi isn’t devout or that he’s just a religious figurehead for the organization.

McCants concluded: “The bare facts of Baghdadi’s biography show an unusually capable man. … Although the New York Times recently reported that he himself is making arrangements for a succession in the event of his demise by devolving many of his military powers to subordinates, his blend of religious scholarship and political cunning won’t be easily replaced.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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These 21 American Forces Network commercials are entertaining for all the wrong reasons

The American Forces Network (AFN) is the brand name used by the U.S. Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS). It’s a worldwide network designed to be entertaining and informational for U.S. troops and their families while deployed or stationed overseas (aka OCONUS), or for Navy ships at sea. Broadcasting from Fort George G. Meade in Maryland, the network shows American programming from all major U.S. networks.


Since AFN is a nonprofit enterprise owned by the U.S. government, it does not and cannot air commercials during its programs, to avoid the image of endorsement by or sponsorship of the Department of Defense. In their place, AFN runs public service announcements from the Ad Council, charities, and — most interestingly — informational spots created by military members working in AFRTS. These spots can be “command information” or address a number of issues facing military members and their families. They vary in production value and efficacy and can be unintentionally ridiculous… few are as entertaining as AFN Afghanistan’s Bagram Batman.

1. Recycle

Always be yourself, even on Okinawa.

2. Maintain Operations Security

“Cats cannot be trusted.” – OPSEC Officer Squeakers

3. Don’t be an a-hole in Europe

Because Europeans never talk smack about sporting events or play loud music.

4. Shop at the Commissary!

This is really an avant-garde art film.

5. Prevent theft by slapping your friends around

It’s always a good idea to slap people at the base gym locker room.

6. Don’t forget your CAC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC4yBMCKWww

7. Don’t just give anyone general power of attorney

This entire PSA is an excuse for a pun.

8. Your new foreign-born wife will probably need a passport

Worst. Proposal. Ever.

8. What to know about legal residency, presented by Cowboys

No PSA is more memorable than one about legal residency.

9. Creepy strangers can overhear your travel plans

Cargo shorts, flip-flops, and wraparound sunglasses complete the creeper uniform.

10. The perfect neighbor doesn’t exist

If you want the perfect neighbor, build one from leftover body parts.

11. Having a baby is the end of the world

“Who wants to pay child support in high school?” WHO WANTS TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT EVER?

12. Get to know your skin sores

Listening to this gave me ear cancer.

13. This guy needs a shower

No concern about the invisible voice in your bathroom?

14. Don’t be an a-hole in Europe, part II

“You’ve brought great joy to this old Italian stereotype.”

15. Don’t be an a-hole in your dorm room

Who is the real a-hole in this PSA?

16. This guy needs a time management PSA

Maybe don’t wait until right before formation to run by the post office.

17. An identity crisis can hit you at any time

Does Stars and Stripes have a self-help section?

18. Eating lunch alone leads to disaster

Where the hell is this lunchroom anyway?

19. “Something about jurisdiction”

Call those legal people at the legal place when you have a run-in with the police-y people while doing your boozy stuff.

20. Smokers are Blue Falcons

Maybe we should talk about the guy putting out cigarettes on his co-workers’ faces?

21. Bird Flu is comical

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EyZ6z9dTQg

Try sneezing in a Marine’s face. Go on, I’ll wait.

Articles

How the US military used social media to help hurricane victims in Texas and Florida

As victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pleaded to be rescued on popular social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the National Guard altered its response accordingly.


“It’s been a very dynamic and evolving environment,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel recently told Military.com. “This has certainly evolved how we do it.”

Lengyel spoke with Military.com at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, KY.

While social media isn’t the primary communications tool between the Guard and those at risk, it’s starting to play a larger role.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
USAF Lt. Gen. Joseph Lengyel testifies before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services at a confirmation hearing for his appointment to the grade of general and to be chief of the National Guard Bureau on June 21, 2016. US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez.

The Washington Post reported that during Harvey, a Guard Humvee vanished in Katy, Texas. With no other way to reach the driver, soldiers finally were able communicate with him using SnapChat, a messaging app that can capture a photo or video, which is then relayed to the recipient briefly before it disappears.

Similar situations can happen when there is a communications capability gap in a disaster area, Lengyel said.

“Whenever you go into particular environments, communications is always difficult when you first start. Because the infrastructure [isn’t] there. It has to evolve,” he said.

For example, the Guard got the call to drive to Beaumont, Texas, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency or first responders could set up hub stations to house communications equipment.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
US Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard arrive in Houston Aug. 27, 2017, to aid citizens in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. US Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West.

Coordinating Efforts

The military has crews that monitor response efforts as they happen in real-time.

For example, its only non-offensive air operations center, known as “America’s AOC,” at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, keeps track of relief no matter where it’s needed in the US.

Military.com visited the 601st AOC in March. It evaluates domestic operations, or DomOps, for Air Forces Northern, monitoring the airwaves — and social media sites — for events with potential military ties.

Lengyel said he was impressed with efforts as ongoing training rotations across the globe have not stopped despite the massive hurricane relief effort. Part of the Texas Guard deployed to the Horn of Africa even as Harvey laid waste to the Houston area and Hurricane Irma loomed.

Thousands of National Guard troops remain on the ground in Texas for relief efforts, and the Pentagon mobilized nearly 30,000 military personnel for Irma recovery.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard rescue Houston residents as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continue to rise, Monday, August 28, 2017. More than 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard have been called out to support local authorities in response to the storm. US Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West.

That’s all thanks to planning.

“Every state creates and drafts an all-hazards response plan … and a lot of it comes together from various federal agencies,” Lengyel said of the constant training and push to get ahead of the next big disaster, which could vary from an earthquake to a terrorist attack.

Everybody has a plan. And we coordinate … and we think about it before it happens, and we’ve gotten much better about this over the years,” he said.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Emergency supplies are removed from a pallet and stacked by members of the US Coast Guard, Marines, Army, and Air Force at Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sept. 14, 2017. US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Strohmaier.

Special Mission Unit Milestone

This year’s relief efforts — from Harvey and Irma to wildfires in the West — created another milestone for the US military this year.

For the first time in the nearly 70-year history of the Air Force Reserve, all three special mission units — weather reconnaissance, firefighting, and aerial spray — were called to action simultaneously, the service said this week.

Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — better known as the Hurricane Hunters — out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, “have been flying weather reconnaissance missions nonstop” since Aug. 17, the Air Force said in a release.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
A US flag mounted to a Texas Army National Guard vehicle waves in the breeze during Hurricane Harvey rescue operations in Katy, Texas August 29, 2017. US Army Photo by Sgt. Steve Johnson.

The 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is assisting the National Interagency Fire Center by providing a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130H Hercules, aircraft and aircrew to support ongoing aerial firefighting efforts in the western U.S.

And the 910th Airlift Wing, out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, is providing its aerial spray capability to repel mosquitos and other pests in eastern Texas following Harvey.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 50 most violent cities in the world

Latin America holds the ignominious distinction of having the most cities on Mexico’s Citizens’ Council for Public Security’s annual ranking of the world’s most violent cities for 2016.


Of the 50 cities on the list, 43 are in Latin America, including 19 in Brazil, eight in Mexico, and seven in Venezuela.

The region’s violence is in large part drug related, driven by traffickers and supplemented by gang wars, political instability, and widespread poverty that has been exacerbated by sluggish economic growth or economic reversals.

The council’s ranking contains cities with populations of more than 300,000 and does not count deaths in combat zones or cities with unavailable data, so some dangerous cities don’t appear on the list

In some cases, the Council has determined homicide rates through estimates based on incomplete data.

In Venezuela, for example, the government has not consistently released homicide data(though it did this year), so to find the rate for Caracas, the Council made an estimate based on entries at the Bello Monte morgue — though, as the Council admits, that morgue receives bodies from an area much larger than Caracas itself.

50. Durban, South Africa, had 34.43 homicides per 100,000 residents.

49. Curitiba, Brazil, had 34.92 homicides per 100,000 residents.

48. Cucuta, Colombia, had 37 homicides per 100,000 residents.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
2012 Car Bombing in Bogota Colombia targeting the former minister, Fernando Londoño.
Four Columbian cities made the list for deadliest places in the world. (Image Wiki)

47. Vitoria, Brazil, had 37.54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

46. Manaus, Brazil, had 38.25 homicides per 100,000 residents.

45. Macapa, Brazil, had 38.45 homicides per 100,000 residents.

44. Armenia, Colombia, had 38.54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Armenia was the home of Carlos Lehder — a cocaine-addled neo-Nazi who helped start the Medellin cartel.

43. Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, had 39.19 homicides per 100,000 residents.

42. Goiânia y Aparecida de Goiânia, Brazil, had 39.48 homicides per 100,000 residents.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
The mafia arson attack on the Casino Royale in Monterrey killed at least 52 people in 2011.Mexico had eight cities on the list of deadliest places in the world. (Image Wiki)

41. Ciudad Obregón, Mexico, had 40.95 homicides per 100,000 residents.

40. Chihuahua, Mexico, had 42.02 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Read more about the disappeared Ayotzinapa students here and here.

39. Cuiaba, Brazil, had 42.61 homicides per 100,000 residents.

38. Teresina, Brazil, had 42.84 homicides per 100,000 residents.

37. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, had 43.63 homicides per 100,000.

Read more about the cartel-related violence plaguing Ciudad Juarez.

36. Detroit had 44.60 homicides per 100,000 residents.

35. Fortaleza, Brazil, had 44.98 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Read Now: These veterans are keeping kids safe on dangerous Chicago streets

34. New Orleans had 45.17 homicides per 100,000 residents.

33. São Luís, Brazil, had 45.41 homicides per 100,000 residents.

32. Kingston, Jamaica, had 45.43 homicides per 100,000 residents.

31. Palmira, Colombia, had 46.30 homicides per 100,000 residents.

30. Gran Barcelona, Venezuela, had 46.86 homicides per 100,000 residents.

29. João Pessoa, Brazil, had 47.57 homicides per 100,000 residents.

28. Recife, Brazil, had 47.89 homicides per 100,000 residents.

27. Mazatlan, Mexico, had 48.75 homicides per 100,000 residents.

26. Baltimore had 51.14 homicides per 100,000 residents.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Murder victim in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil had 19 cities on the list of most dangerous places in the world.
(Image Andréa Farias)

25. Maceio, Brazil, had 51.78 homicides per 100,000 residents.

24. Culiacan, Mexico, had 51.81 homicides per 100,000 residents.

23. Guatemala City, Guatemala, had 52.73 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Cocaine seizures in Guatemala, a major drug transshipment point, recently hit a 10-year high.

22. Tijuana, Mexico, had 53.06 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Over the last two years, Tijuana has seen a spike in homicides, as rival cartels compete for control.

21. Cali, Colombia, had 54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Also Read: The 5 most heavily-mined countries in the world

20. Salvador, Brazil, had 54.71 homicides per 100,000 residents.

19. Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil, had 56.45 homicides per 100,000 residents.

18. Cumana, Venezuela, had 59.31 homicides per 100,000 residents.

17. Barquisimeto, Venezuela, had 59.38 homicides per 100,000 residents.

16. Vitória da Conquista, Brazil, had 60.10 homicides per 100,000 residents.

15. Feira de Santana, Brazil, had 60.23 homicides per 100,000 residents.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Sharpshooters in Ferguson, Missouri, wait for violence to break out at protests after the verdict was read in the the Michael Brown death case. The United States has four cities on the list of most dangerous places in the world. (image Wiki)

14. St. Louis had 60.37 homicides per 100,000 residents.

13. Cape Town, South Africa, had 60.77 homicides per 100,000 residents.

12. Aracaju, Brazil, had 62.76 homicides per 100,000 residents.

11. Belém, Brazil, had 67.41 homicides per 100,000 residents.

10. Natal, Brazil, had 69.56 homicides per 100,000 residents.

9. Valencia, Venezuela, had 72.02 homicides per 100,000 residents.

8. Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, had 82.84 homicides per 100,000 residents.

7. San Salvador, El Salvador, had 83.39 homicides per 100,000 residents.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Protesters protecting themselves from rubber bullets on 7 June. Venezuala appeared on the worlds deadliest cities list 7 times. (Image Wiki)

6. Maturin, Venezuela, had 84.21 homicides per 100,000 residents.

5. Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, had 84.67 homicides per 100,000 residents.

4. Distrito Central, Honduras, had 85.09 homicides per 100,000 residents.

3. San Pedro Sula, Honduras, had 112.09 homicides per 100,000 residents.

2. Acapulco, Mexico, had 113.24 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Acapulco, and Guerrero state as a whole, has been shaken by spiraling narco violence for more than a year.

1. Caracas, Venezuela, had 130.35 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Official data, released by the Venezuelan government for the first time in several years, put Venezuela’s 2016 homicide rate at at 70.1 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in the world and up from 58 in 2015.

Another estimate from a nongovernment organization put the national homicide rate at 91.8 per 100,000 people.

Read more about life in Caracas here.

Articles

Today in military history: Germans ambush allies during secret Normandy landings practice

On April 28, 1944, German E-boats ambushed allied forces during a secret dress rehearsal for the historic Normandy landings called “Exercise Tiger.” 

Exercise Tiger was one of the largest scale training operations for the D-Day invasion, and for obvious reasons, it was a major hush-hush operation.

Still, nine German E-boats caught sight of the exercise in the early morning hours of April 28th and opened fire. 

They attacked a convoy of eight large tank landing ships, or LSTs, the vessels the allies would use to deliver vehicles and landing troops on D-Day. Only one of the two ships assigned to protect the convoy was present. The other was undergoing repairs.

The German E-Boats attacked four LSTs before they were driven away. 749 allied servicemen were killed in the attack. For perspective, only 197 servicemen were killed on Utah Beach during the actual D-Day landing. 

Additionally, ten officers involved in the exercise had intimate knowledge of the D-Day plan, but luckily, none were captured by the Germans.

Despite the tragic loss of life, many historians believe that lessons learned from the surprise ambush at Exercise Tiger contributed to the eventual success of the June 6th D-Day landing.

Articles

7 Celebrities Who Didn’t Last At West Point

Being a West Point cadet isn’t for everyone, and that’s not a bad thing if you’re a poet or an LSD pioneer.


Not everyone can make it through the famed U.S. Military Academy that has been training Army leaders for more than 200 years. The academy has had its fair share of famous graduates, of course, but we looked back at a few who didn’t make it all the way through.

 

Edgar Allen Poe

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Edgar Allen Poe, the poet best known for “The Raven,” served as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army 1827-1829. He was a member of West Point’s Class of 1834 and excelled in language studies, but he was ultimately expelled for conduct reasons. (Wikipedia)

Chris Cagle

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Before he played in the NFL, Chris Cagle was part of West Point’s Class of 1930. He played for the Black Knights during the 1926–1929 seasons. Right before his commissioning, he was forced to resign in May 1930 after it was discovered he had married — a breach of the rules for cadets — in August 1928. (Wikipedia; Photo: Amazon.com)

Timothy Leary

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Timothy Leary, counterculture icon and LSD proponent, was part of West Point’s Class of 1943 before dropping out to “drop out, tune in, and turn on” – his motto during the ’60s.

Richard Hatch

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Richard Hatch was part of West Point’s Class of 1986 before he dropped out to eventually become the original reality show bad boy and winner of the first season of Survivor. (Photo: People.com)

Maynard James Keenan

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Maynard James Keenan is well known in rock music circles as the front man of art metal bands Tool and A Perfect Circle. Keenan would have been part of the Class of 1988 but instead of accepting his appointment to West Point in 1984 (while he was attending United States Military Academy Preparatory School) he decided to skip cadet life and instead complete his term of active duty enlistment. (Photo: Karen Mason Blair/Corbis)

Adam Vinatieri

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Adam Vinatieri is well-known to NFL fans as a placekicker for the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. His stint as a cadet didn’t last very long. He left the Academy after two weeks of plebe life. (Photo: Colts.com)

Dan Hinote

 

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Dan Hinote dropped out of West Point in 1996 – his plebe year – when he was picked up by the Colorado Avalanche, which made him the first NHL player ever drafted from a service academy. He is currently an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo: NHL.com)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How a Pave Hawk helicopter gets to the War in Afghanistan

While the Air Force is best known for dropping bombs on the enemy — and they’ve done a lot of that throughout the War on Terror — there is one critical mission that some elite airmen carry out: evacuating wounded troops in the middle of a firefight. Air Force Pararescue took that mission on in Afghanistan, even though it’s not exactly what they were trained for — the original mission was to recover downed aircrews.


As a result, the Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk has had quite a workout. This is the Air Force’s standard combat search-and-rescue helicopter, which replaced the older HH-53s. According to an Air Force fact sheet, the HH-60 has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, a maximum unrefueled range of 504 nautical miles, and the ability to use 7.62mm miniguns or .50-caliber machine guns. It has a crew of four and has a hoist that can haul 600 pounds.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Members of the 26th and the 46th Expeditionary Rescue squadrons scramble for a personnel mission at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Dec. 29. From notification, the units have 15 minutes to be airborne and must transfer the patient to Camp Bastion’s Role 3 in one hour. (USAF photo)

But there is one question: How do you get a Pave Hawk to Afghanistan? Or to other disaster areas, like Mozambique in 2000? Well, believe it or not, the helicopters fly in — but not by themselves. Despite the fact that they can be refueled in mid-air thanks to a probe, the helicopters often are flown in on the Air Force’s force of C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes.

You may be surprised, but the HH-60 is actually an easy cargo for one of these planes to carry. It comes in at 22,000 pounds — or 11 tons. The C-17 can carry over 170,000 pounds of cargo, per an Air Force fact sheet. The C-5 carries over 281,000 pounds. With weight out of the way, the only remaining issue is volume — and the HH-60 addresses that with folding rotor blades.

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan
Believe it or not, the Pave Hawk is easy for a C-17 to lift. However, it is a tight fit in terms of volume. (U.S. Air Force photo)

So, if a Pave Hawk needs to go to Afghanistan, they fold the rotor blades, roll the chopper onto the C-5 or C-17, and take off. The cargo planes reach Afghanistan with a bit of mid-air refueling. Once it lands, the HH-60 rolls off, the rotor blades are unfolded, and it’s ready to save lives.

Check out the video below to see an HH-60 arrive in Afghanistan:

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