At least officially, there are no existing prototypes of the B-21 Raider, the U.S. Air Force’s next stealth bomber built by Northrop Grumman and destined to replace the B-1 and B-2 fleets.
In 2016, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James revealed the first artist rendering of the Long Range Strike Bomber designated the B-21, at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, that showed a concept quite similar to the B-2’s flying wing design; then, more recently, on Mar. 3, 2018, Brigadier General Carl Schaefer, Commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, publicly announced that the aircraft will be tested at Edwards: “the B-21 is coming to Edwards and we will be testing it here in the near future,” he said in his address at the Antelope Valley Board of Trade and Business Outlook Conference.
The fact that the aircraft will be tested “in the near future” seems to suggest that a prototype of the new platform has already been built or is about to be readied for testing.
Meanwhile something interesting, that might confirm the B-21 is something more than a concept, popped up on eBay: journalist and photographer Steve Douglass, has just found a B-21 Combined Test Force patch.
Flying units under the 412nd Operations Group of the 412nd TW are called flight test squadrons (FTS) and the squadron commander also usually fulfills the role of Combined Test Force, or CTF, Director.
“The CTF is an organizational construct that brings together the government developmental test and evaluation personnel (i.e., military personnel and government civilians and support contractors), the operational testers or representatives of the warfighters who will eventually employ the aerospace system in combat, and the contractors who develop and test the aerospace system.
Members of the CTF formulate the test program, develop the criteria for flight test missions, execute flight test missions, analyze data from the test flights and report on the results. The CTF military personnel, government civilians, and contractors all work together as a team. This concept enables a cheaper, faster, and more effective test program and produces a more effective aerospace system for the warfighter.”
For instance, the 411th Flight Test Squadron acts as the F-22 Raptor CFT whereas the 419th FTS acts as the Strategic Systems (B-52, B-1, B-2) CFT. Provided it is genuine, the new patch may suggest the existence of a B-21 CTF dedicated to the new bomber.
Interestingly, the patch features the text “Praenuntius” that means “Harbinger” and the Roman numerals XVII (17) with the latters [speculation on] possibly pointing to a squadron: the 417th FTS, officially inactivated on Feb. 14, 2012, formerly part of the 412th OG at Edwards AFB….
The seller has explained that organizations, personnel and infrastructure at Edwards AFB are all beginning to stand up in preparation for the testing and he purchased the patch there from personnel who are standing up the testing of the new aircraft. We don’t have many details about the aircraft but collectors can get the patch ahead of the unveiling.
By the way, at the time of writing the patch costs $31 (6 bids) but it is probably going to become more expensive…
When the Los Angeles Police Department responded to this particular domestic dispute during the 1992 LA riots, they likely didn’t need the backing of the United States Marine Corps – but they had it anyway. Upon approaching the house, one officer was hit by a shotgun blast of birdshot. He called back to the Marines to cover him. Unfortunately, what “cover” meant to the Marines and to the LAPD were two different things.
The officer just wanted the threat of M-16s pointed at the house to keep the shooter from shooting again. The Marines thought the 200 rounds they fired into the house would be enough. They were probably both right. But that’s not how the U.S. Army National Guard would have done it.
Before the Marines were called in, thousands of Guardsmen took to the streets of LA during the 1992 riots.
In the early 1990s, the streets of LA were a dangerous place. Even the LAPD officers who regularly walked their beats admitted to losing the streets to the tens of thousands of gang members who controlled much of the city’s south side. Los Angeles was soon a powder keg of racially and socially fueled frustration that exploded on April 29, 1992. Four LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force against Rodney King, a black motorist who was beaten by the officers after evading them on a California freeway.
Their acquittal sparked the 1992 LA Riots, a huge civil disturbance that covered 32-square-miles, from the Hollywood Hills to Long Beach. Eventually, the governor of California would call in more than 10,000 California National Guard troops and 2,000 active troops to quell the riots. That wasn’t enough. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Marine Corps veteran, knew what he needed and asked President Bush to send in the Marines.
I bet they made record time driving from San Diego to LA on the I-5 Freeway. And they didn’t even have carpool lanes back then.
Within 36 hours, state and local agencies, along with thousands of California National Guardsmen had largely restored order. That’s when they were suddenly federalized and augmented with more active duty troops and the United States Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton. According to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Delk, this caused the morale among the soldiers of the California Guard to plummet, after all their work in restoring Los Angeles. Suddenly being told the Marines were coming in to finish the job didn’t look so good.
Local civilians, on the other hand, knew exactly who to thank. According to Gen. Delk, locals cheered at the appearance of the California National Guard in their neighborhoods. Shopkeepers and restaurants refused to take money from the Guardsmen often even delivering food and drinks to the staging areas.
So in the immediate aftermath of the rioting and violence, the media latched on to the idea that calling in the Marines was the solution to restoring law and order, despite the fact that the job was mostly done by the time the Marines arrived. The Guardsmen, for their part, continued to do their jobs despite the lack of national appreciation. By the time the Guard withdrew, the streets were much safer than they were before the riots began. The crime rate dropped by 70 percent and local citizens did not want the troops to leave. In fact, it was more than a month before the last National Guard soldier left Los Angeles.
The good news is that the federalization of the joint task force worked exactly as it was supposed to and no one wearing a uniform of the U.S. military was killed or seriously injured. Most importantly, no U.S. troops killed or wounded any innocent civilians.
In case you guys didn’t catch it, the promotion list for October 1 is out. Chances are, whether you’re still in or not, you found out about it through everyone who did get picked up posting their promotion on Facebook – like I did.
There’s nothing wrong with that. My hats off to everyone who made it. Maybe I’m just salty because I got out of the Army five years ago and I’m seeing folks I served with get E-7. I mean, a lot has happened since the last time I got roaring drunk in Germany with them or did stupid sh*t together to pass the time in Afghanistan, but they still made it?
Just imagine where I could have been if I stayed in. My money is on alcoholic S6 NCOIC on his third divorce with a general hatred for everyone and everything. That seems about right.
In all seriousness, congratulations everyone who made the list – make Uncle Sam proud he gave you those stripes. Anyways, here are some memes.
(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Call for Fire)
It’s funny because the regions are actually based off of actual locations and most soldiers never picked up on that.
Atropia is Azerbaijan, Limaria is Armenia, Gorgas is Georgia, Ariana is Iran, and Donovia is Russia… Just by the way.
The US on Sept. 6 offered cautious optimism for Russia’s call to deploy a United Nations peacekeeping force in Ukraine while disagreeing with Moscow over its scope.
A State Department official told Anadolu Agency in emailed comments that the option is “worth exploring” in order to protect civilians and as a possible means to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sept. 5 that Moscow will call on the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, where fighting has raged between government forces and Russia-backed separatist rebels.
Putin insisted during remarks to reporters that the peacekeepers be deployed between government forces and rebel-controlled areas in Ukraine’s east.
But Washington and Kiev worry that deploying the peacekeeping force solely along a line dividing the warring parties would help cement the rebels’ territorial claims.
The State Department official, who spoke on condition that she not be named, said if UN forces are deployed, they should have a broad mandate that would include all Ukrainian territory up to and including the Russian border “in order to avoid deepening or institutionalizing the divisions inside Ukraine.”
“Our goals are simple: restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and protect Ukrainians no matter what their religion, ethnicity, or language,” she said.
Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.
Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.
“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”
Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.
“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”
Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.
“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”
Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.
“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”
On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.
“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”
It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.
“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”
Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.
“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”
It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.
“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”
CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.
The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.
“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.
Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.
“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”
Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).
“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”
Tensions escalated along the Korean Peninsula early in December as U.S. stealth fighters prepared for a joint military drill with South Korea, with North Korea accusing the U.S. of having “nuclear war mania.”
North Korea made several statements about actions taken by the U.S. over the weekend.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, read on state TV, that President Donald Trump and his administration were “begging for nuclear war” by engaging in what the statement referred to as an “extremely dangerous nuclear gamble,” CNN reported.
The statement also said that if the Korean Peninsula and the world were to be pushed to nuclear war, the U.S. would be “fully responsible” because of its “reckless nuclear war mania.”
Then, on Dec. 3rd, commentary run by state TV called the U.S.-South Korea joint air exercises a “dangerous provocation,” pushing the region “to the brink of a nuclear war,” according to CNN. North Korean media regularly threatens the U.S. and its allies and blames the U.S. for tensions on the peninsula.
The U.S. and its ally South Korea began their largest cooperative air exercise in history, dubbed Vigilant Ace, Dec. 4.
The U.S. Air Force said in a statement that F-22 and F-35 stealth jets had moved into South Korea over the weekend in preparation for the joint drill. About 230 aircraft and 12,000 U.S. personnel are expected to participate in the week-long exercise, which will include more stealth jets than ever before.
According to the U.S. Air Force, the move is designed to boost the “combat effectiveness” of the alliance.
The White House national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said Dec. 2 the chances for nuclear war on the peninsula were growing, CNN reported.
“I think it’s increasing every day, which means that we are in a race, really, we are in a race to be able to solve this problem,” McMaster said in a conference in California, when asked whether North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile launch last week had increased the chance of war.
McMaster also said North Korea represented the “the greatest immediate threat to the United States.”
The Air Force is mired in a deepening pilot crisis, with a shortage of approximately 2,000 pilots from the active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve at the end of fiscal year 2017 in September.
Now it appears the Air Force is considering a step it has long avoided: training enlisted airmen to be combat aviators.
A new six-month pilot-training program will consist of 15 officers and five enlisted airmen, Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, chief of the Second Air Force, told his commanders in a November 30 email, seen by Air Force Times.
Currently, the only Air Force personnel eligible to be pilots are commissioned officers, and achieving officer status requires a four-year college degree.
“Enlisted volunteers will be pioneers in innovating Air Force aviator recruitment, selection, and training processes by demonstrating the potential of non-college graduates to succeed in a rigorous pilot training environment,” Leahy, whose command is responsible for basic military and tactical training for Air Force personnel, wrote in the email.
Leahy added that the training program would provide data to Air Education and Training Command commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast about “the potential for enlisted members to train to fly modern combat aircraft,” according to Air Force Times. The email was obtained by former airman Steven Mayne, who runs the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page.
The email said there was a December 15 deadline for airmen to volunteer online and that those picked would start training on February 15. Those who succeed would take solo flights in T-6 single-engine turboprop training aircraft.
Air Education and Training Command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday confirmed the email to Air Force Times and said the command “chose to focus on flying training because of the urgency involved with the enterprise.” She added that the program was meant to examine how airmen learn and would look at technology that could lead to better and faster learning.
However, she also downplayed enlisted airmen’s proximity to the pilot’s seat, telling Task Purpose that, while the training program was started because of the need for pilots, the “study is not looking at changing our pilot force, but rather it is exploring new ways to effectively and efficiently deliver training.”
“The plan for this six-month program is to explore the technology available to produce a student, similarly-skilled to a UPT graduate,” Holliday told Task Purpose, referring to the Air Force’s yearlong basic aviation course, Undergraduate Pilot Training.
Officers who pass the six-month course will get pilot’s wings and move on to specialized training, while enlisted airmen who pass will return to the specialty they were selected for during basic training, Holliday said, adding that they could have their flight hours applied to a civilian pilot’s license.
‘The natural progression’
The Air Force said at the end of 2015 that it would begin training enlisted airmen to fly RQ-4 remotely piloted aircraft — part of an effort to meet demand for unmanned-aircraft pilots. At the end of 2016, two master sergeants became the first enlisted airmen in 60 years to complete solo flights during initial flight training.
The Air Force continued that training this year, with 30 enlisted airmen (chosen from 800 initial applicants) starting training for the RQ-4 Global Hawk in March. Outside of that initiative, however, the force has shown little interest in training enlisted airmen to fly manned aircraft.
Despite that reluctance, Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth Wright told Air Force Timesearlier this year that many enlisted men have pilot’s licenses and that enlisted airmen piloting manned aircraft appeared to be “the natural progression.”
Wright also started a study at the end of the summer to explore what benefit the Air Force would get from bringing back the warrant officer program, which some have said would be a way to properly recognize and compensate enlisted pilots for their expanded duties as fliers.
Air Force officials have pointed to a number of reasons for the force’s pilot shortage including quality-of-life issues, recruitment by private airlines, as well as strain created by three decades of ongoing operations around the world.
The shortage of qualified fliers has also been exacerbated by a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline, caused by a combination of factors like force drawdowns, longer deployments, and budget restrictions.
Air Force leaders have zeroed in on budget woes as a particular problem.
Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said in November that he worried, “if we cannot move past sequester in its current form, we’re going to break this force.”
This month, with the window closing on budget legislation, Goldfein again sounded alarm about the worst-case scenario for the Air Force: A budget deal that doesn’t lift spending limits put in place by the Budget Control Act.
Such an outcome would “devastate” the Air Force, Goldfein told Air Force Times, adding to problems created by the last budget sequester and hindering the service’s ability to keep pilots in their planes and, in turn, in uniform.
“If you’re not preparing for or executing combat operations, then you’ll likely stop flying,” Goldfein said. “Currencies will lapse, qualifications will cease, and we’ll potentially look back on the timeframe of having an only 2,000 pilots short [force] as a dream.”
Just months after the Marine Corps announced the creation of a new cyberwarfare family of military occupational specialties, the service is once again giving another highly specialized community its own MOS.
Officials here at the Marine Corps Information Operations Center told Military.com they planned to announce the creation of a new primary MOS, 0521, for Military Information Support Operations. With a new career field that will allow MISO Marines to continue through the rank of E-9, officials said they also plan to grow the ranks of the community to more than 200 Marines in the near future.
MISO, known in the Army as psychological operations, or PsyOps, focuses on influencing the mindset and decision-making of a target audience that may consist of enemy militants or a local civilian population.
It’s a skill set the Marine Corps is leaning into in future planning and strategy documents. The Marine Corps Force 2025 strategy includes plans to grow MISO to 211 Marines by 2024, said Col. William McClane, the commanding officer at MCIOC.
“[Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller] speaks a lot about adversary … perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and how that’s important,” McClane said. “The understanding of the cognitive dimension, how to affect and change behaviors and adversary target audience decision-making where you may not even have to fire a shot — you may be able to influence your adversary and reach that end state without doing that.”
While MISO or PsyOps capabilities are not new to the battlefield, McClane acknowledged that reviews of recent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan may have caused military brass to realize more effective use of the skill set could have yielded different outcomes.
“I think that’s a good assumption, absolutely,” he said.
As the Marine Corps looks to the future, troops may also find themselves fighting in increasingly complex battlespaces and in a broad range of environments.
“It all depends on the target audience, how they receive communication,” McClane said of the methods that might be employed to influence mindsets and decision-making. “It might be different in parts of Africa versus eastern Europe.”
A new career path
For Marines, MISO is currently a free, or additional, MOS, meaning troops come from other specialties to spend time in the community. Typically, a Marine deployed with a MISO element and then returned to his or her original unit, with no option to continue in the field, McClane said.
“There was no real return on investment,” he said.
What’s worse, McClane said, officials noticed that a number of MISO Marines would opt to leave the service soon after their tour, preferring to practice their MISO skills in the civilian sector rather than returning to their original military job.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexander Norred)
For the Marine Corps, this meant not only that MISO Marines couldn’t develop further in their skill sets, but also that the time and money invested in these troops — reportedly more than $600,000 per Marine including clearances and a specialized training course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina — would not yield long-term gains.
Under the new plan, a company-sized MISO element will be set up under each of the three recently established Marine Information Groups on the East Coast and West Coast in the Pacific. A separate element will remain at MCIOC, focusing primarily on supporting special operations.
While the first additional MISO Marines will start arriving this summer, the plan is to have the elements established at each MIG by 2022, McClane said.
The roughly 60 Marines who already have MISO as a free MOS have the first opportunity to join the new full-time career field, officials said. And they estimate some 35 will make that decision.
Cpl. Anjelica Parra, 21, a Motor Transportation Marine who has the free MOS, said she knew right away she wanted to make the move once it became an option.
“I wasn’t really relied on heavily [in Motor T] as I am now coming to this MOS,” she told Military.com. “It’s a different playing field, because as a corporal I’m looked upon and relied on to act as a lot higher than what my rank is. I have to hold myself to a higher standard.”
Parra said she had to develop her communication skills in order to brief more senior Marines on the capabilities of MISO and enjoyed the other challenges that came with the job. She looks forward to deploying as part of a MISO element with a Marine expeditionary unit in the near future.
For those not in the community, a Marine administrative message will come out soon with details on how to apply, said Maj. Jonathan Weeks, commander of the MISO Company at MCIOC.
“Those that are successful in this type of a job are going to be your self-starters, the people who are able to think and act independently and have the ability to think outside the box and create solutions,” he said. “Those who have a sense of the Marine Corps planning process and how stuff works.”
Enlisted Marines in the rank of corporal and above are eligible to apply, officials said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
As ISIS appears to crumble on its home turf in Iraq and Syria, the group’s chapter in Afghanistan — known as ISIS-K — has shown remarkable resilience.
ISIS-K took credit on Jan. 24th for an attack on an office belonging to the Save the Children charity, showing that, despite serious battlefield defeats and senior leadership loses, it remains a capable terrorist group. At least three people were killed in the attack.
The attack on Save the Children has already had a direct effect on the charity’s operation, as they announced the Afghanistan office would close. Similarly, the Red Cross said in October that it was drastically reducing operations in the country following attacks that killed seven of its staff, according to Reuters.
ISIS-K has been effective at attacking forces in the country even in the heart of Afghan government territory and has been involved in dozens of high profile attacks since 2016. Before this recent attack in Jalalabad, an ISIS-K suicide bomber killed 41 people and wounded more than 80 others in Kabul in December.
Fighting back against the group has proven difficult. General John Nicholson, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan summed it up in a press briefing in November; “It’s like a balloon: We squeeze them in this area and they’ll try to move out elsewhere.”
After the attack on Save the Children, Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Program and South Asia senior associate at the Wilson Center, tweeted that it’s “a perfect example of the indiscriminate savagery of ISIS.”
“U.S. airstrikes, including the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used, have been targeting them for months,” Kugelman wrote. “Hasn’t worked.”
In December, Kugelman wrote that he worries about the group’s resilience. He laid out three reasons why ISIS-K is able to survive — the difficult terrain of the country, homegrown radicalization, and a “steady supply of recruits” from the Pakistani Taliban.
Gen. John Nicholson. (Photo from Dept of Defense.)
There is no question that ISIS-K has suffered large losses, as NATO forces, the Afghan Security Forces, and even the Taliban are all fighting ISIS’ Afghan chapter.
Founded in 2015 and made up mostly of Taliban defectors and militants from Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials estimated last April that ISIS-K had 700 members. In November, Afghan officials said the number may be as high as 3,000.
ISIS-K has had all three of its top leaders (called “emirs”) killed since the group was founded; Hafiz Sayed Khan in an airstrike in July of 2016, Abdul Hasib in a special forces raid last April, and Abu Sayed just a few months later in another special forces raid in July.
Additionally, just weeks after it was declared, the terror group lost its deputy commander Abdul Rauf Aliza in a NATO drone strike. In 2016, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that “Afghanistan will be their graveyard,” after announcing that at least 200 ISIS militants had been killed over a 21-day operation in Nangarhar province.
More recently, 94 militants — including four commanders — were killed when the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS stronghold last April.
The Moscow-based company Kaspersky Lab has acknowledged that its antivirus software took source code for a secret US hacking tool from a personal computer in the United States.
The admission came in an Oct. 25 statement on the preliminary results of an internal inquiry that the company launched after media reported that the Russian government used its antivirus software to collect US National Security Agency technology.
Concerns about Kaspersky’s activities prompted the US Department of Homeland Security last month to bar government agencies from using the company’s products.
Kaspersky said that in 2014, the consumer version of its popular product analyzed questionable software from a computer in the United States — which media reports said belonged to an NSA worker — and found a zip file that was flagged as malicious.
While reviewing the file’s contents, an analyst discovered it contained the source code for a hacking tool.
The statement said that the matter was reported to Kaspersky CEO Yevgeny Kaspersky, who ordered that the company’s copy of the code be destroyed, and that after that “the archive was deleted from all our systems.”
Yevgeny Kaspersky. Wikimedia Commons photo by Kai Mörk.
The statement came after The Wall Street Journal reported on Oct. 5 that the Russian government was able to modify Kaspersky software to turn it into an espionage tool.
And on Oct. 10, The New York Times reported that Israeli intelligence officials have determined that Russian government hackers have used Kaspersky’s software for espionage.
The Kremlin described the reports indicating that Kaspersky has been used as a conduit for Russian espionage as “absurd.”
China on Nov. 19 again sent bombers and intelligence-gathering aircraft through international airspace between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako in the East China Sea, part of what Beijing has called continued “regular” exercises in the area.
Japan scrambled fighters in response, though no violation of Japanese airspace was detected.
Four H-6 bombers and two intelligence-gathering aircraft flew a route that took them through the Miyako Strait and back. The flight was believed to be the first through the passageway since August, when six Chinese bombers flew near Kansai’s Kii Peninsula for the first time.
China, under powerful President Xi Jinping, has embarked on a large-scale campaign of modernizing its military — especially its air force and navy — as it seeks to project power farther from its shores.
In a speech during a twice-a-decade Communist Party congress in October, Xi said China is aiming to become a “world-class” force that safeguards the country’s “territorial integrity.”
Beijing is embroiled in a dispute in the East China Sea with Tokyo over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyus in China.
However, the Defense Ministry in Tokyo said last month it had scrambled fighter jets through September — the first half of fiscal 2017 — a total of 287 times, down 120 times from the same time period in the previous year.
Despite the fall, the ministry documented an uptick in “unusual” flights, including the August drill in skies off the Kii Peninsula.
Last year, the Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighters 1,168 times, the most since records began being kept in 1958, besting the previous high of 944 — a figure that came at the height of the Cold War in 1984.
China’s military has also sent aircraft, including bombers and fighters, on long-range missions over the Bashi Channel and the Miyako Strait as well as through the Tsushima Strait from the East China Sea into the Sea of Japan and back.
In July, the Chinese military sent ships and planes through international but politically sensitive waters and airspace near Japan as part of its continuing push to hone its ability to operate further from its shores.
At the time, the Chinese Defense Ministry said Japan “should not make a fuss about nothing or over-interpret, it will be fine once they get used to it.”
Beijing has blasted Japan for hyping the flights, calling them part of “regular” drills, while Tokyo has said it will keep a steady eye on the “expanding and increasing” actions of the Chinese military in the area.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Army must continue to improve and evolve to face ever-changing threats.
Mattis said the Army is the greatest in the world, but it must adapt to emerging domains in space and cyberwarfare and new weapons.
“We have to make sure we aren’t dominant and irrelevant at the same time,” he said.
Citing Iran’s support of terrorism in the Middle East, North Korea’s saber-rattling in the Pacific, and Russian meddling in US elections, Mattis said the international threats facing the nation were the most complex and demanding than he has seen in decades of service.
He said the Army was facing new challenges overseas and at home, where budget constraints continue to hinder planning and modernization.
Mattis said he has confidence in Congress to do what is best for the country, but no confidence in the automatic budget cuts it created several years ago.
“I want Congress back in the driver seat of budget decisions, not the spectator seat of automatic cuts,” he said.
Mattis was the keynote speaker for the opening ceremony of the annual meeting and exposition of the Association of the United States Army, which began Oct. 9 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington.
The three-day event brings together defense industry leaders, high-ranking Army officials, and others for professional development and discussions on the Army’s role in national defense. More than 26,000 attendees preregistered this year, along with representatives from 70 nations.
Mattis reiterated the remarks of other defense leaders who have stressed that the Army’s priority is readiness.
He said the Army must be striving to improve itself, “assuming every week in the Army is a week to get better.”
“We need you at the top of your game in body, mind, and spirit,” Mattis said.
The former Marine Corps general said the Army could look to the past when preparing for the future.
He said the military learned the hard way in the build-up to World War I that readiness was not something that could be achieved in a short amount of time.
“We know too well the costs of not being ready,” Mattis said.
Mattis said preparing for war was the best way to prevent war. He also reassured the nation’s allies in Europe and the Pacific that the Army would be there to help them if needed.
“We are with you,” he said.
On one of the most pressing threats — North Korea — Mattis said the military was not yet at the forefront.
“It is right now a diplomatically led, economic sanction-buttressed effort,” he said. But, Mattis said, that could change.
“You have got to be ready to ensure we have military options that our president can employ if needed,” he said.
Following Mattis’ remarks, officials presented several AUSA national awards, honoring former Department of Veterans Affairs secretary and retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki; former president of the National Guard Association of the United States and retired Maj.Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr.; retired Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson; retired Sgt. Maj. Todd B. Hunter and others.
The first day of the annual meeting includes several discussions involving Fort Bragg leaders.
During a breakfast honoring members of the National Guard and Army Reserve, Gen. Robert B. “Abe” Abrams said those soldiers were integral to the readiness of the total Army.
Abrams is the commanding general of US Army Forces Command, headquartered at Fort Bragg. The command is the largest in the nation, charged with preparing forces for combat commanders around the globe.
“Our job as professionals is to be ready now,” Abrams said. “I hope no one is mistaken, we are not in an interwar period.”
In the afternoon, Abrams is to participate in another discussion, during a forum titled, “Ready Now.”
He’ll be part of a panel that also will include Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division; and Col. Christopher Norrie, chief of the operations group at the National Training Center.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis officially started the U.S. Department of Defense’s review of the country’s nuclear arsenal Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.
President Donald Trump directed Mattis to conduct a review after taking office in January. The full-scope review comes as concerns over the aging nuclear arsenal are growing in both the White House and Congress.
“In National Security Presidential Memorandum 1, dated Jan. 27, the president directed the secretary of defense to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” said Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White in a statement.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will lead the review in cooperation with “interagency partners,” according to White. A final report will be issued at the end of the year.
The review comes at a time when the U.S. is facing increased nuclear threats. North Korea continues to advance its nuclear program and has increased missile testing in the last two years. Russia is believed to have violated a decades-old nuclear agreement banning the deployment of intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles. The Russian military is engaged in a military modernization program that includes both its strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.
A significant portion of the current U.S. nuclear arsenal is based on designs from the 1960s and 1970s. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Military Strength rated the U.S. nuclear arsenal “strong,” just one step down from “very strong,” but leaders within the military, the White House and Congress are concerned over the aging arsenal.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” said Trump tweeted in December.
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