There aren’t many bucket list destinations in Afghanistan, but before 2001, there were at least two man-made wonders that were revered around the world.
Built in Bamyan around the 2nd century, they were some of the largest standing Buddha carvings in the world. The Buddhist Kingdom in the “Graveyard of Empires” withstood many attacks. That was until Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban in 1996.
The region was a part of the Buddhist Kushan Empire. The Bamyan region was directly on the Silk Road and was a hub for Buddhism, with tens of thousands of monks worship at the site.
The valley was home to several monasteries. The intricate cave system throughout the cliffs were beautifully decorated and painted.
Many kingdoms seized control of the region, but it was the Huns who decimated the local population — but left the statues. The Mughal Empire would be the first to attack the statues in the 18th century. Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and Persian King Nader Afshar would both order attacks to destroy the statues.
Afghan King Abdur Rahman Khan ordered the destruction of the faces and many of the cave oil paintings. This is how they remained for centuries. Although Islam became the dominant religion, most Afghan people loved the statues — not because of faith, but because they were iconic.
Then the Taliban took over and declared them idols.
Mirza Hussain was from the town of Bamyan and a prisoner of the Taliban at the time. He told the BBC of how they captured him.
They forced him at gun point to plant explosives in both of the Buddhas for three days straight. The statues were destroyed in March 2001 — leaving nothing but craters where they once stood.
The Taliban used the caves for arms and munitions until troops from the United States, New Zealand, and Afghanistan retook control in 2003.
Talks continue years later whether they should rebuild the statues using fragments of the old ones, to use holograms to project them as they were, or to leave them as a brutal reminder of the horrors of the Taliban regime.
The United States is banking on the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning to provide an advantage in a major war with China or Russia. These high-performance planes use stealth technology to evade enemy radars.
The first operational stealth combat jet, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, was a gamechanger. It was able to penetrate air defenses, giving the enemy no idea that they were overhead — until the bombs hit their targets. The F-117 was followed by the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. Those planes gave China and Russia some real problems. Although they weren’t entirely invisible, the detection range was so short that… well, let’s just say that by the time you detected them, you had mere seconds to find cover before the bombs hit.
According to The National Interest, Communist China now claims they have a way to counter stealth aircraft: The KJ-600, a carrier-launched airborne radar plane that will be launched from the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Type 002 and 003 classes of aircraft carriers. One of the biggest weaknesses of China’s carrier aviation was the lack of a plane comparable to the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye.
The KJ-600 aims to fill that gap in capacity. The Chinese Communists claim that this plane can detect stealth fighters like the F-22 and F-35 at a range of 200 miles through use of an Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radar, but this capability may be oversold. An expert, quoted in the South China Morning Post, admitted that the 200-mile range comes from “a certain angle.”
Those three words may be the catch for Communist China. There is no guarantee that the F-35 will come in at “a certain angle” conducive to 200-mile detection. It is far more likely the KJ-600 won’t detect the F-35 until the American fighter has fired a pair of AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles. Then, the Chinese Communists will find their navy’s been blinded, and are now sitting ducks.
The Pentagon has named a U.S. soldier who died on Nov. 24, 2018, in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand and confirmed that the soldier had been critically wounded during a firefight against “enemy forces” in a neighboring province.
In a statement issued on Nov. 25, 2018, the Pentagon said 25-year-old Army Ranger Sergeant Leandro Jasso sustained his fatal wounds during combat in the Khash Rod district of Nimruz Province.
He died after being evacuated to the Garmsir district of Helmand Province, where U.S. forces operate an expanded forward operations base known as Camp Dwyer and a smaller military installation known as Camp Garmsir.
Jasso was the ninth U.S. soldier to die in Afghanistan in 2018.
Some 14,000 U.S. soldiers are currently serving in Afghanistan, where the United States and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014.
The remaining Western forces mainly train and advise the Afghan security forces, which have been struggling against attacks from a resurgent Taliban and other militant extremist groups.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said earlier in November 2018 that 58 Americans had been killed in Afghanistan since the start of 2015 when Afghan troops took over primary responsibility for Afghanistan’s security.
During the same period since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops from Afghanistan, Ghani said nearly 29,000 Afghan police and soldiers have been killed — a figure far higher than anything previously acknowledged by the government in Kabul.
And the holidays just makes it even more impactful and meaningful, which is why celebrities and talk shows often reach out and give back to troops during this time of year. Ellen is no different — but this “Greatest Night of Giveaways” just got better and better.
I watched the whole thing. With the sound on. I recommend you do the same:
Robert Downey Jr. and Ellen DeGeneres Give USMC’s Roy Gill and His Mom a New Car and House! (Part 2)
National K9 Veterans Day, March 13, is a day set aside to honor commemorate the service and sacrifices of American military and working dogs throughout history.
It was on March 13, 1942, that the Army began training for its new War Dog Program, also known as the “K-9 Corps,” according to American Humane, marking the first time that dogs were officially a part of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The rest, as they say, is history. Officially a part of the service, the dogs of war span centuries and include such heroes as Sgt. Stubby, the original war dog, Chips, the most decorated dog in World War II, Lex, who retired with his fallen owner’s family, and Cairo, the Navy SEAL working dog on the bin Laden raid.
Today’s military dogs are valued as important members of their military units and even have their own retirement ceremonies, awards and medals, and memorial services.
These days, Americans are less likely to exclaim “son of a gun” than the more-explicit “son of a b*tch,” but there was a time when “son of a gun” itself was not used in mixed company — and that time was more than 200 years after the age of sail.
It seems the Royal Navy, while not keen on having women aboard its ships, sometimes overlooked the practice. Different times throughout its history saw sailors of the Royal Navy either bring either their wives or lovers aboard ships that might be out at sea for a while. While it wasn’t officially tolerated, there are instances of a ship’s company turning a blind eye to it.
Everyone aboard a ship was counted in the ship’s log back in those days. The log was a detailed account of who was working, who came aboard, who left, who died, etc. It also kept track of who was born aboard one of the King or Queen’s ships. It was uncommon, but it did happen. Women had to get around the world just like anyone else. The Royal Navy kept this count, just like any other ship.
But say there was one of the aforementioned female guests aboard a ship. If that woman just happened to give birth aboard ship, that child would have to be kept in the log. If a child was born with uncertain paternity — that is to say, there were too many possibilities as to who the father could be — the newborn still had to be counted in the log.
If this was the case, the child’s name was recorded as the “son of a gun” — the son of a seaman below decks. Eventually, the common use of the phrase began to refer to any child born aboard a ship, even those of officers accompanied by their wives. Then, it began to refer to any child of a military man, not just the bastard children of sailors.
Some 200-plus years later, it’s used to lovingly refer to a mischievous person or as an expression of awe or esteem. To use an expletive or insult in the same vein, we’ve moved on as a society. Who knows where language will go next?
Honorably discharged veterans who want to shop at the online exchanges could be given access early as part of a group of “beta testers” through a new veteran shopper verification system launched June 5th.
The Defense Department resale board last year approved a plan to open the exchange’s online stores to all veterans. Those who are verified through a new site will have access to all of the online exchange stores, including AAFES, the Coast Guard Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Navy Exchange.
The verification site, VetVerify.org, asks users to input their first and last names, last four digits of their Social Security number, birth date, email address, and service branch. Veterans will then be notified whether they are ineligible, are already eligible to shop, that they will be eligible on the official Nov. 11 launch date, or that they have been randomly selected to be a beta tester.
The new benefit is available to all honorably discharged veterans. The rule change does not allow the new veteran shoppers to use the exchange in person or shop at the commissary. It also does not include access to gasoline, tobacco, or uniform sales.
Officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said early shoppers will be given access on a rolling basis in an effort to make sure the system is ready when the benefit fully opens on Veterans Day. Although verification and shopping should be seamless, they said it is possible that beta users could experience some hiccups.
“They don’t want to just open this thing on Veterans Day … when you can work the kinks out ahead of time,” said Chris Ward, an AAFES spokesman. “That is the point of doing this — to make sure there aren’t any hiccups or bugs in the system.”
Products purchased through the exchanges are tax free, and a percentage of revenue benefits Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs.
About 13 million veterans qualify for the new benefit. Officials did not have an estimate for how many veterans are expected to shop the online exchanges after Veterans Day or how many will register early.
“We’re kind of just going in blind,” Ward said. “We’re rolling it out this early — I don’t anticipate everyone comes today.”
A female National Guard soldier is set to graduate and don the coveted Green Beret at the end of the month. SOFREP has learned that she passed Robin Sage, a unique Unconventional Warfare exercise and the culminating event in the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), earlier this week.
This marks a significant milestone for women across the force. She will be the first woman to have successfully completed a Special Operations pipeline and join and an operational team since President Obama opened all jobs within the military to women.
The graduation at the end of the month definitely will not be typical. Because of this historic milestone, graduation will be held in a closed hangar to conceal her identity. A Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (18C) with the 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, the female soldier has big hopes of going active duty. However, her warm welcome may not be as welcome as she may like.
Just over five feet tall, her walking into a Special Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) team room will not be high fives and handshakes. Culture takes time to adapt to change. There are plenty of older generations still within the Regiment that believe there’s no place for a woman on a team. However, when talking to newer graduates, they accept it, if she can pass the same standards. So did the new graduate pass with the same standards? All reports indicate yes. She did, however, have her fair of challenges, recycling at least one phase.
For personal security reasons, SOFREP is withholding her identity.
While this is an incredible feat, she won’t be the first. Captain Kathleen Wilder became the first woman to be eligible for the Army’s Special Forces in the 1980s (the selection was somewhat different back then). Captain Wilder attended the Officers Special Forces Course at Fort Bragg but was told just before graduation that she had failed a field exercise and could not be a candidate for the military’s premier Unconventional Warfare unit. She filed a complaint of gender discrimination. Brigadier General F. Cecil Adams, who investigated it, determined that she had been wrongly denied graduation. No reports were found on whether or not she ever graduated.
Additionally, in the 1970s, Specialist Katie McBrayer, an intelligence analyst, had served with Blue Light, a Special Forces counterterrorism element before the creation of Delta Force, in an operational role. She hadn’t graduated the Q Course, however.
Delta Force and other units Tier 1 units have been recruiting women for a variety of roles for decades. So what took the SF Regiment so long? Well for one, combat fields were previously closed to females. However at Group, since 2016, women have been working at the Battalion level. So to walk around Battalion these days and see women is now a very normal thing. And these roles could be right beside the operators while deployed as mechanics, SOT-As, intel, and now as actual operators themselves. So watch out Fort Bragg, you soon may see this woman wearing a long tab.
Rare criticism by an Iranian Health Ministry official of China’s controversial COVID-19 figures has angered hard-liners in Tehran, some of whom asked if he was speaking on behalf of the country’s archrival, the United States.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said at a press briefing on April 5 that China’s statistics about the number of deaths and infections from the coronavirus are “a bitter joke.”
He added that, if Beijing said it got the coronavirus epidemic under control within two months of its outbreak, “one should really wonder [if it is true].”
The comments did not go down well with Chinese officials or hard-liners in Iran who reminded Jahanpur that China has stood with Iran at a time of severe crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak and crushing economic sanctions applied by Washington.
Many questions have been raised in the Western media recently about China’s official coronavirus figures amid suggestions that the real numbers are likely much higher.
Officials wait outside a Beijing metro station to monitor for anyone infected with the coronavirus.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China’s ruling Communist Party on April 3 of being involved in a “disinformation campaign” regarding the virus that is being used to “deflect from what has really taken place.”
But similar criticism from an Iranian official whose country enjoys strong relations with China led to raised eyebrows and has provoked crunching criticism.
“At a time when China has been Iran’s major helper in the fight against the coronavirus and has provided the country with several strategic products while bypassing the [U.S.] sanctions, Jahanpur suddenly becomes the spokesperson of [U.S. President Donald Trump] and [Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin] Netanyahu,” the editor of the hard-line Mashreghnews.ir, Hassan Soleimani, said on Twitter on April 5.
Others, including Hossein Dalirian, a former editor with Tasnim news, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), went as far as calling for Jahanpur’s dismissal from the ministry.
China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, also joined the chorus, telling Jahanpur he should follow press briefings by China’s Health Ministry “carefully” in order to draw his conclusions.
Amid the mounting criticism and in what appeared to be damage control, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi tweeted in support of China, saying the country has led the way in suppressing the coronavirus while also “generously” helping other countries.
“The Chinese bravery, dedication, and professionalism in COVID-19 containment deserves acknowledgement,” Musavi tweeted on April 5, adding that Iran has been grateful to China in these trying times with the hashtag #Strongertogether.
Musavi’s tweet was retweeted by Chang, who said “Rumors cannot destroy our friendship.”
The Gvt. ppl. of #China lead the way in suppressing #coronavirus generously aiding countries across . The Chinese bravery, dedication professionalism in COVID19 containment deserve acknowledgment. has always been thankful to in these trying times. #StrongerTogether
For his part, Jahanpur attempted to calm the waters by publicly praising China for supporting his country during the outbreak.
“The support of China for the Iranian nation in [these] difficult days is unforgettable,” he said on Twitter on April 6.
He also said the Iranian government and the nation are grateful and will not forget the countries that stood with them during the pandemic.
Jahanpur’s tweet was welcomed by Ambassador Chang, who retweeted it while writing in Persian: “Friends should help each other, we fight together.”
Citing current and former intelligence officials, The New York Times reported last week that the CIA has told the White House since February that China has understated the number of its infections.
China has claimed that it has been open and transparent about the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, which emerged in December in Wuhan, where the virus has officially claimed the lives of 2,563 people and a nationwide total of 3,331 as of April 6. Beijing also claims some 81,708 total infections.
Radio Free Asia issued a report on March 27 suggesting tens of thousands of more people had died in Wuhan from the coronavirus than the official total given by Beijing.
Some Iranian officials believe the country’s coronavirus outbreak, by far the worst in the Middle East, began because of Tehran’s ties to China, which has been buying a limited amount of Iranian oil despite strict U.S. sanctions and penalties.
Iranian officials think the virus reached Qom, Iran’s epicenter of the outbreak, through Chinese workers and students residing in the city who had recently traveled to China. Flights conducted to and from China by Iran’s Mahan Air — even after coronavirus cases were registered — have been also blamed for exacerbating the epidemic.
Since the outbreak in Qom in February, Chinese officials have sent Iran regular shipments of relief materials — including masks, test kits, and other equipment — to help the country battle against the coronavirus.
According to official figures released on April 6, COVID-19 in Iran has killed 3,739 people and infected 60,500.
Much like the case of China, many people inside and outside of Iran have questioned Tehran’s official figures on the pandemic.
An ongoing investigation by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that studies figures released by officials from Iran’s 31 provinces puts the total number of deaths in Iran at 6,872 people as of April 5, with some 94,956 infections.
Nearly everyone has used a common glow stick to light up the night sky, or even as part of a highway emergency kit. But these handy devices are also useful on the battlefield, and Air Force Research Laboratory researchers have discovered a way to make this useful tool even better.
Materials Engineer Dr. Larry Brott of the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate recently led an effort to improve glow stick technology for use in military applications. More commonly referred to as “ChemLights” in military circles, these handy devices can be used for a variety of applications. They can be used as a wand for directing vehicles or providing emergency lighting, or the fluid inside can be splashed onto a surface to mark routes or positions.
These lights work through chemiluminescence, a reaction that produces light through the combining of chemical substances. In ChemLights, this reaction is typically triggered by breaking or snapping an inner chamber to allow two substances to mix together. Depending on the mixture ratio, these devices can provide light for anywhere from a few minutes up to several hours. ChemLights can be dyed various colors or even made with dyes invisible to the naked eye.
While useful for a multitude of purposes, a problem with traditional ChemLights is that they are single-use, meaning that users in the field may have to carry hundreds of them to accomplish a singular task. It is also somewhat awkward to use the chemiluminescent fluid to write messages or draw complex figures.
The AFRL team sought to address these issues through an innovative solution: microencapsulate the chemical substances and encase those capsules in a medium that can be used for writing or applying the material, much like a crayon or a lip balm applicator. The pressure of writing easily breaks the tiny capsules, creating the glowing effect. By packaging the materials in this fashion, a single stick can be used precisely and accurately many times, resulting in numerous benefits for the military.
Brott was inspired to investigate microencapsulation of chemiluminescent materials through his previous work in the automotive adhesives industry, where he became an expert in the technique. After coming to AFRL, he began to research ways to use microencapsulation to benefit the warfighter.
“This is such an intuitive use for this technology,” Brott said. “By packaging these materials in this form, we’re saving three things for the warfighter: volume, weight, and cost.” Brott and his team were awarded a patent for their work in 2012.
After entering into a licensing agreement giving the company exclusive rights to use the AFRL technology for military and first responder use, Battle Sight Technologies, a Dayton, Ohio-based startup company founded by military veterans, began product development. With the help of project partners, they are currently producing a prototype infrared writing device called the MARC, which stands for Marking Appliance Reusable Chemiluminescent. Once the initial prototype production run is complete, the product will go directly into the hands of the warfighter for field test and evaluation, possibly as early as Spring 2018. If all goes well, their goal is to have a product to distribute by late summer 2018.
In the early months of World War II, the United States Asiatic Fleet had been given an impossible job — hold the line against the might of the Japanese Navy. The ships and men did their best, but they were ultimately forced to retreat towards Australia. Unfortunately, not all of them made it.
In 2014, the wreck of USS Houston, the final resting place of 650 sailors and Marines, including Captain George Rooks (awarded the Medal of Honor), was located. The problem was that the vessel sank in shallow waters, providing easy access for divers.
The good news was that the survey showed no signs of recent salvaging. However, the same couldn’t be said for wrecks from battles that took place off the coast of Indonesia, which have been seriously damaged by illegal salvage operators seeking to acquire the pre-1945 steel onboard sunken warships. Some of the vessels, which are considered war graves under international law, have been almost completely stripped for a few Indonesian rupiahs. Each rupiah is worth .0073 cents.
This past September, the Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) laid a wreath at the Houston‘s location. The ceremony took place during the multi-national CARAT exercises, which have sometimes seen divers survey the wrecks.