Trump's Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

The Taliban are seizing new territory, civilian casualties and US military deaths are once more on the rise, and insider attacks on American and Afghan forces have more than doubled this year. That’s the grim reckoning of a US inspector general’s report released Oct. 26 even as the Pentagon and allied forces seek to implement President Trump’s strategy for the 16-year-old conflict.


The central government in Kabul has ceded more territory to the Taliban since the early days of the Afghanistan War, with the terrorist group now in full or partial control of 54 of the country’s districts, according to the latest quarterly survey to Congress from the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The report contains sobering findings for Mr. Trump and his generals, even as the parallel war against Islamic State and other radical terrorist movements in Syria and Iraq has made significant gains this year.

The Taliban, which are mainly concentrated within the eastern and southern segments of the country, claimed control of nine districts previously held by government forces over the past six months. As a result, more than 3.7 million Afghans, or just over 11 percent of the country’s entire population, now live under the radical Islamist movement’s control, the SIGAR inspectors found.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
The Taliban Flag. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Those gains come despite a marked uptick in US combat operations in Afghanistan, where American and allied forces executed more airstrikes against Taliban and Islamic State strongholds in the country than in any year since 2014. US and NATO forces carried out 2,400 airstrikes during an eight-month period this year against insurgent targets tied to the Taliban and forces loyal to Islamic State’s Afghan cell.

American and allied forces executed over 700 airstrikes against insurgent targets in Afghanistan in September alone, in line with the hard-line wartime strategy for Afghanistan that Mr. Trump outlined in August.

“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” said SIGAR head John F. Sopko. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”

The downbeat SIGAR findings — its 37th quarterly survey of the war — come amid reports that the US military has begun to restrict the information flow on the war as the conflict grinds on. The New York Times reported this week that the Pentagon has stopped providing figures on the size of the Afghan security and police forces, the state of their equipment, and Afghan casualty figures.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Afghan National Army soldiers assault a building during their final training exercise in Kabul, Afghanistan. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Cohen.

The Pentagon told the newspaper that the information was being withheld at the request of the Afghan government, but even the SIGAR report released this week revealed that the Afghan army and the national police force had a net loss of manpower in the most recent reporting period.

Roughly 3,900 more US troops are being funneled into Afghanistan to support the 8,400 soldiers, sailors, and Marines already there, with a majority supporting the NATO-led adviser mission dubbed Operation Resolute Support. Other American troops, mostly special operations units, are conducting counter-terrorism missions against the Taliban and Islamic State under a separate mission.

Related: This is what the Afghans think of America’s new war plan

Mr. Trump’s blueprint abandons the timeline-based approach to the American mission in Afghanistan in favor of a “conditions based” strategy. Administration critics claim the decision will effectively restart US-led combat operations in Afghanistan, which officially ended in late 2014 under President Obama and draw the US into an open-ended conflict.

While officials in the Pentagon and their counterparts in the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani claim the shift will provide much-needed reassurance to the Afghan Security Forces, the situation on the ground shows that fight will likely be much tougher than anticipated.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during the official UH-60 Black Hawk arrival ceremony, Oct. 7, 2017, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel.

Despite the uptick in US action, the Taliban continue to carry out high-profile attacks, including some in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital.

Roughly 90 people were killed and over 400 wounded, including 11 American contractors, in a brazen suicide attack on the German Embassy in Kabul in May. The attack was one of the worst to hit the capital since US and NATO forces ended combat operations in the country in 2014.

On Oct. 31, four people were killed and 13 wounded in a suicide attack inside the “green zone” — the heavily fortified sector in central Kabul that is home to the US Embassy and the Afghan presidential palace. Members of ISIS-K carried out the Oct. 31 attack, according to reports from Amaq news agency, the main social media propaganda network for Islamic State.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
General John Nicholson, Resolute Support commander, RS Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Jurgen Weigt, and RS Command Sergeant Major David M. Clark visit the blast site after the deadly attack on the German Embassy in Kabul. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Egdanis Torres Sierra.

Taliban resurgence

When the US ended combat operations three years ago, the Ghani government held roughly 60 percent of the country, according to government-led analysis, as well as reviews by private-sector analysts.

But those gains appear to be slipping from Kabul’s grasp, and the Taliban’s gains in the country over the past six months have taken a toll on the country’s military.

Battlefield casualties continue to increase among the ranks of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, while Kabul continues to combat high levels of attrition among the country’s armed forces. The Afghan army’s ranks have dropped by 4,000 troops and the national police lost 5,000 people, according to SIGAR’s latest findings.

By contrast, the Taliban continue to show signs of strength within their traditional base in the southern and eastern parts of the country, but also in northern and western Afghanistan, where they had not had significant sway in the past.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
More than 500 Afghan National Army soldiers stand in formation during the graduation of the 215th Corps’ Regional Military Training Center’s Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration training. DoD Photo by Sgt. Bryan Peterson.

Hundreds of Taliban fighters amassed in the western Afghanistan’s Farah province during a show of force in October. The gathering, posted as part of the group’s propaganda videos, showed the Afghan jihadis assembling in broad daylight without fear of being targeted by Afghan and coalition forces, according to analysis by the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

In a rare interview with The Guardian, senior Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Saeed said Washington’s new aggressive approach would not be enough to turn the tide against the group.

Read Also: This is how much it’s going to cost to send more troops to Afghanistan (Hint: It’s a lot)

Since “150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us,” the 4,000 troops Mr. Trump has authorized “will not change the morale of our mujahedeen,” Mullah Saeed said. “The Americans were walking in our villages, and we pushed them out.”

He said the Taliban would consider a peace deal, but only on the condition that the “foreigners must leave, and the constitution must be changed to [Islamic] Shariah law.”

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.

Peace talks, possibly including the Taliban, have also been a key part in the White House’s Afghanistan strategy. On Nov. 1, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson reiterated that the administration was open to peace talks with the Taliban, though not with Islamic State elements in Afghanistan.

“There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever,” Mr. Tillerson said during his unannounced visit to Kabul.

“We are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government,” the top US diplomat added.

Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to hold peace talks with the Taliban in 2013, coinciding with the Taliban’s unprecedented move to open a political office in Doha that year. At the time, officials in the Obama administration saw the potential talks as a vehicle to help accelerate the withdrawal of US forces from the country by 2014. But Pakistan’s decision to withdraw from the talks eventually scuttled any effort to reach a deal with the terrorist group.

Featured Image: 1st Sgt. David W. Christopher and Army Staff Sgt. Gordon M. Campbell stand by after setting fire to a Taliban shelter along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. (Army photo by Spc. Matthew Leary)

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John Glenn’s incredible response to a political opponent said he ‘never held a job’

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Wikimedia Commons


John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, a former US senator, and former Marine aviator who saw combat in World War II and Korea, has died at 95.

Glenn is known for a number of accolades throughout his life of service, from the military to the astronaut program and eventually, into politics. So it’s worth looking back on his entry into politics, when he first ran for office against an incumbent named Howard Metzenbaum.

Also read: This is the little-known combat career of John Glenn

In 1974, Glenn’s military record offered an opening for criticism by his opponent, who was mindful of Americans’ anti-war fervor during the Vietnam War. Metzenbaum began calling him “Col. Glenn” to highlight his time in the Marine Corps, and later told him that he “had never met a payroll,” which Glenn perceived as being told that his military record and service with NASA didn’t qualify as “having held a job.”

His response during the debate was remarkable, and at the end of it, he received more than 20 seconds of sustained applause, according to PBS. Here’s what he said:

“I spent 23 years in the United States Marine Corps. I lived through two wars. I flew 149 missions. I was in the space program. It wasn’t my checkbook, it was my life that was on the line.

You go with me as I did out to a veterans’ hospital and look those men with their mangled bodies in the eye and tell them that they didn’t hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and you tell her that her son did not hold a job. You go to Arlington National Cemetery — where I have more friends than I’d like to remember — and you think about this nation, and you tell me that those people didn’t have a job.

I tell you, Howard Metzenbaum, you should be on your knees every day of your life thanking God that there were some men, some men, who held a job. And they required a dedication to purpose, a love of country, and a dedication to duty that was more important than life itself.

And their self-sacrifice is what has made this nation possible.

I have held a job, Howard.”

Glenn went on to defeat Metzenbaum in the primary and win the general election. He served in the Senate from 1974 to 1999. His speech was also used to motivate a group of US Marines before they went into combat in Marjah, Afghanistan in 2010.

Watch the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNyqiHuutkM
MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch: A National Guard Chaplain activated in Los Angeles shares his story

Over the last month, the United States (and parts of the world) erupted in protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Abery. While their deaths drew the ire of many Americans, they set off an angry and passionate reaction to the bigger problem of police brutality and systemic racism.

Unfortunately, protests can be marred by people taking advantage and the marches that have occurred in all 50 states have seen some people take to rioting and looting. While the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, the magnitude of people on the street and looting caused some states to activate their respective National Guard units.


Director and Army Veteran Robert Ham was able to link up with National Guard Chaplain Major Nathan Graeser who was part of a California National Guard Unit that was assigned to downtown Los Angeles. With the noise of protestors in the background demanding reform of police and the end of the systemic racism that plagues this country, Graeser talked about why the National Guard was there and the mood of the troops. When asked about the atmosphere in the area Graeser said, “Seeing this today, I kept thinking to myself… this is what makes America great.”

Mighty Talks | Chaplain Graeser

vimeo.com

In addition to being an Army Chaplain in the California National Guard, Nathan is also a social worker. He is an expert on programs and policies that support service members transitioning out of the military. Nathan is an advocate for veterans and leads multiple veteran initiatives in Los Angeles. He has spent thousands of hours counseling veterans and their families to deal with the challenges of service and returning home.

Graeser talks about the disconnections we have with one another, exacerbated by COVID-19 and how those disconnections flared up in the wake of these deaths. He knows, because he sees the same disconnection with his soldiers and with veterans as they themselves struggle to connect to the community they took an oath to serve.

But, Graeser said he sees the similarities between the young soldiers and young protesters, “These 19 year olds,” referring to the guardsmen, he said, “They are thoughtful, they are kind, even their interaction with the looters is as gentle as can possibly be.”

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

While the riots have been waning, the cries for action have not. What does the future hold for the rest of 2020 and beyond? We can only guess at this time.

But there is hope in what Graeser sees.

“We are out here to see what the next chapter is,” he shared. “One thing I know is wherever we go, we are going to need everybody.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Texas Military community saves Green Sea Turtles during catastrophic winter storm

Although the nation remained devastated over the winter storm which severely impacted Texas in particular, it wasn’t just Americans in harms way. It was catastrophic for animals on land in the water, too. 

The Washington Post caught up with Will Bellamy, a veteran of the Army and Marine Corps who is a resident of the Corpus Christi area in Texas. In his interview, he reported how he and his son saw some sea turtles in distress after rescuing a few injured birds. Bellamy immediately reached out to Captain Christopher Jason who is in command of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. 

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
William Bellamy, left, and his son Jerome helped rescue dozens of cold-stunned sea turtles at NAS Corpus Christi. (Navy Capt. Christopher Jason)

Jason used his own paddleboard to rescue a few of the cold-shocked sea turtles, only able to fit three in his lap. Sadly, they weren’t the only ones. The next day, it was apparent to both Jason and Bellamy the situation was far more urgent than they originally thought. During his phone interview, Bellamy told the Washington Post, “It was like an apocalypse of turtles littered on the beach.” 

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Navy Capt. Christopher Jason, commanding officer of NAS Corpus Christi, rescued three sea turtles in his kayak, (Navy Command Master Chief Eric Kinnaman)

When the water temperature goes below 50 degrees fahrenheit, green sea turtles become lethargic. This causes them to stop moving and float to the surface, leaving them vulnerable to being hit by boats or even washing ashore, like they did in Texas. 

The green sea turtle is Texas’ most common sea turtle. The area along the gulf’s coast is where around 87% of them lay their nests during mating season each year. Sea Turtle Inc, based out of South Padre Island, has been working around the clock to save the cold-shocked green sea turtles washing up on the shores of Texas. In a statement the organization wrote, “Cold-stun events happen when the water gets too cold for sea turtles to maintain their body temperature.”

In an interview with Military Times, Jason said although he was aware of cold-stunning among sea turtles, this was unlike anything he’d ever seen since taking command in 2019. It truly was a military team effort. The Navy base community was also joined by Coast Guardsmen and soldiers. Flight students, military spouses, family members and veterans all dove in to support rescue efforts. 

Between all of them, they’ve rescued around 1,100 sea turtles and the numbers continue to grow. Only 20 have perished.

According to National Geographic, nearly 5,000 green sea turtles have been rescued throughout the coast of Texas since the unprecedented winter storm hit. Texans and members of the military community have been bringing them in by the carload, banding together to save the threatened species. In a Facebook post, Sea Turtle Inc. wrote “This is the biggest sea turtle cold-stunned event in south Texas.”    

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Photo taken by Navy Capt. Chrisopher Jason and provided to Military Times.

Despite handling challenging times of their own with loss of power and water, these military members and their supporters went all in to save the turtles. Without their dedicated efforts, it’s apparent the Texas green sea turtle population would have been decimated. It’s a powerful reminder of how working together even during the hardest of times can truly make all the difference in the world.

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It’s time for the F-35 to start blowing up old F-16s

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
The first QF-16 target aircraft seen at Tyndall Air Force Base in 2012. | US Air Force photo by Chris Cokeing


Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle of the US Air Force recently declared a squadron of 15 unmanned F-16s operationally capable, IHS Jane’s reports.

These drone versions of the F-16, called QF-16s, will provide targets for the Air Force as it tests out new weapons capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“The QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target will provide the next generation of combat training and testing for US warfighters,” a Boeing statement on the drones said.

While the old F-16s may seem like costly targets, the Air Force is touting them as a more realistic opponent than what was previously available, and they are economical to some extent because they’re made from older, retired F-16 airframes.

“The QF-16 will replace the existing QF-4 fleet and provide a higher-capability, fourth-generation aerial target that is more representative of today’s targets and threats,” the Boeing statement continued.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Having realistic targets to train against will help the F-35 pilots. F-35 Joint Program Office

“This leap forward in airframe capabilities, combined with advanced electronic pods, will allow us to properly test and evaluate our 5th generation aircraft and weapons,” Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, the commander of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, told C4ISRNET in an email.

In fact, an F-35 already participated in a test in which a QF-16 drone was shot down, though it did so with an SM-6 missile fired from a land-based silo.

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Sangin falls to the Taliban

The Taliban captured a key district center in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Thursday while in the country’s north, an officer turned his rifle on sleeping colleagues, killing nine policemen, officials said.


The fall of Sangin district, once considered the deadliest battlefield for British and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, comes amid the insurgents’ year-long push to expand their footprint in the Taliban heartland of Helmand.

The British who took over southern Helmand in 2006 were headquartered at Camp Sebastian, which at its peak was the center for 137 bases in Helmand. Most of Britain’s more than 400 military deaths occurred in Helmand province — in Sangin alone, Britain lost 104 soldiers.

Since the withdrawal of foreign NATO combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, and with only a smaller, U.S.-led advise and training mission left behind, Sangin has been seen as a major tests of whether Afghan security forces can hold off advancing Taliban fighters.

Also read: US forces are quickly cutting off ISIS’ only escape route in Syria

The district’s police chief, Mohammad Rasoul, said the Taliban overran Sangin center early on Thursday morning.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, also issued a statement claiming the Taliban capture of Sangin.

Speaking to The Associated Press over the phone from several kilometers (miles) away from the district center, Rasoul said the district headquarters had been poorly protected and that at the time of the Taliban siege, only eight policemen and 30 Afghan soldiers were on duty.

Afghan security forces were now amassing nearby for a full-scale counter-attack in a bid to retake Sangin, Rasoul added, though he did not say when the assault would occur and how many forces would be involved.

“We are preparing our reinforcements to recapture the district,” Rasoul said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Afghan military would seek the help of international coalition forces in the area.

NATO spokesman William Salvin said in a statement that Afghan troops remained in Sangin district but had relocated several kilometers (miles) outside the district center. He said the relocation was necessitated because of the extensive damage to the district center by the Taliban.

In Kabul, a lawmaker from Sangin, Mohammad Hashim Alokzai, urged the military to move quickly to retake the district, saying its fall could have devastating consequences for Helmand, where the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah has in the past months also come under constant and heavy attack by the Taliban.

“The seizure of Sangin is a major tactical triumph for the Taliban,” Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the U.S.-based Wilson Center, said Thursday. The insurgent group “has taken over a major urban space in one of its major stronghold provinces, amplifying the major threat that the group poses to Afghanistan nearly 16 years after it was removed from power.”

Sangin is also one of the biggest opium markets in Afghanistan, which saw over 4,800 metric tons produced countrywide in 2016 — more than all other opium-producing countries combined, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes. Efforts at poppy eradication in Afghanistan have been severely restricted because of the insecurity in the southern and eastern regions of the country, where the bulk of the crop is grown.

Opium, which is used to make heroin, is a major source of income for the insurgents and the Taliban levy taxes on opium that moves through its territory.

“It’s hard to overestimate the significance of Helmand — it’s strategically located near Pakistan, it’s a bastion of the opium trade,” said Kugelman. “Perhaps the biggest reason why the British focused so much on Sangin is that they had invested so much over the years in trying to stabilize the place — and had suffered many combat deaths in the process.”

In northern Kunduz province, police spokesman Mafuz Akbari said the insider attack on Thursday that claimed the lives on nine policemen took place at a security post and that the assailant escaped under the cover of darkness.

Afghanistan has seen a spike in so-called insider attacks. In such incidents, attackers who turn their rifles and kill colleagues usually end up stealing their weapons and fleeing the scene to join insurgents.

Akbari said the assailant had gone over to the Taliban. He also claimed that the attacker and the Taliban gathered the bodies of the dead policemen and set them on fire.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed claimed responsibility for the attack, but denied that a policeman had been involved or that the Taliban had burned the bodies of the policemen.

The conflicting accounts could not be immediately reconciled. The region is remote and not accessible to reporters.

Afghan forces have come under intensified pressure by insurgents in both Helmand and Kunduz.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military warns that bully fishermen might start war with China

China’s “insatiable appetite” for seafood is straining the limited abilities of South American countries to enforce their maritime boundaries, according to a Dec. 13, 2018 article in Dialogo, a website run by US Southern Command.

Countries on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts have been affected, and most of the illicit fishing activity in those areas is done by Chinese vessels.


Juan Carlos Sueiro, fisheries director for Peru at the ocean conservation and advocacy organization Oceana, told Dialogo that Peru and Argentina saw “the largest congregation of these vessels in the world.”

“It’s not that they can’t fish in international waters, but their close presence generates controversy. For example, Oceana already identified vessels entering into Peruvian waters without a license or with duplicated ID,” Sueiro said.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Chinese vessel RUNDA 608 was detained on Oct. 6, 2018, in Peruvian territorial waters while fishing illegally.

(Oceana photo)

“Refrigerated fishing vessels can be found in international waters to transfer their captures, fuel, and supplies,” he said, adding that transshipment activity, which can launder profits from illegal fishing, had also been detected.

Officials and experts have said rising demand for fish and increased competition over dwindling stocks could spark new conflicts. Many of them have pointed specifically to China.

Fishing stocks around China have shrunken dramatically. But Beijing has expanded its distant-ocean fishing fleet, and those vessels have been involved in disputes as far afield as Argentina — where the coast guard has fired at and sunk them — and in Africa, where Chinese firms are building fish-processing facilities.

In a September 2017 article, retired US Navy Adm. James Stavridis and a coauthor said that Beijing was spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to subsidize its long-range fishing fleet and that its coast guard often escorts those ships while they fish illegally.

“As such, the Chinese government is directly enabling and militarizing the worldwide robbing of ocean resources,” they said.

In September 2018, US Coast Guard Cmdr. Kate Higgins-Bloom wrote that “the odds that a squabble over fishing rights could turn into a major armed conflict are rising.”

Countries overplaying their hands with fishing and fisheries enforcement in contested waters and increasingly aggressive responses to illegal fishing are two ways that conflict could develop, Higgins-Bloom wrote. She added that “political leaders of rising powers will feel enormous pressure to secure the resources their citizens demand — even if it means violating international norms and rules.”

Indonesia has blown up boats caught fishing illegally, including a Chinese vessel, and the country’s fisheries minister has said what Chinese fishing boats “are doing is not fishing. It is transnational organized crime.”

“There’s no need to worry [about conflicts with other nations] as we have government vessels protecting us,” a Chinese fisherman said in September 2017, after the expiration of a fishing ban in the South China Sea.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Chinese icebreaker Xue Long conducts operations at an ice-flow camp in the Arctic.

The Arctic, where retreating ice has increased interest in commercial shipping and resource extraction, could also become a venue for that competition.

“I think the Chinese are very interested in the potential protein sources, the fishing stocks,” in the Arctic, Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in late 2018.

Nine countries, including China, and the EU signed an agreement in late 2017 prohibiting commercial fishing in the central Arctic for 16 years to allow study of the region — a deal meant to ensure there’s sufficient information to fish manageably “when these decisions have to be reached,” Conley said.

“We’re seeing anecdotal evidence of fishing stocks traveling north to get to cooler waters,” Conley added. “China certainly wants to ensure that … they’re not excluded from” those fishing grounds.

‘Confronting the Chinese voracity’

US Coast Guard officials have said they are on good terms with their Chinese counterparts when it comes to fisheries enforcement, though they are paying attention to what’s going on in the northern Pacific Ocean.

Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 that the Coast Guard has “a good, functional working relationship” with China, describing an incident when the two services cooperated to stop a high-seas drift-netter, which uses massive nets to scoop up fish without regard to limits on what species can be caught.

“We identified that ship and responded with a Coast Guard cutter. It was a few hundred miles off the nearest mainland in that part of the world. The Chinese came out. It was a Chinese flagship, very cooperative,” Schultz said. “We had a Chinese ship-rider on our Coast Guard ship. We turned that ship over to the Chinese for prosecution.”

In South America, however, “the fight is not easy,” even with cooperation among countries in the region, Dialogo cautioned in the Dec. 13, 2018 article.

“China clearly intends to exploit regional seas, and many species already suffer the consequences,” the article adds. “Confronting the Chinese voracity for marine resources requires a regional commitment that can’t wait.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why taking care of people is key to success on battlefield

Gen. James McConville smiled as he reminisced of when he was chosen to lead the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), before he became its longest-serving commander.

It was the same week in 2011 he commissioned his eldest son into the Army after he graduated as an ROTC cadet from Boston College.

But perhaps the most proud was his father, a former enlisted sailor who had served in the Korean War and then spent nearly 50 years working at the Boston Gear factory.

At the ceremony, his father, Joe, was asked by a local newspaper how he felt about his family’s generations of military service.


Sixty years ago, he told the reporter, he was a junior seaman on a ship. And today, his son was about to command a famed Army division and his grandson was now a second lieutenant.

“‘What a great country this is,'” McConville recalled his father saying. “I don’t think I could have said it better.”

McConville, who was sworn in as the Army’s 40th chief of staff on Aug. 9, 2019, said he credits his father for inspiring him to join the military.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

(Photo by Spc. Markus Bowling))

After high school, McConville left Quincy, a suburb of Boston, and attended the U.S. Military Academy, where he graduated in 1981. Since then his 38-year career has been marked with milestones and key assignments.

McConville has led multiple units in combat before most recently serving as the 36th vice chief of staff under Gen. Mark Milley, who will be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also oversaw the Army’s G-1 (personnel) and legislative liaison offices.

The idea of serving the country was sparked by his father, who, now nearing 90 years old, still passionately shares stories of his time in the military.

“I was always amazed that a man who I had tremendous respect for, who had tremendous character, just really loved his time serving in the Navy,” the general said.

Currently with three children and a son-in-law in the Army, McConville and his wife, Maria, a former Army officer herself, are continuing the family business.

People first

The sense of family for McConville, though, extends beyond bloodlines.

As a father and a leader, McConville understands the importance of taking care of every person in the Army, which he calls the country’s most respected institution.

“People are the Army,” he said of soldiers, civilians and family members. “They are our greatest strength, our most important weapon system.”

Fine-tuning that weapon system means, for instance, providing soldiers with the best leadership, training and equipment through ongoing modernization efforts.

As the vice chief, McConville and current acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy supervised the development of Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams.

Designed to tackle modernization priorities, the CFTs revamped how the Army procures new equipment. The teams allow soldiers to work directly with acquisition and requirements experts at the start of projects, resulting in equipment being delivered faster to units.

Modernization efforts are also changing how soldiers will fight under the new concept of multi-domain operations.

“When I talk about modernization, there are some that think it is just new equipment,” he said. “But, to me, it is much more than that.”

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

The family of Gen. James McConville poses for a photo during a promotion ceremony in honor of his son, Capt. Ryan McConville, in his office at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., May 2, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)

He believes a new talent management system, which is still being developed, will help soldiers advance in their careers.

As the Army pivots from counterinsurgency missions to great power competition against near-peer rivals, the system could better locate and recognize soldiers with certain skillsets the service needs to win.

“If we get them in the right place at the right time,” he said, “we’ll have even a better Army than we have right now.”

The talent of Army civilians, which he says are the “institutional backbone of everything we do,” should also be managed to ensure they grow in their positions, too.

As for family members, he said they deserve good housing, health care, childcare and spousal employment opportunities.

“If we provide a good quality of life for our families, they will stay with their soldiers,” he said.

Winning matters

All of these efforts combine into a two-pronged goal for McConville — an Army that is ready to fight now while at the same time being modernized for the future fight.

“Winning matters,” he said. “When we send the United States Army somewhere, we don’t go to participate, we don’t go to try hard. We go to win. That is extremely important because there’s no second place or honorable mention in combat.”

Readiness, he said, is built by cohesive teams of soldiers that are highly trained, disciplined and fit and can win on the battlefield.

“We’re a contact sport,” he said. “They need to make sure that they can meet the physical and mental demands.”

To help this effort, a six-event readiness assessment, called the Army Combat Fitness Test, is set to replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, which has been around since 1980.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Gen. James McConville, the Army vice chief of staff, swears in recruits during a break in the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The new strenuous fitness test, which is gender- and age-neutral, was developed to better prepare soldiers for combat tasks and reduce injuries. It is expected to be the Army’s fitness test of record by October 2020.

Soldiers also need to sharpen their characteristic traits that make them more resilient in the face of adversity, he said.

Throughout his career, especially in combat, McConville said he learned that staying calm under pressure was the best way to handle stress and encourage others to complete the mission.

In turn, being around soldiers in times of peace or war kept McConville motivated when hectic days seem to never end.

“Every single day I get to serve in the company of heroes,” he said. “There are some people who look for their heroes at sporting events … or movie theaters, but my heroes are soldiers.

“My heroes are soldiers because I have seen them do extraordinary things in very difficult situations,” he added. “I’m just incredibly proud to serve with them.”

And given his new role overseeing the entire Army, he is now ultimately responsible for every single one of those “heroes.”

“I know having three kids who serve in the military that their parents have sent their most important possession to the United States Army,” he said, “and they expect us, in fact they demand, that we take care of them.”

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

6 best video apps for staying connected during quarantine

As more and more states issue mandatory lockdowns and stay-the-f@$% home orders in the wake of COVID-19, people are finding any and every app they can to try and stay connected. While we’re all wishing we would have bought stock in these services in December, we’re just grateful they exist so we can have a beer with a buddy via a screen. Here are our favorite 6 apps for video chatting.


Eastern Virginia Medical School

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1. Zoom

If you’ve all of a sudden found yourself homeschooling or working from home (bottoms up if it’s both!), then you’re probably already familiar with Zoom. Used for meetings, webinars and group conferencing, Zoom has a lot of great built in features for everything from the online classroom to an office happy hour. Share your screen, raise your virtual hand to be called upon and even customize your background so it looks like you’re sitting on a beach instead of hiding in your laundry room. Or, better yet, fancy yourself on the set of Top Gun: Maverick, which premieres this summer.

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Zoom can host up to 100 people within a standard meeting and up to 500 with the large digital ad on.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

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2. Facetime

This is a no brainer if everyone has an iPhone. With a quick press of the button you can easily video chat with up to 31 other fellow Apple-loving users. But, let’s be honest: we all have that one friend or family member who insists that their Android takes better pictures. Fine Susan, we’ll all download a new app just so you can be included.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

3. Houseparty

Houseparty is where it’s at. Simple to use with a visually pleasing layout of your fellow party goers (have up to eight in your party at a time), there are even fun little games to play while you’re using the app if you want to for the ultimate social distancing game night. When one of our neighbors had a birthday, we poured a glass of champagne and toasted our friend on Houseparty.

It’s easy to create groups and notifications so that you’ll always know when your party people are “in the house” and you can see what party they’re in. This is either super convenient or the most FOMO-inducing feature we’ve ever seen on the interwebs.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

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4. Skype

Yes, Skype is still around! We know you might have flashbacks to a frozen screen circa 2005 while you were downrange, but the technology and ease has made vast improvements since Skype’s early days. Chat with up to 50 people at a time, leave voicemails, share pictures and you can even still use that same screen name that you had back in the day.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Google Hangouts/Meet

5. Google Hangouts

Whether you want to livestream your Crossfit WOD in solitude or have 250 friends in a chat (COVID-19 wedding, anyone?), Google Hangouts is making it possible. With interactive features like posting statuses, GIFs, emojis, stickers and more, Google Hangouts is being widely praised for extending their premium capabilities to all users for freeeeeeee.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

p0.pikrepo.com

6. Snapchat

Who knew that everyone’s favorite filter app had video chat capability? Well, apparently kids these days. This popular app allows you to connect 15 users at a time and still has the fun filters for which it’s known. Which is extra helpful in the era of not knowing what day it is or how many days since you’ve washed your hair.

No matter what app you turn to, stay connected while keeping your social distance.

Articles

This new mini rifle could replace the decades-old MP5 for Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

The company who won the contentious contest to build America’s next military handgun is throwing its hat in the ring to provide a potential replacement for a weapon used by the country’s most elite counterterrorism units since the 1970s.


In March, U.S. Special Operation Command posted a notice to industry to come up with a new so-called “personal defense weapon” that had nearly impossible specs to achieve. The weapon had to be no longer than 26 inches with the stock extended, had to collapse to less than 17 inches AND be able to fire from the collapsed configuration.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
The MCX Rattler features a 5.5-inch PDW barrel and can fire from a collapsed configuration. (Photo from Sig Sauer)

And oh, the weapon had to be made to fire both .300 Blackout cartridges and 5.56 rounds.

These rifles would replace the MP5 variants in special operations stocks — 9mm submachine guns that are both aging and offer significantly less effective range than more modern calibers compatible with subgun-length barrels.

Well, Sig Sauer, makers of the Army’s new M17 and M18 handgun, stepped up to the MP5 replacement plate with its new MCX “Rattler.”

“We had groups coming to us and saying the situations [they] were being put into with 9mm subguns, the caliber is not appropriate,” Sig Sauer officials said during a live event releasing the Rattler to the public.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
The Heckler Koch MP5 submachine gun of U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Samuel Caines, assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe Security Detachment, ejects a bullet casing at the Training Support Center Benelux 25-meter indoor range in Chièvres, Belgium, Oct. 22, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Pierre-Etienne Courtejoie)

They wanted, “an escape gun that is going to have the firepower that [they] need.”

Based roughly on Sig’s MCX design, the Rattler has a 5.5-inch barrel and with its folding stock collapsed, the entire gun is just 16 inches long.

And it can fire in that configuration.

“The PDW stock allows you to function the gun when it’s folded,” Sig officials told RECOIL magazine. “It is the shortest rifle that’s on the market today.”

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
The HK MP5K is about 12.5 inches long, but stocks of this weapon are getting long in the teeth and its 9mm round doesn’t have much range. (Photo from Heckler Koch)

In fact, the Rattler comes in at just 3.5 inches longer than the ultimate CQB weapon — the MP5K.

“We wanted to give these guys a gun in a subgun size but that had the firepower to shoot out to 200-plus yards and effectively do what they needed to do,” Sig said.

The Rattler can fire suppressed in the 300 BLK configuration, but Sig says the barrel is too short for operating 5.56 cartridges with a can.

The Rattler upper is swappable with any standard M4 or AR-15-style lower, checking the box for the SOCOM PDW request to have the gun be able to change caliber in less than three minutes.

Articles

This fundraiser for the widow of a soldier who died in a suicide bombing attack is going viral

When a Taliban murder-suicide bomber killed two American troops with the 82nd Airborne Division, it particularly hit hard for one family. According to an Army Times report, the solider, Specialist Chris Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, left behind a wife, Britt, who was expecting their first child.


The Defense Department reported that the August 2 attack that killed Spc. Harris also killed Sgt. Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana ,and wounded four other troops. Both Harris and Hunter were with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Specialist Chris Harris and his wife Britt in happier times. (GoFundMe.com)

An online fund-raiser was launched on Aug. 3 on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe.com to help Britt keep a handle on bills and other expenses. As of 9:53 AM Eastern time on Aug. 4, the online fundraiser for Mrs. Harris had raised $35,570 from 782 donors.

The online fundraiser is not the only fundraiser on the way for Britt and her unborn child. According to the VA website, Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance offers a $400,000 death benefit for a monthly premium of $29.00.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Waves of paratroopers fill the skies during a combat exercise. (U.S. Army)

The pentagon also offers a death gratuity benefit of $100,000. Military.com notes that numerous other benefits are available for the surviving family members of a serviceman (or woman) killed in action, including continued eligibility for Tricare, Basic Housing Allowance, and the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

While those benefits will kick in, words from the GoFundMe page still apply: “During this time, money should be the absolute least important thing on [Britt’s] mind. If you feel it in your heart to donate to this cause, it would be kindly appreciated.”

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII ‘Hero of Cologne’ receives medal during surprise ceremony

One of the most celebrated World War II tank gunners received the bronze star during a surprise award ceremony 74-years in the making.

Clarence Smoyer, 96-year-old former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, never bragged about the five tanks he destroyed in the war, including an infamous Nazi tank he leveled during a dramatic duel in war-torn Cologne, Germany.

He didn’t ask for anything, either. To Smoyer, he was just doing his job to protect the men he considers family.


Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, and Joe Caserta, World War II veteran of Omaha Beach, Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, attend a Bronze Star award ceremony, with Smoyer as the guest of honor, Sept. 18, 2019, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was nicknamed the “Hero of Cologne” for his efforts destroying a German tank during the battle.

(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)

Duel at the cathedral

It was March 6, 1945, and WWII was winding down, much of Germany was left in ruins.

Cologne, one of the country’s largest cities, was no exception. Once a bustling metropolis, Cologne had been reduced to rubble, with only a few identifiable buildings remaining — including its cathedral.

As the Americans entered Cologne, Smoyer recalls the now-infamous words of his lieutenant, Bill Stillman, who said, “Gentlemen, I give you Cologne, let’s knock the hell out of it.”

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Clarence Smoyer (top middle) was a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native when he, and his fellow tank crew members, were photographed in Cologne, Germany, in 1945. This photo, courtesy of the National Archives, was taken moments after the battle of Cologne, Germany, and Smoyer delivered the fatal shots that destroyed a German tank.

“So… we obliged,” Smoyer joked, thinking back to that day.

American forces, before making their way east toward Berlin, had to conquer Cologne first. Their goal was to secure a bridge over the Rhine River, but a nearby Nazi tank had other plans.

“Attacking such a large city gave the enemy plenty of places to hide,” Smoyer said. “Not just in the horizontal plane, but from the basements to the tops of five-story buildings — Cologne put us to the test.”

“We were chosen as the first tank(s) into the city,” he added. “Everyone else followed us in. So, for us, it was constant firing. You fired at anything that moved. That’s when a gunner’s instinct kicked in.”

One street over from Smoyer, the Panther tank, used by the Nazis, took out an American Sherman tank, killing three soldiers inside, including Karl Kellner. The Wisconsin native, and Silver Star recipient, had received a battlefield commission to lieutenant just two weeks prior.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, receives his long-awaited Bronze Star Sept. 18, 2019, during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was recognized for his heroic efforts during the battle of Cologne, Germany, where as a tank gunner, he delivered the fatal blows to a German Panther tank and was nicknamed “The Hero of Cologne.”

(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)

After being hit, Kellner’s leg was amputated at the knee. He jumped from the tank and landed on his remaining leg. Smoke lifted from his stump like a ghost fading into the air, witnessed remembered.

Nearby, Stars and Stripes reporter, Sgt. Andy Rooney — the future acclaimed television journalist — along with another man sprinted toward Kellner. He was lying near the destroyed American tank. They moved him to onto a jumble of debris, safely out of the way, and attempted to stop the blood as it flowed from Kellner’s severed limb.

Rooney, the future 60 Minutes newsman, held Kellner in his arms as he died. Later, Rooney would say it was the first time he witnessed death. The other two tankers, both killed by the Germans, never escaped the Sherman tank. Meanwhile, Smoyer and his crew were slowly approaching the battle.

The Panther tank idled quietly in the street, as the Americans approached.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Veterans Clarence Smoyer and Joe Caserta stand near a Pershing tank, similar to the ones they were both crewmembers of during World War II, Sept. 18, 2019, near the National World War II Memorial in Washington. Both men were present in their respective tanks in Cologne, Germany, March 6, 1945, when Smoyer’s tank crew “Eagle 7,” took out a German tank.

(Photo by C. Todd Lopez, DOD)

“Experience taught me it’s impossible to knock out a German tank in one shot,” he said. “So, I worked a plan with our driver. He was to edge into the intersection, I’d shoot, and then he’d back up — fast! When we roared into the intersection to shoot, everything went out the window.”

Instead of “seeing the flank of the Panther in the periscope,” like he planned, Smoyer looked at the Panther’s super velocity muzzle pointed at street level, right at him, he said.

Smoyer added “his heart stopped.” The driver, also staring down the barrel of the German’s muzzle, panicked and “floored the gas.”

“We were totally vulnerable,” Smoyer said. “I snapped off a quick shot and hit him first. I kept yelling for (armor-piercing) rounds and kept hitting him until he caught fire. I could hardly breathe as we backed out of there.”

Smoyer’s finger squeezed the trigger of his tank, and he fired 90mm rounds into the side of the Panther tank, garnishing three direct hits.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

World War II veterans Clarence Smoyer, Joe Caserta and Buck Marsh stand for the chaplain’s invocation during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

“People always ask why I fired three times,” Smoyer said. “Some say I was butchering that German crew by not giving them a chance to flee the tank. Any crewman still alive in that Panther could have pulled the trigger and with that powerful of a gun still pointing at us, we’d all be dead.”

But, that wasn’t the case. The Americans won, and Smoyer, the thin, 21-year-old curly blonde haired corporal, earned the nickname “the hero of Cologne.”

Footage of the battle, captured by Tech. Sgt. Jim Bates, a combat cameraman attached to the 165th Photo Signal Company, made its way into movie newsreels worldwide, including back home in Pennsylvania, where Smoyer called home.

“That’s Hon!” Smoyer’s sister-in-law yelled during an airing of the newsreel, Hon was Smoyer’s family nickname.

She later convinced the theater owners to replay the reel, so Smoyer’s parents, who had never been to a movie theater, could see their son was still alive.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Author Adam Makos and World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer walk to a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee)

History in the making

For his actions that day, Smoyer was notified he earned the Bronze Star. However, this was short-lived after Smoyer talked to German children, who were begging the soldier for bubble gum. This small act of charity cost him the medal.

“They wanted bubble gum and I was still searching my pockets when a jeep full of (military police) turned the corner,” Smoyer said. “Fraternization was a no-no.”

Smoyer added, he felt bad for the kids, who had been on the frontlines of war longer than him. The MPs took his name, tank, serial number, and indirectly, his Bronze Star.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Army Maj. Peter Semanoff salutes World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer after awarding him the Bronze Star during a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

“I could have avoided all that if I just had a stick of gum!” He joked.

But, it was never about the medals and glory. As decades passed, the war ended, and Smoyer returned to civilian life. His neighbors in Allentown, Pennsylvania, never knew they lived by a war hero.

That all changed after an author, Adam Makos, who wrote a book on Smoyer’s story, happened upon information that changed everything.

“Smoyer’s tank commander and an Army combat cameraman both received Bronze Stars for their actions that day — yet, Smoyer got nothing,” Makos said.

This inspired the author to change that. He used witnesses to Smoyer’s actions, evidence he collected, including Bates combat camera footage, and contacted the Army.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

World War II veterans Joe Caserta and Clarence Smoyer embrace during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

In the end, a military review board agreed with Makos, and Smoyer was awarded the Bronze Star. Three additional Bronze Stars were also awarded to the rest of the tank crew, making Smoyer’s tank crew “one of the most celebrated in Army history,” according to Makos.

To keep the surprise, Smoyer’s loved ones convinced him he was visiting the WWII Memorial as a tourist. The monument was filled with soldiers, fellow WWII veterans, news crews, and onlookers. Then, overwhelmed with emotion, he received the long overdue medal.

With the Bronze Star pinned to his chest, Smoyer promised to, “Wear the medal to remember the ones who lost their lives” that day, nearly 75 years ago.

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

Articles

This WWII vet fought kamikazes in history’s largest naval battle

Philip Hollywood grew up in a Navy family, so when World War II started he enlisted in the Navy — at the ripe young age of 17.  After his combat training, he was assigned to the USS Melvin, a destroyer homeported in the Philippines.


Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

 

The Melvin fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, which turned out to be the largest naval battle of World War II and possibly the largest in history. Leyte Gulf was also the first time the Japanese used coordinated kamikaze attacks.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

“The Kamikazes… that was scary to me. Anyone who says they weren’t scared, I don’t think they’re telling the truth,”  says Hollywood. “It was a new experience trying to kill an opponent who only wanted to kill you and not survive.”

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

 

The battle was much more than fighting kamikaze attacks. Two days into the fight for Leyte, a Japanese task force of two battleships, a heavy cruiser, and four destroyers tried to steam through the narrow Surigao Strait to support the main force in the Gulf. The Japanese ran into six American battleships (five of which were sunk at Pearl Harbor, but were repaired and brought back to service), four heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, 28 destroyers, and 39 torpedo boats in Surigao’s narrows.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

In a video produced by AARP, Hollywood recalls his memories of the battle, the kamikaze, and how it felt to sink the Japanese battleship Fuso.

Hollywood died shortly after this video was produced.

“Phil Hollywood was the last of a dying breed,” says TJ Cooney, one of the video producers. “I am so thankful for the time that I had with Phil to make this story, he was an amazing man and truly an American hero and treasure. He is going to be sorely missed and never forgotten.”

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