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)

MIGHTY CULTURE

This club gives a new perspective on the life of cadets

She had been waiting for the shot all game.

After Jabari Moore raced 54 yards down the field for a fumble return touchdown and Army’s final score of the game against Tulane, it was time for the post-score ritual.

U.S. Military Academy leadership, spirit groups and cadets sprinted into the endzone to do pushups celebrating the touchdown. Camera in hand, Class of 2023 Cadet Hannah Lamb ran after them onto the field.

As Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love started his pushups, Lamb laid on the ground, left hand propped under the camera, right hand on the shutter firing away.


Lamb’s job as a member of the Cadet Media Group is to capture the scenes of an Army home football game. Not so much the action on the field, but the cadets, the fans and the entire atmosphere of gameday from the pregame parade to Michie Stadium.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Class of 2023 Cadet Hannah Lamb (left) takes photos during the Army vs. Tulane game at Michie Stadium Oct. 5, 2019. Lamb’s job as a member of the Cadet Media Group is to capture the scenes of an Army home football game.

(Photo by Brandon OConnor)

“It’s a lot of responsibility that’s placed in my hands as someone who’s completely new to this place,” Lamb said. “I think the most rewarding thing is when you’re able to send pictures you’ve taken to cadets and they get super excited about it. It’s also just gotten me into really cool places that I may not ever see in my four years or I just may not see in the same way.”

The Cadet Media Group formed four years ago and officially became a Directorate of Cadet Activities club for this academic year. The club includes photographers and videographers who work to capture the life of cadets in ways no one else can.

“I think CMG helps bridge that civil/mil gap and portray the cadet story,” Class of 2020 Cadet Amanda Lin, the cadet in charge of Cadet Media Group, said. “I think cadets really appreciate seeing their side of things through a more polished eye. Nobody gets to see the cadet experience as well as we do.”

The members of the club help to cover events both at and away from West Point including football games, the Tunnel to Towers run in New York City and Ring Weekend.

As cadets, they have access no other photographers or videographers have and are able to show the cadet experience in ways only they can.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Class of 2020 Cadet An Vu takes photos during the Army vs. Tulane game at Michie Stadium Oct. 5, 2019.

(Photo by Brandon OConnor)

“I think it’s important for us to share West Point’s message and what cadets are doing and opportunities you have here,” Class of 2022 Cadet Kaden Carroll said. “I think coming from a cadet or hearing cadet experiences or things like that makes it a whole lot better. Being able to cover events and share things that are happening here at West Point and reaching out to the public as well as people who are here, it’s cool to share that.”

The photographers and videographers in Cadet Media Groups have the benefit of seeing the Corps of Cadets from a perspective provided to few of their classmates. As most members of the Corps sit in the stands during football games, select members of the club are on the field taking pictures. During reviews and parades, instead of marching with their companies they stand at the front with cameras capturing the event.

“It’s something that’s totally different than everyone else’s experience, because we have to be in the position to take the pictures from an outside point of view while every other cadet has to be on the inside,” Lamb said.

For Lamb and Carroll, the Cadet Media Group was on their radar before they even arrived along the banks of the Hudson River. Both had followed members of the group on social media and had seen cadets’ products used on official West Point pages.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Class of 2021 Cadet Cheyenne Quilter takes photos during the Army vs. Tulane game at Michie Stadium Oct. 5, 2019.

(Photo by Brandon OConnor)

They quickly got involved and started producing their own photos and videos covering the Corps. Carroll has become the club’s go-to videographer in his year plus at the academy while Lamb has jumped in with both feet covering multiple events in only a few months as a cadet.

“I think the coolest video I got to do was when the Army Dance team reached out to me,” Carroll said. “I just basically went around to different locations around West Point and filmed them dancing to one of their songs they had choreographed a dance to. It was super cool to meet new people as well as do what I love.”

Since joining as a plebe, Lin has seen the club grow from just a few members to an active group of photographers covering almost every event occurring at West Point. After branding themselves as the Cadet Media Group in the 2018-19 academic year, they officially became a club this year solidifying their place as a key part of the Corps of Cadets.

“It reminds me of how special this school is,” Lin said. “When you’re going through the day, it’s just kind of dull and boring and you kind of forget why you’re here. Then, I got to shoot the Sandhurst Competition last spring and seeing my photos from that and seeing them shared on social media, everyone was like, ‘What you do at school is so cool.’ That’s easy to forget when you’re doing homework, but when you get to see it, it’s cool.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why a judge willingly shared this green beret’s jail sentence

Joe Serna escaped death so many times while deployed with the Army’s Special Forces. He was blown up by explosive devices on multiple occasions over three combat deployments to Afghanistan. One threw him from his vehicle, another nearly drowned him in an MRAP in an irrigation canal, and a Taliban fighter detonated a grenade in his face. Like many combat veterans of his caliber, both mental and physical wounds followed him home.

After his medical retirement, alcohol-related events landed him in hot water with the law until the day he violated his probation and ended up in front of North Carolina Judge Lou Olivera.


Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Serna’s MRAP was thrown into a canal by an IED in 2008. Three other soldiers drowned, including one who rescued Serna.

(Joe Serna)

In 2016, Serna’s record of offenses and failure to follow his probation put him in front of a North Carolina Veterans Treatment Court, a system of justice designed to hold returning veterans accountable for their behavior while accepting the special set of circumstances they might be struggling with in their daily life. Veterans Treatment Courts demand mandatory appearances, drug and alcohol testing, and a structure similar to the demands of the service.

Related: ‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

Judge Lou Olivera was presiding over Cumberland County, North Carolina’s veterans treatment courts. Olivera is a veteran of the Gulf War and is especially suited to handle cases like Serna’s. The judge ordered the green beret to spend 24 hours in jail for his probation violation, not anything unusual for a judge to do. What Olivera did next is what makes his court exceptional.

Olivera convinced Serna’s jailer, also a veteran, to allow the judge to share Serna’s sentence. Judge Olivera was volunteering to be a battle buddy for the green beret while he did his time. The judge drove Serna to the neighboring county lockup, where jail administrator George Kenworthy put them both in jail for the night.

He did his duty,” Serna told People Magazine. “He sentenced me. It was his job to hold me accountable. He is a judge, but that night he was my battle buddy. He knew what I was going through. As a warrior, he connected.”

Serna had no idea Judge Olivera planned to share his sentence as the two drove to the Robeson County, N.C. jail. Olivera knew of Serna’s combat records, and that the green beret spent a night in a submerged in an MRAP, struggling to stay in an air pocket, with the bodies of his drowned compatriots around him. So a night spent in a cramped box seemed like a harsh sentence that could trigger harsher thoughts, but the judge knew the soldier had to be held accountable. So he decided he wouldn’t be alone in the box.

Joe was a good soldier, and he’s a good man,” Olivera said. “I wanted him to know I had his back. I didn’t want him to do this alone… I’m a judge and I’ve seen evil, but I see the humanity in people. Joe is a good man. Helping him helped me. I wanted him to know he isn’t alone.”
MIGHTY MOVIES

Two Scottish combat veterans define the term Strongman, as one helps the other train for the first-ever Arnold Schwarzenegger Disabled Strongman Competition

“The measure of a man is how you react on a bad day.”

Powerful words that three-time World’s Strongest Man and Sports Hall-of-Famer Bill Kazmaier used to describe one of the newest Strongman competitors – Stevie Richardson – at the World’s Strongman competition in Ohio.

Richardson fulfilled a lifelong dream by serving his country in the Army but his service was cut short when an IED detonated in Afghanistan and took his legs. Soon after Richardson returned home and started his long road to recovery, he met a fellow vet, Royal Marines Commando and competitive Strongman, Kenny Simm, and was introduced to the world of Strongman competition.


IED – Improve Every Day – Official Trailer. BBC Scotland, Gravitas Ventures, TurnerGang Productions

youtu.be

The story of these two combat veterans and their journey to find purpose, camaraderie and pride after coming home from war is the basis for the new documentary IED: Improve Every Day. The film shows how a veteran’s bond is undying and that no injury, physical or psychological, can stand up to the strength forged by the military brotherhood.

Competing for Arnold in the World Strongman Championship is certainly a milestone event in the lives of these veterans but it also marks a new chapter for them on the road to recovery. Their journey of self-strengthening will be life-long but valuable lessons can be gleaned from the story told in Improve Every Day; that our strength can quite-often be measured by the comrades we keep around us and no matter how bad our days get, there is always a new, inspiring challenge waiting for us in the future.

Watch this multi-award nominated BBC documentary on Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google play and many other platforms. Search IED: Improve Every Day.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges


MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine’s rap is just as epic and mysterious as his identity

If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for any information on the underground music scene, you may have come across a Marine rapper that wears a gas mask to conceal his identity.


June Marx, a Brooklyn native, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I was a sophomore in high school when 9/11 happened,” June Marx states. “I just remember how chaotic that day was, but through all the confusion I knew one thing that day, I wanted to fight.”

Related: This Marine’s powerful music earned him an epic record deal

June deployed to Fallujah during OIF as Field Radio Operator and earned several awards during his time in service. He even credits the Marine Corps for giving him the needed discipline to continually write his rap lyrics drawing them from personal experience.

Afterward, he became a CBRN instructor and trained hundreds of Marines before they deployed to their combat zones.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
June Marx keeps his dress blues and medals in his personal studio for lyrical motivation (Source: Writeous Optics)

In 2012, Marx received an Honorable discharge from the Marine Corps then spearheaded himself to focus on his true calling — a music career.

June wears the gas mask as part of his image and believes the modern music industry is too “toxic” and there aren’t enough artists with “substance” being promoted.

His unique writing discipline has attributed him to record nearly 20 albums via his record label Torchbearer Records — quickly growing audience fan base.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
June Marx on the Heavy Artillery Tour signing posters his loyal fans. (Source: Writeous Optics)

He is best known for his “Modern Warfare” lyrical style and vivid wordplay. June is currently the lead of two music groups: Heavy Artillery and Cobra Unit.

After his album titled “Veterans Day” was released in 2015, Marx patriotically donated the proceeds to the VA Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.

For other authentic June Marx content check the following links: Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora.

Also Read: This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

Check out June Marx’s video below to his unique look and hear his motivating sound for yourself.

June Marx, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

China has been testing anti-ship missiles in the South China Sea

The Chinese military has been practicing sinking enemy vessels with anti-ship naval missiles in the South China Sea, CNBC reported July 1, 2019, citing US officials.

The Chinese military reportedly began testing these weapons over the weekend, as a week-long drill kicked off in the disputed waterway. CNBC reports that Chinese forces test-fired anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), which could include systems like the DF-21D or DF-26.

The testing of ASBMs would be an important first for the South China Sea and a significant step forward as China seeks to strengthen its anti-access, area-denial capabilities, although some expert observers suspect China may have been testing anti-ship cruise missiles.


For ballistic-missile tests, Chinese authorities typically issue Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) identifying “temporary danger areas,” Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat, explained. Such a NOTAM was issued for the period between June 30 and July 1, 2019, marking off two locations in the South China Sea.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

The DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.

Beijing previously moved land-based anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), such as the YJ-62 and YJ-12B, to Chinese-occupied territories in the region, a move the US condemned.

“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft,” Jim Mattis, the former secretary of defense, explained last year. “Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.”

Range limits require ASCMs be on islands in the South China Sea in order to reach surrounding waterways. Longer-range ASBMs could be fired from the Chinese mainland, allowing for more robust defenses around the batteries.

China argues that relevant deployments are a necessary response to aggressive US behavior.

China’s latest testing comes on the heels of joint drills in the South China Sea involving the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Escort Flotilla 1, which includes the Izumo multi-purpose destroyer that is slated to become Japan’s first carrier in decades.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan operates with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo, June 11, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo)

US officials told CNBC that while the US Navy has ships in the South China Sea, the missile testing did not endanger any US ship. The testing was, however, characterized as “concerning.”

Locked in competition with great power rivals, the US is looking more closely at the development of anti-ship capabilities as it prepares to counter near-peer threats, such as the massive Chinese navy.

Both the Army and the Marine Corps, for example, are looking at long-range artillery and shore-based anti-ship missile batteries to control the maritime space from land.

“You can imagine a scenario where the Navy feels that it cannot get into the South China Sea because of Chinese naval vessels,” Mark Esper, the former secretary of the Army who is now acting secretary of defense, explained earlier this year.

“We can, from a fixed location, on an island or some other place, engage enemy targets, naval targets, at great distances and maintain our standoff and yet open the door, if you will, for naval assets or Marine assets,” Esper said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

As Iraqi army closes in, ISIS fighters are throwing in the towel

When US-backed Iraqi security forces and Iranian Shia militias cleared ISIS’ final Iraqi stronghold in Hawijah, they met weak resistance and a massive surrender from a once fearsome army.


In 2015 and 2016, ISIS, the terrorist group also known as the Islamic State, carried out suicide attacks around the globe at a historic rate.

The group, founded in June 2014, has long demanded that its militants fight or die, and it often sends young men and even children on suicide-bombing missions.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

But as the group weakens on the ground, it seems to have shifted course.

A US Department of Defense release on the battle for Hawijah cites “many sources reporting more than 1,000 terrorists surrendered.”

Unlike the battle for Mosul, once ISIS’ largest Iraqi stronghold, the terrorist group “put up no fight at all, other than planting bombs and booby traps,” Kurdish officials told The New York Times.

Strikingly, the same officials reported that ISIS commanders had ordered their fighters to turn themselves in, on the grounds that the Kurds would take prisoners while other opponents would be harsher.

Indeed, after three years of brutal conflict, the Iraqi Security Forces fighting have admitted to engaging in acts of savagery against defeated ISIS fighters.

In July, Iraqi officers said they took part in extrajudicial killings of many unarmed ISIS fighters, with one vowing a “slow death” as revenge for killing his father.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

After suffering defeat after defeat on the ground, ISIS has upped the aggression of its media operation in an attempt to save face. Recently the group released audio it said came from its top leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was rumored to be killed or at least injured by airstrikes.

After last week’s shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, ISIS also made the dubious claim that the gunman was one of its followers.

US officials have shot this claim down, and ISIS’ claims do not match evidence that has since emerged on the gunman’s preparation for the attack.

In its early months and years, ISIS enjoyed a surge of battlefield victories. The group had political support in Sunni Muslim areas, where many felt disenfranchised by Iraq’s Shia-run government.

But it has since been ground down for years by US-led coalition airstrikes and a wide range of militias and national armies on the ground.

With the fall of Hawijah, only a small strip of territory along Syria’s border remains in ISIS’ control.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Montenegro wants to know why Serbia is sheltering coup suspect

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Montenegro has summoned the Serbian ambassador to Podgorica after a suspect on trial over a failed 2016 coup attempt fled to Serbia’s Embassy to avoid detention.

Montenegro’s Foreign Ministry said it requested Serbia’s official position on the matter on Nov. 26, 2018, three days after Branka Milic walked out of the courtroom during a hearing, complaining that her rights had been violated.

Podgorica’s High Court ordered Milic detained, but the accused later surfaced at the Serbian Embassy.


The Montenegrin Foreign Ministry’s statement said Serbian Ambassador Zoran Bingulac confirmed Milic was at the embassy and that Serbia was “aware of the legal procedure and the necessary obligations.”

Milic’s defense lawyer, Jugoslav Krpovic, urged authorities to provide guarantees that the “psychological violence” against her client ends.

“She didn’t escape from the trial. She escaped from abuse” by the court, Krpovic said.

Milic, who holds Serbian citizenship, was detained in October 2017.

She is among 14 suspects on trial for plotting to overthrow Montenegro’s government in October 2016.

Montenegrin authorities say Serbian and Russian nationalists plotted to occupy parliament during parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian leadership to prevent the small Balkan nation’s bid to join NATO.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

Milo Djukanovic.

The authorities accuse two Russian GRU military intelligence officers of organizing the failed coup plot.

The investigative group Bellingcat and Russian website The Insider said they had identified the two GRU officers allegedly involved.

Moscow denies involvement, however.

Montenegro in June 2017 became the 29th member of NATO, a step that was bitterly criticized by Russia and opposed by some Montenegrins who advocate closer ties with Moscow.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

This New Movie Unflinchingly Reveals The True Faces Of PTSD

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Delta Force veteran Tyler Grey fires a pistol at a desert range. His right arm was wounded during a firefight in Iraq. (Image: Armed Forces Foundation)


In “That Which I Love Destroys Me,” a newly-released documentary that deals with the current PTSD epidemic, writer and director Ric Roman Waugh (“Felon,” “Snitch”) does exactly what he needed to do to respect the importance and delicacy of the subject matter:  He gets out of the way of the story by letting the principals tell it themselves.

Also Read: This Project Is A Real And Raw Look At How Military Service Affected Veterans 

“My job was to let them tell their story with unflinching candor,” Waugh said at a recent screening in Los Angeles.

TWILDM follows the post-war lives of two veteran special operators.  Jayson Floyd served in Afghanistan as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and Tyler Grey was a member of Delta Force and served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Floyd and Grey met at a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan in 2002, but their friendship blossomed after their complicated paths of post-active duty life joined around the methods they’d unlocked for dealing with their PTSD – mainly understanding the benefits of a supportive community of those wrestling with their own forms of post-traumatic stress.

Waugh sets the tempo of the documentary with soliloquies featuring a number of people, but mostly Floyd and Grey.  Their personalities are at once different and complimentary.  Floyd is Hollywood-leading-man handsome, moody and brooding, and speaks with a rapid-fire meter that forces you to listen closely to cull out the wisdom therein.  Grey is more upbeat, a conversationalist who uses comedy to mute his emotional scars.  He is quick with folksy metaphors that show how many times he’s told some of these stories, and he matter-of-factly relates how he sustained massive wounds to his right arm as breezily as a friend talking about a football injury.

The two warriors’ physical appearance changes throughout the documentary, which has the net effect of showing the passage of time and the range of their moods.  Sometimes they’re clean-shaven; sometimes they’re bearded.  Their hair length varies.  The differences color the underlying chaos around the search for identity of those dealing with PTSD.

[brightcove videoID=4058027763001 playerID=3895222314001 height=600 width=800]

Others are featured, as well.  Grey’s ex-girlfriend singularly comes to represent the toll of PTSD borne by those around the afflicted.  She’s beautiful and articulate, and as she speaks from a couch with Grey seated next to her, a pathos emerges that is intense and heartbreaking.  You can tell she loves him, but they’ll never be together again.  Too much has been said during the darkest days.  For his part, his expression evinces resignation for the beast inside of him that he is still taming, as he’ll have to for the rest of his life.  The sadness in his eyes is that of a werewolf warning those who would attempt to get close to stay away lest they be torn to shreds in the dark of night.

Floyd’s brother tells of the letter Floyd wrote explaining why he couldn’t be physically present to be the best man at his wedding.  As the brother reads the letter he begins to weep, which causes Floyd to weep as well.  The image of the tough special operator breaking down is very powerful.

But perhaps the most powerful scene is the one featuring Grey participating in a special operations challenge in Las Vegas.  He’s back in his element, wearing the gear he wore so many missions ago, a member of a team of elite warriors bonded by a clear-cut mission.

The team cleanly makes its way through a series of obstacles, but at the last one – where they must each climb a 15-foot rope to ring a bell – Grey falters.  His wounded hand won’t hold him.  He tries again and again, each attempt increasingly pathetic.  It’s hard to watch.  He finally gives up.

His teammates pat him on the back and put on the good face, but Grey is obviously crushed by his failure – something that goes against every molecule of his special operations DNA.

Grey convinces his teammates (and the camera crew, as Waugh revealed at the LA screening) to get up early the following day and try again before the event organizers tear down the obstacle course.  This time Grey rings the bell.  The scene captures the triumph of that day and, in a broader sense, the will to triumph over PTSD.

“Dealing with PTSD is a constant process,” Floyd said.  “To do this right we had to rip the scab off and show the wound.”

“We know we’re not the worst case,” Grey added.  “This is our story – just about us – and we’re putting ourselves out there not to compare but hopefully to coax people into sharing.”

Find out more about “That Which I Love Destroys Me,” including dates and places for the nationwide tour, here.

Buy the movie on iTunes here.

NOW: This Group Works To Salvage Good From The Ultimate Tragedy Of War 

OR: 7 Criminals Who Messed With The Wrong Veterans 

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Vietnam veterans can get a rare cancer from this parasite

A half century after serving in Vietnam, hundreds of veterans have a new reason to believe they may be dying from a silent bullet — test results show some men may have been infected by a slow-killing parasite while fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia.


The Department of Veterans Affairs this spring commissioned a small pilot study to look into the link between liver flukes ingested through raw or undercooked fish and a rare bile duct cancer. It can take decades for symptoms to appear. By then, patients are often in tremendous pain, with just a few months to live.

Of the 50 blood samples submitted, more than 20 percent came back positive or bordering positive for liver fluke antibodies, said Sung-Tae Hong, the tropical medicine specialist who carried out the tests at Seoul National University in South Korea.

“It was surprising,” he said, stressing the preliminary results could include false positives and that the research is ongoing.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in combat on Hill 875 during the Vietnam War (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Northport VA Medical Center spokesman Christopher Goodman confirmed the New York facility collected the samples and sent them to the lab. He would not comment on the findings, but said everyone who tested positive was notified.

Gerry Wiggins, who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969, has already lost friends to the disease. He was among those who got the call.

“I was in a state of shock,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be me.”

The 69-year-old, who lives in Port Jefferson Station, New York, didn’t have any symptoms when he agreed to take part in the study, but hoped his participation could help save lives. He immediately scheduled further tests, discovering he had two cysts on his bile duct, which had the potential to develop into the cancer, known as cholangiocarcinoma. They have since been removed and — for now — he’s doing well.

Also Read: This is the parting wisdom of a Marine dying of cancer

Though rarely found in Americans, the parasites infect an estimated 25 million people worldwide, mostly in Asia.

Endemic in the rivers of Vietnam, the worms can easily be wiped out with a handful of pills early on, but left untreated, they can live for decades without making their hosts sick. Over time, swelling and inflammation of the bile duct can lead to cancer. Jaundice, itchy skin, weight loss, and other symptoms appear only when the disease is in its final stages.

The VA study, along with a call by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York for broader research into liver flukes and cancer-stricken veterans, began after The Associated Press raised the issue in a story last year. The reporting found that about 700 veterans with cholangiocarcinoma have been seen by the VA in the past 15 years. Less than half of them submitted claims for service-related benefits, mostly because they were not aware of a possible connection to Vietnam. The VA rejected 80 percent of the requests, but decisions often appeared to be haphazard or contradictory, depending on what desks they landed on, the AP found.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. | Photo via Flickr

The number of claims submitted reached 60 in 2017, up from 41 last year. Nearly three out of four of those cases were also denied, even though the government posted a warning on its website this year saying veterans who ate raw or under-cooked freshwater fish while in Vietnam might be at risk. It stopped short of urging them to get ultrasounds or other tests, saying there was currently no evidence the vets had higher infection rates than the general population.

“We are taking this seriously,” said Curt Cashour, a spokesman with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “But until further research, a recommendation cannot be made either way.”

Veteran Mike Baughman, 65, who was featured in the previous AP article, said his claim was granted early this year after being denied three times. He said the approval came right after his doctor wrote a letter saying his bile duct cancer was “more likely than not” caused by liver flukes from the uncooked fish he and his unit in Vietnam ate when they ran out of rations in the jungle. He now gets about $3,100 a month and says he’s relieved to know his wife will continue to receive benefits after he dies. But he remains angry that other veterans’ last days are consumed by fighting the same government they went to war for as young men.

Also Read: VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

“In the best of all worlds, if you came down with cholangiocarcinoma, just like Agent Orange, you automatically were in,” he said, referring to benefits granted to veterans exposed to the toxic defoliant sprayed in Vietnam. “You didn’t have to go fighting.”

Baughman, who is thin and weak, recently plucked out “Country Roads” on a bass during a jam session at his cabin in West Virginia. He wishes the VA would do more to raise awareness about liver flukes and to encourage Vietnam veterans to get an ultrasound that can detect inflammation.

“Personally, I got what I needed, but if you look at the bigger picture with all these other veterans, they don’t know what necessarily to do,” he said. “None of them have even heard of it before. A lot of them give me that blank stare like, ‘You’ve got what?'”

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This 12-year-old boy became a Navy hero in World War II

Calvin Graham was the youngest of seven children of a poor Texas farm family and because of his abusive stepfather, he and one of his older brothers decided to move out. Calvin supported himself by selling newspapers and delivering telegrams on weekends and after school, but he was curious about something more: the Navy.


He was just eleven when he first thought of lying about his age to join the Navy. The world was in the midst of the second world war and some of his cousins had recently died in battles. Graham made his decision. The question was how to do it.

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He started by shaving, as he thought it would ultimately make him look older. (And, note: Contrary to popular belief, shaving has no effect on hair growth rates or thickness) More effectively, he had his friends forge his mother’s signature for consent, stole a notaries’ stamp, and told his mom he was going to visit relatives for a while.

Graham later recalled that the day he showed up to enlist, “I stood 5’2 and weighed 125 pounds, but I wore one of my older brothers’ clothes and we all practiced talking deep.”

Despite all his efforts, there was one problem- a dentist who helped screen the new recruits. Graham stated, “I knew he’d know how young I was by my teeth… when the dentist kept saying I was 12, I said I was 17. Finally, he said he didn’t have time to mess with me and he let me go.”

On August 15, 1942, Calvin Graham was sworn into the Navy. He was twelve years, four months and twelve days old, the youngest individual to enlist in the U.S. military since the Civil War and the youngest member of the U.S. military during WWII.

After spending time in San Diego for basic training, he sailed aboard the USS South Dakota as a loader for a 40 mm anti-aircraft gun, a “green boy” from Texas who would soon become not only the youngest to serve, but the nation’s youngest decorated war hero.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
The USS South Dakota engages a Japanese torpedo bomber during the Battle of Santa Cruz October 26, 1942. Photo: US Navy

The South Dakota, known also as “Battleship X” during the war, was a destroyer under the command of Captain Thomas Leigh Gatch that was heading to Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. On the night of November 14, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal, the battleship was hit forty-seven times by Japanese fire. One explosion threw Calvin down three decks of stairs. He was seriously wounded by shrapnel that tore through his face and knocked out his front teeth. Additionally, he suffered severe burns, but in spite of his injuries he tried to rescue fellow Navy sailors from danger.

I took belts off the dead and made tourniquets for the living and gave them cigarettes and encouraged them all night. It was a long night. It aged me… I didn’t do any complaining because half the ship was dead.

For his efforts during the battle and aiding other soldiers, despite his own injuries, he received the Bronze Star as well as a Purple Heart.

However, the distinction did not last long. A year after serving in the Battle of Guadalcanal, while his battleship was being repaired, Graham’s mother learned of what her son had been up to and informed the Navy of his real age.

Rather than simply releasing him from his service, Graham was thrown in the brig for almost three months. It would seem the plan was to keep him there until his service time was up, but he was ultimately released when his sister threatened to go to the media and tell them about her brother’s imprisonment, despite his distinguished service. Graham was released, his medals stripped from him, and then dishonorably discharged, which is significant as it made it so he couldn’t receive any disability benefits, despite his injuries.

At only thirteen, Calvin Graham was a “baby vet” who quickly found he didn’t fit in at school anymore. Once again he chose a life of an adult, getting married and fathering a child at fourteen, while working as a welder in a Houston shipyard.

At seventeen, he got divorced and enlisted in the Marines. Three years later, he broke his back when he fell from a pier. This unfortunate event ended his service career and left him selling magazine subscriptions for a living.

For the remainder of his life, Graham fought for both medical benefits and a clean service record. In 1978, he was finally given an honorable discharge (approved by President Jimmy Carter), and all his medals except the Purple Heart were reinstated. He was also awarded $337 in back pay but was denied health benefits except for disability status for one of his two teeth he lost in the Navy during WWII.

In 1988, his story came to public attention through the TV movie, Too Young the Hero. The publication of his story pushed the government to review his case and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that granted Graham full disability benefits, increased his back pay to $4917 and allowed him $18,000 for past medical bills incurred due to injuries sustained while a member of the military. However, this was contingent on receipts for the medical services. Unfortunately, some of the doctors who treated him had already died and many medical bills were lost, so he only received $2,100 to cover his former medical expenses.

Calvin Graham died of heart failure in November of 1992, at his home in Fort Worth, Texas. At the time of his death, all of his decorations were reinstated with the exception of the Purple Heart. Two years later, his Purple Heart was reinstated and presented to his widow at a special ceremony. He also received the National Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze Battle Star device and the WWII Victory Medal.

More from Today I Found Out

This article originally appeared at Today I Found Out. Copyright 2015. Like Today I Found Out on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia condemns British plan for new military bases

Moscow has condemned Britain’s plans to build new military bases in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, saying Russia is prepared to take retaliatory measures if its own interests or those of its allies are threatened.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson told the Sunday Telegraph in December 2018 that Britain could establish the new military bases “within the next couple of years” after the country leaves the European Union.


Williamson said the expansion would be part of a strategy for Britain to become a “true global player” after Brexit.

He did not specify where the bases might be built. But the newspaper reported that options included Singapore or Brunei near the South China Sea and Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson.

Speaking on Jan. 11, 2019, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Maria Zakharova said Williamson’s comments were baffling and warned that such plans could destabilize world affairs.

“Of course, Britain like any other country is independent when it comes to its military construction plans. But against the backdrop of overall rising military and political tensions in the world…statements about the desire to build up its military presence in third countries are counterproductive, destabilizing, and possibly of a provocational nature,” she was quoted as saying by TASS.

Russia has military bases in several former Soviet countries. It also operates military facilities in Syria and Vietnam.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

Following the deaths of four US soldiers in Niger earlier in October, several questions remain unanswered, spurring lawmakers to press the White House and Pentagon for answers on the circumstances surrounding the incident.


Leading this charge is Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who says he may seek a subpoena to receive information on the attack, according to CNN.

On Wednesday, McCain said that the White House was not being upfront about the Niger ambush, and said he would like the information his committee “deserves and needs.”

“I haven’t heard anything about it, to tell you the truth, except that they were killed,” McCain said in a Daily Beast report on Tuesday.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Senator John McCain. Image from Arizona Office of the Governor.

Although the Special Forces unit involved in the ambush and US Africa Command (AFRICOM) — the combatant command in charge of operations in Niger — are conducting investigations, McCain indicated he may want details before the results.

“That’s not how the system works,” McCain said to CNN. “We’re coequal branches of government. We should be informed at all times.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis was reportedly also dismayed by the dearth of information surrounding the ambush, but there was no sign that he was going to rush the investigation process multiple officials told CNN.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon claims it will keep the Armed Services Committees “up to date” on the ambush: “We will work with Sen. McCain and his staff to make sure they get everything that they need,” the Pentagon reportedly said on Thursday.

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

One of the primary questions that circulated in news reports has been why President Donald Trump had not addressed the casualties or the circumstances behind the ambush.

Following initial media reports of the ambush, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement saying that Trump had been informed of the incident. However, it wasn’t until 12 days later after the reports that Trump made his first public acknowledgment of the ambush.

A statement of condolence was reportedly drafted by a staffer from the National Security Council for Trump to immediately deliver following the ambush. But Trump never made the statement that was circulated around the Defense Department and the National Security Council. Instead, he delivered a speech that has been widely criticized for making false claims about his predecessors’ actions after a service member’s death and was condemned by a Gold Star father.

McCain also questioned why US troops were operating in that specific area of the Niger-Mali border without sufficient resources. French officials were frustrated with the US troops — who were there to establish relations with local leaders — because they acted on limited intelligence and didn’t have an emergency plan, a diplomat familiar with the incident told Reuters. France, a key US ally in the region, has a military presence that includes attack helicopters and Mirage jets, according to CNN.

While Special Forces troops have operated under AFRICOM’s purview for years, intelligence and contingency plans still remain the backbone of any mission US forces undertake. The investigation into the ambush — which spans the Special Forces group, AFRICOM, and the Pentagon as well as French and Nigerien forces — will likely take longer, given the broad scope of the mission.

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