Veteran and fitness expert Max Philisaire shows how to Max Your Body with typewriter pull-ups.
The crew of a U.S. Navy helicopter reported that the crew of an Iranian vessel pointed a machine gun at them earlier this week.
The incident is the latest in a series of threatening actions by the theocratic regime.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter was vectored in on the small boats after they were attempting to shadow the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). While the helicopter was near the boats, crew members pointed an unidentified machine gun at the helo.
American and Iranian forces have clashed before, most notably during Operation Praying Mantis in April, 1988. This past January, Iran seized 10 sailors after an engine failure occurred on a riverine boat. A female sailor was recognized for her courageous actions during the incident, which included the detention of the Navy personnel for roughly 15 hours.
The MH-60R is a multi-mission helicopter that operates off surface combatants and carriers. It has a top speed of 180 nautical miles per hour, a crew of three, and can carry Mk 46, Mk 50 or Mk 54 anti-submarine torpedoes or AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. The helicopter can remain aloft for three hours.
Iran has a large force of around 180 small patrol boats. Often armed with heavy machine guns and small arms, these vessels were used during the Iran-Iraq War to attack supertankers. The most notorious of these patrol boats was the Boghammer, a Swedish design that can carry .50-caliber machine guns, a ZU-23 twin 23mm AA gun, or a 12-round rocket launcher.
The Air Force has given Boeing a $20.9 million contract to procure the GBU-57 massive ordnance penetrator — a bomb designed to destroy hardened underground targets like those found in North Korea or Iran.
The announcement does not disclose how many bombs were ordered, but it did say the work is expected to be done by July 31, 2020. Boeing is to get the total amount of the contract at the time of award.
The 30,000-pound GBU-57 is the US’s largest nonnuclear bomb. A GPS-guided bunker-buster, it is “designed to accomplish a difficult, complicated mission of reaching and destroying our adversaries’ weapons of mass destruction located in well-protected facilities,” the Air Force fact sheet for the weapon states.
Also read: This bomb is heavier than the MOAB
That includes fortified positions and underground targets, like bunkers or tunnels. It is designed for operational use by the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, which can carry two at a time, but hasn’t been used in combat, and its deployments, if any, are not known.
‘Hard and deeply buried targets’
Under a 2011 contract cited by The Drive, the Air Force paid Boeing $28 million for eight of the bombs, as well as for additional parts and for a redesign of the B-2’s bomb bay. But the latest order comes after the Pentagon successfully tested and deployed an upgraded version, the GBU-57D/B, which may have a different unit cost than previous models.
The latest upgrade, the fourth for the bomb, “improved the performance against hard and deeply buried targets,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Bloomberg in January 2018. The spokeswoman said the upgrade had been completed and the current inventory was being retrofitted.
Few details about the upgrade have been released, but, according to The Drive, it likely includes a modified fuse, which is responsible for detonating the weapon. The fuse is a complicated component that needs to function with precision after a fall from high altitude and the shock of burrowing through earth or other barriers.
The Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation said in its fiscal year 2017 report, that the GBU-57 had successfully completed several tests at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico over the past year, dropped from B-2s on “representative targets” that “demonstrated effectiveness of the Enhanced Threat Response (ETR)-IV weapon modifications.”
A weapon that ‘boggles the mind’
The GBU-57 is 20.5 feet long, 31.5 inches in diameter, and carries more than 5,300 pounds of explosives. Much of the remaining weight is a high-performance steel casing that, along with its narrow diameter, is meant to help the weapon burrow into the ground. Some estimate it could penetrate up to 200 feet of earth before detonating.
“What is exciting is when we release our 30,000-pound MOP, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator,” B-2 pilot Lt. Col. Justin “Vapor” Grieve told The Kansas City Star. “When you release that, you can feel it. The plane will actually raise up about 100 feet, and then it’ll settle back down. It’s pretty cool. It’s fun.”
A former Pentagon official who saw footage of GBU-57 tests during 2014 and 2015 told Politico in 2015 that the weapon “boggles the mind.”
Those tests came amid a period of heightened tension with Iran, which developed an extensive underground network of labs and other facilities involved in nuclear-weapons development.
More recently, US tensions with North Korea — which has an extensive network of underground tunnels, command-and-control bunkers, and missile and nuclear facilities — have again raised the possibility the GBU-57 could used over a battlefield.
In fall 2017, B-2 bombers and other aircraft were heard during an exercise over Missouri that appeared to simulate airstrikes on airports in the state, according to a recording obtained by The Aviationist.
During one night of the exercises, an aircraft involved radioed a message about a “possible DPRK leadership relocation site,” whose coordinates pointed to a Jefferson City airport hanger. It’s not clear whether the use of unsecured radio channels was a mistake or done on purpose.
Three B-2 bombers arrived in Guam in January 2018 in what the Air Force called a planned deployment.
Iran and North Korea are not the only countries that have developed extensive underground infrastructure. China’s strategic missile forces have a 3,100-mile network of tunnels under mountains in the northern part of the country. According to a 2009 Jamestown Foundation report, Chinese state media refer to the complex as an “underground Great Wall.”
Fighter pilots have a reputation for playing very hard — and there’s a bit of a reason for that. They risk their lives every time they’re airborne, as the recent, tragic crash of an F/A-18F Super Hornet off Key West shows.
In the event of an emergency, the crew usually tries to eject but, sometimes, that simply isn’t possible. The only option is to try and bring back a damaged plane. The problem is, when a plane is damaged, it may be leaking extremely flammable liquids. The military has specially trained firefighters on hand ready to react to these crashes, to put out fires, and to recover the most important things in the plane: the crew. The good news for those brave personnel who race into action, risking their lives to extract crews from crashed planes is that combat airframes are typically built with some type of escape mechanism.
For instance, if you get a close look at the exterior of an A-10 cockpit, aside from information about the pilot and crew chief, you’ll notice a few other labels. One is prominently marked, “Rescue.” This is a mechanism designed to help raise the canopy should the pilot be unable to due to damage or injury.
Even still, you can’t just rush in to immediately extract the crew. There are many dangers that need to be addressed. A warfighting jet has extremely flammable fuel coursing through its veins and is typically loaded up with devastating ordnance — any spark could lead to a disaster. Even ejection seats are a potential hazard to consider when extracting crew (the pilot is literally sitting on a rocket when he flies a modern fighter).
The techniques for getting crews out of different types of planes can vary — what works to extricate an F-15 pilot might not be a good idea for a B-1B crew. Watch the video below to see how ground personnel are trained to rescue the crew of an F-4 Phantom.
The Lancers are coming back.
B-1B bomber aircrews anticipate returning to the Middle East in coming months and have been training for the evolving battle spaces in Iraq and Syria, as well as Afghanistan, according to officials at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.
“We’re working real hard inside of our training network,” said Col. Karl Fischbach, commander of the 7th Operations Group. “The ranges that we have were set up really well to simulate the environment, and we’re going to attend the next Red Flag [in January] and Green Flag [exercises] in the [upcoming] year, and really focus on what we need to get ready for the CentCom operation.”
Military.com sat down with a variety of leaders from Air Force Global Strike Command’s 7th Bomb Wing — responsible for producing combat ready aircrews in the Air Force‘s only B-1B formal training unit — during a trip to the base, and took a ride Dec. 19 in the B-1B over training ranges in New Mexico.
“We’ve always had a pivotal role in what our Air Force is doing — Dyess Air Force Base has always been right there,” Col. Brandon Parker, 7th Bomb Wing commander, said during a roundtable interview.
The non-nuclear-capable aircraft, known as the “Bone,” left the Central Command area of responsibility in early 2016, and was replaced by B-52 Stratofortress bombers at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, that April.
Officials at the time said the B-1B’s return stateside was crucial to upgrade the fleet with the latest Integrated Battle Station, known as the IBS upgrade, which so far has been incorporated into more than half of the 62 total aircraft.
Specifically, the 9th Bomb Squadron here hasn’t been back to CentCom since February 2015, according to Lt. Col. Erick Lord, the squadron’s commander.
Rotations for the long-range, large payload bomber between the Pacific and Middle East could be fluid: Bomber units from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, (currently assigned to Pacific Command) may rotate into the Middle East, while crews from Dyess take over their mission in the Pacific, or vice versa.
It would also mark a significant shift in having a single platform in two theaters, spreading the Lancer fleet during a time when the Air Force finds itself busier than ever.
“Every one squadron, they live to go do what we’re going to do even if it means being away from home — they want to deploy. It’s what we do, especially if you’re in a fighter or bomber [unit],” Lord said. “We’re the smallest Air Force we’ve ever been, and the demand for airpower continues to increase, and the two don’t match.”
Officials would not speak to how this changes, or splits the mission, for the B-52 — capable of carrying nuclear weapons — going forward.
PREPARE FOR EVERY UNKNOWN
Even as the air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria steadily winds down, it still requires “surgical strikes,” or precision-guided bombs on target as the battlespace continues to shrink, said Maj. Charles “Astro” Kilchrist, chief of training for the 9th.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has increased airstrikes in Afghanistan.
Empowered with more independence and authority under the Trump administration, the U.S. military this year has turned to a number of technologies for the war in Afghanistan, from the largest conventional bomb to the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.
It’s also given ground commanders more authority to execute missions beyond self-defense against Taliban fighters.
For B-1 crews, being involved in both Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel means they prepare for everything and anything, even the unexpected call of a bomb run.
“It’s always really difficult to get into the fog and friction of war,” Fischbach said. “But our instructors built some pretty varsity scenarios to get our experience level and prep ready to go.”
Lord added, “We’ll train to the most stringent [rules of engagement] and then we’ll develop training scenarios that walk people down the rabbit hole, that force them to make mistakes” so they can be identified before they’re made.
“Because busting ROE will get you sent home,” he said.
Kilchrist, also a B-1B pilot, said that aside from the experiences acquired at Red Flag — an integrated, multi-force training game within a simulated combat environment — and Green Flag — a coalition exercise consisting of close-air support and air-to-surface training — programs to get prepped and ready for combat have been upgraded and modified.
“We’re tailoring our training to accomplish those things … and we’re integrating more than ever with F-16 units out of Fort Worth … to do mission commander upgrades, with [Joint Terminal Attack Controllers] from all around the country,” he said.
“We’re really bringing all these things into the fold to increase our aperture for training and give us the best possible simulation of what combat in different theaters are going to be like,” Kilchrist said.
That includes the Pacific, he noted, where B-1s took over for the B-52s in 2016, marking the first time the B-1B has been housed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, since 2006.
“What my job is to show the new guys, ‘Hey, we can go to Afghanistan tomorrow, or we can go to PaCoM tomorrow, but you’ve got to be ready for both,’ ” he said.
Parker, speaking broadly to the Bone’s mission set, added, “At the end of the day, we got to be able to range targets, and do it in a way that’s very lethal. Variety of weapons, different sort of battlespaces … we’re making sure we’re ready.”
Nobody wants to get lost out in the wilderness as snow falls at a rapid rate and darkness begins to settle in. Hell, it’s scary enough getting turned around while your walking in downtown Los Angeles at 3 a.m. and the streets are littered with homeless people. (We’re only kidding — sort of.) If you get trapped out in the great unknown, hopefully, you have some survival equipment with you already. But let’s say your compass is broken, for one reason or another. Don’t worry, we can fashion an alternate, magnet-powered one in no time. It’s actually pretty easy!
First, check in your survival kit for needle or pin. Pull that out, because you’ll need it. Next, if you have a radio on you (and it’s not proving more useful than a compass), pull out some of the wire and the battery pack. Wrap some easy-to-find paper around the pin, then follow that up by wrapping the wire around that pin. The paper wrap will insulate the pin from the electric current.
Hold (or tape) the ends of the wire to the positive side and negative side of the battery. The needle will heat up, but that’s normal. It’s just science.
Once your pin is magnetized, disconnect the wire and pull it out from the paper. Place the needle on a leaf — or something close to that — as it floats on the surface of a small body of water.
If you did all those steps correctly, the floating pin should point to magnetic north. Now, carry your new field-made compass with you so you don’t get lost again.
Make sure and check out
Black Scout Survival‘s video below to watch a complete breakdown of how to make a field compass.
Okay, let’s imagine you’re going through your stuff to see what you want to donate to charity. First, there’re the old clothes that you haven’t worn in a while. Then there’s that kettlebell sitting in the corner from your last effort to get in shape. And finally, there’s the grenade launcher…
Don’t laugh — a grenade launcher was donated to a Florida Goodwill shop, according to ABC7.com. When the employees realized what they had, they called the police. Explosive ordnance disposal experts rendered the situation safe.
A spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office told WATM that what had been donated was “an airsoft grenade launcher used primarily for paintball.” The spokesman, Dave Bristow, admitted that he had no idea what the launcher’s ultimate fate would be. A UPI report indicated the launcher resembled the M203 grenade launcher.
Aviation ElectronicÕs Technician 3rd Class Awail Hassen loads a high explosive point detonated 40MM grenade round into an M203 grenade launcher during a live-fire exercise on the fantail of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gary Prill/Released)
However, this isn’t the only time armaments have surfaced where you might not expect them to. One former Marine recounted how the staff of Tierrasanta Elementary School, which opened in 1974, ended up on a first-name basis with the members of various local explosive ordnance units. The school had been built on an impact area in the former Camp Elliot, where the 2nd Marine Division had been training. Thirty years after the war, kids would find unexploded bazooka rounds and grenades and bring them in for show-and-tell.
The list doesn’t stop there. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew unearthed a number of Civil War-era cannonballs. Army explosive ordnance disposal personnel from Joint Base Lewis-McChord also had to deal with Civil War munitions in 2015. That same year, Air Force EOD personnel from Mountain Home Air Force Base dealt with a 150-year-old battlefield souvenir that became a family heirloom.
Uncovered UXO has been far more common in Europe, with significant finds cropping up in both the United Kingdom and Germany in 2017. BALTOPS naval exercises have repeatedly uncovered UXO during mine countermeasures exercises in 2009, 2011, and 2012.
Should you come across UXO, a slight modification of the four rules of the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program makes sense: Stop, don’t touch, get away, and call police.
Mark Semos goes over many of the new products offered by his company Malterra with We Are The Mighty at SHOT Show 2015.
In the early evening of April 24, 1943, Coast Guardsmen braved leaping flames and saved New York City from what could have been the largest man-made explosion in history to that point, a blast that would’ve wiped out sections of the harbor and, potentially, large swaths of the larger city and parts of New Jersey. Instead, just one ship was lost and zero lives.
Painting of the El Estero fire by Austin Dwyer.
(Austin Dwyer via U.S. Coast Guard)
While all the other branches rib the Coast Guard for being a band of puddle pirates, it’s important when really looking at its history to remember that, first, they actually have conducted a ton of deepwater missions. And, more importantly for this discussion, the shallow waters of the world are home to vital and dangerous missions that the Coast Guard does well.
The Coast Guard often takes on a large role during conflicts to help to ensure that war materiel is safely moved from industrial powerhouses in the U.S. to theaters of war overseas. During World War II, this included loading many of the Liberty Ships and other vessels that plied the Atlantic and Pacific.
But logistic expediencies created real hazards. It made sense in terms of speed and efficiency to move all the munitions, vehicles, and other vital supplies to a handful of ports and load it on ships from there. But doing so meant that strings of railroad cars and ships filled with explosive materials would be stored right next to each other.
On Saturday, April 24, Coast Guardsmen working on explosive loading details finished loading 1,365 tons of ammo onto the Panamanian freighter El Estero. But before they could even get fully aweigh, smoke started to come up out of the ship’s passageways.
Investigations would later reveal that the boiler had likely been leaking fuel oil into bilge water in the compartment below it, and a boiler flashback ignited the pooled fuel and started a fire. But once the fire was going, it would be able to boil oil to give itself more fuel and heat up the ammo until it started to explode.
The engine room crew immediately started fighting the flames with handheld extinguishers, but it wasn’t enough, so officers went to the Coast Guard barracks for volunteers. Could someone, anyone, please climb onto the burning ship, descend into its belly, and fight flames in the hopes of it not blowing up?
A graphic tried to tackle the level of damage if the ship had exploded. This high traffic area would have made an explosion of the El Estero especially catastrophic.
(New York Daily News illustration via U.S. Coast Guard)
But the Coast Guardsmen knew what was at stake. The loading docks were always filled with ammo and fuel and, on April 24, there were two other nearly full ships nearby, there were railroad cars loaded with ammunition waiting to unload, and there was a fuel farm that served the departing ships. A detonation on the El Estero would likely trigger a chain reaction.
And explosions like this had happened before. Before the U.S. joined World War I, American firms sold arms to each side under equal terms, but British buyers were able to secure more credit while German ones were unlikely to even be able to get their purchases to the fighting thanks to a British blockade. So, German saboteurs blew up the shipping facilities at Black Tom Island in New Jersey, killing at least five people, destroying over million in property, and partially excavating the island.
Another World War I explosion, this one on a ship with 5,000 tons of TNT in Halifax Harbor in Canada, had killed 1,500 people leveling a large section of Halifax, Canada, in 1917. The combined loads of the El Estero and nearby ships and trains, somewhere around 5,000 total tons of explosives, dwarfed the size of the Halifax explosion. And an El Estero explosion would’ve been on the doorstep of New York City and could’ve flattened everything for five miles around.
Coast Guardsmen on a fireboat. Small vessels like these assisted in controlling the El Estero fire.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
And so 60 Coast Guardsmen, most of them in dress uniforms while awaiting their Easter Day liberty passes, rushed to the ship. New York firefighters arrived soon after with a firefighting ship, and they began passing hoses into the holds of the El Estero, but it was Coast Guardsmen who descended into the smoke and fire.
Survivors would describe a heat that overwhelmed them. The hot deck plates warmed and then burned their feet, paint peeled off the walls, and the heat continued to build. The Coast Guard officer in charge was Lt.j.g. Francis McCausland. It was his first day of work at the station.
But he was able to get tugboats to move the other ammo ships away and ordered Army soldiers to shift as many of the train cars out of range as they could move. By the time that additional fire trucks and Coast Guard fireboats arrived at 5:35, the fiercely burning El Estero was largely isolated, but still surrounded by the city, fuel stores, and warehouses of ammo.
The Coast Guard seemed to get the upper hand on the ship for a few minutes as the oily black smoke gave way to yellow and white streaks of flames, a signal that streams of water were hitting the major source of the fire. But the oily smoke returned, and the heat continued to rise.
About 40 volunteers were ordered off the ship, and a crew of 20 stayed onboard to try and keep the fire contained as long as possible while the ship was towed to a safe detonation point. Those 20 passed their personal effects to the men ordered off, some of whom wanted to stay and keep working. These included an engaged man who had to personally be ordered off the decks.
The further the ship was out of the harbor, the more lives would be saved in New York City and in the surrounding harbor from the pending explosion. Coast Guardsmen shoved anti-aircraft shells from the decks into the water and kept directing the water from the tugs onto the hot ammo as they traveled.
The El Estero rests mostly below the waves.
Miraculously, their work was enough, and the ship was towed out as the nearby cities prepared for an explosion that never came. Fuel barrels on the decks popped and boomed open, but the burnt and exhausted Coast Guardsmen onboard were eventually able to build up enough water in the ship to sink it.
(The ship was designed so that it could only be scuttled from one spot that was directly underneath the burning boilers, so the Coast Guardsmen could only sink it by flooding it.)
Once the hull of the ship was under the waves, the threat of a full ammo explosion was largely dissipated. Firefighters kept water pouring onto the still burning superstructure for hours until, finally, the threat was gone. No one had died in a crisis that was later found to have threatened as many as one million residents with death, injury, or extreme property damage.
All the Coast Guardsmen involved were given special medals for their efforts, and the U.S. government overhauled ammo-handling procedures to move dangerous operations away from population centers. This would save lives in June 1944, when an ammo ship with 4,600 tons of ammunition exploded northeast of San Francisco, killing 300 sailors on the ship and nearby, but leaving the city untouched.
Days after their arrival in Venezuela triggered a verbal duel between Washington and Moscow, two Russian strategic bombers carried out drills over the Caribbean Sea, Russia’s defense ministry said Dec 12, 2018.
The two Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela “conducted a flight in the airspace over the Caribbean Sea. The flight lasted for about 10 hours,” the ministry’s press service said, according to state-media outlet Tass.
“In certain parts of the route, the flight of Russian bombers was conducted together with Su-30 and F-16 fighter jets of the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Military Aviation. The pilots from the two countries practiced air cooperation when fulfilling air tasks,” it added.
As with the flight from Russia to Venezuela, the flight over the Caribbean was “in strict accordance with [international] rules of using airspace,” Tass said.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It is not the first time Tu-160 supersonic bombers have been to Venezuela. They visited in 2013 and in 2008. The earlier occasion came during a period of heightened tensions stoked by Russia’s brief war with Georgia that year.
The latest trip, which comes during heightened tensions over Russia’s meddling the 2016 US election and recent clash with Ukraine, prompted sharp words from all sides.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also chastised Caracas and Moscow, saying on Dec. 10, 2018, that people in Russia and Venezuela “should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”
The Pentagon also chimed in, saying that while the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sought visits from Russian aircraft, the US was working with “regional partners and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuelans fleeing their crisis-racked nation.”
The Organization of American States also expressed “the greatest concern” about the visit, saying it was not authorized by Venezuela’s national assembly, as required by the constitution.
Venezuela and Russia responded in kind.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Pompeo’s remarks “rather undiplomatic” and “totally inappropriate.”
Arreaza also said it was “outrageous” for the US to question Venezuela’s defense cooperation with other countries after President Donald Trump “threatened us publicly with a military intervention,” referring to Trump’s references to the possibility of military action to oust Maduro.
On Dec. 11, 2018, Diosdado Cabello — a powerful Venezuelan official who has been accused of involvement in drug trafficking and been sanctioned by the US — mocked the “poor opposition leadership,” who he said had called for foreign military intervention but became frenzied at the arrival of the Russian bombers.
Venezuelan politician Diosdado Cabello.
“One thing is to call for the devil and other is to see him coming,” Cabello said.
The Trump administration has cast Venezuela as the US’s most significant foe in the region and sought to isolate the Maduro government, largely through sanctions on Maduro and officials around him.
The US and other countries in the region have condemned Maduro for ongoing political strife and economic deterioration in his country — turmoil that has prompted some 3 million Venezuelans to flee, straining resources and prompting backlash in the neighboring countries that have received many of them.
On Dec. 11, 2018, after speaking with Russian officials, the White House said the bombers currently in Venezuela would depart on Dec. 14, 2018 and return to Russia.
However, according to an unverified report in Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, cited by Tass and by Reuters, a longer-term Russian military presence in Venezuela has been discussed, in part as a response to US plans to exit the Cold War-era Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty.
Russian officials wanted to deploy “strategic aircraft” to a Venezuelan base in the Caribbean, to which Maduro not object, according to the report. They could go a base on La Orchila island, northeast of Caracas. (Russia said at the end of 2014 it would conduct long-range air patrols in the Caribbean.)
A military expert quoted by the paper said such a deployment would remove the need for those aircraft to return to Russia and for aerial refueling during “patrol missions in the Americas.” The aircraft could conduct missions in the region and be replaced on a rotating basis, the expert said.
While Venezuelan law prohibits foreign military bases, military aircraft could be hosted temporarily, the Russian newspaper said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the run-up to the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, North Korea bombed South Korea Air Flight 858, killing 115 people. Afterward, when South Korea remained steadfast in its desire to host the games, North Korea suddenly offered high-level talks. North Korea toned down its rhetoric and tried to negotiate a co-hosting of the Olympics, but this effort fell apart. This historical lesson is corroborated by one of the Flight 585 bombers who was caught and turned. She is still alive today and recently warned not to trust North Korea’s current dictator Kim Jong-un’s outreach.
The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea is well underway and once again North Korea is attempting to use the games for their ends. North Korea is trying to steal international attention, break sanctions, and drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea.
Kim has already made himself take center-stage, using a dramatic opening to South Korea to force the international spotlight onto himself. Right now, cooperation is his chosen tool of persuasion, as he spoke of reunification, restarted the North Korean-South Korean hotline, and worked to convince South Korea that both Olympic teams should march under one neutral flag. Kim also launched a charm offensive to show he is serious about negotiations. This has included toned-down rhetoric, a smaller military parade, and sending flashy bands to perform at the Olympics. He also sent North Korean pop star and propagandist Hyon Song-wol to find a venue for an orchestra, causing a sensation which bedazzled South Korean journalists and citizens.
In the background of all this distraction, North Korea is preparing to make a show of force. Satellite imagery showed 13,000 troops and 150 vehicles drilling for the small Feb. 8 military parade that featured a new missile system. Kim knows he can have a larger parade to send a message anytime he wants. It remains to be seen if he will engage in any missile or nuclear tests during or right after the Olympics.
North Korea’s appearance of reconciliation also purposefully includes sanctions violations. One of these sending senior North Korean officials to visit South Korea despite being banned from traveling. South Korea will have to decide if it wants to make an exception to the ban, but without certain waivers from the United Nations Security Council, such visits would violate the law. Meanwhile, it is unclear how the US would respond. Already Kim’s less notorious sister, Kim Yo-jong, who is not barred from visiting, has had a successful time charming the South Korean and American media.
Kim will likely get away with several sanctions violations because he will extract them as the cost of North Korean cooperation. Even if they are minor, these violations will test the limits of what others will tolerate. They will make the point that North Korea always has been – and always will be – able to do as it pleases.
Kim Yo-jong shakes hands with President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games #OlympicTruce #Olympics@pyeongchang2018 pic.twitter.com/l1z3FaAh6X— Olympics (@Olympics) February 9, 2018
Finally, Kim would love to see the South Korean-American alliance rendered a dead letter. Although it is a very unlikely goal, Kim attempts to accomplish this by contrasting South Korea’s willingness to talk with the bellicosity of US President Trump. North Korea’s aim is to create the perception that the Koreas are working together against interference by America. When North Korea returns to aggression, Kim will claim that it is America’s fault. By cozying up to South Korea and then walking out, Kim hopes to drive a small wedge into the alliance.
South Korea should talk to Kim, and so should America, mainly to lower the odds of accidental war. However, talks require realizing that nuclear weapons will not be up for serious discussion and that North Korea will continue its pattern of behavior. Sudden shifts to threats place pressure on South Korea and shifts to friendliness invite confused opponents to the bargaining table on Kim’s terms. Wise policymakers anticipate this pattern, rather than being angered or duped by it. To take Kim Jong-un’s overtures at face-value is foolish, and South Korea should assume that the Supreme Leader is after something more than the gold at these Olympics.
From Jarhead to Braveheart, we’ve collected up some of the best military movie quotes.
When most of Afghanistan was under Taliban rule in the late 1990s, the fundamentalist regime drafted a new constitution.
The document was never officially ratified, and it was unclear how much of it was ever implemented before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the extremist Islamic group from power.
But the constitution offers a glimpse into what kind of government the militant organization envisages as it prepares to negotiate a future power-sharing arrangement with the current Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani.
A political settlement made by the disparate Afghan sides is a key component of the peace deal signed by the United States and the Taliban on February 29 that is aimed at ending the 18-year war.
Under the deal, foreign forces will leave Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has agreed to launch direct negotiations with Afghan officials for a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing formula to rule the country.
Since 2001, the Taliban insurgency has vowed to drive out foreign forces and overthrow the Western-backed government in Kabul. But even as it seemingly pursues peace, it been vague about what kind of postwar government it envisions in Afghanistan.
Radical Islamic Seminaries
The Taliban emerged in 1994 following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first surfaced in ultraconservative Islamic seminaries in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees.
The seminaries radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought against the occupying Soviet forces.
The Taliban appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul alone.
The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce their ultraconservative brand of Islam. They captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.
In 1998, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar assembled some 500 Islamic scholars from across the country to draft a new constitution for the country.
After three days of deliberations, the scholars drafted a 14-page document — the first and only attempt by the Taliban to codify its views on power and governance.
‘Intensely Religious Roots’
In the document, power was centralized in the hands of an “Amir ul-Momineen,” or leader of the faithful. This supreme leader was the head of state and had ultimate authority. This was Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s spiritual leader and founder.
The constitution did not describe how such a leader would be selected or for how long he could serve. But it said the supreme leader must be male and a Sunni Muslim.
An Islamic council, handpicked by the supreme leader, would serve as the legislature and implement laws and policy. The government, headed by the head of the council of ministers — a quasi-prime ministerial position — would report to the Islamic council.
Under the constitution, Sunni Islam was to be the official state religion, even though some 15 percent of the population are Shi’ite Muslims.
The document stated that no law could be contrary to Islamic Shari’a law.
The constitution granted freedom of expression, women’s education, and the right of a fair trial, but all within the limits of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Shari’a law.
It is unclear how the document shaped the Taliban’s draconian laws and brutal policies during its Islamic Emirate, the official name of the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
The Taliban banned TV and music, forced men to pray and grow beards, forced women to cover themselves from head to toe, and prevented women and girls from working or going to school. The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engaged in adultery. Executions were common.
Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group, said the draft constitution reflects the “Taliban’s intensely religious roots” and reveals the importance placed on a “centralized authority” for a group that was “founded on a mission of restoring order to the country.”
The document was littered with contradictions and was never ratified. It was republished in 2005, a year after Afghanistan adopted a new constitution. But the document has disappeared from Taliban discourse in recent years.
“That may have been due to internal debate over certain articles, or just reflective of the group’s inclination to remain flexible in its policies, in part perhaps to prevent internal divisions over policy differences,” said Watkins.
‘Monopoly On Power’
As an insurgent group, the Taliban has preserved some of its key principles since it was overthrown in 2001.
Power is still centralized in the hands of an all-powerful leader, who oversees a shadow Taliban government in Afghanistan. The Taliban still enforces its strict interpretation of Islam in areas under its control. And it still regards Shari’a as the supreme law.
But analysts say the past two decades have changed how the Taliban views power.
The Taliban overcame a succession crisis after the death of Mullah Omar, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite its 18-year war against foreign and Afghan government forces.
“The group now operates in a strange combination of increasingly centralizing its control over its own membership, while also allowing it to decentralize in other ways,” said Watkins.
The Taliban has claimed recently that it is not the same group that ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.
In a public statement, the Taliban said it does not want to reestablish its Islamic Emirate and has attempted to project a more reconciliatory image.
But the Taliban’s ambiguity on women’s rights, free speech, and elections — key democratic tenets introduced in Afghanistan since 2001 — has raised fears among many Afghans that the extremist group will attempt to restore its severe regime.
The Taliban said in January 2019 that they are not seeking a “monopoly on power” in a future administration in Afghanistan but are looking for ways to coexist with Afghan institutions, in what was seen as the militants’ most conciliatory statement to date.
A month earlier, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said “if peace comes and the Taliban returns, then our return will not be in the same harsh way as it was in 1996.”
The Taliban said in February 2019 that it is committed to granting women their rights and allowing them to work and go to school, but only as long as they do not violate Islam or Afghan values.
But in the same statement, the Taliban also suggested it wants to curtail the fragile freedoms gained by women, prompting a wave of concern from rights campaigners.
Analysts said the Taliban’s great ambiguity on key issues reflects the divisions within the group.
The Taliban’s political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to an accommodation in assuming power under a peace deal.
Meanwhile, hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan are reluctant to budge on their demands for a full restoration of the Islamic Emirate.
“There is a cocktail of views among the Taliban on power and governance,” said Javid Ahmad, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
“More than anything, Taliban leaders need an intra-Taliban dialogue to settle their conflicting views about a future Afghan state,” Ahmad added.
There are also intense differences among the Afghan political elite.
Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, generally support a centralized state that guarantees their control of the government. But non-Pashtuns, which constitute a majority of the population, believe too much power of the state is left in the hands of one individual, and support decentralization because it would enshrine a more inclusive and equitable distribution of power.
Direct talks between the Taliban and an Afghan negotiation team over a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement were expected to start on March 10.
But the launch of the negotiations has been delayed due to disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners and the formation of Kabul’s negotiating team.
Even when intra-Afghan negotiations begin, many expect them to be complex and protracted, possibly taking years, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and distributing power.
“It will be incredibly difficult to get the two parties to come up with compromises on every issue of governance,” Ahmad said, although he added that there were also reasons for hope.
Both the Taliban’s political vision and the Afghan political system are modeled on the centralization of power and the supreme role of Islam.
Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution prescribes that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” and sometimes appears at odds with more liberal and democratic elements within it.
Power is in the hands of a heavily centralized government. The president has the right to appoint and fire governors, mayors, police chiefs, district governors, and senators and has a tight grip on the country’s finances and how funds are spent and distributed.
“There is much more common ground in the legal and governance systems of these two than many of their supporters, on either side, care to admit,” said Watkins.