New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

The United States has slapped sanctions on a network of businesses that provide financial support to an Iranian paramilitary force that Washington says recruits and trains child soldiers for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The new sanctions, announced on Oct. 16, 2018, are part of the United States’ economic campaign to pressure Iran over what President Donald Trump’s administration describes as its “malign” role in the Middle East, including support for militant groups.

In announcing the sanctions, the Treasury Department said in a statement that a network of some 20 corporations and financial institutions known as the Bonyad Taavon Basij was financing the Basij force, a volunteer paramilitary organization linked to the IRGC.


“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The Basij is involved in violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses within Iran, the statement said.

The militia also recruits and trains fighters for the IRGC’s elite Quds Force, including Iranian children as young as 12, who then deploy to Syria to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, it added.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

President Bashar al-Assad.

The New York-based organization Human Rights Watch has documented how the IRGC has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria alongside Assad’s forces.

Tehran has given Assad crucial support throughout the war in Syria, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.

The Treasury said that the Bonyad Taavon Basij uses shell companies to mask its control over multibillion-dollar business interests in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals, and banking industries.

It sanctioned Bank Mellat, Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Co., and five other investment firms, as well as other entities affiliated with the network.

These include Iran Tractor Manufacturing Co., the Middle East’s largest tractor manufacturer, and Mobarakeh Steel Co., the largest steelmaker in the Middle East and North Africa region, it said.

The sanctions prohibit U.S. citizens from doing business with the network or its affiliates and freeze assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction.

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

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Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes

Over this past weekend, Iran reportedly threatened two U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft operating in international waters. The P-8A Poseidon and the EP-3E Aries II operating in the Persian Gulf received the threatening radio messages but proceeded with their mission.


Iran could very well have the means to shoot down U.S. spy planes. Iran has the SA-10 “Grumble” (also known as the S-300) missile system from Russia and also has developed a home-brew version of the air defense missile called the Bavar 373. Iran has a number of other surface-to-air missiles in service as well as fighters like the MiG-29 and F-4 Phantom.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to the Bureau of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 replicates the characteristics of an MK-54 torpedo. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg L. Davis/Released)

The P-8A Poseidon is a modified version of Boeing’s 737 airliner, slated to replace the legendary P-3 Orion. The P-8 can carry torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and even AIM-9 Sidewinders for self-defense, and it has a range of 4,500 nautical miles. The plane has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, and the Royal Air Force.

The EP-3E Aries II is a modified version of the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that specializes in electronic intelligence, or ELINT. The plane has a range of 3,000 miles. This was the aircraft that was involved in a 2001 incident off Hainan Island that killed the pilot of a Chinese J-8 Finback after a mid-air collision.

The threats come after a series of incidents between Iranian and American naval vessels. Notable incidents included harassment of the Aegis destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) and an incident where the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at Iranian Boghammers. American surveillance aircraft have also faced harassment from Russian and Chinese forces in recent years, including incidents where aircraft have come within ten feet of P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and RC-135 surveillance planes.

In 1988, tensions between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf region led to a series of clashes, including Operation Praying Mantis in April after the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) was mined. During a day of heated clashes, American forces sank a frigate and missile boat and destroyed or damaged other Iranian maritime assets, in exchange for one AH-1 Cobra helicopter. Later that year, an Airbus was shot down during a clash between the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Vincennes and Iranian Boghammers.

The current state of tensions between Iran and the United States raises the specter of another round of clashes. How would an Operation Praying Mantis II go down? It could very well start with a shoot-out between Revolutionary Guard speedboats and a U.S. Navy vessel. After that, we could very well see a sharp series of naval and air clashes, combined with cruise missile strikes on Iranian bases.

If Iran were to launch missiles at Israel in the event of a conflict breaking out (Saddam Hussein tried that gambit in 1991), the entire Middle East could be on the precipice of a conflagration.

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Will the Air Force build more new F-22s?

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
John Dibbs | Lockheed Martin


Several prominent leaders in the national defense community are calling upon the Pentagon to re-start production of the high-speed F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet which began air attacks against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.

Citing Russian and Chinese stealthy fighter jet advances, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne wrote an OPED in the Wall Street Journal describing the current fleet of F-22s as massively insufficient to address today’s fast-changing global threat environment.

The F-22’s recent performance in combat missions for Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria have led observers and analysts to emphasize the importance of the fighter.

The OPED argues that the Pentagon needs to resurrect production of the Lockheed-Boeing-built Raptor or replace it with a new aircraft with comparable capabilities; Forbes is the current Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and Wynne served as Secretary of the Air Force from 2005 until 2008.

“Raptor incorporated cutting-edge technologies that had never been combined in a single aircraft: composite materials, computer avionics, thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, and radar countermeasures. It became the first “fifth generation” fighter, a high-speed, super-maneuverable stealth aircraft that still outclasses everything else in air-to-air combat,” the OPED writes.

The Air Force had originally planned to build more than 700 F-22s, however ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan inspired new, more immediate thinking regarding the global threat calculus – leading the Pentagon to ultimately truncate the fleet sized down to only 187 jets, the OPED says.

The move was part of a Pentagon culture fostered by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wherein developers were suffering from what he called “next-war-it is” and not sufficiently focused upon the pressing needs on ongoing ground wars.

“By the time the Raptor started rolling off the production line in 2002, the high-tech threats it had been designed to defeat had faded from view. Instead of Russian MiGs, Pentagon leaders were worried about improvised explosive devices,” the essay writes.

Writing that the U.S. Air Force’s fleet is the smallest and the oldest it has ever been, Forbes and Wynne point out that Russia and China have been developing, fielding new fighters and, in some cases, and exporting sophisticated air defenses to countries like Iran.

“Russia rolled out its first fifth-generation stealth fighter, the PAK-FA, in 2010. China followed in 2011, flight-testing the J-20, an F-22 look-alike, while Secretary Gates was visiting Beijing. Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, warned last year that future Russian and Chinese jets “will be better than anything we have today,” Forbes and Wynne write.

In addition, the House Armed Services Committee recently added language to a draft version of the proposed defense authorization bill requiring the Air Force to study the issue of restarting F-22 production.

Air Force officials have explained that, as much as the service may want more F-22s in the fleet, the money to build them again would most likely need to come from elsewhere in the budget.

As evidence of the current Air Force position on the issue, the service’s Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, recently told Congress that restarting F-22 production would require billions of dollars.

Bunch cited a recent Rand study on the issue, explaining that the service was no longer analyzing the possibility due to budget realities.

“We viewed it, in the light of the balancing act we’re already doing between readiness and modernization, as something that would be cost prohibitive and we would have to take something else out that we value right now to try to meet the requirements to be able to do that. And so we have not put any further analysis into that,” Bunch said.

On this topic, however, the Forbes-Wynne letter cites the Rand study’s finding that it would cost over $500 million (in 2008 dollars) to restart production on the F-22.

“If the Air Force ordered 75 additional jets, Rand estimated they would cost $179 million each,” the letter states.

If lawmakers were somehow able to increase the budget or secure the requisite funding for additional F-22s, it certainly does not seem inconceivable that Air Force and Pentagon developers would be quite enthusiastic.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
F-22 Raptors sit on the flight line at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. | U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo

Inside the F-22’s Mission in Iraq

Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.

After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.

“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.

“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.

As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.

“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Broadwell explained.

F-22 as “Aerial Quarterback”

The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.

“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained.

For example, drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.

Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.

The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.

“The addition of SAP mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.

Overall, the Air Force operates somewhere between 80 and 100 F-22s.

“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.

The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.

“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.

The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.

“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.

It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.

Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said.  It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.

The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.

“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

American planners looking at contending with North Korea, ISIS remnants and copycats, and fighting in megacities against near-peer enemies have identified a shortfall of current U.S. training and focus: our enemies are turning to tunnels more and more, but modern U.S. forces have no idea how to best fight there.


New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
An Army infantryman is lowered into Vietnamese tunnels during a search-and-destroy mission in Vietnam, 1967.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Howard C. Breedlove)

This has triggered a look at new technology and old tactics that could make the difference in fighting underground. The Defense Intelligence Agency has even floated the idea of a new warfighting domain: subterranean.

First, to define the problem. Insurgent and terrorist cells — notably ISIS, but also many others — have turned to tunneling to hide their activities from the militaries sent to stop them. Some of this is to allow fighters and supplies to flow across the battlefield undetected and unchallenged, but some of it is to hide intelligence and weapons or to force security forces to move through dangerous tunnels during last-ditch fighting.

Meanwhile, North Korea has been tunneling for decades just like communist forces did in Vietnam. Their military assets, including ballistic missiles and warheads, have been stored and moved through tunnels for years, making it harder to ensure an aerial first strike gets them all in one go. Iran has entire missile factories underground.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
An Iranian missile is fired during testing. Iran has built three underground missile factories. In a potential war with the country, expect that someone will have to secure all the subterranean sites.
(Tasnim News Agency)

Modern infrastructure is increasingly built underground, from cable networks and natural gas systems to, increasingly, power lines. This leaves both America and its enemies vulnerable to disruptions of modern water supplies, information sharing, and power supply of multiple types due to underground attacks.

But Americans haven’t fought underground on a large scale since Vietnam, and even the exploits of the heroic tunnel rats pale in comparison to what would be required to take and hold underground territory, especially under the cities and megacities that the bulk of human population will live in within a few decades.

So, the military has turned to DARPA and to long-term planners to figure out how American warfighters will maintain an advantage.

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DARPA announced a new grand challenge last year called the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. The agency opened two research tracks: one for teams that wanted to compete in a physical challenge and one for those who would compete in a virtual challenge.

No matter the course selected, teams have to develop systems that will give American forces and first responders an advantage in human-made tunnel systems, the urban underground (think subways), and natural cave networks. The final event won’t happen until 2021, but the winner of the physical challenge will get million while the virtual track winner will get 0,000.

Meanwhile, the Army has invested 2 million in training soldiers to fight in subterranean networks with a focus on the sewers and other networks constructed either under large cities or as standalone bases. A 2017 assessment estimated that there are 10,000 military facilities constructed partially or entirely underground. Almost 5,000 of them are in North Korea.

“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘okay, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Military.com in an interview. “What are the aspects of megacities that we have paid the least attention to lately, and every megacity has got sewers and subways and stuff that you can encounter.”

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daron Bush roleplays a simulated casualty at Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan, Feb. 16, 2018. Imagine having to get injured Marines through miles of caves to medevac within the golden hour.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jamin M. Powell)

The military has been asking for new tunnel hardware for years. A 2016 wishlist from the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office asked for technology that would detect and possibly intrude into tunnels. In 2017, the Army got a new piece of equipment that allows them to map underground tunnels to an unknown extent from the surface.

Still, there’s a lot to be done. Troops will need less cumbersome armor or will be forced to fight bare in cramped quarters. Batteries will need to be light and compact, but even then it will be impossible to carry enough power to use many of the modern gadgets soldiers are used to. Many current technologies, like most radios and GPS, are useless with a few feet of rock disrupting signals, so special guidance and comms are essential.

Even with new gadgets and tactics, subterranean fighting will be horrible. Cramped quarters limit maneuverability, favoring a defender that can set up an ambush against an attacker who doesn’t have room to maneuver. Front-line medics will take on increased responsibility as it will be essentially impossible to evacuate patients from complex cave systems within the golden hour.

So, expect a call for modern tunnel rats within the next few years. But, good news for the infantrymen who will inevitably get this job: You’ll be equipped with a lot more than just a pistol and flashlight, and you might even have enough room to walk upright.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s president is kind of a big deal


  • The name of President Xi Jinping has been written into China’s constitution.
  • This makes Xi the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
  • The change was supported by 2,300 Communist Party members at the close of the party’s congress on October.

President Xi Jinping has become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

Xi’s name was added to China’s constitution on October 24, the first time a living leader’s name had been added since Mao ruled from 1935 until his death in 1976.

Related: China is close to entering the ‘war on terror’ — and they won’t be on our side

The political ideologies of China’s presidents have usually been added to the country’s constitution, but only Mao and Xi have been named in the title of those theories.

The amendment, called “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” was approved by all 2,300 delegates attending the congress. Xi is now considered the most important party leader alive — above former presidents and his eventual successor.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the Russia-China Naval Interaction 2014 joint exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

This departure from tradition indicates immense party support for Xi and his strict leadership style; that support could be crucial as Xi eyes a potential third term as president, which would also break with the two-term tradition. The biggest indicator for Xi’s 2022 plans could emerge Wednesday, when the party’s new senior leadership is announced.

If Xi does not give a nod to a young and experienced successor under 60 years of age, or ignores unofficial retirement-age rules, it may indicate the Chinese president will seek a third term in the next five years.

Also read: This is what China will do if the US attacks North Korea

The Chinese constitution stipulates that a president can serve only two five-year terms. Xi, however, could rally party support to stay for a third term or continue leading from his other role of party secretary-general — which actually outranks the president. Both options are more likely with Xi’s strong party support. Another option is to revive the title of party chairman, a label that has not been used since Mao held it.

During the congress’ closing session, party leaders referred to Xi as the country’s “core” leader, a term first used to describe Mao.

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US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.


The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.

The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution commandos and missile boats in the Strait of Hormuz. Wikimedia Commons photo by Sayyed Shahab-o-din Vajedi

Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.

“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.

Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.

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The Abrams tank could soon have this new force field to make it even tougher to kill

The M1 Abrams tank has a reputation for being very hard to kill.


According to Tom Clancy’s book “Armored Cav,” in one instance an Abrams got stuck in the mud during Operation Desert Storm and was attacked by three T-72s tanks.

The Iraqi rounds bounced off – including one fired from less than 500 yards away. After the crew evacuated, a platoon of Abrams tanks then fired a bunch of rounds with one detonating the on-board ammo.

The blow-out panels worked and it turned out that the only damage was that the gun’s sights were just out of alignment. The tank was back in service with a new turret very quickly. The old turret went back to be studied.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
Abrams tanks on the move. (US Army photo)

An Abrams tank doesn’t get much tougher to kill than that, right? You’d be wrong, especially when the Army equips it with an active defense system. According to a report by DefenseTech.org, three systems are in contention, with the Trophy Active Protection System by Rafael being the front-runner.

Army Maj. Gen. David Bassett, who is in charge of the Army’s programs in the area of ground combat systems, said that he was hoping to make a quick decision on an active protection syste, for the Abrams.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
Israel’s Merkava MK-IV (Mark 4) | Israel Defense Forces photo

“I’m not interested in developing, I’m interested in delivering,” he said, noting that the Army is looking to upgrade the bulks of its inventory of armored vehicles. Only the M113 armored personnel carriers are being replaced by the BAE Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.

The Trophy system works by using four radar antennas and fire-control radars to track incoming rockets, missiles, and rounds. When a threat is detected, one of two launchers on the sides of the Abrams would then fire a shotgun-type blast to kill the threat. Similar systems are on the Israeli Merkava 4 main battle tank and Russia’s T-14 Armata main battle tank.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers T-14 Armata (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Some reports claim that Russia has developed a weapon capable of beating an active-defense system like Trophy. The RPG-30 reportedly used a smaller rocket in front of its main rocket to try to trigger the system.

But still, the Trophy can attack rockets and grenades at a distance, before the warhead even reaches the Abrams’ skin.

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Former Supreme Allied Commander says US and Russia are on a ‘Collision Course’

Retired Adm. James Stavridis commands respect from both sides of the political aisle in the United States. The former four-star admiral with 37 years of service was considered for the office of vice president for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and to be President Donald Trump’s Secretary of State. 

On top of that, the list of Stavridis’ awards and honors, both during and after his time in the military, might be a mile long. He even jumped from one-star admiral to three-star admiral. He retired from the Navy in 2013 as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
Admiral Stavridis (US Navy photo)

So when he says the United States and Russia are running headlong into a potential all-out war, people listen. 

Stavridis penned an opinion piece for Bloomberg in May 2021 saying the Black Sea would be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next provocation – and that the area is a potential powder keg just waiting to explode. 

That is, depending on how the United States and NATO would respond to a seaborne invasion of Ukraine, one potentially designed to link the Crimean Peninsula to greater Russia. Right now, the two are separated by Ukrainian territory. 

But an attack from the sea is the most likely next move for Russia. 

Despite the removal of 10,000 or more Russian troops from its border with Ukraine, the retired admiral says there’s no reason to believe the crisis in Crimea is over. 

With the Russian military already extending itself in so many areas, such as rebuilding Syria, aiding rebels in Ukraine, and militarizing space, that the cheapest means for Russia to flex its power would be a consolidation of naval power in the Black Sea.

The sea is surrounded by Russian allies and NATO members alike, and  is full of potential sources of energy, chiefly oil and gas deposits. 

Russia has already committed a number of provocations, including the capture of three Ukrainian military vessels and cutting off the Crimean Peninsula to foreign ships. He says any Russian military moves would include a mixture of tactics like those seen in the Russian annexation of the Crimea in 2014, cyber attacks, special operations and fast conventional attacks. 

“No doubt,” Stavridis writes, “Putin has a maritime version of this playbook.”

He says fast patrol boats, cruise missile attacks, seaborne helicopters carrying special forces units, submarines, cyberattacks, and amphibious assaults are all tactics that would be used in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine from the Black Sea. Worst of all, NATO would not be able to respond fast enough. 

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
BLACK SEA (February 7, 2018) A member of a Romanian Boarding Team from Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) ship ROS Regele Ferdinand climbs a ladder on SNMG2 flagship HMS Duncan for a Boarding Exercise.

Ukraine’s navy would be neutralized, Russia would control the northern part of the Black Sea, and Ukrainian land forces would be cut off from resupply. The U.S. and NATO could object to the seizure of territory, but it would do no good. Ukraine is not a member of the alliance.

Stavridis asserts that if Putin is determined to join his ill-gotten gains (Crimea) with the rest of Russia, an attack by sea is the most likely way. Since the United States and NATO have few, if any assets to assist Ukraine, the likelihood of success for Russia is high. 

The best, and maybe only means of preventing that outcome would be the willingness of Ukraine’s western allies to commit to war to keep Russia out of Ukraine. 

Featured image: Admiral Stavridis is welcomed in Russia. US NAVY PHOTO.

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This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

The La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness (Collaborative) announced today [Monday, Dec. 19, 2016] that it met the ambitious goal they set in September of this year: to end homelessness for veterans in the City within 100 days (by Christmas Day). This makes La Crosse the first city in Wisconsin to end homelessness among veterans.


New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo: Tomah VA Medical Center)

Over the 100 days, the Collaborative increased its monthly housing placement rate for veterans by 400%, demonstrating what’s possible when multiple agencies join forces and focus on clear, measurable goals.

This goal was not accomplished by doing business as usual. It was accomplished by unprecedented cross-agency collaboration between over thirty agencies, including: the Tomah VA Medical Center, Couleecap, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, La Crosse Police Department, and the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (full list of Design and Leadership Team members).

This effort elevated action-oriented problem-solving over traditional planning.

Also read: This is an easy way to help homeless veterans this holiday season

With the support of Gundersen Health System’s Office of Population Health, the Collaborative is using a proven innovation and improvement model (adapted from one developed by Community Solutions and the Rapid Results Institute for the 100,000 Homes Campaign) to accelerate housing placements and profoundly improve system performance.

“The key to our success has been the amazing collaboration within our initiative and a strong shared focus from everyone on the team”, said Kim Cable, Design Team member and Housing and Community Services Director at Couleecap). “This is just the beginning of our journey to end all homelessness in the City of La Crosse. We are excited and inspired by our initial success and the support from the community.”

“I am so proud of the La Crosse Collaborative’s incredible efforts to end veteran homelessness here in our community”, said Mayor Tim Kabat, a Leadership Team member.

“La Crosse signed on to the national effort, as part of the Mayor’s Challenge, to work together and provide permanent housing for our homeless veterans and it is awe-inspiring to see this dream realized.  We are so fortunate to live in such a caring, compassionate, and hard-working community.”

“This is a tremendous achievement and milestone for our community,” said Victoria Brahm, Acting Director of the Tomah VA Medical Center. “I am extremely proud of our staff members who worked with the Collaborative. This is the result of a lot of hard work – getting to functional zero was a tough challenge, but one that we were never going to give up on.”

“Gunderson’s Office of Population Health is focusing on elevating the health of the community by engaging beyond the health system walls, and partnering with organizations in communities who are going upstream to prevent illness, disease, injury, and crisis”, said Sandy Brekke, Senior Consultant, Office of Population Health, Gundersen Health System.

“It’s hard to be healthy when you go to sleep hungry, homeless, or in substandard housing. As an institution, GHS recognizes that safe, secure housing is foundational to the health of individuals and families in our community and are proud to support the effort to end homelessness in La Crosse. We are grateful to the Design Team of the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness, they have brought the community together and have worked incredibly hard to make sure that our Veterans have a warm place to call home.”

Related: 5 ways to support veterans all year long

The Collaborative will celebrate its success tomorrow afternoon, December 20th, at the Waterfront Banquet Room, hosted by Don Weber, CEO of LHI and Leadership Team member, who said: “Veteran homelessness is our nation’s silent shame. It goes without saying that any who has served and protected our nation should not have to worry whether they will have a roof over their heads. In dedicating ourselves to ending Veteran homelessness in our region, our community has proven that the story does not have to end here. Our Veterans deserve our lifelong commitment to returning to them the same comfort and safety they’ve so selflessly secured for us through their service.”

For more information on what it means to end homelessness (defined nationally as reaching “functional zero”), visit the FAQ section on the Collaborative’s website. On the website, you can also donate to ongoing efforts to end homelessness, sign up to volunteer or—if you are a landlord­—offer housing to others who are homeless in La Crosse.

For more information on the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness, contact Kim Cable, Design Team Member, Housing and Community Services Director, Couleecap, at kim.cable@couleecap.org or  608-787-9890. See more here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of June 21st

It’s official. U.S. troops in South Korea will have their curfew lifted. The United States Forces Korea put out the memo on June 16th, and it’s now in effect on a temporary basis to try this whole “treating troops like grown-ass adults” thing out. It’ll be up until around September 17th, when they will evaluate if the troops can handle not f*cking up the one good thing they’ve gotten in years.

Every U.S. troop in Korea has been briefed on this. One single f*ck up and it’s over for everyone. They’ll be on their best Sunday Morning behavior the entire time. This may have something to do with it not being a payday weekend and everyone’s NCO will be hounding them all weekend to not even consider doing dumb sh*t.


Who am I kidding? We know there’s still going to be that one asshole who screws it all up anyway and it’ll be gone before next weekend… Here are some memes for everyone not planning to be the biggest Blue Falcon in USFK.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via Not CID)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme by WATM)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is bombing Afghanistan more than ever in 2018

The 591 weapons released over Afghanistan in May 2018 were the most in a month so far, according to new statistics released by the Air Force.

Those 591 topped the previous high, which was 562 in April 2018 — a count that includes bombs, missiles and ground-attacks. The record for a month is the 653 weapons released in October 2017 — that month, August 2017, and April and May 2018 are the only months to exceed 500 weapons released.

Overall, the US aircraft conducted 726 sorties as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in May 2018, 73 of which included the release of at least one weapon.

The total weapons deployed by manned and remotely piloted aircraft through May 2018 is 2,339, more than were dropped in both 2016 and 2015 and close to the 12-month totals for 2013 and 2014 — 2,758 and 2,365, respectively.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
A U.S. Army soldier from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry.u00a0Qalat, Afghanistan, Aug. 13, 2011.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

The 2,339 weapons used through May 2018 puts the US on pace to release 5,613 weapons this year, which would well exceed the 4,361 used in 2017.

President Donald Trump said in 2017 that the US would increase its troop presence in Afghanistan to combat the resurgent Taliban as well as the growing presence of a local offshoot of ISIS called Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

Since then, a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack aircraft have been stationed in Afghanistan, as have MQ-9 Reapers used for intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance. F-16 Falcon fighter jets and EC-130H Compass Call electronic-warfare aircraft, among others, are also in the country.


Trump also delegated more authority to the Pentagon and commanders on the ground.

“We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing,” Trump said in April 2017, after the Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon was dropped on an ISIS-K targetin northwest Afghanistan — the first battlefield use of that weapon.

In recent months, the US has stepped up its targeting of the Taliban’s drug labs and other revenue-generating infrastructure, using advanced aircraft like the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter to bomb rudimentary buildings around Afghanistan.

The Taliban has deepened its involvement in the drug trade, and many of its labs are easily rebuilt.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
ISIS-K fighting positions targeted by airstrikes in Momand Valley, Achin District, Nangahar Province, Afghanistan, Oct.u00a019, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo)

“US air operations in May put tremendous pressure on every branch of the Taliban’s network,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, combined force air-component commander, said in a release. “We struck Taliban leadership with precision strikes, and consistently pummeled their revenue-producing facilities, weapons caches, and staging facilities.”

The May 2018 airstrike data was released as Army Lt. Gen. Austin Scott Miller went before lawmakers as the nominee to be the commander of US Forces Afghanistan. He would be the ninth US general to take command since the invasion in late 2001 and the first appointed by Trump.

Miller acknowledged that the 17 years the US has spent in Afghanistan “is a very long time” but said he “cannot guarantee you a timeline or an end date” for the deployment of the 16,000 US troops now in the country.

The Pentagon believes that the Taliban controls or is contesting control of about one-third of Afghanistan, while the Afghan government controls the rest.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers
U.S. Army Pfc. Richard Mills, Security Forces rifleman attached to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, secures his eyes and ears as Afghan National Army soldiers conduct a controlled detonation of a Taliban-planted Improvised Explosive Device found on a road in Shinkai, Afghanistan, Oct. 8, 2011.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras)

“I’ve learned a lot in the last 17 years,” Miller, who currently oversees Joint Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’ve learned there are groups that want nothing more than to harm Americans.”

“I’ve learned these groups thrive in ungoverned spaces,” he added. “I’ve also learned that when we maintain pressure on them abroad, they struggle to organize and build the necessary means to attack us.”

When pressed by senators, Miller admitted the Pentagon needed to be considering pulling out of Afghanistan in the coming years but stressed that a “precipitous and disorderly withdrawal” would lead to “negative effects on US national security.”

Miller, who deployed to Afghanistan as a lieutenant colonel in 2001, underscored the generational nature of the war by gesturing to his son, a second lieutenant in the Army, during the hearing.

“This young guy sitting behind me,” Miller said. “I never anticipated that his cohort would be in a position to deploy [to Afghanistan] as I sat there in 2001 and looked at this.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

It’s particularly poignant when members of the military community share their own stories. Hollywood has a fascination with depicting battles, wars, and heroes, but there’s an intimacy and truth that comes from the minds of those who actually lived those experiences.

Who better to explore war than those that fought it? Than those that are haunted by it? Than those who lost someone on the battlefield?

In honor of Veteran’s Day, we are proud to amplify the stories of three members of our own community who are exploring the military experience from very different, and yet very universal, perspectives. From memoirs to war poems to coffee digital publications, these storytellers are contributing to the dialogue about what it means to serve.

You won’t want to miss their work:


https://twitter.com/ivy_ramos/statuses/1191826929034285056
Just got my copy of #TheKnockattheDoor. I’ve read #BrothersForever and am looking forward to reading this. @TMFoundation @rmanionpic.twitter.com/adIdbBkBs3

twitter.com

Ryan Manion

Ryan Manion has devoted her life to carrying on the legacy of her brother, 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed in the line of duty while serving in the United States Marine Corps. On April 29, 2007, Travis was ambushed in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, along with his fellow Marines and their Iraqi Army counterparts. “Leading the counterattack against the enemy forces, Travis was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded teammates,” reads his bio on the website of the Travis Manion Foundation, which empowers veterans and families of the fallen to thrive.

Ryan, who has served as the President of the foundation since 2012, is a well-respected member of the military community. On Nov. 5, 2019, Ryan joined Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan to release Knock at the Door, a book that shares their experiences about joining the Gold Star family and the inspiring and unlikely journey “that began on the worst day of their lives.”

BABGAB It’s time to caffeinate the troops! For every bag of BRCC coffee you buy through November, we’ll donate a bag to the deployed troops overseas spreading freedom on a daily basis. #brcc #americascoffee #babgabpic.twitter.com/vBANDYQnmL

twitter.com

Logan Stark, U.S. Marine Corps

Logan Stark trained as an Infantry Assault Marine with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines before becoming a Scout/Sniper on multiple deployments, including one to Sangin, Afghanistan. After his military service, he earned a degree in Professional Writing from Michigan State University, where he directed For the 25, a film about his Afghanistan deployment.

As the film garnered attention, Stark went on to write for USA Today and the New York Times’ At War blog. Now, he’s the Producer of Content at Black Rifle Coffee Company, where he manages the creation and dissemination of caffeine and freedom social media content. BRCC recently launched Coffee or Die, their online magazine sharing military stories and humorous anecdotes from the vantage point of veterans.

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

2019 Gannon Award Winner “The Art Of Warrior Poetry”

Justin Thomas Eggen, U.S. Marine Corps

Justin Thomas Eggen’s military career within 2nd Route Clearance Platoon, Mobility Assault Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division includes operating as a heavy machine gunner during Operation Moshtarak and clearing the IED threat for Operation Black Sand and Operation Eastern Storm in Sangin, Afghanistan. Like most veterans, Eggen struggled with many invisible wounds when he returned home from combat.

He decided to face the emotions straight on and became a writer, using pen and ink to explore his deployments through poetry. Since the release of his first book, Outside The Wire: A U.S. Marine’s Collection of Combat Poems Short Stories Volume 1, Eggen has released several volumes of work and connected with other veterans on speaking engagements, book tours, and a spoken word book tour with two other veteran poets they dubbed “The Verses Curses Tour.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israelis shoot down Syrian fighter in ISIS territory

Israel’s military said on July 24, 2018, that it fired two US-made Patriot missiles at and “intercepted” a Syrian Sukhoi fighter that entered its airspace.

The plane crashed in Syria near the country’s border zone with Israel, and the fate of the pilot is unknown, The New York Times reported. The Syrian jet is thought to be a Russian-made Su-24 or Su-22.


For weeks, rockets fired from Syria and elsewhere outside Israel have peppered the country and activated its missile defenses on multiple occasions.

Israel and Syria have a border dispute in the Golan Heights and have squared off in aerial combat before, with Israel in early 2018 destroying much of Syria’s anti-air batteries and losing one of its F-16s.

The Israel Defense Forces said a Russian-made Syrian jet “infiltrated about 1 mile into Israeli airspace” before being intercepted.

“Since this morning, there has been an increase in the internal fighting in Syria and the Syrian Air Force’s activity,” the IDF added. “The IDF is in high alert and will continue to operate against the violation of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement,” the UN resolution that ended the Yom Kippur War between Israel and Syria.

Featured Image: A Sukhoi Su-24M of the Russian Air Force.

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

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