US-Taliban peace talks end with 'real strides made' but no deal - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

The longest round of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban has ended with “real strides” being made but without an agreement on troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on March 12, 2019.

“The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” Khalilzad said on Twitter, adding that another round is possible later this month after the 16 days of negotiations in Qatar’s capital, Doha.


But Khalilzad said “there is no final agreement until everything is agreed.”

U.S. and Taliban negotiators have been attempting to hammer out the details of the framework agreement reached in January 2019.

The main disagreements are over four interconnected issues, including the Taliban breaking off ties with groups designated as terrorists by Washington; the timetable of a U.S. military withdrawal; a cease-fire in Afghanistan; and an intra-Afghan dialogue that would include the Taliban and government representatives.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said negotiators made “meaningful progress” during the talks.

The spokesman said the Taliban agreed that peace will require agreement on counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, and a cease-fire.

“Progress was achieved regarding both these issues,” said a Taliban spokesman, referring to the U.S. troop withdrawal and assurances that foreign militants would not use Afghanistan’s territory to stage future terrorist attacks.

Neither side mentioned any progress made on reversing the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with the government in Kabul. The militant group says the Western-backed government is a U.S. “puppet” that must be toppled.

Afghan Chief Executive: Foreign Troops Still Needed ‘Until War Over’

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The Afghan government has been angered and frustrated at being sidelined at the peace talks.

Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told RFE/RL that he was skeptical of the Taliban’s motives and urged Washington to keep troops in the country until a formal settlement that includes the Kabul has been signed with the militants.

Abdullah also said Afghans were “concerned” that the Kabul government has been sidelined from the talks in Qatar but insisted it had not caused a rift with Washington.

“Unless the Afghan government has direct negotiations with the Taliban, Afghan people have the right to be concerned,” Abdullah, who is the de facto prime minister in the national unity government, said in an interview in Kabul on March 12, 2019.

“The Taliban wants to use these peace talks for political and propaganda purposes instead of using this as a step towards peace,” he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to pull out the roughly 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan and has tasked U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad with reaching a settlement with the militants.

During a round of talks in Doha in January 2019, U.S. and Taliban negotiators reached the basic framework of a potential peace deal in which the militants would prevent international terrorist groups from basing themselves in Afghanistan in exchange of a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

But Abdullah urged Washington to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan until a comprehensive peace settlement is reached between the United States, the Taliban, and Kabul.

“The Taliban wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s also the demand of the Afghan people. But our opinion, and that of the Afghan people, is that until the war is over and peace is restored, there is a need for the presence of these troops.”

U.S. and other foreign troops have been in Afghanistan since an October 2001 invasion that brought down the Taliban government after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, who launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why are Marines part of the Navy?

This article was originally published on Feb. 21, 2019, by the Department of Defense.

Did you ever wonder why the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy?

Historically, marines serve as a navy’s ground troops. In fact, the word “marine” is the French word for sea, which may be why the French military historically called English troops — who all had to arrive by sea — “marines.”


US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

Marines Aboard USS Wasp Engage HMS Reindeer. June 1814.

(Copy of painting by Sergeant John Clymer., 1927 – 1981.)

Back in the day, there wasn’t much difference between a sailor and a soldier on a ship. After all, most sea battles ended with the ships tangled together and the crews fighting each other hand to hand. So, if you were on a ship, you had to be able to fight. But you also had to be able to fight once your ship got where it was going.

Italy was the first country to use specially trained sailors as naval infantry. Back in the 1200s, the chief magistrate of Venice put 10 companies of specialized troops on a bunch of ships and sent them off to conquer Byzantium in present-day Greece. That went well for the Italians, so they decided that having marines was a good idea and kept them around, later calling them “sea infantry.”

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

The idea of marines eventually caught on with other naval powers. The Spanish marine corps was founded in 1537 and is the oldest still-active marine corps in the world, while the Netherlands marine corps, founded in 1665, is the second-oldest. But, even today, marines in most countries are specially trained sailors who are part of the navy.

The British Royal Marines, which is what the U.S. Marine Corps was modeled on, were probably the first naval infantry to not actually be sailors. During the 1600-1700s, marine regiments would be formed by taking soldiers from the British Army, and disbanded when they weren’t needed. This practice continued until 1755, when England’s parliament made the Corps of Royal Marines permanent.

When the Continental Marines were founded in 1775, the Continental Congress recognized the importance “that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required.”

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

Marine Capt. Brenda Amor helps to prepare an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter assigned to the “Black Knights” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 264 (Reinforced) for flight operations on the flight deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), Jan. 30, 2019. Arlington is on a scheduled deployment as part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group in support of maritime security operations, crisis response and theater security cooperation, while also providing a forward naval presence.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brandon Parker)

So, maritime knowledge has always been a critical part of being a marine, but the U.S. Marine Corps hasn’t always been part of the U.S. Navy.

Until 1834, the Marines were an independent service. President Andrew Jackson wanted to make the Corps part of the Army. However, the Marine Corps commandant at the time, Archibald Henderson, had proven that Marines were important in landing party operations, not just ship-to-ship battles, so Congress decided to put the Navy and Marine Corps into one department, forever linking these two “sister services.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

6 abdominal exercises to help tone your tummy

Heading out to the beach or chilling out by the pool are some of the best ways to spend a warm, summer day. Unfortunately, countless people feel insecure about getting into swimwear because they don’t like the way their body looks. But, by taking just 10 to 15 minutes out of your day, you can tone up that tummy with a few exercises and restore your confidence.

Do the following and get out there and soak up the sun’s rays



And, of course, don’t forget proper sun protection.

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Leg raises

Start by getting into a laying position. Now, place your hands under your lower back, extend your legs out, and hold them up, slightly bent. Begin the rep by raising your legs upward toward the sky and then slowly lowering them back down, but do not touch the ground with your feet. It’s a solid exercise for our lower abdominal muscles. Make sure you engage that core throughout.

Got it?

Now repeat this 10-15 times and do at least two or three more sets.

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Supermans

Lay flat on your tummy and — just like how Superman flies — hold your arms and legs straight out, lifting them slightly. This action creates controlled stress on your lower back, which you should hold for two to three seconds before releasing.

Got it? Sweet!

Now repeat this 10-15 times and do at least two more sets.

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Planks

Start by laying face-down on the ground. Now, hold yourself up by your elbows and toes — while wearing shoes, of course. Using a stopwatch, hold yourself in place for 30-60 seconds.

If you can hold yourself up for at least 30 seconds, do it for another 30 seconds and see how that feels. It’s all about progression.

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Bicycle crunches

This excellent exercise can be done anywhere that you have enough space to lay on your back. Once you’re in position, bring your knees, one at a time, toward your face, tightening your abdomen in the process. Then, simply pedal your feet as if you’re riding a bike.

It’s easy and your abs will thank you in a few weeks.

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Flutter kicks

Start in a laying position and place your hands under your glutes (buttocks) for stability and comfort. Then, squeeze your core and quickly raise and lower your straightened legs.

You want to get those feet up about 12-18 inches off the ground to really work your core.

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Russian twists

While in a modified sitting position with your feet flat on the floor, put a slight tilt in your back as you lean and bring your hands together as if holding an object.

Then, by merely twisting your core and bringing your hands close to your hips, you’ll engage your obliques. Remember to maintain proper control throughout the movement for best results.

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An Army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Two ranks occupy the same pay grade in the U.S. Army, the specialist and the corporal. The difference between the two isn’t always as clear to other members of the military from other branches.

In short, the difference between the two E-4 grades is that one is considered a non-commissioned officer while the other is not. The corporal will go to the NCO training school while the specialist might not. In practice, the corporal outranks a specialist and will be treated as an NCO by the soldiers below him or her. The specialist is still an E-4 level expert at his or her MOS.

That’s why a specialist is also known as a “sham shield” — all the responsibility of a private grade with all the pay of a corporal. Now that you know the gist of the difference, you’ll see why this Quora response is the best response ever — and why only a veteran of the U.S. Army could have written it.


When someone on Quora asked about the difference between these two ranks that share a pay grade, one user, Christopher Aeneadas, gave the most hilarious response I’ve ever seen. He served in the Army from 1999-2003 in signals intelligence. Having once been both a specialist and a corporal, he had firsthand knowledge of the difference, which he describes in detail:

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

A Full Bird Private has reached the full maturity of a Junior Enlisted Soldier. That magnificent specimen is the envy of superiors and subordinates alike.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

The Sham Shield is the mark of the one who has taken the first steps toward enlightenment.

The Specialist knows all and does nothing.

The first two Noble Truths of Buddhism are:

The First Noble Truth – Unsatisfactoriness and suffering exist and are universally experienced.

The Second Noble TruthDesire and attachment are the causes of unsatisfactoriness and suffering.

The Full Bird Private understands that to cease suffering, one must give up the desire to attend the Basic Leader Course (BLC).

A soldier can live for many years in harmony with his squad and his command if he simply forgets his attachment to promotion. There is wisdom in this.

In the distant past, there were even greater enlighted souls. Specialist ranks only whispered of today: Spec-5s and Spec-6s. Some even reached the apotheosis of Specialist E-7!

Mourn with me that their quiet, dignified path is lost to soldiers today.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

The Corporal is a soldier of ambition.

They have accepted pain without pay.

They have taken duty without distinction.

Whether they are to be pitied or admired is an open question. I take it on a case-by-case basis.

They hung those damned chevrons on me unofficially for a time. I guess they caught on that I liked my Specialist rank a bit much.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. prepares to win the peace against violent extremists

“It’s not about winning the war. It’s about winning the peace,” was an expression heard often at the Counter Violent Extremist Organizations Chiefs of Defense Conference on Oct. 16, 2018.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted the gathering, which drew representatives from 83 nations, including all the U.S. combatant commanders and commanders of counter terrorism operations from around the world.

Dunford and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, spoke to Pentagon reporters during a break.


This was the third chiefs of defense conference. It started in 2016 with 40 countries. “Last year we had 71 [countries] and this year 83, so we are pleased with the turnout,” the general said.

Combating violent extremism

Over the past two years there has been real and quantifiable military progress against violent extremism. But that does not mean the campaign is over. Nations now must particularly address the underlying conditions that lead to radicalization, and that requires a whole-of-government approach, the chairman said.

There is a military dimension and chiefs of defense play an important role. The chiefs generally deal with the counterterrorism fight and mass migration. But getting after the underlying conditions – building economies, establishing schools, hospitals and infrastructure, and improving legitimate governance is a broader issue.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, brief the press at the Counter Violent Extremist Organization Chiefs of Defense Conference held at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Oct. 16, 2018.

DOD photo by Jim Garamone

“What we’ve tried to do throughout the day is ensure that we have in context the role of the chiefs of defense,” Dunford said. “One of the things that I think most of them will be more empowered to do when they return to their countries is describe the nature of the challenges we face and help craft more comprehensive solutions to deal with violent extremism.”

The military can deal with the symptoms of terrorism, but it cannot solve the root cause.

The chiefs of defense themselves are a network aimed at taking on a network. The chiefs’ network opens up opportunities to share information, share intelligence and share best practices and then, where appropriate, to take collective action, the chairman said.

The chiefs discussed countering violent extremism around the world, from West Africa and the Sahel to Libya and the maritime operation the European Union is conducting there. They discussed the fight against ISIS and al-Qaida. They discussed the operations in Afghanistan. They also talked about the Sulu Sea and the challenges in Southeast Asia.

Dunford said he was pleased with the good dialogue at the meeting. The chiefs “came prepared to engage and have a discussion,” he added.

Stabilization, sustainment effort

McGurk called the defeat-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria a microcosm of the counter violent extremist organizations campaign worldwide. “The theme of the day is the conventional fight. While not over, we can see the endpoint,” he said. “But that is not the end of the campaign. We talked about transitioning to a new phase really focusing on the stabilization and sustainment effort.”

He noted that nations have announced 0 million in contributions just over the last five months enabling stabilization initiatives in Syria. This is giving hope in even in very difficult places like Raqqa – the former capital of the so-called ISIS caliphate – where 150,000 Syrians have returned to their homes.

In Iraq, the U.S.-led effort has now trained over 170,000 members of the security forces. “We had a good presentation today from the commander of the new NATO Training Mission to Iraq that will continue to professionalize the force,” McGurk said. The United States announced 8 million will go to vulnerable communities in Iraq that were so damaged by the fight and campaign and the genocidal acts of ISIS.

Getting information and intelligence to the countries that can act upon it is important, as well. Dunford said nations in Africa and Southeast Asia are looking at establishing fusion centers where regional nations can share this vital information.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

The fledgling Afghan Air Force is training to take on Al Qaeda and the Taliban

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal
An Afghan air force A-29 Super Tucano aircraft flies over Afghanistan during a training mission April 6, 2016. NATO Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air worked daily with the Afghan air force to help build a professional, sustainable and capable air force. | U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura


It was just a few months ago that the first A-29 Super Tucanos touched down in Afghanistan, and a new video of live fire drills gives us a rare look at the Afghan pilot’s progress since then.

As part of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support to provide support and security to the Afghan National Government in the face resurgent terrorist groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the US has provided A-29 light air support planes to the fledgling Afghan Air Force.

Throughout the video, you can hear US Air Force trainers instructing the Afghan pilots.

The A-29s in the video are firing off rockets, as well as the .50 calibre guns.

The A-29s sent to Afghanistan are US made, designed specifically for counter insurgency and are super versatile.

The planes have five hardpoints on each wing and can carry up to 3,300 pounds of additional ordinance, like AIM-9X missiles, rocket pods, 20 mm cannons, smart freefall bombs, and even air-to-air missiles, according to IHS Jane’s.

Watch the full video below (the firing starts at around the 3:10 mark):

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This was the inspiration behind ‘The Hunt for Red October’

First published in the mid-1980s, “The Hunt for Red October” by Tom Clancy quickly rose from obscurity to national bestseller lists, with even then-President Ronald Reagan calling it “my kind of yarn.”


In 1990, the book was made into a blockbuster movie starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin.

The hit novel tells the tale of a next-generation Soviet ballistic missile submarine — the eponymous Red October — going rogue with both the United States and the Soviet Union racing against time to find the missing sub.

While the Soviet Union, to the best of our knowledge, never had a submarine and its crew attempt to defect to the West during the Cold War, it did have two very similar incidents — both of which served as the inspiration for this famous book.

In 1961, a young Soviet Navy captain by the name of Jonas Pleskys steered his vessel, a barge turned into a submarine tender, away from a charted course to Estonia in a successful attempt to defect to Sweden.

This Lithuanian-born naval officer, a graduate of the Leningrad Naval Academy, was thoroughly dissatisfied with life in the USSR, finding it corrupt and cruel.

 

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal
An official photograph of Jonas Pleskys during his time as a Soviet Navy officer (Photo Soviet Navy)

According to Marion Boyle’s book, “Search for Freedom: The Man from Red October,” Pleskys planned his defection in advance, reaching port and protective custody in Gotland, Sweden, before the Soviet Navy was able to stop him.

In absence, the Soviet military sentenced the captain to death, though they would never have the opportunity to carry out the execution.

The CIA later hid Pleskys in South America before moving him to the US, where he lived out the rest of his years.

Years later, in the mid-1970s, a second (and considerably more embarrassing) incident involving a Soviet Navy vessel — a brand new Krivak class frigate named “Storozhevoy” — proved to be the second event that would factor into the making of “The Hunt for Red October.”

The ship’s political officer, Valery Sablin, seized control of the ship while it was berthed in a Soviet naval port, imprisoning the captain and many of the ship’s officers in compartments belowdecks. Quickly sailing the frigate out of port, Sablin aimed the ship’s bow towards Northern Europe.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

With visions of Pleskys’ earlier defection flashing through their minds, Soviet brass deployed half of their Baltic Fleet immediately upon learning of their newest warship going missing and Sablin’s intentions.

Over 60 maritime patrol and attack aircraft were deployed to find and stop the Storozhevoy… and if it came to it, sink the frigate with its entire crew aboard.

According to former Storozhevoy officer Boris Gindin in his co-written autobiography, “Mutiny,” the frigate was never meant to fall into American hands. Sablin was loyal to the Soviet Union to the very end — he just wasn’t a fan of the corruption of the Soviet government, and saw their actions as a major departure from Leninism and “true communism.”

Instead, the disillusioned political officer wanted to sail the frigate to Leningrad (now known as Saint Petersburg), where he would moor the Storozhevoy alongside an old museum ship, the cruiser Aurora, and would then broadcast a message to the Soviet people with the hopes of revealing the government’s corruption, and with sparking a second communist revolution to retake the country.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal
The cruiser Aurora permanently parked in St. Petersburg. Sablin wished to moor the Storozhevoy near the symbolic Aurora during his mutiny and escape (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

As it turns out, the Soviet military wasn’t having any of that, and within a matter of hours, the Storozhevoy was found and hailed. Now less than 50 miles from Swedish territorial waters (though that wasn’t the ship’s destination), the frigate continued to sail on without heeding calls to stop.

The order was given to sink the ship.

Attack aircraft began strafing the ship with their cannons, obliterating the bridge of the Storozhevoy while pockmarking the rest of the gray warship with bullet holes. Bombs were dropped near the rogue ship, and soon, it became evident that the ship’s steering and propulsion was damaged to the point that the vessel could not go any further – it was dead in the water.

However, the Baltic Fleet had already closed in, and began firing warning shots from their deck guns. In a matter of minutes, Soviet naval commandos boarded the vessel and arrested the 200-strong crew of the Storozhevoy, regardless of who was and wasn’t involved in the mutiny.

As it turns out, during the ship’s escape from port, a number of its officers and crew, previously imprisoned for resisting the mutiny, had escaped captivity and overpowered Sablin and his bridge crew.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal
A Krivak-class frigate at anchor. Storozhevoy would have looked almost identical to this ship (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

In true Soviet style, the incident was hushed up quickly, with Sablin facing a firing squad for treason against the Soviet Union. The Storozhevoy was quietly repaired in dockyard, repainted and sent back out to the fleet. By the end of the 1990s, the frigate was pulled from service and sold overseas to the wreckers.

In the early 1980s, a 37 year-old insurance salesman by the name of Tom Clancy Jr. came across the Storozhevoy’s tale in the US Naval Academy’s archives while doing research for his first novel.

Later making contact with Jonas Pleskys, and inspired by his and the Storozhevoy’s short-lived adventure, Clancy penned “The Hunt for Red October” soon afterwards, with the novel hitting bookshelves in 1984, a resounding success.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Celebrate Air Force veteran Chuck Norris’ 80th birthday with these 20 unbeatable facts

Today is the mighty Chuck Norris’ 80th birthday! In honor of this landmark (uh, how is this not a national holiday?) day, we wanted to go back to the good old days of the internet. Before arguing over the color of a dress or if Jordan or Lebron is better (don’t start), we bonded over Chuck Norris facts. Those statements that if attributed to another person would be unbelievable but totally plausible when it referred to the great Norris.


So, we wanted to share our top Chuck Norris facts! Make sure to share any of your favorites too.

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Before we do, we also want to shout out Chuck for his amazing life. He was born Carlos Norris in Oklahoma and his family eventually settled in California. After high school, he joined the Air Force and ended up being stationed in South Korea where he picked up both martial arts and the nickname Chuck.

Coming home, he opened his first martial arts studio and started participating in tournaments. After winning multiple karate world championships, he opened more studios and became a trainer for the stars. He taught Steve McQueen, Priscilla Presley, the Osmonds and Bob Barker (that’s how he beat up Happy Gilmore so easily).

Norris then parlayed his connections into an acting career. He fought Bruce Lee in the Roman Colosseum, killed terrorists with rockets from his motorcycle (looking more badass than actual Delta Force badasses) and wore a cowboy hat better than anyone else on TV.

He also gave us the Total Gym and Chuck Norris jeans.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

And with that, our favorite Chuck Norris facts!

1. Chuck Norris threw a grenade and killed 50 people, then it exploded.
2. Chuck Norris’ leg was once bit by a cobra. After five days of excruciating pain, the cobra died.
3. Chuck Norris doesn’t try to survive a zombie apocalypse. The zombies do.
4. Chuck Norris can kill your imaginary friends.
5. Chuck can set ants on fire with a magnifying glass. At night.


6. Chuck Norris once went to Mars. That’s why there are no signs of life.
7. Chuck Norris knows Victoria’s secret.
8. Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch. He decides what time it is.
9. Chuck Norris created giraffes when he uppercutted a horse.
10. Chuck Norris doesn’t cheat death. He wins fair and square.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

11. Chuck Norris puts the “laughter” in “manslaughter.”
12. Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.
13. Chuck Norris has a diary. It’s called the Guinness Book of World Records.
14. Chuck Norris found the last digit of pi.
15. Chuck Norris can hit you so hard your blood will bleed.

16. Chuck Norris doesn’t worry about high gas prices. His vehicles run on fear.
17. Chuck Norris can delete the Recycling Bin.
18. Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone.
19. Chuck Norris can squeeze orange juice out of a lemon.
20. Jack was nimble, Jack was quick, but Jack still couldn’t dodge Chuck Norris’ roundhouse kick.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Air Force F-15s intercept Russian Navy jets

The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2004. These countries don’t have much in the way of air assets. According to FlightGlobal.com, as of 2017, the three countries combined have three L-39 trainers, one L-410 transport, three C-27J transports, and 13 helicopters that operate either as search-and-rescue or training assets.


The NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission was established just after these countries joined NATO and is designed to protect their airspace. The mission usually consists of detachments of aircraft — four initially, but in recent years, as many as 16 aircraft have been sent for this mission — that operate out of airbases in Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal
F-15Cs of the 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron (Image from U.S. Air Force)

On Jan. 8, the United States ended its most recent run as part of this mission. Four F-15C Eagles from the 493rd Fighter Squadron, part of the 48th Fighter Wing, were deployed to Lithuania for four months. They worked alongside F-16AM Fighting Falcons from Belgium for this mission.

These four months proved to be fairly busy, according to the Air Force Times. Russia has been aggressive with its neighbors, most notably Ukraine. Since tensions with Ukraine have heated up, NATO routinely sends two detachments. The American detachment operated out of Šiauliai International Airport in Lithuania.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal
Russian Air Force Su-30 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While there, on at least two occasions, the American pilots intercepted Sukhoi Su-30 Flankers. These multi-role jets, assigned to the Russian Navy, flew near the airspace of the Baltic States. The U.S. Air Force F-15s were scrambled in response to intercept them. These encounters were caught on tape.

You can see these encounters on the video below. One thing you won’t see are the types of buzzing stunts that Russia has pulled on American ships and planes in the past.

(Air Force Magazine | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Pacific Steel helps troops get more lethal with larger weapons

The 9th Mission Support Command is conducting its first-ever Operation Pacific Steel involving Soldiers from around the Pacific at Schofield Barracks from Oct. 3 through Dec. 5. The purpose of this exercise is for Soldiers to train on crew-served weapons and pass down their knowledge to their units as well as serving as a prerequisite to attend Operation Cold Steel.

The overall planner of this operation, Staff Sgt. Wes Liberty, who works with planning and exercises at the 9th MSC said, “Pacific Steel is ground mount (training) for heavy weapons, i.e., M240 (machine gun), Mk 19 (grenade launcher) and M2 .50 cal. (heavy machine gun).


US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

Gunner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, engages targets with his protective mask while assistant gunner, Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, provides assistance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel on Nov. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)

“This is an operation that is actually trickled down from USARC (U.S. Army Reserve Command), he added. They conduct Operation Cold Steel where Soldiers who have qualified on ground-mounted weapons can be trained to operate on vehicle-mounted weapons,” said Liberty.

Soldiers go through an eight-day training period. During that time, they attend various courses to ensure confidence on the weapon systems they are training on. Among these courses include virtual battlespace 3, gunnery skills training, preliminary marksmanship instructions and engagement skills trainer.

The Virtual Battlespace 3 course utilizes a first-person, three-dimensional, tactical mounted machine gun training software program which allows Soldiers to operate in a virtual reality environment using virtual mounted weapons. This in turn, prepares them when they operate real weapons during a live-fire training environment.

The gunnery skill test evaluates the crew member’s ability to perform gunnery-related skills.

The Preliminary marksmanship instructions introduces Soldiers to the weapons they are training on and teaches them how to maintain, operate and corrects malfunctions.

Engagement skills trainer simulates weapons training for Soldiers and prepares them for live-fire qualifications for individual or crew-served weapons.

The weapons the Soldiers train on depends on when they in-process during Pacific Steel. From the beginning to the end of training, all Soldiers are paired up to operate weapons as a team. The first portion of Pacific Steel trains Soldiers on the M240 machine gun. The middle and final portion focus on the M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun and MK 19 grenade launcher, respectively.

Liberty said Operation Pacific Steel required a lot of planning and preparation.

“This is the first time I’m doing this of this magnitude, so I had some help. I had a lot of help from Schofield, getting the barracks, getting the range, weapons,” said Liberty.

“We’re not doing too bad. Soldiers are coming, they’re getting qualified, they’re getting fed, they’re getting rooms,” he added.

Some Soldiers have already operated these weapons before coming to Pacific Steel, so this has been more like a review course for them.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

Sgt. Kenny Tabula, 411th Engineer Battalion, fires his MK 19 grenade launcher while safety officers, Sgt. Angelyn Cayton and Sgt. Valentino Sigrah provide guidance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel, Nov. 17, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)

Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, came to Pacific Steel to train on the M2 .50 cal. heavy machine gun even though he had trained on it before. However, he stressed how in-depth the classes were on how to properly operate the M2 as a team.

“We learned PMI, disassemble, assemble, and how to do a functions check, but safety is always first,” Miyamoto said.

His M2 partner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, who also trained on the M2 previously, emphasized that Soldiers not only should know how to operated a weapon, but also how to handle a weapon should it ever malfunction.

“Especially the malfunction part. Most people know how to shoot, but do you really know the weapon?”

Moreover, to reemphasize what his partner stated earlier,” Safety is number one,” Orosco said.

For Soldiers like Spc. Alika Jacang-Buchanan of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, it’s his first time operating these types of weapons.

He came to Pacific Steel and was fortunate to get hands-on training on multiple weapons. He especially likes engaging targets with the MK 19.

“I like the MK 19 because there’s a boom at the end,” said Jacang-Buchanan.

Soldiers felt that participating in Pacific Steel is a good program and hopes that it will continue in the future. This exercise provides proper training and preparation for Soldiers to employ weapons that they would otherwise not have been likely to use.

Spc. Abraham Salevao of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, said, “It’s a learning experience for not only combat MOSs, it’s for everyone to learn. It’s exciting, being behind that weapon, getting that rush. It’s always good to learn, especially these weapons.”

“I’d recommend everyone out there to try Pacific Steel,” he added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy will enforce North Korean sanctions

The US is reportedly talking about expanding crackdowns on North Korean ships, along with allies such as Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.


North Korea currently uses ship-to-ship transfers of sanctioned materials — sometimes in ports and sometimes in international waters — to evade sanctions from the international community. The UN Security Council has passed at least nine resolutions that imposed sanctions on North Korea, and Australia, the EU, Japan, South Korea, and the US have all placed additional sanctions on the country.

Also read: The US is seeking wide authority to hunt down North Korean ships and board them

Russian and Chinese ships have recently been caught exchanging goods and resources in ship-to-ship transfers, as has a ship registered in the Maldives.

The new efforts would expand the scope of the interceptions to possibly include searching and seizing North Korean ships in international waters. Currently, nations only have the authority to conduct these operations within their own waters, where North Korean ships that break sanctions rarely travel through.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal
North Korean cargo vessel Dai Hong Dan. (Photo from US Navy)

“There is no doubt we all have to do more, short of direct military action, to show (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un we mean business,” a senior American official recently told Reuters.

But the effectiveness of such operations is likely to be limited, Richard Weitz, the Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis and the Hudson Institute, told Business Insider.

Related: Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

“The problem is the legal complexity,” Weitz said. “Just stopping every ship that leaves North Korea is too far for countries like Russia and China.”

If any maritime operation were to succeed, Russia and China would likely need to be physically involved, conducting joint patrols and interdictions on the Korean Peninsula with US and other regional navies.

Limited effectiveness of maritime interdictions

China’s cooperation would be particularly important, as Donald Rauch, a US Navy Surface Warfare Officer and former Commanding Officer of USS Independence, recently argued in Foreign Policy.

“Such a move would convince North Korea that its sole ally and biggest trading partner had reached the end of its strategic patience,” Rauch writes.

However, the likelihood that China would be part of this kind of operation is low, given that China sees North Korea as a buffer between it and the West.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal
The North Korean vessel Kum Un San 3 conducts a ship-to-ship transfer, possibly of oil, with the Panama-flagged Koti in an effort to evade sanctions, December 9, 2017. (US Department of the Treasury)

Still, more aggressive maritime interdictions, conducted in cooperation with partners in the region, could help with sanctions enforcement and could possibly slow down North Korea’s nuclear and ICBM ambitions.

“I’d imagine that you could supplement it with good satellite intelligence, good espionage in the countries that are receiving the materials, and intercepted communications,” Weitz said.

More: North Korea now has 7 missiles that can strike the US

“It will be useful and it will certainly adapt and its an area that needs to grow, but unless China and Russia were really going all the way in, it’s going to be imperfect.”

Weitz also pointed out that North Korea will likely find another way to continue to get the materials and money it needs.

“Insofar as the maritime interdiction becomes more effective, the more North Korea will then turn to other means of smuggling material in and out,” he said. “Whether it be by air, through China, or other methods.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel claims that Russia is flirting with danger in Syria

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against delivering an advanced air-defense system to Syria, saying it will further destabilize the war-torn region.

After a call between the two leaders on Sept. 24, 2018, Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister told Putin that “transferring advanced weapons systems into irresponsible hands will increase the dangers in the region.

He also said that Israel “will continue to defend its security and its interests” by staging bombing raids on Iranian military targets in Syria.”


Israel’s statement came on the same day that U.S. national security adviser John Bolton warned that Russia’s decision to supply Syria with an S-300 surface-to-air missile system was a “major mistake” and a “significant escalation” in Syria’s seven-year civil war.

Israeli planes have carried out a number of deadly air strikes on Iranian military targets in Syria in 2018, largely undeterred by the Russian military presence there, apparently owing to close consultations between the Israeli and Russian militaries that Netanyahu’s office said were reaffirmed during the phone call.

But in September 2018, Russia for the first time challenged an Israeli incursion into Syria, blaming it in part for the downing of a Russian military plane that killed all 15 people on board.

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

A Russian Air Force Ilyushin Il-20.

Syrian air defenses mistakenly shot down the Russian Il-20 surveillance plane on Sept. 17, 2018, following an Israeli bombing raid. Moscow claims the Russian plane was hit because Israeli pilots were using it as “cover.”

Putin has described the incident as a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”

The incident led Russia this week to announce new security measures to protect its military in Syria, including supplying the Syrian Army with an S-300 system and jamming radars of nearby warplanes.

Russia at an earlier stage in the war had suspended sending an S-300 system to Syria amid Israeli concerns that the missiles could be used against it.

But Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that “the situation has changed, and it’s not our fault.”

Netanyahu in the phone call with Putin continued to blame what his office called the “unfortunate incident” on “the Syrian military, which brought down the plane, and Iran, whose aggression is undermining stability.”

Despite differing views of what happened, Netanyahu’s office said the Russian and Israeli leaders “agreed to continue dialogue between professional teams and intermilitary coordination via military channels.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD identifies Super Stallion Marine lost at sea

The Marine at the center of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) search in the Mindanao Sea since Aug. 9, 2018, has been identified as Cpl. Jonathan Currier.

On Aug. 17. 2018, Currier who was previously listed as Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown (DUSTWUN) was declared deceased.


Currier, a New Hampshire native and a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion crew chief, enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 2015 and graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Paris Island, in November of that year. He completed School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Aviation and AC School in Pensacola, Florida; and Center for Naval Aviation Training in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Cpl. Jonathan Currier

(Facebook photo)

Currier was assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 at Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, and was deployed at the time of his disappearance with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 Reinforced, 13th MEU, aboard the USS Essex (LHD 2).

Currier’s awards include the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

“Our hearts go out to the Currier family,” said Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer, 13th MEU. “Cpl. Currier’s loss is felt by our entire ARG/MEU family, and he will not be forgotten.”

The extensive search effort concluded, Aug. 13, 2018. The search lasted five days and covered more than 13,000 square nautical miles with more than 110 sorties and 300 flight hours.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are currently being investigated.

An official photo of Cpl. Currier is not available.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.