A new fighting robot called the Phantom might be deployed on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine next year, according to Defense One.
Ukroboronprom, the Ukrainian defense contractor developing the robot, displayed the robot at the Association of the US Army show in Washington DC on October 9th, Defense One reported.
The Phantom can be fitted with tracks or wheels, as well as a wide variety of weapons, including a coaxial 23 mm machine gun, antitank missiles, and grenade launchers, according to Ukroboronprom.
It runs on a 30 kilowatt hybrid engine that can hit speeds of up to 37 mph, and it can cover a maximum distance of about 81 miles, Ukroboronprom said. It is even capable of evacuating wounded soldiers from the field.
The Phantom also has a backup microwave-communication link that allows it to function even if its receiver is jammed or hacked, Defense One reported. This feature was specifically designed to counter Russian electronic-warfare attacks that have plagued Ukrainian forces, especially in the early days of the war.
The US is developing fighting robots as well, and Russia already “has a wide array of ground bots” but has not deployed them to the Donbas, according to Defense One.
Ukroboronprom is looking to sell the Phantom and form partnerships in general with other nations, especially the US, according to Foreign Policy.
“We came [to the AUSA in DC] to show our expertise and potential — to show that we can be partners,” Roksolana Sheiko, director of communications policy for UkrOboronProm, told Foreign Policy.
In recent months, the US and Ukraine have agreed to or discussed a number of weapons-and military-equipment sales and joint ventures.
In June, two deals were made to facilitate sale of military equipment and promote joint research and development between the two countries.
John Glenn may be one of the United States Marine Corps’ most epic alums. And that’s saying a lot (he’s in good company).
In his 95 years on planet Earth — and his time off the planet — Glenn racked up accomplishment after accomplishment, feat after feat, do after derring-do.
It’s no wonder the U.S. and the world hail the Ohioan as a legend. He was a decorated war hero, astronaut, and senator — but he was so much more.
Here are a few interesting things you may not have known about the first American to orbit the Earth.
1. The documentary about his life was nominated for an Oscar.
The 1963 short film “The John Glenn Story” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. That was before he was elected to the Senate.
His life was already so epic it warranted its own movie, and even then, he was far from finished.
2. He and his wife were married for 73 years.
Glenn and his wife, Anna, were married in April 1943. They had two children and two grandchildren. Anna had a severe speech impediment and he protected her from the media because of it.
3. He was also the first man to eat in space.
The first meal in space was applesauce. And it was a big deal because scientists thought humans might not be able to digest in zero gravity. He also ate pureed beef and vegetables. Other famous space feats include being the oldest man in space (age 77) and the first man to carry a knife (a 9-inch blade in a leather sheath).
4. His Korean War wingman was also famous.
Glenn flew several missions with “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,” baseball hero Ted Williams. Williams flew half of his 39 combat mission over North Korea with Glenn.
Glenn called Williams “one of the best pilots I ever knew.”
5. Bill Clinton sent two emails as President: One was to John Glenn.
The internet as we know it was in its infancy during the Clinton Administration, yet as President, Bill Clinton sent two: one to U.S. troops in the Adriatic, and the other to Glenn, then 77 years old and in orbit around the Earth.
6. Glenn was almost an excuse to invade Cuba.
Operation “Dirty Trick” was planned if Glenn’s capsule crashed back to Earth. The Pentagon reportedly wanted to blame any mishap on Cuban electronic interference, and use his death as an excuse to invade Cuba.
7. Glenn’s Marine Corps nickname was “Magnet Ass.”
He flew a F9F Panther jet interceptor on 63 combat missions, twice returning with over 250 holes in his aircraft. His aircrews all thought he somehow attracted flak.
8. John Glenn was the last surviving Mercury 7 astronaut.
The next to last one died in 2013. Also, the five sons of Jeff Tracy in the kids show “Thunderbirds” were named after the first five American astronauts into space through the Mercury project: Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, and John Glenn.
9. President John F. Kennedy barred Glenn from further space flights.
Glenn found out by reading Richard Reeves’ biography of President Kennedy decades later.
On Saturday, Arnold Schwarzenegger was going about his business, recording a Snapchat video on the sidelines of the Arnold Classic Africa, when a man emerged from the crowd and attacked the former California governor with a jumping, two-footed drop kick to the back.
While your average 71-year-old would probably suffer a broken hip or worse if they found themselves taking that sort of kick from a random stranger out of the crowd at a public event, for the Terminator, it was hardly a concern.
Schwarzenegger posted this image of him visiting with a friend on Twitter less than a day after the attack, showing it’ll take more than a random crazy person to hurt the Terminator.
(Arnold Schwarzenegger via Twitter)
“Thanks for your concerns, but there is nothing to worry about. I thought I was just jostled by the crowd, which happens a lot,” Schwarzenegger tweeted. “I only realized I was kicked when I saw the video like all of you. I’m just glad the idiot didn’t interrupt my Snapchat.”
Video of the attack clearly shows Schwarzenegger engaging with fans and recording a video with his phone as an unidentified assailant approached from behind and quickly sprung into the double-foot kick. Schwarzenegger was clearly knocked off balance by the kick, but in perhaps the most impressive testament to the man’s continued fitness, the actor kept his feet as he stumbled forward. In the end, the attacker found himself in a pile on the floor, while the seven-time Mr. Olympia quickly regained both his balance and his sense of humor.
And if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight.
By the way… block or charge?pic.twitter.com/TEmFRCZPEA
In a follow-on tweet, Schwarzenegger referenced the popular “block or charge” memes originated by former NBA star Rex Chapman. Chapman was inspired to create the meme when he saw a video of a dolphin diving out of the water and into a stand-up paddle boarder.
“I saw it and thought, ‘that’s a charge,'” Chapman explained earlier this year. “People thought it was really funny, I guess.”
Schwarzenegger was clearly among them, writing “By the way … block or charge?” on Twitter. He went on to call on the thousands of people sharing the video to use versions that don’t include the man shouting in the aftermath of the attack, saying, “if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight.”
It seems that the attacker was shouting, “Help me! I need a Lamborghini!” repeatedly as he was dragged away.
Update: A lot of you have asked, but I’m not pressing charges. I hope this was a wake-up call, and he gets his life on the right track. But I’m moving on and I’d rather focus on the thousands of great athletes I met at @ArnoldSports Africa.
Despite Schwarzenegger’s good spirits following the attack, MMA fighter and Green Beret Tim Kennedy took to Twitter to voice his frustrations with Schwarzenegger’s security detail.
“This is infuriating. I have spent a bit of time with Governor Schwarzenegger. He is an incredible human,” Kennedy wrote on Twitter. “Unforgivable lapse by his protective detail.”
Nonetheless, Schwarzenegger has stated that he has no intentions of pressing charges against that man that he considers a “mischievous fan.” He also made it clear that he doesn’t want the attack to become to focal point of the event.
“We have 90 sports here in South Africa at the @ArnoldSports, and 24,000 athletes of all ages and abilities inspiring all of us to get off the couch. Let’s put this spotlight on them.”
Last year, the Australian Army hosted one of its largest military exercises with participants from the U.S. Marine Corps and the French military working side-by-side with Australian forces. The three militaries practiced how to work with each other as well as how to best incorporate the strengths of each force.
And that gives us a perfect chance to watch the highly mobile, flexible and lethal Marine artilleryman at work.
For warfighting exercise Koolendong, the 3rd Battalion, 11 Marines brought out their “Triple Sevens.” These are M777 howitzers which fire 155mm shells. An M777 is capable of sending a 103-pound shell to a target almost 14 miles away and of hitting that target within 54 yards thanks to a GPS-guided fuze.
An extended-range version of the round can go almost 23 miles at maximum range.
But of course, the rounds and the howitzers are only as good as the artillerymen manning them, and the Marines in the video above prove themselves quite capable of using their weapon to maximum effect.
While other troops sometimes make fun of artillerymen with accusations that they’re too weak to walk all the way to the target or too dumb for other work, the fact is that artillery requires a crap-ton of math, even more upper body strength, and an insane level of attention to detail.
And that need for strength and attention to detail only gets greater the larger the gun is. And if artillery is king of the battle, the M777 is a roided-out king who could wrestle a lion.
There’s a Marine who ferries ammunition from the truck or ammo supply point to the weapon, which requires a quick movement of dozens of yards while carrying over 100 pounds every time he does it.
There are two Marines who work together to ram the round from its staged position into the breech, something that is accomplished with a massive, heavy tool that they sprint against.
There’s the gunner who’s trying to make sure his weapon is perfectly aimed after each shot, even though it settles into the dirt differently after every firing. The tiniest mistake in his measurements could send the round hundreds of yards off target.
And while the crew is firing at its sustained rate, of two rounds per minute, it can be tough. But their max firing rate is five rounds per minute, meaning that they have to repeat their physically and mentally challenging jobs every twelve seconds without fail. To see what that looks like, check out the video at top if you haven’t already.
It’s Friday, so that’s good. But it’s three weeks since the military’s last pay day and we all know you’re staying in the barracks this weekend. While you’re crunching on your fast food and waiting for your video games to load, check out these 13 military memes.
Real guns are super heavy.
It’s guaranteed that this was a profile pic.
Maybe if we just taxi it near the maintenance chief really slowly, he’ll tell us if it’s okay.
Don’t use flashbangs near the uninitiated.
Coast Guard couldn’t make it. They were super busy helping the TSA foil terrorists.
Just salute, better to be laughed at than shark attacked.
But hey, at least they don’t have to wear PT Belts.
Be afraid, be very afraid.
That’s why they have planes.
Notice the National Guard sticker on the cabinet?
Whatever, the Marine is the only one working right now.
The sweet, sweet purr of the warthog
You start off motivated …
Just wait until you leave the retention office and realize you re-upped.
Coming out to his military parents was difficult for Julian Woodhouse. It didn’t turn out the way he thought. He tried to suppress his sexuality and with that, any interest in being a fashion designer.
“I not only found myself as a person, but I also rekindled my interest in fashion and design,” he told the New York Times.
That didn’t stop his interest in joining the military, however. Woodhouse is now a 26-year-old Army officer who also has a burgeoning fashion collection.
“I really love being in the military,” he told the Times. “I love serving my country, and I love the life.”
Woodhouse came to New York on leave so he could present his creations during New York Men’s Day, which opened fashion week.
Woodhouse is currently stationed in Korea, where his label Wood House is based. The New York Times’ Guy Trebay described his clothes as having “elements of soft suiting … infused with sensuality, but they are emphatically made for guys.”
“I’m inspired a lot by the design philosophy and aesthetics designers in South Korea are going for,” he said. “I don’t want to push men outside of their comfort zones, but I think they are looking for something a little more directed.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the U.S. Air Force needs to be ready to engage in space combat.
“Other nations are preparing to use space as a battlefield, a big battlefield, and we’d better be ready to fight there,” Welsh said last week in Arlington, Virginia. “We don’t want to fight there but we better be ready for it because other people clearly are posturing themselves to be able to do that.”
Welsh, who will be retiring on July 1 after just over 40 years of service, made his comments Thursday morning in Arlington, Virginia, at an Air Force Association breakfast.
His comment about space as a battlefield came in the context of what the U.S. needs to be able to do to win future fights.
One of the absolutes in modern warfare, he said, is firepower – “more of it, more quickly and more precisely.” And the Air Force needs to have that not only in the air domain but in cyber and space domains.
Welsh credited Air Force Space Command with taking the lead “in at least thinking about the space domain as a warfighting domain.”
But Space Command has been thinking about space warfare for quite some time.
In the 1990s, Air Force Gen. Joseph Ashy, then head of Space Command, told lawmakers that space would become a battleground, according to Air Force Maj. William L. Spacy II, who quoted Ashy in “Does the United States Need Space-Based Weapons?”
“Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue … but — absolutely — we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space,” Ashy said.
A 1967 Outer Space Treaty stipulates that space is to be used for peaceful purposes. Just what that means has never been defined, though the 1945 U.N. Charter defined “peaceful purposes” to include the inherent right of self-defense, Spacy wrote.
That freed up space-pioneering countries including the Soviet Union and the U.S. to place military communications and early-warning system satellites into space. But both also went farther than that, developing and testing – but never deploying – anti-satellite weapons before and after the 1967 treaty was adopted.
But in recent years the idea of space engagements has grown more real as both China and the U.S. successfully demonstrated the capability to take out a satellite with a weapon.
China destroyed one of its own weather satellites with an anti-satellite weapon in 2007. A year later the U.S. took down one of its own damaged satellites using a SM-3 missile fired from the USS Lake Erie.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz issued a general order Tuesday banning Coasties from entering any business that grows, distributes, sells or otherwise deals with marijuana.
Pot may be legal for various uses in 33 states, but it remains an illicit substance under federal law, and the service’s new general order is designed to send a message to Coast Guard men and women that they should steer clear, officials said during a phone call with Military.com.
Recognizing there has been “a shift in the social norms, especially because of the increased proliferation and availability of cannabis-based products,” Schultz issued the new guidance to eliminate ambiguity, explained Cmdr. Matt Rooney, Policy and Standards Division chief at Coast Guard Headquarters.
“As a military organization, we have to be clear and direct to providing [guidance] to our members,” Rooney said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The F-35 that went missing in April 2019 crashed after the pilot lost his spatial awareness and slammed the fighter into the Pacific Ocean at almost 700 mph, the Japanese defense ministry said June 10, 2019, according to multiple reports.
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-35A Joint Strike Fighter piloted by Maj. Akinori Hosomi of the 3rd Air Wing’s 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron mysteriously vanished from radar on April 9, 2019, about 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base.
The US and Japan dispatched military assets to assist in search and rescue operations. The US ended its search in May 2019, but the Japanese military kept going until last week.
“We believe it highly likely,” Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya explained to reporters June 10, 2019, “the pilot was suffering from vertigo or spatial disorientation and wasn’t aware of his condition. It can affect any pilot regardless of their experience.” The 41-year-old major had over 3,200 flight hours, including 60 hours on the F-35, under his belt at the time of the crash.
Senior leaders from Japan’s Ministry of Defense, US Forces Japan, Pacific Air Forces, and Lockheed Martin at a Japan Air Self-Defense Force hangar to welcome the first operational F-35A Lightning II to JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing, at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Feb. 24, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)
This conclusion was reached after careful analysis of the radar and flight control data, as well as conversations with other F-35 pilots.
The pilot did not send out a distress signal indicating that he thought he was in trouble, and there is no indication he tried to eject. Furthermore, there is no evidence the major tried to pull up as the fighter’s onboard proximity warning system, which was presumably alerting him of an imminent collision, Reuters reported.
The Japanese defense ministry has ruled out a loss of consciousness or any problem with the plane as an explanation for the crash. Nonetheless, all Japanese F-35 pilots are being re-trained on avoiding spatial disorientation and gravity-induced loss of consciousness. All of its stealth fighters are currently grounded.
The ministry said in a statement that the fifth-generation fighter, following a rapid descent from an altitude of 31,500 feet, was flying 1,000 feet above the ocean’s surface at a speed of about 1,100 kph (683 mph) when the jet inexplicably disappeared from radar, according to Stars and Stripes. The defense ministry explained that the aircraft was destroyed “and parts and fragments scattered across the sea bottom.”
The aircraft, designated AX-6, is the second F-35A assembled at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ F-35 Final Assembly Check-Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya, Japan and is the first to be assigned to the JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing, 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan.
(ASDF’s 3rd Air Wing, 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan.)
On June 3, 2019, Japan called off the search for the missing fighter and the remains of the pilot, who was declared deceased at a press conference on June 7, 2019, after it was confirmed that body parts found among wreckage discovered shortly after the accident were those of Maj. Hosomi.
The flight data recorder was found during a later deep-water search, but the memory was lost, leaving many questions unanswered.
“It is truly regrettable that we lost such an excellent pilot,” Iwaya said late last week. “We truly respect Maj. Hosomi, who was lost while devotedly performing his duty and we extend our heartfelt condolences and offer our deepest sympathies to the family.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is wrapping up a deployment that saw heavy involvement in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Upon arrival, their efforts were focused on Raqqa for approximately three months. During that time, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs participated in an urban, close air support role. Pilots focused on protecting friendly forces as they maneuvered in the city between very large buildings in which the enemy hid and used as fighting positions.
“It was a difficult location to work in and we faced some situations that we have not dealt with before we arrived here,” said Maj. Matthew Cichowski, 74th EFS assistant director of operations. “Our weapons and tactics planners have done an excellent job preparing us for the variety of tactics and locations that we use and operate in.”
Adapting the squadron to the new location and varied tactical situations fell to the squadron’s weapons tactics planners.
“When we showed up, we got thrown into this fight essentially on day one,” said Lt. Col. Craig Morash, 74th EFS commander. “The fight itself was within the urban complex of Raqqa and the pilots had to get creative to figure out ways to strike targets at the bottom of these five story buildings. There was a lot of learning as this wasn’t something we traditionally trained to when we arrived. We reached out to different communities to see what we could learn from them.”
“Everyone jumped on board trying to figure out solutions to the problems we faced even though we had long days and a mountain of work to accomplish,” Morash continued. “Our intel shop processed an unbelievable amount of expenditure reports to make sure (U. S. Air Forces Central Command) had an accurate picture of what we were doing. Our life support troops were generating equipment and doing it perfectly every single time.”
The squadron’s intelligence Airmen also provide vital key information to pilots before their missions, enabling those pilots to adapt to threats and challenges on the fly.
“We’re trained on what the capabilities of the aircraft are, which allows us to give threat perspectives to pilots with what’s going on in the area of operations and how that affects the aircraft and pilots,” said Senior Airman Jake Owens, 74th EFS intelligence analyst. “We brief pilots on possible threats they may face while flying missions and we’re also tied into the intelligence reporting, where we report targets struck to higher headquarters. There’s a lot of battle tracking and predictive analysis.”
According to the squadron’s weapons and tactics chief, one of the most difficult aspects of close air support isn’t physically dropping the bomb, it’s making sure the rest of the process has been done correctly. The pilots assigned to the 74th EFS are trained to work through that process correctly, making sure friendly positions are confirmed, any attack restrictions make sense and are adhered to, and they are flying above or are laterally deconflicted with any artillery that may be firing, and avoiding any exposure to threats like anti-aircraft fire or other aircraft.
“Positive identification is extremely important and is something that takes a large team and a long amount of time to get right,” said Capt. Eric Calvey, 74th EFS chief of weapons and tactics. “Long before we show up there are individuals who use Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to get an idea of what targets to strike and make sure that what we drop on is, in fact, a hostile target. We’re the last link in the chain and there’s a large amount of work done ahead of time to prepare these targets for strike before we employ munitions on them. It’s amazing seeing the utmost care that is taken before we employ on these targets.”
Although the squadron’s deployment is coming to a close, Morash said they are still keen on supporting the ground forces, no matter where they are.
“Every single person in this squadron was and still is mission focused. They are looking at the bigger picture, seeing what solutions to problems could be and mitigating risk to ground forces every single day,” Morash said. “The way this team came together, operations and maintenance, to look after each other and to get things done made me proud to be an Airman.”
When the US Navy accused Russia of “unsafe and unprofessional” behavior at sea after a dangerous close encounter between a Russian destroyer and a US cruiser June 7, 2019, Russia quickly released a statement countering the US version of events.
Each side blamed the other for the run-in — which was close enough for US sailors to spot sunbathers topside on the Russian ship. But an expert who viewed the US Navy’s images concluded the Russians were to blame for the near-collision and were “operating in a dangerous and reckless fashion.”
The US Navy says the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chancellorsville and the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov nearly collided when the Russian ship sailed as close as 50 feet off the US Navy vessel while it was recovering a helicopter in the Philippine Sea. Russia claims that the USS Chancellorsville put itself on a collision course with the Russian ship in the East China Sea, where the two warships came within 50 meters (150 feet) of one another.
“While USS Chancellorsville was recovering its helicopter on a steady course and speed when the Russian ship DD572 maneuvered from behind and to the right of Chancellorsville accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance of approximately 50-100 feet,” 7th Fleet said in a statement, adding that the US warship was forced to execute all engines back full and to avoid a collision.
The US Navy cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), right, is forced to maneuver to avoid collision from the approaching Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov (DD 572), closing to approximately 50-100 feet putting the safety of her crew and ship at risk.
Russia responded with its own statement, pinning the blame for the close call on the US Navy.
“The US cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed its course and crossed the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer’s course some 50 meters away from the ship,” the Russian Pacific Fleet said. “In order to prevent a collision, the Admiral Vinogradov’s crew was forced to conduct an emergency maneuver.”
Russian media has invoked the rules of the road, arguing that a vessel approaching another ship on its starboard, or righthand, side has the right of way. Indeed, that is the rule for a routine crossing situation, but there’s more going on here.
The US Navy released photos and videos. Based on these, a retired US captain concluded that the US Navy cruiser had the right of way — and Russia was at fault.
“If the cruiser was actually conducting helicopter operations. That trumps everything,” explained retired Capt. Rick Hoffman, who commanded two US warships. “If she’s operating a helicopter, she’s constrained and permitted by the rules of the road to maintain course and speed. She has the right of way.”
In this situation, the USS Chancellorsvilleis considered a “vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver.” A ship in this category is “a vessel engaged in the launching and recovery of aircraft,” according to the internationally-accepted navigation rules for preventing collisions at sea.
Near collision between Russian destroyer and US cruiser.
(US 7th Fleet)
Furthermore the Russian destroyer appears to have been approaching from behind (astern) at high speed at an angle that would make this an overtaking rather than a crossing. In that scenario, the vessel being overtaken (the US warship) has the right of way.
The Russian ship “was clearly approaching from astern, clearly maneuvering to close the cruiser, and was clearly in violation of the rules of the road and putting the ship at risk,” Hoffman said. “The Russians were clearly operating in a dangerous and reckless fashion.”
He added that the wake indicated the “Russians had altered course several times,” more proof that the destroyer was purposefully closing with the US cruiser.
Another possible sign that this may have been a planned provocation on the part of the Russians is that there were sailors sunbathing on the helicopter pad. Were the Russian naval vessel actually concerned about a possible collision, there would have almost certainly been an all-hands response.
The ships alarm would likely have sounded, and sailors would have been ordered to damage control stations or braced for impact.
(1/2) USS Chancellorsville Avoids Collision with Russian Destroyer Udaloy I DD 572
Close encounters like the one involving the USS Chancellorsville and the Admiral Vinogradov are particularly dangerous because a ship is hard to maneuver at close range and a steel-on-steel collision can damage the ships and kill crewmembers.
“Unlike a car, a ship doesn’t have brakes, so the only way you can slow down is by throwing it into reverse,” Bryan Clark, a naval affairs expert and former US Navy officer, explained to BI recently. “It’s going to take time to slow down because the friction of the water is, of course, a lot less than the friction of the road. Your stopping distance is measured in many ship lengths.”
A US Navy cruiser is 567-feet-long and unable to move its hull right or left in the water very quickly, making a distance of 50 feet dangerous.
“When someone pulls a maneuver like that,” he added, “It’s really hard to slow down or stop or maneuver quickly to avoid the collision.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
They’re surrounded, targeted by constant bombardments and slowly strangled of supplies and reinforcements for months so fighters for Daesh (aka ISIS) might reasonably have abandoned Mosul and tried to slink off into the night.
That’s what happened June 2016 in the battle to recapture Fallujah, when Daesh fighters were relatively quickly routed, and hundreds were killed by U.S. aircraft when their fleeing convoy was spotted in the dark with infrared targeting systems.
Everyone in the anti-Daesh coalition hoped for a similar retreat by demoralized terrorists that would separate them from the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians still cowering in Mosul’s byzantine old city, on the west bank of the Tigris River.
But Daesh’s fighters are not abandoning Mosul, which, with the Syrian town of Raqqa, forms the twin-capitals of the self-proclaimed Islamist “caliphate.”
They are falling back on defensive positions prepared for two years in the densely congested side streets and alleyways of the old city, gathering Iraqi civilians close as they can as “human shields” and apparently preparing for a last, desperate stand.
“The toughest and most brutal phase of this war, and probably the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced or even read about in my 34-year career,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve says.
A veteran of six combat tours, Townsend calls the fighting in Mosul “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”
The tragic byproduct has been an alarming spike in civilian casualties, including a U.S. strike against a reported ISIS truck bomb on March 17 that may have collapsed a nearby building and killed as many as 200 civilians gathered there by Daesh.
On a recent trip near the frontlines of the Battle of Mosul, Townsend found a possible explanation for Daesh’s determination to stage an apocalyptic fight to the death in the old city.
“Every movement has a well-spring or some home turf where it finds support, and in recently talking to Iraqi and coalition commanders and listening to their intelligence assessments, I heard about neighborhoods supporting ISIS that I remembered from being a brigade commander in Mosul 10 years ago, when those same neighborhoods were sources of support for Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Townsend, speaking recently to defense reporters by phone from Baghdad.
If the Shiite-led Iraqi government fails to reach out to those and other neighborhoods and towns of disenfranchised Sunnis after the fighting stops, he noted, then Daesh’s expulsion from Mosul will likely prove a fleeting victory.
“What’s important after ISIS is defeated is that the government of Iraq has to reach out to these groups of people and make sure they feel like they have a future in the Iraqi state,” said Townsend.
A Pivotal Moment
With roughly three-quarters of Mosul recaptured and Daesh finally on the verge of losing its grip on Iraqi territory, the campaign against them is poised at an important inflection point.
Counter-insurgency experts have long understood that the actions of the Iraqi government and the various factions involved in the fighting the day after Mosul is recaptured will largely determine whether the group is defeated, or, once again, rises from the ashes of sectarian conflict.
The complex nature of the battlespace, combined with the anti-Daesh coalition’s sprawling nature, promises to complicate the transition from urban combat to whatever comes after.
The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is weak and has struggled to cope with the demands of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the fighting in Mosul.
The territorial demands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to the north, and possible acts of retribution against Sunni civilians by thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen to the west of city, cast a dark shadow over the aftermath.
A continued spike in civilian deaths by U.S. and coalition air forces could further alienate the overwhelmingly Sunni population of Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province.
And hanging over the entire anti-Daesh campaign is the question of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq after the group is expelled, and whether that engagement can be leveraged to help achieve the long-sought national reconciliation among Iraq’s feuding Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni factions.
Perhaps no U.S. military officer of his generation better understands this difficult terrain, and the momentous challenges ahead, than retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan and at U.S. Central Command.
He is widely credited with crafting and executing the counterinsurgency doctrine that pulled Iraq back from the abyss of sectarian civil war in 2007-2008 and decimated Al Qaeda in Iraq.
“The military defeat of ISIS is only the first step. The much more challenging task is to use all elements of American and coalition power to help achieve political solutions that will avoid once again creating fertile ground for extremists, and thereby avoid the rise of ISIS 3.0,” Petraeus told [Breaking Defense] in a recent email. “Our success in that mission will determine whether the U.S. military has to do this all over again in five years.”
Sectarian Civil War
After U.S. and Iraqi military forces and the Sunni tribes of Anbar Province routed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) beginning in 2006-7, the remnants of the terrorist insurgency eventually went underground, only to rise Phoenix-like from the fires of Syria’s civil war.
That brutal conflict pitted a minority regime of Alawites, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against a majority Sunni population.
Meanwhile, after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, the Sunni tribes in western Iraq, which had turned against AQI in the “Anbar Awakening,” grew restive under the iron-fisted and openly sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who headed the Shiite-majority government in Baghdad.
A former AQI lieutenant named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had spent time in a U.S. detention facility in Iraq, realized that between weak Shiite-led governments in Damascus and Baghdad lay a swath of territory inhabited by millions of rebellious Sunnis.
From that strategic insight, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born, and in one of the most improbable military offenses in history, its terrorist army captured territory in Syria and Iraq and proclaimed a “caliphate” in land stretching between its twin capitals.
When the Obama administration reluctantly deployed aircraft and troops back to Iraq to defend a Baghdad government on the verge of collapse, it wisely used that leverage to help nudge out the sectarian Maliki and encourage the more moderate Abadi.
Since then Abadi has promised to lead “national reconciliation” by reaching out to Sunnis liberated from Daesh rule, and draw them back inside the government tent. He has often struggled, however, to control a fractious coalition government with many hardline Shiite politicians with close ties to Shiite Iran.
Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy and former senior Middle Eastern analyst for the CIA, worries about Abadi’s ability to bring the country together.
“I think Abadi is a very good man who wants what’s best for Iraq, to include a pluralist government, corruption reforms, and democracy. The problem is Abadi is not particularly good at building coalitions, and the Iraqi government is fragmented and paralyzed by this ongoing sectarian civil war,” he says. “Frankly, Nelson Mandela would have a hard time stabilizing Iraq at this point. So the United States needs to leverage the influence it has gained by helping fight ISIS to empower Abadi in his reconciliation efforts. And they must include limiting the activities of the Shiite militias.”
Reining in Militias
The key to Iraq’s future may lie with the Shiite-dominated militias called Popular Mobilization forces.
A number of these militias have direct links to Iran and they have been difficult for the Iraqi government to control. According to Human Rights Watch, Shiite militias involved in the battle of Fallujah last summer committed atrocities against Sunni civilians, including torture and summary executions.
In the operation to recapture Tikrit they reportedly burned hundreds of homes of Sunni civilians they accused of colluding with Daesh. If something similar happens after Daesh is expelled from the much bigger and more populous city of Mosul, the swamp of Sunni grievance is likely to rise once again.
Sheikh Jamal Al-Dhari is a Sunni tribal leader who has lost more than 70 family members in Iraq’s sectarian wars.
“The ‘Anbar Awakening’ showed that the way to defeat Al Qaeda is to work with the Sunni tribes, but our efforts to take part in the anti-ISIS fight have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Baghdad government,” he said in an interview.
Now Shiite-dominated Iraqi Security Forces and possibly U.S. airpower have inadvertently killed hundreds if not thousands of Sunni civilians in Mosul, he noted, and thousands of Shiite militiamen have captured Sunni majority villages to the west of the city.
“We fear that the use of excessive force will cost the lives of thousands of more civilians, creating hardships and hard feelings that will only set the stage for the next ISIS, or worse.”
To avoid Kurdish or Shiite forces fighting each other and mistreating liberated Sunni civilians, U.S. battle planners created separate corridors into the city.
“The U.S. military worked very hard to insure that neither the Peshmerga nor the Popular Mobilization forces would be involved in the close-in fight in Mosul, and that has been mostly successful,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.
“But the main reason we’ve seen civilian casualties increase is that ISIS is being much more aggressive in using civilians as human shields. Their backs are now against the wall in Mosul’s old city, and they seem to be preparing for a last stand.”
When the dust of battle finally settles over Mosul, the most important decision confronting the Trump administration will be whether or not to keep a residual U.S. force inside Iraq to continue advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces, and helping coordinate counterterrorism operations.
If the U.S. military packs up lock-stock-and-barrel and leaves once again, many experts believe it will only set the stage for “son of ISIS” to fill the vacuum.
“Only if U.S. forces remain in Iraq to secure the peace will we achieve a major military victory over ISIS,” said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
The U.S. can leverage that presence not only to empower Abadi’s national reconciliation agenda, he said, but also to eventually find a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.
In “On War” [ Carl von] “Clausewitz said that the art of war was using tactical victories to achieve strategic ends,” said Jeffrey.
“We need to use the victories in Mosul and Raqqa to achieve the strategic end of a stable Middle East that is not dominated either by ISIS or Iran.”