What life is like for ISIS' child soldiers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

Recruited as a child soldier into Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Lal Mohammed accompanied his elder teenage brother, Bakht e Ali and their father, Taweez Khan, into the training and indoctrination for a promised life of religious glory. They lived for almost two years as members of the Wilayet e Khorasan, or Islamic State Khorasan Province, in Eastern Afghanistan.


“I was nine years old when I was with them. Now I am 12. They used to show us videos on how to fight and carry out suicide bombings,” Mohammad said.

His older brother was around 16 when he joined the militant group.

Islamic State, known regionally as ISKP, emerged in the region in early 2015. Most originally belonged to the Pakistani Taliban, which had been displaced from their stronghold in Pakistan’s tribal areas by a military operation.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
An Afghan village elder directs a crowd of eager school children as Afghan Special Security Forces arrive to distribute school supplies in Shadel village, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 3, 2017. ASSF drove ISIS from the village during fall offensive operations, allowing the locals to regain their farmland and re-open schools. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Klene)

Across the border in Afghanistan, 15 years of war had left vast swathes of territory without government. The age-old Pashtun tradition of welcoming guests helped them find shelter in the homes of local Shinwari tribesmen, who had been refugees during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and were eager to return the favor.

Eastern Afghanistan, particularly Nangarhar province, became an IS stronghold.

Later, many of those who provided shelter had to flee with their families, often leaving their belongings behind.

“When Daesh (ISKP) came to our area, most people already sympathized with them,” Ali said. “Our tribal elders and religious clerics started backing them. Daesh commanders started sitting with us in our homes. They would show us videos of the infidels oppressing Muslims.”

The militants told the locals their police and army were puppets of infidels and they needed to rise up in jihad, a holy war. Some of the locals, like Khan and his sons, joined their ranks.

Life with ISKP

Life with ISKP for the boys was regimented. They woke up before dawn to offer morning prayers, followed by religious lessons focused on jihad, then daily chores, and, finally, weapons training.

Ali recalled around 100 to 150 kids who lived and trained with them, including some who were under 10 years old, like his brother, Mohammad.

I saw it with my own eyes. They used to tell these young kids that if they carried out suicide bombings, all their troubles would be over and they would go straight to paradise. They were so good at indoctrination that any child who listened to them for a month would not listen to anyone else.

All the children’s needs, clothing, weapons, food, were taken care of. Khan, their father, received a salary from ISKP.

The two brothers remember their training to be very disciplined. The ultimate goal was to make them suicide bombers.

One day, they took the younger brother on a mission. “Daesh fighters told me we were going to be in a firefight, and that they would stay behind and open fire from the check post. I should go forward and explode my suicide vest,” Mohammad said.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
An Afghan boy receives a school bag from Afghan national army soldiers and a Marine special operations company’s team members. The ANA and MSOC unit were visiting a Helmand province village in late February. (Courtesy PhotoNATO Training Mission Afghanistan 2008)

ISKP lost that fight and had to retreat. He came back alive.

The militants focused on molding young minds by showing videos and playing militant music to increase the boys’ sense of affiliation with IS. The brothers said the idea of being part of something bigger than themselves, a battle between good and evil, felt good.

‘We wanted to slaughter someone’

Militants punished anyone who did not follow their fundamentalist brand of sharia. “We’ve seen torture. We’ve seen it happening to our own friends or relatives,” Ali recalled.

He also recalled how normal it was to kill someone.

We saw a lot of people get slaughtered. We also wanted to slaughter someone because we were told that this would bring us holy rewards from God. People who disagreed with Daesh were slaughtered.

Also Read: Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm

Khan said, “Sometimes, they would tie people’s hands and feet, and then slaughter them. Sometimes they would hang a man from a tree and just leave him there to die. Sometimes they would just beat someone up with batons ’til he died,” he said.

Escaping from the militants

Not everyone was happy with the militants, but if someone tried to escape, ISKP militants usually went after them to punish or kill them.

Despite that danger, and the promises of heaven and glorious rewards from God, the father and sons said the atrocities became too much for them to handle.

Khan described a growing sense of alienation from the group, which he started seeing as foreigners oppressing his countrymen.

“These men from TTP (Pakistani Taliban) started working here as IS. They started taking land and trees from the locals as spoils of war,” he said. “They used to kidnap Afghanis to get ransom,” he added.

Eventually, Khan decided to take his sons, and some other men under his command, and escape to a government-controlled area. They surrendered to local police. He now works with the police.

“Even now, if IS finds out we are here, they will find us and kill us,” Ali said.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
Afghan kids take a moment to smile for the camera. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Meanwhile, they have no idea of the fate of dozens of other child soldiers who were living with ISKP.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, the Taliban have also trained and deployed scores of children for military operations and used them to plant homemade bombs.

The United Nations has documented the use of child soldiers by Afghan police.

In December last year, the Afghan government signed an initiative called the Child Protection Policy, with the aim of protecting children in conflict zones, including barring its security forces from using children in armed conflict.

But for children like Ali and Mohammad, there is no effective program to de-radicalize and re-integrate them into society. Now, Bakht e Ali works as a security guard, while Lal Mohammad stays at home and has not joined school again.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Can you actually pull a grenade pin with your teeth?

GatGatCat asks: Is cooking grenades and pulling the pins with your teeth something people really do or just something in games?

We’ve all seen it — the protagonist of a film whips out a hand grenade, dashingly yanks the pin with his teeth as his hair flows in the wind, counts one-potato, two-potato, three and hucks it at nearby teeming hoards of enemy swarming on his location. But is this actually a thing in real life?

First thing’s first, yes, if you have hair, it is possible for it to flow in the wind… As for the grenade part, the generally recommended proper technique is — “proper grip, thumb to clip, twist pull pin, strike a pose, yell frag out, hit the dirt”.


On the first step of “proper grip” it is particularly important to make sure to NEVER adjust your grip on the lever (called “milking”) once the pin is pulled. Doing so may let up enough on said lever to allow the striker to do its thing to the percussion cap, which in turn creates a spark, thereby causing a slow burn of the fuse materials lasting approximately 2-6 seconds for most types of grenade, after which the main charge will ignite, sending shrapnel in all directions. So should you adjust your grip, you could potentially have a really bad time, even should you re-squeeze the lever after. Such a thing has caused the deaths of many a soldier, for example thought to have been the cause of the death of Specialist David G Rubic who had an M67 grenade explode in his hand as he was about to throw it during a training exercise.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

M67 grenade.

(Public domain)

As you can see from these steps, at no point is taking your sweet time getting rid of the grenade after you release the lever, called “cooking”, mentioned. Nevertheless, cooking the grenade is not without its virtues, with the general idea to minimise the window of opportunity the enemy has to react to said grenade — potentially throwing it back or diving for cover.

That said, while in film throwing the grenade back is a common trope, this is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off in real life. Consider that when the grenade is thrown, it is likely going to be in the air or bouncing around on the ground for a couple seconds in most scenarios, and thus about the only chance of someone actually picking it up and throwing it back successfully is if they Omar Vizquel’d it and caught it in the air and immediately hucked it back. But even then, whether it would get back to the thrower before exploding is anybody’s guess — quite literally given, if you were paying attention, that rather variable estimate of 2-6 seconds from lever release to explosion, depending on model of grenade.

For example, the US Army’s own field manual on the use of grenades and pyrotechnic signals states the fuse time tends to vary by as much as 2 whole seconds with, for example, the M67 grenade then having an estimated “3-5 second delay fuze”. So counting one-potato, two-potato potentially only gives you one potato to go through the throwing motion, then take cover. And if you happen to be on the 3 potato end of things to boom, that grenade is going to be extremely close to your position when it sings the song of its people.

It’s at this point we should point out that in many common grenade designs the potential lethal area is approximately 15-30 metres (50-100 feet), with the risk of injury from shrapnel extending to a couple hundred metres with some types of grenades. As you can imagine from this, potentially under one-potato just isn’t a good enough safety margin in most scenarios.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
Giphy

For this reason, both the US Army and the Marines Corp strongly advise against cooking grenades with the latter referring to it as the “least preferred technique” to throw a grenade. As for the most preferred technique, to quote the Marine Corps manual on Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain:

The preferred technique involves throwing the grenade hard enough that it bounces or skips around, making it difficult to pick up. The hard-throw, skip/bounce technique may be used by Marines in training and combat.

That said, there are edge cases where cooking a grenade may be beneficial where the reward outweighs the risks and potentially environmental factors make it a safer prospect. As such, the same manual notes that cooking a grenade is a technique that can be used “as appropriate” based on the discretion of an individual Marine, but should never be used during training. Likewise, the US Army notes in its field manual on the use of grenades that the act of cooking off grenades should be reserved for a combat environment only.

As for situations where cooking a grenade is deemed potentially appropriate, the most common are clearing rooms and bunkers where there are nice thick barriers between you and the impending blast. (Although, it’s always worth pointing out that while many a Hollywood hero has taken cover on one side of a drywall wall, this isn’t exactly an awesome barrier and shrapnel and bullets easily go through the gypsum and paper. Likewise as a brief aside, any such hero ever trapped in a room in many homes and buildings can quite easily just smash a hole in the drywall to escape if they so chose. It’s not that difficult. Just make sure not to try to punch or kick through the part with a 2×4 behind it…)

In any event, beyond urban environments, hitting very close enemies behind heavy cover is another common scenario cited in field manuals we consulted for cooking a grenade.

As for the amount of time it is advised to cook a grenade before throwing it, every official source we consulted notes that 2 seconds is the absolute maximum amount of time a soldier is advised to hold onto a live grenade before throwing it, with emphasis on MAXIMUM.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

All this said, technology has improved this situation in some newer designs of grenades that use electronic timer components, rather than unpredictable burning fuses. In these grenades, you can be absolutely sure that from the moment you release the lever, you have exactly the amount of time the designers intended, making cooking these grenades a much safer prospect in the right circumstances. Further, there are also new grenade designs coming out with position sensors as an added safety mechanism, via ensuring they cannot detonate unless the sensor detects the grenade has been thrown first.

But to sum up on the matter of cooking grenades, soldiers can and do, though rarely, “cook” grenades to minimise the time an enemy has to react to them, although doing so isn’t advised and requires, to quote a book literally titled Grenades, “great confidence in the manufacturer’s quality control”. And, of course, similarly a soldier with balls or ovaries of solid steel and compatriots who are extremely trusting of their ability to count potatoes accurately — when literally a one second margin of error may be the difference between you dying or not, a sloppy seconds counter is not to be trusted.

Now on to the matter of pulling a pin with your teeth… While designs of grenades differ, from accounts of various soldiers familiar with a variety of grenades, as well as looking at the manufacturers’ stated pull power needed — it would seem trying to pull a grenade pin with your teeth is a great way to put your dentist’s kids through college.

For example, the relatively common M67 grenade takes about 3-5 kg (about 7 to 11 pounds) of force to pull free stock. The Russian F1 grenade takes about 8 kg (17 pounds) of pull power to get the pin out. Or as one soldier, referring to the Singapore SFG87 grenade, notes, “The pin was actually partially wrapped around the spoon(handle) of the grenade and was extremely stiff. You had to literally twist and yank the pin out, which made your fingers red and hurt a little.”

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
Frag out!

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)

Even without bent pins, to illustrate just how hard it can be to pull these pins in some cases, we have this account from Eleven Charlie One Papa by James Mallen. In it, he states,

[The] new guy had entered the hooch and hung up his gear, apparently from the canvas web gearing of his LBG but actually hanging on the pull pin of an HE fragmentation grenade, and then decided to go off somewhere. Worse still, the guy had not bent the cotter pin of the grenade over, so that at any moment…the gear would fall, the pin would be pulled out, the grenades’ primer would ignite, and give seconds later everyone in the hooch at the time would be killed or horribly wounded.I had a mini heart attack and turned immediately to jump out but a soldier behind me was blocking my way, whereupon I mostly violently pushed him out of the way, up the stairs and outside, to escape a quick and violent end…
I learned that the guy who was responsible for it would return soon. I decided that he would have to take care of it… After about ten minutes that soldier … returned…He went back down, seemingly unconcerned, and rearranged his LBG so that it was hanging by the suspender strap instead of the pull-pin of a hand grenade….

Going back to bent pins, while many grenades don’t come stock with the pins bent, this is a common practice done by soldiers the world over anyway, making it even more difficult to pull the pin. The primary purpose behind this is to ensure that the pin doesn’t accidentally get pulled when you’d rather it not, like catching on a stray tree branch as you’re trotting through the jungle, or even in combat when you might be hitting the deck or scrambling around haphazardly with little thought to your grenade pins.

Illustrating this, in Eleven Charlie One Papa, Mallen states, “I pointed out to him that the grenade cotter pin wasn’t even bent over and he said that he was completely unaware that he should have them bent over. So for the last week or so we had been humping the bush with this guy whose grenades could have easily been set off by having the pin catch in a big thorn or spike. I guess it was our fault for not telling the guy things like that, things that were never taught in basic or advanced infantry training back in the states.”

This practice, although widely utilised by soldiers is sometimes discouraged by some in the military precisely because it makes it extremely difficult to pull the pin if one doesn’t first take the time to bend the metal back. This not only makes the grenade potentially take a little longer to be deployed in a pinch, but is also thought to contribute to soldiers unintentionally milking the grenade directly after the pin has finally been pulled with extreme force. This is what is speculated to have happened in the aforementioned death of Specialist David G Rubic, as noted by Colonel Raymond Mason who was in charge of figuring out what went wrong. In the investigation, it was discovered that Rubic had, according to witnesses, both previously bent the pin and been holding the lever down at the time it exploded in his hand.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Dengrier Baez)

Of course, if one throws the grenade immediately upon pin removal, whether you milk the grenade or not makes little difference — with it only being extra risky if you choose to hold onto it for some number of potatos. On top of this, regardless of what superiors say, many soldiers are unwilling to entrust their and their compatriots’ lives to a mere 3-8 kg worth of pull force, which a tree branch or the like while jogging can potentially exert.

That said, a tree branch is not your teeth and whether bending the pins or not, as Sergeant Osman Sipahi of the Turkish Armed forces states, you can pull the pin this way, “but there is a high probability of you fucking up your teeth. It’s the same as biting the top of a beer bottle off; it’s doable but not recommended.”

Or as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Quigley, author of Passage Through A Hell of Fire And Ice, sums up: “The business in the movies of the guy grabbing the grenade ring in his teeth and pulling out the pin is a load; it does not happen unless he is prepared to throw out a few teeth with it as well. We have all commented how we would like to get some of those Hollywood grenades that allow you to bite off the pin, throw the grenade a few hundred yards, and never miss your target, going off with the blast effect of a 500-pound bomb…”

Bonus Facts:

Any article on the discussion of grenade usage would be remiss in not answering the additional question often posed of whether you can put the pin back in after you’ve pulled it and still have it be safe to let go of the lever — the answer is yes, but this must be done VERY carefully, as letting up even a little on the lever before the pin is fully-re-inserted can cause the striker to do its thing, potentially without you knowing it, as illustrated in the death of one Alexander Chechik of Russia. Mr. Chechik decided it would be a good idea to pull the pin on a grenade he had, take a picture, then send it to his friends. The last text he ever received was from a friend stating, “Listen, don’t f*** around… Where are you?” Not responding, reportedly Chechik attempted to put the pin back in, but unsuccessfully. The grenade ultimately exploded in his hand, killing him instantly, while also no doubt making him a strong candidate for a Darwin award.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)

Next up, as occasionally happens to all of us, if you happen to find a grenade thrown at you or drop the one you’re holding with the pin already pulled, if no readily available cover is nearby the general recommendation is to lay flat on the ground with, assuming you remembered to wear your Kevlar helmet like a good soldier, your head towards the grenade. These helmets are designed to be an effective barrier against such shrapnel. This position also ensures minimal odds of any shrapnel hitting you in the first place via reducing the cross section of you exposed to the grenade’s blast.

Now, you might at this point be thinking as you have your shrapnel proof Kevlar helmet, why not just put it on the the grenade? Genius, right? Well, no. While these helmets can take a barrage of quite a bit of high speed shrapnel, they cannot contain the full force of the blast of a typical grenade, as was tragically proven by Medal of Honor winner, Jason Dunham. In his case, not trusting his helmet to contain the blast, he also put his body on top of the helmet to make sure nobody else would be hurt by the dropped grenade. He did not survive, but those around him did.

In yet another case of a soldier jumping on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, but this time with a reasonably happy ending, we have the case of Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter. On November 21, 2010 while in Afghanistan, a grenade was thrown into his sandbagged position. Rather than run, he used his own body to shield the other soldier with him from the blast. Miraculously, though severely injured, Carpenter lived and was awarded the Medal of Honor in June of 2014.

In a similar case, during a battle on Feb. 20, 1945, one Jack H Lewis and his comrades were advancing toward a Japanese airstrip near Mount Suribachi. Taking cover in a trench under heavy fire, Jack realized they were only feet away from enemy soldiers in a neighboring trench. He managed to shoot two of the soldiers before two live grenades landed in his trench. Thinking quickly, Jack threw himself on the first grenade, shoving it into volcanic ash and used his body and rifle to shield the others with him from the pending blast. When another grenade appeared directly after the first, he reached out and pulled it under himself as well. His body took the brunt of the two blasts and the massive amount of shrapnel. His companions were all saved, but his injuries were so serious they thought he had died. Only after a second company moved through did anyone realize he was somehow still alive. Jack endured nearly two dozen surgeries and extensive therapy and convalescence. Despite the surgeries, over 200 pieces of shrapnel remained in his body for the rest of his life which lasted an additional six decades. He died at the ripe old age of 80, on June 5, 2008 from leukemia.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

China might have radar tech that can see the F-35

The United States is banking on the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning to provide an advantage in a major war with China or Russia. These high-performance planes use stealth technology to evade enemy radars.


What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

The first operational stealth combat jet, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, was a gamechanger. It was able to penetrate air defenses, giving the enemy no idea that they were overhead — until the bombs hit their targets. The F-117 was followed by the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. Those planes gave China and Russia some real problems. Although they weren’t entirely invisible, the detection range was so short that… well, let’s just say that by the time you detected them, you had mere seconds to find cover before the bombs hit.

According to The National Interest, Communist China now claims they have a way to counter stealth aircraft: The KJ-600, a carrier-launched airborne radar plane that will be launched from the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Type 002 and 003 classes of aircraft carriers. One of the biggest weaknesses of China’s carrier aviation was the lack of a plane comparable to the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the latest variant of the long-running E-2 Hawkeye series of aircraft, which employs long-range radar and electronic communications capabilities to oversee the battlespace and detect threats beyond the sensor range of other friendly units. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Farbo)

The KJ-600 aims to fill that gap in capacity. The Chinese Communists claim that this plane can detect stealth fighters like the F-22 and F-35 at a range of 200 miles through use of an Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radar, but this capability may be oversold. An expert, quoted in the South China Morning Post, admitted that the 200-mile range comes from “a certain angle.”

Those three words may be the catch for Communist China. There is no guarantee that the F-35 will come in at “a certain angle” conducive to 200-mile detection. It is far more likely the KJ-600 won’t detect the F-35 until the American fighter has fired a pair of AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles. Then, the Chinese Communists will find their navy’s been blinded, and are now sitting ducks.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This trainer will make you a card-carrying member of the log-carrying elite

Make sure you train properly before you venture into any log-carrying evolution. Max “The Body” Philisaire shows you how to get yourself into the right physical shape before you even try to move that log.


What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, Adelson Raimundo Reis Amaral, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Having trouble logging in?

Max wants to help you.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
It’s easy. Just follow Max’s step-by-step guide. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Step 1: Type the word “log” into Google Images. Tell Max the image that you see.

Step 2: Recognize that you are not looking at an image depicting an action that involves sitting casually while making twiddly fingers on your keyboard.

Step 3: Acknowledge to Max that the first image Google showed you when you entered the word “log” resembles this one:

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers (This is the search result internet usage rules allow us to show.)

Step 4: Assume an upright position.

Step 5: Clean and jerk your computer/desk/cubicle over one shoulder and march your candy ass eight laps around your office parking lot.

Step 6: Repeat.

Step 7: And like it.

Oh sorry, what? You don’t like it?

Max would like to help you with that, too.

Because this is Max. Max does not log you in. Max lugs you out. Of harm’s way. With a large log over his other shoulder. In that scenario, you’re lumber. Max logs long hours lugging lumber. Max lugs logs longer than limber lumberjacks. If Max was a rockstar instead of a ruckstar? He be goddamned Kenny Luggins.

In this episode, Max attacks your shoulders and back, the muscle groups essential for mastering the classic log carry. Don’t be dead weight for other people to lug. Don’t be lumber. Do these exercises regularly and with great vigor. Do these exercises and you may one day be, like Max:

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
Goddamned lug-xurious. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Watch, and be dumbbell impressed, in the video embedded at the top.

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This elite veteran trainer will make you aim true

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MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Another senior politician has died of coronavirus in Iran, where 8% of the parliament is infected

Another senior Iranian politician has died of the coronavirus amid reports that 8% of the country’s parliament has been infected.


Hossein Sheikholeslam, a diplomat and the country’s former ambassador to Syria, died Thursday, according to state news agency Fars. Sheikholeslam worked as an adviser to Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Sheikholeslam studied at the University of California, Berkeley, before the Islamic Revolution and later interrogated US Embassy staff members during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979.

Eight percent of Iran’s parliament has been infected with the coronavirus, including the deputy health minister and one of the vice presidents, according to CNN. Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a senior adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, died in a hospital on Monday, a state-affiliated media organization said.

Tehran, Iran’s capital, subsequently barred government officials from traveling, and parliament has been suspended indefinitely.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

As of Thursday, about 3,500 Iranians have been infected, and 107 have died from the disease, according to government officials, but the true totals are suspected to be higher.

Iran, along with China, is believed to be underreporting the rate of deaths and infections as it struggles to deal with the health crisis. Iran and Italy have the highest death tolls outside China, where over 3,000 people have died from the disease.

Iran has taken several measures to address growing concerns about the coronavirus, including temporarily releasing 54,000 prisoners from crowded jails.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

The US State Department has offered assistance to Iran, but the country did not appear to be receptive.

“We have made offers to the Islamic Republic of Iran to help,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told lawmakers last week. “And we’ve made it clear to others around the world and in the region that assistance, humanitarian assistance, to push back against the coronavirus in Iran is something the United States of America fully supports.”

Iran responded to the aid by saying it would “neither count on such help nor are we ready to accept verbal help,” according to NBC News correspondent Ali Arouzi.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the big takeaways from the latest Space Force press conference

What started as wishful thinking by a bunch of vets hoping to one day become space shuttle door gunners is starting to take shape as the next steps in establishing a Space Force are underway.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence held a conference at the Pentagon on Aug 9 to discuss the latest plans and updates on the creation of the United States Space Force. To clear some of the fog surrounding it, it’s not about sending armed troops into space nor is it an over-the-top plan to fight aliens.

There is a real and current strategic advantage in using space to aid with Earthly conflicts through satellites operations and missile defense — both of which would fall under the purview of the new Space Force.


What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

Vice President Mike Pence has championed our current space commands within the Air Force and the Navy.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)

Secretary Mattis opened up the briefing and announced that the Pentagon will release its latest space report to Congress, reinforcing the specifics on how they will move forward. He then welcomed Vice President Pence to take the podium.

Vice President Pence reiterated both the desire to push mankind back into space exploration and to utilize space for the rapid advancement of technology. He likened the establishment of the Space Force to that of the Air Force when it was first created.

“In 1939, at the start of the second World War, the U.S. Army Air Corps was still a fledgling organization… By 1945, the American military had nearly 30 times the number of planes and 85 times the number of pilots and support crews compared to just six years earlier and our allies emerged victorious from WWII because of the strength of our armed forces and because our armed forces adapted to meet the emerging threats of the day,” said Vice President Mike Pence.
What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

Once you realize just how many U.S. satellites are in space, how little protection they have, and just how dependent our society is on their safety… you’ll stop thinking of the Space Force as a joke branch.

(Air Force illustration)

Our current military does, in fact, have a space command and has had one for decades. Expanding the space command into a full branch would give the tens of thousands of troops and civilian contractors currently working on the space mission far greater spending to continue and expand upon the responsibilities of the domain.

Founding the Space Force will firmly establish America’s leadership in space. In President Trump’s own words,

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. And so we will.”

One of the first technologies announced was the fielding of a new generation of jam-resistant GPS and communication satellites. This also comes along with a new missile defense satellite that is “smaller, tougher, and more maneuverable than ever before.”

The need for dominance over space is growing by the day. China launched a missile that tracked and destroyed a test satellite in 2007. Russia has been designing an airborne laser that is said to disrupt satellites and claim to be creating missiles that could be launched mid-flight to destroy satellites. Both have claimed to have ability to move their satellites closer to our own — which could pose an unprecedented new danger.

Many more details about the new branch’s establishment will come soon as we move forward towards its eventual creation with a possible date set for 2020.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan pilots in U.S. Black Hawks are attacking Taliban fighters

Firing machine guns at Taliban fighters, reinforcing attacking ground troops, and scouting through mountainous terrain to find enemy locations are all things US-trained Afghan Air Force pilots are now doing with US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The ongoing US effort to provide anti-Taliban Afghan fighters with Black Hawks has recently been accelerated to add more aircraft on a faster timeframe, as part of a broad strategic aim to better enable Afghan forces to attack.


The first refurbished A-model Black Hawks, among the oldest in the US inventory, arrived in Kandahar in September of last year, as an initial step toward the ultimate goal of providing 159 of the helicopters to the Afghans, industry officials say.

While less equipped than the US Army’s most modern M-model Black Hawks, the older, analog A-models are currently being recapitalized and prepared for hand over to the Afghans.

Many of the Afghan pilots, now being trained by a globally-focused, US-based aerospace firm called MAG, have been flying Russian-built Mi-17s. Now, MAG is helping some Afghan pilots transition to Black Hawks as well as training new pilots for the Afghan Air Force.

“We are working on a lot of mission types. We’re helping pilots learn to fly individually, conduct air assaults and fly in conjunction with several other aircraft,” Brian Tachias, Senior Vice President for MAG, Huntsville Business Unit, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter transports soldiers from Bagram Airfield over Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 26, 2004.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vernell Hall)

The current MAG deal falls under the US Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization. Tachias said, “a team of roughly 20 MAG trainers has already flown over 500 hours with Afghan trainees.” MAG trainers, on-the-ground in Kandahar, graduated a class of Afghan trainees this month. According to current plans, Black Hawks will have replaced all Mi-17s by 2022.

Tachias added that teaching Afghan pilots to fly with night vision goggles has been a key area of emphasis in the training to prepare them for combat scenarios where visibility is more challenging. By next year, MAG intends to use UH-60 simulators to support the training.

While not armed with heavy weapons or equipped with advanced sensors, the refurbished A-model Black Hawks are outfitted with new engines and crew-served weapons. The idea is to give Afghan forces combat maneuverability, air superiority and a crucial ability to reinforce offensive operations in mountainous terrain, at high altitudes.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

An Afghan Air Force pilot receives a certificate during a UH-60 Black Hawk Aircraft Qualification Training graduation ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2017. The pilot is one of six to be the first AAF Black Hawk pilots. The first AAF Black Hawk pilots are experienced aviators coming from a Mi-17 background.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Veronica Pierce)

The MAG training effort is consistent with a broader Army strategy to arm, train, and equip Afghan forces such that they can continue to take over combat missions. In recent years, the US Army has placed a premium on operating in a supportive role wherein they train, assist and support Afghan fighters who themselves engage in combat, conduct patrols and do the majority of the fighting.

Standing up an Afghan Air Force has been a longstanding, stated Army goal for a variety of key reasons, one of which simply being that the existence of a capable Afghan air threat can not only advance war aims and enable the US to pull back some of its assets from engaging in direct combat.

While acknowledging the complexities and challenges on continued war in Afghanistan, US Centcom Commander Gen. Joseph Votel voiced this sensibility earlier this summer, stating that Afghan forces are increasingly launching offensive attacks against the Taliban.

“They are fighting and they are taking casualties, but they are also very offensive-minded, inflicting losses on the Taliban and [ISIS-Khorasan] daily, while expanding their capabilities and proficiency every day,” Votel said, according to an Army report from earlier this summer.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military community is rallying around this immunocompromised Marine

The military community is rallying around LeahAnn Sweeney, United States Marine Corps veteran and Pin-Ups for Vets Ambassador, as she battles breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sweeney was a Motor Transport Operator in the Marines and served with the San Diego County Sheriff Department before volunteering at veterans’ bedsides with her fellow pin-ups; now, the single mother of three could use a little help of her own.

Her family has created a Meal Train, where people can make a monetary donation or sign up to bring a meal to LeahAnn and her family.


Pin-Ups For Vets on Facebook Watch

www.facebook.com

Sweeney served four years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, operating motor transport tactical wheeled vehicles and equipment that transported passengers and cargo in support of combat and garrison operations. As a 3531, she also performed crew/operator level maintenance on all tools and equipment for assigned vehicles. Throw in her career as a Deputy Sheriff and I think it’s safe to say we’ve got a certifiable badass on our hands.

Spotting an active member of the local Southern California community, Pin-Ups for Vets (an organization dedicated to helping hospitalized and deployed service members and their families) invited Sweeney to become part of its 2020 fundraising calendar.

“It brings a sense of gratitude and joy to be able to bring a smile to those who have proudly served our country. I am especially fond of visiting the few remaining World War II veterans and hearing their stories, as I have a personal family history of those who served and sacrificed during that wartime era,” Sweeney has said of the non-profit organization.

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LeahAnn Sweeney in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising calendar.

“LeahAnn has led a life of service, from doing four years in the Marine Corps as a Motor Transport Operator, to getting out and working for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff, to doing ‘service after service’ as a volunteer with our non-profit organization,” remarked Gina Elise, the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets. “As long as I have known LeahAnn, I have had so much respect and admiration for her. When she says she is going to be there, she is there, always willing to lend a hand where it is needed. She has been incredible with the patients at the VA Hospital, providing her beautiful smile to brighten their day and an ear to listen to their stories. My heart goes out to her and her family. As they say, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’ so I know she will be able to fight this. She knows that her fellow Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors will be there as her support network.”

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FIJAqwoMMMFgBbL_ZCKF1TLooCJI5yLryiSan4mkecudwFI0ptLWUYTWDgdZ1GDknqClIhDJVOJImDBRXspXWDumjH57rInPLFPVHmWbe7c3kpEnDT-iQTmPB6oncpWRbG-IG2tvZ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com&s=900&h=4b98db184d1b717d840799fa43d7f9e4dce9b77a85822f56b56bfa8b97e298e0&size=980x&c=426830869 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FIJAqwoMMMFgBbL_ZCKF1TLooCJI5yLryiSan4mkecudwFI0ptLWUYTWDgdZ1GDknqClIhDJVOJImDBRXspXWDumjH57rInPLFPVHmWbe7c3kpEnDT-iQTmPB6oncpWRbG-IG2tvZ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D900%26h%3D4b98db184d1b717d840799fa43d7f9e4dce9b77a85822f56b56bfa8b97e298e0%26size%3D980x%26c%3D426830869%22%7D” expand=1]

Deputy Sheriff Sweeney and a future law enforcement officer, clearly!

(Courtesy photo)

Her spirit of service and generosity have spurred a movement of those willing to show their support.

“As a single mother of three children, the need to feed her family doesn’t stop, but she’ll only be able to leave her home for mandatory tests and treatments during this quarantine. Providing basic groceries and meals are a vital part of her family’s care and her personal recovery,” said the Meal Train organizer, Lindsay Hassebrock.

Anyone who wants to mobilize and show support can share this article or links to the Meal Train, donate right here to help, or even sign up to cover a dinner for the Sweeney family.

And LeahAnn, if you’re reading this, just know that your military family has your back. Semper Fi.

Featured Image courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marie Monforte Photography

Articles

Veterans describe what it’s like to kill in this powerful video series

What do you say when people ask if you killed anyone?


This question is almost inevitable when civilians find out you’re a war veteran. How do you explain that feeling to someone who never fought in a war?

I know it’s not right to do this, but I have to. If I focused on it for one minute, I would lose my mind. So I didn’t.

Most people, even many veterans, will never know what it’s like to kill another human being, especially in combat. A video series, On Killing, produced by Cut.com, asked six war veterans of various eras and countries the difficult questions about killing in warfare.

I didn’t give a f*ck who he was. I was trying to keep me alive.”
One minute you have somebody walking along and the next it’s just a lump of flesh.

Six war veterans discuss their experiences in the series. This includes Lonnie, an infantryman during the Vietnam War:

Josh, a sniper in Operation Enduring Freedom:
Daniel, a machine gunner during the Vietnam War:
Qassim, an Iraqi who was forced into Saddam Hussein’s army during the Iran-Iraq War:
Lance, a 3rd generation Army veteran and veteran of the Kosovo War:
Jonathan, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran:
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is starting its own community college

Education will be a key part of maintaining America’s might upon the sea, Navy officials said Feb. 12, 2019, as they unveiled their comprehensive look at education in the service.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer signed a memorandum that will lead to the establishment of a Naval University System that will help develop America’s ultimate competitive advantage: the minds of its service members.

The memo is an outgrowth of the Education for Seapower Study — the first comprehensive “top to bottom” look at Navy education in 100 years.


The effort looks to maintain America’s lead in military affairs.

Protecting competitive advantage

The impact of education can be huge. Education will lead to America’s competitive advantage, Navy officials said. Technology — as good as it is — can only go so far if the people operating it do not understand the implications.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

Vice Adm. Timothy “T.J.” White, commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and U.S. 10th Fleet, delivers a lecture to midshipmen in Alumni Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Oct. 16, 2018.

(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Souvannason)

“The last remaining advantage that we have will be our minds,” Navy Undersecretary Thomas Modly said during an interview. “We have to make sure we are getting the best people and that we are training them and educating them to be agile and adaptable so they can deal with uncertainty in a better way.”

The effort will go from the deckplates to the flag and general officer ranks, with the service establishing a Naval Community College system and putting in requirements for masters degrees in strategic studies for all unrestricted line flag and general officers.

The memo calls for the service to have a chief learning officer — a senior executive service civilian — in place by June 2019. That person will develop the education strategy by December 2019. Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, is reorganizing the Naval Staff to create the position of director of warfighting development.

Building an educational system

The creation of the Naval Community College is first on the agenda and there could be people in the program by 2020, officials said.

Spencer called for the review when he first came into office in 2018. He was concerned that the Navy, because of the operational requirements, was not getting the right people, the right education for their position.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

Thomas B. Modly, undersecretary of the Navy, and Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, Naval War College president, listen to a presenter at the “Breaking the Mold; A Workshop on War and Strategy in the 21st Century,” held in Newport, R.I., March 7, 2018.

(Navy photo by Edwin L. Wriston)

Panel members looked at the Marine Corps University and the Army and Air Force equivalents in forming the recommendations.

Part of this effort is to consider the way delivery methods for education have changed over time. The service has to get the mix of distance education and in-residence time right. The Navy has people all over the world and it will be a huge advantage for them to be a part of this, officials said.

The Navy and Marine Corps have world-class faculty in their institutions and the rest of the fleet needs to be exposed to them, Navy officials said. Distance learning gives sailors and Marines the opportunity to learn from them.

Tailored education

The Navy wants the system to be tailored to the way the force fights, officials said. The U.S. military is a joint force and the Navy and Marine Corps cannot be separate from the Army and Air Force, officials said.

The panel consulted with Army and Air Force in setting up the system, because “frankly the Army and the Air Force have been doing a much better job of putting a high value on education,” officials said. “We took a lot of lessons from the way they are structured and addressing it to inform this study.”

A large part of the effort is establishing a Navy community college system. The idea is to get sailors and Marines have educational programs delivered to them wherever they are. This will develop into a system that will be a mix of online learning and at schools to fulfill the needs of the individuals and the services.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New sailors train on a replica of a guided missile destroyer

To develop Sailors with character and professional competence, who possess integrity, accountability, initiative, and toughness, Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s only boot camp, administers a final exam that is designed to evaluate the proficiency of critical warfighting skills.


Also read: Female Marines have arrived at the Combat Training Battalion

The final exam is called “Battle Stations-21.” It is a graded evolution held on board USS Trayer, a 210-ft replica of an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile Destroyer, in which recruits must earn the right to be called a “Sailor” and graduate basic training. They spend the night loading stores, getting underway, handling mooring lines, standing watches, responding to incoming attacks, manning general quarters stations, and combating shipboard fires and floods. It is as close to being underway as a recruit can get before reaching their first ship.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

Facing sensory overload from compartments full of smoke, blaring alarms, periods of low visibility as well as disorienting flashes, recruits are required to overcome the stress, self-organize and tackle each scenario with little-to-no intervention from instructors. Their Battle Stations-21 grade is comprised of 75% individual proficiency and 25% team proficiency. Failure in either category, or an overall score below 80%, results in training remediation which impacts recruit graduation dates.

Related: 6 of the most common infantry training injuries

Part of the new hands-on learning curriculum, designed by RTC’s senior enlisted instructors to develop tough, more qualified Sailors through realistic training, the Battle Stations-21 grading requirements measure warfighting proficiency during the Sailor development process.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

“Battle Stations-21 is the standard for testing the effectiveness of recruit training,” said Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Kevin Barrientos, one of the RTC instructors responsible for running USS Trayer. “Scenarios include ship replenishment, sea and anchor detail, firefighting, damage control, crew casualties and various deck, bridge, engineering and navigation watch stations.”

More: How the Navy is trying to get sailors to extend their sea duty

To prepare for Battle Stations-21, recruits conduct hands-on training that is focused on the critical warfighting skills of watch standing, seamanship, force protection, firefighting and damage control. In the classroom, applied labs and practical trainers, recruits conduct more than 30 hours of seamanship training and more than 40 hours of firefighting and damage control training before reaching their final exam.

Recruits also maintain an around-the-clock watch rotation, simulating various watch stations as they are manned in the Fleet. They also have the opportunity to earn their M9 Service Pistol qualification during small-arms familiarization training.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

“Our hands-on learning curriculum enforces repetitive and deliberate practice of each skill,” Barrientos said. “This type of training motivates recruits to rise to the challenge at Battle Stations-21, and prepares them for service in the Fleet.”

Also read: Special ops forces are training in Arctic conditions

Recruits fight all night long to keep USS Trayer operational and battle ready. If they embrace their training, they will pass their final exam, earn their Navy ball cap, and advance to graduation. Trayer is then reset for the next division of recruits who hope to become the Navy’s newest Sailors.

Recruit Training Command is approximately eight weeks long and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. About 40,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

Western models of spycraft are failing. Traditional models of spycraft seek to inform decision-making based on predictive analysis, but this is no longer effective in today’s environment. By nature, closed and authoritarian regimes, such as Russia and China, have an easier job of spying on their more progressive and open adversaries — the United States and the West — and currently possess the advantage. What follows is the author’s abridged philosophy of intelligence on this revolution in spycraft.

Last year, Foreign Policy magazine introduced a provocative thought piece highlighting the ongoing revolution in espionage: namely, that intelligence agencies must adapt (or die) to disruptive changes in politics, business, and technology.


At the risk of irrelevance, Western intelligence agencies are learning that traditional models of spying are outdated and losing out to more nimble, collaborative, and less fragile adversaries. As the article adeptly notes, “the balance of power in the spy world is shifting: closed societies now have the edge over open ones. It has become harder for Western countries to spy on places such as China, Iran, and Russia and easier for those countries’ intelligence services to spy on the rest of the world.”

Circumstances such as unprecedented levels of legislative and judicial scrutiny, technological advances in mobile phones and electronic data, public skepticism of domestic and international intelligence activities, and general political scrutiny in liberal democracies are symptomatic of such difficulties. They represent an underlying revolution that is significantly disrupting traditional notions of Western spycraft.

Standards of Cold War-era surveillance detection disintegrate when applied to modern cities rife with CCTV cameras, such as Beijing or even London. The absence of an online “footprint” (i.e. social media or other publicly available data) instantly warrants additional scrutiny.

Thus, we must examine several philosophical nuances of this intelligence revolution, based on the premise that the Western way of spying is indeed losing out to oftentimes less sophisticated but more effective adversaries, who possess fundamentally less fragile models of spycraft than do Western counterparts.

Lest the author receive undue credit, it must be noted that the framework for this analysis is derived from several schools of thought, ranging from the Roman Stoics to economist-turned-philosopher Nassim Taleb. Indeed, the reader may be familiar with the latter’s concept of anti-fragility, or things that gain from uncertainty, chaos, or randomness. Western models of spycraft certainly do not fit this notion and are, in the author’s opinion, quite fragile.

Western intelligence, and other such similarly traditional systems, are based largely on the value of predictive analysis that can be used to inform decision-making and thereby shape understanding and policy. But what if, as we are now seeing, environments far outmatch capability in complexity, speed, or scope? It is the author’s opinion that the U.S. Intelligence Community is designed on an outdated and fragile premise and, in the face of overwhelming environmental dissonance, must be re-assessed in the framework of anti-fragility.

Put differently, the present U.S. model of spycraft plays to the margins. Western spycraft invests inordinate amounts of manpower and resources into its Intelligence Community only to yield arguably disproportionate and marginal gains in understanding. It is not enough that the intelligence is gleaned in the first place (which remains an altogether impressive feat and a testament to the dedication and professionalism of its practitioners).

Alas, it is growing increasingly challenging to properly inform policy-making in an aggressively partisan and politicized environment. One only need reflect on the overall character of the ongoing Russian bounties discussion as evidence of this model and its debatable effectiveness. And such debatable effectiveness is certainly not for a lack of trying. The effectiveness of the Intelligence Community is a reflection of the broader environment in which it operates.

In the spirit of ancient Roman Stoic philosophers, we must acknowledge that environments cannot be changed and that at best significant national effort is required to “shape” them (and even then, with limited “control” of the exact outcome). In this instance, it is perhaps useful to examine U.S. strategy (or lack thereof) over the course of 20+ years of engagement in Afghanistan in an effort to reflect on any unilateral or coalition efforts taken to shape any semblance of “success” in the country.

Let us introduce a more tangible instance: That brief electronic communication from a foreign diplomat’s privileged conversation? That was probably the result of many factors: Of 17 years of technological research and development; of several successful (and more failed) recruitments to identify and gain sufficient placement and access for an exploit; and immeasurable bureaucratic “churns” to actually manage and manipulate the complex systems and processes in place designed to collect, process, analyze, exploit, and disseminate the information to its consumers. Entire professional careers are the substance of such churns.

While environments cannot be changed, one’s disposition within an environment most certainly can be. Thus, it is perhaps more useful to explore an intelligence model that divorces success from the ability to accurately predict the future. But then, what does this model look like and how is it employed?

In the author’s opinion, an effective spycraft model would maintain the intent to inform policy-making but disregard traditional models of operational risk management in favor of a more aggressive operational culture. In short, the change intelligence agencies must make is largely cultural, but also procedural.

Rather than embark on “no-fail,” highly sensitive (read: events that would cause inordinate damage if learned, i.e. fragile) operations, and futile attempts to accurately predict the future (read: failure to predict or act upon 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and countless other so-called intelligence failures), it is more useful to focus efforts on intelligence activities that have, in Taleb’s words, more upsides rather than downsides.

This model would remove, within reason, attempts to mitigate risk and would instead truly accept failure and mistakes — regardless of their perceived damage if made public — as a natural feedback mechanism. Rather than the frenetic New York banking system, we have Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” mentality. Rather than the Sword of Damocles, we have Hydra. Rather than post-traumatic stress, we have post-traumatic growth. Instead of isolated muscle hypertrophy, we have complex, multi-functional movements. The comparative benefit of this model is clear and can apply to intelligence systems as well.

So what does this new model of spycraft look like?

For one, it harnesses the power of publicly available data and information to leverage the power of public opinion and access to technology. What previously was known only to few becomes known to many, and with that knowledge comes the ability to influence. Information, which is the bane of closed societies, but also its favorite weapon against open ones, is harnessed to dismantle closed societies from within.

Here’s the bombshell: such a system, albeit in incomplete and slightly “impure” form, already exists in the form of the Russian intelligence apparatus. Indeed, there is a benefit to be gained by examining the nature and relative effectiveness of this chief U.S. adversary.

While far from a perfect comparison, the oftentimes blunt nature of Russian security services does lend itself to a somewhat anti-fragile system. Namely, despite numerous “failures” (in the sense that its operations are consistently made public), the Russian model is such that its public mistakes do not appear to significantly impact the system’s ability to continue to iterate, adapt, and pester its Western opponents.

An additional example can also be found in the spirit of the CIA’s historical predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Known affectionately as the “glorious amateurs,” the OSS was the first of its American kind that weathered many failures but also effectively operated in complex environments. By nature of relative American intelligence inexperience, the OSS succeeded in exploiting the upside of its activities simply by being a young, nimble, and discovery-based (i.e. tinkering, iterating, or “risk-bearing”) organization. The OSS was an anti-fragile organization.

Thanks to many of the same advances in technology, politics, and business that challenge Western espionage efforts, Russian spies have been caught on CCTV footage, publicly outed or arrested, appropriately accused of dastardly acts, and of possessing an intolerable appetite for disinformation targeting open societies and liberal democracies. However, it was presumably in Russia’s best interests that, knowing full well the possibility of such downsides, it chose to pursue such activities given the major upsides they produce (discord, division, polarization, etc.).

Indeed, as Foreign Policy magazine adeptly wrote, and as the reader can observe by way of reflecting on other seeming successes reaped by Russian active measures, there is an unrefined yet effective nature to the blunt manner in which Russian security and intelligence services operate.

It must be stated that this model does not advocate for recklessly “burning” any sources and methods, nor for engaging in renegade covert activity that lacks oversight or grounding in well-formed policy. However, it does require a significant cultural paradigm shift that will provide more space for downsides that have not been historically well-received (e.g. temporary injury to bilateral relationships, strained diplomatic interactions, etc.).

The U.S. Intelligence Community is already a complex system, comprised of 17 unique agencies that seek to inform policy-making. It is a long cry from the “glorious amateur” days of the OSS. Thankfully, we do not require complicated systems, regulations, or intricate policies to ensure the community’s success. The more complicated a system, the more we experience “multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects.” In other words, less is more; simpler is better.

The competitive edge of traditional, risk-based intelligence operations is growing smaller. The state of affairs is such that closed societies find it easier to spy on open adversaries more than the opposite. As such, it benefits Western intelligence to undergo aggressive changes that evolve or significantly alter this paradigm. It is time for the Intelligence Community to become a risk-bearing system, rather than a risk management system. It must experience a culture shift that will make it open to accepting failures. This may create short-term downsides for U.S. statecraft but will allow the system to iterate and improve. In the end, it must become anti-fragile.

Thanks for listening.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard starts the new fiscal year with big narco sub busts

After several years of increases, Coast Guard seizures of cocaine at sea declined slightly during fiscal year 2019, but that fiscal year ended and the 2020 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2019, and runs to Sept. 30, 2020, began with major busts.

During the 2018 fiscal year, Coast Guard personnel removed 207,907.6 kilograms, or just under 208 metric tons, of cocaine worth an estimated $6.14 billion, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Barry Lane said in an email.

The amount of cocaine removed by the Coast Guard is the sum of all cocaine physically seized by Coast Guard personnel and all cocaine lost by smugglers due to Coast Guard actions, according to a Homeland Security Department Inspector General report for fiscal year 2018.


What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

The amount of cocaine lost by smugglers is at times “an intelligence-based estimate of the quantity of cocaine onboard a given vessel that is burned, jettisoned, or scuttled in an attempt to destroy evidence when Coast Guard presence is detected,” according to the report.

The 2019 total is the second year of decline, following the 209.6 metric tons seized in 2018, according to the Inspector General report. The 223.8 metric tons seized in 2017 was up from 201.3 metric tons in 2016 and 144.8 metric tons in 2015.

Narco subs

The Coast Guard has led efforts to intercept narcotics coming to the US by sea from South and Central America, working with partners in the region through Operation Martillo, which involves ships and aircraft scouring the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.

High-seas busts happen regularly, yielding not only drugs and drug smugglers but also intelligence on the groups behind the shipments.

In July 2019, the Coast Guard’s newest cutter, Midgett, caught a “narco sub” carrying 2,100 pounds of cocaine and three crew in the Eastern Pacific Ocean as the cutter made its first trip to its homeport in Hawaii.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine seized from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

“Narco sub” is often used as a catch-all term, sometimes describing true submarines or semi-submersibles but usually referring to low-profile vessels.

They are all typically hard to spot in the open ocean, but the Coast Guard has seen a resurgence of them.

In September 2019, Coast Guard cutter Valiant tracked down another narco sub in the eastern Pacific, pursuing the 40-foot vessel over night and into the early morning. It was stopped with 12,000 pounds of cocaine aboard, but Coast Guard personnel were only able to offload about 1,100 pounds because of concerns about its stability.

The Valiant’s seizure closed that fiscal year, and the crew of the cutter Harriet Lane opened the current one with another, stopping a semi-submersible smuggling vessel in the Eastern Pacific on October 23 and seizing about 5,000 pounds of cocaine.

Boarding teams from the Harriet Lane got to the smuggling vessel just before midnight, taking control of it before four suspected smugglers aboard could sink it using scuttling valves.

What life is like for ISIS’ child soldiers

US Coast Guard personnel aboard a “narco sub” stopped in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

‘A mission enabler’

Coast Guard officials have pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure.

The service has pursued what Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.

But Schultz and other officials have cautioned that the service can see more than it can catch.

In the eastern Pacific, where about 85% of the cocaine smuggling between South America and the US takes place, the Coast Guard has “visibility on about 85% of that activity,” Schultz told Business Insider in November 2018. “Because of the capacity — the number of ships, the number of aircraft — [we act on] about 25% to 30% of that.”

Stopping drugs, as well as the Coast Guard’s other missions, are opportunities to employ new technology, Schultz said in October 2019.

“That counter-drug mission, where you’re trying to surveil the eastern Pacific Ocean … you can take the entire United States and turn it on a 45-degree axis and drop it there, it’s the equivalent of patrolling North America with five or six police cars out of Columbus,” Schultz said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“You’ve got to bring some technologies in … We’ve fielded small unmanned systems, the Scan Eagle, on the back of our national-security cutters,” Schultz added. “We haven’t fielded them all out yet, but hopefully by the end of next year every national-security cutter will have a Scan Eagle. That’s a mission enabler.”

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

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