The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

After 18 years of fighting, the Afghan war is at a deadly stalemate.

Afghanistan is divided among government forces backed by international troops, the Taliban and its militant allies, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and a collection of smaller foreign terrorist groups.


The United States and the Taliban signed a landmark agreement in February aimed at “bringing peace to Afghanistan.” That deal foresees a power-sharing arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the full withdrawal of all foreign troops.

As a Taliban delegation arrived in Kabul for talks on prisoner releases and the Afghan government and the Taliban prepare to launch direct peace talks, most of the country is fiercely contested and ravaged by violence, with warring factions pursuing a “fight-and-talk” strategy.

WATCH: Some 900 Taliban members were freed from Afghanistan’s largest prison outside Kabul as part of a prisoner swap under a cease-fire deal on May 26.

The Government

The Afghan government controls the capital, Kabul, provincial capitals, major population centers, and most district centers, according to Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

Around 30 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts are in government hands, the Taliban commands some 20 percent, and the rest of the country is contested, according to Long War Journal (LWJ), a project run by the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank.

The LWJ’s “living map,” based mostly on media reports, is the only publicly available source that tracks district control in Afghanistan, after Resolute Support stopped assessing territorial control and enemy-initiated attacks over the past two years.

Afghan security forces have been on the defensive since NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, losing much-needed assistance with logistics, air support, and intelligence.

Resolute Support is training, advising, and assisting the 273,000-strong Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Additionally, the Afghan government employs around 20,000 militiamen who are part of the Afghan Local Police.

Meanwhile, a separate U.S. counterterrorism force is combating foreign terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the IS group and also elements of the Taliban. The United States also funds and supports special Afghan paramilitary units.

The Afghan forces have a large numerical advantage: There are an estimated 60,000 full-time Taliban militants and some 90,000 seasonal fighters.

But government forces are suffering from record casualties, high attrition, and low morale. That is widely blamed on a resurgent Taliban, ineffective leadership in the armed forces, and chronic corruption.

President Ashraf Ghani said in January 2019 that about 45,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen had been killed since he took office in September 2014 — or a staggering 849 per month. In 2018, the government stopped publicizing fatalities.

“The internationally recognized and elected government doesn’t have a monopoly on the use of force nor control over the majority of the country,” says Jonathan Schroden, a security expert with the U.S.-based nonprofit research and analysis organization CNA, who has provided assessments on the security situation in Afghanistan to the U.S. military and Congress.

The Taliban, which claims to be a government in exile, “has eroded much of the government’s control but cannot do so to the point of becoming the recognized government,” Schroden says.

The result, he says, is a “strategic stalemate.”

Government forces had been in an active defensive mode since a weeklong reduction-of-violence agreement preceding the U.S.-Taliban deal. But after two devastating terrorist attacks this month that the government blamed on the Taliban, Ghani ordered government forces to go on the offensive.

The political crisis over the disputed presidential election in September also affected the government’s military posture. There were fears of civil war after Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, threatened to form a parallel government and proclaimed himself the president, a scenario that threatened the cohesion of the security forces.

The standoff was resolved after Ghani and Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal — their second after consecutive elections — on May 17.

“The government faced serious challenges for months,” says Obaid Ali, an expert on the insurgency at the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul. “The government didn’t have a military strategy because the leadership was focused on the internal crisis after the presidential election’s outcome and the U.S.-Taliban talks.”

Ali says the months-long political feud sank morale and complicated logistics within the security forces.

The Taliban

The Taliban controls more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the fundamentalist group from power.

The fundamentalist militant group’s leadership fled to neighboring Pakistan, where it allegedly received sanctuary, training, and arms, an accusation Islamabad has denied. From its safe havens in Pakistan, the Taliban has waged a deadly insurgency against Afghan and international troops.

The Taliban has been following what security experts call an “outside-in” strategy that was effectively employed by other insurgencies in Afghanistan, including the mujahedin who fought Soviet and Afghan government forces in the 1980s.

From its sanctuaries in Pakistan, the Taliban captured rural areas of Afghanistan and consolidated control over larger swaths of the countryside while generating recruits and resources. In recent years, the Taliban has encroached on more populated areas with the aim of isolating and then seizing them.

The militants have twice briefly seized control of the northern city of Kunduz, the country’s fifth-most populous.

“The Taliban has so far been successful in seizing and contesting ever larger swaths of rural territory, to the point where they have now almost encircled six to eight of the country’s major cities and are able to routinely sever connections via major roads,” Schroden says.

“The major thing holding the Taliban back at this point is the government’s supremacy of the air and its superior strike forces in the form of the commandos and special police units. But those units are being worn down and the Afghan Army has been slowly failing as an institution for the past five years.”

The Taliban insurgency has been a unifying cause for some smaller foreign militant groups.

Around 20 foreign militant groups are active in Afghanistan, including Pakistani extremist groups like the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e Muhammad, and Central Asian militant groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group fighting for Uyghur independence in China.

Ali says the Taliban has ties to some of these foreign militant groups. “Some of these groups operate under the Taliban umbrella,” he says. “They can’t operate in Afghanistan without the Taliban’s permission. Each of these groups has a unique relationship with the Taliban — operationally, ideologically, or economically.”

Al-Qaeda is a largely diminished force, with only several hundred fighters in Afghanistan. But it remains a crucial part of the Taliban insurgency. The two groups have been longtime partners and are co-dependent, according to experts.

According to the U.S. State Department, the “implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement will require extensive long-term monitoring to ensure Taliban compliance, as the group’s leadership has been reluctant to publicly break with Al-Qaeda.”

Under that deal, the Taliban committed to “preventing any group or individual, including Al-Qaeda, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”

A January report from the UN’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stated that ties between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “continue to be close and mutually beneficial, with Al-Qaeda supplying resources and training in exchange for protection.”

Islamic State

Afghan security forces said on May 11 that they had captured the IS group’s regional leader for South Asia, Abu Omar Khorasani, in an operation in Kabul.

This was the latest in a string of recent setbacks for the group.

In April, Afghan security forces in the southern city of Kandahar captured the leader of the IS branch in Afghanistan, Abdullah Orakzai, along with several other militants.

According to the United Nations, since October 2019, over 1,400 IS fighters and affiliates have surrendered to Afghan or U.S. forces.

The U.S. military said the IS group’s stronghold in the eastern province of Nangarhar was “dismantled” in November 2019 due to U.S. air strikes, operations by Afghan forces, and fighting between the Taliban and IS militants.

The U.S. military said around 300 IS fighters and 1,000 of their family members surrendered.

The fighters and family members who did not surrender have relocated to Pakistan or the neighboring province of Kunar, a remote, mountainous region along the border with Pakistan, it added.

The U.S. military estimates that there are between 2,000 and 2,500 IS fighters active in Afghanistan.

Ali says that the IS group has bases in a few districts of Kunar Province, and they are also likely present in parts of neighboring Nuristan Province, another remote, mountainous province. But he says recent reports that IS militants were active in northern Afghanistan are “unreliable.”

“The group has lost most of the territory it held in eastern Afghanistan,” Ali says. “The recent operations against IS have severely weakened them and most have gone underground.”

But he says the recent arrests of IS fighters and leaders in major urban areas shows that there are still IS “sleeper cells” in the country.

Most IS fighters are thought to be former members of Pakistani militant groups, especially the Pakistani Taliban.

“There are a smaller number of Afghans, Central Asians, and even fewer from other regional countries,” Ali adds.

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

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The Tiger used in ‘Fury’ was captured after being disabled by the most improbable shots

Out of nowhere, a shot cuts through the last Sherman tank in the column, blowing its turret off. The three remaining Shermans reverse from the road as another shot whizzes into the dirt, narrowly missing them. Backed into a wood line, the Shermans spot their ambusher – a German Tiger I tank. With no way out, the Shermans return fire and charge the Tiger. The shots from the Shermans bounce off of the Tiger’s 100mm frontal armor with no effect.


Undeterred, the Tiger fires an 88mm shell straight through the front of a second Sherman. Continuing their charge toward the Tiger, a third Sherman is hit, its turret blown off of its hull. The last surviving Sherman finally gets around the Tiger and traverses its gun to aim at the weaker armor at the rear of the tank. Only after taking two shots through its vulnerable engine compartment does the deadly Tiger grind to a halt. With their tank ablaze, the surviving German crew members abandon the Tiger and are cut down by Sherman’s hull-mounted .30-cal machine gun.

This scene from Sony Pictures’ “Fury” has been viewed by millions of people online. Produced with the help of The Tank Museum in Bovington, UK, the scene features the only operating Tiger I tank in the world today.

Officially called the Panzerkampfwagen VI, Tiger I, Sd.Kfz. 181, the Tiger tank was heavily armored and equipped with the deadly 88mm gun. Paired with a well-disciplined crew, the Tiger was a menace to the allied armies during WWII. However, it was prone to track failures and mechanical breakdowns. The Tiger’s operational range was also restricted by its high fuel consumption.

Built in February 1943, Tiger 131 was issued to the German 504th Heavy Tank Battalion and was shipped to Tunisia in March 1943 to reinforce the German defense of North Africa. As the allies prepared a major push toward Tunis, German forces launched a spoiling attack in April. On April 24, the British 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters, a line infantry regiment, took a location known as Point 174. The Germans immediately counter attacked with armor, including Tiger 131.

During the counter attack, British tanks of the 142nd Regiment Royal Armoured Corps and 48th Royal Tank Regiment arrived to reinforce the Foresters. German and British tank shells streaked past each other as the two sides vied for control. During the exchange, Tiger 131 was hit by three 6-pounder solid shot shells from British Churchill tanks.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
A British Churchill Mk IV tank like the ones used at Point 174. (Credit: Imperial War Museum)

The first shot hit the Tiger’s barrel and ricocheted into its turret ring. The shell jammed the turret’s traverse, destroyed the radio, and wounded the driver and radio operator. The second shell disabled the gun’s elevation device when it hit the turret lifting lug. The third shot hit the loader’s hatch and deflected shrapnel fragments into the turret. Unable to aim their main gun and continue the fight, the crew of Tiger 131 abandoned their tank.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
Tiger 131 with its damaged loader’s hatch. (Credit: Imperial War Museum)

After repelling the German counter attack, British forces discovered Tiger 131 on the battlefield and were surprised to find it intact and drivable—the first Tiger to be captured in such a state. Using parts from destroyed Tigers, British engineers repaired Tiger 131 to be inspected and evaluated. The tank was displayed in Tunis where it was shown to Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI. In October 1943, Tiger 131 was sent to England and displayed around the country as a trophy to boost morale and fundraise before it was turned over to the School of Tank Technology. There, it was thoroughly inspected and assessed in order to aid future British tank design and evaluate its weaknesses to be exploited by allied troops on the front.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
King George VI inspects Tiger 131 in Tunis. (Credit: Imperial War Museum)

On September 25, 1951, Tiger 131 was transferred from the British Ministry of Supply to The Tank Museum in Bovington, UK, where it was put on display. In 1990, the tank was given a complete restoration by museum staff and the Army Base Repair Organisation, an executive agency of the UK’s Ministry of Defence. In 2003, Tiger 131 returned to the museum in a fully functional state, making it the only working Tiger tank in the world. After further work and a repainting in period colors, the restoration was completed in 2012.

Because of its rarity, Tiger 131 has been the subject of many books, toys, and models. As previously stated, the tank gained further fame after it was used in the 2014 film “Fury.” It has also been featured in the popular online tank game “World of Tanks.” The Tank Museum keeps Tiger 131 well-maintained, taking it out for a “Tiger Day” exhibition at least once a year for the public to see it in motion.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
Tiger 131 on display. (Credit: The Tank Museum)

The Tiger tank inspired confidence in its crew and fear in its enemies. Today, Tiger 131 serves not as a weapon of war, but as a well-preserved piece of history for people to see and learn from. The stewards of this history at The Tank Museum take great pride in their work and hope to continue to share it with the world for many decades to come.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 steps you need in your battle plan for marriage resiliency

If you’re not walking forward into your military marriage with the tactical proficiency of any well-planned operation, it’s time to revisit the field guide.

It’s been one helluva make or break year so far with thousands stranded in PCS limbo and plenty of others facing even longer deployments. The recent Blue Star Families survey noted both family stability and time away from family as the two of the top issues, so there’s nothing like making hard things even harder.


While we’re no experts, we’re guessing talks between you and “Household six” might need a full set of EOD gear to survive the unforeseen schedule bombs without casualties. Luckily for you, there’s plenty of similarities between navigating marriage and planning a flawless mission. Here is your field guide to military marriage.

1. Understand your mission 

Troop leading procedures (TLP) requires the receipt and understanding of a mission. The mission for marriage is to accomplish your mutual goals with as few friendly fire incidents as possible. Unlike the military where a single commander dictates the plans, the role in marriage is shared. Creating operation orders with both points of view is how successful couples see the entire picture and arrive at the many battles in life fully prepared.

Each move, each deployment or change in life requires a new look at the mission.

2. WARNO

The WARNO issues a set of parameters, expectations and what is minimally acceptable. Applied to marriage, clearly outlining your own WARNO for situations like the grocery shop, the family vacation or simply a Saturday full of to-do lists.

“Go to this grocery store, not the other where the selection is not up to standard. You are to secure the following list of items. Should the brand names (listed in detail) not be available, you have clearance to initiate the following protocol. If the children become hostile, employ this tactic. If you reach this status with said children, abort the primary mission and begin digital reinforcements. It is unacceptable to return to base without the minimum requirements as stated below. Good luck.”

In theory, if a service member is used to working within the left and right barriers, a clearly defined home front mission should be successful.

3.  Identify obstacles

A good leader identifies the existing and potential threats to his troops to ensure the success of the mission. If you find yourself walking into contact daily, you clearly need to revisit this point. No one would walk into any mission without this step, so why not do the same for your marriage? Ask yourself the following.

“How will obstacles affect the success and forward movement of my marriage?”

“How can I use weapons within my arsenal to force the enemy where I want him and disrupt his movement?”

What is all too often forgotten in marriage is that your spouse is your battle buddy. Your spouse is and always will be on the same team for the same mission. If a snake is wrapped around the leg of your battle, you wouldn’t attack the man, you’d attack the snake. The same goes for your spouse in marriage.

If there is an enemy, attack it. If you foresee obstacles, plan for them. If you encounter them, work together not against each other.

4. Call for support if necessary

Your marriage team is in danger of being overrun. To call in support and save yourselves you need to know the following- where you are, where (or what) the enemy is, and what type of support you’re calling for.

Every marriage occasionally walks into battles that despite plans or preparation, can become too much to handle. Your options are to walk away or call in support. Unfortunately, in marriage, people often refuse support out of pride or stubbornness resulting in the complete failure of the mission and dissolution of the team. No good leader would let his team go down without deploying every single option available, so don’t do the same to your marriage.

Marriage in the military is one of the longest and toughest battles service members and their spouses will fight. It takes consistent training, plenty of planning and the unwavering dedication to the team to succeed. Luckily for all of us out there, the military has provided these skills, we all just need to deploy them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Massive Chinese air drills warn US ‘not to provoke Pyongyang’

With each passing day, tensions flare anew on the Korean Peninsula. By now, we all know that North Korea’s been hard at work dong what they do best: Launching test missiles and fiery rhetoric.


On Dec. 4, the U.S. and South Korea kicked off their largest joint air exercise yet, dubbed Vigilant Ace 18, involving hundreds of aircraft and tends of thousands of troops on the ground. As you might expect, Pyongyang wasn’t too happy about the drills, going as far as saying Dec. 2 that Trump’s Administration is “begging for nuclear war.”

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
F-15s from Kadena Air Base, Japan, taxi for takeoff at Gwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 04, 2017. The fighter aircraft are participating in the pinensula-wide routine exercise, Vigilant Ace-18. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airmnan Jessica H. Smith)

While we’re at a point now where North Korean threats are as routine as the sunrise, China has sent an aggressive message in passive support of the belligerent state that warrants more serious attention.

Related: China’s Air Force growing in size and technological edge

People’s Liberation Army Air Force Spokesman Shen Jinke announced Dec. 4 (the same day as Vigilant Ace 18 kicked off) that China would be running drills through “routes and areas it has never flown before.” These new routes are expected to cover airspace over the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. The exercises will involve all variety of aircraft, from reconnaissance planes to fighter jets, in joint operation with surface-to-air missiles. Simultaneously, China launched drills Dec. 2 that involve sending new Shaanxi Y-9 transport aircraft over the South China Sea, simulating an airdrop over an island in contested waters.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter aircraft, assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron, taxis down a runway during Exercise VIGILANT ACE 18 at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Dec. 3, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos)

Though Chinese military officials will likely claim that the new drills are not in direct response to U.S. and South Korean actions, military experts agree that this show of force warns against the continued provocation of North Korea.

The U.S. and China have a rocky history, but are far from going to blows. That being said, should conflict erupt on the Korea Peninsula, we’ll quickly see how the chips fall.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Air Force’s first chief of staff snuck to the front to kill 3 Germans

He would later be the first top officer of the independent U.S. Air Force, a job he earned partially by leading the Allied air forces against Germany and Japan, but in World War I Carl Spatz was just a captain in charge of America’s aerodrome in France. So, when his bosses tried to order him home near the end of the war, Spatz begged for a week at the front and used the time to shoot down three German planes.


The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

U.S. Air Service Illustration showing World War I combat between Allied pilots and a German pilot.

(United States Air Service)

(Spatz would change his name to Spaatz in 1937 at the request of his family to hide its German origin and to help more people pronounce it properly, like “spots,” but we’re using the earlier spelling here since it’s what he used in World War I.)

Spatz’s main job in World War I was commander of the 31st Aero Squadron, and building up the aerodrome at Issoudun where American flyers trained on their way to the front. This was also where large amounts of repair and logistics were handled for the small but growing American air service.

The job was important and indicated a large amount of trust in Spatz, but he hadn’t gone to West Point and commissioned as an infantry officer in order to watch everyone else fight wars while he rode a desk.

For most of the war, he did his job dutifully. He led the improvements at Issoudun Aerodrome that turned it from a mass of hilly, rocky mud pits that broke plane after plane to a functioning air installation. But that meant that he facilitated the training of units like the 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons and then had to watch them fly off to combat without him.

Future American aces like Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, Lt. Douglas Campbell, and Capt. Hamilton Coolidge, passed under Spatz.

American pilots spent most of 1917 traveling to France and training, but the 94th Aero Squadron launched its first hostile mission in March 1918, and U.S. pilots were off to the races. Over the following six months, some American pilots were lost in a single day of fighting while others became ace-in-a-day or slowly racked up kills.

All the while, Spatz stayed at Issoudun, doing work.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

American pilots and gunners chewed through German pilots, but it was a tough fight. American troops joined the air war in 1917 and 1918, three years after some german pilots began earning experience.

(U.S. Army Pvt. J.E. Gibbon)

So when Spatz was ordered to the U.S. around late August 1918, he begged for a week on the front in France in order to get a little combat experience under his belt before returning home. That request was granted, and he went to the front in early September as a recently promoted major.

But in the first week, Spatz saw little combat and achieved no aerial victories, so he stuck around. He stuck around for three weeks, volunteering for missions but failing to bag any enemy pilots. But then, on September 26, he knew that an aerial attack was going down at Verdun and he asked to stay on duty to fly in it.

He went up on a patrol across enemy lines and took part in an attack on a group of German planes. The fighting was fierce, and Spatz was able to down three German planes in fairly quick succession. But even that wasn’t enough for Spatz once he had some blood on his teeth, and he gave chase to a fourth German plane fleeing east.

This was a mistake. Spatz flew too far before realizing that the rest of the friendly planes had already turned around because they were at bingo fuel. Spatz didn’t have enough gas to get home. But, despite his mistake, Spatz was still a disciplined and smart officer, and he went to salvage the situation as best he could.

He set himself up to get as far west as possible before his engine ran dry, and then he coasted the plane down to the ground, managing to crash into friendly territory, preventing his capture and allowing his plane to be salvaged.

For his hat trick, Spatz was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He would spend the interwar years advocating for air power while bouncing through between captain and major as the Army raised and lowered the number of officers who could be at each rank.

But in World War II, he quickly earned temporary promotions to major general and then lieutenant general. After the war, he was promoted to general and then appointed first Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force in September 1947.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

The threats that failing governments and foreign influence pose to the United States have not been the norm in the Western hemisphere. Since the institution of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has opposed efforts by European and other powers to meddle in the United States’ backyard, keeping a watchful eye on its neighbors. There has been much turmoil the last fifty years — Pinochet’s reign in Chile, the civil war in El Salvador, drug-fueled gang violence in Colombia, and others, are all conflicts that divided nations, destabilized the region, and engrossed the world.


Despite the violence and attention, Latin American conflicts have generated, the United States was largely successful in limiting influence from foreign nations and overseas organizations seeking to exploit these conflicts and undermine the integrity and influence of the United States. Now, the Monroe Doctrine faces perhaps its most challenging test yet: recent unrest in Venezuela. The growing discontent in the country has reached a boiling point, with the specter of civil war looming and national security concerns that threaten the safety of the United States.

What To Know About The Attempted Coup In Venezuela (HBO)

www.youtube.com

To blame for this recent disorder is the resurgent cancer of socialism and communism, not new to the Western Hemisphere. One need not look further than 90 miles south of Florida to see Cuba: a state whose current complexion was born of communist revolution, nurtured barbarous dictators and violent revolutionaries, and welcomed as a military ally by the Soviets, nearly triggering a nuclear war. When Hugo Chavez tightened his grip over Venezuela at the turn of the 21st century, history knew how this story would end. But the predictable rise and fall of socialism in oil-rich Venezuela now creates a danger we have not seen in our hemisphere since the Cold War.

The proud people of Venezuela have witnessed what socialism provides to a country: empty promises, rampant poverty, widespread corruption, and hopelessness. Their cries for freedom were silenced by bribes and force at the hands of Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. Free elections were touted but marred in such overt corruption that would be laughable if the consequences were not so dire.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

On Jan. 23, 2019, the hope of the nation turned to Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who took the oath of office as Interim President of Venezuela. This peaceful, constitutionally-valid shift of power has flipped the suffering nation on its head. Since then, President Trump and allies across the world have pledged support for Guaido and have left all options on the table with respect to lending aid and military intervention in the country to ensure his security and authority as leader.

Freedom, however, is not easy to gain or preserve, as Americans discovered during our war for independence some 244 years ago. On the ground in Venezuela, violence, and unrest have intensified as many military leaders remain loyal to President Maduro. Local government institutions have been paralyzed, and a people already crushed by a centrally-planned, corrupt economy have nowhere to turn for help. As if to say, “Let them eat cake!” Maduro’s forces have barricaded major highways to stop the flow of relief from neighboring countries.

Most troubling however may be dueling threats from major geopolitical adversaries that put the safety of our hemisphere in jeopardy. Russia has sent bombers to Venezuela in support of the Maduro regime – a provocative show of force that harkens back to the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As global support for Guaido grows, so does Russian resolve to prop up a failed despot.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

Nicolas Maduro.

Further testing American dominance of the Western Hemisphere is another sinister force lurking in the shadows: radical Islamic terrorism. For years, reports of burgeoning terror cells popping up in Latin America have made their way into newspaper headlines, with the most recent example involving the growing presence of Iran-linked terror organization, Hezbollah, in Latin America. The ever increasing instability within Venezuela offers fertile grounds for these terror networks to take root and grow amid a nation made susceptible to radical proposals offered by fanatical organizations in the face of social and economic collapse. Consider: there remains air travel between Caracas and Tehran, and American intelligence has little way of knowing who all are on those flights. Should bad actors from the Middle East’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism with intentions of harming the United States make their way to Venezuela, what will that mean for the United States and the continent at large?

If terror organizations find safe-haven on the streets of a failed state in South America, the threats to our homeland become incalculable. Crossing into the United States via our southern border, once difficult, has been made easier by assistance from international non-profits, failure to enforce and reform current immigration law in the United States, and “Coyotes” – individuals guide those seeking entry into America across the border for a fee. This has already been made manifest in the formation of migrant caravans comprised of hundreds if not thousands from all over Latin America seeking asylum in the United States in mass numbers, regardless of the validity of their claims. The political class’ failure to seriously address this immigration problem is a dream come true for international terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminals seeking to cross our borders — with smuggled arms, drugs, diseases, and more — to then harm the American people.

So where do we go from here? First, we must recommit to the Monroe Doctrine and assure Interim President Guaido that we, as well as our partners and allies in the region, have his back. This means potentially mobilizing both naval forces and ground troops in areas of strategic importance to signify not just our support for the Guaido presidency, but also to send the message that foreign interference in our hemisphere will not be toleration. Our aim is not to violently provoke but to firmly warn.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

Juan Guaido.

(Flickr photo by Senado Federal)

Second, we must finally secure our borders. On top of violent drug trades and human trafficking that pose a risk to people throughout the American continents, our border is now facing an even graver security threat considering recent developments in Latin America. Our southern neighbors have proven incapable of controlling migration across their borders, unable to filter out narcotics and criminals in an acceptable manner before they invariably arrive at ours. Every day that passes where our border is left unsecured while tensions mount in Latin America, American workers and their families face an ever-imminent threat to their work, their communities and their way of life.

The current situation in Venezuela is a new and evolving crisis for the Americas the likes of which have not been seen since when John F. Kennedy was president. The success or failure of the Guaido presidency will depend on the shared ability of the U.S. and our allies to pressure Maduro to leave office and cede power to Guaido. If we do not take care of our nation’s homeland security in the meantime, the fallout from potential catastrophe in Venezuela in the near-future will spell disaster for the entirety of Latin America and significantly harm the United States. The time to act is now, and I believe these recent developments give ample justification to do just that.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

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4 reasons why North Korea’s AK variant is just dumb

Plenty of care and thought must go into manufacturing a standard-issue rifle to field with the fourth-largest standing army in the world. To find success, you must be concerned with the ease of mass production, reliability in the field, mobility and ease of use, and the lethality it offers the troops.


With that in mind, there’s only one benefit to the Type 88-2 variant of the AK-74 used by the North Korean Army: It’s cheap.

The AK-74 is the go-to weapon among former Soviet states and Eastern European nations because it can be easily produced and performs well in the hands of troops. North Korea created the Type 88-2 entirely within their own country and made plenty of useless tweaks to a proven design.

1. Ease of mass production

The Type 88-2 is cheap and it makes sense that a warmongering nation stuck with tech from over 60 years ago needs to cut corners when creating new stuff. The collapsible buttstock on the Type 88-2 is designed to fold over the top of the upper receiver. Folding stocks are common among many smaller-caliber SMGs, but on a fully-automatic carbine, it’s kinda worthless in both positions.

The collapsible buttstock is said to be small enough that the iron sights aren’t obstructed when collapsed. That alone is a terrible idea for accurate use while going full-auto. It also means that if the stock is extended, it wouldn’t have any support to handle the weapon as it fires.

 

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
And that’s not even the dumbest part. (Photo by DEFCON Warning System)

2. Reliability in the field

At first glance of the Type 88-2, the most obvious “WTF?” is the helical magazine that is said to hold 150 5.45x39mm rounds*. Keep in mind, the PP-19 Bizon also uses as high-capacity, helical magazine and isn’t without its minor flaws, but it holds 64 9mm rounds.

At a slightly lower rate of fire and with much larger rounds, the Type 88-2 is likely much more prone to jamming and feed failures. The magazine extends almost to the muzzle and is also attached to the under-barrel rail. Magazine swaps would be a pain in the ass as you connect a heavy magazine at two spots.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
Ounces make pounds… (KCNA)

3. Mobility and ease of use

Balance is important to maintaining accurate fire. The weight distribution must be even throughout a weapon to maintain tight shot grouping. The helical magazine of the Type 88-2 and the overall weight of 5.45x39mm rounds* will cause the center of balance shifts back slightly after each round is fired. Fully-automatic rifles naturally kick up during sustained fire. Improper weight distribution will send the kick higher.

The size of the magazine also prohibits any sort of forward grip. The only way this weapon would accurately fire is if the troop was in the prone position and could rest the rifle on the ground.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
Then again, the North Korean Ninja Turtles aren’t known for proper weapon discipline.  (KCNA)

4. Actual power

Type 88-2s are unique to North Korea and not much is truly known about the weapon since it hasn’t left the Hermit Kingdom. Nearly everything known is a mix of speculation, reverse engineering from photographs, and knowledge of the standard AK-74.

That being said, everything about the design of the Type 88-2 just seems to have been done to cut every possible corner.


Writer’s Note: The article originally described the Type 88-2 as being chambered in 7.62mm when in reality it uses 5.45mm.

Feature image: Korean soldiers parading carrying the Type 68 variant, rather than the Type 88 (Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 signs your command doesn’t want you to reenlist

It’s time. You’re entering your reenlistment window. Now you have to decide whether to stay in or get out, whether to take incentives, like bonuses and assignment of choice, or opt to get out and accept release from the UCMJ. So you go to all of your bold leaders and ask them, “should I stay or should I go?” and they all get sorta dodgy.

Well, sorry to break it to you, mate. If they’re doing any of these nine things, they probably want to give you a polite end of service of award and boot you like a cheap soccer ball.


The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

Don’t you want to go here? Instead of to the field with us? …Please?

(John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Your squad leader keeps leaving community college pamphlets on top of your reenlistment paperwork

“Hey man, the world needs more HVAC repair technicians, medical equipment repairers, and computer support specialists,” they tell you. “Here are some nice pamphlets about schools near your hometown. Be sure to look at all your options when you’re looking at your reenlistment options.”

All your options. Including getting out. Maybe just look at most of your options. Specifically, look at your getting-out options.”

Hey, at least you have the G.I. Bill. Hint, hint.

The career counselor just can’t fit you into his schedule

Seriously, this guy’s whole job is showing people their reenlistment options but, for you, he’s happy to show anything else. You only see him when he’s at some mandatory unit event — never in his office. When you try to set an appointment up, it always turns out that he has a parachute jump that morning or a dental appointment that afternoon.

If the career counselor is ghosting you, it’s not a good sign.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

All your squadmates, all talking about all the things you could be doing in the civilian world.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Kristoffer Sibbaluca)

Everyone likes to list things civilians don’t have to deal with, loudly, and only in your presence

Did you know that no one measures the distance between an engineer’s nameplate and his pocket flap? And that, in most workplaces, you can wear whatever shirt you want? Grow your beard as long as you want? Work out or not in the morning, according entirely to your own whims and goals?

Of course you do, because that’s all your unit talks about in your presence. They also tell you about how civilian employers ask you if you want to travel before sending you around the world, how you can decide for yourself where to live, and how you can change jobs to whatever you want, whenever you want.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

“Yeah, go work over there. No, further. Little further. Alright, climb into the barrel and stay there.”

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hughes)

You’re always assigned to the most remote detail

Meanwhile, all these hints are accompanied by serious isolation at work. If someone has to guard ammo at a far-flung training area, it’ll definitely be you. Three-man detail for the motor pool while everyone else is at the armory? Yup, you know who’s on it.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

Yay, night mortars. Let me guess who is guarding the site when it’s not in use.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Arturo Guzman)

You get the overnight detail every time

Same deal. Your name comes up on the list for charge of quarters duty way more than random chance could account for, and your “special skills” don’t actually make you the logical choice for watching the stereo equipment set out for the change of command ceremony.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

“Look, this unit has a puppy. Wouldn’t you be so much happier over there?”

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt)

Constant reminders that other units need people and maybe you could reenlist for one of them if you really have to

When you can press someone into talking about your reenlistment, they’re full of advice about how other units are run differently and how maybe you’ll enjoy yourself in a different kind of unit… preferably one on the other coast — or another continent. Yeah, you definitely seem like you’d enjoy an Arctic posting.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

“Huh. Weird. Is that your reenlistment paperwork on the target? Our bad.”

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brianna Saville)

Your reenlistment packet keeps getting left in the trash, fire, range, etc.

You finally get the paperwork drawn up and now you just have to decide whether to sign it — except that it’s in the trash now, for some reason. You retrieve it, but find it in the fire. You re-print it just to find that someone stapled it to silhouettes that were taken to the range.

Surely it’s a series of mistakes. Surely.

Your chain of command flies your high school ex in for the weekend

Well, the stick hasn’t worked, so they pull out the carrot. Specifically, someone looked up your ex on Facebook, flew them out to your base, and finally, finally, granted you a mileage pass so you could go to the beach. It was just sort of odd that you didn’t request one this time.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

Maybe you’re too fat? Here, have a popsicle.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Edward Garibay)

Alright, fine, we’ll just start paperwork

Huh, that didn’t make you want to go home either, huh? Alright, fine. There’s got to be something you’ve done that’ll justify a bar to reenlistment. What are your most recent tape test results?

Remember that this is all in fun. The U.S. military actually needs most of you guys to stick around, and wants the rest of you to be super successful in the civilian world. If you have a friend who would find this funny, tag ’em. But if you’re getting out, make sure to build a plan.

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Ground based Pull-up guide

Life is hard, pull-ups are harder.

I received a less than polite email from a reader that effectively said: “You suck! This free pull-up guide sucks! I can’t even do one pull-up, and that’s your fault!”

Cool. I have some family members that would love to start a Michael Sucks club with you.


So, in this article I’m going to lay out a plan for you to use to get that first pull-up. That plan involves 4 exercises and a way to implement the plan into your current training plan.

  1. RKC Plank
  2. Push-ups
  3. Hollow Body Hold
  4. Hanging

More importantly though, the plan teaches three skills. Those skills are what this article is structured around.

 

Total Body Tension

Three of the exercises on this plan train total body tension, if you do them correctly. The RKC plank, hollow body holds, and hanging all rely on your keeping total tension in your body for the whole time you are performing the exercise.

I talked about this concept in This lifting cue has all the life advice you’d find in a Clint Eastwood movie when it comes to bar path for barbell based exercises. The same rules apply for your body when doing bodyweight exercises; the less extra movement you have in your body the better you’ll be at a movement.

When it comes to pull-ups, it does feel like it’s easier to perform a few reps when you are swinging wildly on the bar. I’m not talking about intentional kipping, I’m talking about just being loose and letting the momentum of your swinging body help you. This sensation is a lie though, don’t listen to it.

Instead, learn how to properly hold tension in your body so that you are ONLY moving up and down during a pull-up. Loose legs cause energy bleed-off, a loose neck does the same, and is a cervical spine injury waiting to happen.

When you perform the exercises above you’re teaching your body that you’re in charge of the path of movement it takes and will not tolerate any extra movement for any reason.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
Click the image to get the guide in pdf form.

 

Comfort on the bar

If you want to be able to do pull-ups you need to feel comfortable on the bar. So, yeah, I guess the ground-based pull-up guide is a lie. I’m okay with that. My primary goal is to get you doing pull-ups, not to be truthful to a title.

Marksmanship is probably the most salient example here. How good can you be at firing a weapon if it feels foreign to even hold it? The answer there is, not very good. The same holds true for pull-ups if you want to get a bunch of reps you need to know what to do when you get on the bar. Not only mentally, but you need to have the muscle memory to engage the proper total body tension as soon as you start hanging.

In order to put all three of these together, you need to do all three in unison.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
The original plan that got me in trouble with you guys. It’s still great. I stand by it.

 

Putting it all together

Now that you are training your essential pull-up skills, you just have to ensure one other variable is in place and then you’ll be ready.

You need to pull: horizontal rows, vertical rows, lat pull downs, barbell rows, etc. Your training plan should include these types of pulling exercises to ensure your back is getting stronger. As long as that’s happening you’ll be golden once you start getting on the bar properly.

You’re getting strong and you’re training your pull-up form as you start to get better on the bar it’s time to start swapping in some of the exercises that are in the double your max pull-up PR plan: eccentric pull-ups, horizontal rows where you start to elevate your feet, and most importantly scap pull-ups.

Scap pull-ups get you into the position you need to be in order to start pulling with your full back’s potential. Swap these in first. In your first set of hanging perform a set of five scap pull-ups. After that point, just start swapping in more and more sets and reps.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Boy2kallmyu/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “I think that this was more than 20 but the last few were ugly so we won’t count those. . Sometimes I deviate from the plan. . I had just…”

www.instagram.com

I know it seems simple…because it actually is. You just need to train this stuff consistently. Not once a week either. Minimum is two times a week that you should be going through all these exercises with the intent that you’re doing them to get better at pull-ups. The full circuit may take 15 minutes max. Do it like this:

  1. 2-3 sets of MAX hold RKC plank
  2. 2-3 sets of 75% of your max number of perfect push-ups
  3. 2-3 sets MAX hold hollow body hold
  4. 2-3 sets MAX hold hanging

That’s it.

Get the First Pull-Up Plan here.

Get the Double your Pull-Up Max Plan here.

Send your pull-ups gripes and concerns to michael@compourefitness.com

Articles

US practices D-Day-like landing in Latvia amid Russia tensions

U.S. Marines engaged in a mock beach landing in the Baltics on June 6 in a scene reminiscent of the D-Day landings of World War II.


The drill took place as part of NATO’s Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), an annual exercise involving approximately 6,000 troops that runs from June 1 to 16. The drill, which took place on a beach in Latvia, is a key component of the exercise which aims to project NATO power from sea at a time when the Russian threat to the Baltics has taken a drastic increase.

“What we want to do is practice and demonstrate the ability to deliver sea control and power projection at and from the sea,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
U.S. Marines land in the Baltics for BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Reserve Marines from Texas deployed from the the USS Arlington, an amphibious landing transport, onto the beach with various landing craft. The drill was conducted on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II, the largest amphibious invasion in modern history.

The Latvian landing was significantly smaller in scope than the multiple landings on D-Day, but both operations involved a combination of air, maritime and land forces. BALTOPS, like D-Day, is also multinational, with 14 nations participating in various drills.

BALTOPS has been recurring since 1972, but this year’s event comes at a time when NATO’s tensions with Russia are at their highest since the end of the Cold War. The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive rhetoric has Balkan countries concerned they could be the next target.

They’re scared to death of Russia,” said Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command in January. “They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.”

The U.S. sent a detachment of special operations forces to the Baltics in January in order to help train local forces.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
Marines participate in BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Russian forces could reach the capitals of both Latvia and neighboring Estonia in less than 60 hours, according to an assessment by the RAND corporation, even with a week’s notice. Latvia has approximately 4,450 active ground troops, while all three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have only around 15,750 between them. Estonia can also activate the 16,000 paramilitary troops in the Estonian Defense League, while Lithuania has around 10,000 militia members in the Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union.

NATO also has rotating forces throughout the Baltic region, but RAND’s assessment noted that they may not be enough to stave off a Russian attack.

“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” noted the report.

Fortunately for the Baltics, President Donald Trump has noted he is “absolutely committed” to the collective defense of NATO, a stark change from his previously doubtful outlook on alliance.

 

 

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Why this iconic torture device isn’t as ‘fictional’ as people think

When it comes to medieval torture devices, there’s always one particularly nasty tool that instantly comes to mind: the iron maiden. It’s brutal. It’s essentially a metal coffin with spikes on the inside. Once the door closes, the person trapped inside will have the spikes pressed into their flesh — in key positions, of course, to prolong the suffering.

By many, it’s been written off as a myth. They claim that any existing iron maiden devices are simply recreations, and that the originals were never really used. But what makes this device particularly peculiar is that it may have started out as a myth — a device so cruel that it found a place in local ghost stories — but eventually became a reality.


The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

The Athenians had the “Brazen Bull” which was a hallowed metal bull that you’d stuff victims in before setting it on fire. The Greeks also didn’t f*ck around.

The first recorded use of a spiked contraption to crush enemies to death (yeah, historians record these sorts of things) was in Sparta, around 200 BC. Under the demand of the bloodthirsty tyrant, Nabis, the Spartans constructed a statue in the likeness of his wife, only the statue had what were essentially bear traps for arms. It was also said to have spikes on the inside of the hand, so nobody could escape her grasp. Sounds like he had a pretty high opinion of his betrothed, right?

Nabis could open the deadly device and toss into it anyone he pleased. He’d do this to either make political gains, punish anyone who didn’t pay his exorbitant taxes, or, simply, to alleviate his boredom. Given his preferred hobbies, it’s easy to see why his rule didn’t last long. He was the last free leader of Sparta — he quickly lost the support of his people and a war with Rome.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

The iron maiden may not have been used back then, but it was cool enough to inspire a metal band in 1975 London.

Throughout the following ages, various torture techniques sprang up alongside new reasons to torture people — but they weren’t elaborate, wife-shaped, metal coffins filled with spikes. There are no historical records of an iron maiden being used as a torture device throughout the medieval ages. Now, that’s not to say that it wasn’t used — it just wasn’t written about.

The first written record of an iron maiden surfaced in the 18th century, when historian Johann Philipp Siebenkees wrote about a particularly cruel 1515 execution. Siebenkees’ works, however, were never seen as credible and, ultimately, it was treated as a hoax. But his work inspired his morbid, industrious readers. Many people created iron maidens after his so-called “historical accounts.”

The most famous of these more-modern maidens was the Nuremberg Virgin — a wooden iron maiden with the head of the Virgin Mary on it. Stories say it was used to “cleanse the pagans,” but it was actually made in 1800s Nuremberg — 300 years after Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation and long after the era of paganism.

But this didn’t stop one of modern history’s most vicious despots from creating one for himself. Uday Hussein, the sociopathic, murderous son of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was said to have had his very own modern recreation of a functioning iron maiden in his compound.

When U.S. troops raided the compound, they found that the device was very much used. By the time it was discovered, many of its spikes had been worn down, the surrounding floors were stained with blood, and it was no secret that Uday had any Iraqi athlete that didn’t perform to his expectations tortured or executed. Now we know how.

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The actual process of naming military vehicles isn’t what most people think

Recently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson got a tank named after him. The actor/wrestler/producer took joy in being given the honors and posted the image onto his social media. Because you can’t go two days on the internet without some sort of backlash from people with nothing better to do than argue over some mundane thing that has absolutely no bearing on their life… people argued.

On one side, some people are upset that he felt honored for it because, you know, that has to mean he is advocating war or whatever. Counter-arguers are also quick to jump at the chance to point out that it is a high honor for such a beloved figure because he’s always been a friend and supporter to the military and veteran community.

In reality, the process of naming tanks, artillery guns, and rocket launcher systems isn’t as grandiose as the people arguing are making it out to be.


The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
Naming your HIMARS doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable. But it doesn’t hurt to at least enjoy your time cramped in with your crew. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Christopher A. Hernandez)

When it’s time for a crew to take command of a new vehicle, they need to give it a name.

With some exception, you name it entirely for the purpose of easily identifying it. When you’re walking through the motor pool, reading the name stenciled on the gun or rocket pod is going to be a lot easier to read from a distance than its serial number.

Unlike with Humvees or other troop carrying vehicles often forgotten until it’s time to use them, artillerymen and tankers take pride in what is theirs. The name has to be something that the crew could proudly sit in for hours until the FDC finally gets around to approving a fire mission.

The name itself is generally something that invokes strength, humor, or holds sentimental value to one member of the crew – like a loved one. The command staff usually doesn’t bother as long as it isn’t (too) profane and it typically follows the guideline of the first letter being the same as your company/battery/squadron for uniformity.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?
I keep using “typically” and “usually” because there are plenty of exceptions. The name, the naming convention, and even the ability to name it are ultimately up to the chain of command’s discretion. (United States Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Corey Dabney)

So an MLRS in Alpha Battery could be named “Alexander the Great” or “Ass Blaster.” Bravo Battery gets something along the lines of “Betty White” or “Boomstick.” Charlie gets names along the lines of “Come Get Some” or “Cat Scratch Fever.” And so on.

As for the tank named “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” well, just happens to be in a Delta Squadron, the crew were probably fans of his work, and his name invokes strength. I can attest, entirely anecdotally of course, that Dwayne Johnson isn’t that uncommon of a name within Delta Batteries/Squadrons.

The crew comes up with the name, submits it to the chain of command, and if it gets approved, they spray paint the name prominently on the gun. If the commander wants it to be all people’s names, then they’re all people’s names. If they give the troops free rein, then that’s their prerogative.

It should also be noted that some commanders may forgo the entire process of naming their vehicles and guns altogether. It is what it is, but some tankers and artillerymen may see it as bad luck to not give their baby a name and troops can be particularly superstitious. That, or they may just be saying it so they can spray-paint “Ass Blaster” on their tank’s gun.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US accuses Russia of violating Cold War weapons treaty

Russia is unlikely to meet U.S. demands for more verification on a missile system Washington says has violated a key Cold War treaty, the lead U.S. negotiator on arms control issues said.

Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson downplayed the meetings that U.S. and Russian officials had in January 2019 in Geneva about the dispute, which has pushed the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty to the brink of collapse.


And she downplayed an unusual public presentation made a day earlier in Moscow, in which Russian defense officials displayed elements of the disputed missile system, known as the 9M729 or SSC-8.

The Geneva talks weren’t “the normal bluster, propaganda, the kind of dramatics that we associate with some of these meetings,” Thompson said in a private briefing on Jan. 24, 2019.

Russian military presents 9M729 missile, which US claimed violates INF Treaty

www.youtube.com

“But as I said before, we didn’t break any new ground. There was no new information. The Russians acknowledged having the system but continued to say in their talking points that it didn’t violate the INF Treaty despite showing them, repeated times, the intelligence, and information,” she said.

Thompson’s remarks were made nine days before a Feb. 2, 2019 deadline, when the United States has said it will formally withdraw from the treaty, and suspend its obligations.

“I’m not particularly optimistic” that Russia will meet U.S. demands to show it is complying with the treaty, she told reporters.

The 1987 treaty prohibits the two countries from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The agreement was the first of its kind to eliminate an entire class of missiles and is widely seen as a cornerstone of arms control stability, in Europe and elsewhere.

On Jan. 23, 2019, Russian officials held a public briefing for reporters and foreign diplomats in Moscow, where they showed missile tubes and diagrams of the missile in question — part of an effort to push back against the U.S. claims.

Lieutenant General Mikhail Matveyevsky, the chief of the military’s missile and artillery forces, said the missile has a maximum range of 480 kilometers.

“The distance was confirmed during strategic command and staff exercises” in 2017, he said. “Russia has observed and continues to strictly observe the points of the treaty and does not allow any violations.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later accused U.S. officials of rebuffing Russian invitations to hold more talks on the question, something that Thompson disputed.

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

“While seeking an uncontrolled arms buildup, Washington is actually trying to take down one of the major pillars of current global stability, and this could result in the most painful repercussions for global security,” Zakharova was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency. “It is not late yet for our American partners to work out a responsible attitude to the INF Treaty.”

Thompson said U.S. officials have proposed discussing a wider range of arms control issues on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting scheduled in Beijing.

The United States first publicly accused Moscow of violating the INF Treaty in 2014. After several years of fruitless talks, Washington began stepping up its rhetoric in late 2017, publicly identifying the missile in question and asserting that Russia had moved beyond testing and had begun deploying the systems.

“These are manned, equipped battalions now deployed in the field,” Thompson said.

Late 2018, Washington began providing NATO members and other allies with more detailed, classified satellite and telemetry data, as part of the effort to build support for its accusations.

Thompson said that in addition to providing detailed information on the dates and locations of the missile’s testing and deployment, U.S. officials had also given Russian counterparts a plan for a “verifiable” test of the missile’s range.

Moscow, however, countered with its own proposal, which she said wasn’t realistic because Russian officials were in charge of all aspects of such a test.

“When you go and select the missile and you select the fuel and you control all of those parameters, characteristics, you are controlling the outcome of the test,” she said.

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

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