Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles

Traditionally, field artillery is known as the King of Battle. It’s not hard to imagine why, either. Throughout the history of warfare, the ability to project firepower at a distance has always been one of the most important assets any commander could ask for, and time and time again, artillery proved its worth.


Even before the advent of the cannon, catapults and trebuchets hurled massive stones that could shatter castle walls, bringing sieges that could last for months to an end in a matter of days. Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus’s effective use of artillery at the Battle of Breitenfeld proved decisive, especially once he was able to capture the enemy’s guns and turn them against their own formations.

During the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in the Revolutionary War, the fighting grew so intense at one point that, in order to break up the fighting, General Cornwallis was forced to load his cannon with grapeshot, and fire them into the thickest part of the melee. Doing so killed many of his own men, but forced the lines to disengage. He would ultimately take the field, though at great cost.

Napoleon was famously fond of artillery and artillerymen, once remarking that God fought on the side with the best artillery. Generals and kings throughout history have heaped praise upon praise on the redlegs and their guns, but in recent years, people have started to wonder whether they were going the way of the cavalry charge: an increasingly useless anachronism, soon to be eliminated from modern armies the world over in favor of more modern technological terrors.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 14 Field Artillery, 214th Fires Brigade, fire a rocket from a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, Fort Carson, Colo., March 6, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Clark/Released)

After all, they argue, we have bombers that can drop precision guided munitions of astounding power and accuracy. Cruise missiles can be launched from submarines and ships, and can be made to fly into a particular window. Why do we even need the guns and the peculiar breed of soldier that takes pride in calling themselves redlegs?

Well, for starters, all those planes and cruise missiles? They cost money. Lots of it. A single Tomahawk cruise missile costs upwards of a million dollars. Not only are bombers hideously expensive to fly, they suck up unbelievable amounts of money just sitting on the ground.

Meanwhile, a gun tube or a HIMARS or MLRS launcher is dirt cheap in comparison. They’re relatively easy to repair when they break. Their crews also don’t require months or years of highly specialized training. All they need is a few weeks of school, some experienced officers and NCOs to show them the ropes, some extraordinarily filthy pornography, and they’re good to go.

And, unlike aircraft, they can sit in one place for more than a few hours without crashing into the ground. You can park a firing battery in the middle of nowhere, bring them in food and ammo on occasion, and they’re perfectly happy. Well, not happy happy, since no redleg worth the name is ever truly happy unless they’re dropping 155 millimeters of freedom on some poor bastard’s head, but keeping them pissed off just means they’ll kill more bad guys.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
A U.S. Army Soldier from 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, 214th Fires Brigade, Fort Sill, Okla., unfolds an antenna on an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems vehicle during a radio check, March 6, 2015. U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Clark/Released)

And, while they’re sitting out there on a fire base in the middle of nowhere, troops on the ground have access to an on call resource that can put rounds on target any time, day or night, 365 days a year. They’re not grounded because of bad weather. A cannon crew can put rounds downrange in conditions that would make even the ballsiest pilot think twice, and they can keep the heavy hate coming until all that’s left of the target is rubble and slowly cooling chunks of meat.

They’re also getting into the precision fires game, especially with the advent of GPS guided rounds. Sure, a HIMARS launcher might not be as sexy as an F/A-18, but both of them can place a whole lot of boom within a meter of a given target. And the HIMARS will be a lot safer doing it. There are a lot more fighter jets plowed into mountainsides than rocket launchers stuck in the sky, after all.

Though the world of warfare is evolving rapidly, there’s just no replacing good old field artillery. Even though the future shape of the battlefield is as uncertain as ever, one thing remains constant: there will always be a need for cannon and the crews that fire them, and any general who says otherwise is in for a rude awakening.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

The Taliban are seizing new territory, civilian casualties and US military deaths are once more on the rise, and insider attacks on American and Afghan forces have more than doubled this year. That’s the grim reckoning of a US inspector general’s report released Oct. 26 even as the Pentagon and allied forces seek to implement President Trump’s strategy for the 16-year-old conflict.


The central government in Kabul has ceded more territory to the Taliban since the early days of the Afghanistan War, with the terrorist group now in full or partial control of 54 of the country’s districts, according to the latest quarterly survey to Congress from the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The report contains sobering findings for Mr. Trump and his generals, even as the parallel war against Islamic State and other radical terrorist movements in Syria and Iraq has made significant gains this year.

The Taliban, which are mainly concentrated within the eastern and southern segments of the country, claimed control of nine districts previously held by government forces over the past six months. As a result, more than 3.7 million Afghans, or just over 11 percent of the country’s entire population, now live under the radical Islamist movement’s control, the SIGAR inspectors found.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
The Taliban Flag. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Those gains come despite a marked uptick in US combat operations in Afghanistan, where American and allied forces executed more airstrikes against Taliban and Islamic State strongholds in the country than in any year since 2014. US and NATO forces carried out 2,400 airstrikes during an eight-month period this year against insurgent targets tied to the Taliban and forces loyal to Islamic State’s Afghan cell.

American and allied forces executed over 700 airstrikes against insurgent targets in Afghanistan in September alone, in line with the hard-line wartime strategy for Afghanistan that Mr. Trump outlined in August.

“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” said SIGAR head John F. Sopko. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”

The downbeat SIGAR findings — its 37th quarterly survey of the war — come amid reports that the US military has begun to restrict the information flow on the war as the conflict grinds on. The New York Times reported this week that the Pentagon has stopped providing figures on the size of the Afghan security and police forces, the state of their equipment, and Afghan casualty figures.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Afghan National Army soldiers assault a building during their final training exercise in Kabul, Afghanistan. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Cohen.

The Pentagon told the newspaper that the information was being withheld at the request of the Afghan government, but even the SIGAR report released this week revealed that the Afghan army and the national police force had a net loss of manpower in the most recent reporting period.

Roughly 3,900 more US troops are being funneled into Afghanistan to support the 8,400 soldiers, sailors, and Marines already there, with a majority supporting the NATO-led adviser mission dubbed Operation Resolute Support. Other American troops, mostly special operations units, are conducting counter-terrorism missions against the Taliban and Islamic State under a separate mission.

Related: This is what the Afghans think of America’s new war plan

Mr. Trump’s blueprint abandons the timeline-based approach to the American mission in Afghanistan in favor of a “conditions based” strategy. Administration critics claim the decision will effectively restart US-led combat operations in Afghanistan, which officially ended in late 2014 under President Obama and draw the US into an open-ended conflict.

While officials in the Pentagon and their counterparts in the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani claim the shift will provide much-needed reassurance to the Afghan Security Forces, the situation on the ground shows that fight will likely be much tougher than anticipated.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during the official UH-60 Black Hawk arrival ceremony, Oct. 7, 2017, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel.

Despite the uptick in US action, the Taliban continue to carry out high-profile attacks, including some in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital.

Roughly 90 people were killed and over 400 wounded, including 11 American contractors, in a brazen suicide attack on the German Embassy in Kabul in May. The attack was one of the worst to hit the capital since US and NATO forces ended combat operations in the country in 2014.

On Oct. 31, four people were killed and 13 wounded in a suicide attack inside the “green zone” — the heavily fortified sector in central Kabul that is home to the US Embassy and the Afghan presidential palace. Members of ISIS-K carried out the Oct. 31 attack, according to reports from Amaq news agency, the main social media propaganda network for Islamic State.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
General John Nicholson, Resolute Support commander, RS Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Jurgen Weigt, and RS Command Sergeant Major David M. Clark visit the blast site after the deadly attack on the German Embassy in Kabul. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Egdanis Torres Sierra.

Taliban resurgence

When the US ended combat operations three years ago, the Ghani government held roughly 60 percent of the country, according to government-led analysis, as well as reviews by private-sector analysts.

But those gains appear to be slipping from Kabul’s grasp, and the Taliban’s gains in the country over the past six months have taken a toll on the country’s military.

Battlefield casualties continue to increase among the ranks of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, while Kabul continues to combat high levels of attrition among the country’s armed forces. The Afghan army’s ranks have dropped by 4,000 troops and the national police lost 5,000 people, according to SIGAR’s latest findings.

By contrast, the Taliban continue to show signs of strength within their traditional base in the southern and eastern parts of the country, but also in northern and western Afghanistan, where they had not had significant sway in the past.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
More than 500 Afghan National Army soldiers stand in formation during the graduation of the 215th Corps’ Regional Military Training Center’s Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration training. DoD Photo by Sgt. Bryan Peterson.

Hundreds of Taliban fighters amassed in the western Afghanistan’s Farah province during a show of force in October. The gathering, posted as part of the group’s propaganda videos, showed the Afghan jihadis assembling in broad daylight without fear of being targeted by Afghan and coalition forces, according to analysis by the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

In a rare interview with The Guardian, senior Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Saeed said Washington’s new aggressive approach would not be enough to turn the tide against the group.

Read Also: This is how much it’s going to cost to send more troops to Afghanistan (Hint: It’s a lot)

Since “150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us,” the 4,000 troops Mr. Trump has authorized “will not change the morale of our mujahedeen,” Mullah Saeed said. “The Americans were walking in our villages, and we pushed them out.”

He said the Taliban would consider a peace deal, but only on the condition that the “foreigners must leave, and the constitution must be changed to [Islamic] Shariah law.”

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.

Peace talks, possibly including the Taliban, have also been a key part in the White House’s Afghanistan strategy. On Nov. 1, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson reiterated that the administration was open to peace talks with the Taliban, though not with Islamic State elements in Afghanistan.

“There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever,” Mr. Tillerson said during his unannounced visit to Kabul.

“We are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government,” the top US diplomat added.

Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to hold peace talks with the Taliban in 2013, coinciding with the Taliban’s unprecedented move to open a political office in Doha that year. At the time, officials in the Obama administration saw the potential talks as a vehicle to help accelerate the withdrawal of US forces from the country by 2014. But Pakistan’s decision to withdraw from the talks eventually scuttled any effort to reach a deal with the terrorist group.

Featured Image: 1st Sgt. David W. Christopher and Army Staff Sgt. Gordon M. Campbell stand by after setting fire to a Taliban shelter along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. (Army photo by Spc. Matthew Leary)

MIGHTY TRENDING

NovaPoint Capital provides investment management with integrity

Joseph Sroka isn’t just an investment specialist, he’s a military veteran and business owner with a passion to assist the veteran community. He is the Chief Investment Officer of NovaPoint Capital, a firm he co-founded, which provides investment management for individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations.


Before getting into the number crunching and chart watching of the investment world, Sroka served as an infantry officer in the Army. After graduating from West Point in 1988, he was stationed in Berlin, Germany and was witness to the iconic fall of the Berlin Wall, reunification of Germany, and collapse of the Soviet Union. As a person who was inspired to serve by Ronald Reagan, seeing the end of the “Evil Empire” seemed like a good time for a career change.

“I grew up in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and was in middle school during the Iran hostage crisis,” Sroka recalls. “President Reagan brought pride back to the country and the military. I was proud to serve.”

After earning his MBA, Sroka spent time working in equity research at investment banks, hedge funds, and asset management firms in Chicago, New York, and eventually Atlanta, the city he now calls home. The investment management industry has proven as lively as the military. Sroka was working at 4 World Financial Center, across the street from the World Trade Center, on 9/11 and helped evacuate his colleagues at Merrill Lynch from the building. He has also managed through the volatility of the markets during the 2008 financial crisis.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Joseph Sroka

His deep experience in the industry helped him develop the tools he needed to go into business with his partner, Alan Conner. Together, they decided the goal of NovaPoint Capital was to provide individuals and institutions with disciplined and transparent investment management.

We’ve both seen the ugly side of the business over the years,” Alan explains, “Excessive fees and complicated investment products seem designed to benefit the investment firms and the brokers, rather than the clients. It is very satisfying to run a firm where we truly put the client first.

As a boutique firm, they offer an aspect that is often lost when dealing with larger firms: the opportunity to build a personal one-on-one relationship directly with their clients. This structure provides clients with direct access to the manager who is handling their money and not sales representatives or relationship managers who are twice or three-times removed from the actual investment.

They recognize that a lot of trust that comes with handling investments. NovaPoint seeks to provide all clients, large and small, with complete transparency in how their money is invested. They have used technology to simplify the process and give clients a window into what the team at NovaPoint is doing every day.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles

NovaPoint shows they are purposeful and disciplined when it comes to the strategies they put forth. Both owners understand discipline. Sroka as a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, Conner as an endurance athlete and three-time IRONMAN triathlon finisher. Conner sees “the discipline in our investment process as a simple extension of the discipline we have in our everyday lives.”

Being a veteran-owned business, NovaPoint understands the value the veteran community provides to the country’s economy and wants to encourage other veterans to pursue their investment and financial goals. To help veterans achieve these goals NovaPoint Capital takes a few proactive steps. They offer special discounts on standard fees as well as waiving minimum investment requirements for veterans. They extend these offers to include retirement plans for other veteran-owned businesses as well as non-profit organizations that serve the veteran community. Additionally, NovaPoint contributes one day of revenue every six months directly to veteran charities.

Beyond discounts and waived requirements, Sroka personally continues to serve veterans in his community by being a mentor through organizations like Veterati and FourBlock. “I am a huge believer that the current generation of transitioning veterans are going to be the leaders in the U.S. economy for decades to come,” Sroka said. He is also working to bring a Bunker Labs chapter to Atlanta to help military and veteran entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses in the area.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Disabled veterans now eligible for Space-A travel

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act was recently signed, which included a measure that will allow fully-disabled veterans the ability to utilize Space-Available travel.

Under the Disabled Veterans Access to Space-A Travel Act, veterans with a service-connected, permanent disability rating of 100 percent will be able to travel in the Continental United States or directly between the CONUS and Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa (Guam and American Samoa travelers may transit Hawaii or Alaska); or traveling within Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands on flights operated by Air Mobility Command.


Prior to this authorization, only military retirees, meaning those with a blue DD Form 2, and current service members were entitled to this benefit. This particular piece of legislations was originally introduced by the House Veterans Affairs Committee in 2016.

According to lawmakers, this proposal will allow travel on Space-A at no additional cost to the Department of Defense and without aircraft modifications. Additionally, data from the Government Accountability Office noted that roughly 77 percent of space-available seats in 2011 were occupied by only 2.3 percent of the 8.4 million eligible individuals for the program.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles

(Department of Defense photo)

Travelers should contact their local Passenger Terminal for further details and review travel information found on the AMC Travel Page for specific details on the Space A travel program.

Editor’s note: Passengers seeking Space-Available or Space-A travel must keep in mind that there is No Guarantee you will be selected for a seat. Be aware that Space-A travelers must be prepared to cover commercial travel expenses if flight schedules are changed or become unavailable to allow Space-A travel. Per DODI 4515.13, Section 4, Paragraph 4.1.a, Reservations: There is no guarantee of transportation, and reservations will not be accepted or made for any space-available traveler. The DOD is not obligated to continue an individual’s travel or return the individual to the point of origin or any other point. Travelers should have sufficient personal funds to pay for commercial transportation, lodging, and other expenses if space-available transportation is not available.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

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

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

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

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


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

Combating violent extremism

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

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

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles

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

DOD photo by Jim Garamone

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

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

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

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

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

Stabilization, sustainment effort

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Poland willing to pay for U.S. deterrent to Russia

As military personnel paraded through Warsaw on foot, horseback, and armored vehicles on Aug. 15, 2018, Polish President Andrzej Duda reiterated his country’s call for a permanent US military presence on its soil — a presence that the Eastern European country has said it’s willing to pay $2 billion to get.

A permanent US Army presence would “deter every potential aggressor,” Duda said, it what was almost certainly a reference to Russia, whose recent assertive moves in Europe — particularly the 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine — have prompted NATO members to increase their activity along the alliance’s eastern flank.


Duda’s remarks came during Poland’s Armed Forces Day holiday. The Aug. 15, 2018 holiday commemorates Poland’s defeat of Soviet forces in 1920 during the Polish-Soviet War — a victory known as the “Miracle on the Vistula.”

2018’s celebration was larger and more vibrant than usual because it marks the centenary of the country regaining its independence after a 123-year period during which it was divided among Russia, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

“We won. Yes, we won. We Poles won,” Duda said. “Today we look with pride at those times.”

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles

Armed Forces Day 2008.

His comments also came a few months after Poland’s defense minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said he had discussed establishing that permanent presence with US officials.

Blaszczak said the US Senate had contacted the Defense Department about the matter. Local media reported at the time that Poland was willing to spend up to billion to finance a permanent deployment.

The US has yet to respond to the request. Such a deployment would be costly and would almost certainly anger Moscow, which has sharply criticized NATO’s recent deployments and military exercises in Eastern Europe.

Poland has lobbied NATO for a permanent military deployment in the past. In 2015, a US diplomat said the alliance would not set up permanent military facilities in the country. At the time, the diplomat said the US would maintain a “permanent rotating presence” of US military personnel in the country.

Since 2016, NATO has deployed multinational battlegroups of roughly 4,500 troops each to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The battlegroup stationed in Poland is led by the US and includes personnel from the UK, Romania, and Croatia.

US forces and troops from other NATO members have carried out a variety of exercises in Eastern Europe in recent months, as the alliance works to deter Russian aggression. Those exercises have focused on established capabilities that had fallen out of use after the Cold War — like maneuvering and interoperability between units — as well as new practices to fend off Russian tactics, like cyberattacks and hacking.

President Donald Trump has also goaded NATO members to increase their defense expenditures more rapidly, believing they unfairly allow the US to shoulder the bulk of that expense. Members of the alliance have boosted their spending (though some have done so with the aim of reducing dependence on US arms makers).

Poland has already met the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level that the NATO allies agreed to work toward by 2024. On Aug. 15, 2018, Duda said he wanted Poland to increase that outlay even more, reaching 2.5% of GDP by 2024.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

The Defense Department owes the families of the soldiers lost in Niger and the American people an explanation of what the soldiers were doing in Niger and why it was important, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said October 23rd.


Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said the four Special Forces soldiers who were killed and the two who were wounded in the Oct. 4 action, were conducting an important train, advise, and assist mission with Nigerien forces.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with reporters about recent military operations in Niger Oct. 23, 2017, at the Pentagon. DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

Building Capacity of Local Forces

“Our soldiers are operating in Niger to build the capacity of local forces to defeat violent extremism in West Africa,” the general said at a Pentagon news conference. “Their presence is part of a global strategy.”

The soldiers were on patrol with forces from Niger, he said, when a group linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attacked. “As we’ve seen many times, groups like ISIS and al-Qaida pose a threat to the United States, the American people and our allies,” Dunford said. “They’re a global threat enabled by the flow of foreign fighters, resources and their narrative.”

Related: This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

The four soldiers — Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright — were training local forces to conduct security in their own country. The four Americans were part of a multinational response to the threat these violent extremists pose.

Fighting ISIS

ISIS seeks to survive in the dark corners of the world where local inhabitants lack the power and expertise to control the violent group, Dunford said. ISIS operates where it can exploit weaknesses in local government and local security forces, he added. Libya, Somalia, West Africa, certain places in Central and Southeast Asia are places where ISIS and like groups choose to operate.

“If you think of those enablers as connective tissue between groups across the globe, our strategy is to cut that tissue, while enabling local security forces to deal with the challenges within their countries and region,” Dunford said.

The United States is working with nations around the world to improve their military capabilities and capacities, Dunford said. U.S. troops, he added, have been working with forces from Niger for 20 years, the general said, training more than 35,000 soldiers from the region to confront the threats of ISIS, al-Qaida and Boko Haram.

“Today, approximately 800 [U.S.] service members in Niger work as part of an international effort, led by 4,000 French troops, to defeat terrorists in West Africa,” Dunford said.

Dunford related what is known about the Oct. 4 operation in Niger.

“On the 3rd of October, 12 members of the U.S. Special Operations Task Force accompanied 30 Nigerien forces on a civil-military reconnaissance mission from the capital city of Niamey to an area near the village of Tongo Tongo,” he said. The village is located a little over 50 miles north of Niamey, and officials expected the chances of meeting an enemy were slight.

Also read: Nigerian Air Force takes out Boko Haram leaders

The next day, Dunford said, the forces began moving back, when they were attacked by approximately 50 enemy using small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and technical vehicles.

“Approximately one hour after taking fire, the team requested support,” he said. “And within minutes the remotely piloted aircraft arrived overhead. Within an hour, French Mirage jets arrived on station.”

Still later, French attack helicopters arrived on station, and a Niger quick-reaction force arrived.

Firefight

During the firefight, two U.S. soldiers were wounded and evacuated by French aircraft to Niamey, and that was consistent with the casualty evacuation plan that was in place for this particular operation, Dunford said.

Three U.S. soldiers who were killed were evacuated the evening of Oct. 4, Dunford said.

“At that time, Sergeant La David Johnson was still missing,” the general said.

“On the evening of Oct. 6, Sergeant Johnson’s body was found and subsequently evacuated,” he said. “From the time the firefight was initiated until Sergeant Johnson’s body was recovered, French, Nigerien or U.S. forces remained in that area.”

Questions to be Answered

The combat was tough and confused, the chairman said. There are more questions that need to be answered, he added, and that is why U.S. Africa Command appointed a general officer to investigate.

The questions that need answers, he said, include: Did the mission of U.S. forces change during the operation? Did U.S. forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training? Was there a premission assessment of the threat in the area accurate? And, How did U.S. forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sergeant Johnson?

And, why didn’t they take time to find and recover Sergeant Johnson? Dunford said.

“We owe the families of the fallen more information, and that’s what the investigation is designed to identify,” he said.

The general said the campaign against violent extremists is making progress, but much more needs to be done.

Inflection Point

“Even with the fall of Mosul and Raqqa, we’re at an inflection point in the global campaign, not an end point,” he said.

The general said he’s hosting the chiefs of defense and representatives from 75 different countries will meet to improve the effectiveness of the military network to defeat terrorism.

“In our discussions over the next day or two, we’ll focus on improving information sharing between nations to detect and defeat attacks before they occur, and to improve the support we provide to nations confronted with violent extremism,” he said. “And that’s exactly what our forces in Niger were doing.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Guess how much longer the Afghan president thinks foreign troops will have to help defend his country

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said he believes most foreign troops will be able to leave the country “within four years.”


“Within four years, we think our security forces would be able to do the constitutional thing, which is the claim of legitimate monopoly of power,” Ghani said in an interview with the BBC broadcast on October 5.

He said that Afghan security forces turned the corner in the fight against the Taliban and “in terms of management and leadership, things are really falling into place.”

The Afghan government is struggling to beat back insurgents in the wake of the exit of most NATO forces in 2014.

A U.S. report found earlier this year that the Taliban controls or contests control of about 40 percent of the country, and security forces are also fighting against militants affiliated with the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has recently unveiled a strategy to try to defeat the militants after nearly 16 years of war, and officials said more than 3,000 additional U.S. troops are being sent to the country to reinforce the 11,000 U.S. troops already stationed there.

Trump has made an open-ended commitment to Afghanistan, saying U.S. troop levels will be based on “conditions on the ground,” not on “arbitrary timetables.”

Articles

The most damaging spy in US history just walked free

Jonathan Pollard, the most damaging spy in U.S. history, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing documents to Israel. After thirty years in jail, he was released on parole to great fanfare from his wife, the government in Israel, and the American pro-Israel lobby. According to Pollard’s lawyers, he will be required to wear an electronic bracelet so his movements can be monitored at all times and his computers and those of any employer who hires him will be subjected to “unfettered monitoring and inspection.”


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the release “a dream come true” and that “the people of Israel welcome his release.” The PM’s office restricted celebrations of his release in hopes the American government will allow him to travel to Israel sooner.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Pollard released this photo with his wife, Esther.

While Israel is an American ally and has access to a lot of American intelligence, the information provided by Pollard to Israel is said to have caused grave damage to the national security of the United States.  The information was so damaging, when President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, presented an assessment of Pollard’s spying to the presiding judge in his trial, the judge threw out Pollard’s plea deal and threw the book at him and his wife.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles

Weinberger said he sought to “dispel any presumption that disclosures to an ally are insignificant; to the contrary, substantial and irrevocable damage has been done to this nation.”

The most damaging release included the 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN] manual, aka “the Bible,” detailing the entire U.S. global listening profile, “frequency by frequency, source by source, geographic slice by geographic slice. RASIN was in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.” The manual revealed which communications channels of which powers, in which regions, the NSA was intercepting and in what order of priority, providing insight on where and what actions the U.S. military might take next.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Pollard caught stealing documents on camera.

The memo said many documents the spy gave the Israelis included details on sourcing and the identifications of U.S. agents abroad. Among other information Pollard admits giving to Israel:

  • Detailed information about a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) HQ in Tunisia
  • Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare factory locations and production capabilities
  • Regular PLO operations plans
  • Soviet arms shipments to Arab states unfriendly to Israel
  • Soviet fighter jet information
  • Information about Pakistani nuclear weapons programs

“Unauthorized disclosures to friendly powers may cause as great a harm to the national security as to hostile powers because, once the information is removed from secure control systems, there is no enforceable requirement nor any incentive to provide effective controls for its safekeeping,” the memo read.

The CIA believes the information Pollard gave them might have been traded to the Soviet Union in exchange for looser travel restrictions of Russian Jews trying to emigrate to Israel.

Pollard claimed he was acting in a sense of altruism and loyalty toward Israel. Yet, In an exhaustive 1987 report, NCIS investigator Ron Olive alleged Pollard passed material on to South Africa and tried to pass it on to Pakistan as well. He took intelligence documents about China which his wife used to advance her business interests. He passed No Foreign Access (NOFORN) information on to an Australian Navy officer.The government’s case against Pollard included unsuccessful attempts to broker arms deals with South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran. And for all of Pollard’s altruism, he accepted more than $30,000 in cash and luxury items from Israel in exchange for information.

Many former Department of Defense officials are against his release. Some prominent Jewish-American figures are against it. Even once-ardent supporters of Pollard disagree with the timing. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator who caught Pollard after he handed more than a million documents to Israeli agents over 18 months, believes the spy should stay in jail. So does Vice-President Joe Biden. Then-CIA director George Tenet threatened his resignation if President Clinton released Pollard in the late 1990s.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is now talking tough with its Space Force response

Russia is warning the US there will be a “tough response” if it violates an international treaty barring nuclear weapons in outer space after President Donald Trump ordered the establishment of a “space force” as a sixth branch of the US military, Air Force Times reports.

Victor Bondarev, head of the Russian Parliament’s Upper House Committee on Defense and Security, on June 19, 2018, said, “If the United States withdraws from the 1967 treaty banning nuclear weapons in outer space, then, of course, not only ours, but also other states, will follow with a tough response aimed at ensuring world security.”

Bondarev was seemingly referring to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

According to the US State Department, the treaty “contains an undertaking not to place in orbit around the Earth, install on the moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise station in outer space, nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction.”


Bondarev also said the militarization of outer space is a “path to disaster,” adding that he hopes “the American political elite still have the remnants of reason and common sense.”

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Victor Bondarev

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also expressed concern regarding Trump’s announcement of the creation of a US space force.

“A military buildup in space, in particular, after the deployment of weapons there, would have destabilizing effects on strategic stability and international security,” Zakharova said. She also defended the fact Russia already has a space force, contending it’s a “purely defensive” entity.

Trump on June 18, 2018, directed the Pentagon to establish the space force, which he said would create more jobs and be great for the country’s “psyche.”

“Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security,” Trump said at the White House. “When it comes to defending America it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

In order for a sixth military branch to be created — joining the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard — Congress has to get involved. Some members of Congress have already expressed opposition to Trump’s space force and Defense Secretary James Mattis has also exhibited skepticism on the subject.

“At a time when we are trying to integrate the department’s joint war-fighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations,” Mattis wrote in a letter to Republican Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio in 2017.

Mattis has shifted on this somewhat more recently and in May 2018 said, “But to look now at the problem, means we have to look afresh at it, and where are the specific problems, break them down, and if an organizational construct has to change, then I’m wide open to it.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 17 photos from ‘The Mirror Test’ capture the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in vivid detail

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles

“Kael Weston’s The Mirror Test is essential reading for anyone seeking to come to terms with our endless wars…. A riveting, on-the- ground look at American policy and its aftermath.” – Phil Klay, author of Redeployment


John Kael Weston spent seven years on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan (2003-2010) as a State Department political advisor to Marine Corps generals. From Sadr City and Fallujah in Iraq to the Khost and Helmand provinces in Afghanistan, Weston was often the only non-military presence alongside our armed forces.

After returning home, he grappled with the aftermath of these wars. How, and when, will they end? How will they be remembered? And how do we memorialize the American, Iraqi and Afghan lives that have been lost and changed by more than a decade and a half of war, while reckoning with the unpopularity of the conflicts themselves?

In “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Knopf, May 24), Weston recounts his travels from Twentynine Palms in California to Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the American hometowns of Marines who fell during his watch. Along the way, he introduces American troops, Iraqi truck drivers, Afghan teachers, imams, mullahs and former Taliban fighters, all while grappling with the larger questions these wars pose.

Hailed as “the conscience of our wars” (Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post), Weston weaves together these American, Iraqi and Afghan stories and offers them as a national mirror, asking us to take an unflinching look at these wars and where they leave America today. As he writes, “It’s past time for this kind of shared reckoning … When we look into that mirror, as uncomfortable as it may be, let’s not turn away.”

 

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Cpl. Sharadan Reetz (left), 21, from Indianola, Iowa, and Lance Cpl. Jarrett Hatley, 21, from Millingport, N.C., an assaultman and a dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, rest next to Blue, an improvised explosive device detection dog, after clearing compounds with Afghan National Army soldiers during Operation Winter Offensive in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 4, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Lance Cpl. Tom Morton, a team leader with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment hands an Afghan child a toy during a security patrol in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 25, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
An Afghan boy petitions Lance Cpl. Christopher Bones, a rifleman with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment for candy after receiving a water bottle from another Marine during a security patrol in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 28, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Cpl. Garrett Carnes (in wheelchair), a squad leader with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, jokes with Sgt. Kenney Clark (right), a fellow India Co. squad leader, during a motivational run on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, May 29, 2012. Carnes lost his legs in an improvised explosive device attack Feb. 19, 2012 while supporting combat operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Lance Cpl. Kyle Niro, a scout sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment places the dog tag of fallen Pfc. Heath D. Warner on a battlefield cross following a memorial run on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, June 1, 2012. The run was held to honor the sacrifices of 116 men from 3rd Marines who died during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Warner, a 19-year-old native of Canton, Ohio, died Nov. 22, 2006, while conducting combat operations with 2/3 in Al Anbar province, Iraq. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Lance Cpl. Phil Schiffman, a mortarman with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment waves to Afghan men on a motorcycle after searching them at a vehicle checkpoint in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 28, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
A Marine Corps mortuary affairs team using a grappling hook to ensure dead bodies are not booby-trapped, Fallujah. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Marines scanning the irises of Fallujans returning to the city after Operation Al Fajr (New Dawn). (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston, the Mirror Test)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Fallujah city center during Operation Al Fajr (New Dawn). (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Marines paying displaced civilians $200 as they return to Fallujah. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Dilawar of Yakubi. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Kuchi (nomad) children along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
PRT project, near Pakistan border, Khost. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Memorial for 31 Angels, Anbar, February 2, 2005. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles

U.S. KIA, Fallujah, 2006–2007. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

 

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Gravesite of Brian D. Bland, KIA, Newcastle, Wyoming. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Family home of Nick Palmer, KIA, Leadville, Colorado. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

See more about “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan” here.

Articles

Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room to bury America’s vets

Veterans of the Persian Gulf War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan can’t expect to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery unless policies are changed — even if they were bestowed the Medal of Honor, a new report says.


There are 21 million living veterans in the U.S., but the cemetery has room for only 73,000 burials.

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
Soldiers of the 3rd U.S Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) prepare to move the casket of Medal of Honor recipient Leonard Keller to his final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery’s section 60. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Currently, any veteran with an honorable discharge and at least one day of active duty is eligible for interment there at Arlington. That’s a lower bar than the cemeteries managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which require two years of active duty service. (RELATED: VA Insists On Paper Records, Slowing Payments To Private Docs But Creating Union Jobs)

Largely thanks to the one-day-minimum policy, the cemetery will be closed even to those killed in action — known as “first interments” — by 2042.

“If Arlington National Cemetery is to continue to operate under current policies, it must be expanded geographically and/or alter the iconic look and feel of the cemetery,” an Army report presented to Congress August 23 said. “If Arlington National Cemetery is to continue to operate without expansion, eligibility must change or it will close for first interments by mid-century.”

That’s only 26 years into the future, meaning veterans of recent wars, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, have little hope of burial there when they die later in life. “With current policies, Veterans of the Gulf War, Somalia, [Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom] era cannot expect to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, even if awarded the Medal of Honor,” the report says.

Between 1967 and 1980, burial at Arlington was limited to those killed in action (KIA), retired career, and medal of honor recipients. If the policy is changed to limit the cemetery to KIAs only, the cemetery will have enough space for hundreds of years.

But doing so would disenfranchise Vietnam veterans, the youngest of whom will be octogenarians around 2040 and many of whom already felt mistreated by their country.

Besides changing policy, the cemetery can consider more compact and above-ground burials, which would risk losing the “serene and ordered look … with its rows of white headstones, trees, and tasteful historical and ceremonial spaces.”

It could also expand, either by acquiring neighboring land — which is hard to come by in Arlington — or at a new site. One such expansion is already taken into account in the projections.

Follow Luke on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea said to be completely nuclear capable in 6 months

North Korea could launch a full-blown nuclear strike on the US as early as July 23, 2018, according to a prediction from Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

A government minister gave the assessment to a parliamentary committee in early 2018 as part of its efforts to assess Kim Jong Un’s ability to precipitate a nuclear war.


Lord Howe, a British defense minister, told parliament’s Defense Committee that the Defense Ministry thought North Korea would be fully nuclear-capable within “six to 18 months.”

The statements, made at a Jan. 23 hearing, were published April 5, 2018, in a committee report on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The earliest possible date for a strike in Howe’s time frame is July 23, 2018; the far estimate is the same date in 2019.

The Defense Ministry on April 5, 2018, told Business Insider it stood by the dates.

“We judge that they are now certainly capable of reaching targets in the short range, by which I mean Japan, South Korea — obviously — and adjoining territories,” Howe told MPs. “Our judgment is that it will probably be six to 18 months before they have an ICBM capability that is capable of reaching the coast of the United States or indeed ourselves.”

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles
North Korea’s Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which the country claims can reach the US.
(Photo from KCNA)

North Korea tested multiple nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017. Based on the tests, experts said North Korea could probably get a missile to hit the US mainland — but still lacked the technology to carry a heavy nuclear warhead that far.

The Defense Ministry believes the country is now working on that technology; attaching a nuclear weapon to an ICBM would allow North Korea to carry out a nuclear strike in most of the world.

“A nuclear strike capability depends on marrying up the ballistic missile with the warhead, and that is, we judge, work in progress,” Howe said.

The Defense Ministry confirmed Howe’s assessment on April 5, 2018.

“We stand by our defense minister’s comments,” a spokesman told Business Insider.

Though there appears to be a growing rapprochement between North Korea and the US, Pyongyang appears to be preparing a satellite launch that could ruin the coming discussions with US President Donald Trump.

North Korea has scuppered multiple talks about disarmament by launching satellites in the past.
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