Remembering The Lost Troops Of Operation Eagle Claw, The Failed Iranian Embassy Hostage Rescue Mission

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TASK & PURPOSE’)

The wreckage of the downed EC-130 lost during Operation Eagle Claw in 1980.

HISTORY
Remembering The Lost Troops Of Operation Eagle Claw, The Failed Iranian Embassy Hostage Rescue Mission

on April 24, 2017

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In the early hours of April 25, 1980, President Jimmy Carter made a sober announcement to the nation: An attempt by U.S. military forces rescue the 52 staff held hostage at the American embassy in Tehran since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, had ended in a catastrophic failure without even engaging the enemy.

According to Carter, equipment failure aboard several of the eight RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters launched from the USS Nimitz led the president to abort the mission. But during the strike forces’ withdrawal, one of the Sea Stallions collided with an EC-130. Five airmen and three Marines were killed in the ensuing explosion.

“There was no fighting; there was no combat,” said Carter. “We were all convinced that if and when the rescue operation had been commenced that it had an excellent chance of success … To the families of those who died and who were wounded, I want to express the admiration I feel for the courage of their loved ones and the sorrow that I feel personally for their sacrifice.”

The botched rescue operation is widely credited with costing Carter re-election in a crushing defeat to former California Gov. Ronald Reagan during the 1980 presidential election. (Mark Bowden, the journalist best known for the story that became “Black Hawk Down,” authored a remarkable timeline of the operation of Operation Eagle Claw in a 2006 issue of The Atlantic).

But as our friends at Soldier Systems point out, their sacrifice was not in vain. In fact, it led to the development of the modern special operations capability we know today.

In May 1980, the Joint Chiefs of Staff commissioned a Department of Defense’s Special Operations Review Group to evaluate the underlying causes of the botched rescue mission, examining every stage from planning and organization to mission command and control. Led by former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. James L. Holloway III, the so-called Holloway Report concluded that the “ad-hoc nature” of Eagle Claw’s organization and planning created too much room for error.

The eight U.S. armed forces servicemen killed during Operation Eagle Claw

“By not utilizing an existing JTF organization,” Holloway and his fellow senior military officers wrote, “the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to start, literally, from the beginning to establish a JTF, create an organization, provide a staff, develop a plan, select the united, and train the force between the first mission capability could be attained.”

Within a few years, the Holloway report catalyzed not only a sweeping reorganization of the Department of Defense but the creation of the United States Special Operations Command, a unified command apparatus to ensure that a lack of inter-service communication didn’t yield another unforced error for special operators downrange.

Despite the perception of Operation Eagle Claw as a failure, the sacrifices of those eight American servicemen were not in vain. The botched mission “pointed out the necessity for a dedicated special operations section within the Department of Defense with the responsibility to prepare and maintain combat-ready forces to successfully conduct special operations,” as airman Luke Kitterman wrote Monday.

Without that failed mission, we likely wouldn’t have elite units like Delta Force, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs on the front lines of the Global War on Terror. Those eight servicemen may have died without firing a shot, but without them, U.S. special operations wouldn’t be what it is today.

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Jared Keller is a senior editor at Task & Purpose and contributing editor at Pacific Standard. Follow Jared Keller on Twitter @JaredBKeller
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The Army’s New Modified Stryker Has A Special Laser Surprise For ISIS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TASK AND PURPOSE WEBSITE)

The Army’s New Modified Stryker Has A Special Laser Surprise For ISIS

on April 17, 2017

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In their fight against ISIS, American troops face a dangerous and unpredictable new threat on foreign battlefields: weaponized drones specially designed for suicide missions. And while all branches of the military are exploring advanced gear for combat troops that will counter the new threat of “flying IEDs,” the Army has already whipped up a special armored vehicle to keep soldiers out of harm’s way.

Last week, the Army unveiled a specially modified Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV) prototype outfitted with a special surprise for ISIS militants: an experimental laser weapon that can shoot down enemy drones without firing a single round — or making a sound.

Dubbed the Mobile High Energy Laser (MEHEL), the Army showed off the Stryker at the Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment (MFIX) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, blasting more than 50 remote-controlled test targets out of the sky with its 5 kilowatt laser cannon. Here’s the Army account of the test:

On a television screen in a nearby tent off Thompson Hill — a range used during the 10-day Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment here — observers watched the black and white output of those sensors on two flat-screen televisions, April 12. A crosshair was centered on the screen. When what appeared to be a drone entered the frame, the crosshairs locked on to it and followed it.

After a few attempts to destroy the drone with the laser, the drone fell from the sky, crashing to the ground. Not a bullet was fired, and no sounds were made by the system that accomplished the kill.

“We were skeptical at first, when we were first briefed we’d be shooting down drones with lasers,” the MEHEL commander, Army Capt. Theo Kleinsorge, said of the demonstration. “We achieved a success rate well beyond what we expected we’d have and we are excited to see this go to the next step of the experiment, shooting beyond the horizon, and showing this technology can solve the problem.”

This Mobile High-Energy Laser-equipped Stryker was evaluated, April 12, during the 2017 Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

The Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, already a favorite combat support platform for decades, were slated for upgrades as of 2016, including a medium-caliber cannon and Javelin anti-tank missiles. But given the emerging threats posed by ISIS UAVs, the MEHEL seems like an appropriate pivot for the Pentagon. The War Zone has a great breakdown of the MEHEL’s specs:

A basic Stryker ICV weighs in at nearly 16.5 tons, has a top speed of over 60 miles per hour on improved roads, and usually carries a .50 caliber M2 machine gun or a 40mm Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. The MEHEL still has a machine gun, but its main weapon is a five kilowatt laser. On top of the laser, the vehicle had has powerful cameras to detect and track targets, as well as electronic warfare equipment. The latter system can try and crash an unmanned aircraft by jamming the signal from its control station, as well as try and pinpoint the location of those sites.

This isn’t the first time the Army has experimented with direct-energy weapons to counter enemy drones. In 2016, the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command demonstrated the High Energy Laser Mobile Test Truck (HELMTT), outfitted with a 10 kilowatt laser director, during last year’s MFIX.

“Our team did a great job,” SMDC Technical Center HELMTT demonstrator program manager Adam Aberle said at the time. “We absolutely blew lots of stuff up.”

Despite the spectacular test at the 2017 MFIX, it’s unclear when the MEHEL will actually deploy downrange to Afghanistan and Iraq. But based on the excitement of program managers and observers on hand to watch the MEHEL in action, lasers can’t hit the battlefield soon enough.

“It’s mind-blowing stuff to think you are shooting a laser at something,” Spc. Brandon Sallaway said of the MEHEL test at Fort Sill. “Sometimes it’s hard to fathom.”

World’s biggest bombs: India’s SPICE no match for America’s MOAB or Russian FOAB

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

World’s biggest bombs: India’s SPICE no match for America’s MOAB or Russian FOAB

INDIA Updated: Apr 14, 2017 12:03 IST

Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
US

A Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) weapon is prepared for testing at the Eglin Air Force Armament Centre in March 11, 2003. (REUTERS)

Less than three months after Donald Trump took over as President, an MC-130 aircraft operated by the United States Air Force Special Operations Command dropped one of the biggest conventional bombs in country’s arsenal in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday.Deployed by the US military for the first time in combat, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) is one of the most powerful non-nuclear weapons in the possession of any military worldwide. The 21,000-lb MOAB’s sheer destructive power has earned it the nickname ‘Mother of All Bombs’.

Neither India nor Pakistan nor even China possesses non-nuclear bombs that are in the league of MOAB, developed in the early 2000s. In fact, their stockpile doesn’t come anywhere close to MOAB-like munitions.

Read | US drops GBU-43 bomb in Afghanistan: What we know about the ‘mother of all bombs’

The rare strike against Islamic State fighters with a weapon of this size has turned the spotlight on the world’s biggest and largest contemporary non-nuclear bombs, primarily held only by the militaries of Russia and the US.

Here’s a quick look at some of these deadly air-delivered monster munitions whose efficiency and power almost match nuclear weapons, and the smaller bombs that the air forces of India, China and Pakistan hold in their inventories:

Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power: Also known as the ‘Father of All Bombs’ (FOAB), it is the Russian answer to the American bomb. Moscow successfully tested the weapon in 2007; four years after the US developed the MOAB. It is reportedly the world’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb, capable of unleashing 44 tons of explosives compared to 11 tons in the GBU-43 MOAB. At 15,650 lb, the FOAB is lighter than the American bomb but the former’s significantly higher blast yield makes it far more lethal.

GBU-43 MOAB: Designed to destroy underground facilities, caves and tunnels, the US had developed the GPS-guided bomb for the 2003 invasion of Iraq but it was never used in combat until Thursday evening. Just like the Russian bomb, the 30-foot MOAB detonates before hitting the ground and causes unthinkable destruction by sending deadly shockwaves up to a distance of over a mile in all directions. The GBU-43 MOAB, however, is not the heaviest conventional munition in the American arsenal.

GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator: Known by its acronym MOP, the 30,000-lb American bomb is perhaps the heaviest conventional weapon in the world. However, the bunker buster bomb’s explosive power doesn’t match that of the MOAB or the FOAB. Manufactured by US defence giant Boeing, the GBU-57A/B MOP is designed to obliterate underground nuclear facilities and deeply buried enemy targets.

GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrator: The air forces of Israel and South Korea have the 5,000-lb GBU-28 bunker buster munitions supplied by the US in their inventories. The bombs were deployed by the USAF during Operation Desert Storm to carry out strikes against Iraqi bunkers, military installations and high value strategic targets in 1991. The GBU-28, a variant of the Paveway III bomb, can reportedly blast through six metres of concrete.

Read more

GBU-24 Paveway II bombs: The French Air Force’s Rafale omni-role fighters can carry a number of bombs from the US Paveway family of munitions. The heaviest air-to-surface conventional weapon the fighter can be equipped with is the GBU-24 Paveway II 2,000-lb laser-guided bomb.

INDIA

SPICE: The Israel-manufactured SPICE (smart precise impact and cost effective) bomb is the biggest conventional bomb that can be delivered by the Indian Air Force. Manufactured by Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd, the 2000-lb precision guided bombs are used on the French-origin Mirage 2000 fighters.

The IAF’s Jaguar deep-strike penetration aircraft can be fitted with 1,000-lb bombs for destroying the enemy’s ammunition dumps during combat. In one configuration, a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter can carry 26 bombs of 550-lb class to destroy a concentration of enemy armour and personnel. The fighter can also carry 1,000-lb HSLD (high speed, low drag) bombs to destroy enemy airfields. Indian fighter planes can also drop indigenously produced 1,000-lb bombs fitted with Israel Aircraft Industries-produced Griffin laser-guided systems

CHINA AND PAKISTAN

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force has a variety of conventional bombs ranging in the 500 lb to 3,000-lb class. Most of these general purpose bombs have been developed by the China’s North Industries Corporation. Most of the designs are reportedly based on bombs earlier imported from Russia.

Some of the designs also reportedly draw inspiration from the US Mk 80/82/83/84 bombs. Some other bombs in the Chinese inventory are also suspected to have been copied from Western designs. The conventional bombs with Pakistan Air Force are in the 250 lb to 2,000-lb class, with the design again based on the US Mk 80 series bombs and mated to laser guided systems of American origin. Former IAF vice chief Air Marshal KK Nohwar told HT on Friday, “India, China and Pakistan largely have a similar stockpile of lighter non-nuclear bombs. It’s nowhere close to the mega bombs that the Russians and the Americans can deploy in combat.”

China fears North Korea-US conflict ‘at any moment’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

China fears North Korea-US conflict ‘at any moment’

  • 14 April 2017
  • From the section Asia
The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, 14 April 2017Image copyright AFP
Image caption“All relevant parties should be highly vigilant,” the Chinese foreign minister says

China has warned that “conflict could break out at any moment” as tension over North Korea increases.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said if war occurred there could be no winner.

Mr Wang’s comments come as the US voices increasing concern at North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and deploys a Navy carrier group off the Korean peninsula.

China, North Korea’s only backer, fears conflict could cause the regime to collapse and problems on its border.

Mr Wang said: “One has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment.

“I think that all relevant parties should be highly vigilant with regards to this situation.”

“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage.”

The USS Carl Vinson, 8 April 2017Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption The US carrier group deploying off the Korean peninsula is led by the USS Carl Vinson

Adding to Chinese unease, President Donald Trump said on Thursday that “the problem of North Korea” would be “taken care of”.

“If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

The North Korean military responded on Friday by saying it would “mercilessly foil” any US provocation.

“Our toughest counteraction against the U.S. and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” read a statement from the army, reported in English by North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA.

The US president has recently demonstrated his willingness to resort to military methods. He ordered a cruise missile attack on Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack, and the US military just used a huge bomb against so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Washington is concerned North Korea might develop the ability to launch a nuclear weapon at the US.

Mr Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping have been in contact by phone since their summit last week in Florida, and Reuters quotes US officials as saying tougher economic sanctions against North Korea are also being considered.

Media caption John Sudworth asks people on the Pyongyang subway how they feel about the country’s nuclear tests.

China is concerned any conflict could lead to a huge refugee problem on its border with North Korea. It also fears the collapse of the North Korean regime, which would remove a buffer between China and a country with US military bases, and has thus long been wary of pushing Pyongyang too hard.

But, in a sign of growing frustration with its neighbour, it recently blocked coal imports from the North. And Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reports that the government will suspend direct Air China flights between Beijing and Pyongyang from Monday 17 April.

There is also intense speculation that North Korea could carry out a sixth nuclear bomb test or another missile launch – possibly a long-range missile – on Saturday.

Saturday marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of its first leader, Kim Il-sung.

In an interview with the Associated Press, North Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol accused the Trump administration of “becoming more vicious and more aggressive” in its policy towards the North.

An institute linked to the North Korean foreign ministry also warned that “thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment”.

The U.S. Just Dropped The ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ In Afghanistan. But What Is That?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

The U.S. Just Dropped the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ in Afghanistan. But What Is That?

Apr 13, 2017

The United States on Thursday dropped “the mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat, on an ISIS tunnel and cave complex in eastern Afghanistan.

The bomb, officially called the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), was dropped from a MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said, according to the Associated Press. The target was near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.

President Donald Trump said Thursday the bombing was a “very successful mission,” according to Reuters, and he touted the mission as evidence of a stronger foreign policy under his administration. It was not immediately clear how much damage the bomb did, how many militants were killed, or whether any civilians were killed.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is the bomb?

The GBU-43 is a GPS-guided weapon that weighs an enormous 21,600 pounds, according to an article from the Eglin Air Force Base. Each one costs $16 million, according to military information website Deagel.

During testing in the early 2000s, it created a mushroom cloud that could be seen from 20 miles away, according to the Air Force story.

Why was it developed?

The MOAB was designed in 2002 as a replacement for the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, according to the Air Force article. Its purpose was initially to put pressure on former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“The goal is to have the pressure be so great that Saddam Hussein cooperates,” said then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a 2003 interview, according to the Air Force article. “Short of that — an unwillingness to cooperate — the goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the coalition.”

Has it been used before?

The bomb was sent to the Middle East in 2003, but it had never been used before this week.

How many does the U.S. have?

The U.S. military says it has 20 MOAB bombs and has spent about $314 million producing them, according to CNBC.

What kind of destruction does it cause?

While not all details from Thursday’s blast have been made public, the bomb is very powerful. “What it does is basically suck out all of the oxygen and lights the air on fire,” Bill Roggio, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Air Force Times. “It’s a way to get into areas where conventional bombs can’t reach.”

While it was initially intended to deter U.S. opponents, this week’s strike marks a change to using the weapon as an active tool in fighting ISIS. The use of the MOAB in the Nangarhar province indicates the U.S. still considers ISIS a threat in the area.

U.S. Drops 21,600 Pound Bomb On ISIS Tunnel System In Eastern Afghanistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) The United States on Thursday dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its military arsenal for the first time in history.

But President Donald Trump declined to say whether he personally signed off on the use of the GBU-43/B MOAB, also known as the “mother of all bombs,” in a strike on ISIS militants in Afghanistan.
“Everybody knows exactly what happens. So, what I do is I authorize our military,” Trump said when asked whether he authorized the strike. “We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing.”
Sources told CNN that Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, signed off on the use of the bomb. The White House was informed of the plan before the MC-130 aircraft delivered its 21,600-pound payload.
Trump has given military commanders broader latitude to act independently on several battlefields where US forces are involved, which Trump touted as making a “tremendous difference” in the fight against ISIS.
While Trump’s comments Thursday suggested that he was not personally involved in the decision to drop the bomb, Trump was eager to associate himself with the bold display of power.

US drops 'mother of all bombs'

 US drops ‘mother of all bombs’ 01:45

Trump praised the military for the bombing run and called it “another very, very successful mission.”
The bombing in Afghanistan comes a week after Trump authorized a US missile strike against a Syrian government air base — the first US strike against the Syrian government in the country’s six-year civil war.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer earlier on Thursday confirmed the strike took place, targeting “a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters use to move around freely,” but also declined to answer any questions about Trump’s role in authorizing first-ever use of the MOAB bomb on the battlefield.
Spicer also deferred all questions about the decision to use the bomb and the potential for future uses of the bomb on other battlefields to the Defense Department.

The Right To Wear Beards And Turbans In The U.S. Military Is A Victory For More Than Sikhs

 

usccr7

COMMUNITY
The Right To Wear Beards And Turbans Is A Victory For More Than Sikhs

on January 13, 2017

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The change to grooming standards for religious minorities is a victory for all Americans and will strengthen the armed forces.

In 1675, Tegh Bahadur, the ninth spiritual master of the Sikhs and a brilliant military leader, was actively pushing back against the Mughal empire’s intolerant policies of forced religious conversion. After Hindus from the Kashmir region implored him for help, Tegh Bahadur sent the Moghul emperor, Aurangzeb, a challenge: “If you can convert me to Islam, then all of the Hindus in Kashmir will also convert to Islam. But if you can not convert me, then you must let them practice their religion in peace.”

The Mughals tortured Tegh Bahadur’s followers and killed them in order to compel him to convert. Ultimately, they beheaded Tegh Bahadur when he refused to give up his Sikh identity, and with that sacrifice the Kashmiri Hindus were spared forced religious conversion.

This is a story that Sikh children grow up listening to. It teaches us lessons of sacrifice, bravery, and social justice. It taught me to stand up for the practice of all religions.

Ever since 9/11, Sikhs, Muslims and other minorities that appear “Middle Eastern” have been targeted in hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and bullying. As a Sikh, I fought back against that hate and intolerance by working to fix discriminatory policies that institutionalize these divides. If one of the largest employers in the United States, our military, can discriminate against my religiously mandated turban and beard, then that gives cover to every employer to do the same.

Sikhs served honorably in the U.S. military for most of the 20th century, but in the early 1980s the military changed grooming and uniform regulations, essentially barring all Sikhs with turbans and beards from service. But it wasn’t just Sikhs who were pushed out. Muslims, Native Americans, Rastafarians, some Jewish sects, and several other religious minorities were also told that their religious observances would no longer be allowed in uniform.

RELATED: A MARINE SAYS HER RELIGION EXEMPTED HER FROM CERTAIN RULES. HERE’S WHY SHE’S WRONG »

In 2009, I became the first Sikh in a generation to be granted a religious accommodation for my turban and beard by the Pentagon, and on Jan. 3, 2017, the Pentagon released Army Directive 2017-03. It is a policy that addresses the most commonly requested religious accommodations and is a monumental achievement for not only Army Sec. Eric Fanning but also for those Sikhs who had pushed this issue for nearly a decade.

It is also a victory for America. We show our strength when we recognize the civil rights of small minorities. And when we do, we also gain in our fight with our enemies. ISIS tolerates no dissent, no disagreement, no difference. Our acceptance brings new people to our side, just as ISIS’ intolerance pushes many away.

The new directive allows brigade-level accommodation approval; that is, religious accommodations will no longer clutter desks at the office of the deputy chief of staff for personnel at the Pentagon. Once the religious accommodations have been made, they will continue throughout the soldiers’ careers. They can not be revoked or modified unless authorized by the service secretary or his/her designee. These soldiers can change duty stations and deploy, all without having to reapply for their religious waivers.

The directive also sets forth changes to AR 670-1 that specifically establish guidelines for the wear of turban, beard and hijabs in uniform. And just in case I wanted to wear my pink turban in uniform, the policy change states that the turban and hijab must be of subdued color or pattern that matches the camouflage of the uniform. All soldiers must still be able to wear a helmet and other “protective headgear.” Personally, I have never had any issue establishing a seal with a protective mask even with my turban and beard. The directive acknowledges that there are powered protective mask systems that our military currently uses which will form a good seal for all soldiers with facial hair. Furthermore, the Army will look to acquire and develop more protective masks that will function with facial hair.

This makes sense. Utilizing the Pentagon to grant individual religious accommodations is expensive, wasteful, and just plain silly. I want the Pentagon to focus on important issues like improving military transition, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, sexual assault, and cyber attacks.

Sikhs have been fighting against violent extremism and religious intolerance for centuries. A good friend of mine, Lt. Col. Claude Brittain, served as a Pentagon chaplain before he passed away last year. He always supported our efforts to help open doors for religious minorities. Bluntly, I asked him one day why he continues to stick his neck out for us. He told me that in order for him to be a good Christian, he felt compelled to stand up for Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and others. I shared the story of Tegh Bahadur with him and he teared up.

This is how we counter threats like ISIS. ISIS doesn’t believe in diversity or religious freedom. That’s their weakness and we have to learn to exploit it if we’re to have any chance of defeating their underlying ideology. You don’t have to go back too far in history to see that the Nazis were way more “uniform” than we were, and that’s why we fought them. We can fight wars with bullets and tanks, but it’s our American ideals that will ultimately win the day. America’s military should look like the people it serves.

Battle For Mosul Iraq Continues, Hundreds Of ISIS Fighters Killed: Say U.S. Generals

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BBC NEWS AND REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Mosul battle: IS ‘loses hundreds of fighters’ – US generals

Media caption Orla Guerin goes inside an IS tunnel network outside Mosul

Hundreds of Islamic State militants are thought to have been killed since Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake Mosul last week, the US military says.

Two generals said the jihadist group had suffered the losses as troops and allied fighters, backed by US-led air strikes, advanced on several axes.

Up to 5,000 IS fighters were believed to be in Mosul ahead of the assault.

Despite the territorial gains, commanders have warned that securing Mosul could take weeks, if not months.

About 50,000 Iraqi security forces personnel, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen are involved in the operation.

Map showing territory held by Iraqi army, Kurdish forces and IS around Mosul

More than 100 US military personnel are embedded with them, advising commanders and helping direct coalition air strikes. Other US troops are providing fire support from nearby bases.

Lt Gen Stephen Townsend, the commander of US forces in Iraq, said on Wednesday that the coalition forces had delivered more than 2,100 aerial bombs, artillery and mortar shells, rockets and missiles since 17 October.

“This relentless campaign of strikes has removed hundreds of fighters, weapons, and key leaders from the battlefield in front of the Iraqi advance,” he added.

Iraqi federal police forces take part in an operation against Islamic State militants in south of Mosul (26 October 2016)Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption Iraqi security forces advancing towards Mosul from the south have faced fierce resistance

On Thursday, the head of the US military’s Central Command, Gen Joseph Votel, told the AFP news agency: “Just in the operations over the last week and a half associated with Mosul, we estimate they’ve probably killed about 800-900 Islamic State fighters.”

The Iraqi government informed US commanders on Wednesday that 57 Iraqi soldiers had been killed and about 250 wounded. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are thought to have suffered about 20 to 30 fatalities.

Despite the removal of hundreds militants from the battlefield, Gen Townsend warned that IS defenses were likely to grow stronger the closer they got to Mosul.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters outside Fadiliya village, north of Mosul (27 October 2016)Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have seized a string of villages to the north and east

The group had “used an extraordinary amount of indirect fire – mortars, artillery and rockets – and an exceptional number of VBIEDs (Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices),” he told reporters during a visit to the Qayyarah airbase.

Fierce resistance by jihadists has held up soldiers in the Shura area, 40-km (25 miles) south of Mosul, prompting elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces to pause their advance near the village of Bazwaya, only 6 km east of the city.

CTS commander Brig Gen Haider Fadhil told the Associated Press his forces would wait for other units to reach Mosul’s outskirts before entering the city.

Media caption Oil fires started by IS outside Mosul turn sheep black

But he stressed: “The operation has not been stopped and is proceeding as planned.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had trained 90 Iraqi medics in “mass casualty management” as part of its preparations for the Mosul operation, with a special focus on responding to chemical attacks, AP reported.

IS has previously used chemical weapons in attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces, and there are fears that it might do so again inside Mosul, where more than a million civilians live.

A displaced man carries his nephew as he stands beside tents upon his arrival at al-Khazar camp, east of Mosul, (26 October 2016)Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption Some 11,700 civilians have fled the Mosul area since the offensive began

Some 11,700 residents have fled since the offensive began and, according to the UN’s worst-case scenario, as many as 700,000 others could follow suit.

“There’s been quite a dramatic upturn in the last few days,” said Karl Schembri of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who warned that there were currently only spaces in camps for 60,000 people.

The WHO is working on the assumption that 200,000 of them will require emergency health services, including more than 90,000 children needing vaccinations and 8,000 pregnant women.

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El blog de Aurora Luna. Talleres de escritura creativa en Valencia. Club de lectura. Cursos de novela, poesía, cuento y narrativa breve. Recursos para escritores y herramientas para aprender a escribir en el taller literario. Reflexiones sobre creatividad y literatura. Master class, profesores, clases presenciales y seminarios de creación literaria adscritos a "LIBRO, VUELA LIBRE". Comunidad de escritores y lectores en Valencia. Dinámicas en curso y ejercicios de escritura creativa. Palabras, concursos, vuelos y encuentros literarios.

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