16 August 2023

Taliban’s Massively Successful Opium Eradication Raises Questions About What US Was Doing All Along


The Taliban government in Afghanistan – the nation that until recently produced 90% of the world’s heroin – has drastically reduced opium cultivation across the country. Western sources estimate an up to 99% reduction in some provinces. This raises serious questions about the seriousness of U.S. drug eradication efforts in the country over the past 20 years. And, as global heroin supplies dry up, experts tell MintPress News that they fear this could spark the growing use of fentanyl – a drug dozens of times stronger than heroin that already kills more than 100,000 Americans yearly.
The Taliban Does What the US Did Not

It has already been called “the most successful counter-narcotics effort in human history.” Armed with little more than sticks, teams of counter-narcotics brigades travel the country, cutting down Afghanistan’s poppy fields.

In April of last year, the ruling Taliban government announced the prohibition of poppy farming, citing both their strong religious beliefs and the extremely harmful social costs that heroin and other opioids – derived from the sap of the poppy plant – have wrought across Afghanistan.

It has not been all bluster. New research from geospatial data company Alcis suggests that poppy production has already plummeted by around 80% since last year. Indeed, satellite imagery shows that in Helmand Province, the area that produces more than half of the crop, poppy production has dropped by a staggering 99%. Just 12 months ago, poppy fields were dominant. But Alcis estimates that there are now less than 1,000 hectares of poppy growing in Helmand.

The Taiwan Scenario” and Cyberattacks on Civilian Critical Infrastructures


“Expressions of surprise that the Chinese military targeted critical infrastructure in Guam for cyber reconnaissance are misleading. Of course the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is conducting cyber reconnaissance; China has been probing U.S. critical infrastructure networks for vulnerabilities since the Obama administration, if not before. From a military perspective, this is the kind of reconnaissance any capable nation would engage in against a potential opponent to identify targets and possibly prepare them for cyberattack.

What was misleading in these reports is that critical infrastructure in Guam was not the primary target. The primary targets, particularly those that would support U.S. forces in any engagement over Taiwan, are located in the United States. China is engaged in a major cyber reconnaissance effort against them. If China is willing to accept the risk of broadening a conflict over Taiwan, it may decide that cyber actions against civilian infrastructure in the United States could usefully disrupt communications and the flow of material needed for military operations.

Russia Has Its Own Resistance


In the week after Russia’s parliament voted to raise the military draft age to 30 from 27, Molotov cocktails were thrown at 28 draft boards across Russia. During the five peak years of the Vietnam War, by contrast, Americans attacked 51 draft boards.

In today’s Russia, this anarchic response failed to stop President Putin from signing the bill to raise the draft age. Effective in January, the new age eligibility for men comes after new laws that hike penalties for draft evasion, bar draftees from leaving the country, and institute a system of delivering draft notices by email, instead of by hand.

As Russia’s war in Ukraine stalls, Russia’s defense minister, Sergey Shoigu, has set a goal of expanding Russia’s military by 30 percent to 1.5 million. This would help fill ranks depleted by an estimated one quarter million Russian soldiers killed or wounded in Ukraine over the last 18 months.

Yet the wave of Molotov cocktails may give insight into why Mr. Putin avoids repeating his million-man “national mobilization” of last fall. The Russian Army got its million men. Another million, though, fled Russia for neighboring countries.

The war has been so disruptive to Russia’s population that the workforce shed 1.3 million young workers last year. According to a survey by Russia’s Central Bank, Russia faces its biggest labor shortage in 25 years.

Russian military conscripts in May, 2023. AP/Dmitri Lovetsky

Russian spy agencies targeting Starlink with custom malware, Ukraine warns

Gareth Corfield

Hackers from Russia’s intelligence services are deliberately targeting Elon Musk’s Starlink with custom hacking software, Ukraine’s counter-intelligence agency has said.

A report published by Ukraine’s MI5 equivalent, the State Security Service (SBU), detailed how custom malware originating from Russia’s GRU spy agency had been written to try and spy on troop movements via Starlink satellites.

Starlink operates a network of thousands of satellites that beam wireless internet across the world. Ukrainian commanders rely heavily on the infrastructure for communications.

SBU experts discovered malicious software on Ukrainian tablet devices that were captured by the Russians before later being recovered from the battlefield.

One common method of spreading malware is to leave an infected device such as a smartphone, tablet or USB stick lying around in the hope that they are picked up and used.

The malware, one of five different types of information-stealing software found on the tablets, bore the hallmarks of the Sandworm hacker gang, the Ukrainian agency added.

‘It’s dangerous’: Top general alarmed China won’t take US commanders’ calls

Matthew Knott

China’s military is becoming dangerously arrogant and is fuelling the risk of a confrontation with the United States by refusing offers to communicate with commanders in the Indo-Pacific, one of America’s most senior military officials has warned.

Lieutenant General Stephen Sklenka, deputy commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, said he feared that China would seek to establish a military base in Solomon Islands or another Pacific nation as it sought to dominate the region.

The Chinese Coast Guard allegedly used a water cannon against Philippine vessels in the South China Sea.CREDIT:REUTERS

Sklenka added that he saw value in Republican congressman Mike Gallagher’s idea of positioning US hypersonic missiles in Australia and other key locations across the Pacific as a way to deter China from launching an invasion of the self-governing island of Taiwan.

Where in the world is Wagner warlord Prigozhin? At large and in charge, apparently

Nathan Hodge

Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin leaves Rostov-on-Don on June 24, 2023, after calling off his armed insurrection.Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Late last week, imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was handed a harsh judgment: After a court hit him with a new 19-year sentence in a penal colony, he was sent immediately to a punishment cell.

It was a stark contrast to the fate of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Back in June, Prigozhin led the abortive mutiny that presented the biggest challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin in over two decades of rule. While Prigozhin’s troops stopped short of Moscow, a furious Putin said in a televised speech that those on the “path of treason” would face punishment. Almost two months later, in the case of the Wagner chief, this simply hasn’t happened.

Clearly, the price for confronting Putin is not fixed. Perhaps more surprisingly, Prigozhin hasn’t even kept a low profile since the June uprising.

Just weeks after the insurrection, Prigozhin popped up on the sidelines of the recent Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, shaking hands with a dignitary from the Central African Republic (CAR).

China owns the most land in Texas


A rural community in Michigan has hailed a 'huge victory' after a Chinese-owned industrial firm backed out of buying local farmland.

Residents of the idyllic Green Charter Township, around 50 miles east of Lake Michigan, say they were 'bullied' into accepting the takeover, but refused to do so.

Gotion, a company that 'pledges allegiance' to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), did, however, complete the purchase of 260 acres of derelict industrial land in the township and 10 acres of disused farmland last week.

It comes as data shows Chinese firms now own more than $2billion worth of US farmland, up from just $162million a decade ago, DailyMail.com can reveal.

The CCP has a stake in 383,935 acres of American agricultural land as of December 2021, according to the latest figures released by the US Department of Agriculture.

China owns 383,935 acres of US farmland as of December 2021, with almost half of it in Texas

Residents of the idyllic Green Charter Township in Michigan are leading a fightback against the Chinese land grab, hailing a 'huge victory' after Beijing-backed firm Gotion pulled out of the purchase of farmland in the area. (L-R) Residents Kelly Cushway, Lori Brock, Debbie Diegert and Jeff Thorne protest the deal

By comparison, Bill Gates owns 248,000 acres of US farmland, while Jeff Bezos owns 420,000.

It has sparked a national debate over why the US is allowing a hostile state to buy up vital land across the country amid concerns over espionage and security.


Riley Bailey

Ukrainian forces made tactically significant advances in western Zaporizhia Oblast amid continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on August 11. Geolocated footage published on August 11 confirms that Ukrainian forces reached the northern outskirts of Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhia Oblast, though the permanence and extent of these positions are currently unclear.[1] Ukrainian forces have conducted regular ground attacks towards Robotyne for weeks as part of their operations aimed at degrading Russian defenses. The Ukrainian forces’ ability to advance to the outskirts of Robotyne — which Russian forces have dedicated significant effort, time, and resources to defend — remains significant even if Ukrainian gains are limited at this time. Geolocated footage published on August 11 shows that Ukrainian forces advanced into Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) along the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces pushed Russian forces back into the settlement on August 10 and 11.[2] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut, Berdyansk (Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area), and Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) directions.[3]

Ukrainian counteroffensive operations appear to be forcing the Russian military to laterally redeploy Russian forces defending in western Zaporizhia Oblast, indicating that the Ukrainian effort there may be significantly degrading Russian defenses. Russian milbloggers claimed on August 11 that elements of the 7th Guards Airborne (VDV) Division are involved in heavy fighting near Robotyne in western Zaporizhia Oblast, and Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov claimed on August 10 that elements of the “Vostok Akhmat” Battalion are now defending near Robotyne.[4] Elements of the 58th Combined Arms Army’s 42nd Motorized Rifle Division (Southern Military District) have been the primary Russian formation defending immediately south of Orikhiv since the start of the counteroffensive, with elements of the 22nd and 45th Separate Guards Spetsnaz (Russian General Staff Main Directorate) brigades and the 810th Naval Infantry Brigade (Black Sea Fleet) supporting Russian defensive operations in the area.[5] The arrival of the 7th VDV Division and the Akhmat elements to the Robotyne area represents the first explicit commitment of new Russian formations and units to the area.

China’s Military, ‘Chasing the Dream,’ Probes Taiwan’s Defenses

Chris Buckley

China has been steadily intensifying military pressure on Taiwan over the past year, sending jets, drones, bombers and other planes farther and in greater numbers to extend an intimidating presence all around the island.

Chinese naval ships and air force planes have been edging closer to Taiwan’s territorial seas and skies, probing the island’s vigilance and trying to wear down its military planes and ships. Chinese forces have also been operating more frequently in skies and waters off the island’s eastern coast, facing the West Pacific. China’s increasing presence there signals its intent to dominate an expanse of sea that could be vital for the island’s defenses, including for securing potential aid from the United States in a conflict, experts say.

Beijing claims Taiwan is its lost territory that must accept unification, preferably peacefully, but by force if Chinese leaders deem that necessary. It has seized on moments of high tension with Taiwan to intensify military activities around the island, and it may put on another show of force in the coming days, when Taiwan’s vice president, Lai Ching-te, passes through the United States.

Mr. Lai leaves on Saturday for Paraguay, and is scheduled to stop in the United States on his way there and back. Beijing regards such transits in the United States as an affront to its stance that Taiwan is not an independent state. Mr. Lai is also the presidential candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party, which supports asserting Taiwan’s separate status, a position that Beijing condemns as “separatism.”

Bond vs Iron Man: How Tomorrow's Special Operators Will Use AI To Win the Fight

Guy McCardle 

Several years after the highly successful raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound by DEVGRUs Red Squadron, Admiral William McRaven revealed an ambitious dream for special operations forces (SOF). This vision included troops equipped with exoskeletons reminiscent of Iron Man, able to withstand bullets and swiftly neutralize terrorist threats. Although this idea never materialized, a decade later (yes, believe it or not, it has been that long), U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is exploring new high-tech capabilities, with an emphasis on something akin to complete knowledge rather than physical invulnerability. A marriage of sophisticated technology with supremely capable operators. More Bond than Iron Man.

This change in direction is driven by both practical considerations and an evolution in SOCOM’s mission and role. Developing real-world technology that mimics comic-book feats is fraught with challenges, and SOCOM’s expectations of its operators have transformed over time.

The tux may be a bit much, but what else are you supposed to wear when your armorer turns out to be none other than James Bond’s famed “Q”?

During Global SOF’s SOF Week conference, Col. Jarret Mathews explained SOCOM’s initiative to develop hyper-enabled operators. He described efforts to adapt to new mission areas such as internal defense, irregular warfare campaigns, and integrating deterrence with allied forces.

In future operations, especially those involving training foreign allies, SOF teams may lack certain tools previously employed in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as missile-equipped drones. Mathews expressed that SOF teams operating discreetly in various countries don’t have access to these assets but still need to support their partners’ goals.

SOCOM is embracing augmented reality and artificial intelligence to enhance its capabilities. In a demonstration, Mathews showed how an operator using augmented reality glasses could instantly translate written language, gather data on enemy locations, and alter or conceal electronic footprints, likening it to “seeing around corners.”

U.S. Visit by Taiwan Vice President Puts China in a Bind

Chun Han Wong

After Taiwan’s president traveled through the U.S. this spring, China responded with three days of live-fire military drills and a barrage of condemnations asserting its claims to the self-governing island.

Now, with Taiwan’s vice president, Lai Ching-te, touching down in New York on Saturday night, China’s leaders have more to think about as they weigh a response.

Beijing repeatedly warned the U.S. against allowing Lai to stop in the U.S. on his way to and from Paraguay, denouncing the route as provocative. China’s military stepped up sorties into the airspace and waters near Taiwan in the days leading up to Lai’s trip, and its state broadcaster released a documentary that featured soldiers expressing a willingness to die in an attack on the island.

Yet Beijing could limit its response for a range of reasons, according to Taiwanese officials and political analysts.

One is fear of upsetting a delicate effort to ease tensions with Washington. Another is the potential effect on Taiwan’s presidential election in January. Lai is the current front-runner in the race and a provocative action could boost his popularity among Taiwanese voters who increasingly resent perceived bullying by mainland China.

“Any maneuvering by Beijing, based on past experiences in the last few years, may just help Lai to score points,” said a senior Taiwanese official, referring to past elections in which aggressive Chinese action boosted the ruling party’s candidate. “This holds no benefits for Beijing.”

Lai’s transit comes as Washington and Beijing try to ease tension with tentative efforts to manage friction over Taiwan, the war in Ukraine, espionage and technology controls. For Beijing, easing tensions with Washington would help reduce external pressures weighing on China’s sluggish economy, though Chinese officials have also stressed to American counterparts that they won’t compromise on their core interests—including the goal of unifying Taiwan with the mainland.

Defense Budget Déjà Vu: Why Conservatives Should Again Lead to Rein in Defense Costs

Kris Kolesnik

Sailors perform maintenance on one of the new Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWE) on the flight deck of the USS Gerald Ford in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the US on October 6, 2022. – The USS Gerald Ford is the first new aircraft carrier to be designed in 40 years and and is the worlds largest and most expensive warship ever built. The Ford took 14 years to build and test and is fitted with 23 new technologies including an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advance Weapons Elevators (AWEs).Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty Images

America’s attention has been tsunamied by media coverage of Donald Trump’s legal troubles. As the former president’s supporters in Congress jockey with Democrats to score points and turn the narrative, much of the people’s important business is being neglected.

As if to slap Washington back to reality, Fitch Ratings downgraded the U.S. credit rating a critical notch, citing “a high and growing general government debt burden,” as if to scream, “Hey, America! While your government is fiddling, your future is burning!”

Indeed, the nation’s public debt is rapidly nearing a staggering $33 trillion. Interest payments on the debt are a whopping $475 billion last year, an increase of 35% over the previous year. Next year will add another 35%! Interest payments are quickly crowding out other spending priorities.

The last time I can remember such a fiscal crisis was in the early years of the Reagan administration, when a recession created a string of future deficits — an at-the-time unheard-of $200 billion a year or more — for as far as the eye could see. In his election, President Reagan was given a mandate to raise defense spending.

A DuPont China Deal Reveals Cracks in U.S. National-Security Screening

Kate O’Keeffe

WASHINGTON—U.S. officials forged an uneasy compromise to let DuPont sell its sustainable-materials business last year to a Chinese company while ensuring the technology behind it never left the U.S.

The arrangement hasn’t worked as planned, according to people familiar with the matter, exposing flaws in a national-security review process on the front lines of a battle over technology between the U.S. and China—and ultimately prompting an investigation by the FBI.

Divisions on the cabinet-level committee that screens sensitive deals involving foreign buyers were so deep that the government review took more than a year, including an unsuccessful appeal for President Biden to intervene. And the solution members ultimately settled on was undermined in just a few weeks.

At issue was a DuPont technology used to make a key component of a more sustainable version of nylon. After initially describing the invention as revolutionary, DuPont decided a few years ago to sell the business. It found a willing buyer in China, prompting DuPont to apply for permission to proceed from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius. The panel, led by the Treasury Department, includes representatives of the departments of Defense, Justice, Energy and Commerce and other agencies.

The Biden administration early on identified Cfius, whose job is to ensure that such deals don’t end up putting sensitive U.S. technology, data or real estate in hostile hands, as a linchpin in plans to square off with the world’s second-largest economy and reorient the U.S. economy away from China. In another prong of those efforts, the administration on Wednesday banned U.S. investments in some Chinese semiconductor and quantum-computing companies starting next year.

Violent threats against public officials are rising. Here's why

Lisa Hagen

FBI agents process the home of Craig Robertson who was shot and killed by the FBI in a raid on his home on Wednesday in Provo, Utah. The FBI was investigating alleged threats by Robertson to President Biden ahead of the president's visit to the state this week.George Frey/Getty Images

For extremism researchers, the shooting death this week of a Utah man who was alleged to have made violent threats against President Biden and other public officials highlights a concerning trend. For years, they have watched a steady escalation in violent political rhetoric that appears to be fueling acts of real-life violence.
On Wednesday, the FBI shot and killed Craig Robertson of Provo, Utah as they attempted to arrest him due to his alleged threats ahead of a visit to Utah by Biden. Federal charges against the 75-year-old laid out a history of violent social media posts, not just about the president, but also a range of Democratic politicians and officials, including New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Vice President Harris, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Merrick Garland.

US and Japan could develop hypersonic missile interceptors together

Louise Watt

Joe Biden (right) and Fumio Kishida, the Japanese PM. Washington and Tokyo agreed in 2022 to work more closely in the research and development of defence technologies CREDIT: MANDEL NGAN/AFP

The United States and Japan are expected to announce an agreement this week to jointly develop missile interceptors capable of shooting down hypersonic weapons from China, Russia and North Korea.

Joe Biden and Fumio Kishida, the Japanese prime minister, will meet in Washington DC on Friday, where a deal is likely to be discussed.

The pair will meet on the sidelines of a trilateral summit with Yoon Suk Yeol, South Korea’s president, at Camp David, according to a Sunday report in Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper.

Washington and Tokyo agreed in January 2022 to work more closely in the research and development of defence technologies, including ways to counter hypersonic missiles.

Hypersonic missiles have the advantages of fast flight – travelling at five times the speed of sound or more. But their key features are their increased manoeuvrability, and their ability to fly at lower altitudes than ballistic missiles, making it difficult to track and counter them. Interceptors would need to fly long distances at high speeds and be able to change direction to respond to changes in a hypersonic weapon’s flight path.

Fort Campbell commander reflects on heritage and service

Kayla Cosby

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Native Americans have served in the U.S. military across major conflicts for more than 200 years, often surpassing enlistment rates of other demographics. From the Revolutionary War to present day, American Indians and Alaska Natives have played a vital role in defense and preservation of our nation.

Like Gen. Ely S. Parker, a Seneca Nation member who served as Ulysses S. Grant’s military secretary during the Civil War, many Native Americans have served with high honor and distinction making significant contributions that changed the course of history.

At U.S. Army installation Fort Campbell Kentucky, Garrison Commander Col. Andrew Jordan, a member of the Cherokee Nation, exemplifies commitment and leadership of Native Americans who serve at U.S. military installations throughout the world.

Jordan's journey, similar to that of many Native Americans, reflects a storied tradition of service and sacrifice. He enlisted in 1995, serving in the Oklahoma Army National Guard while pursuing his education at Oklahoma State University. Graduating in 1998 as a Top Ten Graduate, he received a commission in the Infantry as a Distinguished Military Graduate

As a member of the elite Special Forces, a multi-purpose force for high-priority operational targets of strategic importance, Jordan’s assignments include several leadership roles at Special Operations Command Central and Chief of Staff for the Special Operations Joint Task Force-Iraq; deploying to Iraq to establish Special Operations Command’s task force to counter ISIS.

A Complicated Legacy: Army Officer Who Exposed Iraq Abuse Was Under FBI Suspicion at the End of His Life

Drew F. Lawrence
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Three volleys of blank shot thundered across Section 71 on Tuesday morning, echoing over white headstones as Army Maj. Ian Fishback was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Fishback was a Special Forces veteran, whistleblower and philosopher who died nearly two years ago. During his military career, he reported 82nd Airborne Division abuses of prisoners in Iraq, prompting landmark U.S. anti-torture legislation. At the end of his life, Fishback was medicated with antipsychotics, racked by paranoia that he was under surveillance by the government, and virtually immobile in a court-ordered adult foster care home.

The Army officer believed beating and caging Iraqi prisoners was unacceptable, and with the late Sen. John McCain helped enshrine a prohibition into law in 2005. During his later mental health struggles, the government was indeed watching him -- the FBI created a file on Fishback due to its concerns over his behaviour.

Ripples from the blank shots faded and the sound of cicadas returned to the ears of roughly 60 family members, veterans and well-wishers gathered for Fishback's funeral service. The service was a reminder of his complex legacy and the deeply American tragedy of his 42 years of life, one that tracked with the bitter realities of the Iraq War.

The struggles at the end of his life made Fishback's story all the more complicated.

"Ian fought with honor, integrity and courage for his nation and fellow soldiers," the military chaplain presiding over his interment service said. "And with those same values, he also stood up for those some viewed only as enemies, but knew were people who had the right to just treatment and dignity."

Zelensky Called Him a Criminal. Now Ukraine Calls Him for Guns and Ammo.

Justin Scheck 

In the early weeks of the war in Ukraine, with the invading Russian Army bearing down on Kyiv, the Ukrainian government needed weapons, and quickly. So its Ministry of Defense made a desperate and unlikely phone call.

On the other end of the line was Serhiy Pashinsky, a chain-smoking former lawmaker who had overseen military spending for years. He had spent much of that under investigation on suspicion of corruption or denying accusations of self-dealing. Now, he was living in virtual political exile at his country estate, sidelined by President Volodymyr Zelensky and his promise to root out corruption.

“Go out on the streets and ask whether Pashinsky is a criminal,” Mr. Zelensky said on national television in 2019. “I guarantee you that out of 100 people, 100 will say that he is a criminal.”

But Mr. Pashinsky had ties to the arms business and, perhaps as important, he knew how to operate in a scrum, undaunted by red tape. In government, that had made him the source of scandal. During wartime, it made him invaluable.

Eighteen months later, a New York Times investigation found, a company tied to Mr. Pashinsky has become the biggest private arms supplier in Ukraine. It buys and sells grenades, artillery shells and rockets through a trans-European network of middlemen. The company, Ukrainian Armored Technology, reported its best year ever last year, with sales totaling more than $350 million, up from $2.8 million the year before the war.

And Mr. Pashinsky is once again under investigation, with the Ukrainian authorities scrutinizing Ukrainian Armored Technology’s pricing and his financial relationships with procurement officials and companies abroad, said two officials familiar with the matter.

Guam’s Airspace Set To Be Most Defended On Earth In New Plans


Guam is set to gain as many as 20 new air defense sites packed with surface-to-air interceptors, radars, and more as part of a massive defensive upgrade plan. Overall, the island looks set to become the most densely protected place anywhere on the planet.

Documents the U.S. military has released discussing the potential impacts on day-to-day life on Guam from the new air and missile defenses have offered a new look at the scale and scope of the project. A total of 20 separate sites are currently under consideration to host surface-to-air interceptors, radars, and other elements of the planned Enhanced Integrated Air and Missile Defense (EIAMD) system. In addition to changes on the ground, the system is expected to come along with new airspace restrictions, particularly around radar sites that will be in constant operation and present potential electromagnetic interference hazards.

The U.S. military held multiple so-called "public scoping meetings" on Guam earlier this month to provide information about the planned EIAMD system to residents and solicit feedback. Members of the public have until August 18 to submit further comments and criticisms about the project and its potential environmental impacts.
A Missile Defense Agency representative points to a poster discussing potential impacts from the planned Enhanced Integrated Air and Missile Defense system during a "public scoping meeting" with residents of Guam on August 2, 2023. USN

Ukraine Makes ‘Tactically Significant’ Progress in Its Counteroffensive

Marc Santora

After months of inching through minefields, villages and open steppes in grueling combat, Ukrainian forces are making somewhat bigger advances along two major lines of attack, according to analysts, Ukrainian officials and Russian military bloggers.

Although Ukraine has not advanced more than 10 to 12 miles on either vector of attack, its gains are important in that it is compelling Moscow to divert forces from other parts of the front line, military analysts say. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, called the advances “tactically significant,” saying Moscow’s redeployment would most “likely further weaken Russian defensive lines in aggregate,” creating “opportunities for any Ukrainian breakthrough to be potentially decisive.”

The Ukrainian military launched the counteroffensive this summer amid high hopes of duplicating its stunning sweep through the Kharkiv region in September. But those hopes were dashed amid heavy losses, causing commanders to change strategy from head-on assaults to a war of attrition, content to make steady, little gains while conserving resources and degrading those of the Russians.

And even as Ukrainian soldiers battle in trenches and on the field, the campaign to sever Russian supply lines continues, with Ukrainian missiles and drones targeting sites far from the front lines.

Explosions again echoed on Saturday as the Russian military said it had shot down two Ukrainian missiles targeting the Kerch Strait Bridge, a vital Russian link to the occupied Crimean Peninsula that Kyiv has vowed to keep attacking until it is unusable.

America’s Army is shrinking. Its missions aren’t

The U.S. military’s all-volunteer force (AVF) quietly turned 50 last month. Though the end of the draft in 1973 was a seminal moment for both the U.S. military and American society, the anniversary received minimal official recognition. Celebrating the AVF’s big birthday would have entailed admitting an uncomfortable truth: that the U.S. military is in the middle of an unprecedented recruiting crisis. In fact, the military, and especially the Army, is now shrinking.

As recently as 2018, Army planners called for growing the force by 2023. Today the service is unable to even maintain current force levels. Last year the Army set an active-duty end strength target of 485,000 troops. Due to recruiting shortfalls, Congress lowered the target by 33,000 for 2023. The Army is saying it will miss this lower goal too.

A variety of factors have led to the recruiting crisis. Higher enlistment bonuses and promises to pay off college debt hold less appeal among a cohort of young Americans uninterested in military service and eager to explore job opportunities in a tight labor market.

Disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dented confidence in military leadership. A generation that grew up amid financial crisis and a global pandemic may be more risk averse. Most importantly, 77 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are ineligible to serve, due to physical or mental unfitness, prior substance abuse or lack of education.

This shrinking force is confronting ever more missions, both overseas and at home. President Joe Biden’s recent executive order authorizing the mobilization of up to 3,000 reserve soldiers to augment U.S. forces deployed to Europe highlighted the unending demands of maintaining an expansive U.S. global military presence.

Taiwan Needs Stronger US Support — Quickly

Bradley A. Thayer

Taiwan’s existence has been a thorn in the side of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since the party conquered the mainland in 1949. China’s efforts to coerce Taiwan — with the Taiwan Straits crises of 1954-1955, 1958 and 1995-1996, and many minor incidents over decades — failed because of China’s weakness and U.S. willingness to signal its military support for Taipei.

As China has grown more powerful, and as the exercises of August 2022 and April 2023 reveal, Beijing’s increased capabilities make a successful invasion far more likely. A probable third major military exercise, coming soon to demonstrate amphibious assault, will show that China has the significant pieces in place for an invasion of the island.

In the face of this, the U.S. has pledged to send Taiwan $345 million in unspecified weapons and other military aid to address “critical defensive stockpiles, multi-domain awareness, anti-armor, and air defense capabilities.” Until this announcement, President Biden had delayed using his drawdown authority for Taiwan. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) says we are arming Taiwan “with real capabilities to defend itself.” And as The Associated Press reported, China predictably said the military aid will not deter its will to “unify the island.”

It is paramount for U.S. security that the United States deter a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

Taiwan matters to U.S. security for four reasons. The first is economic: Taiwan has a vibrant, wealthy economy and is a superpower in computer chip production. Any damage to its factories, their destruction or conquest by China, would reverberate for many years throughout the U.S. and global economies. There may come a day when we are no longer dependent upon Taiwanese chips, but that day likely won’t be here for many years.

How Will America’s Borrow and Spend Politicians Pay for an Imperial Foreign Policy?

Doug Bandow

During the Cold War Republicans took the lead in pushing for ever-increasing military outlays. Pushing expenditures upward was one of President Ronald Reagan’s priorities and led to constant battles with the Democratic House. Today, however, GOP members are pushing on an open door.

Last year Congress passed a record $858 billion Pentagon spending bill. This number didn’t include important national defense expenditures, such as for nuclear programs, which lie within the Department of Energy. When a few Republicans pushed for cuts during the January speakership stand-off, Democratic as well as GOP hawks vilified the holdouts.

Virginia’s Abigail Spanberger, a CIA officer turned legislator warned of multiple Armageddons: “As the Chinese Communist Party is increasing its military spending, Ukraine is under siege, and Iran and North Korea are watching, cutting our nation’s defense spending is shortsighted and dangerous.” Tom Malinowski, a progressive Democratic member ousted in 2022, was similarly splenetic: “You can say all day to these people that if we gut defense spending and withdraw from global leadership, Putin and Xi Jinping will win, but they honestly don’t care.” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates contended that “This push to defund our military in the name of politics is senseless and out of line with our national security needs.”

Such hysterics ignore reality. The US spends far more than its chief antagonists. The disparity grows vastly larger when outlays by Washington’s allies in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East are included. America is the most secure great power ever, with oceans east and west and pacific neighbors north and south. The right question to ask is: Why do Americans spend so much to defend allies who spend so little?

Fayetteville could get America’s first memorial park for the Green Berets. Here’s the plan

Paul Woolverton,

An organization of retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers — Green Berets — is trying to create the first national memorial park for their regiment, and they want to put it in downtown Fayetteville.

But there may be a hitch: The site the retired Green Berets are asking for has been designated for the next phase of the North Carolina Veterans Park. The first part of the Veterans Park opened in 2011. It has monuments and exhibits to honor North Carolina veterans from all military branches (except the U.S. Space Force, which was established in 2019).

The Fayetteville City Council voted 9-1 on Monday to pursue the idea of providing 9.3 acres of land for the Army Special Forces park, and to have the city staff research whether there would be a conflict with the state government if the site is used to honor just the Green Berets instead of all veterans.

The proposed design for the National Special Forces Green Beret Memorial Park, if it will be built in Fayetteville on Bragg Boulevard next to the North Carolina Veterans Park.
Green Beret vets seek 99-year lease for proposed 9.3-acre park site

On Monday, members of the National Special Forces Green Beret Memorial foundation appeared before the City Council at the behest of Councilman Johnny Dawkins and asked to lease two plots of land on Bragg Boulevard for their proposed park, for $1 per year for 99 years. The 9.3 acres are on Bragg Boulevard at Rowan Street, by the North Carolina Veterans Park and near the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum.

“So the national SF park is going to be unique in the world,” retired Lt. Col. Kirk Windmueller, the president and director of the Green Beret Memorial foundation, told the City Council. “There will be only one of these world-class parks. And it’s meant to rival any monument and memorial that’s currently in our nation's — our nation’s capital.”

See where Sen. Tommy Tuberville is blocking 301 military promotions

Dan Lamothe 

From Alabama to Asia, the scope of senior military officers frozen in place by a dispute between Sen. Tommy Tuberville and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is vast, including not only the incoming leaders of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but generals and admirals focused on China policy, arming Ukraine, and modernizing U.S. combat forces after 20 years of war.

Data obtained and verified by The Washington Post reveals that, as of Aug. 12, 301 high-level positions were ensnared in Tuberville’s hold. That number is expected to more than double by the end of the year, officials say, unless the impasse, which stems from the Pentagon’s abortion policy, is resolved. By year’s end, The Pentagon estimates that about three-quarters of the generals and admirals in the Defense Department — 650 of 852 — will be affected by Tuberville’s hold.

Note: Air Force and Army data includes active duty, National Guard and reserve positions. Navy data includes active duty and reserve jobs.

Each of the Defense Department’s five branches of service is affected, as is President Biden’s nominee to assume the military’s top role, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. The prospective heads of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps are all in limbo, too, along with each service’s No. 2 position. Yet those roles, all based in Washington, represent only a sliver of controversy’s global reach.

Tuberville, an Alabama Republican, implemented the hold in February to protest Austin’s response to last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that for nearly 50 years guaranteed a fundamental right to abortion. The policy provides paid leave and reimburses travel expenses incurred by military personnel who must leave the state where they are assigned because the procedure was banned or otherwise restricted there after the high court ended federal protections.

Georgetown Still Considering Renaming SFS After the Late Madeleine Albright

Caroline Rareshide 

Georgetown University is still considering a proposal to rename the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) after Madeleine Albright, despite public outcry from faculty and students.

The proposed change, which was first announced at a June 7 SFS Faculty Council meeting, would change the name of the SFS to the Madeleine K. Albright School of Foreign Service. The university is not and has never considered swapping out “foreign service” for “global affairs,” despite a public letter created by professors in opposition to a name change claiming so, SFS Dean Joel Hellman told The Hoya.