Sunday, October 25, 2015

On Receiving End of Tip of the Spear: Hamid Karzai Says U.S. Not Serious About War on Terror

Is the United States serious about winning the war on terror? Washington rhetoric says one thing, but those at the genuine tip of the spear - the receiving end - say otherwise. In a recent interview with RT, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has blunt words for how America and her allies have handled their role in Afghanistan.

Says Karzai: "There's no doubt that radicalism has increased, there's no doubt that extremism has increased, there's no doubt that suffering has increased, especially in Afghanistan and in the Middle East, so we need answers and we need to scratch our heads and explain it."

Read the full transcript here, and ask yourself: What is it like to live on the other side of that very pointed tip of the spear we so often talk about?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Master Sergeant Josh Wheeler: A Loss to Our Nation

The United States has suffered a great loss in the combat death of Master Sergeant Josh Wheeler. Condolences to his family and fellow soldiers. May the lives he saved be productive in the wake of his sacrifice. I am honored to have written about this man for PEOPLE.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Irish UFC Fans Vs. Reebok: I'll Take These Northern Ireland Troubles Over the Old Ones

UFC fans v. Reebok: People in Ireland understandably are talking about a gaffe from the sneaker company issuing a t-shirt featuring a map of Ireland omitting the North. 

The map really does look more like a bottle opener than the shape we all are accustomed to seeing.

Fans are outraged. Reebok is tapdancing to explain itself, and is pulling the shirt. 

The whole thing basically, though, is nothing more than good craic. I'll take these current Northern Ireland troubles over the old days, when I was on the ground in Ulster...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Russian Federation Continues to Deny Military Presence in Ukraine, Despite Strong Evidence

It's been a while since I checked with the Russians in regard to Ukraine. This week, once again, Vladimir Putin's envoys in Washington, D.C. told me Russia does not have a military presence in Ukraine. This echoes the line Moscow has been mouthing for months.

Much of the world, though - including Ukraine - says otherwise. And earlier this year, a private inquiry produced strong evidence that not only has Russia dispatched troops to Ukraine, but it also has sent its special forces.

As I reported in May, a Russian independent investigative team says it has found evidence that Spetsnaz currently is active in Ukraine, in violation of the Minsk Protocol. Before arriving at this conclusion, the team of journalist/bloggers conducted an extensive inquiry, using a combination of old school gumshoe methods and newfangled online stalking. 

The team's investigation centers on three young soldiers, one of whom is pictured above. The soldiers appear to have been killed in the same action. Their deaths sparked social media comments such as the following:

May you always be remembered, brother!!! You were a great friend and comrade in arms!!! May you rest in peace Mamai!!! We remember you, we love you, we grieve for you!!! It’s all that damned, fucked-up war!!!

In their effort to document the presence of Spetsnaz in the region, the investigators followed the trail, knocked on doors, and even visited a Spetsnaz base. They did not remain long at the base, reporting this encounter:

...a Spetsnaz first lieutenant got out of car nearby and started approaching us with quite a disapproving look. We got in the car and left so that we wouldn’t get into trouble.

I read the extensive report from investigative blogger Ruslan Leviev, and thought he made a strong case. In May, I called the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, D.C., and asked if the charge is true. A person who answered my call responded with a dismissive nyet. I couldn't be sure if this meant no, Sptsnaz is not in Ukraine, or no, the embassy would not discuss it with me. Yesterday, I called again. The representative said, "Maybe some citizens of Russia live in Ukraine. They are not military."

What does Leviev's report mean, if accurate?

Dating back to the Soviet era, Russia has deployed Spetsnaz for special purpose - a term that has had particular resonance for a certain generation of the latter day people of Rus. Traditionally, Spetsnaz has been under control of the military-intelligence directorate of the armed forces. This would be somewhat akin to a hybrid of the OSS and Green Berets being present in, say, the hypothetical breakaway Republic of Texas. 

Some observers have claimed that the three soldiers who died were mercenaries or volunteers not acting on official orders. Perhaps. Perhaps not. If Spetsnaz remains in Ukraine, I translate this to mean, Putin is defiant as always. He means business. He always does, of course; but the special unit's presence signals special purpose. It naturally bears watching.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Revolt of the Spooks: Troubling and Important News Out of CENTCOM

More than 50 intelligence analysts inside Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda have been skewed by senior officials. This important report in The Daily Beast is particularly alarming in light of the recent influx of military aged males into Europe. I am grateful to these analysts who have stepped up to speak the truth; but fear that much has slipped by during the long period when those truths were twisted by superiors.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Females Graduate Ranger School, on

I've been immersed in the goings-on at Ft. Benning, home to the Army's Ranger school. My first take appears on, where the female Ranger graduates talk about one aspect of the school.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Milspotters Challenge: Where Was My Embed?

Yes, it's a trick question. Sort of. Here's a pic of me on assignment covering the military. Any guesses where this is, and what I was doing?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Taliban: Us? Blow Up Innocent People? It Had to Be Some Other Terrorists

Who, us? Blow up innocent people? Couldn't be, the Taliban says. At least, not the inner city portion of last week's bombings in Kabul.

In a statement on the group's official website, Taliban PAO's wrote yesterday that their organization was not to blame for the truck bomb attack that killed 15 and injured more than 250 people.

That bombing was "a seemingly aimless attack carried out in the middle of local homes," Taliban officials wrote.

"Such bombing campaigns are not the aim of (the) mujahideen (freedom fighters), nor is it considered any kind of achievement, and most importantly, Islamic principles do not sanction such actions," said the statement, issued On their official website, Shahamat.

The bomb, which was the first in a string of attacks unleashed in Kabul, was detonated at 1 am August 7 (2030 GMT August 6) in the Shah Shahid area, an impoverished civilian neighborhood in the west of the capital.

Analysts claimed that the attacks, which killed more than 50 people in Kabul within 24 hours, were to boost the morale of Taliban fighters amid a succession row after the death of the Taliban founder, Mullah Omar.

My own read is that the massively destructive bomb perhaps went off prematurely, and that the intended targets escaped annihilation - for now.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Fundraising for Terror in Pakistan Brings Five Day Jail Term

Despite accusations leveled by the President of Afghanistan, Pakistan does not support terrorism and in fact is fighting against it, an embassy spokesperson tells me.

"We fight this every day," the spokesperson said.


Just the other day, the spokesperson said, Pakistan's anti-terrorism court (ATC) sent two suspect from two different banned organizations two jail. The suspects were convicted of collecting money for their groups. The sentence? Five days physical remand. 

Investigators had asked for a harsher penalty: 10 days in jail. Instead, the court awarded the lesser term.

Meanwhile, an Indian court is deciding whether to ban an Indian film about the 2008 Mumbai attacks and global terrorism. Claimed one film detractor: "a filthy propaganda has been done in the film against Pakistan under the subject of global terrorism."

Or perhaps someone in that part of the world takes the issue more seriously than a five-day jail term.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Afghan President Blames Pakistan for Attacks in Kabul

Pakistan is to blame for the recent spate of attacks in Kabul, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said at a Monday press conference in his nation's capital.

"The last few days have shown that suicide bomber training camps and bomb-producing factories which are killing our people are as active as before in Pakistan," Ghani said. "We hoped for peace but we are receiving messages of war from Pakistan."

This was the first time Ghani directly blamed Pakistan for the bombings that killed scores of people, including an American Army Special Forces soldier, 1st Sgt. Peter A. McKenna Jr.

"We want action against the organizers of the truck bombing in Kabul, that killed and injured many innocent people," said Ghani, who described the attacks as
 "a game changer for the country."

Ghani did not specify who should take action against the bombers, nor how he planned to address the newly changed game he referenced.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

At Camp Integrity, Brave Men Died, While Others Fought Valiantly

Kabul appears to have calmed down from Friday's violent chaos, but the aftermath weighs heavily. At Camp Integrity, brave men died, and others fought valiantly. Please keep them all in your prayers.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Prayers for Camp Integrity

A good friend is stationed there, in Kabul. The camp was hit hard last night. Prayers, please, for his and his fellows' wellbeing, and for the souls of those lost.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Chinese Soldiers Train With Bricks on Their Guns

No, really; Chinese soldiers are training with bricks on their guns. I haven't seen this anywhere else. Okay, gun mavens: explain. Does this do anything helpful? Or did I just stumble upon the Chinese version of the Duffelblog?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Chinese Soldiers in Training: Views From Inside

Speaking of the Chinese military... herewith some PLA versions of Pentagon DVIDS releases. I don't read Mandarin, but the images are fairly self explanatory.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

China Continues to Beef Up the PLA; Promotes 10 New Generals

China's force-beefing continues. Four days ago, China's Central Military Commission promoted 10 senior military and armed police officers to general. The newly promoted include officers from a wide swath of PLA directorates: the General Political Department; the Navy Political department; the National Defence University; the armed police force; and military commands from Beijing, Lanzhou, Jinan and Chengdu. 

China's president, meanwhile, is set to visit Washington, D.C. next month.

Monday, August 3, 2015

While America Downsizes the Military, China Launches Recruiting Drive

While America downsizes its military, potential adversary China has launched a recruiting drive.

According to China Daily, the Ministry of National Defense announced yesterday that it will spend the next two months on an intensive search for people educated to high school level or above. The ministry also said it is seeking college students and ethnic minorities who have bilingual skills or other specialties.

My take on this: It looks as if China wants to beef up leadership and special forces within the ranks.  

Perhaps China has picked up some tips from all those high level military delegations that visited the Pentagon and other U.S. military installations.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Of F-35's and AR's: A Lesson in Procurement

In my earliest days as a reporter in D.C., I visited the Pentagon's sitting chief of Research, Testing, Development, and Evaluation, hoping to get a handle on just one element of the convoluted military procurement process. All these years later, I'm still puzzled. Apropos of the question I raised yesterday, trusty commenter Woodcanoe offers the following explanation. Take it away, WC...

A simple question.....with a simple answer.

MONEY! Tons of it being made off this brand new defense system! The F-16 and the FA-18 are as good a jet fighter as there is any place on earth, and are easily upgraded, if anyone wanted to, but the politicians give way to the defense industry every single time. 

There is a parallel to this. 

Eugene Stoner developed his AR-15 in the late 1950's. He, with investors, formed the Armalite Co. They tried to market the rifle to the biggest customer (government) but struck out. Armalite, and Stoner went broke, eventually he sold his patents to Colt for around $700,000.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cookies and European Readers: A Notice of What is Required of Me

My blog host outfit informs me I need to comply with European Union laws regarding techno stuff in regards to EU readers. So, for all of you Europeans: reading this blog implies consent  to using my cookies. Just don't mess with the s'mores.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

"Dear SKK: The Clinton Camp Remains Loyal" While Sharks Circle

In response to my Clinton campaign "trouble with ethics" post from Friday, I received an anonymous message: "Dear SKK: You need to recheck your sources. The Clinton camp remains loyal. No one is leaving the campaign."

That's a broad statement, which may or may not prove accurate. 

Meanwhile, additional sharks appear to be circling the ever-startling Clinton. Even a Great White seems to smell chum.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Source: Key Staffer May Leave Clinton Campaign Over Concerns About Ethics

A key Clinton campaign staff member soon may part ways with the Democratic party presidential hopeful over concerns about ethics, a source close to the campaign tells me. "It's very much on the table, and could happen as soon as next week," the source says.

The Clinton staff has grown increasingly concerned over ongoing developments portraying their candidate in a negative light, the source says. 

"There has been a lot of agonizing over how much to overlook, what to excuse, and what to dissociate from," says the source, who knows the staff member personally, and spoke on condition of anonymity. Most recently, staffers were troubled by reports that Clinton may face a criminal inquiry over the mishandling of classified information, the source says.

"Everyone has a reputation to uphold," the source says. "At some point, even the most ardent campaign supporters have to think about their personal best interests."

The potential ship-jumper is closely tied to Clinton, and has yet to make a final decision, the source says.

"The upcoming week will be telling."

Thursday, July 23, 2015

This Chattanooga Marine Did Not Know He Was Shot

I talked to one of the Marines who was inside the recruiting office during the attacks last week in Chattanooga. The Marine was shot, but did not realize it until later. He was so humble and low key about the experience. It was an honor to tell his story. You can read it here, on 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

American Presidents Do Not Bow, But One Likes to Fold and Tapdance

A couple years ago, this meme made the rounds among citizens shocked by Barack Obama's version of presidential decorum.

Meanwhile, the President yesterday scolded a journalist for asking a legitimate question, and then verbally tapdanced to such a degree that his answer is incomprehensible.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

National Guardsman Derrick Miller Imprisoned for Doing His Duty

Sergeant Derrick Miller served his country at war, honorably and with distinction. He was imprisoned under circumstance that only can be termed outrageous; he was sent to prison for engaging the enemy. Now, while civilian convicted drug offenders have been set free by our president, Sgt. Miller sits inside a cell at Leavenworth. This case is certain to set your blood to boiling.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Canada Tells U.S. Military Deserters: You're Not Refugees

My, how things have changed since the Vietnam War. Once the go-to destination of American war resisters and military deserters, Canada now tells modern day deserters: Yankee, go home. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

From the Pup Tent: Meet the Coast Guard's Bomb-Sniffing Feco

Meet Feco, the Coast Guard bomb sniffing Vizsla, as he preps for helicopter hoist training. His handler reports that Feco has "a huge drive to work and a big love of his squeaky tennis ball reward." Go, Feco!
Photo by Coast Guard ME1 Christopher Hartman

Friday, July 10, 2015

Mean Girls: A Tale of the Tape

An overweight female commander was fired by the Army for intimidating her subordinates into letting her pass the tape test that determines weight standards. The Army removed her from command, where she was found to have created a toxic environment. At least she didn't hurl coffee cups at subordinates' heads, but this was just plain mean. H/T Minicapt for sending along the report.  Which reminds me: where is my chocolate...?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Hero Story With a Happy Outcome

A despondent 19 year old was on the verge of death - until Marine Sgt. Cody Leifheit came on the scene. Read my story about a hero who literally scaled a tree to save a man's life, at

Monday, July 6, 2015

Milspotters' Challenge: Ignore Helicopter, Solve for Items in Corner

The objects of the puzzle: The two longish narrow upright objects in the corner of my living room. Ignore the RC helicopter. And yes, I know that Old Glory is stars-right. It's a forward deployed flag. Now: Solve.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

May God Bless the Continental Army

"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States." Our founding fathers were faced with a choice: endure the tyranny, or forge independence. They made the right choice. They are my heroes and my role models. A toast to them and their ideals. And may God bless the Continental Army.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Letter From Afghanistan on Independence Day: "This is What Motivates Me"

One year ago today, my Cooking With the Troops partner and great friend Chad sent a letter from Afghanistan, wishing us all a happy July 4. Chad now is safely returned from deployment, and will celebrate Independence Day at home. His letter continues to resonate, and is well worth a second look. Read it with pride. These are the words of an American soldier. Take it away, Chad...

My dear friends and family,

I want to wish you all a Happy 4th of July! It is a beautiful and very windy day here in Afghanistan where the chow hall is decorated from top to bottom in patriotic gear and the movie "Independence Day" playing in the background. Fortunately I have been blessed with a low key day to stay on base which has allowed me to finally catch up on some much needed sleep.  

Being deployed on the 4th always is a bit surreal. For the most part it is like any other day, only with slightly better food haha.  But regardless, it always carries a special meaning. With all that is going on in the world in armed conflict, Ukraine, China, Russia, the Middle East, Iraq, etc., many have asked me whether it is worth fighting for anymore.  

I often fight to urge to react in the manner my emotions would like to, but I simply invite them to sit down in a quiet place and read the Declaration of Independence word to word and then come back to me with their own answer.  

Friday, July 3, 2015

Soldier Arrested in Mall in Fayetteville: A Threat to His Own Fitness Report

A soldier went to the mall in North Carolina - armed, and in combat gear. He said he wanted to pose for pics of himself with rifle and ammo. He should have known better than to wander into a civilian mall and scare everyone. On the other hand, I wonder if media reports have fanned more flame than applies. One news outlet ran the headline, "Man arrested in Fayetteville, North Carolina mall with rifle, ammunition." I'd expect that headline in connection with a threat situation. From the looks of things, the soldier in question presented a threat only to his next FitRep. I believe there is a box for "Acts Without Thinking." If so, his box surely now is checked.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

New Song From Madison Rising: A Gorgeous Rendition of God Bless America

I recently spent some time on tour with Madison Rising, and had the opportunity to hear their new songs live. All I can say is, wow. This rendition of God Bless America will make your heart swell with pride. It's gorgeous.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Army Posts Named for Confederate Generals Retain Titles; Navy Ship-Naming Needs Work

I am pleased to report that the Army will not change the titles of installations named after Confederate generals. Now if only the Navy would do something about its recent spate of ship-naming, which has broken tradition to such a degree that I wonder if someone has been drinking bad sea water.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

All This for a Flag, V.2

A brawl broke out in front of the South Carolina statehouse, over the so-called Confederate flag. I cannot help but recall the brouhaha surrounding words attributed to Michelle Obama, regarding her alleged disdain for the respect being shown the American flag. The current controversy reminds us that yes, flags matter. They are symbols of deeply held identities and beliefs. And yes: all this for a flag.