17 October, 2018 07:13

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, October 17, 2018 which is Hagfish Day, Mulligan Day, National Pasta Day and National Take Your Parents to Lunch Day.
This Day in Legion History:

  • Oct. 17, 1923: The American Legion National Convention in San Francisco passes a resolution (still in effect) that expresses its firm support of equal rights and opportunities “without distinction as to race, color, creed or class.” The resolution, which also condemns any individual, group or organization that “creates or fosters racial, religious or class strife among our people, or which takes into their own hands the enforcement of law, determination of guilt, or infliction of punishment, to be un-American, a menace to our liberties and destructive to our fundamental law.”
  • Oct. 17, 2012: Theodore Roosevelt IV, grandson of American Legion founding member Theodore Roosevelt Jr., is named chairman of the organization’s 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee.

This Day in History:

  • On this day in 1931, gangster Al Capone is sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion and fined $80,000, signaling the downfall of one of the most notorious criminals of the 1920s and 1930s.
  • 1989: The deadliest earthquake to hit the San Francisco area since 1906 strikes at 5:04 p.m.and lasts for 15 seconds. The quake measured 7.1 on the Richter scale, and its aftermath was witnessed on live television by millions of people watching the third game of the World Series of baseball between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, held at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The tremor hit moments before the start of the game, and sportscasters were soon performing the duties of news anchors as they reported on the resulting pandemonium in the stadium. The earthquake killed a total of 63 people, while more than 3,000 others were injured and more than 100,000 buildings were damaged.
  • 1777: During the American Revolution, British General John Burgoyne surrenders 5,000 British and Hessian troops to Patriot General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, New York.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Military.com: Mattis Speaks Out: He’s Staying SecDef, and He’s Not a Democrat
Military Times: Mattis: Trump gave him ’100 percent’ support despite president saying defense chief may go
Stripes: Dunford warns against complacency in fight against terrorism as ISIS’ caliphate disintegrates
Military.com: A Year After the Fall of Raqqa, ISIS Remnants Fight on in Syria

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Military.com: Mattis Speaks Out: He’s Staying SecDef, and He’s Not a Democrat

Military.com 16 Oct 2018 By Richard Sisk
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis brushed off President Donald Trump’s suggestion that he’s "sort of a Democrat" and said he has no intention of resigning his Cabinet post.
‘I’m on his team," Mattis said of Trump. "We have never talked about me leaving. We just continue doing our job."
When asked what he made of Trump’s remarks on his status, Mattis said, "Nothing at all."
He also said that, as a career Marine, he has shunned politics and is neither a Democrat nor a Republican.
"I’ve never registered for any political party," he added.
Mattis was speaking to defense reporters traveling with him en route to Vietnam on Monday. A transcript of his remarks was made available by the Pentagon.
The first question put to him was on the president’s interview, broadcast Sunday night on CBS’ "60 Minutes" program, in which Trump speculated on the possibility of Mattis resigning.
"It could be that he is," Trump said. "I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth. But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That’s Washington."
Trump did not spell out what he meant by the "Democrat" suggestion, but Mattis has not always been in line with the direction of Trump’s policies on a range of issues.
Mattis has stressed the value of alliances such as NATO while Trump questions them. He also presides over a Pentagon that has been unenthusiastic about the president’s plans for a Space Force, a big military parade on Veterans Day, the deployment of National Guard troops to the southern border, and a ban on transgender troops in the military.
On the plane to Vietnam, Mattis indicated that Trump’s musings on his status were his privilege as commander-in-chief. "We continue in the Department of Defense to do our job. It’s no problem," he said. "I have seen Republicans and Democrats come and go," and his own views on avoiding politics have not changed.
"When I was 18, I joined the Marine Corps and, in the U.S. military, we are proudly apolitical," Mattis said. "By that, I mean that in our duties we were brought up to obey the elected commander-in-chief, whoever that is."
As defense secretary, "my portfolio is bipartisan by its very basis, and that is the protection of the United States," he said. "That’s what President Trump has told me to do, and I eagerly carry that out. So that’s where I stand. That defines me."
Military Times: Mattis: Trump gave him ’100 percent’ support despite president saying defense chief may go
By: Robert Burns, The Associated Press   19 hours ago
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HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — Amid speculation that he may soon be replaced, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said President Donald Trump told him he supports the retired Marine general “100 percent.”
The assertion comes just days after Trump mused on national television about Mattis leaving his post.
Mattis said Trump gave him this assurance during a phone call while Mattis was flying from Washington to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on Tuesday. A few hours earlier, Mattis told reporters traveling with him that he and Trump had never discussed the possibility of Mattis leaving the Pentagon job.
Mattis initially was responding to reporters’ questions about Trump’s comments on CBS’ "60 Minutes" Sunday that Mattis "may leave" his administration and that he thinks the retired Marine Corps general is "sort of a Democrat."
Asked what he made of Trump’s comments, in which the president also said he likes Mattis and that eventually all appointees move on, Mattis said, "Nothing at all," adding, "We have never talked about me leaving."
Later, Mattis approached reporters traveling with him to say he’d just spoken to Trump. He said he called the president aboard Air Force One to discuss damage to military bases caused by Hurricane Michael.
During that conversation, Trump asked Mattis whether he had seen the “60 Minutes” interview broadcast on Sunday. Mattis said he had not. Trump then expressed his full support for Mattis and suggested Mattis let the press know this.
By telling "60 Minutes" that he suspected Mattis is "sort of a Democrat," Trump seemed to suggest that he thinks Mattis is too moderate in his politics, although he did not say so directly or cite any area of disagreement with Mattis.
Whereas Trump has made a hard-line policy on immigration a centerpiece of his agenda, Mattis has publicly cited the valuable contributions that non-citizen members of the military have made over the years. Mattis also is a staunch supporter of NATO, whereas Trump has questioned its value to America.
Mattis, who had never previously held a civilian position in government before he became defense secretary in January 2017, told reporters he has sought to carry out and reinforce Trump’s military and national security policies without regard to partisanship. Those policies, he said, are now "reaping significant bipartisan support."
Asked directly whether he is a Democrat, Mattis said, "We’re all built on our formative experiences. When I was 18 I joined the Marine Corps, and in the U.S. military we are proudly apolitical."
Asked if that meant he was not a registered member of either major political party, he replied, "I’ve never registered for any political party."
Presidents in recent decades have sometimes picked a member of the opposite party to head the Pentagon. President Bill Clinton’s second-term defense secretary was William Cohen, a prominent Republican member of the Senate. And President Barack Obama’s first Pentagon chief was Robert Gates, a Republican who had served as CIA director and defense secretary in Republican administrations.
The post of defense secretary is typically the least political in a president’s Cabinet. That is because of the non-political tradition of the military and long-standing bipartisan support for U.S. military alliances such as NATO.
Mattis flew to Vietnam for his second visit this year to the country with which the U.S. fought a 10-year war. He told reporters the violent history between the two countries is a thing of the past.
"The legacy of the war has turned into actually a basis for defense cooperation," he said.
An example of this is a U.S.-funded $390 million project to clean up war-era chemical contamination of the ground at an air base near Ho Chi Minh City.
Mattis planned to visit the base at Bien Hoa on Wednesday to see firsthand the area that is to be decontaminated in a 10-year project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Barrels of Agent Orange had been staged at Bien Hoa for U.S. use as a defoliant elsewhere in Vietnam, and when the U.S. decided to stop spraying Agent Orange, the remaining barrels of toxic liquid were collected and stored at Bien Hoa before being flown out of the country.
Mattis also plans to attend a regional meeting of defense ministers in Singapore later this week. He said he may meet there with his Chinese counterpart, even though Beijing had recently told Mattis that if he came to China his counterpart would not be available to meet.

Stripes: Dunford warns against complacency in fight against terrorism as ISIS’ caliphate disintegrates

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 16, 2018
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Maryland — The U.S. military’s top general warned Tuesday that the international community must maintain its focus on the terrorism threat even as the Islamic State nears defeat on the battlefields of Syria and other security challenges rise around the world.
Despite the loss of land in recent years, ISIS and al-Qaida still have the ability and the desire to conduct and inspire terrorist attacks globally, said Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The threat of transnational terrorism is a generational problem that the United States and its allies remain years away from solving, he added.

“When the enemy holds ground like [ISIS] did in Iraq and Syria in 2014, they are a much more lethal threat than they are when they are running on a constant basis,” he told reporters Tuesday during a yearly meeting of top uniformed leaders from some 80 nations, dubbed the Countering Violent Extremist Organizations Chiefs of Defense Conference. “In that regard their lethality has been reduced, that doesn’t mean they are not dangerous.”

American leaders must work hand-in-hand with their allies to share intelligence, best practices and conduct counterterrorism operations to root out extremist groups throughout the world even as the number of headline-grabbing terrorist attacks has dropped in recent years, Dunford said.

“Perhaps the greatest challenge facing us today is the danger of complacency,” he said in opening remarks to the conference held outside Washington. “A misreading of our progress today and a misunderstanding of the character of the threat may cause political leaders to lose focus on violent extremism while they turn to other pressing challenges.”

Dunford issued the warning as U.S. political leaders, including President Donald Trump, wrestle with the nation’s future posture in Syria, where ISIS holds only 2 percent of the territory that it once held in its so-called caliphate across Syria and Iraq. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have surrounded the remnants of ISIS in eastern Syria’s Middle Euphrates River Valley, where officials believe it retains about 2,000 fighters. Officials also believe the remaining land held by ISIS will be recaptured within several months.

Army Col. Sean Ryan, the Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, said Tuesday that the terrorist group had essentially already been “territorially defeated,” but he added the remaining ISIS fighters were the “diehard fighters” who would continue to fight until the very end.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has turned much of its focus to preparing for war against a major military power, such as Russia or China, as those nations seek to challenge the long-held U.S. dominance of international power.

Trump at times has mulled publicly about removing the roughly 2,000 American troops operating in Syria as soon as ISIS has been defeated, though Pentagon officials — including Dunford and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — have expressed the need for those troops to remain there until the local forces they are training can hold the land and keep the terrorist group from re-establishing itself.

“I believe those of us gathered here today have a good appreciation for the consequences of prematurely relieving pressure on the enemy and allowing them the space to reconstitute,” Dunford said. “There’s many examples over the last few years where we’ve relieved pressure and they’ve reconstituted only to grow more virulent [with] their second strain of violent extremism.”

None of those examples is more notable than ISIS, itself. The group, once part of al-Qaida, rose to prominence as it swept across Syria and northern Iraq in 2014, defeating American-trained Iraqi security forces just more than two years after the United States withdrew from Iraq in December 2011.

Dunford said repeatedly Tuesday that he would not lose focus on counterterrorism operations, cautioning that ISIS and al-Qaida were actively working to grow their global networks, often by engaging with established local extremist groups in places such as West Africa and Southeast Asia.

Al-Qaida affiliates, for example, have shown greater cooperation among their cells throughout the world as the group attempts to increase its following and influence that had been curtailed in recent years through military operations and, inadvertently, through ISIS’ rise, he said.

“What we’ve seen is increased communications between al-Qaida and their affiliates in an attempt to broaden their network of individuals who can plan and conduct attacks elsewhere,” the general said. “In my judgement, they are trying to regain relevance … and conduct attacks.”

The United States and its allies must continue to stay ahead of al-Qaida and ISIS in order for the recent trend in global terrorism to continue dropping, Dunford said, attributing at least some of the success to the dismantling of ISIS’ caliphate.

For example, he said, ISIS conducted 23 percent fewer terrorist attacks in 2017 than in 2016. And, in 2018, each ISIS attack has killed an average of three people, down from an average of 25 deaths in ISIS attacks in 2015, which include the Paris attack that left more than 130 dead.
ISIS has also lost some of its ability to spread its message.

This year, the group is producing about 15 percent of the amount of media it once produced and has not published its monthly online magazine, Rumiyah, in more than year, Dunford said.
Nonetheless, Dunford said he worried ISIS and al-Qaida remained deadly as prolonged military operations against them in locations spanning from West Africa across the Middle East and Afghanistan and into Southeast Asia have driven many of their operatives underground.

“We are a long way from defeating the generational threat of violent extremism,” he said. “In many ways, the threat we face today is more lethal and it has become more difficult to disrupt and destroy their plots.”

Dunford said he believes one key to curtailing the global terrorism threat will be an international effort to improve education, economies and governance in regions where extremism is common.
That is not something the military can do by itself, he said, but military leaders can encourage their nations to remain involved even after the fight concludes.

“It’s not about winning the war, it’s about winning the peace,” Dunford said. “That is most important to ensure that the [military] success we’ve had is enduring.”

Military.com: A Year After the Fall of Raqqa, ISIS Remnants Fight on in Syria

Military.com 16 Oct 2018 By Richard Sisk
A year after the fall of Raqqa, once the seat of the Islamic State’s "caliphate," U.S.-backed forces are still struggling to eliminate the determined and elusive last threads of the terror group in Syria’s eastern deserts, near the Iraqi border, a coalition military spokesman said Tuesday.
In addition, ISIS fighters are still active in Iraq, as evidenced by recent clashes in Kirkuk and Ramadi, despite the Baghdad government’s declaration in December 2017 that Iraq had been "completely liberated" from the Islamic State, said Army Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
In a recent clearing operation against ISIS in Ramadi, Iraqi Security Forces found about 1,000 improvised explosive devices that would have targeted the ISF and civilians, Ryan said.
In north-central Kirkuk, small pockets of ISIS still pose a threat, he added.
In Raqqa, residents who have returned are preparing to mark the one-year anniversary of the Oct. 17, 2017, liberation of the town that still-at large ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared as his caliphate’s capital.
International donors recently delivered 140 metric tons of wheat seed to Raqqa, something Ryan described as a "first beginning to a more peaceful Syria."
"Overall, ISIS is territorially defeated," he said, but the U.S.-backed and mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces have yet to eliminate ISIS fighters in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. "They’re a very resilient enemy, no doubt about that," Ryan said.
Earlier Tuesday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told a security conference that foreign fighters are still entering Syria daily to bolster ISIS ranks. Ryan said ISIS fighters have access to enough food and water and sustain themselves indefinitely.
In defending the lengthy effort to inflict a final defeat on ISIS, Ryan said, "We’re degrading them every day," but the SDF "has been methodical in their approach" to moving against the remaining fighters. The advance has been slowed by ISIS’ use of a labyrinthine tunnel system and periodic counter-attacks, he said.
Civilians continue to escape from ISIS-held areas. "Make no mistake, ISIS is using these people as human shields," he said.

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