TIME

Abdullah Ahead in Latest Afghanistan Election Results

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks to the media after voting at a polling station in Kabul
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks to the media after voting at a polling station in Kabul on April 5, 2014 Ahmad Masood—Reuters

Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has pulled ahead with 44 percent of the votes tallied so far, followed by former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai with 33.2 percent, though final results won't be announced until May 14

Updated: April 21, 6:40 a.m.

Partial results from Afghanistan’s presidential election released Sunday reveal candidate Abdullah Abdullah as the front runner, though a runoff election still appears likely.

Abdullah, a former Foreign Minister who ran against outgoing President Hamid Karzai in the last election, has 44 percent of the votes that have been tallied so far, the Associated Press reports. Abdullah’s closest competitor, former Finance Minister and World Bank official Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, has received 33.2 percent of the vote. Either candidate will need to secure more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff election.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission announced the results, which represent close to half of the approximately 7 million votes cast in the April 5 election. Final election results are expected on May 14.

The victor will oversee Afghanistan through a period of transition as the U.S. and other NATO countries are expected to withdraw troops from the nation. Both candidates have called for a new start with Western countries and have promised to sign a U.S. security pact with which Karzai has refused to agree.

[AP]

TIME Military

Disaster in the Sky: Old Planes, Inexperienced Pilots—and No More Parachutes

A view shows wreckage of Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker plane near site of crash near Kyrgyz village of Chaldovar
Part of the tail of the doomed KC-135. Vladimir Pirogov / Reuters

A routine Air Force mission supporting the Afghan war turns tragic

Putting young, inexperienced pilots into a 50-year-old Air Force plane seems like a risky idea. Even riskier? Getting rid of crew’s parachutes to save money.

But that’s what the Air Force did last May 3, when it launched a mission to refuel U.S. warplanes over Afghanistan using a KC-135 Stratotanker delivered by Boeing to the Air Force on June 26, 1964. A problem with the plane’s flight-control system cascaded toward trouble after actions by what the Air Force has concluded was its inadequately-trained crew. In short order, the double-barreled dilemmas ripped the airplane’s tail off three miles above Kyrgyzstan’s Himalayan foothills. The plane quickly entered a steep dive, dooming all three aboard.

Both pilots graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2008, shortly after the service decided it couldn’t afford to keep parachutes on KC-135s. “A lot of time, manpower and money goes into buying, maintaining and training to use parachutes,” the Air Force said in March 2008. “With the Air Force hungry for cost-saving efficiency under its Air Force for Smart Operations in the 21st Century Program, commonly known as AFSO 21, the parachutes were deemed obsolete.”

Captain Mark Tyler Voss, 27, Captain Victoria Pinckney, 27, and Technical Sergeant Herman “Tre” Mackey III, 30, were the first airmen killed in a KC-135 crash since the Air Force stripped the parachutes from the planes.

Given the violent end of their mission, the parachutes may not have made any difference, according to the official Air Force investigation into the crash. “The [accident investigation] board sort of concluded, informally, in talking among themselves, that even if there had been parachutes, there would have been no way for them in this particular case for them to be used,” Air Force Lieut. Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for the service’s Air Mobility Command, said Monday.

Others aren’t so sure. “Deploying aircrews to a combat zone without parachutes is an unconscionable risk,” says Alan Diehl, who spent 18 years as an Air Force civilian investigating the safety of the service’s aircraft. “The airmen aboard this KC-135 would have had to don their chutes, jettison the cockpit bailout hatch, and dive overboard—all in a matter of seconds. But to take away the option just seems wrong.”

The aerial tanker arrived in Kyrgyzstan the day before the accident. Earlier flight-control problems had reportedly been fixed. Pilot Tyler, co-pilot Pinckney and, Mackey, the refueling boom operator, boarded the aircraft early that afternoon at the Pentagon’s transit hub at Manas, just outside Bishkek, the country’s capital.

120522-F-FI711-030
A KC-135 refuels an F-15 fighter. 2nd Lt. Lindsay Horn / Air Force

They were the first crew to fly the 707-based aircraft toward Afghanistan, loaded with 175,000 pounds of aviation fuel, since its arrival at Manas. Tanker crews are the unsung heroes of the service, the so-called “global reach” that vastly extends how far Air Force aircraft can fly without landing to refuel.

Voss had slightly more than 1,000 hours flying such tankers; Pickney had fewer than 600. Mackey was the most experienced member of the crew, with 3,350 KC-135 flight hours, but as the boom operator he had nothing to do with flying the airplane.

Shortly after the flight, dubbed Shell 77, took off, a problem with the flight-control system triggered “rudder hunting,” which caused the airplane to yaw, its nose turning from left to right and back again.

A dutch roll. Picascho

Nine minutes into the flight, the plane entered a “dutch roll,” which can happen as increasing yaw generates more lift on one wing than the other. That causes the plane to roll, until increased drag pulls the wing back and the process repeats itself with the other wing. “It’s kind of waffling,” the crew reported as they climbed above 20,000 feet. “The jet’s bent.”

The pilots tried to bring the five-second-long dutch rolls under control by using the plane’s rudder and auto-pilot. But that only made matters worse.

“The cumulative effects of the malfunctioning [flight-control system], coupled with autopilot use and rudder movements during the unrecognized dutch roll, generated dutch roll forces that exceeded the mishap aircraft’s design structural limits,” the Air Force said in its investigation into the crash, released last month. “The tail section failed and separated from the aircraft, causing the mishap aircraft to pitch down sharply, enter into a high-speed dive, explode inflight and subsequently impact the ground.”

Voss’s superiors described him as a “peerless aviator” who was “highly motivated and extremely dedicated.” Pickney’s commanders said she was “a superior leader with the drive and ability to succeed at any task.”

But despite their demonstrated skills, the investigation said that instead of trying to halt the dutch roll with the rudder and auto-pilot, they should have shut down the malfunctioning flight-control system and manually used the ailerons on the main wings to regain control.

So why didn’t they?

“The mishap crew appears to not have been adequately trained for the dutch roll recognition and recovery; they experienced a condition they had not encountered in training,” the investigation concluded. “The mishap crew received a total of 10-15 minutes of recognition and recovery training several years prior to the mishap,” during initial pilot training.

Such training “appears to be insufficient,” the probe added. “The mishap crew was a qualified, but minimally experienced, crew” whose “inexperience led them to rely on the autopilot to make timely inputs in an unstable flight regime. Although the Inflight Manual does not explicitly prohibit autopilot use in dutch roll, the system is incapable of making the precisely timed inputs that are required to counteract dutch roll. Both times the mishap aircraft engaged the autopilot the oscillations grew worse.”

Shouldn’t KC-135 pilots train for such predicaments in their simulators? They can’t. “Insidious onset of dutch roll is impossible to replicate in KC-135 simulator training due to mechanical limitations,” the probe said. Nor can the simulator replicate more serious forms of the roll: “A former KC-135 Instructor Pilot and current simulator operator, who experienced severe dutch roll in flight, confirmed the current simulator training does not reproduce a severe dutch roll.”

Can’t pilots practice it, carefully, while actually flying? No. “The Inflight Manual prohibits pilots from practicing dutch roll recognition and recovery in the aircraft, specifically stating `intentionally-induced dutch roll and aerobatics of any kind are strictly prohibited’” the investigation noted.

Once their plane lost its tail, was the crew’s fate sealed? “Egress was not possible,” the accident report said. “The KC-135R is not equipped with parachutes, ejection seats, or any other means of inflight egress.” The report didn’t mention that parachutes had been on the planes until 2008.

The crew “made no comment on the flight data recorder that `We need to get out of here’ or `This is going down,’” Thomas, the Air Force spokesman, said (the recorder shut down when the plane was at 21,760 feet). “The indications were that they continued to fight to regain control of the aircraft until probably they lost consciousness.”

And how did that happen? “There is some surmising that goes on,” Thomas explained. “But [the accident board] had several experts to address this point directly, and their best understanding of what probably happened—because they have to put together their best guess based on the flight data—is that when the tail broke off, the aircraft that remained pitched, and because it was in the middle of a dutch roll it probably pitched up first, because as the tail section broke off it probably gained altitude as part of the physics of it swinging back and forth, they probably experienced negative G-forces that would have probably blacked them out.”

That 2008 Air Force news article detailed the logic of getting rid of the KC-135’s parachutes:

By design, parachutes slow things down. Crew members forced to evacuate in-flight aircraft with parachutes, for example, have much gentler impacts with the ground than those without chutes. But the only thing being slowed by parachutes aboard KC-135 Stratotankers, Air Force leaders recently decided, was the mission. So they got rid of them. Removing parachutes from military aircraft may sound peculiar, but KC-135s are not like other aircraft. They seldom have mishaps, and the likelihood a KC-135 crew member would ever need to use a parachute is extremely low.

“The [accident investigation board’s] technical experts didn’t recall that there’s ever been an attempted, successful or otherwise, egress from a tanker aircraft,” the Air Force’s Thomas said.

But the technical experts are wrong, according to former airman Joseph Heywood. He bailed out of a KC-135 over Michigan—along with three other airmen—as their plane ran out of fuel in August 1969 (the pilot landed the plane short of the runway, but safely, at the now-closed K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base). “If they were in a dutch roll, I think it’d be almost impossible for them to get out,” he said. But removing the parachutes “doesn’t make any sense—it’s just another way of saying that money is more important than people.”

Bailing out used to be a key part of the KC-135’s Cold War mission. “Our job was to fly up and plug B-52s up near Greenland,” he says. “And if they demanded it, to give them all of our fuel, and then to bail out onto the ice pack and make our way back on foot to Billy Mitchell field in Milwaukee.”

The missing parachutes don’t bother Heywood now. “It doesn’t cause me any heartburn, because I’m not one of the people flying them,” he says. But the former Air Force captain well remembers when he needed one. “The day after I bailed out I took a bottle of booze—I think it was Chivas Regal, actually—to the guy who packed mine,” he recalled. “I’d rather have a slim chance than no chance.”

The combination of an aging aircraft, poorly-trained young pilots, and the need to save money that led the Air Force to remove the parachutes, shows a force frayed by ever-tightening, and perhaps misallocated, budgets. “The various problems surfaced by this mishap—overlooked maintenance issues on older aircraft, limited crew experience and training, poor flight simulator fidelity, and no parachutes—are all driven by funding limitations,” former Air Force crash investigator Diehl says. “The Pentagon and our Congress need to stop sequestering safety.”

The Air Force recently detailed changes it is taking following the crash. KC-135 crews will be getting more training to help them deal with dutch rolls. The service is revising flight manuals, beefing up maintenance, and improving rudder controls for the 396 KC-135s still flying. The fleet is also in the middle of a $1 billion refurbishment. But restoring parachutes to the planes—slated to fly until at least 2040—isn’t on the list of improvements.

Transit Center honors fallen heros
An honor guard carries photos of the KC-135 crew members during a memorial service at Manas six days after the crash. SSgt. Stephanie Rubi / Air Force
TIME Foreign Policy

House Speaker John Boehner Visits Afghanistan

Speaker of the House John Bohener arrives for his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House John Bohener arrives for his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer—Getty Images

Republican delegation's visit comes as presidential elections continue, and as U.S. officials weigh how many—if any—American troops to leave in the country after the end of the year, when U.S. operations there are set to conclude

Speaker of the House John Boehner visited Afghanistan Monday, the highest-profile visit by an American official since that country’s first round of presidential voting earlier this month.

Boehner and a number of House Republicans met with American forces, as well as Ambassador James Cunningham and General Joseph Dunford, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. According to a statement from Boehner’s office, “the delegation sent a strong, unequivocal message that the House of Representatives wants to maintain a right-sized presence in Afghanistan to successfully complete the work that has been done to date, and to honor the sacrifice of thousands of troops and civilians, as well as their families.”

The Republican delegation’s visit comes as U.S. officials weigh how many—if any—American troops to leave in Afghanistan after the end of the year, when U.S. operations there are set to conclude. President Barack Obama has stated a desire to keep some American troops in Afghanistan for counterterrorism and training purposes, but ordered the Pentagon in February to draw up plans for a complete withdrawal from the country, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement that would provide legal protections for remaining U.S. troops. However, every frontrunner in the presidential election to replace Karzai has said they would sign the bilateral agreement.

Boehner sought to pay tribute to troops who had fought in Afghanistan since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Many Americans have sacrificed to secure these goals, and far too many have made the ultimate sacrifice or suffered life-changing wounds in the past twelve years of fighting,” he said in a statement. “Now, the Afghans are poised to elect a new government for the first time in their history. We must honor the sacrifices of the Americans and Afghans who have given so much to reach this point and continue our work together.”

House Education & Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Natural Resources Committee Chairman ‘Doc’ Hastings (R-WA), Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), and Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) accompanied Boehner on the trip, according to the statement.

Obama last visited Afghanistan in May 2012.

TIME Afghanistan

Afghan Election Marred by Fraud as Early Results Point Toward Runoff

Partial vote count results
Afghan election workers from the Independent Election Commission (IEC) count ballots in Kabul, April 13, 2014. S. Sabawoon—EPA

Early results indicate the Afghan election could be headed for a runoff, but hundreds of cases of fraud have already been reported. The election-complaints commission said it may have to extend the time period for reviewing complaints

Afghan officials are warning of widespread fraud in the country’s presidential election, even as early vote counts indicate a runoff is likely.

Early results show candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani appear to be leading the race to succeed President Hamid Karzai by significant margins, the New York Times reports. The preliminary count reflects 10% of the votes cast in 26 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, with Abdullah and Ghani holding 41.9% and 37.6% of the vote, respectively.

However, fraud is likely to have a dramatic effect on the election. The election-complaints commission said Sunday it had received so many reports of fraud that it may have to extend the time period for reviewing complaints.

The commission said there were 870 incidents of fraud important enough to sway the results, more than the 815 incidents reported during the 2009 election.

“We are investigating fraudulent votes very carefully, and there’s a strong possibility that some of the vote will be disqualified,” said Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, head of the election commission.

The votes are set to be fully counted by April 24, and a runoff election, if needed, would be held as early as May 28.

[NYT]

TIME Afghanistan

Afghanistan Goes To The Polls

An estimated 7 million people turned out to participate in Afghanistan's presidential election, despite bad weather and threats of violence from Taliban militants

TIME Afghanistan

Afghanistan Defies Taliban Threats To Vote in Historic Polls

Afghan women wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif
Afghan women wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif April 5, 2014. Zohra Bensemraz—Reuters

Despite warnings of violence by the Taliban, Afghans turned out in large numbers to vote in Saturday's presidential election. Afghan forces were dispatched in a massive operation across the nation to protect voters

Updated 4:00 p.m. ET

Seven million Afghans braved security threats and inclement weather on Saturday to vote for their next president. Despite persistent intimidation and attacks by the Taliban in the weeks ahead of the April 5 polls, voter turnout was high in what many hope will be the war-torn nation’s first peaceful and democratic transition of power since 2001.

President Hamid Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since 2001 and is constitutionally barred from running again, cast his vote for his successor in the morning. Eight candidates are vying to take his place; the three frontrunners are Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, and Zalmai Rassoul. In such a wide field, the likelihood that one candidate will get the votes needed to win outright is slim. A runoff vote between the top candidates is widely expected, meaning that Afghanistan may not get its next government in place until the summer.

Officials and citizens’ central concerns as the presidential and provincial elections got underway were security and fraud. The Taliban had vowed to disrupt the vote, and ran a campaign of high-profile attacks in Kabul and other parts of the country in recent weeks. The day before voting started, two female foreign journalists traveling with election workers were attacked by an Afghan police officer in eastern Khost province. Anja Niedringhaus, a Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer working for the Associated Press, was shot and killed.

Afghan forces were dispatched in a massive operation across the nation to protect voters. Much of Kabul was reportedly blocked off to traffic, and in less stable parts of the country, the election commission closed hundreds of polling centers before the vote, in no small part to prevent ballot stuffing in places where voters and observers would be largely absent. After the 2009 presidential election, some 1.5 million votes were disqualified, according to the election commission. Karzai remained in power, but such widespread fraud this time around could lead to a protracted power struggle in a larger field of candidates.

Over the course of the day, a sense of euphoria built on social media as photos poured in of long lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots and proudly showing off their ink-stained fingers after their turn. A total of seven million out of 12 million eligible voters, or 58 percent showed up to vote, despite the Taliban’s threats, Al Jazeera reports. There were scattered bombings and attacks throughout the country and several deaths were reported, but the violence was less intense than expected.

“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the millions of Afghans who enthusiastically participated in today’s historic elections,” said President Barack Obama in a statement. “These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future.”

There were reports Saturday that some polling centers had run out of ballots — a better problem to have than widespread violence, but also one that underscores the work still ahead in this historic transition for Afghanistan. Today’s enthusiastic and inspiring vote was a good start.

TIME Afghanistan

Afghanistan Goes To The Polls

Afghan women wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif
Afghan women wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif April 5, 2014. Zohra Bensemraz—Reuters

Afghans defied threats of violence by the Taliban to turn out in large numbers to vote in Saturday's presidential election. About 12 million Afghans are eligible to vote in the election where eight candidates are running

Afghan voters braved cold, rain, and the threat of violence by the Taliban to cast their ballots Saturday, lining up at the polls in strong numbers to democratically transfer power for the first time in the country’s history.

There were few reports of violence Saturday, though a roadside bomb killed two policeman returning from a polling station in southern city of Qalat, and four voters were wounded in an explosion at a polling center in a southeastern province, Reuters reports. The Taliban had vowed to derail the elections, calling it a U.S.-manipulated sham.

The United Nations and other foreign donors funded the $100 million election, reports the New York Times.

About 12 million Afghans are eligible to vote in the election for eight candidates. The election is expected to end in a runoff with three leading candidates divvying up the vote.

More than 350,000 Afghan troops were mobilized to protect polling stations and voters, who formed long lines to cast their ballots across the country. Relatively few polling stations were closed under threat of violence.

Afghans had voted previously to elect current president Hamid Karzai in 2004 and re-elect him in a messy 2009 election that occurred amidst massive fraud, but Saturday’s vote is the first to elect a new president in the country’s history.

[Reuters]

TIME Afghanistan

Another Journalist Murdered in Afghanistan Ahead of Elections

Afghanistan
An Afghan policeman stands guard in front of an Independent Elections Commission (IEC) building after a gun battle between security forces and insurgents in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Massoud Hossaini - AP

Early reports suggest two Western female journalists were targeted by a man in a police uniform in the eastern city of Khost on Friday, killing one and seriously injuring the other in the latest of a string of attacks against the media leading up to the Saturday election

One journalist was killed and other seriously injured in eastern Afghanistan after a man dressed as a police officer gunned them down a day before the country heads to the polls.

Mobariz Zadran, a spokesman for the governor of Khost province, suggested that the assailant was actually a policeman rather than simply posing as one. “Naqibullah, a policeman in Tani district of Khost, opened fire on two foreign journalists. One was killed and one was wounded,” he said.

The Associated Press has confirmed that staffer Anja Niedringhaus died during the assault in Khost, while veteran South Asia correspondent Kathy Gannon was seriously injured. The AFP reported on Friday that the attack occurred inside a police district headquarters.

The incident is the latest in a disturbing trend of journalists under attack as the war-torn nation struggles to combat an unyielding Taliban ahead of general elections.

In March, veteran Swedish radio journalist Nils Horner was murdered by unidentified gunmen in broad daylight in what was considered one of the safest areas of Kabul. Later that month, the AFP’s Sardar Ahmed was also killed in the capital during a brazen assault on the luxurious Serena Hotel, which left nine people dead.

“The fact that these two attacks occurred in places in the capital with a reputation for being safe can only have a dissuasive impact on media preparing to cover the election,” said Réza Moïni, the Reporters Without Borders media-advocacy group’s head for Iran-Afghanistan, in a statement earlier this week.

“This violence is partly responsible for the withdrawal of certain foreign election-observer missions, making the election’s transparency more dependent on the presence of Afghan and foreign journalists.”

TIME Mental Illness

Don’t Blame PTSD for the Fort Hood Shooting

The disorder's link to violence is the first thing we look to when vets are involved in mass shootings, but research in the area is inconsistent and weak

Shortly after America learned of another shooting Wednesday evening at Fort Hood, news outlets flashed alerts about the shooter’s deployment history and mental health. Among the first facts confirmed and reported about Spec. Ivan Lopez were his four-month deployment to Iraq in 2011, and that he was being diagnosed for post-traumatic stress disorder—though, importantly, had not yet been diagnosed. As post-9/11 conflicts wind down and veterans seek to reintegrate into civilian society, reports of violence perpetrated by veterans increasingly focus on whether a former service member has seen conflict and whether he suffers from mental illness as a result.

A 2008 RAND study estimated that 18.5% of combat veterans return with symptoms of PTSD. Most of them, though, with time and support, go on to lead stable, productive lives. For veterans enrolled in treatment programs, the likelihood of successful reintegration is even stronger. But for a slim minority, problems arise.

I am a veteran, having served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne from February 2007 to April 2008. I’ve also been diagnosed with PTSD related to my time in service. (Many vets, myself included, favor the removal of “disorder” from PTSD, our symptoms being a natural human response to what we have experienced.) When mass shootings occur, much too commonly lately, my veteran friends and I always have the same initial reactions. First, a sincere hope that everyone is okay. But immediately after that we think, “Please don’t let it be a veteran.” When Kate Hoit, a 29 year-old Iraq war veteran and graduate student living in Washington, D.C., first heard of the shooting, she thought, “Here we go again with another round of onslaughts on veterans and those with PTSD.” But a strong link between violent crime and PTSD has not been firmly established.

A 2012 study found that 9% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans surveyed reported arrests since returning from service. But even with this incidence of arrest, most offenses were associated with nonviolent behavior. It’s also notable that the veterans studied, as well as post-9/11 veterans in general, come from demographics associated with higher rates of criminal behavior (young, male, history of family violence, etc.) that are not related to service. That study concluded that veterans suffering from PTSD are at increased risk for criminal arrests, but those arrests are more strongly linked to substance abuse than a predilection towards violence.

The rush to erroneously blame PTSD for violent veterans has been noted. But available research and increased awareness hasn’t stopped the speculation.

In January of 2012, Iraq war veteran Benjamin Barnes killed a park ranger in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State and was later found dead in an icy creek. The media was quick to report on his wartime service and speculate that his time there was partially responsible for his crime. Further investigation revealed that Barnes had suffered from mental illness prior to enlisting, and his time in Iraq consisted of service with a headquarters element and no record of direct combat. When Maj. Nadal Hassan opened fire at Fort Hood in 2009, the early reaction was much the same, until it was revealed that the soldier had never seen combat.

Then again, when Aaron Alexis opened fire with a shotgun at Washington, D.C.’s Navy yard, the immediate question was whether he suffered from PTSD from his time in the Navy. CNN’s Peter Bergen even wrote: “It’s a deadly combination: men who have military backgrounds — together with personal grievances, political agendas or mental problems — and who also have easy access to weapons and are trained to use them.” We again later learned that Alexis never saw combat, worked as an aviation electrician’s mate, and was never trained to use a shotgun. Lopez, it should also be noted, never saw combat either.

None of this is to say that there isn’t reason to be concerned for the mental health of veterans. Lopez was reportedly suffering from anxiety and depression and undergoing treatment for mental illness. As the RAND study shows, my community is certainly at an increased risk for mental illness. Every day, 22 Americans who served in uniform take their own lives. Veterans with PTSD are more prone to alcoholism. Drug abuse is also more common in our community. While errant reports portray veterans as volatile community risks, my comrades are far more likely to hurt ourselves than anyone else.

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