TIME Google

How Google Is Helping In The Fight Against ISIS

Satellite imagery of Syria in September 2014.
#withSyria Satellite imagery of Syria in September 2014.

Their technology plays a big role in a big fight.

Kurdish fighters are supposedly using Google Earth to coordinate airstrikes with the U.S. military against ISIS.

The Kurdish militia Y.P.G has proved to be one of the U.S.’s most effective allies in Syria. Their fighters work on a Samsung tablet to mark certain coordinates on Google Earth, according to New York Times foreign correspondent Rukmini Callimachi who wrote about her experience in the combat zone with the Y.P.G.

She writes that yellow spots on the map indicate where fellow Kurdish fighters are stationed, while red spots show the coordinates of buildings which ISIS fighters have taken over.

The Y.P.G. sends the red coordinates to a handler at a U.S. military operations room as its members are under fire from ISIS fighters; the handler sends back coordinates where the Y.P.G. fighters should take cover. Once it’s confirmed that everyone is safely within the yellow coordinates, the U.S. strikes.

These Google Earth exchanges began when Y.P.G. fighters sent their coordinates to the U.S. military so they could receive supplies, according to Callimachi’s account. That then evolved into airstrike coordination, which has allowed the group to force ISIS out of multiple Syrian locations including Kobani, Tal Abyad, and Hasaka.

The Pentagon has confirmed that the U.S. military has been working with Syrian Kurds and other groups, but it has not confirmed that the U.S. has been sent any airstrike coordinates, the Times reports.

TIME South Korea

North Korea Applauds Knife Attack on U.S. Ambassador

The assailant reportedly shouted "South and North Korea should be reunified”

You can’t see it on television, but South Korean President Park Geun-hye has a scar that runs from her right ear to her chin. In person, up close, it is just visible below her makeup, a smooth cut that follows the curve of her face. She’s had it since 2006, when she was attacked on the campaign trail by a man wielding a utility knife.

On Thursday, in an eerily similar incident, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was slashed on the face and wrist in the South Korean capital. Photographs from the scene showed him holding the right side of his face, with blood visible on his left hand, and his pink tie splattered red. The U.S. Department of State confirmed the attack and said his injuries are not life threatening. CNN reports that he required 80 stitches. (Park’s attack, by comparison, required 60.)

Lippert, 42, was preparing to deliver an early-morning speech at a restaurant attached to the Sejong Cultural Institute in central Seoul when he was struck with a 10-in. blade. The attacker — since identified by South Korean authorities as 55-year-old Kim Ki-jong — reportedly shouted “South and North Korea should be reunified” during the attack, and continued to shout anti-U.S. slogans as he was restrained.

Both governments responded quickly. “We strongly condemn this act of violence,” said Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department. President Park called the incident “intolerable,” likening it to an assault on the South Korea–U.S. military alliance itself. But North Korea applauded the stabbing, calling it a “knife attack of justice.”

The U.S. military has a long-standing presence in South Korea, an arrangement that dates back to the end of the 1950–1953 Korean War. There are currently some 30,000 American troops on the ground, and each spring, U.S. and South Korean forces engage in joint military exercises. North Korea considers the war games a dress rehearsal for invasion, and some South Koreans believe the annual exercises hurt the divided peninsula’s prospects for reconciliation.

Authorities are still investigating the incident, though the timing, and the attacker’s comments, suggest his motivations were political. The suspect said at the scene and online that he was protesting against the start of this year’s military drills. In 2010, Kim lobbed a piece of concrete at Japanese ambassador to South Korea. He received a two-year sentence that was suspended for three years, according to Yonhap, a local newswire.

Notwithstanding these incidents, a daylight attack on a foreign envoy is highly unusual for Seoul. The city of almost 10 million is, by global standards, a peaceful, prosperous place, known these days for its vibrant pop-music and fashion scenes, not political violence.

The well-liked Lippert, a longtime aide to U.S. President Barack Obama who arrived in Seoul in October of last year, was often seen out and about in the capital, greeting local people while walking his family’s basset hound, Grigsby (who, it turns out, has his own Twitter account). Lippert’s son was born in the city, and he and his wife Robyn even gave him a Korean middle name.

Questions are already mounting about security, especially in light of the 2006 knife attack on the now President Park. How did a man with a large knife and history of violence get so close to the ambassador? A spokesperson for the group that hosted the event, the Korea Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, has already apologized for the security breach.

And while the attack might mean tighter security at upcoming events, Grigsby won’t be alone in hoping that the gregarious ambassador is back pounding the city’s sidewalks soon.

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME isis

ISIS Attacks Air Base While Wearing Iraqi Military Uniforms

One of the most brazen attacks by the group in weeks

ISIS militants donning Iraqi uniforms attacked a military base in Iraq housing U.S. advisers on Friday, but the Iraqi military largely repelled the attack. No U.S. or Iraqi service members were reported killed.

The assault was one of the most brazen in recent weeks by ISIS fighters. According to the Wall Street Journal, an initial wave of fighters attacked the base in suicide vests, followed by a second set of militants firing rockets and mortars.

MORE: ISIS Magazine Claims to Interview Paris Gunman’s Wife

Earlier this week, ISIS fighters captured al-Baghdadi, a town near the air base, which holds roughly 300 U.S. Marines.

ISIS has targeted the base for several months with mortar fire, which U.S. officials describe as largely ineffective. The U.S. military is training Iraqi troops and Sunni tribal members to fight ISIS at the base, according to ABC News.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 28

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. As pressure builds for U.S. military attention to Boko Haram in Nigeria, that nation’s political situation and past abuses complicate planning.

By Kevin Baron and Molly O’Toole at Defense One

2. What was once an “artist” is now a “creative entrepreneur.” Marketing and networking have forever changed art.

By William Deresiewicz in the Atlantic

3. Does the rising danger of digital attacks mean traditional warfare is irrelevant?

By David Barno and Nora Bensahel in War on the Rocks

4. Probability forecasts would take some getting used to, but they are a better way to tell the public about major weather events.

By Graham T. Beck in Time

5. Improving the ‘cold chain’ — how food stays fresh from farm to table — could massively reduce waste and carbon emissions.

By Adam Wernick at Public Radio International

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Military

U.S. Plans to Keep 1,000 Additional Troops in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Travels To Mideast
Mark Wilson—Getty Images Mohammed Ashraf Ghani President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan walks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel down a red carpet during an arrival ceremony at the Presidential Palace on Dec. 6, 2014 in Kabul.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who resigned in November, made the remarks on one of his last diplomatic trips to the country

The U.S. military will keep 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan next year than originally planned, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Saturday. The number of troops in the country will be lowered to 10,800 next year. Originally the U.S. had planned to reduce the force to 9,800 troops.

The delayed withdrawal will not affect long-term troop reduction plans, NBC News reports. In 2016, the U.S. still plans to reduce its troops to 5,500. By 2017, the U.S. will only have an embassy presence in the country.

Hagel made the remarks on a trip to Kabul to meet with Ashraf Ghani, the new president of Afghanistan, which will be one of the last diplomatic trips to the country for the defense secretary, who resigned Nov. 24.

[NBC News]

TIME Military

U.S. Military Action Against ISIS Deemed ‘Operation Inherent Resolve’

US Department of Defense (DOD) shows an aircraft launching from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Arabian Gulf on Oct. 13, 2014.
Joshua Card—EPA US Department of Defense (DOD) shows an aircraft launching from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Arabian Gulf on Oct. 13, 2014.

Pentagon chose the name to "reflect the unwavering resolve and deep commitment of the U.S."

The operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria was finally given a name on Wednesday. U.S. Central Command has deemed the U.S. military actions against Islamist terrorists in Iraq and Syria “Operation Inherent Resolve.

According to the Department of Defense, the name is “intended to reflect the unwavering resolve and deep commitment of the U.S. and partner nations in the region and around the globe to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.”

Since strikes began on Aug. 8, the operation has gone without a name, but the Pentagon announced Wednesday all actions against ISIS since that time will be considered a part of Operation Inherent Resolve.

And yet, military officials seemingly weren’t always in favor of the operation’s new moniker. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier in October that the name had been rejected by military officials, who said the name wasn’t the right fit for the effort. One unnamed officer was quoted as saying, “It is just kind of bleh.”

TIME Iraq

U.S. Launches New Air Strikes in Iraq to Protect Dams

The U.S. has conducted 138 airstrikes in Iraq so far

Updated 10:31 a.m.

The U.S. launched a series of airstrikes against Islamic militants in western Iraq this weekend to protect vital dams, the Pentagon said. The new airstrikes targeted fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) operating near western Iraq’s Haditha Dam and Mosul Dam.

“At the request of the Government of Iraq, the U.S. military today conducted coordinated airstrikes against [ISIS] terrorists in the vicinity of the Haditha Dam in Anbar province,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement. “We conducted these strikes to prevent terrorists from further threatening the security of the dam, which remains under control of Iraqi Security Forces, with support from Sunni tribes.”

National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said the Haditha strikes were carried out “at the direction of the President and in coordination with the Government of Iraq.”

The Pentagon said in a separate statement that “additionally, an attack aircraft conducted one airstrike against ISIL near Mosul Dam on Saturday in support of Iraqi security forces protecting Mosul Dam.” The U.S. had previously carried out airstrikes to protect the Mosul Dam, but the operations near the Haditha Dam were new.

The Pentagon said it ordered the strikes to protect U.S. personnel and support Iraqi security forces. “We will continue to conduct operations as needed in support of the Iraqi Security Forces and the Sunni tribes, working with those forces securing Haditha Dam,” Kirby said.

This weekend’s strikes brings the total number of recent U.S. bombings in Iraq to 138.

TIME Military

Investigators: Bird Strikes Led to Fatal USAF Helicopter Crash

An impact with a flock of geese led to the deaths of four U.S. airmen in January, a board has found

A U.S. Air Force helicopter crash which killed four men was caused by “multiple bird strikes” to the aircraft, according to investigators.

Cpt. Christopher Stover, Cpt. Sean Ruane, Tech Sgt. Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt. Afton Ponce were killed in January when their helicopter crashed during a training mission in Norfolk, England. The U.S. Accident Investigation Board found the accident was caused by geese flying through the aircraft’s windshield, knocking the pilot and co-pilot unconscious. They were then unable to react when another bird hit the helicopter’s nose, disabling stabilization systems and eventually putting the aircraft in an uncontrolled and eventually fatal roll.

Only three seconds lapsed between the initial bird strike and the helicopter’s crash, investigators said.

The four men were in an HH-60G Pave Hawk assigned to the UK’s Royal Air Force. They were flying the helicopter as part of a nighttime training mission mimicking the rescue of a downed fighter pilot.

No civilians were injured during the crash, which saw the helicopter destroyed on impact. The estimated cost of the accident to the U.S. government was $40 million.

TIME Terrorism

Air Strikes Kill Dozens of al-Qaeda Members in Yemen

Reuters People inspect the wreckage of a car hit by an air strike in the central Yemeni province of al-Bayda on April 19, 2014.

A "massive and unprecedented" series of joint U.S.-Yemeni airstrikes was launched against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula over the weekend, reportedly killing some 55 militants but also at least three civilians in the country’s southern and central regions

Updated 1:12 p.m. ET

Air strikes killed about 55 suspected al-Qaeda operatives in southern Yemen on Sunday, officials said, in what was called an “unprecedented” series of strikes.

According to the nation’s High Security Committee, the operation focused on “terrorist elements [who] were planning to target vital civilian and military installations.” An unnamed high-level Yemeni official told CNN that the “massive and unprecedented” strike involved commandos who are now “going after high-level AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] targets.” He said the operation was launched in collaboration with the U.S., though wouldn’t confirm the use of drones in the attack. The U.S. is known to have conducted drone strikes in Yemen.

Predawn strikes targeted a mountain ridge in the southern province of Abyan, according to the official, while Yemen’s state news agency SABA said three strikes hit an al-Qaeda training camp around 450 km south of the capital Sana‘a.

AQAP is one of the terrorist group’s most lethal wings.

TIME U.S. military

U.S. Special Ops Are Soldiers Committing Suicide in Record Numbers

American Flags Planted On National Mall To Honor Service Members Who Committed Suicide
Win McNamee—Getty Images U.S. military veterans set up 1,892 American flags on the National Mall March 27, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America installed the flags to represent the 1,892 veterans and service members who committed suicide this year.

The head of Special Operations Command says more than a decade of "hard combat" is taking a tough toll on the mental health of his elite troops

Updated: April 18, 6 a.m. ET

U.S. special operations forces personnel are committing suicide in record numbers, according to a top military official, due to the traumatic effects of years of war.

Admiral William McRaven, who leads the Special Operations Command, told a conference in Tampa, Fla. that members of elite units like the Navy SEALs and Army Rangers have proved prone to depression and self-harm over the past two years, reports Reuters. “And this year, I am afraid, we are on path to break that,” he said.

“My soldiers have been fighting now for 12, 13 years in hard combat—hard combat,” McRaven added. “And anybody that has spent any time in this war has been changed by it. It’s that simple.”

Although precise figures were not provided, it is well known that the U.S. military has been struggling with suicides for a long time. In 2012, the estimated 350 active duty servicemen and servicewomen across the American armed forces that committed suicide surpassed the number lost in combat.

[Reuters]

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