The Biden Administration continued the push of its progressive agenda this week, most notably with the lifting of the ban on transgender people from serving in the military. But while some celebrated the lift, the ban opened scrutiny of equity in the armed forces. Amid that conversation, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced sweeping changes to Army Regulation 670-1, the guidepost for the appearance of all Army soldiers. The relaxation of standards in some areas, but not in others, made many — including us at SOFREP — feel that these changes are not a leveling of expectations across gender lines, but political moves to curry favor with a progressive voter base. 

Meanwhile, Trump has re-emerged by creating the “Office of the Former President.” His announcement confirmed what we’d suspected: Donald Trump will continue his MAGA campaign, now as a powerful kingmaker rather than a politician.

Internationally, Biden is already facing an uphill battle on many fronts, especially with regards to our defense posture in trouble areas like Africa and the Middle East. SOFREP sees some signs indicating that Biden and his cabinet may even reverse the troop drawdowns carried out in the waning days of the Trump administration. The increasing threat in Africa’s Sahel, where the French-led Task Force Takuba continues to exchange blows with extremists, has many experts gravely concerned. The Sahel and the largely uncontrolled desert regions of North Africa are undoubtedly becoming a powerful resource for global extremist organizations. Meanwhile, in the Sahel, Mali, which had fallen into dubious conditions after a coup last year, has dissolved its military junta and is on track to hold elections. Its example could be crucial to stabilizing the region.

Israel prepares to strike Iran
(Photo: Israeli Defense Forces)

In the Middle East, tensions between Israel and Iran and its constellation of militia groups operating in Lebanon and Syria are mounting. Iran, which brazenly announced a new uranium enrichment program last week, is licking its lips at the rumors that Biden will bring it back to the nuclear negotiating table. Biden, who seems to be assembling a handpicked team for just such a purpose, would likely loosen sanctions on the nation, something that does not sit well with Israel. In response, Israel, our strongest ally in the region, has put its defenses on alert and has assumed an offensive posture, suggesting to the SOFREP team that a major offensive is imminent.

All the while, U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq have been battling ISIS across the region as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. Just a few days ago, a joint strike killed Jabbar Salman Ali Farhan al-Issawi, also known as Abu Yasir al-Issawi, deputy commander and ISIS chief in Iraq, and 10 other ISIS members. While this is a step forward in eliminating the threat to regional stability emanating from Daesh, there is still much work to be done.

And while these beleaguered fronts challenge the fledgling administration the threat from China is mounting. In the last several weeks, Taiwan, over which China claims sovereignty, has become the focus of both the U.S. and Chinese militaries. The old wound was re-opened when a high-ranking Taiwanese delegate attended President Biden’s inauguration. China perceived this as a message that the U.S. would seek to assist Taiwan in formally breaking from the Chinese Communist Party’s control. China is now posturing and threatening an invasion to re-stake its claim to the island.

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic Winter West 2021
Petty Officer 1st Class Wahkene Kitchenmaster, a member of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) deck department, works in below-freezing temperatures to remove ice from the ship’s hull while underway in the Chukchi Sea, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. The 44-year-old heavy icebreaker is underway for a months-long Arctic deployment to protect the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham.)

As the Great Power Competition continues, Russia has emerged once again as an unpredictable player. Despite talks of a new nuclear deal with the Kremlin, one eye remains squarely fixed on Putin. SOFREP covered the recent U.S. Coast Guard daunting mission to the Arctic to clear shipping lanes to strategic outposts and observe Russian fishing fleets operating in the Bering Sea. 

While the new administration works to find its footing, troubles at home continue to vex our veterans. Reports swirled about the sentencing of former Navy SEAL Tony DeDolph this week for his part in the death of Special Forces operator Logan Melgar. The case, which has been ongoing for years, points to growing issues inside the special operations community which has been beleaguered by 20 years of non-stop missions. The sentencing was bookended by a report which detailed sexual abuse and misconduct of a doctor at a West Virginia VA hospital. The report underscores the peril facing our servicemembers as they transition out of the military and into civilian life. 

For us, the stories of our dear departed brothers-in-arms can bring us peace. This week, SOFREP was honored to share a series of stories about Navy SEAL John Zinn written by our CEO Brandon Webb. Don’t miss the heartfelt and harrowing accounts of his life and the lessons his example leaves for the rest of us. I encourage you to begin with Part I

CIA mission to find Usama bin Laden with a predator drone

On SOFREP Radio this week we reached way back to the late 90s and the early days of the CIA mission to find and track Osama bin Laden. Our guests, Alec Bierbauer and Col. Mike Cooter (ret.), recounted the technological revolution they helped usher in with the creation of the world’s first Predator drone. They also talked about how they learned, on the fly, how to develop the platform into a search-and-destroy machine. In Gear, we dusted off one of our favorites — the KelTec Sub 2000 — and looked at how to find the best blade type for you

What’s in store for next week? None of us knows. But, as always, we’ll be here to bring you the stories you won’t find anywhere else with insights and analysis from people who have actually been there. 

In the meantime,

Stay frosty

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