Tag: Afghanistan

A Brief Overview of the War in Afghanistan

After the September 11th attack on the United States, President George W. Bush issued an ultimatum to the rulers of Afghanistan.  He demanded they hand over to the terrorists responsible for the attack.  Afghanistan’s Taliban – Islamic fundamentalists ruling the area – refused to surrender terrorist leader Osama bin-Laden.  As a result, within a month of the assault on the US, air-strikes commenced.

The goal of the United States was to extricate the Taliban from power, locate Osama bin-Laden and destroy his organization known as Al-Qaeda.  The US received additional support from British forces, other soldiers and Afghans who opposed the Taliban.

The Taliban Fleas Kabul

Hamid KarzaiIn November of 2001, Taliban forces left the capital city of Kabul and fled to the mountainous area on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  As a result, the United States was able to assist Afghanistan in installing a new government with Hamid Karzai as President.

The Taliban slowly gained strength and forces found it difficult to fight them given the remote caves and mountainous regions they inhabited.  Many felt their efforts were futile.  As a result, in December of 2009 President Obama unveiled a new strategy – rapidly deploy 30,000 additional troops in an effort to break the momentum of the Taliban.

Progress was slow and additional obstacles remained.  The support of the Afghan government was being slowly eroded by fraudulent accusations against the followers of the re-elected President Karzai.  In addition, efforts to uproot the Taliban appeared futile.  However, in May of 2011, after the assassination of Osama bin-Laden by US Navy SEAL Team 6, President Obama announced his intentions to hasten the withdrawal of American troops.

Pressure Mounts to Withdraw US Troops

Pressure to pull US troops out of Afghanistan mounted as the result of three separate incidents in early 2012.  The Afghans first became enraged with the discovery of a video tape showing four US Marines urinating on Taliban insurgent corpses.  Next, it was discovered that copies of the Koran, the central religious text of Islam, had been burned in a trash incinerator on a US base.  Despite a spokesperson declaring it an accident, the incident sparked violent riots, leaving 30 people dead.  Among the dead were two American officers.

The third incident involved a US soldier who reportedly went from house to house murdering 16 Afghans and burning some of the bodies – many of whom were women and children.  As a result, President Karzai ordered the US troops to withdraw from Afghan villages and return to military bases.

Final Plans for Withdrawal

A number of Americans are in favor of the President hastening the withdrawal of US troops.  Currently, military and political leaders are against any changes being made to the schedule, which targets December, 2014 for the last of the current 90,000 US troops to leave Afghanistan, a date which will mark the end of the US involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

Today’s Top Ten Armies (Military Powers) in the World

This list of Top Ten Armies (Military Powers) in the world is subjective at best.  Unless you looked at specific aspects and judged based on that criteria alone, the list cannot be definitive.  One can look at a nation’s defense budget or the size of their enlisted members, or combine the two.  Another area for consideration is the amount of armor a nation has inventoried including tanks, helicopters, aircraft and ships.  This top ten took in a little of all of that, but it is still one perspective looking at the Armies around the world.  Input and educational pieces on other armies not listed here, or any additional information that may have been omitted, are welcomed.

Before listing the top ten, one country fell just short of making the list, but certainly deserves to be mentioned – North Korea.  They not only have one of the largest Special Forces in the world – 120,000 members – they have a very large inventory of armor.

10.  Pakistan

Pakistan is known for their good upper leadership.  Founded in 1947, their three branches of service totals more than 600,000 people – all volunteers.  They have close Pakistan Aircraftties to the militaries of the US and China.  Pakistan’s budget of over $5 billion is smaller than all the other top ten militaries, but it does exceed the overall defense budget of a number of other countries around the world.  While Pakistan has about the same number of naval craft as the United Kingdom (see below), they have more aircraft and helicopters and an incredible total of 9,000 tanks and armored vehicles.  They have assisted the United States in their War on Terrorism by fighting the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and along their own borders.

9.  United Kingdom  

British Forces include three branches of service, – the navy, the army and the air force. Below are some figures for the United Kingdom – the figures presented could vary slightly:

  • British HelicopterActive Military (including army, navy and air force) – 197,700
  • Reserve – 212,000
  • Paramilitary – 152,000
  • Aircraft and Helicopters – 1,800
  • Tanks and Armored Vehicles – 5,500

Despite having one of the smallest numbers of active military, the militaries of the United Kingdom are a sustainable force and their SAS is among the world’s top Special Forces.  Britain is a steadfast ally of the U.S.

8.  Iran

Iran militaryIran has one of the best small forces in the world.  Half of this countries government’s income goes towards defense.  Their modern day military was first founded in 1923 and currently boasts over 500,000 active members.  In addition, its defense budget of $10 billion has allowed more aircraft than the US and UK combined and almost the same amount of aircraft and helicopters as China, a country with a much larger force and budget.

7.  Turkey

Turkey militaryTurkey’s Army dates back over 2,000 years.  Their modern day militaries were not established though until 1920.  Turkey has over 600,000 members in its military forces and its budget is close to $19 billion.  This country comes in fourth for the total number of tanks and armored vehicles – 11,000 plus.  All Turkish males – once they reach 20 years of age – are required to serve in the military.  There are very few exceptions to this requirement.

6.  Germany 

Germany's Leopard IIMuch of Germany’s notable military history began with the rise of Hitler.  They were responsible for the start of WWII when they invaded Poland.  When the war was over, the country divided and the West German Army was formed.  It wasn’t until the 1990s the country reunited.  Currently, Germany has more than 200,000 active military members who are well-trained and well-equipped.  Germany boasts of one of the best tanks in the world – the Leopard II.

5.  France

France's MilitaryFrance’s military does not have the reputation as a super power, but its numbers would say differently.  Their military totals over 360,000 members spread throughout their navy, air force and paramilitary branches.  All three branches are very well rounded, but many feel their navy is bar far their strongest branch.  France’s defense budget comes in just over $58 billion.  Despite this impressive budget, it still has the smallest number of aircraft and helicopters than any other country on this list.

4.  India

India has a more advanced Air Force and very-well trained Special Forces.  They have four branches of military and also additional paramilitary units.  Their active military India's militaryhas more than 1.3 million members.  India has an additional 2.1 million in reserves and their paramilitary has 1.3 million members.  In all, India has more than 4.7 million total members.

Despite their large number of service members, India’s aircraft and helicopter and tank and armored vehicle totals put them only in the center of the list of countries listed here and they do have the smallest naval craft fleet.  Some estimates of nuclear warheads in India’s possession go as high as 80.


3.  Russia

This former superpower still has a large amount of equipment in its military inventory.  They have well over 1.2 million active military members and an additional 750,000 in Russian Militarythe reserve.  Their paramilitary total comes in at around 5,000.  The total military budget for Russia is in excess of $64 billion.  Only two countries have a higher military budget than Russia – the United States and China.

The current known Russian force was first founded in 1992, but Russia’s military history dates back to as early as 863.  Between the ages of 18 and 27, all male Russians are drafted into the country’s service for a period of 12 months.  A few exceptions, such as being a student or the parent of two or more children, serve as exemptions to this otherwise steadfast rule.

Russia is known to have the largest number of nuclear warheads on hand, but most of them are not active.

2.  China

Founded in 1927, the People’s Liberation Army of China has more than 2.3 million China's militaryactive service members in its military making it the largest active force in the world. With a reserve of 800,00 and a paramilitary of 1.5 million, in all, China has more than 4.5 million military members.   China’s defense budget of $129 billion is continually increasing each year by an average of 12 to 15%.  This total makes it the second largest defense budget in the world – second only to the United States.  China is believed to house as many as 240 nuclear warheads.

1.  United States

The US military has history dating back to 1775 when it first formed forces (Continental Army) to fight in the Revolutionary War.  The US Army has been involved in every major world war as well as the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the Global War on Terrorism.

United States militaryThe defense budget for the United States is more than the combined totals of the previous nine countries coming in at over $689 billion.  The US has just over 1.4 million active military members, another 1.4 million reserve members and 11,000 in its paramilitary.  The US ranks second behind Russia in the total number of warheads, but it does have the largest number of active warheads.  The United States leads in the overall aircraft and helicopters – 21,000 – but is just barely ahead of China with its total of tanks and armored vehicles.  The United States also has an impressive 12 aircraft carriers in its fleet.

This list of today’s top ten armies (military powers) in the world, certainly sheds light on the overall power of these nations given their impressive numbers in members, equipment and budget.

M113 Armored Personnel Carrier

The M113 is an amphibious armored personnel carrier that was put into service in 1960.  It was first used in the Vietnam War in 1962 and became the most extensively used armored vehicle in the US military in that war.  Though mainly referred to by the allies as an APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) or ACAV (armored cavalry assault vehicle), the M113 was often referenced by its nickname ‘Green Dragon’.  This carrier was capable of breaking through heavy jungle thicket, allowing troops to attack even the most remote enemy positions.

The M113, unlike its predecessor the M59, was made out of aluminum armor, which still provided protection against small arms fire, but made it lighter in comparison.  The lighter weight of the M113 made it easier to transport.  The US Army mainly uses the M113 today as an armored ambulance, mortar carrier or an engineer or command vehicle.  Front-line combat missions were taken over by the M2 and M3 Bradley.

Development of the M113

The M113 was also developed by the Food Machinery Corporation (FMC), manufacturers of the M59 and M75.  It bore a striking resemblance to these two earlier personnel carriers and was a combination of the best features of each.  FMC worked in conjunction with Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Company to come up with the M113s lighter armor.    FMC submitted two design proposals to the Army – the aluminum T113 and the T117, which was made mostly from steel.  The lighter aluminum, however, provided as much protection as the steel so in 1960, the US Army adopted the prototype, now known as the M113.  Once the M113 was implemented in Vietnam, it became quickly noted that survivability of the exposed commander was crucial.  Eventually, shields were created using scraps from armored vehicles.

Brief Look at the Military Use of the M113

Vietnam – the M113s were utilized heavily during the Vietnam War.  They were often used in offensive operations and search and destroy missions and were part of two of the largest invasions in Vietnam – Cambodia in 1970 and Laos in 1971.

Other Combat – Variants of the M113 Personnel Carrier have also been used in the Invasion of Panama, the Iran-Iraq War, the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War and are still being used today in Afghanistan.  These later variants have been modernized with newer technology and upgrades.


  • Crew:  2
  • Passengers:  11
  • Main Armament:  M2 Browning machine gun
  • Operational Range:  300 miles
  • Speed:  42 miles per hour / 3.6 miles per hour in the water

The M113 variants remain in service today bringing total production of this armored personnel carrier well over 80,000 vehicles.

United States M16 Assault Rifle

The United States M16 assault rifle was designed in 1956, but production did not begin until 1963.  This rifle is considered one of the top rifles of the military.  The M16 first entered into service in the US Army during the Vietnam War as an effective weapon against jungle warfare – becoming standard issue by the US military by 1969.  After Vietnam, the variants of the M16 have remained the primary service rifles of the US armed forces.  This assault rifle is also used by a number of militaries throughout the world.  To date, more than 8 million M16s have been manufactured world-wide, making this assault rifle the most produced firearm of its caliber.

Step back in time as you step into the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum.  Feel the power insisde this extensive gallery of authentic weapons from around the world dating throughout history.  Included in this display is an M16 Assault Rifle. 

About the M16

A lightweight, air-cooled assault rifle, the M16 is built using steel, an aluminum alloy, composite plastics and polymer.  This 5.56 x 45 mm NATO cartridge rifle is magazine fed, capable of 12 to 15 rounds per minute of sustained firing and 45 to 60 rounds per minute of semi-automatic firing.  Its muzzle velocity is 3,110 feet per second and the M16 has an effective range of 550 meters point target and 800 meters for an area target.  The barrel length on the M16 is 20 inches and it only weighs 7.18 lbs. (without ammo).

Originally, the rifle experienced a jamming problem known as ‘failure to extract’.  This occurs when the spent cartridge does not eject from the chamber, but remains lodged inside, even after the bullet as left the muzzle.  The source of this difficulty was due to the new gunpowder used in the M16 which had not been adequately tested.

Though the first M16s were relatively light, later variants were heavier due to the thicker barrel (only forward of the handguards) profile, which made it more resistant to damage and slower to overheat engaged in sustained fire.  The M16 also features a carrying handle, a rear sight assembly located on top of the receiver and a ‘Low Light Level Sight System’.

Another attribute of the M16 is a recoil spring located in the stock (right behind the action), allowing a dual function of operating both the spring and the recoil buffer.  During automatic fire, the alignment of the stock with the bore reduces the muzzle rise, but since the recoil does not have a significant effect on the point of aim, faster follow-up shots are possible, reducing user fatigue.

Combat and Current Use

The M16 variants are still being produced today.  Since its inception, this assault rifle has been used in a number of combat situations including Vietnam, the Invasion of Panama, the Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War.

Beginning in 2010, the US Army started phasing out the M16, replacing it with the M4 carbine, which in effect is a shortened derivative of the M16 variant – M16A2.  The United States M16 Assault rifle is still being used throughout the world with an estimated 90% still in operation.