Here’s your Situation Update for May 22, 2018

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Marines return to Sangin to advise Afghan National Army in combat operations (Department of Defense photo)

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is cloudy with a 30% chance of you skipping over the weather forecast to get to the main content. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

The Department of Defense chose the ninth general to run the war in Afghanistan. Lt. Gen. Scott Miller comes from Joint Special Operations Command and will take over the war as it enters its 18th year this fall. Outgoing Gen. Nicholson visited Farah, the city that was overrun by the Taliban last week. Nicholson boasted with the Afghan defense minister that the time it took for Afghan and coalition forces to react to Taliban fighters (overrunning the city, killing Afghan security forces, and laughing and joking while strolling in the streets) represented progress.

Israel claimed to be the first country to use the F-35 in combat in remarks to local media. “We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts,” the Israel air force chief said. The most advanced fighters in the world are flying in the Middle East as foreign powers fight a proxy war in Syria. Last winter, Russian Su-57s were spotted in Syria. American F-35s and F-22s are also in the area of operations.

Iraq sentenced a Belgian to death for being a member of Islamic State in a 10 minute hearing. The Belgian appeared in an IS video threatening Europe. So far, Iraqi courts have sentenced 300 members of IS to death including 100 foreigners. Some sentenced to death were wives of IS fighters with small children.

Turkey sentenced coup planners to life in court on Monday. 106 people involved in the 2016 failed coup received maximum sentences under Turkish law. Most evidence against them was from two participants who turned state’s witness for reduced sentences.

Indonesian police killed 14 suspected terrorists and arrested dozens more in raids following suicide bombings last week. Those killed were people who “resisted,” said the police chief.

An unclaimed bombing killed 16 people in Afghanistan today. The bombing occurred in Kandahar, a province known for its heavy Taliban presence.

Your baby powder could be funding Islamic State in Afghanistan (IS-K) said advocacy group Global Witness in a new report. IS-K is illegally operating talc mines that is exported and makes its way to the United States and Europe.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be asked in the comments section and answers will be unhelpful. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for May 21, 2018

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Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is humid with a 50% chance of hate-reading something today. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

The Syrian army captured the last rebel stronghold near Damascus, the completely destroyed Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp. This marks the first time since the civil war began seven years ago that the Syrian government controlled its capital and surrounding neighborhoods. Rebels still control territory in the Northwest and Southwest and foreign governments like Turkey and the United States control portions of Syria as well.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to crush Iranian proxies around the world in a starkly undiplomatic speech to the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, a former Iranian proxy just won the most seats in parliament in the Iraqi election. So good luck with that, Mike.

Violence in Afghanistan is getting worse. Attacks are becoming more frequent in Kabul and locals are dealing with the same PTSD as returning American servicemembers, but they don’t get to escape.

Speaking of PTSD, Gazan paramedics are also suffering as they treated hundreds of injuries during last week’s protests at the border fence with Israel. Most injuries were tear gas and gunshot wounds from Israeli security forces. “I notice when I’m talking to my neighbors or my family, I get angry easily,” said one medic.

At NATO, where southern members have felt frustrated at a lack of attention, the removal of an Italian painting is “not a metaphor” according to the Italian ambassador. NATO will plan how to address southern members’ security concerns including counterterrorism and refugees from Africa and the Middle East.

Multiple bombings injured three people in Thailand on Sunday. A decades-long separatist insurgency has been taking place in the predominantly Buddhist Thailand’s Malay, Muslim provinces.

The Saudi military destroyed a Houthi missile fired at Jazan airbase. Reuters provided this context:

“The Houthis have fired a salvo of missiles at Saudi Arabia in recent months, including the capital, Riyadh, while the coalition launched thousands of air strikes against Houthi-held areas, killing hundreds of civilians at hospitals, schools and markets.”

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be asked in the comments section and answers will be meaningless. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for May 18, 2018

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U.K. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2010 (NATO photo)

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is sunny with a 90% chance of disastrously thinking your self-esteem requires outside validation. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

An Iranian-backed insurgency in Bahrain might be good for the U.S. says the former American ambassador. The Washington Post interviewed imprisoned Shiite insurgents in the majority Shiite, Sunni ruled country. They said they received training from Iran or Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, confirming that Iran is supporting a low-level insurgency. Yet the fact that the insurgency is supported by Iran might be the reason no attacks have been made against U.S. forces in Bahrain. Iranian support means some Iranian control and Iran does not want to risk direct conflict with the United States. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Trump asked, U.K. may deliver troops to Afghanistan, but also maybe not because troop numbers are down, overseas operation are many, and an internal poll of British forces says 61% of troops consider morale to be low.

Kuwait authored a U.N. resolution to send peacekeeping troops to Palestine, but it will likely never pass because it would require no veto from the United States. The United States historically has voted against all U.N. action in support of Palestine or condemning Israel.

The U.S. accused Cameroon of “targeted killings” against English speakers in a press conference today. Cameroon has been fighting Anglophone separatists for 18 months and has killed unarmed civilians and burned down English-speaking villages.

The cause of explosions at Hama military airport in Syria today has not been identified, but Israel has been conducting air strikes in Syria recently. 11 Syrian soldiers are reported dead.

The U.N. said 2018 was the worst year yet in the Syrian Civil War today. The official also said Syria was the worst war in modern history for attacks on protected hospitals and medical personnel.

Egypt killed 19 militants in Sinai in the last few days. Egypt is in the midst of a three-month long operation to clear the Sinai peninsula of Islamist fighters including Islamic State.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be asked in the comments section and answers will be given if the questions do not end in a preposition. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for May 17th, 2018

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Israeli Defense Force photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is sunny with a 20% chance of emotional reasoning. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

Most of the Palestinians killed by Israel were Hamas said a senior Hamas official to a Palestinian news organization. Hamas is an Islamist political party that runs Gaza and includes a militant wing whose mission is to destroy Israel. Another spokesperson for Hamas said that they were paying for the funerals of 50 of the killed whether they were Hamas or not. A third Hamas official said it is “natural to see members or supporters of Hamas in large numbers” at protests like the one at the border fence and that those killed were protesting peacefully. Human rights groups say it is irrelevant if those killed were affiliated with Hamas if they were killed while unarmed and not posing a threat to Israeli security forces.

Election-related violence continued in Iraqi Kurdistan yesterday according to the chief of the electoral commission. Several polling stations in Kirkuk were under threat of armed men to change the election results. “The employees of the commission are in a hostage situation,” said the chief.

Islamic State, diminished in Iraq in Syria, is still active in other parts of the world. The Wall Street Journal published an overview of all the places militant groups aligned with IS are still operating including Afghanistan and West Africa.

There is good news in Afghanistan according to a corrected Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report that showed Afghan troop decline is not as bad as once thought. Okay, I lied. It’s not good news. SIGAR said the corrected numbers still show a “sharp decline,” just not quite as sharp as before.

India declared a Ramadan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir, the first one in 18 years. Indian forces occupy Jammu and Kashmir and are engaged in continuing operations against Muslim separatists there. Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based separatist group, called the cease-fire a “sin” and will not honor it.

Islamic State claimed the attack on Indonesian police yesterday by four men armed with swords.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be asked in the comments section and answers will be given only if they paint the author in a good light. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for May 16th, 2018

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U.S. Marine at a training range in Jordan (Department of Defense photo)

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is wet with a 60% chance of repeating your past mistakes forever. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

Taliban forces left Farah this morning without a shot fired. One Farah resident told the New York Times: “The night was calm. It shows the utmost incompetence of our forces. The Taliban were wandering the Farah city streets openly without fear as if they had lived there a long time, making jokes with their friends and telling citizens to stay calm and not worry.” Meanwhile, the Taliban captured Dara-e Bom in Badghis Province after the Afghan soldiers and police assigned to the area fled.

In another part of Afghanistan, Islamic State still controls territory they established four years ago, despite efforts of U.S. special operations teams and Afghan forces. At the farthest checkpoint into the valley partially controlled by the Afghan franchise of Islamic State (IS-K), the local Afghan government forces do not man checkpoints 24 hours a day, so when they leave IS-K comes and mines them.

Israeli Defense Forces are still killing Palestinians in Gaza, but yesterday they only killed two.

Four sword-wielding men attacked a police checkpoint in Indonesia today. The men rammed their vehicle into the police officers, killing one, and then dismounted to attack with their swords. The police shot dead the assailants. The attack comes shortly after the multiple bombings on Monday by a family with jihadist allegiances, but the motive of today’s attackers has not yet been identified.

Libyan National Army forces began the operation to retake Derna in northeastern Benghazi. Derna is infamous for supplying jihadists to foreign conflicts. The Libyan National Army (LNA) does not answer to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, but rather the unrecognized government in Tobruk. The LNA has cleared most of Eastern Libya of jihadist fighters.

Violence in sub-Saharan Africa displaced twice the number of people it did last year says a new report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. The Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Ethiopia were the most affected by internal displacement.

A suicide bomber killed several people in Iraq today in Tarmiyah, a small town 15 miles north of Baghdad. The attack took place at a funeral meeting for a leader in Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). The PMU is an organization comprising of dozens of militias, brought together in 2014 to fight Islamic State.

This concludes your Situation Update. Please keep your questions. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for May 15th, 2018

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A U.S. Marine on a patrol near Bost Airfield, Afghanistan, April 21, 2018 (Department of Defense photo)

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is humid with a 30% chance of reaching a level of cynicism so deep it will be considered transcendental. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

“The city is closed, people are panicked and in a state of fear. Some people left their homes and fled the city, some are trapped,” said an Afghan Minister of Parliament from Farah, a city of 50,000 that was mostly captured by Taliban fighters today. The attack began at 2:00 a.m. local time and quickly overran most of the city causing the governor of the province to flee. Some areas of the city including the police headquarters are still contested. If Farah is completely taken, it will be the second major city taken by the Taliban since the U.S. invasion in 2001. “We do look towards a victory in Afghanistan, but not a military victory. The victory will be a political reconciliation.” said Secretary of Defense James Mattis earlier this month.

“We can’t put all these people in jail,” said an Israeli government spokesperson when asked why the IDF was shooting dead protesters at the fence enclosing occupied Gaza. The U.N. Humans Rights Commissioner said among those killed are “women, children, journalists, first responders and bystanders.”

Maybe we didn’t export American-style democracy to Iraq after all, since Kurdish political parties engaged in a gunfight after election results were announced. Many expected the two major political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), to fair poorly in the election after the many political losses the Kurds faced after the failed referendum last year. After local news announced that the KDP and PUK gained seats, the leading opposition party, Gorran, accused them of election fraud. In response, the PUK sent Peshmerga fighters in technicals to shoot at Gorran’s headquarters and a short gunfight ensued. Nothing says “this was a legitimate election” like attacking your political rival’s headquarters with machine guns.

Iraq continued air strikes in Syria this week and announced it destroyed an Islamic State “command and logistics support center.” Before these strikes, Iraq had not attacked its neighbors since the 1991 invasion of Kuwait. After decades of American destruction and assistance, it is now able to once again.

Houthis rockets struck military targets in SaudiArabia according to their television media division. Houthi rocket attacks in Saudi Arabia are the reason the Department of Defense says it deployed Special Forces soldiers to the Saudi border with Yemen.

This concludes your Situation Update. Please keep your questions until the end of briefing. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for May 14th, 2018

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Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, an evidently irregular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is hot with an 80% chance of making it through this, because look how far you’ve already come. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

Israeli troops killed dozens of Palestinians today in Gaza as protesters approached the fence separating Gaza from Israel. Gaza is occupied by the Israeli Defense Forces who control both the airspace and territorial waters of Gaza. Protests at the barrier have been going on for several weeks, but today the protests grew in size in response to the American announcement that it will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (considered the capital of both the Israelis and Palestinians). Associated Press reported at the time of publishing that 52 Palestinians were killed by the Israelis and more than 1,200 injured. The IDF reported that some Palestinians were armed, but no evidence has been provided.

The US successfully exported American-style democracy to Iraq apparently, since the turnout in Iraq’s elections was 44.5% — less than a typical US presidential election, but much more than a typical midterm. The winner appears to be Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric who led an insurgent militia against the American occupation.

Three church bombings in Indonesia were a family affair say police. The three separate bombings on Sunday morning were perpetrated by a father, mother, and their four young children.

A bomb was found at a South African mosque today just three days after the mosque was attacked my armed men.

Hezbollah confirmed they launched missiles at Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syria in a statement from the leader of the group, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. The missile attack marked a “new phase” in the Syrian war, said Nazrallah.

On-again, off-again American ally Turkey says the U.S. and Israel are partners in crime against humanity according to the Prime Minister in a statement to reporters in Ankara.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions have never been asked, so I wouldn’t know what to do with them. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for March 7th, 2018

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Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is clear with a 40% chance of unfairly judging yourself using higher standards than you would judge your friends. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

The U.S. postured against its NATO ally, Turkey in northwest Syria today. The U.S. Army sent the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and clearly non-Special Forces soldiers curiously captioned as such by the New York Times to Manbij to tell the press, “You hit us, we will respond aggressively. We will defend ourselves.” Turkey threatened the U.S. if it didn’t withdraw from Manbij in January.

Meanwhile, Turkey asks the U.S. to stop the Kurds from defending themselves in Afrin. If this doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, fret not. It just doesn’t make sense. That’s how international relations work.

Those Kurds say they’re leaving the fight against Islamic State to defend themselves against the Turks in northwest Syria because the U.S. let them down.

This Kurdish veteran has been fighting for four years and she’s tired of it. She’s only 19 years old.

Two soldiers and six others were arrested in connection the Burkina Faso attack last week. 

The German government approves more troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Mali.

Buddhist attacks against mosques in Sri Lanka prompted the government to shut down social media access there.

The “Gerasimov Doctrine” doesn’t exist says the man who coined the term in a public apology in Foreign Policy. Named after a speech a Russian general gave about American foreign policy in the Middle East, it became an facile explanation for Russian action in Ukraine and is used by grifters and established bureaucrats alike.

If you are located in the Oklahoma City area, I’ll be co-hosting a monthly Scotch & Strategy meetup sponsored by The Strategy Bridge this Thursday at 6pm in Norman. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Xiaobing Li who will talk about his upcoming book on the Battle of the Chosin Resevoir from a Chinese perspective. If you’d like to know more or get onto our email invite list, send me a direct message on Twitter.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section. Answers will be given to only the best people, so you should get one quickly! You’re the best. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for March 6, 2018

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Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover small wars, but it’s not the size of the small in the war, it’s the size of the war in the small.

The weather forecast this morning is warm with a 60% chance of staying up at night wondering why you did the things you did years ago. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

The military probe into the ambush in Niger that killed four American soldiers found that the team didn’t get proper approval to conduct its mission to search for an Islamic State leader. It was originally reported that the team’s mission was diverted after doing a routine patrol. The New York Times reported last month they were not properly outfitted for a more dangerous mission and communication at higher level of command broke down. The military probe blames the “team,” but it is not clear what level of command that refers to. It was reported in the Times that this Special Forces team was led by Capt. Michael Perozini, who was injured in the ambush.

An aid convoy finally reached eastern Ghouta, the besieged suburb of Damascus where rebels and civilians alike are targeted by Syrian government air strikes. The convoy from the United Nations, International Red Cross, and Syrian Arab Red Crescent delivered many supplies before it ever reached the town. It planned to stay overnight, but left after eight hours amid bombings with some trucks still full.

Calls for peace talks with the Taliban continue in Afghanistan especially by one former insurgent group leader who has been brought into the political process. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hezb-i-Islami, made peace with the Afghan government last year. Hezb-i-Islami fought U.S. and Afghan troops alike, but is now a legitimate political party. Similar situations have occurred with insurgents groups. In Lebanon, Hezbollah also successfully made the transition from armed insurgent group to legitimate political party. Hekmatyar thinks the model for his reconciliation can be used to bring the Taliban into Afghan politics and end the war.

Iraq is executing foreign women accused of supporting Islamic State but France is pushing for extradition so these women receive “fair trials” and do not face the death penalty.

Maybe dozens of Russian civilians weren’t killed in Syria after all, reports Der Spiegel. Der Spiegel claims only nine Russian contractor deaths can be confirmed and the narrative of hundreds killed was pushed originally by Russian Nationalists and reported by Western media without proper fact checking.

If you are located in the Oklahoma City area, I’ll be co-hosting a monthly Scotch & Strategy meetup sponsored by The Strategy Bridge this Thursday at 6pm in Norman. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Xiaobing Li who will talk about his upcoming book on the Battle of the Chosin Resevoir from a Chinese perspective. If you’d like to know more or get onto our email invite list, send me a direct message on Twitter.

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This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section. You don’t have to ask questions, though. You can do whatever you want. Don’t make yourself unhappy. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for February 26, 2018

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Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover small wars, but big things can come in small packages.

The weather forecast this morning is clear with a 30% chance of reflexively calling someone you don’t like at work a Russian bot. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

“It’s high time to stop this hell on earth,” said the United Nations General Secretary referring to the cease-fire in Syria. Adopted over the weekend, the 30-day ceasefire was drafted in response to the relentless campaign by Syrian government forces on a suburb of Damascus that has killed hundreds, targeted protected civilians, and possibly used chemical weapons. Unfortunately, the cease-fire has yet to have any effect, as Syrian government forces continue to attack eastern Ghouta under the pretense of attacking Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a militant group that is effectively a rebranded al-Qaida.

“The patriarchy really is over,” joked a Kurdish woman in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria in this article about how Marxist theory from an imprisoned terrorist in Turkey has revolutionized the power women have in Kurdish society. But as Kurdish militias like the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its female counterpart, the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) liberate majority Arab towns from Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or Daesh), these Arab areas, traditionally male-dominated and conservative, also get Kurdish-created feminist governments. One Arab resident of Manbij told the New York Times, “To understand the current situation, think of ISIS, but at the other end of the spectrum.” He’s making a point about radicalism, but “the opposite of ISIS” seems like pretty high praise to me.

Three Taliban attacks in southern Afghanistan killed 20 Afghan soldiers on Saturday. In one attack, Taliban fighters used an American Humvee as a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), packing it explosives and detonating it. During the attacks the Taliban fighters stole another American Humvee and captured “a lot of light and heavy weapons.”

Russian state media tried to pass off a video game as footage from Syria in a bizarre example of Russian disinformation in the news. This would be like Fox News showing footage of Call of Duty and saying it was from heroic action in Iraq. We praise the Russians for being good at disinformation, but they do so much of it that maybe it’s just the successes that get attention while these obvious failures slide under the radar.

Turkey occupied a portion of Syria’s Afrin province that it shares a border with. The campaign to enter Afrin has met resistance both from the YPG that Turkey is attempting to destroy and pro-Assad militias sent to assist the YPG in repelling Turkey. The Turkish army said the operation meant it was ready for a “new battle” and deployed special forces units to the area.

Missing Nigeria girls now number 110 after a Boko Haram attack last week. Previous reports said 75 girls were missing and that they had all been rescued.

Plan to truck oil from Northern Iraq to Iranian refineries delayed due to security concerns. Iraq recently launched an offensive to clear the area of militants, but now Iran is concerned it cannot guarantee the trucks will not have explosives on them.

Questions still linger over an American airstrike in Iraq that occurred in January in Anbar province. The town was not under IS control and it struck the police chief and other security forces as they investigated where a raid was conducted by U.S. forces and Iraqi Army. The locals do not understand why their police chief was target and the U.S. is mum on the reason for the strike. One theory is a local used the American air power to solve a personal problem.

Despite over a decade of supporting the troops, women veterans don’t feel supported says a woman veteran in this op-ed for The Atlantic. According to the piece, 74% of women veterans don’t feel supported by the general public.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section. Existential questions must be pondered silently. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Tuesday, February 27th, 2018.