A toaster-sized-life saver? A rapid Ebola-detecting device the U.S. military is using in Africa sat unused at the Dallas hospital when America’s “patient zero” walked through the door. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker with the scoop, here. He reports: “It’s a toaster-sized box called Film Array, produced by a company called BioFire, a subsidiary of bioMérieux and it’s capable of detecting Ebola with a high degree of confidence—in under an hour. Incredibly, it was present at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital when Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan walked through the door, complaining of fever and he had just come from Liberia. Duncan was sent home, but even still, FDA guidelines prohibited the hospital from using the machine to screen for Ebola.”
Patrick appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning to talk about his story – check that out here.
A U.S. Marine from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth is under voluntary 21-day quarantine after learning he was on Frontier Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas. Military Times’ Oriana Pawlyk and Patricia Kime pick up the story: “According to [Adam Bashaw, deputy chief of staff for public affairs at Marine Forces Reserve New Orleans], the Marine was on leave when he flew on Flight 1143 and imposed a self-quarantine as soon as he learned he had been on the same flight as Amber Joy Vinson, who tested positive for the Ebola virus Tuesday. The Marine was never on base after getting off the flight, Bashaw said.” More here.
U.S. troops helping build Liberia’s health system from scratch are on an extremely tight deadline. Heidi Vogt for the WSJ: “… ‘We are writing the playbook as we go,’ said Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, the head of U.S. Army Africa, who is overseeing the military portion of the effort… The U.S. military is trying to speed up the process by using four Osprey aircraft—helicopter-plane hybrids—to transport materials and workers. It also plans to use a barge to float supplies down the West African coast from Dakar, Senegal, to avoid road transport… At the Tubmanburg Ebola unit site, the U.S. military has gone with tents instead of roofed structures to save time, and avoided laying foundations when possible, said Lt. Col. Scott Sendmeyer, the chief engineer overseeing construction.” More here.
ICYMI: President Obama is considering an ebola czar and yesterday spoke on the idea of travel restrictions in light of global fears about Ebola: “I do not have a philosophical objection to a travel ban if that is a thing that will keep people safe,” he said. “I understand people are scared,” however, “If we institute a travel ban… history shows there’s a likelihood of increased avoidance… We may end up getting less information about who has the disease.” Bottom line presently: “Currently the judgment of all involved is that a flat-out travel ban is not the way to go.”
Welcome to Friday’s edition of The D Brief, Defense One’s new, first-read national security newsletter. We hope you’ll stay with us, and if you like what you see and you want us to subscribe a friend or colleague, we’re very happy to do that. Subscribe here or send us a holler at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put you on the list. Whatever you do, follow us @glubold and @natsecwatson.
The Veep’s son, Hunter Biden, was kicked out of the Navy after testing positive for cocaine. WSJ’s Colleen Nelson and Julian Barnes, who broke the story: “…. In June 2013, after reporting to his unit in Norfolk, he was given a drug test, which turned up positive for cocaine, according to people familiar with the situation. Mr. Biden was discharged in February, the Navy said.”
Hunter Biden, in a statement: it was “the honor of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge. I respect the Navy’s decision. With the love and support of my family, I’m moving forward.”
WSJ: “The Navy said Mr. Biden met all of the criteria for a direct commission, but declined to provide any details of why he was discharged. ‘Like other junior officers, the details of Ens. Biden’s discharge are not releasable due to the Privacy Act,’ Cmdr. Ryan Perry, a Navy spokesman, said.
“Navy personnel who are discharged from the military because of a failed drug test don’t receive honorable discharges. Most are given an ‘other than honorable’ or ‘general’ discharge. It isn’t clear which discharge Mr. Biden received, and the Navy doesn’t release the discharge status of low-ranking officers or junior enlisted personnel.” More here.
Today: Gen. Jim Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, retires and Gen. “Fighting Joe” Dunford takes over the Corps in a “passage of command” today at the Marine Barracks in Washington. Watch that live at 10 am here.
Also today: Is this a first? U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin appears at the Pentagon to talk about operations in Iraq and Syria that now have a name—Operation Inherent Resolve. Austin, widely respected but not terribly press-friendly, could become the face of the military’s war effort. Watch his briefing at 10 a.m. live here.
U.S. airstrikes in Kobani in Syria are pushing militants back. CNN this hour: “The strikes are helping Kurdish fighters on the ground push back ISIS militants in the Syrian town, according to sources there… In recent weeks, administration and U.S. defense officials have said it wasn’t essential to keep the city, not far from the border with Turkey, from becoming the latest in Syria to fall into ISIS hands.”
“We never said Kobani didn’t matter,” Kirby said. “What makes Kobani matter for us from an airstrike perspective is that (ISIS is) there, and that they want it.” More here.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State’s advance towards Baghdad remains concerning, the WaPo’s Loveday Morris reports on Page One this morning from Abu Ghraib: “…Despite U.S. and allied airstrikes intended to crush them, the Sunni extremists have been steadily consolidating power in the majority-Sunni province to the west. Islamic State fighters continued to advance Thursday, closing in on the Anbar town of Amriyat al-Fallujah, one of the last in the province still controlled by the government. Local officials begged the government to send reinforcements, warning that the town could be overrun in a matter of hours.
“If Anbar falls, it’s going to have a huge impact, for us and all Baghdad,” Gen. Ali al-Majidi, a commander with the Iraqi army’s 6th Division, said Tuesday as he visited troops on the front line near Abu Ghraib. ‘This is the gate of Baghdad; if they took this area, they could mortar the airport.’” More here.
Ramadi under curfew as fears of an ISIS assault rise. AP’s Qassim Abdul-Zahra, this hour: “The curfew began at midnight as part of an effort to limit movement in and out of the city as government forces prepared to eliminate pockets of resistance there, said Sabah Karhout, the chairman of the Anbar provincial council. Ramadi, the capital of the vast Sunni-dominated province of Anbar, is located 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad.” More here.
Is Kobani a strategic prize or not? AP’s Lara Jakes: “The Obama administration has declared Kobani a humanitarian disaster, but not a factor in the overall strategy to defeat the Islamic State group…Now, the U.S. cannot afford to lose Kobani, said Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria. That means the city’s fate is tied, in part at least, to the success of the U.S.-led strategy against the Islamic State. Read the rest here.
From Defense One, a three-part expert commentary examines why containment is (or is not) a terrible idea for ISIS, terrorism—or any foreign policy today.
Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Security here.
Thomas Karako of the Center for Strategic and International Studies here.
And Heritage Foundation VP James Jay Carafano here.
Zingers! Defense One’s Kedar Pavgi picked up on a line or two from the long presser at State yesterday in which Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby appeared with State spokesperson Jen Psaki. Kirby didn’t say much new, but @kedarpavgi tweeted this Kirby-ism on the U.S. targeting militants near Kobani: “The idea is not to put a warhead on a forehead every single day” and “The career path for an ISIL member is very short and we’re going to try to make it shorter.”
Iraqi defectors are reportedly training ISIS to fly jets captured in Syria. Reuters this hour: “The group has been flying the planes over the captured al-Jarrah Syrian military airport east of Aleppo, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing witnesses in Syria’s northern Aleppo province… It was not clear whether the jets were equipped with weaponry or whether the pilots could fly longer distances in the planes, which witnesses said appeared to be MiG 21 or MiG 23 models captured from the Syrian military.” More here.
The Obama doctrine in Yemen fails. The WaPo’s editorial page:
“The Houthis’ surge may make it impossible for the Obama administration to continue critical operations against al-Qaeda, which reportedly have included 19 drone strikes this year alone. It should force a reexamination of Mr. Obama’s model of managing threats from jihadist movements with narrowly focused training and advising of local forces and no effort to help build national institutions. Interventions that ignore the need to create functioning political systems and professional forces that can ensure domestic security only open the door to failed states—and heightened threats to the United States.” Read the rest here.
Who says the brass gets treated differently? Even general officers get hung up clearing customs overseas. Just ask Maj. Gen. Walter Piatt, deputy commanding General, U.S. Army Europe, and commander of U.S. Army NATO when he landed in Istanbul a few weeks ago. Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber sends this gem, quoting Piatt, who appeared at the Defense Writers Group in Washington on Thursday: “I landed in Turkey late at night the other night and we didn’t file the right flight plan and it took me personally two hours with State Department assistance and VIP treatment just to clear customs.”
What’s up with those Air Force jets flying Kerry? John Kerry’s U.S. Air Force C-32 jet broke down for the fourth time this year—and the third time in three months. AP here.
Legendary World War II “corespondent” Ernie Pyle might have smiled over this one. From Indianapolis Star’s Michael Anthony Adams: “Thanks to a new sculpture outside Indiana University’s Media School building in Bloomington, a bronzed Pyle now may be remembered for sporting a patch on his arm with the word “correspondent” misspelled… From afar, the piece is immaculate, but if you look closely at the press patch on Pyle’s left arm, you’ll notice ‘correspondent’ is spelled ‘corespondent.’” More here.
Back to the news –
Today’s discussions between Russia, Ukraine and the EU over pro-Russian rebels and gas supplies to Europe hit a rough spot (again). Reuters with this: “Speaking off the record, a German source said Putin had not been in a “too constructive mood”… The stand-off over pricing is the third in a decade between Moscow and Kiev, though this time tensions are higher because of the fighting in eastern Ukraine… ‘It was good, it was positive,’ a smiling Putin told reporters after the meeting… However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later poured cold water on hopes of any breakthrough, saying “certain participants” had taken an ‘absolutely biased, non-flexible, non-diplomatic’ approach to Ukraine.” More here.
Fewer than four percent of those killed by drone strikes in Pakistan have been identified as members of al-Qaeda. Via The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Naming the Dead Project: “Only 704 of the 2,379 dead have been identified, and only 295 of these were reported to be members of some kind of armed group. Few corroborating details were available for those who were just described as militants. More than a third of them were not designated a rank, and almost 30% are not even linked to a specific group. Only 84 are identified as members of al Qaeda—less than 4% of the total number of people killed.” Adds the BIJ: “This calls in to question US Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim last year that only ‘confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level’ were fired at.” The full analysis here.