This morning: Saudi-led airstrikes hit the presidential compound that was President-in-exile Mansour Hadi’s last refuge in Aden. AFP, here.
Meantime, the U.S. is worried about Saudi’s goals in Yemen and is expanding its role, vetting targets and scouring ships bound for Yemen as a result. The WSJ’s Maria Abi-Habib and Adam Entous: “…U.S. officials worry mounting civilian casualties will undermine popular support in Yemen and in other Sunni Arab countries backing the campaign. At least 648 civilians have been killed since the intervention began, and Saudi-led strikes have hit hospitals, schools, a refugee camp and neighborhoods, according to U.N. officials.
“…U.S. officials have grown concerned that some Saudi leaders may be shifting their war aims, wanting to bomb the rebels back to their base in the country’s north, according to officials involved in the discussions. Such an extended campaign could take a year or longer, according to U.S. intelligence assessments.
“In recent meetings, Saudi officials have told their American counterparts they want the air campaign to be decisive and don’t want to take half-measures because they believe the Houthis will use any pause to regroup and restart their offensive later, according to officials on both sides. More here.
Are the Saudis about to recruit and train a local ground force for Yemen? Bloomberg View’s Josh Rogin and Eli Lake with more on that new development—in its “preliminary phase”—and its volatile implications, here.
What does Saudi really want in Yemen? CNN’s Ali AlAhmed: “…The kingdom’s real motives seem clear if one looks at Saudi monarchy’s history of not allowing regional competition of any kind, while consistently combating efforts to build democratic governments that empower the people.” Read the rest here.
The U.S. is trying to stop the flow of Iranian arms into Yemen. The WSJ’s Dion Nissenbaum: “…the officials said [a recent operation] marked the U.S. Navy’s first boarding operation in an expanding campaign to ensure Iran doesn’t supply game-changing weapons such as surface-to-air missiles that would threaten Saudi-led airstrikes on the Houthis.” More here.
And Saudi has resisted Tehran’s calls to a ceasefire. NBC this morning: “Saudi Arabia dismissed Iranian calls to end air strikes on neighboring Yemen on Sunday as Saudi-led attacks hit a military camp in the Yemeni city of Taiz, killing eight civilians according to a medical source.
“…The air raids on the central Yemeni city targeted a site held by soldiers loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh who have joined up with Houthi fighters against local militias in the south, the source said.” More here.
With Al-Qaeda in Yemen—like the Saudi-led coalition—having set its sights on the Houthis, the sense of utter chaos on the ground is reaching new levels. Reuters this morning, here.
And make no mistake: there is a humanitarian crisis still brewing in Yemen. U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman: “Yemen is on the brink of an all-out humanitarian crisis, as steadily increasing violence tearing the young country apart has displaced tens of thousands of people, many of whom remain trapped in an active war zone.
“Reports emerged Friday that medical aid from the International Committee of the Red Cross and UNICEF was finally able to enter Yemen by plane into the capital of Sana’a. The news followed Red Cross complaints from earlier in the week that the Saudi-led coalition, to which the U.S. is providing assistance, had blocked aid shipments into Yemen amid its ongoing air campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels on the ground.” More here.
ICYMI: a series of reports by PBS’ Frontline on Yemen, all here.
Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief, by Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson.
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What does the Army want from robots 10 years into the future? Self-driving ATVs that can carry troops in combat, for one thing. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker with more: “Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, deputy commander of the Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, has commissioned a doctrine on autonomy and robotic systems. Expected for release in January, it will be a followup to November’s Army Operating Concept for 2020-40, and will lay out the Army’s expectations for robotics.”
Meantime, “Here are some of the things the Army wants from its future bots, according to Army Lt. Col. Matt Dooley: 1. Allow forces to maneuver out of contact and exploit known enemy positions. 2. Enable smaller manned expeditionary force advantage…” Read the rest, here.
The man behind the A-10 “treason” remarks, Air Force’s Maj. Gen. James Post, has been fired. The battle over the Air Force’s A-10 Warthog – the Air Force wants to retire the plane, Congress wants to keep it going – is getting ugly. Now a two-star is in hot water for trying to prevent his folks from talking to Congress over it. Air Force Times’ Jeff Schogol: “The two-star general who told officers they would be “committing treason” by advocating to Congress that the A-10 should be kept in service has been fired and reprimanded, Air Combat Command announced on Friday. The military blog John Q Public first reported in January that Maj. Gen. James Post made the comments at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, prompting the Air Force Inspector General’s Office to look into the matter.
“The IG found that Post did use the word ‘treason’ during his remarks to more than 300 airmen at the Jan. 10 Tactics Review Board, an Air Combat Command news release says. ‘The IG report surmised that Post’s ‘choice of words had the effect of attempting to prevent some members from lawfully communicating with Congress,’ which is a violation of the U.S. Code and DoD Directives, whether that was his intention or not,’ the news release says.” More here.
Duncan Hunter’s wrote an op-ed in defense of SF soldier Matt Golsteyn that amounts to a take-down of John McHugh. California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, in Army Times: “… Many times, a decision regarding one soldier is a decision that affects all. But there are times when that same leadership gets things wrong and stubbornly refuses to do the right thing —for whatever reason. The latest example of such a mistake involves a former Special Forces soldier and war hero, Maj. Matthew Golsteyn. Soon, Matt will face a board of inquiry to decide his future in the Army. The allegation under review: In 2010, he killed an unarmed insurgent bomb maker responsible for the death of at least two Marines in the area of Marjah.
“The same leadership in place to protect soldiers like Matt has already created a premature presumption of guilt without a shred of verifying evidence. Specifically, based on the allegation alone, Secretary [John] McHugh revoked Matt’s Silver Star, which was the interim award for an earlier and separate incident that led to a Distinguished Service Cross nomination. McHugh even signed off on the DSC, but he revoked that, too. And, as a thumb in the eye, McHugh directed that Matt be stripped of his Special Forces tab, which he earned, along with the Silver Star and DSC.” Read the rest here.
Army Chief Gen. Ray Odierno will honor comedian Stephen Colbert, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and three others Tuesday at Virginia’s Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Army Times’ Michelle Tan with more on the full who/when/why, here.
A Fort Drum soldier to join first Army Ranger course for women. The Watertown Daily Times’ Gordon Block, here.
If the U.S. wants to be “the world’s fastest incorporator of new technology,” as the House Armed Services Committee’s Mac Thornberry aims for with his acquisition reform package, there’s still a considerable distance to go, Brookings’ Jason Tama writes in Defense One: “Let’s start with the good news. There is strong bipartisan support for improving defense acquisitions; Thornberry’s bill is co-sponsored by the HASC’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and both Pentagon and Senate Armed Services Committee leadership have made reform a priority. There is some promising political momentum, and the NDAA – the target legislative vehicle – is likely one of few bills in Congress with wheels to move.
“So what’s the bad news? In attempting to remove barriers, Thornberry adds another… Unfortunately, barriers to reform are higher and more deeply rooted than most in Washington realize.” More here.
The Pentagon’s top lawyer, Stephen Preston, defended the evolution of the legal justification for U.S. military action in the ongoing war on terrorism in a rare address on Friday, Defense One’s Molly O’Toole reports, here.
A Russian fighter jet intercepted a U.S. Air Force RC-135U recon plane over the Baltics last week in the most serious midair confrontation between the two nations in years. USA Today’s William Meech, here.
Freshman Senator from Arkansas and former Army officer Tom Cotton proposes airstrikes on Iran as sufficient to curb its nuclear program. But this is the last thing the U.S. needs to do in its relations with Tehran, the Truman National Security Project’s Matt Pelak argues in Defense One, here.
Iran, ISIS and China: SecDef Ash Carter spoke with CNN’s Erin Burnett in a spot that aired Friday night in which he spoke firmly about Cotton’s little proposal. Carter talked about the bunker-busting bomb against Iran that’s ready to go, Tom Cotton and the Ayatollah’s comments last week about the Iran deal. He also answered questions about what is the biggest threat, ISIS or al-Qaida, and China’s island campaign.
Here’s what Carter said about the U.S. ability to shut down Iran’s nuclear capability militarily: “…we have the capability to shut down, set back and destroy the Iranian nuclear program and I believe the Iranians know that and understand that. Certainly everybody else in the region knows that and understands that. If we were to do that it is also important to think about what the next step would be. And as the president has indicated they could over time than recreate a nuclear program, they would then be free of sanctions of course, because this whole arrangement would have blown up.
“And we would be in a worse position then. So we could do it and it would set back the Iranian nuclear program for some period of time. And what the objective of the negations has been to get that much certainty through negotiation rather than through military action because the military action is reversible over time.” Watch the whole bit here.
Carter kept a low profile during his recent trip to Asia, crediting the presence of U.S. troops in Korea for helping maintain regional calm. AP’s Bob Burns, here.
Also, Carter wants the Pentagon to build an internal social media network to revolutionize the way troops are tasked and monitored for advancement. Military Times’ Andrew Tilghman, here.
The U.S. is softening up targets with an escalated air campaign ahead of the Iraqi security forces’ offensive in the largely Sunni region of Anbar — but only after Iraq recalled Shia militiamen. NYT’s Rod Nordland and Falih Hassan, here.
A federal case brings questions about drone strikes back to the fore. Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt with a lede on Page One: “A Texas-born man suspected of being an operative for Al Qaeda stood before a federal judge in Brooklyn this month. Two years earlier, his government debated whether he should be killed by a drone strike in Pakistan.
“The denouement in the hunt for the man, Mohanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, who was arrested last year in Pakistan based on intelligence provided by the United States, came after a yearslong debate inside the government about whether to kill an American citizen overseas without trial — an extraordinary step taken only once before, when the Central Intelligence Agency killed the radical cleric nwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011.” Read the rest here.
Congress, meantime, wants the Pentagon to develop a long-range “super-drone”. The WaPo’s Christian Davenport: “…some powerful members of Congress and leading military think tanks say the Pentagon is being too cautious in its development of a technology that they think could push the boundaries of unmanned flight—and the future of warfare.
“In what has become a made-for-Washington drama, a group of Congress’ most influential members are pushing the Pentagon to develop what to some sounds like sci-fi fantasy: drones that could not just take off from carriers, but fly for days at a time, covering hundreds, if not thousands, of miles, and perhaps most importantly, haul a hefty arsenal of bombs deep into enemy territory.” More here.
Al-Qaida says American drones killed two AQ leaders in Pakistan. AP, here.
Who’s doing what today? The Pentagon’s Frank Kendall pulls off a three-fer (delivering speech, chats in a moderated discussion and takes audience questions) on acquisition reform via the Brookings Institution at 1:30 p.m. More here.
Also today: Four former Blackwater contractors are scheduled to be sentenced in 2008 shooting in Iraq. The NYT’s Matt Apuzzo, here.
And, also today: DARPA’s Program Manager Dr. Paul Cohen and IARPA’s Associate Director from the Office for Anticipating Surprise, Dr. Jason Matheny join Defense One’s Patrick Tucker for a discussion on “Big Data for Defense & National Security: Maintaining the US Technological Edge.” That happens at 11 a.m. EDT, and you can sign up for the live viewcast of the event or read a bit more about it, here.
The Christian Science Monitor’s Passcode’s Sara Sorcher and New America’s Peter Singer have a new podcast on cyber. They chat with Alex Stamos, Yahoo’s chief information security officer, about his company’s new end-to-end e-mail encryption rollout, what it’s like to lead a team of so-called “Paranoids” and why people who have his job are so stressed out. We also discuss how bug bounties are opening up new pipelines of talent and how information-sharing legislation is not a panacea. The panel discussion also includes Heather West of Internet firm CloudFlare about the “cyber gold rush” and more. Interesting conversation - listen right here.
A celebrity chef teaming up with the Pentagon to make military meals more palatable? Or, as the WSJ’s headline writers write, “shock and au jus?” Again, The WSJ’s Dion Nissenbaum: “Celebrity chef Padma Lakshmi has taken her reality TV show to the Central Intelligence Agency for some ‘Covert Cuisine.’ She has faced down angry Massachusetts Teamsters trying to disrupt her production for not hiring their members.
“Now the ‘Top Chef’ star wants to take her show to war. Ms. Lakshmi is joining forces with the Pentagon to develop a spinoff of the hit show in an attempt to rebrand America’s widely reviled military meals into something you would want to serve your favorite dinner guests. The Pentagon has given its blessing to the project and is working with Ms. Lakshmi and her team to fine-tune the idea.
“But the challenge could be daunting. There may be no cuisine more vilified in America than that served in military mess halls around the world, known for watery slop, fried gruel and mystery meats. And that marks a step up from the prepackaged, high-calorie meals known as MREs, or meals ready to eat, which are eaten by troops on remote bases around the world.” More here.
ICYMI: Edward Snowden gave John Oliver some most excellent advice on creating a password. Turns out, a computer can guess an eight-character password in less than a second. Popular Mechanics video, here.
You should always wear clean underwear. And at least have a sport coat in the office – just in case you have a meeting with POTUS. Why one man learned that the hard way at a meeting at an Air Force base, here.