US ends train-and-equip; Let Putin fail in Syria; Milley sets three goals; Pentagon snack hack; and a bit more…

BREAKING: Obama cancels Syria train-and-equip program. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and unnamed U.S. officials with the traveling press corps at NATO headquarters said President Barack Obama on Friday is expected to announce the end of the $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels. It’s a not-so-stunning admission that “the beleaguered program had failed to produce any kind of ground combat forces capable of taking on the Islamic State in Syria,” writes the New York Times’ Helene Cooper.

…Plan B… “We have devised a number of different approaches,” Carter said. The U.S. will stop recruiting fighters for the program—for which Congress had provided half a billion dollars but just weeks ago left the Pentagon with just “four or five” people actually still fighting in Syria—and instead rebel opposition leaders in Turkey “would be taught operational maneuvers like how to call in airstrikes,” the Times reports.

U.S. destroys Islamic State training camp. Syria watchers for weeks have been counting up an imbalance: relatively few airstrikes in Syria, but more than a dozen a day in Iraq. U.S. Central Command on Friday reports just two hits in Syria but 13 in Iraq. But on the list this time is this strike: “Near Ar Raqqah, one strike destroyed an ISIL training camp.”

Don’t follow Putin into Syria, argues Defense One’s Derek Chollet, Obama’s former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. Washington pundits wanting war should realize the mouse of Moscow is “no chess master.” In fact, he has misstepped and is overstretched. His Syrian intervention will only isolate him in the region, not make him a leader. Putin’s only way out will be to sue for peace. “President Obama’s patience can be a great asset, because the answer here is not for Obama to be more like Putin,” Chollet writes, in this insightful breakdown of Putin’s self-set traps.

FBI: Syrian refugees are a national security “risk,” but because of U.S. intel “gaps.” FBI Director James Comey didn’t say refugees are national security threats, only that the U.S. lacks enough intelligence for his taste to say otherwise. But he wouldn’t explain more, in the public forum of a Senate hearing on Thursday. “There is risk associated with bringing anybody in from the outside, but especially from a conflict zone like that,” Comey said, per this CNN report. “My concern there is that there are certain gaps I don’t want to talk about publicly in the data available to us.” The questioning and comments come one day after Defense One reported there was no evidence of any threat from Syrian refugees that more than a dozen U.S. agencies could or would identify and produce.

Pentagon hacked again! Among the many sensitive IT networks that the Pentagon can’t lock down, count the lunch buffet on deck two. “My USAA debit card has been hacked again after using it at the Market Basket,” said Stars and Stripes reporter Tara Copp in an email to members of the Pentagon press corps, yesterday.

Last month, Washington Examiner reporter Jacqueline Klimas reported that credit card data from various Pentagon food and restaurant properties had been compromised. A Pentagon spokesperson told Defense One, “Several Pentagon employees contacted the Pentagon’s Force Protection Agency, [PFPA] and said ‘hey, I’m getting calls from my bank.’ There was enough of the phone calls where the PFPA guys launched an investigation and with various Pentagon concessioners.” That investigation is ongoing.

Well, it’s still happening. “It happened last month, too,” Copp wrote. “…In that case I filled out the requested PFPA forms, then got a new number/card issued. Last week I used it at the Market Basket again — I figured they had addressed the problem.”

Nope. Copp reports that she landed in Europe—traveling with Defense Secretary Ash Carter, no less—to discover that her checking account had been cleared out by “a South African vendor…They actually made a fake card with my number and created a magnetic stripe for the theft.” Copp’s advice: don’t use credit cards at that restaurant. Starving us. That’s how the Russians win.


From Defense One

New Army chief sets three goals. Gen. Mark Milley has been chief of staff of the Army just shy of two months, but he’s been getting around. A few weeks after taking a seat in Pentagon office, Milley hit the road to visit some hot spots. The two-week trip includes stops in Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Afghanistan, Europe, Indonesia and finally Korea. “There is a possibility that we could deploy significant combat forces someplace on the earth’s surface and engage in conflict,” Milley said Wednesday at a Foreign Affairs event at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. The fast-talking, Ivy-League-educated Massachusetts native has set three priorities as chief: readiness, modernization of the force, and taking care of soldiers.

Who will be India’s first female fighter pilot? India’s air marshal announced on Thursday he was opening fighter pilot jobs for women, according to our sister site Quartz, but seemingly to the surprise of his own spokesman and just months after India’s defense minister indicated he’s not for women in combat. Women make up a tiny fraction of India’s armed forces.

A new algorithm could help predict when a person is reaching for a gun, and the military wants it. Two researchers from the University of Illinois have published work that could allow security systems to anticipate a shooting, or say, a car steering into an armored gate, milliseconds before the act plays out. “Imagine that a terrorist runs toward a crowd of VIPs with a bomb strapped to their chest, but they’re tackled before they can succeed. This technology (alongside a good deal of supporting technology) would be able to determine who within the crowd they were aiming for,” Horowitz wrote in an email to Defense One. It could also make armed ground robots less dangerous and more effective. Here are the details.

Have some fun at AUSA next week and sign up for Defense One LIVE’s Cocktails and Conversation. We’ll talk with U.S. Army Europe commanding general, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges about strategy and challenges in the new era of land warfare, from Russia to ISIS, along with Col. Steven Sliwa, director of the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force, and CNAS’ Paul Scharre. Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron moderates. Please register and join us on Tues., Oct. 13, 5 p.m. at Busboys & Poets, 1025 5th Street NW, of all places.

Welcome to the Friday edition of The D Brief, from Kevin Baron and Defense One. D Brief will return Tuesday (not Monday, which is a holiday.) Tell your friends to subscribe here: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Want to see something different? Got news? Let us know: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


Saudi Arabia hit another wedding in Yemen. For the millionth time in the war on terrorism, an air strike has hit a wedding party, killing innocents. For the second time in a week—and the fourth time this month in Yemen—Saudi Arabia reportedly hit a wedding, killing as many as 30 people. This time it was in the Houthi-controlled south. More, at The Atlantic.  

Live-tweeting the Kunduz counteroffensive. #Follow Stars & Stripes’ Josh Smith on the ground in Kunduz with details of damage, looting, and ongoing fighting, Friday. “Repeated heavy booms of outgoing artillery fire now from ANA base in #Kunduz.”

Hey! Who turned out the lights? Yes, you’re not imagining it. The Pentagon has been dimming lights all over the building, confusing the masses of drone civilians and officers who like their five-sided puzzle palace just the way it was, thank you very much. It’s not DEFCON 2, it’s just DOD’s way of participating in something called Energy Action Month. (Isn’t Earth Day in April, though?)

It’s easy to grin, when your ship comes in… First Lady Michelle Obama will join Navy Sec. Ray Mabus to christen the future USS Illinois (SSN 786), the latest Virginia-class submarine up at General Dynamics Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Conn., on Saturday. Obama is the boat’s sponsor, which should make for a memorable event. D Brief is praying she says, “Spaulding, get your foot off the boat!

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