Brits to French: Fly from our airbase in Cyprus against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. British Prime Minister David Cameron offered the use of RAF Akrotiri this morning at a joint presser with French President Francois Hollande in Paris. And later this week, Cameron will present what he said was the Brits’ “comprehensive strategy for tackling ISIL.”
Also today: France’s aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is settling into position in the eastern Mediterranean for airstrikes scheduled well before the Paris attacks.
Cameron also ordered a roughly $18 billion surge in British defenses against ISIS and Russia, the Financial Times reports this morning. “Mr Cameron will set out a five-year defence review with a focus on tackling Isis, including a 30 per cent increase in the counter-terrorism budget, £2bn on special forces and a new emphasis on cyber defences.”
The extra £12bn “over the next decade will take total spending to £178bn and will include funding for nine Boeing maritime surveillance aircraft to take on a potential Russian submarine threat.” The plan also calls for the “procurement of 24 F35 aircraft for two new aircraft carriers from their deployment in 2023. They also welcomed the commitment to eight new Type-26 battleships. This is down from the 13 initially planned, although a further five lower specification frigates are on option.” More here.
On Tuesday, Holland travels to the White House to press for a stepped-up campaign against ISIS, Reuters reports. “French officials made clear they are not talking about putting Western combat troops on the ground, though they said the possibility of deploying French special operations forces had been discussed. They also stressed that the United States could do more in its bombing campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria.”
A U.S. official responded: “This should not just fall to the United States…Certainly, the U.S. has been in the lead role. But one of the real opportunities in the wake of Paris is for others—European countries, Gulf states, for this coalition as a whole—to do more and for other players to step up and do more of the heavy lifting here.”
President Obama on Sunday urged Americans to stand against fear in the wake of the attacks in Paris and amid the refugee uproar stateside. Speaking from the sidelines of his third recent global summit — this one in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur — Obama and his advisors again pushed back against calls for a new U.S. strategy against the Islamic State. The administration says it’s playing the long game and is incorporating lessons of Sept. 11, while critics accuse the president of being indifferent or out of touch.
“I think we made some bad decisions subsequent to that attack, in part based on fear,” Mr. Obama said Sunday, referring to 9/11. “We have to think things through…The most powerful tool we have to fight ISIL is to say that we’re not afraid. To not elevate them and to somehow buy into their fantasy that they’re doing something important.”
“The lessons of the last decade show us that a U.S. ground force cannot impose stability or a new system of governance on countries ravaged by extremism and sectarianism—local forces have to do that, with our support,” said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.
And the Russians should be playing a much bigger role in all that, too, Obama said. But exactly how and in what capacity they might step it up is still very much yet to be determined, the Washington Post reports. “The question at this point is whether they can make a strategic adjustment that allows them to be effective partners with us,” the president said. “We don’t know that yet.”
On Syria’s Assad: “It will not work to keep him in power. This is a practical issue, not just a matter of conscience,” Obama said. “Russia has not officially committed to the transition of Assad moving out…We will find out over the next several weeks whether or not we can bring about that change in perspective,” the Wall Street Journal adds.
The Pentagon is expanding its probe of possibly altered intelligence reports on the ISIS fight, the New York Times reported this weekend. “When Islamic State fighters overran a string of Iraqi cities last year, analysts at United States Central Command wrote classified assessments for military intelligence officials and policy makers that documented the humiliating retreat of the Iraqi Army. But before the assessments were final, former intelligence officials said, the analysts’ superiors made significant changes. In the revised documents, the Iraqi Army had not retreated at all. The soldiers had simply ‘redeployed.’”
“The exact content of those documents is unclear and may not become public because so much of the information is classified,” the NYT reports. “But military officials have told Congress that some of those emails and documents may have been deleted before they had to be turned over to investigators, according to a senior congressional official, who requested anonymity to speak about the ongoing inquiry.”
Meanwhile, whom do American voters trust most to tackle the challenges terrorism poses to the U.S.? Hillary Clinton outperformed all five top GOP candidates, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.
“By 50 percent to 42 percent, more Americans say they trust Clinton to handle the threat of terrorism than Trump, who leads the Republican field and responded to the Paris terrorist attacks by calling for heightened surveillance of mosques and redoubling his opposition to allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the U.S.,” WaPo reports.
The poll “also found a record high 54 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling terrorism, and 57 percent disapproved of his handling of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Clinton owes her edge then, to a significant share of Obama detractors who nonetheless prefer her over Republicans. Tellingly, the poll found between one-quarter and one-third of those who disapprove of Obama’s efforts dealing with terrorism also say they trust Clinton over Republican on the issue.” More here.
From Defense One
Who attacked the Mali hotel? Yesterday, the Massina Liberation Front offered its own claim to have sent gunmen to a luxury hotel for Friday’s assault that left 19 dead. Reuters: “MLF, a relatively new group associated with a new wave of attacks in the central and southern parts of the African nation, is the third organization to claim responsibility for Friday’s attack, after al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Mourabitoun.”
Missed that bit of gruesome news? Read Defense One’s wrapup of the Mali attack, here.
Contain ISIS; don’t escalate the war, argues MIT’s Barry Posen. “The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught Americans to think twice about the understandable but impulsive pursuit of quick and decisive victories in response to murderous outrages…American attempts to reorganize the politics of other countries by the sword have foundered on nationalist resistance to outsiders, unreliable local allies, deeply embedded cultural practices, and the inherent crudeness of the military instrument.” Posen makes that case, here.
Europeans: bomb Syria if you want to, but that’s unlikely to curb the violence in your countries, whose roots are right at home, writes The Atlantic’s David Frum. “It’s easy to imagine ISIS being broken up as a functioning force much as al-Qaeda has been: its leadership killed, its territory overrun, its communications disrupted. Yet even after that happens, some members of the Muslim minority inside Europe will remain disaffected, alienated, radical, and susceptible to messages of violence.” Read on for ideas that might actually work, here.
The French are rushing to enlist in the wake of the Paris attacks. Le Monde reports that requests for information and applications via the French army’s website have tripled — and President Hollande just halted plans to shrink the force for at least three years. Quartz has the story, here.
Welcome to the Monday edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Tell your friends to subscribe here: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Want to see something different? Got news? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At seven campaign stops across New Hampshire this weekend, Defense One trailed the “two amigos”: 2016 hopeful Sen. Lindsey Graham and the Senate colleague who urged him to run, John McCain—a two-time Republican presidential nominee who twice won this first-in-the-nation primary state.
Graham has struggled to gain traction nationally, even getting booted from the last Republican debate. But now he’s telling Granite Staters, “There are two elections: before Paris, and after Paris.” And Graham, who brings the most national security experience among GOP contenders and a plan to put 10,000 American boots on the ground against ISIS, plans to win that “post-Paris” election.
In a powerful moment Saturday morning, McCain and Graham were honored by the Vietnamese-American community at a temple. “McCain is a true war hero to us all!” emcee Chau Kelley shouted into the microphone in the small room, drawing the audience to its feet in applause. Many were Vietnam War refugees who came here under a program the Arizona senator championed. Coming soon at Defense One: their interesting perspective on the backlash against Syrian refugees, from Politics Reporter Molly O’Toole.
While Paris and Brussels grapple with pockets of extremists in Western Europe, the conflict over Ukraine in the east is far from over, writes U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman. “After a tentative peace held for months, reports of violence in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine have spiked in the last two weeks, accounting for dozens of violations to the cease-fire agreements each day and increased casualties. Five soldiers died last week, the most in the previous two months.”
Russia is “without a doubt” behind the renewal in fighting, says Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, head of all U.S. Army forces in Europe, writes Shinkman. “It just doesn’t make sense to me why they would put at risk right now when things are going so smoothly, and why they would risk the West beginning to think, ‘OK, this is going to work, maybe they can lift the sanctions.’” That take, here.
And the West just this weekend extended those sanctions an additional six months.
Meanwhile in Crimea, “saboteurs” blew up a power station, cutting the power to the disputed region over the weekend, WaPo reported.
For your eyes only: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s multi-billion dollar “war room” has three levels and lots of studious-looking Russian soldiers behind computer terminals. Take a brief tour inside, here.
ICYMI: Three former female “enforcers” for ISIS escape from Raqqa and live to tell about it—in harrowing detail—from the relative safety of southern Turkey. It’s a stunning read from the New York Times’ Azadeh Moaveni. Definitely worth the click.
The Times also put together a super-snazzy interactive that takes you inside the ISIS HQ of Raqqa. It’s an addictive multi-media feature that pans and zooms to reveal key parks and mosques and generally a good deal of what life was like before the terrorist group found their terrifying footing and began displaying severed heads and dismembered corpses for the poor citizens of Raqqa who either could not afford to flee or opted against it. The tour begins, here.
Lastly today—with Brussels on lockdown, this couple said, “Forget ISIS, we want to get married with soldiers at our left and right anyway.” Catch a snapshot of the scene, here. Or read a bit more about the couple, here.