A car bomb detonated in the Turkish capital Wednesday, killing more than two dozen and injuring more than 60 others in Ankara. It exploded less than one kilometer from the parliament—traditionally one of the most heavily-guarded locations in the country—raising the stakes for a possible cross-border intervention, the Washington Post reports.
Turkey blames everyone: Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused Syria of being behind the attack, saying Damascus uses Kurdish separatists to destabilize its northern neighbors. He also named the attacker as Saleh Najjar, a 28-year-old Syrian refugee whom Turkey says worked with Kurdish YPG separatists and PKK militants in Ankara to carry out the attack. This claim puts even greater pressure on the Washington-Ankara relationship since a “small number of U.S. Special Forces provide training and battlefield intelligence to YPG fighters in Syria,” the Wall Street Journal notes.
Indeed, Davutoglu said blame for any further attacks from Kurds inside Turkey’s border would be laid at the feet of the U.S. and NATO for their support of the proxy force against the Islamic State group in Syria. Already this morning, six troops were killed when their vehicle was blown up by a remote-controlled IED, the Turkish army said in a statement.
Turkey responded by shelling a PKK position of some 70 fighters inside northern Iraq overnight.
Also today, Ankara “summoned ambassadors representing the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—the U.S., Russia, France, the United Kingdom and China—as well as Germany, the Netherlands and other European Union member nation to present them with evidence of the YPG’s role in the attack,” the Journal adds.
The Syrian army continues its advances, this time to the west, near the Russian air base in the port city of Latakia. Damascus says a major operation to retake the adjacent Idlib province, bordering Turkey, is coming soon.
Rebels say Turkish forces have allowed at least 2,000 fighters to re-enter the Syrian battlespace in recent days to fight for the embattled city of Azaz, north of Aleppo and butting up against ISIS turf. A monitoring group confirmed the rebels’ claims. More here.
Iraqi Kurds say ISIS used chemical weapons in mortars fired near Peshmerga troops near Sinjar last Friday. Early indications point to chlorine. More from AP, here.
And not too far away, U.S. troops are setting up a new forward training base some 65 miles SE of Mosul. But any clearance of Mosul is still “far down the road,” as Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren reminded reporters Wednesday.
The impatient hawk’s lament: The Pentagon has given President Obama plans to strike at the heart of ISIS in Libya—something the WaPo editorial board says should happen immediately—but Obama has refused. Debate over how and when to act, writes The Daily Beast, reflects broad “uncertainty about when and where ISIS should be countered,” most especially in Libya, where ISIS end strength is believed to have increased from 1,000 fighters today from roughly 1,000 just a few months ago. More here.
Big get for Kenya: Nairobi officials said their airstrikes killed al-Shebab’s intelligence chief along with more than 50 others 10 days ago in Somalia. “Kenyan troops, working under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), killed Mohamed Karatey, al Shabaab’s deputy commander and head of intelligence, at a graduation ceremony for insurgent fighters on Feb. 8, the Kenya Defense Forces said in a statement,” according to Reuters. Karatey is believed to have plotted the 2015 massacre of 148 people at Garissa university in northeastern Kenya, Agence France-Presse adds.
From Defense One
Coming up: The civilian workforce that supports U.S. warfighters is aging. How will the Pentagon attract and retain the next generation? Leaders from DOD, USAF, and DLA will lay out their plans and outlook on Tues., Feb. 23, in a livestreamed discussion with Defense One Deputy Editor Bradley Peniston. Register to watch today, here.
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A cyberattack has paralyzed a Los Angeles hospital. Doctors have been locked out of patient records for more than a week by hackers who are demanding money to release the data. The Atlantic reports.
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The U.S. State Department is questioning Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trustworthiness after Beijing reportedly staged missiles on one of the contested islands in the South China Sea, the WSJ reports. “Secretary of State John Kerry said the missile deployment was at odds with a pledge made by Mr. Xi while visiting the White House last year to refrain from militarizing clusters of disputed islands throughout the South China Sea.”
Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop became the first Western official to visit China since news of the missile batteries broke. In an illustration of how delicate this diplomatic game can be, Bishop told reporters, “In the case of the surface-to-air missile claim, that’s disputed by China. We raised the matter and we’ve had a discussion about it.”
But when asked if Beijing denied the allegation, she replied, “No, they did not deny, but nor did they admit that there were. It was challenged. The reports were challenged…” Reuters has more.
Seoul’s spies warn that the North has “ordered preparations for launching attacks on South Korea,” Stars and Stripes reported. The South’s spies have been wrong before, Stripes notes. And for what it’s worth, U.S.-South Korean military talks have reportedly already begun regarding the possible deployment of a U.S. missile defense system on the peninsula. More from Seoul’s Yonhap News, here.
America’s arsenal of roughly 450 Minuteman 3 missiles are still controlled by a 1960s-era mechanical guidance system. That’s the stark reminder from Elaine Grossman, writing in The Daily Beast.
The problem: “Minuteman 3’s old missile-guidance technology is accurate enough for striking some potential enemy targets. But hundreds of the missiles would have little chance of damaging their assigned targets—Russia’s most valuable war-making assets—as top-secret U.S. nuclear war plans demand, according to government documents and sources privy to closed-door meetings about military requirements.” Read the rest, here.
ICYMI: Russia has sent its most advanced spy plane to Syria, the Tu-214r. It’s a “special mission aircraft equipped with all-weather radar systems and electro optical sensors that produce photo-like imagery of a large parts of the ground: these images are then used to identify and map the position of the enemy forces, even if these are camouflaged or hidden,” The Aviationist reported.
For what it’s worth: “Previously, the aircraft was spotted flying near Crimea,” The Aviationist adds. “Interestingly, while over the Caspian Sea, approaching the Iranian airspace, the Tu-214R performed a couple of 360° turns at 33,000 feet (weird, while enroute): maybe it was working on the diplomatic clearance to enter Iran?”
Finally: Army symbols, interpreted, sort of. The service’s new edition of its guide to symbols is out, and Angry Staff Officer is here to help. What looks like “Sun Wearing Sunglasses, Ironically” is actually “Friendly Forces Encircled.” The one that looks like “Absolutely No Seagulls Allowed!” really means “Airborne Infantry Unit.” And almost two dozen more, here.