Gitmo: ‘It’s all BS’; Quarrels delay Mosul offensive; Dem debate skips natsec; Russian subs reheat Cold-War chokepoint; and a bit more.

Iraq’s major players all want a role in the battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, and that’s preventing any meaningful military planning for the coming offensive—which some U.S. and Iraqi officials are now saying won’t even begin this year, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday night.

The competing claimants include Iranian-backed Shiite militias, Iraq’s Sunni tribes, and the Kurds based at Erbil some 50 miles east of Mosul.

Also not in anyone’s plans: “a plan for the post-liberation period,” said Jabbar Yawar, the secretary general of the Peshmerga.

While U.S. officials tussle quietly with Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi over green-lighting/red-lighting Shia militias for a Mosul operation, Baghdad went ahead and “moved at least two infantry units and heavy equipment to Makhmour, a base about 60 miles southeast of Mosul.” Read the rest, here. Or check out this deep-dive into the shaping that goes on daily ahead of any big offensive on the city, from Defense One’s Kevin Baron, here.

More than 50 civilians were killed and nearly 100 others wounded in suicide attacks in Hilla, some 60 miles south of Baghdad, on Sunday. The location, notes the Associated Press, is “in the country’s mainly Shiite south, far from the front lines of the war against IS… [and Sunday’s attack] could be seen as an attempt by IS to stage attacks deep behind the front lines in order to wreak havoc and force the government to overextend its forces.” That, here.

Tensions in Tunisia: Nearly two dozen extremists were killed by Tunisian security forces this morning after jihadists attacked police and army posts near the border with Libya. France’s foreign ministry said the gunmen were “terrorists coming from Libyan territory.”

And in case you missed it: Italian special forces reportedly are about to join their U.S., British, and French comrades in Libya. More from Agence France-Presse, here.

The back-and-forth over Guantanamo is getting out of hand, writes Charlie Savage of the New York Times. “It’s all b.s.,” he says, and it’s coming from both sides.

Savage notes that Obama’s plan “would not eliminate the main human rights complaints, because the United States would still be holding several dozen prisoners in perpetual detention without trial and force-feeding those who go on a hunger strike. It would just do that in a prison on American soil.”

But Republicans “who want to keep the prison open say only the worst of the worst are left, yet dozens of low-level detainees were approved for transfer years ago and stranded for geopolitical reasons. Republicans insist Guantánamo’s military commissions offer tough justice, but those tribunals have been largely dysfunctional. And they cite Bush-era data to say that freed prisoners will join terrorist groups, but the Obama administration has performed more thorough reviews and those it released have been far less likely to cause problems.”

The next step? “The United States appears certain to be holding some detainees without trial when Mr. Obama leaves office, though it seems possible that the number will reach zero under a successor.”

The crucial caveat: “Republican presidential candidates have a different vision,” to put it nicely. Read the rest, here.

The Democratic 2016 contenders debated last night on CNN. What got short shrift? National security. After two hours, “ISIS was never mentioned. Nor was the ongoing air campaign over Iraq and Syria or the blossoming threat of ISIS affiliates in Libya,” MSNBC reports. That, here.

From Defense One

Russian subs are reheating a Cold War chokepoint. As the GIUK gap returns to importance, NATO must look to regenerate its anti-submarine forces, writes the Atlantic Council’s Magnus Nordenman, here.

China is watching the FBI-Apple battle very closely. Even if the U.S. government abandons its insistence on a backdoored iPhone, Beijing may not, writes the Council on Foreign Relations’s Adam Segal, here.

What takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane, and looks like something Orville Wright might dream up on mescaline? The military’s next experimental helicopter. Tech Editor Patrick Tucker reports.

Here’s how easily a wanted war criminal can travel the globe. Sudan’s pledges of support against enemies of the West and Saudi Arabia have greased the skids for alleged war criminal and President Omar al-Bashir’s 21-country world tour. That from Nuba Reports, here.

Welcome to the Monday edition of the The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1936, Adolf Hitler sent German troops back into the Rhineland, violating the Versailles treaty. Not subscribed to The D Brief? Use this link : Got news? Let us know:

The U.S. could send “one or more” combat brigades back to Europe, which “could mark the first time in decades that U.S. European Command has increased its footprint on the continent,” Army Times reported. “If approved, the move could involve thousands of troops — an average BCT is composed of between 3,000 and 5,000 personnel.”

EUCOM Commander, Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, brought up the issue “while in Washington last week, according to a defense official familiar with the plans. Any increase would come in addition to the brigade-size force that would rotate through Eastern Europe as part of the $3.4 billion ‘European Reassurance Initiative,’ which was included in the Pentagon’s latest budget request.”

EUCOM’s response plan “for a conflict with Russia relies the two garrisoned light infantry brigades — the 173rd Airborne out of Vicenza, Italy, and the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany — plus a growing store of forward-deployed, prepositioned weapons and vehicles throughout Eastern Europe that would allow personnel to rapidly ‘fall in’ and quickly join the fight. Beyond that, the U.S. and Europe would rely on ‘rapid reinforcement’ with Army units based in the United States.”

And where things currently stand: “Today, the American force in Europe numbers about 65,000, down significantly from its Cold War-era peak of more than 200,000 in the 1980s. The U.S. Army had four brigades in Europe until 2012, when it decided to deactivate two of them, leaving Europe with no U.S. Army tanks. Recently, the Army has returned more than 200 vehicles, but those are prepositioned in warehouse and not attached to permanent combat units.” More here.

Rattle and hum on the Korean peninsula. Biennial U.S.-South Korea war games are under way, triggering North Korea’s usual bluster of saber-rattling and intimidation toward its southern neighbors and their American friends. Some 17,000 U.S. troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans are taking part in what Seoul says is the largest-ever between the two countries.

What the 317,000 troops will be doing: “conducting amphibious operations for possible disaster relief or wartime missions,” a U.S. military spokesman told Marine Corps Times.

Not sure that we really need to repeat the North’s usual violent rhetoric here; but if you’re really curious, Stars and Stripes put it right near the top of their report, here.

CSIS wants your take on reforming the U.S. defense establishment. The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ International Security Program has issued a survey on defense reform. It comes exactly one week ahead of a big rollout featuring those results and more next Monday, March 14. Give ’em a hand. The survey begins here.

U.S. Marines are in Mauritania helping build a security apparatus that could one day stretch across North and West Africa. “Along with Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia,” the U.S. is trying “to build local capacity to counter and defeat extremist organizations in the region,” the Marine Corps Times writes in a fairly in-depth review, here.

Lastly today—The U.S. Air Force’s plans to quickly ditch its reliance on Russian rocket engines to manufacture its own stateside has all sorts of unsavory complications. And the Wall Street Journal unpacks them all on the heels of a recent report from an independent panel of experts that advises the service pump the brakes on the whole deal.

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