The D Brief: ISIS, doxxed; Syria becomes a combat lab; Trump could cost US jobs; Ukraine’s malicious blackout; and a bit more.
- Another Taliban leader reportedly dead; Are US troops cleared hot vs. Taliban, or not?; Human shields in Fallujah; USSOF ‘invade’ Florida; And a bit more.
- ISIS bombs kill 120+ along Syria’s coast; America’s imperfect alliance in NE Syria; Fallujah offensive begins; US lifts arms embargo on Vietnam; And a bit more.
- Battling ISIS in the Sinai; Hezbollah sends arms to Fallujah; Pentagon preps for tank war; China may have a ship-hunting drone; and a bit more.
22,000 names, addresses, phone numbers, family members, blood types, fighting experience—it’s all in a trove of documents allegedly from the Islamic State delivered to German authorities Monday. If the documents are real, and early signs from Frankfurt suggest that they are, the war against ISIS could take a dramatic new turn outside of Iraq and Syria.
“The news of the list’s discovery was reported on Monday by a team of investigative reporters from the Munich daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the public broadcasters NDR and WDR, but the story received widespread attention only when Sky News, a British broadcaster, said it had also obtained some of the documents,” the New York Times reports.
As Sky tells it, “The files were passed to Sky News on a memory stick stolen from the head of Islamic State’s internal security police, an organisation described by insiders as the group’s SS. He had been entrusted to protect the organisation’s core secrets and he rarely parted with the drive. The man who stole it was a former Free Syrian Army convert to Islamic State who calls himself Abu Hamed. Disillusioned with the Islamic State leadership, he says it has now been taken over by former soldiers from the Iraqi Baath party of Saddam Hussein.”
Inshallah: “Asked if the IS files could bring the network down he nodded and said simply: ‘God willing,’” Sky adds.
The defector—if it was just one man—also appears to have given a list to “The Syrian opposition newspaper Zaman Al-Wasl,” CNN adds, saying the paper “published 122 pages of documents it said it got from an ISIS defector… The documents include 23 questions for the recruits, providing an intimate insight into their frame of mind. In one of the responses, an Australian fighter says he is willing to be a suicide attacker, but his short-sightedness may be a hurdle. He also states he does not know how to drive a manual transmission vehicle.”
About that early sign of promise from Germany: “The name of a man who is standing trial in a Frankfurt state court on charges of illegal weapons possession and plotting an attack on a sovereign state — he is identified only as Abdulkarim B. in keeping with German privacy laws — was on the list, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung, NDR and WDR. If so, prosecutors could also press charges of membership in a terrorist organization and that way increase the chances of securing a longer sentence,” the Times writes.
But curb your enthusiasm, folks—the data may be three years old: “Most of the border entry dates stamped on the forms are within 2013,” CNN notes.
What to do with an ISIS detainee? Use him for airstrikes. That’s what the U.S. has done with that fighter Ash Carter’s “expeditionary targeting force” plucked off the battlefield a month ago (but first reported last last week). The NYT says the man is an Iraqi identified as Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, “a top specialist in chemical weapons for the Islamic State,” having allegedly once worked for Saddam Hussein’s Military Industrialization Authority. However, the Times adds, “The military’s assertion that Mr. Afari was part of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist program in the 1980s is not ironclad, based on details released so far. Mr. Afari is believed to be about 50, which would mean he was in his teens or early 20s at the time.”
What he shared: “Under interrogation, Mr. Afari told his captors how the group had weaponized sulfur mustard and loaded it into artillery shells,” the Times reports. “Based on information from Mr. Afari, the United States-led air campaign conducted one strike against a weapons production plant in Mosul, Iraq, and another against a ‘tactical unit’ near Mosul that was believed to be related to the program, the officials said.”
And there are recent indications ISIS is on the CW attack in Iraq: “Dozens of people in the northern Iraqi town of Taza suffered from respiratory and skin irritation after a mortar and rocket barrage there by Islamic State militants, in what local officials said on Wednesday was a chemical attack. ‘Forty cases have been transferred to Kirkuk General Hospital, with four critical cases among them,’ said Muhammad al-Mussawi, the head of the Popular Mobilization Forces in the Kirkuk area, including Taza.”
What to do with an old U.S. attack plane? Use it for airstrikes. “A pair of OV-10 Broncos—small, Vietnam War-vintage, propeller-driven attack planes—recently spent three months flying top cover for ground troops battling ISIS militants in the Middle East,” David Axe reports in this great story at The Daily Beast. “The OV-10s’ deployment is one of the latest examples of a remarkable phenomenon. The United States—and, to a lesser extent, Russia—has seized the opportunity afforded it by the aerial free-for-all over Iraq and Syria and other war zones to conduct live combat trials with new and upgraded warplanes, testing the aircraft in potentially deadly conditions before committing to expensive manufacturing programs… Central Command would not say exactly where the OV-10s were based or where they attacked, but… There are plenty of clues as to what exactly the Broncos were doing.” Read his take, here.
And that ISIS cat whom the Pentagon said it hit with an airstrike late last week—the group’s equivalent of a defense secretary—is still alive, just badly wounded, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says. Reuters has more on Abu Omar al-Shishani, also known as “Omar the Chechen,” but adds the critical caveat that it “had no way to independently verify the [Observatory’s] report.” That, here.
What’s it gonna take to get Washington’s Middle East allies to do more about their own regional security? “Exercise tough love” with them, said outgoing SOCOM chief Gen. Joseph Votel at his confirmation hearing to take over at CENTCOM. But what exactly “tough love” means was not explained. More here.
From Defense One
If Trump wins, expect thousands of defense jobs to move to Europe. The GOP frontrunner’s anti-Muslim comments could prompt U.S. allies to shop elsewhere for arms. Global Business Reporter Marcus Weisgerber reports, here.
In December, Ukraine suffered an electrical blackout. This was no accident. The world’s first cyber-caused power cut shook security experts around the globe. Tech Editor Patrick Tucker explains what it means for keeping the lights on here.
Do America’s “guardian forces” still belong in the U.S. military? More and more national security workers in and out of uniform never get close to combat. It’s time to rethink their place in the system, says RAND’s Paula Thornhill, a retired USAF one-star. Read her argument, here.
The U.S. government is secretly huddling with tech firms to fight extremism online. A coalition of civil rights groups wants to be included in the closed-door meetings to keep the feds in check. The Atlantic reports, here.
Welcome to the Thursday edition of the D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 241, Rome sank dozens of Carthaginian warships, setting itself on the path to empire. Help your friends conquer new worlds by sending them this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Got news? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Somalia, no surprises from the recent direct action mission as Wednesday’s night raid team is confirmed. “Only days after American aircraft struck a Shabab training camp in Somalia, American Special Operations forces and Somali troops carried out a raid against Shabab fighters, officials said Wednesday, in a sign of heightened pressure against the militant group,” the NYTs reports. “Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that American attack helicopters were used in the operation, and that American military personnel had accompanied Somali troops but that they did not ‘go all the way to the objective… I can tell you that U.S. military personnel served in an advisory role to enable the Somali operation.’”
A Somali intelligence official told The Associated Press that the person the team was after was apparently killed during the fight, which reportedly killed at least 10 other fighters. “It was a high-profile target, and chances of capture were challenged by a stiff resistance by militants guarding the house targeted by the special forces, which forced the commando to resort to the kill or capture method,” he said. That, here.
North Korea still throwing rockets into the water. “The missiles fired by North Korea on Thursday flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) before falling into the ocean off the country’s east coast, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said. They were believed to be Scud-type missiles, ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said.” More from AP, here.
The U.S. Air Force sent three B-2 bombers to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday. “U.S. Strategic Command said Spirits deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to the atoll in the Indian Ocean on March 8 to ‘integrate and conduct training with ally and partner air forces,’” Air Force Times reports. “B-2s last flew to the Asia-Pacific region in August when they deployed to Guam to bolster ally South Korea. The latest deployment puts the bombers in proximity to the Korean peninsula, where more than 15,000 U.S. and 300,000 South Korean troops have kicked off simultaneous joint military drills — Key Resolve and Foal Eagle — following North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile tests in January and February.”
“Top Gun 2” can’t come fast enough—the U.S. Air Force is 500 pilots short, “a deficit that is expected to grow to more than 800 by 2022,” Defense News reported Wednesday. “Air Force officials blamed the shortage on recent reductions in active duty fighter and fighter training squadrons due to budget cuts, according to written testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on March 8. The service was forced to rebalance its fighter force structure in 2012 due to severe fiscal constraints, slashing the force by 100 aircraft, according to the statement. There are currently 54 squadrons in the Air Force, significantly less than the 134 fighter squadrons that existed during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.” That, here.
Ruh-roh: “The Army misled Congress and taxpayers when it said it had killed in 2014 a program that embedded social scientists with combat units, according to a congressman, a Defense official and Army documents,” reports USA Today. “Last year, the Army said it had terminated the controversial battlefield anthropology program, known as the Human Terrain System, which had been plagued by documented time sheet fraud, racism and sexual harassment.” The House Armed Service Committee’s Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is on the case, and he’s not happy. Read on, here.
Lastly today—Who are the most influential Americans on veterans’ issues? The group HillVets, for the second years in a row, has compiled a list of 100 of them. “Among the notables are Shaye Lynne Haver and Kristen Marie Griest, who last August became the first women to graduate from Army Ranger School…Two former defense secretaries — Hagel and Donald Rumsfeld — made the list, as did former presidential candidates/veterans Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Military Times has more on the list, here. Or check out the 100 names for yourself, here.