Russia cleared hot in Syria; East Mosul one-third free of ISIS; How special operators trained for Iraq offensive; Trump’s effect in Europe and Asia; and just a bit more…

Three new Russian-backed offensives have begun overnight in Syria “as Syrian opposition activists reported the first airstrikes in three weeks in the besieged, rebel-held part of the northern city of Aleppo,” AP reports. Other troop movement and airstrikes are taking place across Idlib and Homs province as well, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly said this morning in a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

Strikes have already hit a number of districts and neighborhoods in rebel-held east Aleppo.  

Adds Reuters: “The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said missiles fired from Russian warships in the Mediterranean have struck areas in Aleppo and Idlib provinces. The Observatory said airstrikes also struck three neighborhoods in Aleppo city, but had no immediate word on casualties. It added that some of the strikes were carried out by helicopters dropping barrel bombs.”

Also cruise missiles, according to state-run RT news.

“It’s all air strikes and parachute bombs. Today, the bombing is violent,” said civil defence official Ibrahim Abu al-Laith in Aleppo. “There hasn’t been this kind of attack in more than 15 days.”

Some 275,000 people are believed to be under siege in Aleppo, “with no aid allowed in since July,” AP writes. On this note, the UN says in a new report (PDF) the amount of food produced in Syria has shrunk to an “all-time low.”

Eye in the sky: see Aleppo from this footage from an off-the-shelf rebel drone, captured before this most recent assault.

By the way, Russia lost a jet while trying to land on its famously smoky aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, Monday in the Mediterranean, the Washington Post reports. “Earlier in the day, Pentagon officials said they had indications that the Russians had lost a plane, and Fox News — quoting intelligence officials — reported that the aircraft, a MiG-29K, went down after appearing to have mechanical issues shortly after takeoff.”

Elsewhere in Syrian offensive news, the U.S. military’s special operators in Syria just gained another roughy 2,000 Arab fighters for its push on Raqqa, Voice of America reported Monday.

Here’s footage of those Raqqa-bound, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces blowing up an ISIS car bomb north of Raqqa on Monday.

And not to be left out, here’s recent footage purporting to be Turkish precision-guided airstrikes near ISIS-held al-Bab in northern Syria.

Some nation’s aircraft—possibly French, possibly American—may have killed a senior member of al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate, Abu Talha al-Hassnawi, at his home last night in Sabha. The news first crossed our desk via this notification on Twitter. AP follows that up this morning relaying a report from Libyan LANA news agency attributing the strike to a drone from a country of unknown origin.

AP says al-Hassnawi “was previously a leading member of al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, and was a leading recruiter of fighters heading there,” having recently “fled from the northern coastal city of Sirte, where Libyan militias are battling IS with the help of U.S. airstrikes.” AP’s write up, here.

ISIS has been “dislodged from a third of eastern Mosul,” Iraq’s Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said this morning in the latest from the country’s busiest front. Iraq’s troops “have been fighting in a dozen of the roughly 50 neighborhoods on the eastern side of the city… but have faced resistance from the militants who have deployed suicide car bombs, snipers and waves of counter-attacks,” Reuters reports, adding the rooftop snipers and tunnel-based ambushes are still very much a staple of the fight to retake Mosul. ISIS has also reportedly accelerated the rate at which it kills those suspected of relaying information to the coalition forces converging on the city from multiple directions.

The city’s citizens are starving, AP reports, and those who have the good fortune of meeting newly-arrived Iraqi troops are demanding food.

Partial ISIS death toll update: “So far 955 insurgents had been killed and 108 captured on the southern frontlines alone,” Iraqi officials said this morning. To add a little context to that, “Iraqi military estimates put the number of Islamic State fighters in the city at 5,000 to 6,000,” Reuters writes. “Facing them is a 100,000-strong coalition of Iraqi government forces, Kurdish fighters and Shi’ite paramilitary units, which has all but surrounded the city.”

Some good news: Watch Iraq’s Counterterrorism Police of the Golden Division deliver milk to the kiddos in the Mosul neighborhood of Samah on Monday.

Iranian-backed Shi’a paramilitary forces are tagging in on the Mosul offensive, the Washington Times reported Monday. The news deepens “U.S. fears that Tehran is claiming a greater role in the critical battle,” and could catch the eye of Donald Trump’s advisors, who have been sharply critical of Iranian involvement throughout the Middle East. The Washington Times’ story also lends some credence to The Long War Journal’s Soleimani-spotting in Iraq back on October 24.

From Defense One

We’re two days away the Defense One Summit. Now, more than ever, you’ll want to come hear USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, Army Secretary Eric Fanning, White House counterterrorism advisor Lisa Monaco, DARPA chief Arati Prabhakar, and many other national-security leaders. Washington D.C., Thurs., Nov. 17, in Washington, D.C Register here.

How Special Operators Trained for Information Warfare Before the Mosul Fight // Patrick Tucker: At a two-day exercise in April, U.S. troops practiced waging warfare on an invisible yet vital battlefield.

Defense One Summit Leadership Briefing 2016: Adm. Harry Harris of Pacific Command // Defense One Staff: What’s next for Pacific Command? Hear it from Adm. Harris, who leads America’s largest military command in one of the world’s most complex and dynamic regions. Livestream begins today (Nov. 15) at 10 a.m. EDT.

So Far, Trump’s Talk Has Only Hurt America’s Counterterrorism Effort // Siddhartha Mahanta: Can the candidate who alienated Muslim Americans and gave thumbs-up to torture reverse course as president? A conversation with former FBI agent Ali Soufan.

Under New Cyber Plan, UK Will Seek Its Own Offensive Weapons and Crypto Schemes // Alex Grigsby: A new strategy document spells out an assertive posture by a UK government that’s wary of some shared intelligence capabilities between allies.

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1864, Union Gen. William T. Sherman began his March to the Sea. (Send your friends this link: And let us know your news:

Trump effect, European edition. A new plan set out by European Union EU defense and foreign ministers “could allow the bloc to send forces to stabilize a crisis before U.N. peace keepers can take over, and more broadly cement a willingness to act without the United States,” Reuters reports. The plan must still be approved by EU leaders in December, and will remain abstract until substantial money is found. But this kind of cooperation — long sought in some circles, yet long held taboo — appeared to get a boost by the “election of a Russia-friendly political novice as president in Bulgaria — a member of both the EU and NATO” and by campaign-trail promises by Donald Trump, who “threatened to abandon U.S. allies in Europe if they did not spend enough on defense, appearing to question almost 70 years of U.S. military support that has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy.”

Trump effect, Asia edition. A new Asia Foundation report, based on consultations among academics and former officials from 20 Asian nations, “warns that withdrawing U.S. forces could compel Tokyo and Seoul to seek their own nuclear deterrents — rather than rely on America’s — which in turn would ‘trigger massive destabilization of the regional order,’” AP reports, noting that post-election Trump has hastened to try to reassure allies in the region. Thai academic Thitinan Pongsudhirak says the U.S. president-elect has a worrisome lack of government experience — yet also a clean slate, and “that’s a plus in Southeast Asia, where current U.S. policy has failed to live up to its billing and where criticism on human rights has turned off old allies like the Philippines and Thailand.”

Floated for SecDef: Bush-administration vet and hardliner John Bolton, reports Reuters (and many others). Tweeted The New Yorker’s Nicholas Thompson: “The one man in America who still thinks the Iraq War was a good idea may soon be Secretary of State.”

Floated for Secretary of State: Rudy Giuliani, who has never served as a diplomat and who was kicked off the Iraq Study Group for not attending its meetings.

Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor: “If you’re asked to serve [in the Trump administration], please do. This man needs help.” (Via tweet by Strobe Talbott.)

How do you stop violent extremism? Strengthen resistance to its ideas, boost community-led prevention, create a new White House coordinator, and invest $1 billion in various efforts — and that’s just half of the eight-part strategy developed over the past 10 months by a bipartisan group rounded up by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Its 23 members, including Leon Panetta and Tony Blair, talked to more than 100 practitioners in developing the report, which you can read (available in summary, slightly longer, and full forms), here.

Serious question: “Who is benefiting more from the cyberisation of intelligence, the spooks or their foes?” asks The Economist in this special report on the impact and potential dangers of cyber nowadays.

In Yemen, Secretary of State John Kerry says a new cessation of hostilities is to begin Thursday and the Houthis have agreed to abide by it.

By the way, the U.S. military’s fingerprints are all over the Saudi-led war in Yemen—the munitions dropped, anyway, The New York Times’ Ben Hubbard and C.J. Chivers reported.

Finally today: Surprised by the Boss. Some American veterans passed a dude by the side of the road in Jersey with a broken-down motorcycle this past Veterans Day. Bikers gotta stick together,” Dan Barkalow, who was the first biker to spot the dude near Allaire State Park, told AP. Turns out the drifter was Bruce Springsteen.

“The members of the Freehold American Legion in Monmouth County tried to help Springsteen ― who grew up in Freehold ― get his bike started. When they were unsuccessful, the ‘Born to Run’ singer hopped on the back of one of their bikes and they rode to a nearby bar and grill until his next ride arrived” about 45 minutes later, the Huffington Post reports, noting “Springsteen bought them a round of beers, took pictures and left a $100 tip before leaving.” Story, here. Cheers, gang. And we’ll see you tomorrow!

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne