US forces aid Somalia raid; Army experimenting with network soldiers in tactical units; ‘A failure of deterrence’ in cyber realm; How the Pentagon will build its AIs; and just a bit more…

U.S. and Somali forces attacked an al-Shabab camp in two locations near the country’s south on Thursday, killing “several” militants and freeing another unspecified number of alleged detainees, the Associated Press reports, citing a “senior Somali intelligence official.”

U.S. Africa Command told AP, “U.S. forces conducted an ‘advise and assist mission’ against al-Shabab with members of the Somali National Army in Kunya-Barrow. He gave no further details.”

In the attack, according to the Somali officer, “Somali commandos accompanied by U.S. forces in two helicopters raided… a detention center run by al-Shabab in Kunya-Barrow village in Lower Shabelle region, and an unknown number of detainees were freed.”

How Shabab spun it: “The al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabab said via its Andalus radio arm that its fighters foiled an attempted raid by U.S. and African forces.”

Recall that on July 3, “the U.S. military said it carried out an airstrike against al-Shabab in Somalia and was assessing the results. The airstrike followed another last month that the U.S. said killed eight extremists at a rebel command and logistics camp in the country’s south. Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said a training camp near Sakow in the Middle Juba region had been destroyed.” Read the rest, here.

Defense One Tech Summit wrap. Thanks to everyone who came to yesterday’s event at the Newseum, or watched online. Here are some of the stories that emerged. And if you missed it, we’ll let you know when we post the videos.


From Defense One

US Army Looking to Integrate Network Soldiers with Tactical Units // Caroline Houck: Brigades are working out various ideas at training centers, says the head of the service’s Cyber Command.

The US Isn’t Going To Launch a Military Space Corps—For Now // Tim Fernholz: The effort still sends a message that the U.S. is concerned about the orbital military aspirations of geopolitical rivals like China and Russia.

Trump’s Syria Ceasefire Is Doomed // Robert Ford: It may bring Russia on board, but it hardly acknowledges Iran’s role in the war.

The US Must Fix ‘A Failure of Deterrence’ in Cyber: Panel // Bradley Peniston: Bold action is required to convince bad actors that they must stop, says former SecDef chief of staff.

How Will The Pentagon Create Its AIs? The Algorithmic-Warfare Team Is Charting a Path // Bradley Peniston: Over the next 36 months, an algorithmic-warfare team will draw up a model for splitting the work between government and industry.

The Global Business Brief: July 13 // Marcus Weisgerber: Unmanned ships to pad the Navy’s fleet?; F-35’s cost to rise; Romania wants Patriots, and a lot more.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1798: The Sedition Act made it illegal to say or write “false, scandalous, and malicious” things about the U.S. government.  Have something you want to share? Email us at the-d-brief@defenseone.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)


RIP, gentlemen. The fallen Marines and sailor from Monday’s crash in Mississippi have been identified. The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe has been tweeting out what’s known about each in a thread that begins, here.

Status report on SecState Tillerson’s “shuttle diplomacy” in the Qatar crisis: “After three days of sipping tea with royalty on white coaches in ornate palaces, [Tillerson] said that a solution remains far off,” The New York Times reports this morning from Kuwait City.
Tillerson: “You know all four of these countries are really important to the U.S…. Right now, the parties are not even talking to one another at any level.”
NYTs: “As he left Qatar on Thursday, Mr. Tillerson shook hands with Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad al-Thani, the brother of the emir, who was overheard saying to Mr. Tillerson, ‘Hope to see you again under better circumstances.’” More here.
The UAE’s position: “We are headed for a long estrangement … we are very far from a political solution involving a change in Qatar’s course, and in light of that nothing will change and we have to look for a different format of relations,” Anwar al-Gargash, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, said this morning.

Trump’s Navy Secretary nominee is headed for a full Senate vote. U.S. Naval Institute News has more on former Marine Richard Spencer, “the administration’s second nominee for the position,” here.
ICYMI: Spencer told lawmakers on Tuesday that the Navy might miss Trump’s goal for a larger fleet. Defense News: “What I will tell you is that whether it’s a 355-ship or not, what we also want to get our head around is, can we have a capacity number but have a capability that’s even greater than that, so have the capability of a 355 that might be a 300-ship Navy,” he said.  
How? Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber explains in this week’s Global Business Brief, here.

President Trump wants his border wall to be shorter, solar, and see-through. In Thursday remarks to reporters aboard Air Force One, the president said that his proposed barrier on the 2,000-mile Mexican boundary would need to be just 700 to 900 miles long because of mountains, rivers, and remote areas.

He said it should be topped with solar panels, echoing his June claim that these would allow the wall to “create energy and pay for itself.” (Last week, he repeated his claim that Mexico would pay to build the wall.)

And finally, he said that the wall would need to be built so that people could see through it. “As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over,” the president said. “As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall.” Via ABC News, here.

Real drug-smuggling equipment that a transparent wall on the U.S.-Mexico border may not alter all that much:
• recent catapults (Feb 2017, via CNN)
• older catapults (Jan 2011 via NBC News)
• cannons, submarines and ultralight aircraft (April 2013 via Popular Science)
Three tips of the hat to WaPo’s Alex Horton, former Pentagon official Andrew Exum and Quartz’s Tim Fernholz for helping flag those contraptions amid late Thursday’s off-then-partially-on-the-record POTUS briefing news.

“Get used to it,” China tells Japan “after it flew six warplanes over the Miyako Strait between two southern Japanese islands in a military exercise,” Reuters reports this morning from Beijing. “Japan’s defense ministry issued a statement late on Thursday describing the flyover by the formation of Xian H-6 bombers earlier that day as ‘unusual,’ while noting that there had been no violation of Japanese airspace… The Chinese defense ministry said it was ‘legal and proper’ for its military aircraft to operate in the airspace and that it would continue to organize regular training exercises according to “mission requirements.’”

And the official line from China’s defense ministry: “The relevant side should not make a fuss about nothing or over-interpret, it will be fine once they get used to it.” That short hit, here.

Previewing next week’s counter-ISIS meeting in Washington, the U.S. special envoy, Brett McGurk, says Russia has offered its soldiers to monitor the Putin-Trump negotiated ceasefire in southwestern Syria, McGurk said Thursday. Reuters: “McGurk said the United States, Russia and Jordan had conducted extensive discussions to agree on a detailed line of contact as a basis for the southwestern ceasefire, and were now looking at where monitors could be placed. ‘That discussion is very much ongoing, and I’m hopeful over the next week or so it can get somewhere,’ he said.”

The Islamic State’s graphic (and ongoing) last stand in Mosul included “dozens of suicide bombers—including women with babies in their arms” and house-to-house searches “for young boys they could force into battle,” The Wall Street Journal reports this morning from Mosul. One father even hid his three sons in “full niqabs, the black face coverings worn by conservative Muslim women, when Islamic State came looking.”

Also in Mosul: allegations of extrajudicial killings of alleged ISIS militants posted to Facebook earlier this week. AP has the story, flagged by Human Rights Watch, here.

The group’s final days in Mosul yielded a story of immense courage: an Iraqi special forces soldier allegedly “donned a smock and scarf, before sneaking past the Islamist group’s heavily guarded defences” and killed half a dozen ISIS fighters — before delivering coordinates to his fellow Iraqi soldiers on ISIS snipers, machine gun nests and ammo caches. That, anyway, is the story according to The Independent.

A worrisome forecast for rising temps on the tarmac. In the years ahead, rising temperatures across the planet are likely to mean “aircraft fuel capacities and payload weights will have to be reduced by up to four percent on the hottest days for some aircraft,” AFP reports off a new study published in the journal Climatic Change.

The implications for travelers: “A four-percent weight reduction could mean 12 or 13 fewer passengers on an average 160-seat aircraft operating today.”

It’s not a distant thought, either. Already, “Extreme temperatures prompted American Airlines to ground 43 flights to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport on June 20, when temperatures were set to reach a record 120 degrees Fahrenheit.” More here.

Lastly this week: We travel back in time with the U.S. Army, which gives us “7 ways WWI still impacts today’s Army” in one neat graphic. Originally posted in June (commemorating the Army’s entry into the Great War), this then-and-now comparison zeroes in on “many of the logistics and strategies developed during that era still have an impact on Army operations today — including the use of the division as a stand-alone unit, the employment of tactical armored vehicles, and the use of aircraft on the battlefield.” Worth a look, here.

Thanks for reading, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!

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