Mattis tours nuke facilities; Analysts quit State’s anti-propaganda team; US airstrikes in Somalia; Field guide to Zapad-17; and just a bit more…

Defense Secretary James Mattis is wheels up this morning on a three-day trip to North Dakota, Nebraska and Mexico. Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber (who is on the plane with Mattis) has a curtain raiser here.

  • First stop Minot Air Force Base which controls ICBMs and is home to B-52 bombers.
  • Stop two, U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, the military headquarters that would run a nuclear war.
  • Stop three: Mexico City where Mattis will participate in the Mexican Independence Day activities.

“Secretary Mattis’ visit to Mexico reaffirms our commitment to the bilateral defense relationship and to the North America Community,” the Pentagon said in a preview statement.

Reporters on the plane: Defense One’s Weisgerber, AP’s Bob Burns, Reuters’ Phil Stewart, Military Times’ Tara Copp, U.S. News and World Report’s Paul Shinkman and the Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe.


From Defense One

Amid North Korea Tension, Mattis Heads to US Nuclear Weapons Bases // Marcus Weisgerber: The U.S. defense secretary will inspect American ICBMs, then visit the military command that would lead a nuclear war.

Analysts Are Quitting the State Department’s Anti-Propaganda Team // Patrick Tucker: The Global Engagement Center is struggling to keep up with its missions: countering ISIS recruitment and Russian disinformation.

Democracy Remains the Best Path to Security // Madeleine Albright and Mehdi Jomaa: The U.S. and its democratic partners must rebuild their foreign policies around a basic truth: societies that govern themselves democratically are safer, stronger and more secure.

DARPA Wants to MacGyver the Internet Using Only What’s in Troops’ Pockets // Frank Konkel: The research agency wants to tap the computer power of the devices warfighters already have to network anywhere.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1940: The Mitsubishi Zero scores its first combat victories, against Chinese pilots flying Russian aircraft. 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.)


AFRICOM says it killed six al-Shabaab terrorists in three “precision airstrikes” at about 2 a.m. local “in southern Somalia, about 260 kilometers south of the capital, Mogadishu.”
U.S. airstrikes in Somalia since August: The last one happened on Thursday, Sept. 7, allegedly killing one Shabaab fighter. Before that, Sept. 5, killing three. Before that, three strikes on Aug. 16 and 17 killed seven alleged Shabaab militants. Two more strikes on Aug. 10 killed an unspecified number.

U.S. sends its Gray Eagle drone to the Philippines for the fight against ISIS. The given purpose, according to the U.S. Embassy there: “to establish better command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities for the [Armed Forces of the Philippines].”
Other “recent deliveries” to Manila and the surrounding islands include “a Raven tactical UAS and two Cessna-208B surveillance aircraft, as well as various munitions and weapons to support urgent defense and counterterrorism needs.” More from The Wall Street Journal, here.

#ZapadWatch field guide. As Russian and Belarussian troops prepare for their biggest exercise of the year, the folks at Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab have compiled this helpful guide to what they know and what they’ll be looking for in the Sept. 14-20 wargames. “Zapad 2017 is a planned bilateral military strategic exercise with the Russian and Belarusian militaries set to take place in various locations throughout Belarus and western Russia. This highly anticipated event is held quadrennially, with outside observers expecting to gain critical insight to the operations of Russian military practices. It is very unlikely that Zapad will directly lead to another Russian invasion of a sovereign state, but that has not prevented the internet from speculating that it may. The Belarusian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has shown transparency in anticipation of the exercise…” Read on, here.
More analysis from the European Council on Foreign Relations, here.
And ICYMI: Get up to speed quickly by watching Defense One’s own 5-minute Zapad preview, here.

Russia wanted a “broad reset” with the U.S. after Donald Trump’s election victory, according to Buzzfeed News. “The proposal, spelled out in a detailed document obtained by BuzzFeed News, called for the wholesale restoration of diplomatic, military and intelligence channels severed between the two countries after Russia’s military interventions in Ukraine and Syria. The broad scope of the Kremlin’s reset plan came with an ambitious launch date: immediately.”
FWIW: “Officials at the White House and State Department declined to say who delivered the document but did not dispute its authenticity. They denied giving the Russians explicit indications that their proposal was feasible.” Story, here.

A new focus on RT and Sputnik in Russia’s influence war. The New York Times weaves together some threads from recent days, weeks, and months on the ways Moscow uses its broadcast networks to influence Western publics. The U.S. intelligence community’s January report on Russian meddling, for example, spent almost half its dozen pages on RT. “RT and the rest of the Russian information machine were working with ‘covert intelligence operations’ to do no less than ‘undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order,’ the assessment stated. And, it warned ominously, ‘Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies and their election processes.’” Read on, here.

ICYMI: EU terrorism chief says ISIS has 2,500 European fighters left in its “dwindling ranks,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday from Berlin. “Gilles de Kerchove told German daily Welt in an interview published Tuesday that the extremist group used to have about 5,000 European fighters in Iraq and Syria. De Kerchove says about 1,500 fighters have since returned home and 1,000 have been killed. He says many of those remaining are likely to die fighting or at the hands of IS if they desert, while some may move to other conflict areas such as Somalia or Yemen.”
And for the record,IS has up to 13,000 fighters overall left in Syria and Iraq,” AP reports, citing U.S. officials. A tiny bit more, here.   

Canada is considering “a specialized military unit whose goal is the de-militarization of child soldiers,” the Toronto Star reports this morning. That update from up north comes ahead of the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial forum, which will be hosted in Vancouver this year on Nov. 14 and 15. As a result, Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said his government’s goal is to redefine its mission abroad — “aim[ing] its efforts at addressing the root causes of conflict in global hotspots.”
The Star: “Sajjan said he wants any Canadian mission or missions to make a long-term difference using Canadian expertise on reducing ‘violence against women and how we’re going to reduce the child soldiers that are being recruited. This is not about cold feet, this is really about having a tangible impact.’” More here.

Canada is also helping out with Hurricane Irma recovery efforts, The Wall Street Journal reports this morning. “Almost 60,000 utility workers from the U.S. and Canada are descending on Florida and other states hard hit by the storm, with more line crews and contractors expected soon, according to the Edison Electric Institute, an industry group. They are painstakingly repairing electrical substations, power poles, transmission lines and other parts of the grid knocked out by winds and floodwaters… But utility and government officials acknowledge it will take days or even weeks for the herculean effort.”
Where things stand in Irma’s aftermath: “More than six million U.S. customers remained without power as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the U.S. Energy Department, including roughly 4.8 million, or 48% of the state’s total customers, in Florida; 932,000, or 22%, in Georgia; and 141,000, or 6%, in South Carolina.” Read on, here.

Lastly today: South Korea is getting serious — and public — about its North Korean “decapitation unit,” The New York Times reported Tuesday. “A day after North Korea conducted its sixth — and by far most powerful — nuclear test this month, the South Korean defense minister, Song Young-moo, told lawmakers in Seoul that a special forces brigade defense officials described as a ‘decapitation unit’ would be established by the end of the year.”
This whole “decapitation” effort has a history, the Times writes. And it’s not pretty for Seoul. Read on, here.

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne