Pakistani soldiers have rescued “a Canadian man, his American wife and their three children from ‘terrorist custody’ following a tip from U.S. intelligence agencies,” Reuters reports off a statement from Islamabad’s army this morning in what would appear to be a story with lots of details yet to emerge.
Rescued: “American Caitlan Coleman, 31, and her American husband, Joshua Boyle, 33,” CNN reports. They “were kidnapped by the Taliban in 2012 while they were traveling as tourists in Afghanistan and were held in captivity since. Coleman was pregnant when she was kidnapped. The couple had two more children born in captivity.”
And the captors? “US intelligence officials believed the couple was being held by the Haqqani Network, a branch of the Taliban believed to be responsible for some of the group’s most violent and sophisticated attacks,” CNN writes. “In December the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, said the Haqqani Network held a total of five American hostages.”
Knowns and unknowns: “U.S. intelligence on Wednesday told Pakistan that the hostages had been moved over the border into northwestern Pakistan,” Reuters writes. But it remains unclear when the operation took place.
However…President Trump may have hinted about it last night when he told a crowd in Pennsylvania “something happened today where a country that totally disrespected us called with some very, very important news. One of my generals came in and they said, you know, I have to tell you, a year ago they would have never done that. It was a great sign of respect. You’ll probably be hearing about it over the next few days. This is a country that did not respect us, this is a country that respects us now. The world is starting to respect us again, believe me.”
According to Islamabad, “The operation by Pakistani forces, based on actionable intelligence from US authorities was successful; all hostages were recovered safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin. The success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards fighting this menace through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy.”
Still in captivity: “The Taliban continue to hold other western hostages including US citizen Kevin King, 60, and Australian citizen Timothy Weeks, 48. Both men were working as teachers at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul when they were forcibly kidnapped from a vehicle in August 2016,” CNN reports. “One other American is believed to be held hostage in Afghanistan or Pakistan: writer Paul Overby, who is in his 70s.”
From Defense One
Top Defense CEO Blasts Washington Budget Gridlock // Marcus Weisgerber: ‘National security is not an entitlement,” said Michael Strianese, chairman and CEO of L3 Technologies.
Here’s What Concerns the General in Charge of Recruiting America’s Future Army // Ben Watson: President Trump’s Army is trying to grow by 80,000 soldiers next year, something that hasn’t happened this century without lowering the bar for entry.
A Law is Expiring That Allows Ethical Hackers to Help Protect U.S. Elections // Joseph Marks: Renewing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act exemption for ethical hacking is vital for election security, researchers say.
Should the US ‘Send In the Marines’ After Hurricanes? // Julia Brooks and David Polatty: The military can make a big difference right away but humanitarian deployments should generally be rare and brief.
Welcome to Thursday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. 1964: The Soviet Union launches Voskhod 1, the first spacecraft with a multi-person crew. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free.
Deadly type of IED reappears in Iraq. The roadside bomb that killed Army Spec. Alexander W. Missildine and wounded another U.S. soldier north of Baghdad on Oct. 1 was an explosively formed projectile weapon, Pentagon officials told the Washington Post. “EFPs were among the most lethal weapons faced by U.S. forces before a troop withdrawal in 2011. The devices were considered a hallmark of the Iranian-backed Shiite militias battling the U.S. occupation after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. But the technology used to make them proliferated, and cruder versions were also deployed by Sunni militants.” But for the past three years, as U.S. troops helped confront ISIS, EFPs have been absent — until now. Read on, here.
What happened to JIEDDO? At the height of the war in Iraq, the Pentagon launched a “modern-day Manhattan Project” to find ways to counter IEDs. Called the Joint IED Defeat Organization, it consumed billions of dollars and produced only scattershot results. In a good piece for Politico, Kelsey Atherton lays out where this early foray into big data went wrong. Read it, here.
Trump expected to undermine Iran deal. Expect a speech today or tomorrow laying out the new U.S. position on the seven-country agreement, White House sources tell the Washington Post. The unnamed officials say that Trump won’t declare Iran afoul of the deal — indeed, the UN and nearly all observers say it is keeping Tehran from restarting work on a nuclear arsenal — but will declare the agreement not in the national interest. (Defense Secretary James Mattis recently told lawmakers recently just the opposite.)
“He threw a fit.” The White House national-security team has been working on this new approach since July, when Trump “threw a fit” after being convinced not to decertify the deal, the Post reports. The officials say Trump wants to get the parties (Iran plus Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia) back to the table to address Tehran’s other activities, like ballistic missile testing and support for Hezbollah and other militant groups in the region. But diplomats from those countries have repeatedly expressed their desire to stick by the hard-won deal, while analysts say an arbitrary pullout by the U.S. will undermine trust in any number of international efforts — including the search for solutions to the North Korea crisis. Read on, here.
Kirstjen Nielsen tapped to lead DHS. Two months after John Kelly was brought to the White House as chief of staff, the Department of Homeland Security has a new nominee to run it: Nielsen, a longtime DHS official who became Kelly’s deputy there and then accompanied him to his new job. WaPo: “At the White House, as Kelly’s enforcer, Nielsen quickly emerged as a controversial presence. Her detractors viewed her no-nonsense style as brusque and complained that she could be unresponsive as she worked with Kelly to streamline operations and instill discipline in a White House often lacking structure. But her allies and supporters said she was simply helping to professionalize the West Wing.” Read on, here.
About 30GB of data on the F-35, the P-8, C-130, JDAM, and the Australian navy was stolen in a recent hack, The Australian reports (paywall alert). And the way it happened will make savvy IT administrators hopping mad: default passwords were never changed.
According to ZDnet, “The data theft was first reported on Tuesday as part of the 2017 Threat Report from the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC).”
The damage to Australia’s navy “included a diagram in which you could zoom in down to the captain’s chair and see that it was one metre away from the navigation chair,” The Guardian reports. “The hackers had used a tool called China Chopper, favoured by Chinese hackers.” Read on at ZDnet, here.
Today in confirming what we’ve long suspected: “Russia Has Turned Kaspersky Software Into Tool for Spying,” The Wall Street Journal reports (another paywall alert). “The software, made by the Moscow-based company Kaspersky Lab, routinely scans files of computers on which it is installed looking for viruses and other malicious software. But in an adjustment to its normal operations that the officials say could only have been made with the company’s knowledge, the program searched for terms as broad as ‘top secret,’ which may be written on classified government documents, as well as the classified code names of U.S. government programs.”
Said one former U.S. official: “There is no way, based on what the software was doing, that Kaspersky couldn’t have known about this.” Story, here.
ICYMI from Niger: The American soldier whose body was recovered after the three Green Berets had been killed in ambush in Niger last week — the U.S. is trying to figure out what happened to him in his last hours. One possibility may be that he was captured alive by ISIS-affiliated fighters, CNN reported this week. “During the firefight, one of the team members who was killed, Sgt. La David Johnson, became separated from the rest of the group. Officials still do not know how Johnson became separated and his body was missing for nearly 48 hours.”
Said Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley: “We do have information on the group that did it, their nature, their disposition and so on and so forth and appropriate organizations within the United States Military are digging deeper into that and will take appropriate action if required.”
Mattis on Niger, speaking to reporters Wednesday: “The first thing I’d point out is that I’ve been told that it’s in an area where the enemy has not operated before was ambushed, and hit hard. And within 30 minutes, the French airplanes were overhead. Now, think about this. It’s, it’s — I mean, we’re not ready right now for an emergency — not really ready right now for an emergency on this plane — if all of the sudden the (inaudible) dropped, we’re all going to, you know.
“So basically the ambush happened, and French pilots were overhead, fast movers with bombs on them ready to help. And helicopters were coming in behind, and that sort of thing. Nigerien troops were moving quickly, they had French advisers with them. They were on the move.”
Should the U.S. military have reacted faster? “I completely reject the idea that that was slow,” Mattis said. “We will look at this and say was there something we have to adapt to now? Should we have been in a better stance, you know, you always find a lot out — you know, of an operation — you take it apart.”
Lastly today: A new tool for America’s special operators: “suicide drones,” Defense News reports. They can be mounted on trucks; one of them (Hero 30) weighs less than 20 pounds, can pack a light warhead, and can fly for half an hour — about like your average off-the-shelf commercial UAV; while another (Hero 120) can fly for an hour and pack a “larger warhead for destroying up-armored vehicles and tanks.” Story, here.