Despite the U.S. military’s rough summer, major mishaps are declining. Roll Call’s John Donnelly adds it up: “Deaths from major noncombat accidents for forces on duty did not increase but have in fact plummeted since 9/11, a Roll Call analysis shows. Eleven of the past 15 years were deadlier than 2017. And the deaths have declined at a rate that does not appear to be explained solely by the reduction in the overall size of the military or its pace of training.”
That’s good news (though cold comfort for the friends, family, and comrades of the 61 troops who have died in accidents each year, on average, since 2010). So what’s the problem?
Lawmakers are citing the mishaps as a reason to increase the size of the military — and that could lead to more problems. “Yes, military readiness is threadbare,” Donnelly writes, citing a raft of experts. “Navy ships are lacking certifications, and most Army and Air Force units are not ready to fight without days or weeks of preparation. But if the summer of mishaps triggers a buying spree on new weapons and more troops — without sufficient maintenance and training to support them — then a bigger budget could actually result in a less-capable force, analysts say.”
So what’s the answer? It’s not “do everything,” says CSIS’ Todd Harrison and others. “The problem we have and we’ve had for 16 years is we’re not willing to make those choices,” Harrison said. Read this important story, here.
Clearing up some not-entirely-accurate reporting about the U.S. Army and green card holders. Mic reported Tuesday the service’s “recruiters have been told to stop enlisting green card holders into the Army effective immediately, according to an email sent to military recruiters and obtained by Mic, a move that experts say breaks federal law.”
According to Mic, “‘EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY DO NOT ‘SHIP’ OR ‘ENLIST’ ANY FOREIGN NATIONAL’S (ALL I-551 CARD HOLDERS) UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE,’ reads an email sent to Army recruiters on Monday by Gregory C. Williamson, chief of the Accessions Suitability Office Guard Strength Division.”
However, Army officials tell The D Brief, this “is a [Department of Defense] policy change. Bottom line, [green card holders] can still join. They are just subject to additional background screenings, so it will take longer to process them.” Review the additional background screening updates, issued via DoD on Friday, here.
From Defense One
How 4 Green Berets Took Down Joseph Kony’s Army With Tailored Messages // Patrick Tucker: For six years, a U.S. Special Forces team waged psychological warfare against a murderous warlord. Here’s how they won.
The War on ISIS Held the Middle East Together // Thanassis Cambanis: With the fall of Raqqa, the sad story will pick up exactly where it left off in 2014.
Can the United States Broker Peace Between Iraq and the Kurds? // Max Boot: Washington should respond to sectarian conflict near Kirkuk by seeking to preserve a united Iraq while supporting Kurdish autonomy.
Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1974: First flight of the prototype Sikorsky YUH-60A Black Hawk. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free.
Bad look in Raqqa. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces drove celebratory donuts in their tanks in the city center — just like the last occupiers of Raqqa —ISIS, the resident activists of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently tweeted Tuesday after scenes of the donuts emerged on social media.
However, according to The New York Times, “Celebrations erupted in Raqqa, where residents had lived under the repressive rule of militants who beheaded people for offenses as minor as smoking. Fighters could be seen cheering and firing celebratory gunfire in the streets, according to residents reached by phone and text message.” That, along with questions about what’s next, here.
Barzani’s retort. Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani issued a statement in the wake of Baghdad’s allied troops retaking Kirkuk from Peshmerga control in a confusing blitz on Monday.
The short read from Barzani: “all of the resources of the Kurdistan Region will be allocated for the security and stability of the Kurdistan Region. President Barzani calls upon the political entities of the Kurdistan Region to work towards unity.” Find his full remarks, here.
BTW, about that blitz: The U.S. military said Tuesday it had no warning about until it was under way on the morning of the 16th, which would seem to raise serious questions about communications between America’s allies in and around Iraq as ISIS continues to lose the last of its territory across Syria and Iraq.
A new first in Iraq: a Saudi commercial plane has arrived to Baghdad for the first time in 27 years, Reuters reports.
Was a botched U.S.-led operation in Somalia partly to blame for Saturday’s deadly bombing in Mogadishu? The Guardian reports the bomber “was a former soldier in Somalia’s army whose home town was raided by local troops and US special forces two months ago in a controversial operation in which 10 civilians were killed,” according to Somali officials.
There’s really too much to excerpt to make the case well enough here, so go read The Guardian’s account.
Find a new map of Somalia’s contested zones, via the folks at American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats initiative, here.
We also have an updated map of Taliban and ISIS affiliate-held territory in Afghanistan, via the analysts at The Long War Journal, here.
The context for that update: “Taliban forces overran three district centers in Kandahar, Farah, and Ghazni provinces over the past two days, according to reports from Afghanistan. The jihadist group continues to gain ground in Afghanistan despite a change in US strategy that has reduced restrictions on commanders to launch airstrikes against the group.” Read on, here.
U.S. Navy SEALs were ready to move in Pakistan if Islamabad’s forces faltered in the rescue of American Caitlin Coleman, her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, and their children, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Toronto Sun published a blistering op-ed against Boyle’s apparent plan in the region before being captured. A taste of that: “we are glad Boyle’s current American-born wife, Caitlan Coleman, was also safely freed with her three children, all born in captivity, and hopefully she will eventually dump the man who thought it was wise to drag a pregnant wife into war-ravaged Afghanistan so that he could reportedly hook up as a ‘war correspondent’ embedded with the Taliban.” The rest is just as ugly, here.
Here’s a recent window into Russia’s alleged, multifaceted influence campaigns inside the U.S., via a group of Russian journalists, published in Meduza.
One excerpt: “Our goal wasn’t to turn the Americans toward Russia,” one alleged former paid troll for Russia’s Internet Research Agency said. “Our task was to set Americans against their own government: to provoke unrest and discontent, and to lower Obama’s support ratings.” Read on, here.
There was a flash of light in the sky Monday evening over Dubai — ”in a region where Iran regularly test-fires ballistic missiles and Shiite rebels in Yemen have threatened to use them against Abu Dhabi,” AP reports.
The responsible party: Russia, when parts of one of its unmanned cargo spaceships broke up in the earth’s atmosphere and fell into the Indian Ocean. Story — including Dubai officials who thought it was a “meteorite” — here.
And spotted in the skies over Qatar recently: Tests of its Astros II multiple long-range rocket system. See it here.
China’s Xi Jinping says the world is in a “new era,” saying the words 36 times in a three-and-a-half hour speech before his Communist Party congress in Beijing, Reuters reports.
Xi is also expected to promote one of China’s few combat veterans to a top military post: General Zhang Youxia, currently director of the Equipment Development Department, could become the vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission. Zhang “fought against Vietnam in a brief border war in 1979 that China launched in punishment for Vietnam invading Cambodia the previous year and ousting the Beijing-backed Khmer Rouge… He also fought in another border clash with Vietnam in 1984.” More — including a broader preview of what may lie ahead for China’s military amid Xi’s ongoing reforms — here.
Finally today: In remembrance of the Miami stunt rider once known as the “Wheelie King,” via’s Florida’s Local10 news. The story is four years old, but came to our attention via CNN’s Barbara Starr — sharing the story because the “Wheelie King” was none other than LaDavid Johnson, the U.S. Army sergeant who died in Niger this month in an ambush with American special forces soldiers.
And: President Trump is angry with the response he has gotten in the press regarding the incident in Niger (still no answers from the White House on that one). But more to the point, he’s done an unusual job of dealing with Gold Star mothers in the wake of the incident, too — tweeting this morning that he did not tell one widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” That via ABC News this morning, here.
Tweeted former 101st Airborne combat vet (and former Obama admin spokesman) Brandon Friedman: “After a KIA, no one in the military ever, EVER, says ‘he knew what he signed up for.’ Instead they reflect.”