US soldier dies in helicopter crash; The ISIS effect, seen from space; “Conspiracy Against the United States”; A glimpse inside the cancelled Marvel/Northrop comic; and a bit more…

A U.S. Army warrant officer died this weekend in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan’s Logar province, the coalition announced Saturday. Eighteen-year Army veteran, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jacob Sims, was killed on Friday and six others were wounded. Sims was from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based in Washington. According to Stars and Stripes, the soldiers’ “helicopter was transporting troops for a night raid in the volatile Kharwar district when it hit a tree, forcing an emergency landing.”

The Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter — as they tend to do with crashes and “hard landings” — but the coalition denied those claims. Read on, here.

ISIS’s effect on local economies, as seen from space. A new study from RAND — which they stress was “not funded by an external sponsor, but pursued for the public interest” — used satellite imagery to define how the group altered the dynamics of local economics inside the territory the group once described as its caliphate.

BLUF: Larger cities’ economies — like Mosul and Raqqa — fared much better than the less populous cities like Deir ez-Zor and Tikrit. “The service-sector and industrial components of these economies were particularly resilient, even where ISIL control was associated with larger negative impacts on electricity consumption and population outflows,” the authors write. In those smaller cities, “ISIL proved unable or unwilling to govern parts of its caliphate in the face of effective military opposition.”

Read on for analysis of the four cities listed above, plus Ramadi, here.


From Defense One

Raqqa After ISIS Still Needs US Help // Mona Yacoubian

The group’s ultimate defeat is far from assured, and the United States can play a critical role in precluding the emergence of Islamic State 2.0.

How NATO Is Preparing to Fight Tomorrow’s Information Wars // Patrick Tucker

As members fight off cyber attacks from Russia, here’s a deep dive into spending goals, partnerships, and policy debates about going on the offensive.

Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free. OTD1961: The Soviet Union detonates the 50-megaton Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear bomb ever.


“Conspiracy Against the United States.” There’ll probably be wall-to-wall coverage of the charges against President Trump’s erstwhile campaign chairman today (or not), so just two quick links: First, Tufts international relations prof Daniel Drezner lays out some undisputed facts, à la Kevin Bacon’s lawyer in “A Few Good Men”: “1. The Trump campaign, led by the Trump family, were happy to meet/communicate with hostile foreign actors to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.” “2. The Trump White House initially lied when confronted with questions about campaign contacts with Russians.” “3) President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because of the Russia investigation.” Read on, here (and ponder how things turned out for Bacon’s prosecution).
Second, here’s what to expect next, from Robert Mueller biographer Garrett Graff, writing at Wired. Sample: “The indictment targeting Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates—itself a political bombshell—is likely to be merely the first step in a potentially long investigation. Details from the indictment—and other emerging public court documents—will immediately help to shed further light on the tangle of relationships that Manafort and others had with various Russian and Ukrainian contacts in recent years, but there are plenty more investigative avenues that Mueller appears to be following, some far removed from Manafort’s orbit.” Read on, here.

Kurdistan’s Barzani to step down. After Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence vote debacle, the region’s president is stepping down, the Washington Post reports. “Barzani’s intention to step down was announced in a letter addressed to the Kurdistan region’s parliament [on Sunday]. It was not clear whether he intends to leave public life altogether or remain as president while redistributing some of that office’s authority to the legislature and the prime minister of the Kurdish Regional Government.”
What’s next for Barzani? Unclear, but he “said in his speech that he will continue to serve Kurds as a soldier of the peshmerga, the armed forces of the Kurdish region.” Read on, here.

Did two members of SEAL Team 6 kill a Green Beret in Mali last June? It’s looking that way, but Navy investigators have taken over the case to find out for sure, The New York Times reported this weekend.

Happening today: The U.S. military is exercising its nuclear forces for its annual “command and control” drill, Global Thunder, STRATCOM announced Friday.
The thinking behind it: “We need to integrate our strategic capabilities in order to deliver multi-domain effects against any adversary, anywhere in the world, at any time,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of USSTRATCOM. Read on, here.

New U.S. nuclear options coming? While the Trump administration continues its nuclear posture review, The Guardian reported this weekend on some teases on what changes are under consideration. Among those:

  • “A low-yield warhead for a ballistic missile, possibly using the Trident D5 missile but using only the first, fission, part of its two-stage warhead.”
  • “Bringing back nuclear Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missiles, which were dropped from the arsenal in 2013.”
  • “Reducing the lead time the US would need to resume nuclear testing from its current level of three years.”
  • “A relaxation of constraints laid down in Obama’s 2010 NPR, which pledged the US would only used its nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners” and never against non-weapons states in compliance with their non-proliferation obligations.” Read the rest from The Guardian, here.

A new war on the Korean peninsula would kill up to 300,000 in the first few days — and that’s if no nuclear weapons are used, according to a new 62-page report from the Congressional Research Service, obtained by Bloomberg. “Even if North Korea ‘uses only its conventional munitions, estimates range from between 30,000 and 300,000 dead in the first days of fighting,’ the report said, citing North Korea’s ability to fire 10,000 rounds per minute. Moreover, the conflict could quickly spread to involve forces from China, Japan and Russia,” according to Bloomberg.
A bit more from the report: “Such a conflict could also involve a massive mobilization of U.S. forces onto the Korean Peninsula, and high military casualty rates… Complicating matters, should China choose to join the conflict, those casualty rates could grow further, and could potentially lead to military conflict beyond the peninsula.” More, here.

For your eyes only: Video of Russia’s newest, fourth-generation Sukhoi-30SM fighter jet, “tried and tested over Syria,” NPR’s Moscow correspondent Lucian Kim tweeted this weekend.
Also: Russia’s military just fielded its first counter-UAV unit, called the ZVO sformirorvano, Moscow’s defense ministry announced this weekend. The unit was reportedly formed off of a previous electronic warfare unit in Russia’s Western Military district. Read more, here.  

The U.S. Army is adding a beret for its trainers and advisers, Army Times reports. The color? For now, anyway, appears to be green… sort of. Army officials called it olive green, and told Army Times the one they’re teasing may not even be the one chosen. Meanwhile, the Army “has already fielded a ‘combat advisor’ tab and a Special Operations-esque unit patch to the first soldiers in the SFAB.” You can see all those items, here.

Another first for the Army: Taking over a new program designed by the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley outfit, DIUx, Defense News reported. “The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, moved a pilot project with commercial cybersecurity firm Tanium into a $750 million, five-year contract with the U.S. Army. That contract was signed Sept. 26.”
As for the new capability, “Tanium provides endpoint (think laptops or desktops) cybersecurity monitoring for large-scale clients… If a bug or hack is found on one system, Tanium can run a search across all users in roughly 15 seconds, discovering where the vulnerability spread, explained Ralph Kahn, Tanium’s vice president for federal affairs at the company. And because Tanium keeps historic data, it can go backward and look for where the vulnerability first appeared as well as discover the impact it had on the infected system.” More here.

ICYMI, U.S.“Military leaders will continue to address risks that climate change poses to bases [and] national security,” Stars and Stripes reported this weekend.

Lastly today: Here’s a look at Marvel’s cancelled promotional cartoons for Northrop Grumman. What was supposed to happen: “the Avengers team up with a group of Northrop Grumman employees, was “meant to focus on aerospace technology and exploration in a positive way,’” Gizmodo reports. “The story was intended to be the sort of promotional, explicitly-branded tie-in that you see in comics all the time. Mars, for instance, has worked with Marvel in the past to advertise M&Ms by having their characters team up with Iron Man.”
The problem: There’s “a very big difference between advertising candy and advertising missiles, one of Northrop Grumman’s more widely-known products.”
But is it that bad? Apparently, according to Gizmodo. “If you’ve ever read a tie-in comic before, it’s par for the course: it includes a team of tie-in characters getting to upstage the famous superheroes who guest-star, a barely-there plot, and awkward and clumsy writing. It’s just got an extra layer of awkwardness, since the thing being promoted in it is a defense contractor.” Read on, here.

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