Trump ends Asia swing in Manila; China, CIA compete to fund AI startups; Congress holds hearing on nuclear launch authority; Mattis’s Syria plan: stay and expand safe spaces; and just a bit more…

President Trump’s “Indo-Pacific” tour comes to an end in the Philippines. And what would a visit between Trump and rowdy Philippine President Rody Duterte be without a little confusion. Was human rights brought up? The White House said, “Yes, briefly.” The Philippines said no.

As for concrete takeaways from Manila, hard to say, The New York Times writes. However, there is this: “Just before leaving Manila on Tuesday, Mr. Trump told reporters he had repaired what he claimed had been a ‘horrible’ relationship between Mr. Duterte and the United States. ‘We have a very good relationship,’ he said. ‘I would actually say, probably better than ever before.’”

Writes Agence France-Presse, in review: “Nothing has really changed.”

Even so, Trump’s team called the Indo-Pacific tour a success, Reuters reports after the president “skipped the plenary session of a summit of East and Southeast Asian leaders in Manila on Tuesday because of scheduling delays.”

From the region: China says the proposed South China Sea code-of-conduct talks — which, conveniently for Beijing, have no scheduled date — are going to be a “game-changer.”

One more thing: South Korea says the North has too many nukes to destroy quickly.  

Trump son’s secret correspondence with Wikileaks. The Atlantic: Messages turned over by Donald Trump Jr. as part of the Justice Department investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia show conversations between Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks, which the American intelligence community believes was chosen by the Russian government to disseminate the information it had hacked. In one case, Donald Trump himself issued a tweet (“Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”) 15 minutes after WikiLeaks suggested as much. Read on, here.


From Defense One

China and the CIA Are Competing to Fund Silicon Valley’s AI Startups // Patrick Tucker: The U.S. intelligence community is upping its early-stage investments in machine-learning companies — but Beijing is pouring in far more.

Congress Is Concerned About Who Gets to Launch Nuclear Bombs // Caroline Houck: Here are three questions to consider during and after lawmakers hear testimony on nuclear authority.

Al-Qaeda Has Rebuilt Itself—With Iran’s Help // Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark: Interviews with al-Qaeda members and bin Laden’s family reveal a pact that allowed the group to prepare for its next phase.

Taking Putin’s Word For It // Ryan Goodman and John Sipher: Trump wants to believe both the Russian president’s denial of election meddling, and the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies. But he can’t have it both ways.

Welcome to this Tuesday 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.


How long will the U.S. military remain in Syria? SecDef Mattis has an answer: As long as ISIS wants to fight, he told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday. “We’re not just going to walk away right now before the Geneva process has traction,” Reuters reports.
The plan from here? Expand truces across the country, space by space. “You keep broadening them. Try to (demilitarize) one area then (demilitarize) another and just keep it going, try to do the things that will allow people to return to their homes,” said Mattis.
For what it’s worth, Reuters writes, “Turkey said on Monday the United States had 13 bases in Syria and Russia had five. The U.S-backed Syrian YPG Kurdish militia has said Washington has established seven military bases in areas of northern Syria.”  

Today in misinformation: The Russian defense ministry just used a video game screengrab — and 2016 footage from Iraq — as evidence the U.S. military is working with ISIS in Syria, open-source investigator Eliot Higgins noticed. Read Reuters’ short take on the accusations, here
Adds Higgins: “It’s worth noting the Russians have literally and falsely accused the US of using fakes from video games, and now they’ve actually gone and done it themselves… How broken does the @mod_russia have to be as an organisation to let a video game screenshot be used like that? Just think the levels of incompetence and hubris involved.”
Shortly afterward, Russian media began spreading the images around as well.

#LongRead: “The BBC has uncovered details of a secret deal that let hundreds of IS fighters and their families escape from Raqqa, under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces who control the city,” the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville reported Monday.
The convoy “stretched for 8km [in a] deal agreed by ‘local partners,’” he tweeted in summary. “The coalition says it didn’t want anyone to leave. Western officer was present at negotiations but didn’t take ‘active part.’”

Lebanon’s prime minister says he’ll return in two days, Reuters reports. “Writing on Twitter, Hariri urged Lebanese to remain calm and said his family would stay in Saudi Arabia, calling it ‘their country.’”

When will Saudi Arabia open Yemen’s ports again? That’s what human rights and aid groups want to know as the country plunges deeper and deeper into a humanitarian crisis, Reuters reports. “We have some 21 million people needing assistance and seven million of those are in famine-like conditions and rely completely on food aid,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said.
The answer is unclear — but there is a sort of hint, Reuters writes. The Saudi-led coalition has said it will keep Hodeidah port closed until a U.N. verification programme is reviewed to ensure no weapons reach the Houthis.” More here.

Newsflash: The U.S. military’s role in Yemen’s civil war is not authorized, the House of Representatives declared yesterday during a 366-30 vote on a non-binding resolution, Politico reported. “While mostly symbolic, the House vote was seen as a key victory for members of both parties who believe Congress, which is relegated the power to declare war in the Constitution, needs to reauthorize U.S. military operations overseas, which have expanded to many more countries and conflicts than envisioned a decade and half ago when Congress last voted for the use of force.” Read on, here.
From the region: more than 530 have been killed in the earthquake that hit the Iraq-Iran border. Here’s the latest from the Associated Press.

Update: Iran is still complying with the nuclear deal, according to a confidential report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, viewed by Reuters.

RIP Kurdish democracy. Reuters: “The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said on Tuesday it would respect the Nov. 6 ruling by the Supreme Federal Court, which declared that no Iraqi province could secede.” Story, here.

Don’t reactivate the old frigates, internal US Navy memos say. Defense News: Un-mothballing just one Perry-class guided missile frigate would cost $432 million over a decade, well beyond the price tag of current littoral combat ships, according to a memo being circulated around the Chief of Naval Operations office. Rehabbing all seven available Perrys would cost more than $3 billion, according to a second memo, which recommends putting the money toward upgrading existing destroyers, buying more LCSs, and developing a new frigate. Read, here.

Today in great visualizations:On Their Way: the Journey of Foreign Fighters,” from the folks at the DensityDesign Lab. They won an award for it, and it appears well deserved.

A wave of Taliban raids killed dozens of Afghan troops across the south and the west — and injured four coalition troops, AFP reports. As well, “There are signs the Taliban may have used night vision technology to approach and surprise our forces, though they were spotted before reaching the posts and suffered casualties,” Farah governor spokesman Naser Mehri told AFP.

Lastly today: “He became a SEAL to fight terrorists. Now he’s a Navy lawyer defending an accused one,” the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reports from (of course) Guantanamo. Navy Lt. Alaric Piette has been “a lawyer for just five years,” and now he’s “the lone attorney in court representing Saudi captive Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, whose long-serving death-penalty defender and two other civilian lawyers quit the [USS Cole bombing] case over a clandestine ethical conflict. So across two weeks of court hearings, Piette has answered the trial judge’s instruction to litigate by arguing that until a new capital defender is found, the case cannot go on.” Read on, here.

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