North Korea tests another ICBM; Russia to build own internet directory; US previews more aggressive strategy in Afghanistan; and just a bit more…

By Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston

November 29, 2017

North Korea says it has completed its “state nuclear force” following Tuesday’s launch of an ICBM into the Sea of Japan, South Korea’s Yonhap News agency reports this morning.  

The missile reached an altitude of 2,780 miles — higher than the orbit of the International Space Station. If flown on a flattened trajectory, the missile appears to have been able to hit as far as Washington, D.C. Washington Post has more details, here. Or you can check out a visual review of some of the North's highest launches, also via WaPo, here.

Pyongyang state media says "such vehicles can be manufactured as many as the country wants now that the munitions industry has made a breakthrough in putting the production of all parts of the vehicle on a domestic and Juche basis 100 percent."

Wilson Center’s Abe Denmark: “Translation: sanctions and isolation won’t stop us. We can do this on our own.”

So, time for negotiations? That’s what experts are suggesting to NPR’s Elise Hu, reporting this morning from Seoul.

But IISS’s Mark Fitzgerald notes that the 72 days since the previous launch had provided perhaps the best opportunity for talks. Instead, the administration designated Pyongyang a terror-supporting regime, a long-overdue yet ill-timed move, he argues.

SecDef Mattis’s bottom line: The launch reminds all paying attention that North Korea’s nuclear program “endangers world peace, regional peace and certainly the United States.”

What’s next? Pyongyang told CNN (for the second time) that they are planning an atmospheric nuclear test, the network’s Will Ripley reported Tuesday. “There is no excuse for acting surprised when you see video of a mushroom cloud” on TV, said Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists for nuclear and defense policy.


From Defense One

Russia Will Build Its Own Internet Directory, Citing US Information Warfare // Patrick Tucker: Moscow's independent DNS may help it ward off cyber attacks — or mount its own.

Could a New Cessna Find Its Way to the Battlefield? // Marcus Weisgerber: FedEx will be the first to operate the new twin-engine turboprop, but military sales may not be far behind.

How the US and China Differ on North Korea // Krishnadev Calamur: They are at odds over the nature of the threat posed by Pyongyang.

Welcome to this Wednesday 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. OTD1941: An Imperial Japanese carrier fleet weighs anchor and heads for Pearl Harbor.


The American military will take on much greater risk in Afghanistan in the months ahead, the war’s commander, Gen. John Nicholson told reporters Tuesday at the Pentagon via VTC from Kabul. “Nicholson spoke as the U.S. military seeks to showcase its new, more aggressive approach for the war in Afghanistan, now in its 16th year,” the Washington Post writes off the presser.
What’s different? “As part of the [Trump administration’s] new strategy, Nicholson said, the U.S. military is planning to deploy new advisers to accompany Afghan army forces as they conduct patrols and offensive operations in areas where the Taliban poses a major threat. Before that change, only troops assigned to elite Afghan commando units were permitted to regularly take part in such operations, outside the relative safety of fortified military bases.”
Recall that already this year, more Americans have died in combat across the globe than any year since 2011 — the tail end of the Afghan surge. That from Newsweek, here.  
What’s not different: Pakistan’s ability to stop terrorists crossing into Afghanistan. “The Pakistanis have been engaged in a very tough fight against extremism inside their own country,” Nicholson said. “They did displace many of those terrorists who were fighting their own government. But at the same time, we’ve seen the ones who weren’t displaced were the Afghan Taliban” and the Haqqani network, Bloomberg reports. That, here.

The U.S. military has a #LongRead on why it’s in Somalia. You can check that out, here.

In Iraq, U.S. troops appear to be acting as a buffer zone between Iraqi Shi’a and Kurdish soldiers just northwest of Kirkuk, Kurdistan24 News reports this morning. “An Iraqi Member of Parliament claimed the US troops were sent to stabilize the situation in the disputed province, which has seen a drastic uptick in violence and insecurity since the Oct. 16 attack and takeover by Iraqi Forces and the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia.” Tiny bit more, here.

America’s Kurdish partners in Syria do not want to be abandoned, an official told the Associated Press, reporting from Beirut. “We can’t judge what the Americans are thinking,” Ilham Ahmed said. “But one thing is obviously clear, and that is if the Americans turn their back on their only partners (in Syria), it means they will withdraw from the fight against Daesh in the Middle East. If they really decide to stop the support, this means they are giving a chance for Daesh to re-appear and spread.” That, here.

Turkey says it will deploy a Russian S-400 air defense system in about two years.“This contract has been signed and a down payment has been made. It’s a done deal,” Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said in Ankara. Adds Defense News, “Turkey will have to operate the S-400 on a standalone basis because the system cannot be made interoperable with NATO and U.S. assets deployed in Turkish territory.” Read on, here.

Russia’s navy says it will add 10 new warships to the Pacific next year, The Diplomat reports. Armaments, specs and more details, here.

From a Washington think tank, SecState Tillerson talks tough on Russia, accusing it of “employ[ing] malicious tactics against the United States and Europe to drive us apart, weaken our confidence and undermine our economic successes since the end of the Cold War,” he said Tuesday from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
He also said post-Crimea invasion sanctions from the U.S.“will remain in place until Russia reverses the actions that triggered them.” More from the Washington Post, here.

This morning from the White House: The president would like to draw our attention to anti-Muslim videos produced by a far-right group from the U.K., Agence France-Presse reports this morning off the president’s Twitter feed. He retweeted three videos from the group — called Britain First.
The first “purports to show a Muslim beating up a Dutch boy on crutches. Another is described as showing an Islamist mob pushing a teenager of a rooftop. The third purports to show a Muslim throwing down and smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary.” Read on, here.

The U.S. Air Force “found dozens of database reporting lapses of the same kind that may have allowed the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooter to buy guns despite his domestic violence conviction,” Air Force Times reported Tuesday. “Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said the service ‘has reported and corrected several dozen records since the review began and is reviewing approximately 60,000 cases involving serious offenses over the 15-year period to ensure full compliance.’” The service expects their review to be finished “in the next few months” More on this story from the New York Times, here.

And finally today: Carve out some time this week for this military science fiction from the Atlantic Council’s August Cole, director of the Council’s Art of the Future Project and co-author of the much-discussed “Ghost Fleet” novel from just a short time ago.
We’ll excerpt a tiny bit, beginning about five grafs in, when “the world had changed a lot in the past week,” Cole writes as his protagonist — U.S. Navy Commander Wayne McCabe — enters the Strait of Hormuz, accompanied by a fleet of unmanned ships. “Six days earlier a pair of shore-based Nasr-1 anti-ship missiles hit the USS Theodore Roosevelt. While the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) missile battery didn’t sink the carrier, it and the rest of the task force made a hasty withdrawal from the area, after which the Iranians sowed hundreds of mines in the Strait of Hormuz—creating a geopolitical tremor the world was just not ready for. The Navy had to do something, and so they sent in twelve autonomous Sea Hunter-class ships based in the region; ten remained after bottom-moored mines sunk two of them… McCabe had spent enough time in the region to know that the Iranians believed they’d been at war with the United States in one form or another for longer than he’d been in the service. Now the United States was counting down the hours until it finally could respond with overwhelming force.” Catch the story in full over here.


By Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston // Ben Watson is news editor for Defense One. He previously worked for NPR's “All Things Considered” and “Here and Now” in Washington, D.C. Watson served for five years in the U.S. Army, where he was an award-winning combat cameraman and media advisor for southern Afghanistan's special operations command during the 2010-11 surge. // Bradley Peniston is deputy editor of Defense One. A national-security journalist for two decades, he helped launch Military.com, served as managing editor of Defense News, and was editor of Armed Forces Journal. His books include No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf, now part of the Chief of Naval Operations' Professional Reading Program.

November 29, 2017

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