North Korea’s kinda big ICBM; Marine artillery to exit Syria; Russia gets an air base in Egypt; USSOF in the spotlight in Somalia; China adds two subs; and just a bit more…

By Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston

November 30, 2017

Missile experts say Kim’s new ICBM is frighteningly large. Washington Post: A day after its latest intercontinental ballistic missile launch, North Korea released photos of what it’s calling the ‘Hwasong-15.’ And the collective response from missile experts was — not to get too technical — whoa.” Though Pyongyang has often exaggerated or lied about what their photos purported to show, Western experts nevertheless marveled at the Hwasong-15’s bulk, compared it to a U.S. Titan II, and speculated that few — if any — improvements would be needed to enable it to deliver a working nuclear warhead anywhere in the United States. Read on, here.

U.S. response: WaPo, reporting from the United Nations Security Council: “U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday urged all countries to sever economic and diplomatic ties with North Korea, and warned Pyongyang that the regime will be ‘utterly destroyed’ if a standoff over missile tests leads to war.” That, here.

American and Chinese generals are talking: Just hours after the Wednesday launch, several top uniformed leaders “engaged in an unusual set of security talks…focused on how the mighty American and Chinese militaries might communicate in a crisis.” That from AP, here.

44 up: All 44 of the land-based interceptors planned for year’s end are in place in Alaska and California, according to a U.S. Missile Defense Agency factsheet spotted by Joshua Pollack.

But can they do the job? WaPo has a good set of illustrations showing how an interception is supposed to go. (ICYMI: Pollack walked D1 readers through the probabilities, while Joe Cirincione argued even more simply: no.)

So what’s next? Yale’s Mira Rapp-Hooper says the path to avoiding war can only start when the Trump administration acknowledges that Kim is not going to give up his nukes. Read, here.


From Defense One

America Is Not Going to Denuclearize North Korea // Mira Rapp-Hooper: Trump administration officials still think they might persuade the Kim regime to disarm. This belief is mistaken, and dangerous.

Russia Used Social Media to Weaponize American Free Will. Here's What to Do About It. // Samuel S. Visner: The tech, policy and national security communities need to come together to stop disinformation campaigns.

Welcome to this Thursday 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. OTD1874: Winston Churchill is born.


Marine Corps fire squads are leaving Syria. An unspecified number of the more than 400 U.S. Marines shelling ISIS in Raqqa, Syria, with M777 howitzers are en route back “home soon,” CENTCOM announced this morning. (“Home” for the troops of the 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment is Camp LeJeune, N.C.) “With the city liberated and ISIS on the run, the unit has been ordered home. Its replacements have been called off,” the release reads.
Said CJTF-OIR ops director, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga: "We're drawing down combat forces where it makes sense, but still continuing our efforts to help Syrian and Iraqi partners maintain security. Our remaining forces will continue to work by, with, and through partner forces to defeat remaining ISIS, prevent a re-emergence of ISIS, and set conditions for international governments and NGOs to help local citizens recover from the horrors of ISIS' short-lived rule."

Russia is talking about drawing down in Syria today, too. But Nikolay Patrushev, the head of the national security council, gave no specific timeframe, RT reports, writing it will begin “when ready.”

U.S. special operators in Somalia are under the spotlight after this Daily Beast report was published Wednesday. What the report alleges: “American soldiers were involved directly in the deaths of 10 innocent civilians” in Bariire, in southern Somalia on August 25, 2017.
Supporting TDB’s report: interviews with “three of the operation’s survivors over the phone from Mogadishu and [a] meeting in person with the Somali National Army Commander in charge of the Somali soldiers who assisted in the operation” as well as interviews with “over two dozen Somali intelligence officers, political analysts, local leaders, and former and current government officials familiar with the incident.”
Not supporting TDB’s report: an actual trip to “freaking dangerous” Bariire, notes Africa-watcher Laura Seay, in an insightful reax thread on Twitter.
AFRICOM reax: “After a thorough assessment of the Somali National Army-led operation near Bariire, Somalia, on Aug. 25, 2017 and the associated allegations of civilian casualties, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa has concluded that the only casualties were those of armed enemy combatants.” Full statement, here.
Extra reading: “Everything we know about what U.S. special ops are doing in 33 African nations,” from Vice News.

Back stateside, SOCOM is (internally) up in arms. Why? Alleged declining standards attributed to “careerism, cronyism, and malfeasance in the Special Warfare Center” at Fort Bragg, N.C. SOFREP has the full story — it’s a long one — here.

Russia’s air force will soon use bases in Egypt, the Associated Press reports from Moscow. “The Russia-Egypt deal, which would allow each country’s warplanes to use air bases of the other, is to last five years and could be extended further if agreed. For Egypt, the deal is significant as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government has expanded military ties with Russia and signed deals to buy Russian fighter jets, helicopters and other weapons.” Context and a brief look back at the history of Moscow-Cairo relations, here.

Egypt’s Sisi wants the Sinai peninsula cleared of terrorists “within three months,” The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. “In a speech Wednesday marking the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, Mr. Sisi said he had instructed Egypt’s police and his newly appointed chief of staff to use “brute force” to regain full control of the peninsula from an Islamic State-driven insurgency. His directive came after weeks of intensified violence culminated in Friday’s attack, in which gunmen killed at least 305 worshipers at a mosque in the town of Al Rawda, near al-Arish. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State-linked Sinai Province militant group is active in the area.” Read on (paywall alert), here.

China’s navy continues to grow, adding two new “sub-killing stealth warships,” The Diplomat reports. “The two new warships, Guangyuan (hull number 552) and Suining (hull number 551), were commissioned on November 16 and 28 respectively at a naval base in Guangzhou, Guangdong province in southern China. Both vessels will serve in the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet, the force responsible for Chinese naval operations in the South China Sea.”
China is aiming for “a fleet of up to 60 Type 056/056A Jiangdao-class corvettes,” TD writes, “with one new ship launched ever six weeks. This year alone, the PLAN has commissioned seven Jiangdao-class corvettes (all of the Type 056 ASW variant) into service. Four more corvettes are expected to be commissioned in December and January alone.” More here.

The Pentagon is adding new measures to contracts to help protect its power grid, Defense News reported Tuesday. Although more of an intent than an actual, comprehensive plan at this point, you can read all about it — spelled out by Lucian Niemeyer, assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment — here.

More military fiction reading: This time from West Point’s Modern War Institute. The topic: “The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2037,” what the author — U.S. Army Maj. ML Cavanaugh — calls “a respectful twenty-fifth anniversary re-boot of Charles Dunlap’s 1992 essay” of a similar title. “It is in the spirit of avoiding such a disturbing and dangerous calamity that this essay is presented to the reader,” Cavanaugh writes. Dive in, here.

Finally today: Bosnian war criminal pulls a Hermann Göring and dies after drinking poison in court. It’s the crazy story of former Bosnian Croat military commander Slobodan Praljak who passed away Wednesday after judges at the Hague sentenced him to 20 years in prison for war crimes. Praljak responded to the judges by announcing his perceived innocence — followed quickly by an awkward bottoms-up of what would appear to be a fatal concoction. Read all about the odd and dramatic scene here at the NYTs, or watch a video review, via Reuters, 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 30, 2017

http://www.defenseone.com/news/2017/11/the-d-brief-november-30-2017/144183/