Noting: Yesterday marked 75 days with no military fatalities, the longest period since 2001. Fred Boenig, the father of a U.S. airman who died in Afghanistan, reminded the national security community of that yesterday after his comments were picked up by news outlets during a panel discussion yesterday.
Boenig, to Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a self-described hawk, who himself served in Iraq, as he sat on the dais: “I want to first say thank you… this one is for Rep. Kinzinger. you started off this discussion by saying you were a hawk. And i mean no disrespect, but when you said that the only thing I can hear is a knock on my door again. But I have one question, do you know how many days it’s been since the last U.S. military casualty?… 75 days, it’s the longest period since 2001. When you talk about being a hawk, maybe that’s something you would really want to keep track of.”
Kinzinger, who himself served in Iraq, responded abruptly, acknowledging Boenig’s loss but reverted quickly to talking points on the need for a strong military presence in the Middle East.
The WaPo’s Dan Lamothe: “…Boenig’s figure is accurate. According to a Washington Post tally, Wednesday marked 75 days since the last U.S. military fatalities in a combat zone. Two soldiers — Sgt. 1st Class Ramon S. Morris, 37, and Spec. Wyatt J. Martin, 22 – died Dec. 12 after their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan’s Parwan province.” Read Lamothe’s piece and watch the video exchange here.
Meantime, Jihadi John was known to the Brits. The NYT’s Steven Erlanger: “Mohammed Emwazi was 6 when his parents moved to West London from his birthplace in Kuwait, and he seems to have lived a normal life, studying hard and graduating in computer sciences from the University of Westminster in 2009. But he came to the attention of the British intelligence services in May that same year, detained as he landed in Tanzania with two friends on what he described as a celebratory safari.
“British officials thought he and his friends were headed to Somalia, to fight with the terrorist group Al Shabab, and allegedly tried to recruit him as an informant before shipping him back home.”
The fundamental question facing the West: “Given important constitutional and legal protections, how do counterterrorism and police officials draw the line when they find enough evidence to suspect someone, but do not have enough to prosecute them, or even to keep them under legal surveillance?” More from the NYT here.
How a Kuwait-born, middle-class Londoner became an ISIS icon, in the WaPo, here.
The 26-year-old Mohammed Emwazi turned to militancy because he claimed he was harassed as a Muslim. USA Today’s Jane Onyanga-Omara and Donna Leinwand Leger: “The Islamic State executioner with the British accent has been unmasked as a Kuwaiti-born Londoner who grew up in affluence but turned to militancy and barbarism after repeated harassment by security agencies simply because, in his view, he was a Muslim.” More here.
Noting: the WaPo’s Souad Mekhennet and Adam Goldman first identified Emwazi yesterday.
Meantime, on how ISIS is destroying the ancient art of Assyrian Christians, this lede, from the NYT’s Anne Barnard, is apt: “The reports are like something out of a distant era of ancient conquests: entire villages emptied, with hundreds taken prisoner, others kept as slaves; the destruction of irreplaceable works of art; a tax on religious minorities, payable in gold.
“A rampage reminiscent of Tamerlane or Genghis Khan, perhaps, but in reality, according to reports by residents, activist groups and the assailants themselves, a description of the modus operandi of the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate this week. The militants have prosecuted a relentless campaign in Iraq and Syria against what have historically been religiously and ethnically diverse areas with traces of civilizations dating to ancient Mesopotamia.” Read the rest here.
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Jim Clapper is on board, Stewart isn’t really. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper yesterday signaled that he was in favor of arming Ukraine, but Lt. Gen. Vince Stewart, the newish head of the Defense Intelligence Agency who was testifying beside him, isn’t so sure.
Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russian-backed separatists would likely continue to advance across Ukraine but that he favors providing Ukraine lethal assistance. He joins Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who indicated before the same panel just a couple weeks ago that he was inclined to recommend arming Ukraine.
The WSJ’s Damian Paletta: “…[Clapper] predicted the Russian-backed separatists would move from eastern Ukraine into Mariupol, a strategic area on the Sea of Azov. He said that arming Ukrainian forces to prevent further advances would probably provoke [Putin], but it is unclear how he would respond.
But is there consensus on arming Ukraine? Maybe not. Paletta: “…The appearance by Mr. Clapper and Lt. Gen. Stewart made clear that there might be joint agreement on threats facing the U.S. but there is not a consensus on how to respond. [Stewart], for example, said he didn’t think providing arms to Ukraine would ‘change the military balance of power on the ground’ and would only provoke Mr. Putin to rush more arms to the front line.” More here.
Read “Five Takeaways” from the intel community’s “World Threat Assessment,” released yesterday, here.
Ukraine government forces and rebels withdrawal heavy weapons. AP’s Vadim Ghirda and Peter Leonard this morning: “Ukrainian and Russian-backed separatist forces drew back some heavy weapons from the front line in the east Friday in compliance with a cease-fire deal, although officials in Kiev accused rebels of falling short of requirements.”
“Separatist fighters moved rocket launchers to a location 70 kilometers (43 miles) back from the line of contact with Ukrainian forces as required by the peace agreement. Associated Press journalists in the morning followed four trucks carrying Grad launchers from the rebel stronghold of Donetsk to a cement factory in the village of Novoamvrosiivske, near the Russian border.
“AP reporters also saw Ukrainian troops pulling back 100 mm anti-tank guns from the front line near the town of Artemivsk. The required withdrawal distance for weapons varies depending on their power and range. More here.
BBC this hour: “Ukraine’s military said on Friday that three soldiers had been killed in the past 24 hours despite the truce.
Another seven soldiers were wounded, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said at a news briefing. That followed 48 hours during which the Ukrainian military said it had suffered no deaths, boosting hopes that the ceasefire might hold.
“Both Ukraine and the rebels say they are now withdrawing their heavy weapons from the front line under the terms of the ceasefire agreed in Minsk, Belarus. The process is yet to be officially confirmed by international monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).” Read the rest here.
Cash-strapped Ukraine struggles to maintain Russian gas supplies. AP, here.
Turkish authorities detain a man and close off the street outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul; Reuters this morning, here.
North Korea steps up its verbal attacks as military drills get underway there. Reuters: “…North Korea regularly protests the annual exercises, which it calls a rehearsal for war, and has recently stepped up its own air, sea and ground military exercises, amid a period of increased tension between the rival Koreas.”
The country’s official KCNA news agency, quoting from an article in the ruling Workers’ Party newspaper: “The DPRK will wage a merciless sacred war against the U.S. now that the latter has chosen confrontation.” More here.
The BLUF of the NYT editorial today on the North’s nuclear expansion: “…The Obama administration and its partners (China, the North’s major supplier of food and fuel; South Korea; Japan; and Russia) have failed to find a way to address the problem or engage the North in sustained negotiations to curb its nuclear weapon and missile production. They cannot merely keep talking about having talks. Mr. Wit’s and Mr. Albright’s research shows the growing danger if they cannot bring North Korea back to the bargaining table.” Read the whole thing here.
Adultery is no longer an “affair of the state” in South Korea; also from the NYT, here.
Let’s make a deal: Jim Stavridis and Bill Perry and Sean O’Keefe and Joe Reeder, in Politico, on why partisan infighting shouldn’t destroy the possibility of a deal with Iran over nukes. Their BLUF: “Let’s pull together and seek a diplomatic solution. If an agreement is reached, fully studied and deemed inadequate, there will be more than enough support for stronger measures. But none of those options will be as desirable or effective as an acceptable negotiated settlement. At that stage it will be near impossible to restart negotiations. If we’re ever likely to see an acceptable agreement, this is it. Let’s not let this perishable opportunity get away.” More here.
The Pentagon is shopping in Silicon valley for game-changers.
The NYT’s John Markoff: “A small group of high-ranking Pentagon officials made a quiet visit to Silicon Valley in December to solicit national security ideas from start-up firms with little or no history of working with the military. The visit was made as part of an effort to find new ways to maintain a military advantage in an increasingly uncertain world.” Read more here.
The WaPo’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran is leaving the Post. Per Mike Allen’s Playbook yesterday: “Chandrasekaran leaves the WashPost next week after 20+ years to move to Seattle and form a small media company to create and produce social-impact projects for film, TV and other media, some of them in partnership with Starbucks. Rajiv, who will also work on his own books, will partner with the coffee company on documentaries and long-form projects. This is an outgrowth of Rajiv’s work as Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s co-author on “For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism and Sacrifice.” Starbucks is interested in more high-profile projects like last fall’s blockbuster Concert for Valor, on the National Mall.”
Security theatre? The Pentagon removes newspaper boxes from outside the building. Military Times’ Oriana Pawlyk: “Pentagon visitors will have to find something else to shield their heads from the rain — the military has removed external newspaper dispensers from the property. Citing security concerns, the Pentagon recently removed all newsstands that used to hold copies of popular papers such as the Washington Post’s Express and the Washington Examiner from walkways around the building, officials told Military Times.” More here.
Jason Forrester leaves the building today. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Personnel for Reserve Affairs, who had hinted last fall that he was leaving, is in fact moving on. “We have a noble mission: improving the lives and maximizing the talents of the 1.1 million member of the National Guard and Reserve,” he wrote in a recent memo to friends and colleagues. “…time for someone else to continue the race.” Forrester noted that when he joined the Pentagon in 2009, he never would have imagined the role he’d play, citing the role he played in helping to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” helping vets find jobs, working to make sure all military spouses are treated equally and “smoothing the path” for DREAMers to serve in the military.
King David as Citizen David: The NYT’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg profiles David Petraeus in “After Washington, David Petraeus is Under Radar, But Not Out of Spotlight.” Stolberg: “…F.B.I. agents and Justice Department prosecutors have recommended that Mr. Petraeus face felony charges for disclosing classified information to his lover at the time and biographer, Paula Broadwell. Mr. Petraeus has denied the charges. But if Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., or his successor, pursues an indictment, Mr. Petraeus, 62, could end up in prison. Despite the investigation, Mr. Petraeus is still having quiet conversations with the White House.” Read that bit here.
28 seconds of pain: The “audacity of grope.” The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, did a piece on Vice President Joe Biden getting up close and personal with Stephanie Carter, wife of the new SecDef, Ash, during that notorious swearing-in ceremony at the White House a couple of weeks ago.
Stewart, channeling what Biden might have said to Stephanie Carter during the awkward shoulder squeeze: “You seem tense. Is it the stress of me groping you for 28 straight seconds?”… Stewart as Stewart: “Jesus, 28 seconds? That’s like three decades in groped-on-camera years!” Worth the click: watch it here.
FUDD me! The Army’s Ranger school updated its packing list to include items for women. As Military Times’ Michelle Tan reports: “They include feminine wipes, sports bras, cotton underwear, pads or tampons, and a female urinary diversion device, or FUDD. With use of a FUDD, a female soldier in the field can urinate more discreetly while standing, and also with minimal undressing.” Tan’s story here.
The FUDD has apparently been around for awhile but half of us here at The D Brief was not aware of it until now. But here’s the really crazy part about the FUDD. It’s this U.S. Army Medical Material Agency video about how women should use the FUDD in the field – an honest attempt to deal with an issue women genuinely have to confront in the field. “Wow, this actually works,” one soldier in the field says to another after using it. The kicker at the end, channeling Secret deodorant: “Always easy for a man. Now, easy for a woman.”
The soldiers in it deserve at least an Oscar mention, imho. Really worth the click, and watch it here.