Anthrax anarchy? The Pentagon was in full crisis response mode Wednesday as officials again revised upward—this time to 51—the number of Defense Department-affiliated sites to which it may have accidently sent live anthrax. At least three separate planned and spontaneous briefings occurred inside the building on the growing anthrax fallout. “We suspect this number may rise because of the scope of the investigation,” Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told reporters. The department is conducting a review of procedures and stockpiles, and the whole SNAFU is only one percent finished, with another 396 lots yet to be reviewed. “This is not going to be a 9-to-5 endeavor,” said Work. “We are going after this as fast as we can.” Defense One’s Patrick Tucker has the rest.
Obama to release more GTMO prisoners. Administration officials intend to transfer up to 10 additional detainees from Guantanamo’s prison to other countries as soon as this month, a senior defense official told Defense One. Politics Reporter Molly O’Toole has the story.
Above the ground over Iraq and Syria, here’s what nearly 3,800 coalition airstrikes have done to ISIS territory—in a short video from Defense One that illustrates how long the battle could drag on absent a capable and united ground force in either country.
On the ground, with a mix of persuasion and violence ISIS is winning Sunni sympathizers who feel surrounded by Shiite domination, The New York Times’ Anne Barnard and Tim Arango write from Beirut. There’s even a new word for considering yourself Daesh-lite: Dawoosh. “Ideologically unified, the Islamic State is emerging as a social and political movement in many Sunni areas, filling a void in the absence of solid national identity and security. At the same time, it responds brutally to any other Sunni group, militant or civilian, that poses a challenge to its supremacy.” They’ve also closed the gates to a dam near Ramadi in Iraq, causing at least one crazy Plan B from local officials—having an airstrike open the dam back up to prevent shortages and drought downstream.
Meantime, the Pentagon’s Syrian training mission needs more time, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told WaPo’s Missy Ryan. So far there are about 140 fighters being cycled through training in Jordan and Turkey, Ryan writes. “But the relatively small scale of the training, and the difficulty U.S. military officials are facing in getting the right fighters, has raised questions about the effect the program can have in a conflict characterized by a kaleidoscope of armed groups fighting the Assad regime and one another…But military officials said it was too early to say how long it would take to reach the goal of fielding 3,000 to 5,000 Syrians a year, suggesting it will not happen soon.”
Syria’s defense minister, meanwhile, is visiting his troops on the western front lines after weeks of setbacks from the Islamic State and the rest of the ragtag rebels ripping up just about everyone’s designs for the war-torn country, Reuters reports this morning.
Battling ISIS ideology will take a generation or longer, the White House’s special envoy for the counter-ISIS fight, retired Gen. John Allen, reminded a conference audience in Doha, Qatar, yesterday. NPR’s Deb Amos has more in her interview with Allen that just aired this morning, here. More on ISIS below.
On the 2016 campaign trail: Perry’s announcing. Bush is planning to announce. Clinton is down. Rubio cashes in. And Ted Cruz is sorry, eventually. Today Texas Governor Rick Perry looks to rebound from his dreaded “oops” debate stumble in 2011.
Hillary Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy is under attack from former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who’s the latest of an “underfunded and jumbled field” of rivals.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is closing in on Jeb Bush’s donor turf; And, no joke, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz insulted Vice President Joe Biden—whose son, Beau, just died from brain cancer—in a try for a cheap partisan laugh. Cruz first scoffed at Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood, who asked why he’d said it. Then an hour later Cruz found the high road and apologized. Beau Biden was Delaware’s attorney general and a major in the National Guard. His body is lying in state in the Delaware State Capitol.
From Defense One
On the heels of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s visit to Vietnam, here are three ways to best improve U.S.-Vietnamese military ties, from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Joshua Kurlantzick.
Did the U.S. hack Chinese networks over a recent three-year period? Maybe not, but maybe so—a Chinese cybersecurity firm suggested last week, in a case that further points to the difficulties of attribution in cyber- warfare and espionage. CFR’s Adam Segal has more.
So the White House doesn’t have a strategy for Iraq? Of course they do; and it centers on no U.S. ground troops—at least until 2016. National Journal’s S.V. Dáte has more on the seemingly buried messaging out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Here’s what the White House hates about the Senate’s defense authorization bill, Government Executive’s Charlie Clark explains, giving the tensions and forecast for NDAA passage over here.
Welcome to Thursday’s edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Defense One. Why not pass this puppy on to a friend? You’ll find our subscribe link here. (Want to read it in your browser? Click here.) And feel free to send us what you like, don’t like, or want to drop on our radar right here at email@example.com.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. “ISIS is clearly a threat to the United States…[but] you can’t kill or capture your way out of an industrial strength insurgency like this,” retired Gen. David Petraeus told Charlie Rose in an interview that aired last night. His advice for the war, like many others, includes fanning out American air controllers on the ground to have a greater impact on Iraqi gains and ISIS losses. “These are fights where if you’re not winning, you’re probably losing,” he said, “because time is not on your side.”
Is this the most honest headline you’ll read today? “Mid-Level ISIS Figure Killed in Strike.” It reminds us of Bob Gates’ quip that the worst job in the world was the #3 commander of al-Qaeda, and it concerns the so-called “Emir of Ramadi” and CBS News’ David Martin has the story.
The worst fighting in months broke out in eastern Ukraine yesterday with 19 killed outside Donetsk, both Kiev and rebels said, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Mills. “Through the day, a seesaw battle was waged with tanks and rocket launchers for control of two small towns, Maryinka and Krasnohorivka, held by the government,” NYT’s Andrew Kramer reports from the port city of Mariupol.
And the European Union is floating an extension of sanctions against Russia in the hopes of persuading Moscow to pressure rebels into implementing the February ceasefire agreement. WSJ’s Laurence Norman has that from Brussels.
This weekend, President Barack Obama meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of an upcoming G7 summit in Bavaria, Reuters reports this morning.
Four minutes of bliss—and the unlikely topic is the Pentagon’s budget. Watch former Marine Col. Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ explain the history and politics of how the U.S. finds the money to fight its wars.
The White House came out against proposed cuts to troop’s housing allowance couched in the Senate’s defense bill, Military Times’ Andrew Tilghman writes. “The policy floated by the Republican-controlled Senate would limit dual-military couples to one BAH [or housing allowance] payment, specifically the rate due to the couple’s higher-ranking or senior-most service member…[and also] reduce BAH payments for many unmarried troops who share a home or apartment with another service member. For those in paygrades E-4 and higher, they would see their normal BAH rate cut back by 25 percent.”
ICYMI—Tilghman also reported on a recent plan from the Joint Chiefs that would dramatically alter the way troops through about the rank of E-6 save for retirement.
And the Army gets new uniforms in about four weeks. The mix of different shirts, belts and camo patterns is sure to be an E-9’s nightmare.
On FOIA requests: Quid-pro-Shut Up? Vice News’ Jason Leopold told a whopper of a tale to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday. The gist: After a lot of back-and-forth with the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, Leopold finally got this answer: “We’ll give you some documents as long as you promise to never file a FOIA request again and don’t have anyone else file a FOIA request on your behalf.” Read the exchange here.
And this happened yesterday: Northrop Grumman announced Mick Jaggers, a former Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle Pilot, was put in charge of the Global Hawk surveillance drone program. The news prompted quite the reaction on Twitter with these gems from Defense One readers:
@ArnoldTCat: Waiting for My Drone; Hey UAV, Get off of my Cloud
@sts10: You Can’t Always Fly Where You Want
@AlexJamesFitz: meanwhile bono is running the U-2 program
@GrahamDavidA: Sky-Fighting Man
@AthertonKD: Drones like Jaggers, Exile on Drone Street, Dronehunter Blues, Gimme Shelter (from all those drones), Droning Jack Flash