Breaking: Russia bombs Syrian targets; Taliban draws on ISIS handbook; U.S. struggles to catalog cyber vulnerabilities; Ukraine trolls Putin at UN; and just a bit more…

Breaking: Russia bombs targets near Homs. “President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia suddenly escalated the stakes in his contest with the West over influence in the Middle East on Wednesday, as Russian pilots carried out their first airstrikes in Syria,” reports the New York Times this morning. “Russian warplanes dropped bombs near the central city of Homs, according to American officials in Washington.”

Who did they bomb? “Russian officials and analysts portrayed the move as an attempt both to fight Islamic State militants and to try to ensure the survival of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia’s main ally in the Middle East. But Homs is not under the control of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.” More, here.

No ground troops — yet. “Mr. Putin has repeatedly emphasized that the use of Russian ground forces was not envisioned in the near term.” NYT, here. “Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin chief of staff, said Russia’s military involvement would be limited to an air campaign targeting Islamic State, or ISIL,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Didn’t you try this before? Several “U.S. officials privately laughed and wished Putin luck,” The Daily Beast reports. “‘If he wants to jump into that mess, good luck,’ one official said, noting that Russia had become bogged down in Afghanistan a generation ago in a fight against Islamic radicals.” More here.

But Moscow’s moves show the limits of Obama’s containment strategy, write Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and Molly O’Toole at Defense One.

As much as Washington wants to shape the conflict from afar, Russia is now shaping the facts on the ground. Read their analysis, here.

Kerry: put a leash on Assad. Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that Russia and Iran might stop Assad from bombing his own people. In an interview with MSNBC Tuesday, “Kerry suggested that the cooperation might go deeper than that and that Moscow and Tehran, Assad’s staunch allies, might also help rein him in.” More via AFP here.

Enter Saudi Arabia. The U.S. isn’t the only nation pushing for Assad to go. Speaking to reporters at the U.N. General Assembly, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said there are two options for Syria: “One option is a political process where there would be a transitional council. The other option is a military option, which also would end with the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power.” More from The Guardian here.

The battle for Kunduz. American Special Forces and other NATO troops have been sent to Kunduz, the northern Afghanistan city overrun by the Taliban earlier this week. A coalition spokesman told the Washington Post that American and NATO forces would not be fighting and only “advising and assisting Afghan special forces units in the area who are working to clear the city.”

A test of Afghan forces: “The fight to reclaim Kunduz — Afghanistan’s sixth-largest city and a strategic gateway to Central Asia — is one of the Afghan military’s biggest tests in its campaign against the Taliban, and it raises questions about the withdrawal timetable for U.S. and other coalition troops.” More here.

Three U.S. airstrikes: American warplanes have flown three bombing missions, two Tuesday and one this morning, to protect forces at the city’s airport, a key staging area for Afghan troops. The initial strikes Tuesday are said to have killed 83 Taliban, Afghan police told Reuters. More here.

Taliban draw on the Islamic State handbook, posting a video showing militants with seized tanks and armored cars. The Taliban also said they would enforce Islamic sharia law in the besieged city. “The 10-minute clip posted on Facebook opens with a shot of Kunduz main square where Taliban cadres cheer as they raise their white flag under the wary gaze of subdued-looking residents,” AFP reports. “The video ends with a message from the Taliban’s newly appointed leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, though he does not appear on screen.” More here.


From Defense One

House, Senate approve defense bill Obama will veto. From Defense One’s Molly O’Toole: Last night, the “big four” members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees touted their new $600 billion 2016 defense authorization bill, but it may be more notable for what it doesn’t do: “end sequestration, solve the budget impasse over defense spending, or give President Barack Obama the legislative support he sought to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” More here.

Meanwhile, troops would get paid under a shutdown — if a bill currently making the rounds gets passed. GovExec has the story, here.

For years, the Pentagon hooked everything to the Internet. Now it’s a ‘big, big problem.’ The Internet of Things is supposed to make life easier. For the Pentagon, the quintessential early adopter, it has made life much harder, writes Defense One’s Patrick Tucker.

Now the U.S. getting pwnd in cyber. Lawmakers, the Pentagon, and leaders in United States cyber security and intelligence all agree that the United States is getting pwnd online. China and Russia have an unfair advantage, able to steal sensitive United States corporate and governmental data with near impunity.

That’s where the agreement ends. In a testy Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing yesterday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., challenged Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, national intelligence director James Clapper, and NSA head Adm. Michael Rogers to give him a clear answer as to what our nation’s policy was for retaliating against China and Russia for info heists like OPM (blamed on China). McCain pointed out that the 2015 defense policy act requires some sort of policy — not a strategy, but a clear deterrent policy allowing the nation to unleash cyber krakens on other nation states when its data goes missing.

Work: we ain’t China. “We should strive to establish norms, especially between nation states,” the DepSecSef responded, somewhat nervously. “There’s an asymmetry with our nation-state potential adversaries.”

Clapper sounded a similar note: “Should there be red lines on spying?” he asked. “We didn’t have red lines during the Cold War. There were no limits… We’re in the Wild West with cyber. No limits on collecting information.” More here.

Pentagon scrambling to learn what U.S. secrets Iraq is telling Russia.

After Iraqi leaders unexpectedly entered into an intelligence-sharing agreement with Russia this weekend, “the Defense Department’s second-in-command told the Senate on Tuesday, military intelligence and Pentagon teams are scrambling to make sure classified intelligence from the U.S. does not make its way into the hands of Russian, Syrian or Iranian authorities.”

The good news, if there is any: that there’s so much mistrust between the parties involved, the information sharing may not be of much value, or put the United States at much risk, according to National Intelligence Director James Clapper. Defense One Technology Editor Patrick Tucker has the story, here.

Ebook: How the Pentagon is dispelling the fog of information overload. In a new ebook, Defense One looks at the ways that the U.S. military and its partners are looking to turn the rising clouds of data from a distraction into a guide. Download Harnessing Big Data to Protect the Nation, here.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief, from Marcus Weisgerber and Defense One. Want to share The D Brief with a friend? Here’s our subscribe link. And please tell us what you like, don’t like, or want to drop on our radar right here at the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


Poroshenko mocks Putin at U.N. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says Putin’s call for an international antiterrorism coalition are hypocritical. “For over 20 months, Russia’s aggression against my country has been continuing through financing of terrorists and mercenaries, and supplies of arms and military equipment to the illegal armed groups,” Poroshenko told the General Assembly. Reuters reports that all but one member of Russia’s delegation left the assembly hall while Poroshenko spoke. They returned when he finished his speech. More here.

Tit for tat. Russia says it would close airspace to Ukrainian airlines, beginning on Oct. 25, the same day Ukraine says it would deny two Russian airlines from flying to its cities. More here.

Meanwhile, Pentagon’s top Russia official leaves. “Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, is leaving her post at the end of next month after five years with the Defense Department, a senior defense official confirmed to POLITICO.” More here.

U.S. expanding footprint in Turkey. Having long pressed Turkey to do more for the anti-ISIS campaign, the Pentagon now appears to getting its wish. Turkey is allowing the U.S. Air Force to base personnel-recovery aircraft in Diyarbakir, a city in southeast Turkey, that is much closer to Syria than their current location, Gen. Philip Breedlove, the NATO supreme allied commander, said Tuesday. While a specific type of aircraft were not mentioned, they are likely HH-60 combat search-and-rescue helicopters, elite squadrons that specialize in rescuing downed pilots behind enemy lines guarded by surface-to-air missiles and other types of anti-aircraft weapons.

More troops to Incirlik: Breedlove also said “the coalition intends to increase the operational footprint at Incirlik to step up the fight against [the Islamic State] in the coming months,” Stars and Stripes reports. More here.

Five years later, hunt for Kony continues. From the Washington Post: U.S. Special Operations forces have opened a new front in their hunt for the African warlord ­Joseph Kony, moving closer to his suspected hideout in a lawless enclave straddling Sudan and South Sudan, according to military officials and others familiar with the operation.” American forces in the Central African Republic are working with the Seleka Muslim rebels “who toppled the central government two years ago and triggered a still-raging sectarian war with a campaign of mass rapes and executions.” More here.

Navy’s new destroyer: marvel or boondoggle? That’s the question posed by the Boston Globe about the newest Navy ship set to begin sea trials in December. “The 600-foot Zumwalt — picture an Aztec pyramid welded atop a machete blade — is an infinitely more elaborate and costly ship, a futuristic showcase crammed with electronic innovations. But it, too, appears destined to fall well short of its promise.” More here.

American Legion backs Keystone XL. The largest U.S. veterans service organization wants the Obama administration to approve the controversial pipeline, saying veterans need access to the the estimated 42,000 jobs the project will create. More here.

Need to cross the Bosphorus? There’s an app for that. Uber, the popular ride-sharing application now offers speedboat service across the Bosphorus Strait. The journey takes five minutes as opposed to the hour and a half on the two bridges in Istanbul. More here.

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