Another Syrian medical facility hit; Infighting in Iraq; ISIS and the ‘loser effect’; Automating the hunt for mobile missiles; and just a bit more.

Another strike on a medical facility in Aleppo. Locals tell Al-Jazeera at least five Syrians have been killed, including a nurse. “The attack came after the Syrian army said in a statement that a ‘regime of calm’ would be enforced in parts of Latakia and Damascus regions from 1 a.m. local time on April 30. It will last for 24 hours in the Eastern Ghouta region east of Damascus and in Damascus, and for 72 hours in areas of the northern Latakia countryside, the statement from the Syrian Army General Command said. It did not mention Aleppo.”

The strike shattered a brief lull in violence that took hold after the deadly airstrike Thursday on the Doctors Without Borders hospital. The renewed fighting has caused rebels in Aleppo to cancel Friday prayers “for the first time,” the Associated Press reports.

Get an hours-old analysis of the scene around Aleppo from the folks at the Institute for the Study of War, here.

Sen. Tim Kaine, handing Russia some diplomatic ammo: “How can we criticize the Russian incursion into Ukrainian sovereignty when we are carrying out escalating military operations in Syria without the permission and really even against the will of the sovereign nation?” he asked Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford during Thursday morning’s Senate Armed Services hearing on the counter-Islamic State fight.

“We may think it’s a bad idea, but in terms of the international legal justification for Russian activity in Syria, they’ve been invited in by a sovereign government,” said Kaine, D.-Va. The U.S., by contrast in Syria, has not.

Kaine’s questions appeared to be part of his efforts to persuade his colleagues that Congress needs “to formally approve the U.S.’s military actions in Syria through a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF),” The Hill reported.

And here’s Moscow, firing for effect: “Russia said Friday that U.S. plans to increase the number of its military personnel in Syria was illegal and violated the sovereignty of the war-torn country,” The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday evening.

The direct quote: “It is impossible for us to be not worried that such an action by the United States of America is being carried out without the agreement of the legal government of Syria…It is a violation of sovereignty,” Russian state news agency Tass reported Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.

In Iraq, more reports of infighting among elements of the coalition are surfacing in the northern city of Tuz Khurmatu, U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman writes. “Hostilities broke out over the weekend between two groups considered critical components of the ground war. Troops from the predominantly Shiite Muslim militias – known as the popular mobilization units or PMUs – reportedly attacked the home of an officer with the Kurdish fighting force known as the peshmerga…Fighting escalated into Sunday as peshmerga troops launched mortars and Shiite militias lit two of the Kurdish unit’s tanks on fire. Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S. described the incidents as unfortunate and in an area ‘where longstanding fault lines exist.’”

The reports of infighting could further imperil Baghdad’s push toward Mosul. The tensions at Tuz Khurmatu “were one reason why Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise visit Thursday to Iraq,” Shinkman reports, “where he urged local leaders to find some resolution to ongoing political discord in Baghdad that has been further exacerbated by the low oil prices that are crippling the country’s economy.” Read the rest, here.

Don’t look now, but UN officials are reportedly studying what a breakup of Iraq would look like. You know, just in case.


From Defense One

The increasingly automated hunt for mobile missile launchers. The trick is training computers to filter the normal from an ocean of imagery, alert human analysts sparingly, and learn from their feedback. Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber reports, here.

ISIS and the “loser effect.” Could the Islamic State’s recent failures foreshadow its demise? The Atlantic’s Dominic Tierney explores, here.

Wishing for a U.S.-made heavy lift rocket won’t make it so. If Congress really wants to ditch Russia’s RD-180 engine, it needs to fund the research — and get ready to wait. Robert Bunn makes the case, here.

The future of intelligence sharing is coming together in the Syrian War. Fifteen years after 9/11, America’s intelligence community finally has a rapid, modern system to help 17 agencies search each others’ data. Nextgov, here.

The NSA has no idea how many Americans it’s spying on. Lawmakers, who are being asked to approve FBI access to wiretapped data, want some basic answers first. Via Quartz, here.

Welcome to the Friday edition of The D Brief, by Ben Watson, Bradley Peniston, and Marcus Weisgerber. On this day in 1945, the German army in Italy surrendered to the Allies. Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


HASC OKs $583 billion defense budget. It took until 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, but the House Armed Services Committee passed its version of the 2017 defense authorization act, which adds various things unrequested by the White House. Those include “27,000 more active-duty troops and 25,000 reservists; $3 billion for 14 more F/A-18E/F aircraft for the Navy and 11 more F-35 joint strike fighters across the services; and a $2 billion plus-up to the Navy’s shipbuilding budget,” according to Defense News. But the bill also “cut the president’s budget request for the Syria Train and Equip program by roughly $98 million to $151 million.”

The bill also moves $18 billion from the White House’s war supplemental fund into the base budget, a Republican move that will force the next president to ask Congress for more money in April. Read on, here.

Outgoing EUCOM chief says the command needs to relearn how to plan for war. Gen. Philip Breedlove, who will step down on Tuesday, tells Stars & Stripes that amid post-Cold War drawdowns and efforts to make a partner out of Russia, “This headquarters shrank and changed from a war-fighting headquarters to a building-partnership-capacity, engagement kind of headquarters.” His successor, Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti “will lead a EUCOM headquarters that over the years has shrunk in size — it is the second-smallest of all combatant commands — even as the Pentagon attempts to boost its presence along NATO’s eastern edge.”

Among the problems, says U.S. Army War College professor John R. Deni: “There is nothing between the fighting units and a three- or four-star command,” he said. “At a minimum, you need a division headquarters to wield all the various pieces.” Read on, here.

Talkin’ ISIS. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will convene a meeting of the coalition battling ISIS in Germany next week. “The Counter-ISIL meeting, like previous coalition meetings in Paris and Brussels, will allow ministers to assess the state of the campaign, receive details on the latest steps the U.S. is taking to accelerate ISIL’s defeat and identify additional capabilities the coalition may need in the future,” the Pentagon announced this morning. Carter will also attend the change of command at U.S. European Command while there.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is ramping up its aerial surveillance over Libya to better keep tabs on what could be as many as 6,000 ISIS-affiliated fighters there, Dunford told lawmakers Thursday.

Oshkosh defense sales grow. The Wisconsin truck maker saw its military revenue for the quarter rise 87 percent over the same quarter last year, reaching $297 million primarily due to increased sales of Family of Heavy Tactical Vehicles and international MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles. That’s good news; the firm experienced a break in production of FHTVs last year. President and CEO Wilson Jones also said the company is “pleased that our defense team can now move forward” with the Army’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle project, which had been held up since last year by protest and legal action taken by losing bidder Lockheed Martin.

China denies Stennis a Hong Kong visit scheduled for next week. “The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs notified the United States Thursday of its decision to deny the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis and its escort ships access to the former British colony, Darragh Paradiso, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, said by phone. The ministry provided no explanation for the move,” Stars and Stripes reports.

Beijing and Moscow are in sync this morning on their resistance to the Pentagon deploying the THAAD missile system in Korea. And—also no surprise—they’re on the same page when it comes to territorial claims in the South China Sea. Where the two nations’ interests reportedly converge with Washington: the issue of rhetorical wrist slaps on North Korea over its repeated missile launches. More on all that, here.

Speaking of NorK, it just jailed another U.S. citizen for “spying.” The BBC rolls up the unfortunate tale of Kim Dong-chul, a 62-year-old naturalised US citizen born in South Korea” as well as seven other foreigners detained inside North Korea, here.

Finally today—the U.S. Army “has reversed course and decided to allow a Green Beret to stay in uniform, months after his reprimand for roughing up an accused child rapist in Afghanistan,” Army Times reports on the latest in the case of Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, who “admitted he lost his cool on his 2011 deployment to Konduz province, Afghanistan. That’s when he and his captain struck an Afghan local police officer — one who had allegedly confessed to raping a boy and then beating the child’s mother for telling authorities.” Martland spoke to Fox News about the development, thanking Iraq War veteran and California Rep. Duncan Hunter in particular for raising awareness of his case.

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