US soldier killed in Iraq; New EUCOM for a new war footing; Israel plans F-35 ceremony; Why the Marines are short on fighter jets; and a bit more.

An American soldier has been killed in northern Iraq, about 12 miles north of Mosul and roughly 3 miles inside the Peshmerga’s “forward line of troops,” the U.S. military said this morning.

“It is a combat death,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters in Germany. (More on that visit below.)

The troop’s death makes now three U.S. troops killed in combat in Iraq over the past seven months, NBC News reports. The unnamed “service member was on an advise-and-assist mission with Kurdish Peshmerga forces when enemy fighters penetrated,” a U.S. official told NBC. “The serviceman was killed by direct fire, the official added.”

Kurdish media fills in the picture a bit, reporting that some 400 Islamic State fighters are locked in a pitched battle with the Pesh and their advisors near the town of town of Tel Skuf (which Reuters refers to as Tel Asqof). “Islamic State militants staged three suicide attacks on Peshmerga defense lines and the Kurds fought back, military officials told a Rudaw correspondent on the Nawaran frontline. ISIS lashed out on multiple war fronts against Peshmerga forces early Tuesday with 400 fighters, wounding at least two Kurdish soldiers in car bombings and suffering casualties itself.”

The head of a Christian militia told Reuters that “the insurgents had overrun [the militia and Peshmerga’s] positions at dawn around the town of Tel Asqof, 20 km (12 miles) north of Mosul, and occupied it until being beaten back with the help of [coalition] airstrikes.” More here.

Also in northern Iraq this morning, Turkish airstrikes are hitting Kurdish PKK rebel positions near Qandil, “the mountainous stronghold of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party” northeast of Mosul on the Iraq-Iran border, AP reports.

Forget Mosul; Baghdad could well be Iraq’s “most important battle,” Foreign Policy reports, with input from Dan De Luce, who is traveling with SecDef Carter in Germany. “The Obama administration’s plan to defeat the Islamic State relies in part on maintaining a reliable political partner in the form of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has so far struggled against vested interests to push through his plans to overhaul the government and fix what is widely decried as a sectarian free-for-all among Iraqi politicians,” FP writes. Added CJCS Gen. Joseph Dunford: “The fact that we’ve had a reliable partner in Prime Minister Abadi has been one of the reasons I think the [military] campaign has made the progress it has in the last few months.”

But a scattered and diminished Iraqi security force still plagues Baghdad and Abadi. “Today, there is still no unified Iraqi security force that is responsive to the prime minister’s directive,” said said Kimberly Kagan, founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War. Kagan also added “there’s a ‘wider security apparatus’ including the Shiite militias, some of which ‘function under a chain of command that goes to Iran.’” Read the rest, here.

There’s about to be a new military chief of NATO just as the alliance shifts “back onto a continental war footing.” U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti will become NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, to go with his appointment as chief of U.S. European Command, in a ceremony tomorrow at alliance military headquarters in southern Belgium, AP reports. Scaparrotti, a native of Ohio, slides into Europe after a stint as head of American forces in Korea.

He takes over as the U.S. is about to turn up the pressure on Russia’s western doorstep, shifting NATO closer to Cold War-like deterrence mode, writes U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman, traveling with Carter.

“The Pentagon sees [Scaparroti’s new appointment] as marking a transition away from the commander serving as the principal organizer of an alliance – responsible for maintaining America’s strong ties with European allies and coordinating NATO military action – to one charged to a greater extent with preparing for and preventing war,” including the 4,000 extra U.S. troops Carter pledged to Europe in March, as well as an additional U.S. deployment of four battalions somewhere on the continent that NATO still has to debate. More here.


From Defense One

What’s your “insider threat score?” it could determine whether you keep your clearance. The new National Background Investigation Bureau thinks screening people with classified access can determine their likelihood of going rogue. Nextgov, here.

Watch: This is what it’s like to live and die for ISIS in Iraq. A violent and graphic video suggests the reality of fighting for the Islamic State is much different from the dominating successes their online messages portray. Via Quartz, here.

Is Brazil experiencing a coup? It’s hard to tell. The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman explains, here.

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1808, the Russian Army took the Baltic fortress of Svartholm, paving the way to victory in the Finnish War. Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


Violence has returned to Aleppo where more than a dozen have reportedly died in rebel-held and government-controlled parts of the city, AP reports. Damascus said it’s just countering a multi-pronged offensive Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and the Army of Islam fighters. “Rebels” (or opposition forces, or extremists—impossible to know) are being blamed for a rocket attack in Aleppo this morning on a hospital in the government-held part of the city, Reuters adds.

How are ordinary citizens getting by in Damascus? With a generous helping of dark humor, The New York Times’ Declan Walsh reports with some great color from the capital.

Iran is really taking it on the chin in Syria, analysts from the Levantine Group reported Monday in a new look that describes “how Iran’s troops wage Assad’s most decisive battles.” Some interesting takeaways include:
• “Iran has suffered as many (or even more) casualties in the past six months than in the first two years of its operations there (depending on overall estimates).”
• “The implementation of the February 26 ceasefire led to a significant drop in Iranian casualties initially (only nine deaths in March). However, Russia’s ‘withdrawal’ on March 15 and the subsequent opposition offensive in the Aleppo Province the following month led to a significant spike in such casualties.”

And this one: “The sustained deployment of regular army forces to a combat zone is unprecedented since the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, and underscores the broadening of the Iranian intervention… [suggesting] Iran’s willingness to pour more troops into Syria after Putin’s withdrawal announcement may confirm that Tehran did attempt to step up at a time when Russia was limiting its operations, shedding light onto possible tensions between the two pillars of Assad’s foreign support.” Read the report in full, here.

ISIS hackers claim to have doxxed U.S. troops. “Over the weekend, hackers with the ‘Islamic State Hacking Division’ published a list of about 70 names they say are U.S. military personnel tied to the death of their once-famed leader, Junaid Hussain, also known as Abu Hussain al-Britani,” Air Force Times reported. “The list featured addresses and photos of some prominent U.S. military leaders, such as the commander of the coalition against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland.”

Pentagon officials declined to say whether the information was accurate.

“Kill them wherever they are, knock on their doors and behead them, stab them, shoot them in the face or bomb them,” the hackers wrote online. “You press buttons thousands of miles away in your feeble attempt to fight us. A nation of cowards that holds no bravery as you resort to sending your remote-controlled unmanned Reaper and Predator drones to attack us from the skies. So this is for you, America.”

Israel’s first F-35 to be “christened” June 22. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will travel to Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, plant for a ceremony to welcome the first of the 33 F-35As, dubbed Adirs by the Israeli military, being purchased for $110 million apiece, reports Defence Blog. Later this year, the first two will actually fly to Israel, with the balance delivered by 2021.

The Marines are short on fighter jets — and it’s largely their own fault. That’s the way The Daily Beast’s David Axe sees it, noting that the Corps “budgeted themselves into a financial corner two decades ago by committing to a warplane they could not afford—and which, today, has effectively sucked all the cash out of the air wings.” That aircraft, of course, is the F-35B, the vertical-lift version of the Joint Strike Fighter. With the 5th-gen fighter arriving years late and far more expensive than planned, the Corps is on track to replace its aging F/A-18 Hornets only in the mid-2030s.

Meanwhile: “On April 20, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marines’ deputy commandant for aviation, told the Senate that just 87 of those Hornets were flightworthy—a mere 32 percent. Yet the Marines say they need 58 percent of their F/A-18s to be ready for flight in order to have enough planes to fight America’s wars while also training new pilots and giving trained pilots enough flight hours to maintain their combat prowess.” Read that, here.

Lastly today: How much have kleptocrats stolen from 150 “mostly poor nations” since 1970? $12.1 trillion, “which amounts to two-thirds of America’s annual GDP being taken out of the economies of much poorer nations,” The Daily Beast reports, and that “huge figure equals a nickel on each dollar of global wealth and yet it excludes the wealthiest regions of the planet: America, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.”

Let’s go even higher: “Add to that flight wealth from the world’s rich regions, much of it due to tax evasion and criminal activities like drug dealing, and the global figure for hidden offshore wealth totals as much as $36 trillion.”

About the figures: It’s all “been hiding in plain sight. It comes from numbers in the global economic data—derived by comparing statistics from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, supplemented by some figures from the United Nations and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency—that do not match up, but which until now no one had bothered to analyze. You might think that with their vast staffs of economists and analysts the IMF, the World Bank, and other institutions would have run the numbers long ago, but no.” Why not, and what can be done from here? Read on find out.

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