Busy night for SpecOps; Thwarted raid in Somalia?; US warship sails past another fake island; and just a bit more.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia—it was a day (and night) of raids for U.S. special forces across the globe. We begin in the Gayan district of Pakitka province, on Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan, where a joint U.S.-Afghan raid rescued Ali Haider Gilani, the son of Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani from three years in Taliban captivity, the Associated Press reports. The younger Gilani is reportedly being held at Bagram air base, with plans to send him to Pakistan “in a few hours,” the BBC reports. A U.S. statement added four militants were killed in the attack. Read the statement in full, via the Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham, here.

ICYMI: Afghan special forces freed 60 prisoners from a compound in southern Helmand province late last week. That, here.

But the Taliban are still overrunning Afghan military checkpoints in Helmand and killing more than a dozen troops along the way. “The attack on checkpoints in Gereshk, on the main highway through Helmand, a few kilometers to the north of the governor’s compound in Lashkar Gah, and Nad Ali, to the west of the town, underlined the growing pressure on security forces clinging on in the southern province,” Reuters reports from nearby Lashkar Gah.

Be afraid, the Taliban says: We have “thousands of fully armed martyrdom seekers,” The Long War Journal reports off a statement from the group posted Sunday. “While [Taliban spokesman Zabihullah] Mujahid’s claim that the Taliban has ‘thousands of martyrdom seekers’ may be seen as boastful, the groups has conducted numerous attacks against Afghan and Coalition facilities using multiple suicide bombers and armed fighters over the past decade. The Taliban possesses the infrastructure to recruit, indoctrinate, train and deploy these suicide assault teams throughout Afghanistan.”

The Taliban also claims it shot down a U.S. drone, possibly somewhere over Nangarhar province, on the border with Pakistan, the Washington Post reports. The U.S. so far has confirmed it lost contact “with a remotely piloted aircraft,” but haven’t publicly explained why just yet.

Also on Tuesday, the Post adds, “officials in the country’s northeastern Kunduz province reported that a U.S. drone killed 12 Taliban fighters, including one of the insurgent group’s senior commanders. That attack took place Monday in the province’s Chahar Dara district, which the Afghan army won back after a bloody battle in April, an official with the Kunduz police said. NATO officials did not immediately confirm that the drone strike took place.” More here.

Osama bin Laden’s boy just can’t give up his daddy’s game. LWJ reports that al-Qaeda’s As Sahab propaganda arm released an audio message from OBL’s son, Hamzah. His message concerned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—its title was “Jerusalem Is But a Bride, Its Dowry Is Our Blood”—and how fighting in Syria can help lead jihadists in the fight against Israel. That over here, and via The Jerusalem Post, here.

Al-Shebab’s media wing claims it thwarted a U.S. raid in the southern Somali town of Toratorow. The fighting reportedly began at around 3 a.m. local and featured two helicopters, but detail from the alleged raid is scant so far this morning.

In Iraq, the Islamic State’s “military emir” for Anbar province was killed in a U.S. airstrike four days ago in Rutbah, near the Jordanian border, The Wall Street Journal reported. The emir’s name: Abu Wahib, “the notorious Islamic State military commander who was responsible for overrunning much of Anbar province in 2014,” LWJ adds. More on Wahib’s history and background, here.

Turkey’s special forces even got in the raid business this weekend in Syria, WSJ’s Dion Nissenbaum reports from Istanbul. Adds Kurdish Rudaw news: “The Turkish daily Yeni Safak reported on Sunday that 15-20 Turkish soldiers entered Syria on Saturday and attacked ISIS positions after 10 days of preparation and intelligence gathering. No official statement has been made by the Turkish military,” which is also what Nissembaum reports now two days later.

“If the news is confirmed,” Rudaw notes, “Saturday’s raid would be the first Turkish ground incursion against ISIS into Syria, and the second non-ISIS related incursion. In February 2015, 572 Turkish soldiers backed by tanks and armored vehicles briefly entered Syrian territory to evacuate the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, which was located in a Turkish exclave in Syria that they feared would be destroyed by ISIS.” More here.

Here’s the latest read on ISIS and its global affiliates—size, location, distribution and more—via the WSJ graphics team.

Charted: The Syrian ceasefire’s effect on killing, via The Economist. (Spoiler: There has been virtually no effect.)

Video: What it’s like to save a life in Syria. Feel just a little bit better this morning after watching Syria’s “White Hats” pull a man from rubble after a Syrian allied airstrike.

And in a bit of conflicted good news from the Syrian war, activists are helping refugees squat in 3-star hotel in Greece—just one of many abandoned buildings in the city amid the country’s economic turmoil. No surprise, but not everyone’s happy about it. Public Radio International reports on location, here.


From Defense One

Keep it secret: Congress should back off the B-21 program. AEI’s Mackenzie Eaglen argues that lawmakers’ calls for more transparency and fixed-price contracts will only hurt an Air Force acquisition effort that is doing well so far. Read her reasoning, here.

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1960, USS Triton departed on the first underwater circumnavigation of the earth. Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


U.S. Navy sends a warship — third one this year — sailing past China’s fake islands. “Daniel R. Russel, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told journalists in Hanoi that the operations ‘are not provocations. They are good global citizenship,’”  reports Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold. “‘If the world’s most powerful navy cannot sail where international law permits, then what happens to the ships, the navy, of a smaller country?’ said Mr. Russel, who earlier met with Vietnamese officials in preparation for a visit by President Barack Obama in two weeks.”

China, which built most of the 700-acre island and all 10,000 feet of its runway, said: “‘The U.S. is flexing military muscles in the South China Sea and sending military vessels and ships into waters and airspace near’ Chinese islands, he said. ‘That is the real threat to peace and stability as well as freedom of overflight and navigation in the South China Sea.’”

WSJ has a good map of the area, and here’s an aerial shot of Fiery Cross via @jimsciutto.

Meanwhile: just how does the Navy decide what ships and aircraft to buy? Defense News’ Chris Cavas explains the interlocking studies and reports that will feed into the 2018 budget and the next update of the service’s 30-year plan. Read it, here.

Jordan to get American antitank missiles. The Pentagon has signed an agreement with Amman, a critical partner in the fight against ISIS, for TOW missiles, Raytheon announced this morning.  The firm touts its TOW as “the premier long-range, heavy assault-precision anti-armor, anti-fortification and anti-amphibious landing weapon system used throughout the world today.”

Lockheed, Raytheon get laser-guided bomb contracts. The five-year deals for the Paveway II bombs are worth a combined $650 million. The munitions have been commonly used by the U.S. and allies to strike ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.

U.K. to ink deal for Boeing submarine-hunting planes this summer. That’s what British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced last night after checking out U.S. Navy P-8s in Jacksonville, Florida. “This new fleet of maritime patrol aircraft will help to protect our nuclear submarines and I intend to begin ordering them this summer,” Fallon said. The U.K. announced late last year that it wanted to buy nine P-8s, which are heavily modified Boeing 737 jetliners. “We can make this investment because we are increasing defense spending every year of this decade,” Fallon said.

Watch 71 Russian aircraft fly over Moscow to commemorate Victory Day, The Aviationist reports. “The air parade included most of the Russian ‘hardware’ that took part in the Air War over Syria, including the Tu-95 Bear, Tu-22M3 Backfire and Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers and the Su-34 Fullback ‘multidimensional’ fighters. The flypast also featured the Il-76 and AN-124 airlifters, the Russian MiG-29SMT fighter jets, the ‘Kubinka diamond’ made of MiG-29s of the Strizhi (Swifts) and Su-27s of the Russkiye Vityazi (Russian Knights) as well as Mi-28Ns, Mi-35s and Ka-52 combat helicopters flying over the monument of Minin and Pozharsky at Red Square in Moscow.” All that, here.

A bit higher above the earth, the U.S. military is covering its assets in space. That’s to say it’s working on “ways to protect exposed satellites floating in orbit” by possibly sending “swarms of small satellites into orbit that are much more difficult to target,” WaPo reported Monday.

Why? “National security officials are not only concerned that missiles could take out their satellites but also that a craft’s equipment could be easily jammed. Potential enemies could “dazzle” sensors, temporarily blinding them, or deploy tiny “parasitic satellites” that attach to host satellites and do their worst. That could lead to soldiers stranded on the battlefield with little means of communication or missiles that would not be able to find their targets.”

The USMC is sending its first females to the infantry, Marine Corps Times reported Monday. “The Marine Corps has approved requests by two women to move into infantry military occupational specialties. One woman has been approved to become a rifleman and another to become a machine gunner,” a Marine spokesman said.

“The Marine Corps is not yet releasing the women’s names or what unit they will be joining, he said. The service’s gender integration plan requires that the two female officers or staff noncommissioned be assigned to the unit 90 prior to any women joining them.” More here.

U.S. troops prefer Trump to Clinton by more than a 2-1 margin, Military Times reported Monday. “However, in the latest Military Times election survey, more than one in five troops said they’d rather not vote in November if they have to choose between just those two candidates.” That here.

Finally: In light of today’s flurry of special forces raids, it’s worth considering—at least for the sake of a healthy debate—”Are the Special Forces Stretched Too Thin?” That’s the question put forward over at Popular Mechanics. The query largely hinges on an interview with the widow of Delta Force member Josh Wheeler, but it’s still worth the click. Find it here.

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