NorK launch fizzles; Iraqis edge toward Fallujah; Meet the woman leading the Raqqa offensive; USAF delays tanker that can’t refuel planes; and a bit more.

Baghdad’s special forces are slowly moving toward the edge of ISIS-held Fallujah, nine days after the offensive was announced by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, The Wall Street Journal reports from the capital. “The Fallujah operation, led so far by Shiite militias and army and police forces, has almost completely cleared the city’s perimeter of Islamic State fighters since it was launched a week ago. But the next, crucial stage of that operation, led by Iraq’s U.S.-trained counterterrorism forces, got off to a fitful start Monday.”

Still, they captured a “handful of settlements from ISIS near Falluja, including the town of Saqlawiya, about 10 kilometers (6.5 miles) northwest of the city, and the villages of al-Buaziz, al-Bu Efan and al-Shiha, north and west of Falluja,” CNN reports.

The operation’s commander, Lt. Gen. Abdelwahab al-Saadi, told the Journal: “We are at the entrance of the city, but not inside yet. They are resisting.”

And as Iraqi troops inched closer on Monday, “three bombings killed 22 people in the capital Baghdad. One of them, in which a parked motorcycle blew up, killing three people, occurred in Sadr City, a Shiite-majority neighborhood where Islamic State claimed responsibility for a series of bombings earlier this month, bringing terror and tight security back to the capital.” More here.

Here’s a short but spectacular video of Iraqi troops taking out an ISIS car bomb with a Humvee gunner, just outside of Fallujah.

For what it’s worth, this weekend President Obama cleared the air by saying the three U.S. troops killed fighting ISIS died in “combat,” as if anyone had doubts.

Separately, coalition-backed troops (supported by American special operators) are pushing on toward Mosul, but many observers still fear what the Kurdish troops will do with recaptured villages and territory, The Daily Beast writes.

ISIS reportedly has a “severe shortage of fighters,” Kurdish media says in this report of militants hiding in a tunnel frightened at the prospect of surrender before the Peshmerga. Said one 16-year-old fighter: “I was in the traffic police in Mosul and [ISIS] came to me and said we need you for just two days. They didn’t tell me what it was for or where. That is how I came here and this is the first time I see a fight. I was posted in Gazana village but when it fell to the Peshmerga we came inside this tunnel.”

In Syria, who leads the Raqqa offensive? A Kurdish woman, The Times reported this weekend. “Rojda Felat, a Kurdish woman in her thirties who has been battling the extremists for three years, is the joint commander of the offensive on the city. She leads 15,000 Kurdish and Arab fighters, backed by US special forces and coalition aircraft, under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

More allied regime strikes fell in Syria on Monday killing nearly two-dozen people while another strike landed near a hospital, sending the emergency crew of the White Helmets into action in NW Idlib, CNN reports.

A prison revolt in the Syrian city of Hama may be about to end very badly, NYT’s Anne Barnard reports “as security forces massed outside and the city’s police chief, trapped inside, tried to mediate between them and the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Among the inmates’ demands were the release of political prisoners and an end to arbitrary trials.”

And the chief negotiator for the Syrian opposition resigned on Sunday, calling peace talks a “waste of time,” The Guardian reported.

North Korea tried and failed to launch another of its rockets off its east coast at about 4 p.m. EDT Monday, South Korea’s military says. “We believe that it was a failure,” said Jeon Ha-Gyu, spokesman for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff. “As to why and how it failed, we are in the process of analysing that.”

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted official sources who speculated the missile may have exploded on its mobile launcher, while local media cited military sources who said it was a powerful, medium-range [1,500 to 2,500 miles] ‘Musudan’ that “has already undergone three failed launches this year,” AFP reports.

Meanwhile, also this morning, “the newly promoted vice-chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers Party, Ri Su-yong, arrived in China for what South Korean media said was an unannounced official visit,” BBC reports. More here.

The North just lost one of its military pals in Uganda, whose president reportedly promised South Korea’s president “has agreed to cut all military and police ties with North Korea, depriving the North of a crucial base for arms and other exports in Africa,” The New York Times reports.”The Park-Museveni agreement, if put into effect, would be a coup for Ms. Park, who supports aggressive enforcement of United Nations sanctions against North Korea. During her current three-nation tour in Africa, she has tried to rally support for the sanctions, offering aid packages as incentives.” Read the rest, here.

From Defense One

New Air Force tanker is delayed because it can’t refuel planes. Boeing has already eaten $1.3 billion trying to fix its KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueler. Now design problems with the refueling boom have led the USAF to delay new and proposed aircraft. Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber reports, here.

The U.S. is raiding its global bomb stockpiles to fight the Islamic State. The anti-ISIS coalition has dropped more than 41,500 bombs, leading the Pentagon to borrow from arsenals in other regions. Weisgerber again, here.

Pentagon to cut secretary’s staff by 300—in four years. The Office of the Secretary of Defense aims to reach its reduction goal without laying anyone off. From Nextgov, here.

The U.S. military is building an employee database to predict traitors. The “DoD Component Insider Threat Records System” is part of the government’s response to the 2010 leaks of classified diplomatic cables by former Pfc. Chelsea Manning. Via NextGov, here.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1916 was joined the naval cataclysm called Skagerrakschlacht — or in English, the Battle of Jutland. Send your friends this link: And let us know your news:

In Afghanistan, the Taliban kidnapped 200 in the northern province of Kunduz—though they have reportedly given up holding all but 20, CNN reports this morning. “The victims were traveling on two buses to the provincial capital of Kunduz, when the Taliban stopped their vehicles on the highway in Ali Abad district at around 3:30 a.m. local time (7 p.m. Monday ET),” a police spokesman told CNN, adding that six passengers were killed on the spot. “About 185 others, including women, children and senior citizens, were then taken to a remote village called Omarkhil in the provincial district of Chardara. The Taliban killed several of the abductees after arriving in the village, Akbari said. It’s not clear how or why the majority of the hostages were able to go free.”

And in the south, the Taliban also killed more than two dozen police on Saturday and Sunday in Helmand, NYT reports. “Gul Agha, a commander of Afghan Local Police militia forces in Gereshk, said Taliban fighters had overrun five checkpoints in the district bordering the provincial capital, killed 12 fighters and executed their unit commander.”

Elsewhere, in Baghlan Province in northern Afghanistan, “Taliban fighters reportedly burned the homes of local police officials and their relatives as they were forced out by a government operation,” the Times writes. More here.

There are far more defense contractors than uniformed personnel in Iraq and Syria today, writes Foreign Policy’s Micah Zenko. “There are roughly three contractors (28,626) for every U.S. troops (9,800) in Afghanistan, far above the contractor per uniformed military personnel average of America’s previous wars. In Iraq today, 7,773 contractors support U.S. government operations — and 4,087 U.S. troops.” Read on, here.

Hillary Clinton releases an unusually detailed plan for military families, Military Times reports this morning. “As commander-in-chief, Hillary Clinton will mandate more flexibility in service members’ family leave time, increased access to military child care, and more consideration of families’ preferences and needs in duty assignments, according to a policy paper being released by her campaign Monday,” writes MT’s Leo Shane III. “Her 23-point ‘Military Families Agenda’ is unusual in its specificity about policies aimed at not just service members but their dependents, a topic that typically gets only passing mention at the national presidential campaign level. Clinton’s campaign provided Military Times with an advance copy of the document.”

So what’s it specific about? “Clinton wants to make service career intermission programs permanent, allowing troops and their families to ‘take a knee’ to care for ailing family members or explore additional education opportunities. The proposals also detail including ‘life-cycle and family considerations in permanent moves, by institutionalizing flexibility into the permanent moves system.’ That policy could help dual-military couples looking to stay together, and potentially minimize the number of school changes for children of career troops.” Read the rest, here.

U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars actually see their risk of suicide go down when they deploy—a counterintuitive finding in a Harvard study on the scars of war for American troops with multiple deployments: “After 14 years of war, the number of veterans with multiple tours of combat duty is the largest in modern American history — more than 90,000 soldiers and Marines, many of them elite fighters who deployed four or more times… An analysis of Army data shows that, unlike most of the military, these soldiers’ risk of committing suicide actually drops when they are deployed and soars after they return home. For the 85 percent of soldiers who make up the rest of the service and were deployed, the reverse is true.”

The findings are “exactly the opposite of what you see in the trauma literature, where more exposure predicts more problems,” said Ronald Kessler of Harvard, who led the study.

The findings seem to speak most directly to the growing class of elite Rangers, SEALs, Green Berets, and Raiders (formerly MARSOC), who endure a blistering succession of deployments as President Obama has pumped the brakes on the wide-scale operations of yesteryear. Read the rest at the NYT, here.

Finally today: Catch author and occasional war reporter Sebastian Junger’s TED Talk on how America’s “lonely society” makes it incredibly difficult for troops to come home from war. The talk fell on our radar as part of the special “TED Talks: War & Peace,” which aired last night on PBS.

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