NATO to join ISIS fight; Former Marine saved Orlando lives; Russian hackers hit DNC; A busy 24 hours in the South China Sea; and a bit more.

NATO is set to jump into the war against the Islamic State in Iraq. In three weeks at the Warsaw summit, alliance leaders are expected to formally agree to send trainers and other help into Iraq to join the U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition. NATO is already sending planning teams to Tampa to sync up with U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command leaders there, according to a senior NATO diplomat who spoke anonymously on Wednesday to U.S. reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Ash Carter to Brussels. And last week the alliance sent a survey team to Baghdad to scope out the situation. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has formally asked for NATO’s help, including a request to train Iraqi forces inside Iraq, instead of Jordan.

The size, scope and location of NATO’s mission is still TBD, but it’ll match up with what the coalition already is doing. “I think what you’re not going to see here is NATO open its own bases,” the official said. The alliance is expected to commit its 16 AWACS aircraft, if U.S. leaders can secure the necessary 28-0 vote.

NATO expected to hold the line in Afghanistan as it seeks to reset funding and commit $5 billion through 2020. Also at Warsaw, NATO is expected to agree to maintain all four “spokes” of its hub-and-spoke laydown in Afghanistan. That means the U.S. will keep open Jalalabad in the east and Kandahar in the south, while the Germans run the north and Italians cover the west. For the U.S., this is not unexpected, but it’s a stark shift from just last October, when President Obama wanted to shrink total American forces from 9,800 to essentially an embassy contingent. That plan was reset to hold 5,500 American troops in country. Within that number, 3,400 are committed to NATO in Afghanistan. NATO currently has 12,000 troops in Afghanistan. It’s unclear still what troop levels other NATO member will commit, but the attitude toward staying in the fight is not longer pessimistic. It’s more “resilient,” the official said. That is significant, the diplomat argued, because it signals NATO doesn’t flake on its commitments. There are still 5,000 troops in Kosovo, after all, the official noted.

If you’d like to know the name of this official, well, sorry. No American leaders at NATO would speak to reporters on the record, except for Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who is expected to talk to the press late Wednesday. Too bad; there are some smart public officials who help set policy on things like NATO, nuclear arsenals, and other war plans that could inform and educate the public on U.S. activities. Similarly, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Curtis M. “Mike” Scaparrotti declined to sit with reporters who traveled from Washington to cover NATO—which is a disappointing break from tradition. “Scap” assumed command on May 4.

And for a different view of the situation, here’s retired Army Maj. Gen. Eric T. Olson: “Staying the course won’t work if we don’t know where we’re going,” writes the No. 2 U.S. commander in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005. Read on, here.

We’ve learned a few new things about the Orlando shooting, including the possible involvement (unwitting or not) of the shooter’s wife in the run-up to the attack. And there’s also this little detail from Marine Corps Times: the bouncer at the club who helped save lives was a former Marine. That, here.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump went off the rails a bit last night at a campaign event in North Carolina, casually accusing Iraq War veterans of stealing millions from the U.S. government. The claim caused more than a few reactions in the Twitter-verse, including Air Force TimesStephen Losey who replied: “I don’t think Three Kings was a documentary.” And Quartz’s Steve LeVine, a little more direct: “Trump is frying his own goose.”

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll puts U.S. voters’ negative views of Trump at a new campaign high—7 in 10 Americans; the same poll also found Democratic contender Hillary Clinton has her worst ratings in more two decades in public life.

While the political uproar goes on, here’s something that goes without saying—and it’s a pity, too: stateside terror politics have “been very helpful to ISIS. No one [is] really talking about losses in Manbij, Fallujah, [and] Libya right now.”


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Video from the Defense One Tech Summit. Did you miss our first-ever Tech Summit at the Newseum last Friday? Catch the whole thing, start to finish, right here.

The Navy is making a new GPS for drone submarines. To prepare for the possibility that it will one day deploy swarms of uncrewed subs, naval researchers are working to enable the navigation system to function deep below the ocean’s surface. If successful, the technology could start to appear as soon as the 2020s. Via The Atlantic, here.

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“For about a year” Russian government hackers accessed the Democratic National Committee’s files on GOP contender Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported Tuesday, adding the hackers were only “expelled” this past weekend.

The take: “The intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic, said DNC officials and the security experts… The networks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some Republican political action committees, U.S. officials said. But details on those cases were not available.”

The alleged culprits: Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear. “One group, which [forensic investigators from] CrowdStrike had dubbed Cozy Bear, had gained access last summer and was monitoring the DNC’s email and chat communications,” according to Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike’s co-founder and chief technology officer. “The other, which the firm had named Fancy Bear, broke into the network in late April and targeted the opposition research files. It was this breach that set off the alarm. The hackers stole two files, [said CrowdStrike president Shawn Henry]. And they had access to the computers of the entire research staff — an average of about several dozen on any given day.”

Russian reax: We have no knowledge of such intrusions. More from WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima, who broke the story, here.

At least one of the groups involved in the DNC intrusion was also the perpetrator of last year’s attack on the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s unclassified email system. Tech Editor Patrick Tucker talks about the lessons from that hack, and with information-security professionals who describe how such attacks might be thwarted. Read, here.

In Syria, the information war has dragged Germany into the SOF “invader” category. Reuters: “The Syrian government said on Wednesday that German special forces were present, alongside French and American military personnel, in northern Syria, an accusation denied by Germany.”

Berlin’s reax: “There are no German special forces in Syria. The accusation is false,” a ministry spokesman said. For the record, Reuters adds, “Germany’s defense ministry said repeated claims by the Syrian government that German special forces were in northern Syria were not and had never been true.”

This latest dig at a NATO member comes on the heels of a new report that says Islamophobia is “on the rise in Germany.”

Lots of anxious developments in the South China Sea in the past 24 hours. We begin with news that the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet, traditionally aligned to the eastern half of the Pacific Ocean’s international dateline, is expanding westward to bolster U.S. numbers alongside the Japan-based Seventh Fleet. “More Third Fleet vessels will be deployed in the region in the future,” an unnamed U.S. official told Reuters. “He and a second official said the vessels would conduct a range of operations, but gave no details.”

For what it’s worth: “The Seventh Fleet consists of an aircraft carrier strike group, 80 other vessels and 140 aircraft. The Third Fleet has more than 100 vessels, including four aircraft carriers.”

The reasoning: “Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review quoted the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, as saying on Tuesday that the move came in the ‘context of uncertainty and angst in the region,’ an apparent reference to China’s behavior. Swift argued that the Navy should utilize the ‘total combined power’ of the 140,000 sailors, over 200 ships and 1,200 aircraft that make up the Pacific Fleet.”

Don’t mind us, Chinese sailors say from their Dong Diao-class spy ship spotted near Kuchinoerabu Island shadowing the U.S. carrier John C. Stennis during a joint U.S.-Japanese-Indian naval drill in the Western Pacific. About that exercise: “The 100,000-ton Stennis joined nine other naval ships including a Japanese helicopter carrier and Indian frigates in seas off the Okinawan island chain. Sub-hunting patrol planes launched from bases in Japan are also participating in the joint annual exercise dubbed Malabar.” More here and here.

What better time to review “A guide to stepping it up in the South China Sea,” from Dave Barno and Nora Bensahel, writing in War on the Rocks. As the authors write, these six steps “may conflict with each other…but failing to take stronger action also runs the very serious risk that the Chinese will gradually but inevitably gain control of this critical maritime region.” Their prescription involves Vietnam, the Philippines, a multi-national ensemble of coast guard personnel, “floating U.S. bases” and more, here.  

Meantime, China has just commissioned a new “submarine killer” warship expressly for the South China Sea. “The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has commissioned a new Type 056A Jiangdao-class corvette at Yulin naval base in the port city of Sanya on Hainan Island on June 8,” The Diplomat relays from recent Chinese Military Online and IHS reporting. “Next to four YJ-83 anti-ship missiles (two launchers with two missiles each) and a 76-millimeter main gun, the [anti-submarine warfare] variant is also equipped with two 324 millimeter triple torpedo launchers, as well as variable depth and towed sonars. The ship’s flight deck also allows operation of a Harbin Z-9 military helicopter, specifically equipped for ASW missions.” More here and here.

In the air—it’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s a flying Chinese disinformation machine? That’s what The Daily Beast’s David Axe writes of “the new, four-engine Y-8GX7 psychological operations plane—also known by its Chinese name, Gaoxin-7—[that] is analogous to the U.S. Air Force’s EC-130J.”

Its stated purpose: “conduct[ing] military information support operations and civil affairs broadcasts in F.M. radio, television and military communications bands.”

The advantage: “A flying radio outpost might seem rather retro, even quaint, in the internet era. But in many of the world’s worst conflict zones, internet access is limited—and people still get much of their information from radio and television.”

Worth noting: “The Pentagon has been in the aerial psyops business for more than 50 years. The People’s Liberation Army—as the Chinese military is formally known—is comparatively late to the game.” Read the rest, here.

Oh and one last thing on the South China Sea: ASEAN nations released a letter expressing their worry over Chinese aggression in the region’s waters—even though Beijing wasn’t called out by name, everyone knows the intended target—then the group retracted that statement shortly afterward, Reuters reports.

Read the original statement: “We expressed our serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and which may have the potential to undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea.”

But just hours later, Reuters writes, “a Malaysian ministry spokeswoman recalled the statement, saying ‘urgent amendments’ needed to be made and an updated version would be distributed. However, no updated joint statement was later issued and the spokeswoman said countries would now issue individual statements.” That, here.

And before we leave all things naval, House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes just got knocked out by a Navy SEAL in a Virginia GOP primary race, AP reported Tuesday night. “Forbes was defeated by Scott Taylor, a 36-year-old state House delegate and former Navy SEAL, in the newly redrawn 2nd Congressional District. The district includes much of the defense-heavy Hampton Roads area.” More here.

Finally today, we mourn the loss of Robert F. Dorr, “a master historian whose books and columns on aircraft and the U.S. military made him an invaluable author for decades” who died Sunday after battling brain cancer, Air Force Times’ Stephen Losey writes. “Dorr was a prolific writer, who wrote for the Military Times newspapers for nearly two decades, from June 1994 until December 2013. He published about 80 books, and estimated he wrote roughly 6,000 magazine articles and 3,000 newspaper columns over his six decades as a published writer. He also served as an airman in South Korea for nearly four years, before separating as an E-4 in 1960. Dorr then served as a foreign service officer for the State Department for 25 years.”

Crazy fact: “His writing career began as a 16-year-old high school student, when Air Force Magazine published an unsolicited piece he sent them arguing that Strategic Air Command’s bombers needed escort fighters.” Read the rest, here.

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