After three weeks, Iraqi security forces have at last entered the ISIS-held city of Fallujah. Government troops “have a foothold in the southern corner, the southern edge of the city,” U.S. military spokesman Colonel Chris Garver said Wednesday. The plan, which currently involves four brigades of Baghdad’s troops, is to take the center of the city, then expand outward. Voice of America has a bit more, here.
Iraq’s Kurds like a post-ISIS Iraq where Kurds have their own country. That’s according to Masrour Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Security Council and son of KRG President Massoud Barzani. “I think the most important part is how you manage Mosul after Daesh is defeated,” he said. “We don’t want to see the gap of liberation and then a vacuum, which probably will turn into chaos.” More from Barzani’s interview with Reuters, here.
In Syria, a 48-hour truce began last night around midnight in the city of Aleppo, Russia’s defense ministry announced this morning. The BBC notes Russia “did not say if any other parties to the conflict had been consulted. But it accused the jihadist group al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate that is excluded from the cessation of hostilities, of attacking government-controlled districts of Aleppo with frequent rocket launchers and mortars.”
Word of this latest “cessation of hostilities” comes after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday accused Syria and Russia of selectively enforcing the previous ceasefire agreement (from late February) while it pounded areas in and around Aleppo with a dramatic escalation of airstrikes in recent weeks.
Worth noting: Fighting allegedly erupted between Hezbollah and the Syrian army in the vicinity of Aleppo yesterday. Writes Russian analyst Yuri Barmin: “It is alleged that Russia pounded (by mistake?) areas with heavy Hezbollah presence. And then Russia announces a 48-hour ceasefire in Aleppo…Hard to confirm but goes to show that Russians are being given misleading intel from time to time [and] that there are differences between allies.” In other words: Just another day of violence and confusion in Syria.
In Libya, more than a dozen militiamen have been killed in a wave of suicide attacks from ISIS fighters trying to defend their last stronghold in Sirte, AP reports this morning. If you’re just catching up to ISIS activity in Libya, “In recent weeks, the militias have managed to take over large areas of Sirte, including the air base, the port, and a number of barracks. Videos and pictures from the city showed militiamen knocking down a central stage used by IS militants to behead and shoot opponents. Officials said that they have cornered the militants inside a small area of town around the sprawling convention center that the group turned into its headquarters.” More here.
CIA Director John Brennan is slated to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning where he’s expected to tell Congress “that Islamic State militants are training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks on the West and will rely more on guerrilla-style tactics to compensate for their territorial losses,” the Associated Press reports. ISIS is also “gradually cultivating its various branches into an interconnected network,” AP writes in a testimony tease. “The branch in Libya is likely the most advanced and most dangerous, but IS is trying to increase its influence in Africa.” More here.
While we’re on Libya: One of the chief sticking points in gathering up a credible force to oppose ISIS now and tomorrow is the rogue general Khalifa Hifter. “The international community has by and large ignored Hifter, hoping that he will eventually comply with Libya’s second post-Arab Spring transition on his own accord. This is folly,” writes the Alexander Decina of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Hifter has no reason to cooperate.”
His solution: “The West must work to isolate Hifter by more rigorously enforcing the UN arms embargo against him and enacting new sanctions on him and his cohorts, including his air force chief, Saqir al-Jroushi. Russia and China have blocked UN sanctions against key figures in the past, but at the very least, the US and the EU can levy their own sanctions.” Read the rest, here.
Moving northeast to Turkey: “The U.S., U.K. and Germany are pushing to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s naval mission to combat human smuggling in the Aegean Sea,” but Ankara is not on board. In fact, Turkey wants that mission ended — hopefully by the end of the upcoming NATO summit in early July, The Wall Street Journal reports. Despite their wishes, the U.S. announced Wednesday that a decommissioned salvage ship, the USNS Grapple, would soon be linking up with the other vessels on the Aegean mission. More here.
From Defense One
Air Force wants new plane to replace A-10, fight ISIS. Generals float idea of new light CAS aircraft—and beyond that, an “arsenal plane” or “flying Coke machine.” Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber reports, here.
The West must respond to Russia’s increasing cyber aggression. As Russian hackers take center stage in the pantheon of cyber adversaries, NATO needs to step up, says Aalto University’s Jarno Limnéll, here.
Those missing Air Force files? Now the service says it has recovered them. Officials are still investigating how files from more 100,000 inspector general cases—and their backups—became corrupted. Weisgerber again, here.
Need a new security clearance? Here are 5 things to know. If you work for the government, you need to understand the process and the terminology. Via NextGov, here.
A transatlantic plan to bolster Europe’s cyber defenses. The cyber world of the 21st century may soon look dangerously similar to the political world of the 19th. Read on, from CFR’s Annegret Bendiek, here.
Welcome to the Thursday edition of The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1963, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Yemen, where the Saudi-led war is approaching its 15th month, Riyadi will soon be without its help from UAE troops, the Emiratis announced Wednesday… sort of. AP again: “Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan carried the announcement on his official Twitter account late Wednesday. He was quoting the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, who had given a speech saying the ‘war is over for our troops.’”
The catch: “An Arabic version of his comments was worded slightly differently than the English one, saying the war is ‘practically’ over… The statement left open the likelihood that Emirati troops would remain in Yemen, where they operate in the southern province of Hadramawt and the port city of Aden. The Saudi coalition’s spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.” That, here.
One single hacker claims to have been behind DNC hack, though the cyber forensics team from the firm Crowdstrike says it stands by its assertion that Russia was behind the hack—and very possibly what’s going on with this latest claim by a hacker who goes by the name “Guccifer 2.0” is the result of a Russian “disinformation campaign,” the Washington Post reports.
Guccifer 2.0 “posted images of documents it claims were stolen from DNC servers, including one titled ‘Donald Trump Report,’ which was dated Dec. 19, and spreadsheets purportedly containing information about party donors,” Reuters adds, noting it was “unable to verify the authenticity of the documents, which the blog said were among ‘thousands of files and mails’ removed from DNC servers that would soon be published on WikiLeaks.”
Russia wants to upgrade its surveillance gear for flights over the U.S. permitted according to the Open Skies Treaty. U.S. lawmakers, however, are not so keen on the idea, and have sent President Obama a letter relaying as much, The Hill reports. “In recent years, instead of using the Treaty for its intended purpose, Russia has been using its Open Skies flights to expand its espionage capabilities… We urge you to heed the advice of senior military personnel and other officials and reject this Russian request while examining modern alternatives to these flights,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, wrote in a June 14 letter to President Obama. More here.
Speaking of surveillance, updated Google Earth “recently added updated satellite imagery at the Russia-Ukraine border for August 26, 2014, near the height of Russian intervention in Ukraine,” the OSINT investigators at Bellingcat write. “These satellite images show the deployment of Russian military vehicles and artillery positions, along with newly-created paths into Ukraine.” Lots to chew on from that scene, here.
ICYMI: NDAA edition. “The Senate cleared a reform-centered defense policy bill on Tuesday with far more support than necessary to withstand a threatened presidential veto,” The Oklahoman reported Wednesday.
For a roll-up of how Senators voted on the $602 billion package, Marine Corps Times has this.
Not included in the bill: “a requirement to make public the price tag for the multibillion-dollar contract” the U.S. Air Force gave Northrop Grumman Corp. to build the new B-21 bomber, Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reports.
Finally today: Think you have ideas for how to improve the U.S. Marine Corps? Watch this video from the Corps, featuring Lt. Gen. Mike Dana, deputy commandant of Installations and Logistics—and produced with a healthy dose of humor—then pitch your idea here. You have 30 days.
Dana’s challenge “focuses on two areas: the ‘maker challenge’ and the ‘wearables challenge.’ The maker challenge is a scenario that gives less than one month and unlimited resources to build something to increase readiness — anything from new radios to rifle scopes. This effort looks to draw from recent technologies such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, new computer software and inexpensive micro-computers to improve warfighting capabilities.” Read more about the initiative, here.