American troop killed in Afghanistan. One day after announcing it sent 100 troops to southern Afghanistan on Monday, a U.S. soldier has died after his patrol hit an IED in hotly contested Helmand, where the Taliban are believed to be in control of as much as 80 percent of the province, the Washington Post reports—though they knock that “control” estimate down to “more than 50 percent.” The blast also injured another American and six Afghan soldiers.
A little bit more on that recent deployment: U.S. military spokesman “Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland said the troops had arrived in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, to provide training and support to Afghan forces,” AP reported Monday. “He said they would serve as a ‘new presence to assist the police zone,’” and an Afghan official “said there were plans for additional U.S. troops to support Afghan security forces in Lashkar Gah,” Helmand’s capital.
Why is Afghanistan’s biggest fight in Helmand right now? “An Afghan army official earlier said the Taliban militants have deployed the group’s special forces who are equipped with modern weapons to fight in Helmand province,” Afghanistan’s Khaama News reports this morning. “According to the Afghan officials the group has eyed to shift part of their leadership council, Quetta council, to Helmand province once they gain a foothold in this province.”
There was also a recent tug-of-war over northern Kunduz province’s Khan Abad district late last week, but Afghan security forces reportedly took back the turf this weekend. More on that, here.
The Nigerian air force claims to have carried out a major airstrike against Boko Haram’s leader—and just as U.S. State Secretary John Kerry rolls into town. The Nigerian military stopped short of certifying it had killed the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, but did say it believed it had “fatally wounded” him in a “most unprecedented and spectacular air raid” while Shekau while he was praying at the group’s Sambisa Forest holdout in northeast Nigeria, AP reports from Lagos.
For what it’s worth: “Nigerian security forces have at least three times in the past declared that they have killed or fatally wounded Shekau, only to have him resurface in video and audio recordings. The military has said in the past that Boko Haram was using look-alike fighters to impersonate the supposedly dead leader.”
Kerry’s message: “Nigeria’s battle against Boko Haram will only succeed if it tackles the reasons why people join Islamist militant groups and if the government and its military gain people’s trust,” Reuters reports from the northern Nigerian city of Sokoto.
The secretary’s trip is expected to be “the last by a major American official during the Obama administration,” Voice of America reported Monday, with the chilling note that “The Islamist group has killed about 20,000 people and displaced as many as 2.7 million.”
From Defense One
Iraq is preparing an armed robot to fight ISIS. The Baghdad Post says the machine-gun-wielding unmanned ground vehicle will be used in the effort to retake Mosul. Tech Editor Patrick Tucker has the story, here.
Don’t dismantle the VA. Veterans care should not become a profit-making enterprise that serves no one better than its financial backers, argues J. David Cox, who leads the AFGE union, here.
The Biden Doctrine. Has the vice president made a lasting contribution to U.S. foreign policy? The Atlantic’s Steve Clemons explores the question, here.
China’s new satellite puts quantum encryption into orbit. It’s designed to literally teleport information nearly 750 miles. Via Quartz, here.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1382, the Mongols besieged Moscow. (Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: email@example.com.)
U.S. Marine helicopter gunships are going after ISIS in Libya, WaPo reported Monday. AH-1W SuperCobra helicopters were part of a nine-strike package that hit ISIS targets in Sirte from Friday through Sunday, according to AFRICOM.
The benefit: “Until recently, the airstrikes in Sirte have been carried out by fixed-wing aircraft, such as the AV-8B Harrier ground attack jets. Helicopter gunships, such as the Cobra, fly low and slow and are able to attack targets more directly and systematically than, say, a jet that releases a bomb while screeching overhead at hundreds of miles an hour.”
The risks: “Yet gunships, flying at low altitude and low speed, are more at risk of getting shot down by ground fire and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, or MANPADS. The man-portable launchers have been widely proliferated throughout Libya and the region after large stocks of the devices were looted from government stores after the collapse of Moammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.” More here.
Elsewhere in the ISIS fight, Turkey says it’s open to Russians using Incirlik, Stars and Stripes reports off a Saturday comment from Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, adding the news “comes ahead of a damage control visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday.”
And in Syria: The no-fly-zone that isn’t exactly. The U.S. military had some ‘splainin’ to do Monday over two recent episodes over the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah where the U.S. scrambled jets late last week to fend off Syrian warplanes that had been striking U.S.-backed Kurds in the city working with American special forces. The episode marks “the first time that Syrian aircraft appeared to threaten U.S. troops since the Pentagon began deploying American special operations forces into Syria last year,” Military Times reported Monday.
But Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook was quick to push back on any claims the U.S. was looking to establish a no-fly zone in the country: “It’s not a no fly zone…but the Syrian regime would be wise to avoid areas where coalition forces have been operating. And we will continue defend them and, if need be, we will send aircraft again to defend our forces.”
MilTimes adds that “Cook stopped short of threatening to shoot down a Syrian or Russian plane that might threaten U.S. forces, saying: ‘We’re not going to get into our rules of engagement.’” More here.
The latest from Hasakah: Kurds are said to have almost full control of city. More from Reuters, here.
Mining the Korean DMZ. The “American-led UN command” in South Korea says North Korea has mined a village used for North-South talks, AP reports this morning from Seoul. “Much of the border, one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, is strewn with landmines and laced with barbed wire. But South Korean media said no land mines had been planted in the area of the truce village of Panmunjom until North Korea placed an unspecified number there last week.” No one yet knows exactly why the mines were added, but South Korean officials guessed it may have something to do with deterring possible defectors to the South—especially since their deputy ambassador to the UK defected to the South from London just last week. More here.
U.S. troops began using the “Clinton defense”: “A lawyer for a 29-year-old sailor facing a felony charge for taking and keeping six photos of a submarine’s propulsion system cited Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information this week to argue he should get probation instead of jail time,” The Hill reported over the weekend. It didn’t entirely work — Petty Officer 1st Class Kristian Saucier still got a year in prison — but as his lawyer said: “Honestly, did it help our case? I’m sure it did.”
And finally: “Why many veterans are sticking with Trump, even after he insulted a Gold Star family.” It’s not hard to think of reasons the GOP candidate might not appeal to former troops: his disparagement of John McCain’s sacrifice as a POW, his odd feud with the parents of a fallen soldier, his nearly non-existent support among national-security and foreign-policy experts. But two recent polls show him up over Clinton among vets. The Washington Post explores why, here.