Correction: This post’s second sentence originally said incorrectly that the Emirati plan was discussed by Qatari officials.
UAE hacked Qatari government sites, posting the false quotes to news sites and social media that sparked regional upheaval, U.S. intelligence officials tell the Washington Post. They say that on May 23: senior Emirati officials discussed a plan to inject the false quotes. Then: “The hacks and posting took place on May 24, shortly after President Trump completed a lengthy counterterrorism meeting with Persian Gulf leaders in neighboring Saudi Arabia and declared them unified. Citing the emir’s reported comments, the Saudis, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt immediately banned all Qatari media. They then broke relations with Qatar and declared a trade and diplomatic boycott, sending the region into a political and diplomatic tailspin that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has warned could undermine U.S. counterterrorism efforts against the Islamic State.”
Meanwhile, UAE says it wants international monitoring of Qatar. Reuters, here.
Al-Hayat’s Joyce Karam tweeted: “Hackings, leaks, lobby wars in Washington, forged videos, the Qatar crisis is most interesting model of modern warfare to cover in a while”
S.C. as a microcosm of 2016 election tampering? Hackers attempted to gain access to South Carolina’s voter-registration systems nearly 150,000 times on Nov. 8 alone, The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend.
Some movement in the long-proposed CyberCom/NSA split? AP: “After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation’s military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America’s ability to wage cyberwar against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials. Under the plans, U.S. Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency.” More, here.
From Defense One
Facial Recognition Coming to Police Body Cameras // Patrick Tucker: An approach to machine learning inspired by the human brain is about to revolutionize street search.
Mattis on 2018 Budget: ‘We Have Got to Get a Bill Passed’ // Marcus Weisgerber: Congress is working up budgets that bust spending caps, with little evidence of a deal to avoid automatic cuts.
Russian Weapons Maker To Build AI-Directed Guns // Patrick Tucker: Kalashnikov’s upcoming product shows how the US and Russia are on wildly different paths to autonomy.
Two Years on, the Iran Deal is Working // Philip Gordon and Richard Nephew: It is true that Tehran’s behavior in the region has not improved, but the agreement has kept the regime from going nuclear.
Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1944: First combat use of napalm, dropped over France by two P-38s. Have something you want to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
Bombing the sh*t out of ’em. In its first six months, Trump’s campaign against ISIS has caused almost as many civilian deaths as Obama had in his entire administration, reports The Daily Beast, citing estimates from the Airwars watchdog group.
Short and sweet: Six battles still to be fought against ISIS — Raqqa, Deir al-Zour, Abu Kamal in Syria; and Tal Afar, Hawija, and Al Qaim in Iraq — via the Washington Post, here.
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is “almost certainly” still alive, a Kurdish counter-terrorism official says. That, via Reuters, here.
Azimuth check in the war against ISIS: “People are overwhelmingly relieved to be freed from Isis, but the reality that allowed its rise in 2014 remains, and has even worsened,” terrorism scholar Hassan Hassan warns in the The Guardian. His prescription against destabilizing sectarianism and how groups like ISIS may still attempt to exploit “power vacuums” in the region, here.
Votel on what’s next. “Iraqi forces will need to shift from combat mode to security mode to protect against a shrinking ISIS, the military is expanding its work with the Russians against a common enemy, and the Iranian regime remains the most destabilizing influence in the CentCom region,” Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times reports in summary after sitting down with the 59-year-old chief of U.S. Central Command last week. The interview — a rarity for Votel — is fortunately all over the map; but you can dive in, here.
Better late than never: “Djibouti formally joined the coalition against ISIS,” the country’s Ambassador to the U.S., Mohamed Siad Doualeh announced on Twitter this weekend.
South Korea pitches mil-to-mil talks with the North, Reuters reports this morning from Seoul. “The South Korean defense ministry proposed talks with the North on July 21 at Tongilgak to stop all activities that fuel tension at the military demarcation line… [and] urged the restoration of military and government hotlines across the border, which had been cut by the North last year in response to the South imposing economic sanctions after a nuclear test by Pyongyang.”
The South is also floating “proposed separate talks by the rival states’ Red Cross organizations to resume a humanitarian project to reunite families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War in closely supervised events held over a few days” in early August.
Notes Reuters: “The last such reunions were held in October 2015 during the government of Moon’s predecessor under a futile push for reconciliation following a sharp increase in tension over border incidents involving a landmine blast and artillery fire.” Story here.
China’s army “will be reduced to below one million for the first time in its history,” The Diplomat reports. Why? To shift forces to its “navy, missile force, and strategic support force… responsible for the PLA’s capabilities in the space, cyber, and electromagnetic domains. It may also provide information support to PLA operations.”
See some great drone footage of large military maneuvers in Australia as part of the joint U.S.-Australian biennial Talisman Saber drills, here. Local news calls it “the biggest amphibious landing Australia has executed since WWII,” using “30,000 Australian and American troops — that is about the same size as Australia’s entire Army.”
The threat they’re rehearsing against: cyber war. And in this case, “The country of ‘Tetta’ has been invaded by its neighbours — the US and Australia are acting on a United Nations mandate to defend it… In this mock war, the ‘enemy’ will hack and disrupt. It will knock out the kind of digital systems and communication tools that keep an army on the move. The main force must defend its own systems and mount attacks in cyberspace before to win the ground war.” More — along with a full-length video of the manuevers — here.
And there’s another NATO exercise in eastern Europe this week. “25,000 military personnel from more than 20 allied and partner countries” are exercising in Romania. Tiny bit more on that exercise — called Getica Saber — from AP, here. Or even more from Stars and Stripes, here.
U.S. Marines fighting in Helmand, Afghanistan, today is “Like sending the New York or Massachusetts Guard to control Texas cowboy country in the 1800s,” The New York Times reported this weekend.
The gist: “After days of traveling and talking with Marines and their Afghan allies, it is clear there is little glory. Instead, the new mission is a treacherous grind in temperatures well over 100 degrees… to achieve expectations lowered to the most basic. The mission is no longer about complete control of Helmand. Old efforts to establish local governance and rule of law here have so clearly failed that they are no longer in the picture. The Marines are simply trying to keep Lashkar Gah from falling to the Taliban, and to help the Afghan forces come out of their barracks and put up a fight.” Worth the click, here.
ICYMI: The Pentagon said Friday it killed “Abu Sayed, the Emir of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) in Afghanistan,” in an airstrike “on the group’s headquarters in Kunar Province on July 11.” Statement, here.
White House officials will discuss their way ahead for Afghanistan this week — as well as what to do with its relationships with India and Pakistan, CNN reports. “One idea being discussed is what one senior administration official directly familiar with the ongoing discussions official called a ‘stick’ approach to Pakistan rather than a ‘carrot.’ It could include cutting US assistance to Pakistan and a bolstering of security relationships with India, Pakistan’s longtime adversary.” That, here.
Pakistan has launched a new offensive against ISIS affiliates in its Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Reuters reported Sunday. “The ‘Khyber 4’ operation, which would include the Pakistan air force, would focus on the border areas inside the Khyber Agency area, which is part of FATA.” A little bit more, here.
The more you know: “Countries that receive U.S. military training are twice as likely to experience a military-backed coup attempt,” the Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko tweeted this weekend after reading this recent study from the Journal of Peace Research.
The researchers’ short blurb: “Using data from 189 countries from 1970 to 2009 we show that greater numbers of military officers trained by the US International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Countering Terrorism Fellowship (CTFP) programs increases the probability of a military coup.” That study, here.