Mattis orders more troops to Afghanistan; Thousands of servicemembers help with Harvey; Navy solidifies tanker-drone plans; Video: ‘Redneck army’ saves Guard truck; and just a bit more…

Mattis makes the call to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. But don’t ask how many because he’s not interested in discussing that just yet, he told reporters Thursday after an impromptu visit to the Pentagon press corps’ bullpen.

“I have signed orders, but it is not complete,” he said. “In other words, I have signed some of the troops that will go and we are identifying the specific ones…I’m not going to give you the details right now until I’ve talked to the Congress.”

As far as what we do know, Mattis said, “By and large this is to enable the Afghan forces to fight more effectively. It’s more advisers. It’s more enablers — fire support, for example — and there’s some other things, logistics and other things.”

Other topics Mattis addressed:

  • North Korea: “I agree with the president that we should not be talking right now to a nation that’s firing missiles over the top of Japan, an ally… but we’re not done with diplomacy… we’re working diplomatically with Rex Tillerson, Secretary Tillerson in the lead. And I maintain behind that military options for the president to back up the diplomacy.” Consider the ongoing work of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, he pointed out.
  • Should the U.S. resume military-to-military talks with Russia? “The NATO policy right now on military-to-military is no business as usual, based on the — what just happened in Ukraine — in Crimea.”
  • Military cohesion and unity in the wake of Charlottesville: “The way our military is organized, the leaders — and by leaders, I mean the sergeants and the gunnery sergeants, the chief petty officers, the lieutenants, the captains — there is such a cohesion to the U.S. military. There’s a reason this is a national jewel, this U.S. military. It’s a national jewel. And that almost insulates it in a very proud way from something like we saw in Charlottesville. That would never be tolerated. It would never be accepted, not from the most junior corporals to the senior admirals. They wouldn’t accept something like that.”
  • President Trump’s desired ban on transgender troops: “[President Trump] told me what he wants, in theory — in broad terms, and now he’s leaving it up to me… On the one hand, you want as many Americans to serve as possible. On the other hand, the effectiveness and lethality and deployability of the military — those bookends exist. And now I’m going to bring in some people, civilians, if they get confirmed, who will actually have to carry out the policy, and they’re going to sit down and look it over.”
  • Why he serves: “You know, when a president of the United States asks you to do something, I come — I don’t think it’s an old-fashioned school at all I don’t think it’s old-fashioned or anything. I don’t care if it’s Republican or Democrat, we all have an obligation to serve. That’s all there is to it.”
  • And the first time he met with Trump, Mattis said, “we disagreed on three things in my first 40 minutes with him, on NATO, on torture and something else, and he hired me. This is not a man who’s immune to being persuaded if he thinks you’ve got an argument.”
  • So what was that third thing? Mattis didn’t say — a trend, Defense One’s Kevin Baron noted — choosing to end his Trump story Thursday instead with, “So anyway, press on.”

From Defense One

It Takes a Village to Raze an Insurgency // Daniel R. Green: As the Trump Administration reviews its counter-terrorism policies and strategies, it should apply the lessons of the Village Stability Operations program.

The Quite Rational Basis for North Korea’s Japan Overfly // Ankit Panda: With each new missile test, Pyongyang shakes Tokyo’s confidence in Washington, while accruing valuable data on its own capabilities.

The Global Business Brief: August 31 // Marcus Weisgerber and Caroline Houck: Congress, industry buckle up for a busy September; Software for future weapons; Contractors in Afghanistan; and a lot more.

How Mattis May Get Himself in Trouble With Trump // Andrew Exum: The secretary of defense could run afoul of his boss if his review of the policy on transgender troops follows the facts to their conclusion.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. 1952: The U.S, Australia, and New Zealand sign the ANZUS defense treaty. Have something you want to share? Email us at (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)

The latest on the U.S. military’s Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, in numbers: “Texas activated all 12,000 of its National Guard troops,” Stars and Stripes reports while big National Guard said “it has 30,000 members ready to assist in what it called a ‘long-term, sustained effort.’”
Guard troops have “rescued more than 3,500 people — most by boat and about 300 by hoist” so far.
Overall, nearly 1,600 active duty troops have “deployed to the affected areas, along with 73 helicopters, three C-130s and eight pararescue teams aiding in search and rescue and evacuations,” according to U.S. Northern Command.
Those troops “rescued or assisted more than 1,200 people as of Wednesday evening.” Read more on the U.S. Navy’s efforts, via this report from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Navy’s getting excited about unmanned aerial tankers. When the MQ-25 Stingray drone begins operating from aircraft carriers — perhaps as early as 2019 — it will nearly double the range of the air wing’s strike force, according to Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, who provided new detail on the Navy’s plans to tank up its Super Hornets, and someday its F-35s, using remote-controlled aircraft. The Air Boss also said the pilots of the MQ-25 will be drawn from the Navy’s tactical aviation communities. USNI News has more about Shoemaker’s MQ-25 remarks, which came in a wide-ranging interview by Proceedings magazine.

Speaking of tankers, the Air Force is trying to figure out why its own brand-spanking-new-but-still-manned KC-46 is scraping up the planes that come to get fuel. “While there is occasional contact between jets with refueling probes on current tankers, such incidents are happening more frequently now during test sorties with the new KC-46 tanker, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Bloomberg News.” Read that, here.

As it did with Egypt, the U.S. State Department is withholding “up $255 million in military aid for Pakistan,” The Wall Street Journal reports. But unlike Egypt — which Foggy Bottom said needed to address an unspecified slate of human rights concerns before nearly $200 million in U.S. aid would be released — Washington’s latest gripe with Pakistan requires the U.S. ally to “take steps to address U.S. concerns about providing safe haven to terrorist groups,” the Journal writes. “It is unusual for the U.S. to hold up the release of assistance, particularly in the case of a country that doesn’t require a formal U.S. certification of compliance with conditions spelled out by an act of Congress… [but] The State Department faced a deadline either to give the funds to Pakistan or return them to Congress. So, officials disbursed the funds but placed them on hold, as if in an escrow account, until the Trump administration sees progress.” Read on, here.
Remember: “Announcing a new Afghanistan strategy on Aug. 21, President Trump accused Pakistan of ‘housing the very terrorists we fight’ and said the situation ‘must change immediately.’” (That’s from a Washington Post op-ed that argues that the situation is a lot more complicated, and that the details matter. Read, here.)

ICYMI: Pakistan is cozying up to China in the wake of the Trump administration’s tougher line toward contributing factors to the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Financial Times has that story, here. Or read Reuters’ take, here.

The 10 men and boys killed in an alleged joint U.S.-Somali raid last week are confirmed to have been civilians, Reuters reports from Mogadishu. “The 10 people were civilians. They were killed accidentally… The government and relatives will discuss about compensation. We send condolence to the families,” said lawmaker Mohamed Ahmed Abtidon at a public funeral held for the 10, who were killed in a raid in Bariire village on Friday.
Reuters: “U.S. Africa Command had confirmed the presence of U.S. troops in the raid, carried out under the expanded powers that U.S. President Donald Trump granted to U.S. troops in Somalia in March.” More here.

More than 40 Russian warships head out for Barents Sea exercises. It’s part of the run-up to this month’s massive Zapad-17 joint exercise. “Earlier, the Navy said the combat readiness drill would include anti-submarine and anti-sabotage activities along with navigational, hydrographical, anti-mine and search and rescue operations,” reports the Independent Barents Observer, here.

The Japan-based 7th Fleet is about to get a new amphibious assault ship, Stars and Stripes reports from Yokosuka Naval Base: “USS Wasp departed Naval Station Norfolk Wednesday for its new home at Sasebo Naval Base Japan. The Wasp will join the Navy’s 7th Fleet as its forward-deployed amphibious-assault ship and will serve as the flagship of 7th Fleet’s amphibious forces, the Navy said Wednesday. The Wasp is replacing the USS Bonhomme Richard, which has been homeported in Sasebo since April 2012.” More here.  

Finally this week: Impressive footage of the “redneck army” saving the National Guard during Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. If you don’t know what the redneck army is, just picture monster trucks. Then watch this video.

Have a safe Labor Day weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Tuesday!

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