Terror in New York; Beijing, Seoul make nice; ISIS claims Kabul attack; CBO puts 3-decade nuke cost at $1.2 trillion; and just a bit more…

Driver kills 8 in Manhattan. New York Times: He drove “a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot by a police officer in what officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001. The rampage ended when the motorist — whom the police identified as Sayfullo Saipov, 29 — smashed into a school bus, jumped out of his truck and ran up and down the highway waving a pellet gun and paintball gun and shouting ‘Allahu akbar,’ Arabic for ‘God is great,’ before he was shot in the abdomen by the officer.” Read on, here.

China and South Korea make nice ahead of President Trump’s visit to Asia. But first, Seoul just committed to not seek nuclear weapons, Stars and Stripes reports.

About those nukes: South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in spoke in a nationally televised address this morning to remind his countrymen “the two Koreas have signed a declaration to denuclearize the peninsula,” Stripes writes. That “makes it impossible to accept or acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear power.” And so, Moon said, “We will not develop or possess nuclear weapons either.”

In the absence of nukes, “Sanctions and pressure are the means to guide the North toward making the right choice and coming to the negotiating table,” Moon said, even as Seoul is planning to increase its “defense spending to about 10 percent of his $384 billion budget proposal for 2018.” More here.

Second, Beijing and Seoul talk about renormalizing relations. It may be more in rhetoric than substance, but it’s progress of a sort, the Washington Post notes.

The rhetoric from Seoul’s foreign ministry: “The two sides attach great importance to the Korea-China relationship.”

The rhetoric from Beijing’s foreign ministry: relations will be put back on a normal track “as soon as possible.”

The relationship most recently went off the rails thanks to that THAAD anti-missile system the U.S. military installed in South Korea this year — a system China fears could be aimed toward its mainland. That system is still an unresolved bone of contention between the two countries, WaPo writes. The official line on THAAD from Seoul: “The two sides agreed to engage in communication on THAAD-related issues about which the Chinese side is concerned through communication between their military authorities.”

ICYMI: Trump will not visit the Korean DMZ during his visit to the region, White House officials said Tuesday, calling the destination kind of “cliche.”

About those three U.S. Navy carriers in the Pacific… Who doesn’t like exercises at the last minute? That could be coming for U.S. sailors when Trump comes to town in about a week, U.S. military officials tell The Wall Street Journal. “[T]he convergence of the ships wasn’t timed to Mr. Trump’s visit to Asia, which begins this weekend, they are considering ‘taking advantage of the opportunity’ and scheduling an exercise. U.S. defense officials said a decision on whether to conduct an exercise would likely be made at ‘the last minute.’”

BTW: Here’s the U.S. military’s take on that Russian bomber flyby in the Sea of Japan on Sunday — the flyby the Russians said involved F-18s from “the U.S. Air Force.” The U.S. Navy said those Super Hornets were theirs, and they were dispatched to about 80 miles away from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to escort two Russian Tu-95 bombers away. More from CNN, here.

There’s a “lull in South China Sea tensions” presently because China is exercising with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for “their largest-ever joint maritime rescue exercise…off south China’s Guangdong province,” Agence France-Presse reports from Beijing.

One more thing: China continues “testing the limits” of its cybersecurity relationship with the U.S., Wired reported Tuesday after speaking to cyber researchers. “Whatever holes have appeared in the US-China hacking détente, a White House that otherwise wants to erase all sign of the previous administration believes it’s worth maintaining. All of which makes China’s behavior over the last two years—toeing the furthest edge of the agreement’s red line and occasionally crossing it entirely—a case study in the power and limits of diplomacy when applied to curbing secret, deniable, and often invisible digital misbehavior.” Worth the click, here.


From Defense One

Trump’s Policy on Terrorism Suspects Looks Like Obama’s // Krishnadev Calamur: A captured Benghazi suspect is reportedly being brought to the U.S., which means he will be tried in a civilian court.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free.


ISIS claimed an attack in the Afghan capital that killed more than half a dozen and injured 22 in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reports. The attacker was a teenage suicide bomber who struck “during afternoon rush hour near the Australian diplomatic mission and less than a half-mile from the U.S. Embassy and the military headquarters of the U.S. and its European allies in Afghanistan.”
Suspicion is gathering around the security forces — a mix of government troops and contractors — guarding the road where the attack happened.  As well, “Police late Tuesday were continuing to investigate how the suicide bomber, believed by authorities to be between the age of 12 to 14, managed to evade detection, despite additional security measures put in place after a sewage disposal truck packed with 14,000 pounds of explosives detonated near Germany’s embassy on May 31, killing more than 150 people and wounding more than 400 others.” More here.

Syrian troops want to move on Kurdish-held land, Reuters reports previewing a(nother) possible confrontation with U.S. troops inside Syria. Where Damascus is eyeing conflict: “the eastern oil fields seized by the SDF in October, including Syria’s largest,” Reuters reports. Those locations “will be a target for the government as it tries to recover resources needed for reconstructing areas it controls, according to a Syrian official and a non-Syrian commander in the alliance fighting in support of Assad.” As well, Syrian officials said Sunday they consider the SDF-held city of Raqqa “occupied” until the Syrian army takes over.
Crucial caveat: “The United States has not spelt out how military support for the SDF will evolve after Islamic State’s defeat, a sensitive point due to the concerns of its NATO ally Turkey.” More here.

And in Iraq: If asked, U.S. troops could form a buffer zone between Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers who are still talking over what to do with the territory seized from ISIS, the coalition’s U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James B. Jarrard said Tuesday from Baghdad.

A few more U.S. A-29 jets are headed to Lebanon in “a sign of continued U.S. support despite Israeli accusations that the Lebanese military is controlled by Hezbollah,” Reuters reported Tuesday. Four more of the Super Tucanos are headed to Lebanon later as part of a $160 million package of “foreign military financing” from the U.S. More here.

Iran doesn’t need to extend the range of its missiles; it can hit U.S. forces right now anyway, the head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps says. “Our missiles’ range is 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), and that can be increased, but we believe this range is enough for the Islamic Republic as most of the U.S. forces and most of their interests in the region are within this range,” Major-General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the Revolutionary Guards, said Tuesday.
Iran’s air force is also holding an annual drill today “near the central city of Isfahan, a region that is home to the country’s key nuclear facilities, including the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.” The aircraft involved: fighter jets, bombers and drones. A tiny bit more, via AP, here.

Did someone say drones? Northrop Grumman’s “first operational MQ-4C Triton” drone will begin taking over a “50-year-old Navy ocean surveillance plane mission,” the LA Times reported Tuesday. “Triton, together with the P-8 Poseidon jet, are intended to replace the propeller-driven P-3C Orion, which has patrolled the sea for the Navy since the early 1960s, and the EP-3E Aries II aircraft. The drone will assume the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance duties, while the P-8 Poseidon will focus on anti-submarine warfare.” Story, here.

America’s nuclear arsenal is slated to consume $1.2 trillion over three decades. That includes plans to buys new ICBMs, bombers, and submarines, which add about $400 billion to the $800 billion costs of simply operating and maintaining today’s nuclear arsenal, according to a just-released report from the Congressional Budget Office. Those figures are based on Obama-administration plans; President Trump has ordered the Pentagon to review its nuclear-weapons needs, a report which could arrive in coming months.
Reuters: “The report said costs would rise from $29 billion in 2017 to $47 billion in 2027, before peaking at around $50 billion a year through the early 2030s.”
And yet the report may actually be underestimating costs. MIT’s Vipin Narang notes a paragraph about command-and-control systems, which says these may need upgrades as well, but leaves out their costs because DOD has not solid plans yet.
A timeline of nuclear weapons programs is here, sliced from the CBO report by Ankit Panda.
Jon Wolfsthal’s take: “This shows costs for US nuclear weapons are growing beyond ability to sustain. We either adjust now or get forced [to make] cuts when money runs out.”

Apropos of nothing: Here’s a sketch of life aboard America’s doomsday plane, by The Economist’s David Rennie.

Crew errors caused the U.S. destroyer collisions, according to a Navy report due out today. It was obtained a bit early by Defense News, which reports that the deadly accidents “resulted from complete breakdowns in standard Navy procedures and poor decision making by officers and sailors on the bridge of the two warships,” which “raise troubling questions about the basic proficiency of the Japan-based 7th Fleet and the surface Navy as a whole.” Read on, here.

Looking for a good summary of the challenges hypersonic missiles would pose to missile defenses? Kingston Reif of Arms Control Today recommends this new report from Rand Corp.

Dispatch from Guantanamo: “Don’t look now, but things are going completely off the rails,” writes former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey after reading this Carol Rosenberg report from the USS Cole death-penalty case.
What happened: “In rapid succession Tuesday, a Marine general refused to testify and refused to rescind an order releasing three civilian defense lawyers, a Navy defense attorney refused to file pleadings and a military judge scheduled a contempt hearing in the USS Cole death-penalty case. All were firsts at the war court…” Read on, here.

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