In shattered Raqqa, top U.S. general asks the world’s help. On his first visit to the bombed-out Syrian city, recently liberated from ISIS, Gen. Joseph Votel says there’s lots more to do, and U.S. troops can’t do it all. “Even though the fighting is done in Raqqa, the area has been liberated, that our coalition campaign is not over, there,” Votel told Defense One’s Kevin Baron, describing the need to “consolidate” the military’s gains. “We’re moving into, frankly what I regard as the more challenging and more difficult part of the campaign” — stability operations, he said.
Send help. “I will point out to you [that] the people on the ground in Northern Syria is the United States. But there are others who should be doing some more here, and need to do more. This is a problem,” he said, firmly tapping his fingers into the desk. Such as? “Such as – everybody! I’m not trying to damn anyone here,” Votel said, “I’m just saying, this requires more than just the United States; it requires really a very broad international effort.” Read the rest, here.
Meanwhile, Turkey is attacking Kurdish forces in Syria. Some 150 miles northwest of Raqqa, one of the U.S.’s NATO allies is waging an offensive on one of its Syrian allies. New York Times: “The Turkish offensive, carried out over the protests of the United States but with the apparent assent of Russia, marks a perilous new phase in relations between two NATO allies — bringing their interests into direct conflict on the battlefield.”
The Trump administration is trying to thread a diplomatic needle. But it probably won’t work, said Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. counterterrorism agent who is now chairman of the Soufan Group. Soufan said the United States “would likely have to either dramatically scale back its support of the Kurdish rebels — which would be seen as yet another U.S. betrayal of the few groups that have consistently supported and helped the U.S. in Syria and Iraq — or risk indirect and even direct conflict with Turkey, a fellow NATO member.” Read on, here.
From Defense One
SPECIAL REPORT: In Shattered Raqqa, Top US General Calls for the World’s Help // Kevin Baron: Votel assures SDF fighters the U.S. will remain committed to them, but bringing this Syrian city back to life will take more than the troops who liberated it can give.
Why the Shutdown Didn’t Much Affect Defense Firms // Marcus Weisgerber: Timing is everything. Three days — including a weekend — is not quite enough to cause production problems that really hurt.
The Entirely Rational Basis For Turkey’s Move Into Syria // Steven A. Cook: Nearly a century of mistrust of America and an obsession with defeating the Kurds sparked its operation in Afrin.
Give the Low-Yield SLBM its Day in Court // Vincent Manzo: There are advantages to lowering the yields on a portion of America’s nuclear-tipped sub-launched ballistic missiles.
Pentagon Deputy Tapped For Powerful New Management Role // Aaron Boyd: The chief management officer position would focus on business reform but include IT and data management responsibilities.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free.
Happening today after lunch: A briefing on “The Trump Administration’s New Nuclear Posture Review,” with Jon Wolfsthal, former Senior Director of the National Security Council, and the folks at the Arms Control Association. The event starts at 1 p.m. EDT, and takes place at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Details here.
On second thought: A “bloody nose” U.S. strike on North Korea would be like punching a man who is holding a hand grenade, argues Luke O’Brien, “historian and weapons of mass destruction analyst,” writing in Foreign Policy. His BLUF: “[W]hen you punch somebody in the face, the recipient understandably can’t know whether more is about to follow.”
How convenient. North Korea just “formally changed the day it celebrates the creation of the Korean People’s Army from April 25 to Feb. 8,” the Wilson Center’s Jean Lee noted Monday on Twitter. As well, North Korea said it will conduct a military parade to celebrate the (rescheduled) occasion. “How convenient,” Lee notes, since Feb. 8 is “also the day before the opening of the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.”
Adds Lee: “Honestly, April 25 is a more merciful day to have a massive military parade. Making people stand for hours in the February cold is brutal. Trust me; I know.”
Jobs, jobs, jobs (on the East Coast). General Dynamics’ Electric Boat “plans to hire 2,200 employees in 2018 in Connecticut and at its Rhode Island manufacturing facility,” the Associated Press reported Monday.
The reason: “Electric Boat is doing the design and development work for 12 ballistic-missile submarines to replace the current fleet of 14. It’s building Virginia-class attack submarines.” Tiny bit more, here.
That Russian spy ship was 100 miles away from Michael Jordan’s hometown in Wilmington, N.C., CNN reported Monday evening. “The Viktor Leonov was observed operating in the Caribbean last week,” and “was seen leaving the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain” just days ago.
The USS Cole “and other naval assets” are tracking the Russian spy ship, U.S. military officials told CNN. “A second official told CNN last week that based on historical patterns the ship is likely on a four-to-six month deployment off the East Coast where it will be conducting intelligence operations.” A bit more, here.
Russia says its first shipment of S-400 air defense systems to China has been sent, The Diplomat reports. “China and Russia concluded a deal for the procurement of four to six S-400 units in November 2014, making Beijing the S-400s first international customer. The contract value is estimated at around $3 billion.” More on the system’s specs, here.
China’s most advanced jet just completed its first combat air exercises, The Diplomat reported separately on Monday. “The military channel of China Central Television (CCTV) showed video footage of J-20s flying alongside H-6K long-range bombers and Xian Y-20 large military transport aircraft in March 2017.”
A bit more about the aircraft: “The J-20A is a twin-engine single-seat fifth-generation (designated fourth-generation in the PLAAF) stealth fighter… designed for long-range fighter missions such as attacking enemy support aircraft including tankers with PL-12 beyond visual range air-to-air missiles.” Read on, here.
Pro tip: Do not threaten mass murder (ever, really — but especially) on a major news organization. Atlanta CBS affiliate WGCL reports Michigan native, 19 year-old Brandon Griesemer, “was arrested after an FBI investigation, accused of threatening to travel to Atlanta to commit mass murder at CNN headquarters.” Before his arrest, he’d made 22 calls to the network, beginning with claims of “fake news” and ending with threats of violence.
He said lots of not-smart things over the phone before investigators traced his call and made the arrest. More over here. Or read CNN’s longer look at Griesemer’s recent police history, here.
And finally today: Remember last week’s contentious terrorism report from the Justice and Homeland Security Departments? It actually had nothing to do with the Department of Homeland Security, The Daily Beast reported Monday. “According to a government source familiar with the episode, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office took charge of the report’s assemblage of statistics—which some terrorism analysts consider highly misleading—and sent it to DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen for her imprimatur after it was all but finalized.”
The problem: “Career professional analysts at DHS communicated to the Justice Department that the data sought for the report simply did not exist within their department.”
Why the data doesn’t exist: “DHS, multiple sources said, does not track or correlate international terrorism data by citizenship or country of origin, and have warned the Trump administration that doing so risks a misleading portrait of both terrorism and immigration.”
Quote of the day: “For those of us who were actually involved, this story is as bizarre as it is fictional,” Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement. Read on, here.