Eyes on Korea: wargame watch. “The U.S.-South Korean joint military drills, scheduled to last until ‘the end of April,’ will finish on Thursday,” Anna Fifield of the Washington Post said Monday on Twitter, referencing this report from South Korea’s Yonhap News agency. “That’s the day before Moon and Kim meet. Coincidental, I’m sure,” Fifield added.
In that report, and buried near the bottom, is word about the apparently revised timeline, noting quietly that the “four-week Foal Eagle field exercise is drawing to a close this week.”
The rest of Yonhap’s report concerns those loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts which halted this week from the South. You can hear some of what’s in those broadcasts over at NPR’s “All Things Considered,” in a short piece that clocks in at under 2 minutes, here.
Let’s go to the satellites, this time with the North Korea watchers of 38 North. In the shadow of Pyongyang’s claims last week that it would halt nuclear and missile tests — including the closure of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, “where North Korea has conducted six acknowledged underground detonations” — 38North reviewed the recent imagery to conclude: “There is no basis to conclude that the Punggye-ri nuclear test site is no longer viable for future nuclear testing.” Details, here.
A bit south, U.S. military construction work near THAAD anti-missile batteries continues in South Korea “after riot police scuffled with protesters trying to block the road,” Stripes reported separately on Monday.
The prospects for peace on the peninsula? Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is vaguely optimistic, he told reporters Monday at the Pentagon. Stars and Stripes has that “wait and see” take, here.
From Defense One
Experts Say AI Could Raise the Risks of Nuclear War // Patrick Tucker: A new RAND report says ideas like mutually assured destruction and minimal deterrence strategy offer a lot less assurance in the age of intelligent software.
House Lawmakers Close Pentagon Budget Hearing to the Public // Caroline Houck: Mattis and Dunford have open hearings at the Armed Services Committees, but will talk over their $686.1 billion request with House appropriators in private.
How North Korea Learned to Live With ‘Fire and Fury’ // Andrei Lankov: Kim Jong Un’s concessions on his weapons program suggest that he has adapted to President Trump’s threats.
DARPA Wants to Merge Human and Computer Cyber Defenders // Joseph Marks: The CHESS program would build on DARPA’s autonomous cybersecurity contest and traditional hacking competitions.
Defense Department is Pursuing Another Multibillion-Dollar Cloud // Frank Konkel: This cloud is focused on collaboration and business tools.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. OTD1918: History’s first tank-vs.-tank battle, the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux.
“Now we have improvised armed drones in Africa,” former British soldier Nick Waters flagged Monday on Twitter from imagery out of Libya.
The model in question: a DJI Matrice 100, which sells for about $3,000 on the web. It appears to have been used by the Libyan National Army near the eastern port city of Derna, and was allegedly shot down by militants with the Mujahideen Shura Council in Derna, aka MSCD.
“Incidentally,” Waters adds, “this is the same kind of commercial drone used by the Iraqi Federal Police, who also weaponised it.”
Russian mercenaries appear to be working in the Central African Republic, and may have been doing so since at least late January, the folks at the Conflict Intelligence Team reported Monday. Of course, they’re not called “mercenaries,” but rather “civilian instructors,” according to a late March statement from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Where exactly, you ask? “[T]he ruined palace of Jean-Bédel Bokassa,” located at the lat/longs (6.611111, 20.939444), one sharp-eyed open source watcher noted on Twitter Monday. CIT has a lot more on why CAR is ripe for Russia’s “civilian instructors,” who appear to be very much like the Wagner contractors working in Ukraine and Syria, here.
Another open-source-intelligence find: Where the Houthis second-highest-ranking official — Saleh al-Samad — was recently killed by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Hudaydah, Yemen. That location: 14.799657, 42.9893062, Bellingcat’s Christiaan Triebert reported Monday on Twitter.
About that strike: it killed al-Samad along with six others “in his retinue,” Reuters reported off a statement from the group on Monday.
Who was this guy? The 39-year-old al-Samad “held the post of president in the Houthi-backed political body which runs most of northern Yemen.” According to The National, “Al Samad was second on the coalition’s list of most wanted people in Yemen, after Houthi leader Abdelmalek Al Houthi. The coalition had offered a $20 million (Dh74m) reward for any information that led to Al Samad’s capture.”
Read more on al-Samad over at the Middle East Eye, here.
The forecast from here appears to be no less dismal than it was in January, according to Adam Baron of the European Council for Foreign Relations. Baron told Reuters, “This can potentially escalate the conflict, as it comes comes amidst tense political negotiations. The Houthis will feel the need to respond.” Read on, here.
Can you hear me now? After the president took office, he was warned to stop using his personal phone, a magnet for foreign surveillance and malware. He ignored the warnings, a welter of press coverage, and even a tweet from Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif, who has a computer science degree. (“Please do not use your cellphone for sensitive calls. SS7 flaw in networks allows foreign intel to monitor conversations.”) It likely took the arrival of John Kelly as chief of staff in July to get him to stop, more or less.
Now he’s apparently back at it. CNN: “‘He uses it a lot more often more recently,’ a senior White House official said of the President’s cell phone. While Trump never entirely gave up his personal cell phone once Kelly came aboard, one source close to the White House speculated that the President is ramping up the use of his personal device recently in part because ‘he doesn’t want Kelly to know who he’s talking to.’”
Is the retired Marine general losing power? “Trump has also made clear that Larry Kudlow, his new economic adviser, and John Bolton, his new national security adviser, are ‘direct reports’ to him and not to Kelly, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN.” Read on, here.
Would an autonomous weapon kill an 8-year-old Afghan girl who may have little choice but to help the Taliban? That was one fundamental concern for former Army Ranger Paul Scharre, who “helped create U.S. military guidelines on autonomous weapons,” NPR reported Monday after speaking to Scharre — who just released a new book, “Army of None,” which takes a look “at the advances in technology, and the questions they raise.”
Scharre’s warning, paraphrased by NPR: “[W]hile the current weapons are not like those seen in the movies, the technology is advancing, whether people like it or not.” The discussion begins, here.
Today in national security podcasts, get to better know National Security Law with Professors Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck of the University of Texas at Austin.
The gist: “The program is fast-paced but detail-rich, and is meant for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. If you’ve been looking for a thoughtful yet enjoyable way to keep up with and better understand these issues, this is the show for you.”
A new episode is set to drop this week, but you can hear last week’s — focusing, in part, on the draft 2018 AUMF (PDF) from Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Tim Kaine, D-Va. — here.