US troops in contact in Somalia; Turkey reinforces Idlib; DARPA is hunting botnets; Kids in cages update; Afghanistan’s Chaplin; And a bit more.

In Somalia, with American troops on the ground, U.S. military aircraft hit suspected al-Shabab positions on Tuesday, killing two fighters and wounding another, U.S. Africa Command announced Wednesday morning.

Location: the central Somali village of Mubaraak, approximately 37 miles west of Mogadishu. The strike came during a clearance operation in which U.S. troops came under attack and one “partner force member” was killed and two others were wounded, AFRICOM said in its statement.

For the record: This makes the 22nd time U.S. military aircraft have hit alleged al-Shabab positions this year. In 2017: 31 strikes; in 2016: 15. The Long War Journal is keeping tabs on dates and locations of strikes, here.

Turkey’s military sent reinforcements to its outposts in NW Syria this morning, as Ankara’s defense minister said Wednesday (Reuters) he’s racing to try to stop a slaughter of civilians from any Russia-Syria-Iran offensive on rebels in the province, AP reports from Beirut. “Turkey deployed hundreds of its soldiers to 12 observation posts that ring Idlib, following a de-escalation agreement reached with Russia and Iran last year to freeze the lines of the conflict, effectively placing Ankara as a protector of the province.” Continue reading, here.  

Need to review the importance of Idlib? The Associated Press has you covered in its short explainer.

Over the past two weeks more than 38,000 people have fled the Idlib region in the northwest — where the Assad regime and Russian allies have escalated air attacks on rebel-held lands, Agence France-Presse reports off remarks from the UN this morning in Geneva.

We are in no way ready for the worst-case scenario,” said Panos Moumtzis, the UN’s Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis. “Should we see three million of the people headed to the Turkish border, this is a scenario that by far outweighs the capacity of all the humanitarian organisations put together,” he said.


From Defense One

DARPA Wants to Find Botnets Before They Attack // Jack Corrigan via NexGov: The Pentagon’s future tech agency awarded a contract to develop a tool that scours the internet for dormant online armies.

Trump’s Latest Warning to Iran Didn’t Come out of Nowhere // Krishnadev Calamur via The Atlantic: The White House condemned the Islamic Republic for rocket attacks on U.S. facilities in Baghdad and Basra. Such attacks have been common—but it’s not always clear who exactly is driving them.

What’s Old Is New Again: It’s the Free World Vs. Neo-Authoritarians // Thomas Wright of Brookings via The Atlantic: The U.S. must abandon the notion of a liberal world order, and get to work deterring those who would bring down democracy.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief  by Kevin Baron and Ben Watson. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. On this day in 1789, the U.S. government began formally taking on debt when Secretary of War Henry Knox borrowed $20,000 from the Bank of North America for “negotiating and treating with the Indian tribes.”


Kids in cages update: U.S. authorities are detaining 12,800 migrant children — which, if anyone’s counting, is a fivefold increase from May 2017, The New York Times’ Caitlin Dickerson reported Wednesday after unnamed members of Congress passed the outlet the data.
How could this be? “The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests.” More here.

About that immigration vs disaster recovery money… The Trump administration is paying for its immigration detention camps on the southern border at least in part by routing $9.8 million from FEMA “Preparedness and Protection” and “Response and Recovery” programs to Immigration and Customs Enforcement — underwriting “Detention Beds” and the ICE’s “Transportation and Removal Program,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday after Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, shared a 39-page budget document this week that illustrated the financial switcheroo.
How it was justified: On national security grounds, since “permitting known offenders to remain at large… would pose a significant risk to public safety.”
Adds the Post: “The U.S. Secret Service was also a beneficiary of the reallocation.”
FEMA’s denial: Administrator Brock Long told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that money would have no impact on current ops or relief. “Unfortunately we have a congressman that is playing politics on the back of Florence. There’s no story there.”

Dollars and cents. The U.S. Treasury expects the country will hit $1 trillion deficit mark by April, Axios reported Wednesday off the latest report from the Congressional Budget Office.  
The current U.S. budget deficit: $895 billion.

Attn Photoshoppers: “Fake documents could spur an AI arms race,” Fast Company reported Wednesday. Their jump: a Bay Area startup called Inscribe is “us[ing] discrepancies in compression to detect areas where parts of one image have been inserted into another.” These guys aren’t alone.
The military connection: DARPA is also “funding research to spot fake imagery that could be used for propaganda. This comes as so-called deep fake technology that uses neural networks to generate realistic-looking fake videos is rapidly advancing.”
Said one expert of this future threat: “It’s kind of a cat and mouse game, when the mouse is smart.” Read on, here.
Flash from the past: How Alan Turing predicted intellectuals might fear artificial intelligence — way back in 1951. (h/t @DanielFiott)

Quote of the day: “Whatever equilibrium your nation reaches, there is always someone, at home or abroad, who has reasons to upset it.”
Where that comes from: Anne Applebaum’s new piece in The Atlantic magazine called “Trump’s America is following a pattern Europe knows all too well.” That #LongRead beginning in Poland starts here.

By the way: Russia is trying to resurrect a 1912 law to regulate duels in the street. It all stems from remarks from Putin’s former bodyguard about his supreme leader’s chief antagonist and democracy-booster, Alexei Navalny. At this point, “The draft bill’s fate is unclear,” Moscow Times reports. “No date has been chosen for its first hearing in the lower house of parliament.” Story, here.

Moscow marked 9/11 this year with two Russian nuclear-capable bombers flying near Alaska. They were then “intercepted by a pair of Air Force F-22 stealth fighter jets” around 10 p.m. EDT, Fox News reported Wednesday off a statement from NORAD.  Adds Fox: “It’s the second time this month a pair of Russian bombers flew near Alaska. On Sept. 1, the bombers were intercepted by F-22 fighters after crossing into the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone south of the Aleutian Islands.” Little bit more, here. (Adds Military.com’s air war reporter Oriana Pawlyk: “Happens a lot, friends.”)

ICYMI: Russia is holding a large wargame on its eastern flank. And Putin visited the scene, vowing to “further strengthen our armed forces, supply them with the latest generations of weapons and equipment, develop international military partnership,” Reuters reports this morning from Moscow.
See also AP’s report, filed with “TSUGOL FIRING RANGE” dateline, here.

Heads up: Drones are learning how to fly through small holes at faster and faster speeds. And researchers at the University of Maryland are spearheading the process. TechCrunch has more, here. Or watch a video of the concept and its difficulties, here.

And finally this morning: Afghanistan has its own Charlie Chaplin. And Reuters has the story — in video, too — of how he’s been quietly working very hard to make his fellow citizens smile.  
His real name: Karim Asir, age 25, and he says he’s been threatened over his un-Islamic performances. But that’s not stopped him. Read or watch a bit more about Karim, er Charlie, here.

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