Mattis wants Yemen ceasefire. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday called for a ceasefire in Yemen within 30 days. He wants an end to the Saudi-led, U.S.-supported bombing campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and ultimately a negotiated peace, Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams reports. Mattis spoke Tuesday at the United States Institute of Peace, in Washington.
Pompeo, too. The State Department has also begun to push for a November timeline for peace negotiations: “Substantive consultations under the UN Special Envoy must commence this November in a third country to implement confidence-building measures to address the underlying issues of the conflict, the demilitarization of borders, and the concentration of all large weapons under international observation,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement also issued on Tuesday that called for coalition air strikes to “cease in all populated areas in Yemen.”
Why now? Four years after a Houthi group seized power in Sana’a, three-and-a-half years after a Saudi coalition began dropping bombs on Houthis and nearby civilians, long since Yemen descended into a chaos state, why now? “We’ve admired this problem for long enough down there,” the defense secretary said. “We can’t say we’re going to do it sometime in the future. We need to be doing this in the next 30 days.”
The Saudi-led coalition is adding 10,000 new troops to the war in Yemen, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday from the southern port city of Aden. The new troops — which include some from Sudan — are reportedly headed to the western port city of Hodeida, where a June offensive on Houthi-held positions has stagnated.
The new drive on Hodeida is expected to begin “within days,” AFP writes. And the Houthis reportedly know that as well, positioning fighters around Hodeida for the push. A bit more here.
ICYMI: The death toll for the conflict in Yemen is about five times higher than previously thought: somewhere north of 56,000 people, according to analysts at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. The Middle East Eye has more here.
Other data from Yemen, via the International Committee for the Red Cross:
- 22 million people in need of aid to survive.
- 15 million with no access to clean water.
- 2 million kids out of school.
From Defense One
Mattis Sets 30-Day Deadline for Yemen Ceasefire // Katie Bo Williams, Defense One: “We’ve admired this problem for long enough down there,” the defense secretary said.
Military Intelligence Spending Just Posted Biggest Spike in a Decade // Marcus Weisgerber: With an 18 percent increase this year, the Pentagon’s $22 billion intelligence tab is rising faster than civilian spy agencies.
US Military’s Self-Flying Helicopter Program Passes Critical Test // Patrick Tucker: Unmanned Black Hawks are coming. The goal is a major flight demonstration next year.
Social-Media Companies Are Scanning for Potential Terrorists — Islamic Ones, Anyway // Patrick Tucker: Big platforms like Facebook others have come a long way in detecting and preventing the spread of Islamic extremist content and tracking potential Muslim terrorists. Why aren’t they doing more about other kinds?
Trump Needs Help Picking Between His Contradictory Foreign-Policy Desires // Kori Schake, The Atlantic: Unfortunately, not even a 21st-century version of Eisenhower’s Solarium planning exercise is likely to solve the problem.
Welcome to this Halloween edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you find this useful, please consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. On this day in 1952, the U.S. finalized preparations for the world’s first hydrogen bomb test at Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands — a test that vaporized an entire island nearby.
Russia: we’re going to test-launch a few missiles inside NATO’s big exercise. That’s from weapons expert Hans Kristensen, who crossplotted two Russian Notices to Mariners against NATO’s own notices about its Trident Juncture exercise now taking place off Norway. Turns out the Russian Navy is planning “rocket test firings” in the same chunks of ocean as the Western forces.
Kristensen: “The southern launch area inside the exercise area is provocative. Norwegian MOD official told me: ‘They didn’t even do that during Cold War.’”
DoD is getting a new spokesgeneral. It’s Maj. Gen. Burke W. Whitman, according to the Washington Examiner’s Jamie McIntyre, who has the scoop this morning. Whitman, who currently leads Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North, also brings civilian boardroom experience: he has been a top executive in health care and other industries.
Different models. When Whitman takes the podium next month, it will be the first time the DoD’s top spokesperson has worn a uniform since Ash Carter fired Chuck Hagel’s Gen. John Kirby, saying that no uniformed officer should be put in the position to defend civilian policies. Read on, here.
Will things improve? The Mattis-Trump Pentagon has been unmarked by stellar relations with the press. Current DoD spox Dana White hasn’t done an on-camera press briefing since May (and in August, it was revealed that the department’s inspector general was looking into complaints about her management style). On Sunday, Rep. Adam Smith’s oped put it this way: “The Pentagon’s Getting More Secretive — and It’s Hurting National Security.”
Yesterday’s example: “The Pentagon gave reporters a 12-minute heads up this afternoon that Northcom’s Gen. O’Shaughnessy was going to come to the press room to talk to us about troop deployments to southern border. Off camera only, since DoD officials refuse to appear on camera anymore,” Breaking Defense’s Paul McCleary wrote. When O’Shaughnessy appeared, “He couldn’t give a mission, couldn’t describe who is in the ‘caravan,’ couldn’t put a cost on the deployments, and couldn’t give a timeline.”
Defense contractor L3 settled a lawsuit with about 250 U.S. military reservists on Tuesday, The New York Times reports. The suit alleged L3, a surveillance and reconnaissance firm, discriminated against members of the guard by not hiring them and in some cases, not even notifying them that they’d been rejected.
Cost of the settlement motion: $1.35 million, to be spread across those roughly 250 qualified reservists.
What L3 says it will do differently from now on: It won’t ask about “military status before extending job offers,” and it says it will now implement training for its staff “on the employment rights of reservists and [make] it easier for employees to schedule work around their military obligations.” Much more to the story, here.
Three new commentaries for your consideration, all from analysts and scholars at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The first concerns the perils of withdrawing the U.S. military from Afghanistan, and it’s by Seth Jones of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He knows a thing or two about Afghanistan, special operations, al-Qaeda, nation-building, and many other related topics you’ll notice in his Amazon author list here.
The second: “The Future Nuclear Posture Review” from WMD specialist Rebecca Hersman.
And the last: a look at the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” Iran strategy. What factors must align for it to work? And what are the unintended consequences? From CSIS’s Melissa Dalton and Hijab Shah.
The U.S. charged Chinese intelligence officials with commercial espionage on Tuesday, including attempts to hack into aviation companies via cyber attacks and recruiting, The Wall Street Journal reported (paywall alert).
The gist, according to Bloomberg, “The turbofan engine mentioned in the latest case was being developed through a partnership between a French aerospace manufacturer with an office in Suzhou, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, and a company based in the U.S. The first alleged hack took place no later than January 2010, when members of the group infiltrated Capstone Turbine, a Los Angeles-based gas turbine company.” More from AP, here.
BTW: Citing national and economic security, the White House just banned U.S. firms from doing business with Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co., “a state-owned Chinese chip maker that Micron Technology Inc. has accused of stealing its secrets,” The Wall Street Journal reported separately on Tuesday.
Finally today, in case there was any doubt about last week’s package-bomber, the Department of Justice on Tuesday wrote that the devices sent to prominent Trump critics by Cesar Sayoc were “improvised explosive devices” that contained “energetic materials with explosive qualities,” USA Today’s Brad Heath noted on Twitter.
“A domestic terrorist attack” is how DOJ described last week’s developments from Sayoc. Read the filing for yourself, here. And be safe out there this evening, whether you’re passing out treats or pulling security as your kids bilk the neighbors for candy.