US mayor dies in Afghanistan; Iran’s plan to dodge sanctions; Somalia airstrikes heading for record year; The next arms-control treaty; And a bit more.

The mayor of a town in Utah was killed this weekend in Afghanistan. His name: Maj. Brent Taylor, 39 years old, and a father to seven children. He was killed by a member of the Afghan security forces he was training — the second suspected insider attack in two weeks, NBC News reports.

Taylor was “a military intelligence officer with Utah’s Joint Force Headquarters,” Army Times reports. “He was serving with the Special Operations Joint Task Force in Afghanistan when he was killed.” His attacker was reportedly “immediately killed by other Afghan Forces.” Taylor’s death now brings the number of NATO troops killed in Afghanistan this year to 13 — 9 of whom have come from the U.S. military.

He had already deployed twice to Iraq, and this was his second deployment to Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.  

His Facebook message to residents of North Ogden, Utah, back in January: “Right now there is a need for my experience and skills to serve in our nation’s long-lasting war in Afghanistan. President Trump has ordered an increase in troops, and part of the new strategy focuses on expanding the capabilities of the Afghan commando units. I will be assigned to serve on an advisory team training the staff of an Afghan commando battalion. It is anticipated that I will serve for a period of 12 months.”

Taylor’s message to Americans just a few days before his death: “As the USA gets ready to vote in our own election next week, I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote. And that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us. ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ God Bless America.” Read a remembrance of Taylor from The Salt Lake Tribune, here.


From Defense One

John Bolton Keeps Citing This 2002 Pact as an Arms-Control Model. It’s Really Not. // Stephen Pifer: The Treaty of Moscow was ill-defined, unverifiable — and not something that Russia would sign today.

Here’s How Iran Will Try to Evade US Sanctions // Krishnadev Calamur: U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s oil industry have gone into effect. Tehran is already turning to some old tricks.

China is Exporting its Cyber Surveillance to African Countries // Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz: Beijing has trained African officials on its sprawling system of censorship and surveillance.

A New Kind of Populism is Threatening Southeast Asia // Joshua Kurlantzick, Council on Foreign Relations: The region’s fast-growing but fragile democracies have been susceptible to strongmen and autocratic-leaning populists in recent years, propelled by concerns over inequality, crime, and dysfunctional governments.

Trump Sparks Outrage with Claims That Rocks Should Be Treated As Firearms // Katie Bo Williams, Defense One: But there is precedent for firing on rock-throwers on the border. CBP agents have done so on numerous occasions.

Ep. 27: CENTCOM’s Gen. Votel; Exosuits and super soldiers; Weaponizing social media and more. // Defense One Staff: Welcome to our podcast about the news, strategy, tech, and business trends defining the future of national security.

Welcome to this Monday 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 1979, a day after the Iranian hostage crisis began, Iran’s Khomeini called America the “Great Satan.”


Navy’s latest carrier delivered without high-tech bomb elevators. Last year, builder Huntington Ingalls turned the Gerald R. Ford over to the Navy — minus all of the 11 lifts that are supposed to move ordnance from armory to flight deck, Bloomberg reports.
“The Advanced Weapons Elevators, which are moved by magnets rather than cables, were supposed to be installed by the vessel’s original delivery date in May 2017. Instead, final installation was delayed by problems including four instances of unsafe ‘uncommanded movements’ since 2015, according to the Navy.”
The whole ship will be combat-capable by July, the Navy insists. But: “Problems with the elevators add to questions about the Navy’s plan to bundle the third and fourth carriers in the $58 billion Ford class into one contract.” Read on, here.

The U.S. military carried out its 29th known airstrike of the year against al-Shabab on Saturday. U.S. Africa Command said this weekend the strike is believed to have killed four Shabab fighters near the southern city of Araara.
For the record, this year is on track to see a record number of airstrikes in Somalia— as “Inside al-Shabab” co-author Harun Maruf told us in episode 24 of Defense One Radio — using data assembled by analysts at The Long War Journal, here.

The Kremlin is trying hard to influence the minds American troops with tweets and memes, Voice of America reported this weekend.
How? “By seeding U.S. troops with the right type of disinformation… predispos[ing] them to make choices or decisions that are favorable for Moscow.”
The good news? It’s not always working.
The bad news? Sometimes it is, especially on the enlisted side.
Said U.S. Army aviator Crispin Burke: “I’ve noticed a network of US service members on both the far right and far left who spout the Kremlin’s line on Syria. Stay vigilant.” Story, here.

Quite a bit of America’s election-related disinformation and fake news is homegrown, The New York Times reported this weekend — after two months of readers submitting what they found online this election season.
An example: A Facebook post accusing alleged mail bomber Cesar Sayoc “of being a false flag operative has almost 78,000 shares.” For comparison, the NYT‘s most shared Facebook post of the last month got 50,000 shares, tech writer Kevin Roose noted on Twitter. The NYT’s review of what they found is very much worth the click, here.

According to court documents, Trump’s words have incited violence or threats in America 17 times in the past three years, ABC News reports.
Say what? “[A] nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 17 criminal cases where Trump’s name was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault. Nearly all — 16 of 17 — cases identified by ABC News are striking in that court documents and direct evidence reflect someone echoing presidential rhetoric, not protesting it.” Review all 17 cases here.

Iraq’s foreign ministry told the U.S. embassy in Baghdad to stop interfering with its relationship with Iran, Reuters reported this weekend from the drama-on-Twitter beat.
What set off Baghdad: A tweet that told Iran to “respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government.”
ICYMI: Leaders of America and Iran took to Twitter to out-intimidate each other using Game of Thrones memes. The Washington Post can catch you up on that, here.

Lastly today: Trump administration siding with Sudan against USS Cole families. After a New York court ordered Sudan to pay $314 million to the victims and families of the U.S. sailors killed and wounded in 2000 by suicide bombers in the Gulf of Aden, the government of Sudan began arguing that the lawsuit was not properly delivered through diplomatic channels.
U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco reluctantly agrees. As the case heads to the Supreme Court, Francisco joined Saudi Arabia and Libya in arguing that the paperwork snafu means the case should be thrown out, the Washington Post reports. “The United States deeply sympathizes with the extraordinary injuries suffered by respondents, and it condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist acts that caused those injuries,” Francisco wrote in his brief to the Supreme Court.
But “litigation against foreign states in U.S. courts can have significant foreign affairs implications for the United States,” he continued, “and can affect the reciprocal treatment of the United States in the courts of other nations.” Read on, here.

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