We now have a system and location for Kim Jong-un’s latest missile tests, conducted early Tuesday at Kaechon Air Base, in west-central North Korea.
As for the system, the Associated Press uses the language of North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency to call it “a super-large multiple rocket launcher,” which happens to be a system we saw tested less than one month ago, on August 24. “Super-large” as in about 600mm for those rockets, MIT’s Vipin Narang noted.
Here’s imagery from North Korea of Tuesday’s system and launches, via IISS’s OSINT sleuth, Joseph Dempsey.
For the record, “Tuesday’s weapons test was the eighth round of launches by North Korea since late July,” CBS News writes. “Other weapons tested include at least three other newly developed short-range missile and rocket artillery systems that experts say would potentially expand its capabilities to strike targets throughout South Korea.”
“Can you hear us now?” According to Reuters, “Tuesday’s launches appeared to have been timed to send a message to Washington, such as what may happen if the United States doesn’t come to talks with North Korea with realistic proposals.”
So, what now? AP writes that North Korea “is still keeping its promise not to carry out nuclear and long-range missile tests. This suggests North Korea is trying to maintain the momentum for dialogue with the United States, experts say.” Read on, here.
From Defense One
Bolton Fired as National Security Adviser. Who’s Next? // Katie Bo Williams: Trump’s third NSA is let go after being sidelined at major international events.
Sneak Preview: First Draft of Russia’s AI Strategy // Samuel Bendett: The draft, produced by the country’s largest bank, focuses on data, training, and ethics. The final version is due next month.
When it Comes to Allies, Americans Get It // Ivo H. Daalder and Jane Harman: New polling reveals Trump’s disparagement of U.S. allies remains a bridge too far for most Americans — and it should remain so.
Do Americans Really Want to End ‘Forever Wars?’ Survey says… // Kevin Baron: Some surprises, and unsurprising party lines, are revealed in the latest Chicago Council poll on American foreign policy opinions.
America’s Déjà-Vu Withdrawal from Afghanistan // James Kitfield and Joshua C. Huminski: Like Obama in Iraq, Trump wants to stop fighting before the war is done.
John Bolton Will Hold This Grudge // Graeme Wood, The Atlantic: His dismissal by tweet came after an unusually long prelude of disrespect, both by President Trump and by favored allies.
The White House’s Impossible Job // David A. Graham, The Atlantic: The problem is not that Trump failed to get along with John Bolton—it’s that he doesn’t want a national security adviser in the first place.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not a D Brief subscriber, sign up here. On this day 18 years ago, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, quickly sending people around the world to their TV screens. Shortly after Flight 175 hit, classes were abruptly cancelled at the University of Kentucky; so one of your D Brief-ers perused the catalog and eventually registered for an Islamic and Jewish philosophy class taught by the inimitable Oliver Leaman. The class and the professor remain favorites to this day, in spite of the awful attacks that forever changed the course of the country and the world.
John Bolton was fired-by-tweet on Tuesday. Trump had been sidelining his third national security adviser for a few months. Their similarly combative temperaments and shared disdain for multilateralism were apparently not enough to overcome their disagreements on topics such as whether to attack Iran and whether to cozy up to North Korea. D1’s Katie Bo Williams has more, here.
- 10:55 a.m.: The White House announces that the then-national security adviser will join other Cabinet officials to brief reporters in the early afternoon.
- 11:58 a.m.: Trump tweets(*) that he told “Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House.”
- 12:10 p.m.: Bolton tweets: “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.’”
That disorder reflects what Bolton has done to the interagency process built up since World War II to develop U.S. national security policy. John Gans, who wrote a history of the National Security Council, laments in the New York Times that Bolton’s “most lasting legacy will be dismantling the structure that has kept American foreign policy from collapsing into chaos, and finally unshackling an irregular commander-in-chief.” Read, here.
Bolton’s fall ultimately reflects Trump’s dislike of independent-minded advisers in general, writes The Atlantic’s David Graham: “The point of the job is to advise the president on national-security matters and to coordinate the efforts of the sprawling national-security bureaucracy to ensure the government works smoothly. But Trump doesn’t want advice, and he prefers to keep his subordinates in conflict.”
So who’s next? Likely someone who will be more pliant under Trump. NYT’s Katie Rogers has a notional list of candidates, starting with Charles M. Kupperman, Bolton’s deputy who has now been elevated to acting national security adviser.
Afghan citizens are deeply worried about what’s going to happen next in their country, telling AP in Kabul today that they “fear [President Trump’s] cancellation of negotiations will bring more carnage as the U.S. and Taliban, as well as Afghan forces, step up their offensives and everyday people die in the crossfire.”A concerning trend: “For the first time, more Afghan civilians have been killed by international and Afghan forces than by the Taliban and other insurgents,” according to a UN assessment of violence in Afghanistan during the first three months of 2019. More here.
UN investigators say pretty much everyone in Syria appears to be guilty of war crimes, including the U.S.-led coalition and Russia. That also includes the Assad regime, as well as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, “a jihadist alliance formerly known as Nusra Front that is the dominant armed group in Idlib” province, Reuters reports.
How so? According to a report from the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, “There are reasonable grounds to believe that international coalition forces may not have directed their attacks at a specific military objective, or failed to do so with the necessary precaution” during the U.S.-led coalition’s counter-ISIS “Al-Jazeera Storm” operation to retake ISIS’s final stronghold of Hajin in eastern Syria at the turn of the year.
In addition, “Night raids by [Syrian Democratic Forces] backed by coalition helicopter gunships killed and wounded civilians in Shahil and other parts of Deir al-Zor province, in further apparent violations of international law,” investigators allege, noting “The report covers the year to July and is based on nearly 300 interviews and analysis of satellite imagery, photographs and videos.”
And apparently indiscriminate Assad regime airstrikes in March and May drew allegations of war crimes for hitting schools, markets and children’s hospitals. Tiny bit more, here. Or read the report for yourself — it’s a *.docx file — here.
The U.S. military used its F-35 jets to drop almost 80,000 pounds of boom on ISIS in Iraq. Operation Inherent Resolve spox Col. Myles Caggins III tweeted a moderately produced promo video of the strikes. The strikes, which also involved F-15s, targeted a cluster of locations around Qanus Island (Caggins called it a “Daesh-infested island”) in Salah ad Din Governorate just north of Baghdad.
As a former Army video editor, your D Brief-er notes that the aerial surveillance clarity in this hooah video is unusually good, as is the combination of ground and aerial footage. Watch for yourself, here.
Russia appears to have killed another problematic person abroad, this time in Berlin about 19 days ago, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
The deceased: Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, “a 40-year-old Georgian who once commanded forces against Russia during a Chechen uprising.” Khangoshvili “was gunned down in a Berlin park on Aug. 23 on his way to a local mosque. Minutes later, German police arrested a Russian man attempting to leave the scene on an electric scooter after he discarded a pistol and silencer.”
For the record, “The Berlin prosecutor’s office, which is leading the investigation, declined to comment. But in a sign of the mounting suspicions, U.S. officials and a German official familiar with the case said Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, has now joined the probe.”
But some of the evidence seeming to implicate the suspect includes a fake ID and a real passport, which is a combination one U.S. official told the Journal “can only be provided by authorities in Russia.” The intrigue continues, here.
And finally today, the satirical writers at The Onion had not one but two stories about Bolton’s firing on Tuesday. Without further ado, we’ll leave you today with just the headlines: