The D Brief: Islamic State calls for attacks in France; Rogers on a U.S. attack by China; Nancy Lindborg to USIP; “Major Trouble” at the Pentagon’s Fort America; The Back story on Robin Raphel; And a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson
In a new propaganda video from the Islamic State, a call for terrorist acts against France. The NYT’s Dan Bilefsky and Maia de la Baume: “…The seven-minute film, released on Wednesday by Al Hayat Media Center, an affiliate of the Islamic State, also shows what appear to be French jihadist fighters burning their French passports. The video appears to be part of an intensifying propaganda effort by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, to use foreign fighters to recruit members and to encourage the spread of violence.”
The Islamic State’s drive to mint its own currency is reportedly gobbling up gold and silver from Mosul and Fallujah—with some militants gutting power cables for copper wiring, McClatchy’s Mitchell Prothero reports from Irbil, here.
The Kurds want the Pentagon to arm them directly with heavier weapons. The WSJ’s Adam Entous: “The Kurdish local government in Iraq is urging the Obama administration to provide it with heavy arms, including helicopters, tanks and artillery pieces, to fight better-armed Islamic State insurgents, a Kurdish official said Thursday, providing new details on the request.” More here.
Iraqi war veteran Tulsi Gabbard (and Dem from Hawaii) is sponsoring legislation to give Obama temporary authority to directly arm the Pesh. Read that from her office, here.
The Koran for Dummies? Defense One’s Stephanie Gaskell passes this one along on the reading habits of certain would-be foreign fighters: Can you guess which books the wannabe jihadists Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed ordered online from Amazon before they set out from Birmingham to fight in Syria last May? A copy of “Milestones” by the Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb? No. How about “Messages to the World: the Statements of Osama Bin Laden?” Guess again. Sarwar and Ahmed, both of whom pleaded guilty to terrorism offences last month, purchased “Islam for Dummies” and “The Koran for Dummies.” More on that odd one from The New Republic, here.
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Two senior leaders of al-Qaeda’s India branch were reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike on the Af-Pak border. Bill Roggio for Long War Journal, here.
What Indians really think about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, in Foreign Policy, here.
“I’ve inherited decades of problems.” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took to Twitter this morning to remind us that his country’s problems “can’t be solved in a month or a year,” advocating something closer to five years before Afghans will see a “credible administration.”
“Weakness and ambiguity” should not be the dominant descriptors of U.S. leadership and direction today, writes Robin Shepherd, senior advisor to the Halifax International Security Forum, in the pages of Defense One: “We may sometimes grind to a halt; later to go once more unto the breach. But it is the direction of travel that matters most. Holding the line will not do, and will not work.”
Also in Defense One: The solution to America’s intelligence gap in Iraq doesn’t have to be solved by placing U.S. boots on the ground, the Pentagon’s Undersecretary for Intelligence Michael Vickers said Wednesday during an appearance at the Defense One Summit. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker with more on the perhaps under-appreciated “geospatial intelligence and drone-based surveillance” assets already available in the fight against ISIS. Read that here.
Worlds collide: Vickers, of course, was portrayed by the actor Christopher Denham in the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” in which Denham is shown in the movie playing chess in Washington’s Dupont Circle – even if Vickers himself has said he doesn’t play. The movie, based on the book by George Crile, was directed by Mike Nichols, who of course died this week at the age of 83.
Mike Rogers waves the warning sign on China and how it could launch an attack against the U.S. infrastructure. The WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima: “…In the past, U.S. intelligence officials warned that the Chinese had penetrated the electric grid. Now, Rogers has confirmed that ‘there’s probably one or two others’ that have also wormed their way in.”
Rogers at a hearing yesterday: “There shouldn’t be any doubt in our minds that there are nation-states and groups out there that have the capability . . . to shut down, forestall our ability to operate our basic infrastructure, whether it’s generating power across this nation, whether it’s moving water and fuel… Those tend to be the biggest focus areas that we have seen.” More here.
President Obama is poised to implement to measures from an advisory panel for “worst-case” cyber attacks against the homeland as well as ordinary household devices connected to the internet, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel told InsideCyberSecurity’s Chris Castelli: “Daniel said Suzanne Spaulding, the Department of Homeland Security's under secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, would likely pen a memo formally transmitting the reports to the White House. But officials are already working on putting some of the recommendations into practice, he said. The administration is working to increase the breadth and depth of its cooperation with the private sector in a number of different areas, he said.” More here.
The CIA’s Hayden Peake reviewed a dozen and a half books on the U.S. intelligence apparatus, including journalist Glenn Greenwald’s latest, “No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.” That expansive review, here.
Guess what? Happy days are here again and the CIA is once again ready to party this holiday season. But, news flash, the CIA’s holiday party will be off the record. The WaPo’s Al Kamen, here.
The back story on the inquiry into well-known diplomat Robin Raphel and how investigators found classified information at her house. The NYT’s Matt Apuzzo, Michael Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti on Page One: “American investigators intercepted a conversation this year in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat, officials said, setting off an espionage investigation that has stunned diplomatic circles here.
“…Ms. Raphel, 67, considered one of the leading American experts on Pakistan, was stripped of her security clearances last month and no longer has access to the State Department building.
“While the F.B.I. secretly watched Ms. Raphel in recent months, agents suspected that she was improperly taking classified information home from the State Department, the officials said. Armed with a warrant, the agents searched her home in a prosperous neighborhood near the Maryland border with Washington, and found classified information, the officials said.
Raphel has not been charged, but: “In a sign of the seriousness of the case, Ms. Raphel has hired Amy Jeffress, a lawyer who until recently was one of the Justice Department’s top national security prosecutors. Ms. Jeffress served as a counselor to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on security matters, as the Justice Department’s attaché to London, and as chief of national security at the United States Attorney’s Office in Washington. She joined the law firm Arnold & Porter this year. Ms. Jeffress declined to comment.” More here.
Who’s up to What today – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosts an honor cordon with Saudi Arabia’s National Guard Minister at the Pentagon’s River Entrance at 10:30 a.m. … And in the afternoon, he returns there for another honor cordon with the Minister of State for Defense Affairs of Qatar, Gen. Hamad bin Ali al-Atiyah, at 2:00 p.m… Apologies that we originally reported that these visits were scheduled for Thursday; they are actually today.
The U.S. Institute of Peace’s Steve Hadley announces that USIP has a new prez: it’s Nancy Lindborg from USAID. After former president Jim Marshall’s extremely short tenure, and after several months of searching, carefully, USIP announced late yesterday that Lindborg, “who has devoted most of her career to issues of transition, democracy and civil society, conflict and humanitarian response, will be the fifth president in the organization’s 30-year history” had accepted the top job at USIP.
Hadley, who is Chairman of the USIP Board, in a statement: “Nancy Lindborg brings an outstanding mix of international experience, deep knowledge of the peacebuilding field, and the leadership skills necessary to manage this important national Institution.”
Lindborg: “The current proliferation of global crises underscores the profound and urgent need for innovative approaches for pursuing peace… USIP is a unique platform for thought leadership connected to action on the ground, and it is an extraordinary expression of the United States’ commitment to peace. I am deeply honored to have this opportunity.”
Lindborg is thought to have stellar credibility on Capitol Hill and the background to be effective, though we’re also told that she is well known to be a tough manager. Said one person familiar with her work to The D Brief: “She’s very tough and you’re always under the microscope.” Lindborg starts Feb. 2.
Major Trouble at the Pentagon gift shop: Not that there’s anything wrong with it: But a friend of The D Brief noticed a funny little thing for sale at Fort America, the Pentagon’s gift shop where you buy little plastic Pentagons, beer mugs and sweatshirts. In the back they sell stuff for babies – cute shirts that say “someone at the Pentagon loves me.” There’s also a baby bib with the words “Major Trouble” on it – (get it? … soon to be promoted to Lt. Col. Trouble) but the bib is made in… Syria. Didn’t see that coming, right? The U.S. isn’t exactly at war with Syria, per se, or at least the Syrian company that produces it, certainly. We note that there are other baby items for sale in the Pentagon’s gift shop from India, Pakistan China and the UAE.
On a lark, we asked about it at the Pentagon and here’s the answer we got from a Defense Department spokesman, who basically told us that it’s a third party issue: “The DoD Concessions Committee (DODCC) is a nonapproriated fund instrumentality charged with providing concession services for the Pentagon and Mark Center populaces. In doing so, DoDCC grants nonexclusive, revocable licenses to 3rd party vendors who sell food, retail goods and services...such as Fort America. DoDCC does not engage in the direct procurement of food service or retail items. DoDCC licenses require vendors to comply with applicable US law and regulations, which would include any international embargos and other trade restrictions.” See the photo of the bib here.
But, noting the aerial photographs of the Pentagon also for sale at Fort America, one defense official quipped: “If the overhead photos of the Pentagon start coming from Syria, then I think we need to be concerned.” Ha. Good one.
The D Brief corrects – We ran a Reuters story the other day that was co-bylined by Tara Maller, but we spelled her name Mailer. Bad eyes! Apologies for the flub.
North Korea threatens a nuclear test, VOA here.
Former Navy Secretary, Marine and Senator Jim Webb is going for it. Webb announced he is forming an exploratory committee for prez for 2016. The WaPo, here.
Budget time: Sources tell Defense News’ John Bennett that: “Capitol Hill’s top appropriators have yet to discuss another short-term measure to keep the government running, focusing solely on a longer-term bill they hope to drop in early December. Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, respectively, are cobbling together an omnibus spending bill that would fund the Pentagon and other federal agencies through Sept. 30.” Read the rest here.
The GAO warns that the Navy’s most expensive warship is growing even more costly—raising the new Ford-class carrier’s profile even higher on Sen. John McCain’s enemies list. David Lerman and Tony Capaccio for Bloomberg: “To stay within the [$12.9 billion cost cap], the Navy is deferring some work, including installing satellite communications equipment and correcting defects, until after the ship is delivered, to create a funding reserve, according to the report…
McCain said in a statement that ‘after $2.4 billion in cost overruns on this ship already, the Navy is now trying to artificially shift more cost overruns until after the Ford’s delivery… The Armed Services Committee will be seeking further explanation from the Navy on this troubling report and will work to hold those responsible for these cost overruns accountable.’” More here.
The U.S. has the most to lose from the emergence of a “second nuclear age” with the proliferation of cheaper and more effective weapons globally, writes Gregory Koblentz, Deputy Director of the Biodefense Graduate Program at George Mason University, in a special report at the Council on Foreign Relations. More from that report, here.
The Army’s 159th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Fort Campbell is the first of three brigades to be cut as part of the service’s aviation restructuring plan. Michelle Tan for Army Times, here.