The D Brief: AQAP claims Paris attack; McCain just got his second most wanted dream job; The amazing technology searching for AirAsia jet; Little gets a new job; Bradley Cooper talks at Sniper screening; And a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson
AQAP claims responsibility for the Paris attack. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri directed the attack, according to a new recording released overnight. Reuters just this morning: “Al Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, saying it was ordered by the Islamist militant group's leadership for insulting the Prophet Mohammad, according to a video posted on YouTube.
Said Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, a leader of the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda (AQAP) in the recording: "As for the blessed Battle of Paris, we, the Organisation of al Qaeda al Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the Messenger of God.”
“…Ansi, the main ideologue for AQAP, said the "one who chose the target, laid the plan and financed the operation is the leadership of the organization", without naming an individual. He added without elaborating that the strike was carried out in ‘implementation’ of the order of overall al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who has called for strikes by Muslims in the West using any means they can find. AQAP itself is led by Nasser al-Wuhayshi, who is also Zawahri's number two in the network's global hierarchy. More here.
The NYT’s Rukmini Callimachi and Alan Cowell: “…There was no explanation why the group waited a week to claim responsibility for a spectacular attack that terrorized and galvanized all of France. But it can take days to get approval from leaders of the organization and additional time to produce the videos and print documents supporting the claim. An English version of the claim, distributed online, showed a chilling image of the Eiffel Tower in Paris seeming to dissolve into a wisp of smoke. The headline reads, ‘Vengeance for the Prophet: A Message Regarding the Blessed Battle of Paris.’
“The statement said the attack on Charlie Hebdo was in retaliation for the mocking depictions of Muhammad. Muslims believe all depictions of the prophet are blasphemous.”
Charlie Hebdo is defiant: the magazine is printing its first edition after the attack last week with a depiction of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover, holding a sign that says “Je Suis Charlie.” BBC, here.
Charlie Hebdo’s new cover is right here.
The NYT’s Dan Bilefsky on the NYTs not running Charlie cartoons: “…Some American newspapers, including The New York Times, did not reproduce the Charlie Hedbo cartoons that mocked Islam. The Times called the decision an editorial judgment that reflected its standards for content that is deemed offensive and gratuitous.” More on that Page One story, including fears that the new cover cartoon will provoke violence, here.
Meantime, some would say this is one of the best cartoons about the Islamic State. A masked militant holding a knife threateningly in the middle of the desert demands from what appears to be a Western captive to “Convert to Islam or Die!” …to which the man on his knees replies to the jihadist: “You first.” Better in person, here.
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GOP natsec hawks slam Dempsey in their sprint to keep the president from emptying Gitmo. Our politics editor Molly O’Toole with more: “On Tuesday, Republican Sens. John McCain, Ariz.; Kelly Ayotte, N.H.; Lindsey Graham, S.C. and Richard Burr, N.C. announced new legislation that for two years would prohibit detainee transfers to Yemen and suspend international transfers of prisoners who the Defense Department has designated as medium- or high-risk…’
“‘Time after time, [Dempsey] has made statements that are not only wrong, but ridiculous,’ McCain said... ‘I don’t believe that, certainly not with this individual, that General Dempsey’s opinion carries any weight whatsoever… ‘He’s just wrong on this,’ Ayotte interjected… The Senate Armed Services Committee, which McCain chairs, will consider the bill independently rather than as part of the annual defense authorization bill, the senator said, but he does not yet have a timeline. The senators also said they’ve received support from the House for the measure.”
The same technology that helps millions of doctors bring children into this world is helping put to rest the search for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501. Defense One’s tech editor Patrick explains how “side scan sonar” technology on board U.S. and Australian naval vessels helped in the search.
A senior commander in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army surrendered and was handed over to U.S. special forces last week in the Central African Republic—and the Pentagon just handed him back over to the Ugandan army. WaPo’s Craig Whitlock has the unusual story of Dominic Ongwen, here.
A Ugandan army spokesman this morning said they will transfer Mr. Ongwen to Central African Republic authorities for later transfer to The Hague for a war crimes trial at the International Criminal Court. AP, here.
A 50 percent drop in the price of oil since June means ISIS could soon be adjusting their tactics on the battlefield, writes West Point instructor Geoff Porter over at the academy's Combating Terrorism Center: "The consequences of missing oil revenue for IS are severe. IS is unlikely to decrease funding for its military operations so it will have to find ways to simultaneously cut costs elsewhere and raise new revenue – and both methods are likely to jeopardize popular support for the group... Prior to having access to oil receipts the IS behave more like an insurgency, relying heavily on terrorist tactics, than conventional military strategy. In the face of falling oil prices, it could revert to this style of fighting." More here.
Now is hardly the time for the U.S. to ease up on counterterrorism missions while they continue to train the Afghan security forces, says the Afghanistan war commander. Gen. John Campbell spoke to The Hill’s Kristina Wong, here.
Is China is trying to broker a peace deal between the Afghan Taliban and Kabul? NYT’s Edward Wong from Beijing, here.
Vince Stewart becomes the first Marine to lead the DIA. Stewart will begin his job at the Defense Intelligence Agency Jan. 23 at a ceremony at 10 a.m. at DIA at joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington. As we reported earlier this summer, here, and again when he was confirmed in December, for The D Brief, Stewart was long thought to be the successor to Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who resigned in August. Stewart’s previous job was as commander of Marine Forces Cyber Command; prior to that he was director of intelligence for the Marine Corps. Stewart inherits a DIA that has been under the civilian leadership of David Shedd for months. After Flynn’s expected departure in August, the White House took months to formally nominate Stewart after the White House pulled the name of the woman who was expected to succeed Flynn at DIA, Mary Legere, as we reported last summer, here.
Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Mike Vickers to The D Brief: "Major General Stewart is an outstanding intelligence leader. I am confident he will take DIA to a new level of intelligence excellence," said Dr. Michael Vickers, undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
DISA's new Joint Force Headquarters goes live later this week and will take over as many as 19 different tasks from U.S. Cyber Command. GovExec’s Frank Konkel has the story on the Defense Information Systems Agency.
The Air Force’s new stealthy, nuclear-weapon carrying Long Range Strike Bomber is a critical deterrent in the Pentagon’s arsenal for its Pacific pivot, Defense One’s own Marcus Weisgerber writes from SecDef Hagel’s visit to Whiteman AFB yesterday: “The plane must be able to fly long distances, undetected by enemy radar. It must be able to carry nuclear weapons and be flown with or without a pilot. And the price tag is capped at $500 million per jet… Later this year, the Air Force is expected to select either Northrop Grumman or a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team to build the new bomber. Pentagon leaders have said little about the project as it’s classified, with its details shrouded in secrecy… Air Force officials said they will control cost growth by using mature technology and systems already used on existing aircraft, something it did not do in the 1980s when building the B-2.”
Who’s up to what today – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is in California today, where he will fly on a Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey to the USS America, an amphibious assault ship underway in the Pacific off the California coast. The America is the newest ship in the Navy fleet and will be among the first to carry Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighters… Hagel will fly to El Paso tonight in advance of his visit to the Fort Bliss and the White Sands Missile Range…
Later today, Secretary of the Air Force Debbie James will speak at the Atlantic Council as part of the Atlantic Council Defense-Industrial Policy Series. We’re told that James’ remarks will focus on Bending the Cost Curve--an acquisition initiative focused on the need to incorporate strategic agility in all acquisition activities. BTCC initiatives are designed to provide America with the most capable Air Force at the lowest cost to taxpayers, an absolute necessity given today's fiscal realities… Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert just left Chile and will be in Peru today and tomorrow to visit with his counterpart in the Peruvian Navy…
Short of becoming president, Sen. John McCain now has his dream job as SASC chair. And NYT’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg spoke to him about the new gig: “For his debut as chairman, Mr. McCain is planning a series of hearings on national security strategy with a bipartisan cast of luminaries from administrations long past, among them former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, 91, and two former national security advisers: Brent Scowcroft, 89, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, 86…
"Senior Senate Democrats … hold out the possibility that Mr. McCain will do more on the Armed Services Committee than browbeat Mr. Obama’s nominees during confirmation hearings, as he has in the past. There are some signs of change: Mr. McCain is an enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, who is to appear before the committee in February.” Read the rest, here.
Last night a bunch of folks attended a special screening of “American Sniper” at the Navy Memorial in Washington. The movie, about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who had 160 confirmed kills, opens in theaters this month and is thought to be a dramatic but realistic portrayal of Kyle’s experience – and more broadly of many who serve.
Bradley Cooper, who stars in and produced the movie, talked about the movie last night at the Memorial. He also talked, with Kyle’s widow, Taya, to Jake Tapper on CNN yesterday, here.
Cooper, on the movie’s realism: “My hope is that even if it is initially sort of shocking that after a while it heals…
Cooper on how only 1 percent of Americans are affiliated with the military: “Hopefully this movie can educate those of us who aren’t really familiar with the plight of the soldier and the soldier’s family.”
Taya Kyle remarked last night that "It's eerie" how much Cooper was like her husband, adding that the movie: "It's not about one war. It's about a warrior.”
DC Scene: (partial list since we had to bounce early): Geoff Morrell, Martha Raddatz, Jonathan Withington, Guy Swan, David Wood, Tony Capaccio, Jonathan Capehart, Bill Nelson, Eric Schmitt and, in deep conversation: Duncan Boothby and Greg Smith.
Taya Kyle struggled over whether she wanted her husband to be portrayed in a movie, but Cooper pledged not to make Chris Kyle a stereotype. Dallas Morning News, here.
A former U.S. Army sniper-turned-alleged-contract-killer tried to kill a DEA agent, prosecutors say. NYT’s Alan Feuer: “[P]rosecutors unsealed an indictment alleging that Mr. [Joseph] Hunter, who used the nickname Rambo, was the leader of a team of mercenary killers who planned to assassinate an agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration and a government informer for a group of men they believed were Colombian drug traffickers…
“From the start, the case of Mr. Hunter has been full of cinematic moments and cloak-and-dagger twists. The government contends that he hired four former soldiers—three from Europe and one from the United States—to act as his accomplices and was recorded on tape agreeing to accept an $800,000 bounty to kill the two victims in Liberia. The assassins, prosecutors say, planned to wear custom rubber masks and then escape the country in a privately chartered jet.” More here.
How Eisenhower went from an obscure O-5 to a wartime commander in less than a year. Michael Haskew shares an excerpt from his book “West Point 1915: Eisenhower, Bradley, and the Class the Stars Fell On” for War on the Rocks, here.
Hagel visited Whiteman Air Base in Western Missouri yesterday and talked bombers. From Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber, who is traveling with the Defense Secretary on his last trip: “Day one of Hagel’s last domestic trip as defense secretary took him to Whiteman Air Force Base in Western Missouri where he toured B-2 stealth bombers. Hagel, who rarely speaks at length about individual service weapon programs, used the visit to throw his support behind the Air Force’s new bomber program. He said the stealthy aircraft is a vital piece of the Pentagon’s Pacific pivot and would receive funding in the Obama administration’s 2016 budget proposal.
“While at Whiteman Hagel visited with B-2 crews, include one that he sent on a long-range training mission to drop inert bombs on a Korean peninsula. Reporters had a rare chance to get up close and personal with a B-2, the Spirit of Hawaii, in one of Whiteman’s climate controlled hangar. Unfortunately cameras were not allowed inside, but young maintainers showed the small group the aircraft’s special stealth coating, antennas that are built into the aircraft’s structure and even a walk inside the plane’s two massive bomb bays.”
So CNN got a greenlight from the feds on using little drones for news gathering… can Amazon’s drone delivery program be far behind? There are myriad issues with the idea of letting little drones fly through the air every place – just ask the FAA. But CNN has a go-ahead for now. The Washington Times, here.
Three Republican lawmakers are demanding answers from Army Secretary John McHugh about the imprisonment of a former soldier for an incident in Afghanistan in 2013. Sean Hannity Show: “Today, Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Matt Salmon (R-AZ), and Ryan Zinke (R-MT) sent a letter to Secretary of the Army, John McHugh voicing concerns about Clint Lorance's case... The letter to McHugh highlights the concern the Congressmen have about the rules of engagement and their belief that Lorance's case deserves added scrutiny.” Fox’s Sean Hannity has a story here and the petition.
Former Pentagon Pressec George Little (“Dr. Little!”) gets another new job. Little, who already had a pretty nice title at Booz Allen, is becoming a partner at Brunswick Group, which also just recently hired former WSJ intel reporter Siobhan Gorman. Corporate cyber-security seems to be their thing. From Brunswick: “... Also today, Brunswick announced that former Wall Street Journal intelligence correspondent, Siobhan Gorman, has joined the firm’s Washington, D.C. office as a Director. Both Dr. Little and Ms. Gorman will focus heavily on growing the firm’s Corporate Data and Privacy practice globally.”
Achieving any kind of nuclear stability between Pakistan and India is about as doomed as Washington’s 20th century nuclear détente with Moscow, says Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center and Director of Stimson's South Asia Program. Krepon and former arms control negotiator Ambassador Linton Brooks will sit down with Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace George Perkovich today at 12:30 p.m. You can RSVP for that over here.
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