AQAP feeds off Yemen chaos; Carter is wheels up for Asia; What’s the next step against ISIS?; 308 ships for the Navy!; And a bit more.
It’s not looking so great in Yemen’s port city of Aden this morning – there’s no food or power. Reuters’ Mohammed Mukhashaf, reporting from there: “Explosions shook the suburbs of the Yemeni port city of Aden on Monday as residents reported a foreign warship shelling Houthi positions on the outskirts of the city. Street fighting and heavy shelling has for several days torn through the city, the last bastion of support for Saudi-backed president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“Twelve days of bombing by a Saudi-led coalition has failed to halt the advance of the Iran-allied Houthis that has triggered a growing humanitarian crisis for residents in central districts now cut off from the mainland.
“Relief from outside appeared distant as the International Committee of the Red Cross told Reuters that it had yet to arrange a flight to deliver 48 tons of medical supplies despite gaining Saudi approval for the aid on Saturday night. Food, water and electricity shortages have mounted throughout the country but especially in Aden, where combat has shut ports and cut land routes linking the city to the outside.” More here.
And Houthi rebels are solidifying their hold on the Yemeni capital of Sana. The WaPo’s Ali al-Mujahed and Brian Murphy: “Shiite rebels stormed homes and offices across Yemen’s capital, detaining more than 120 activists and political figures suspected of supporting the Saudi-led coalition in its airstrikes against the insurgents, a rights group said Sunday. The sweeps came as a senior rebel envoy was quoted as offering peace talks if the Saudi-led air campaign was halted, but opposition to the return of the country’s president could block any move toward dialogue.”
“…the latest detentions, which began late Saturday, appear to signal a wider effort to root out suspected opponents as the Saudi-led attacks have targeted insurgent supply lines and ammunition depots but have largely spared populated areas.” More here.
But as feared, the chaos in Yemen has allowed one of al-Qaida’s most lethal franchises – AQAP – to flex its muscle and rebuild. The WaPo’s Greg Miller on Page One: “… [CIA] and U.S. military personnel have been pulled out of Yemen amid escalating sectarian violence in recent weeks. Elite Yemeni units that the United States trained to hunt al-Qaeda have been scrambled by the government’s collapse. And millions of dollars’ worth of U.S.-provided military equipment has been destroyed in a span of days by Saudi airstrikes aimed at rendering those arms useless to the Iran-backed rebels who control the capital.”
“…the counterterrorism fight has gone from the most active battlefront in Yemen to a secondary conflict, swallowed up by a civil war that is serving as a proxy for a broader regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.” More here.
One of the attackers in Kenya had a law degree after graduating from the University of Nairobi two years ago. The WaPo’s Abigail Higgins: “Authorities have identified one of the al-Shabab gunmen gunmen responsible for the massacre last week at a Kenyan university that killed 148 students as the son of a Kenyan official… Abdullahi had graduated from the University of Nairobi with a law degree in 2013.” More here.
Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief, by Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson.
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Closing another civ-mil divide shows promise. The best way to bridge the civilian-military divide, especially at the senior levels of government, is not via large conferences or formal papers—but by building trust, one person at a time, over time, RAND Corporation’s Paula Thornhill writes in Defense One following an illuminating tabletop episode with academics and field grade officers, here.
Pivoting: Ash Carter is wheels up this morning for Arizona State University’s McCain Institute - then heads to Asia. Defense Secretary Ash Carter leaves this morning for Arizona, where he’ll speak at the McCain Institute at ASU “about the strong link between national security and economic security” and “the full-court press the administration will continue to take on the rebalance [to Asia],” according to the Pentagon. Carter will meet with Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, before the speech which we’re told by a senior defense official aims to “signal to our allies and partners the bi-partisan nature of the rebalance to the Asia Pacific and that the United States has an unwavering commitment to the region.”
Then tomorrow, he’ll head out to make two stops in Asia, one in Japan and another in South Korea. Wearing previous hats inside the Pentagon, Carter has made a total of seven official trips to Asia, we’re told.
In Japan, he’ll meet with senior Japanese officials to talk about the “defense strategic guidelines review” and other issues ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Washington later this month.
On Thursday, Carter will arrive in Seoul. The next day, he’ll meet with senior officials there “to reiterate the United States’ strong commitment to South Korea’s security.
On Saturday, Carter will begin making his way back to the U.S. with a stop in Hawaii, but there’s still no change of command for U.S. Pacific Command scheduled. As The D Brief reported some weeks back, the change of command ceremony for PACOM’s Adm. Sam Locklear is still not scheduled; Locklear’s retirement or at least relief of command from PACOM has been held up to “maintain the decision space” as a new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is chosen in the coming weeks. Read Lubold’s story last month about Locklear here.
Carter’s trip today is one of two trips he’ll be making to Asia over the next two months, the Pentagon noted last week in an emailed preview of the trip. Despite all the shiny objects in the Middle East, the White House remains committed to the pivot to Asia, and Carter will be one of its most visible supporters of that policy.
A preview of Carter’s trip by Stripes’ Jon Harper, here.
Staffers on a plane – Deputy Chief of Staff Eric Rosenbach, Special Assistant Kathryn Harris, Military Assistant Maj. Gen. Ron Lewis, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Brent Colburn, Confidential Assistant Julie Park, Travel Director James Eby, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear, Principal Director for East Asia Cara Abercrombie, Digital Media Director Stephanie Dreyer, Speechwriters Aaron Sherman and John Gans.
Reporters on a plane – AP’s Bob Burns, NYT’s Helene Cooper, Bloomberg’s David Lynch, WaPo’s Missy Ryan, WSJ’s Felicia Schwartz, Voice of America’s Carla Babb, AFP’s Laurent Barthelemy, Reuters’ David Brunnstrom.
Ouch! A $10 billion bet gone bad: The Pentagon’s floating radar system has been said to “defy the limits of physics and economic logic.” Carter may talk about this issue a bit while he’s there this week. The LA Times’ David Willman on the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s X-Band Radar system: “Leaders of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency were effusive about the new technology. It was the most powerful radar of its kind in the world, they told Congress. So powerful it could detect a baseball over San Francisco from the other side of the country. If North Korea launched a sneak attack, the Sea-Based X-Band Radar — SBX for short — would spot the incoming missiles, track them through space and guide U.S. rocket-interceptors to destroy them.” The story, with cool graphics and vids, here.
Meantime, the U.S. and Iraq are divided about the next step in the war against ISIS, WSJ’s Matt Bradley and Dion Nissenbaum report: “American officials say it makes the most sense to push further north toward Islamic State’s de facto capital of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city... But Iraqi militias, who cooperated with the government in the battle for Tikrit, plan to head west to rout Islamic State from their positions in cities along the Euphrates River in largely deserted Anbar province...
“American strategists see capturing Mosul as the first step toward crushing Islamic State. Iraqis, particularly the mostly Shiite militias who have done the bulk of the fighting, want to beat back the insurgents from the capital and secure another battlefield victory before they turn their attention toward the challenge of Mosul. The Shiite militias prefer to go it alone, without American help, so they can claim the victory for Iraq... U.S. military officials recognize that they will have to work with the irregular militia forces, even if they do not want to…” Read the rest, here.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said moments ago there is a timeline for a Mosul offensive, but he won’t be sharing it with anyone publicly. Meantime, over the weekend he said 43% of ISIS “are foreign fighters who have been indoctrinated ideologically who have their backs up against the wall. If Daesh continues to recruit so many from other countries, then no army in our region can stand up to it." That from Reuters, here.
ICYMI on Saturday: Saddam’s Baathists form the skeleton of the Islamic State zombie in what increasingly appears to be an alliance of convenience. WaPo’s Liz Sly: “Even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes... The de-Baathification law promulgated by L. Paul Bremer, Iraq’s American ruler in 2003, has long been identified as one of the contributors to the original insurgency... But American officials didn’t anticipate that they would become not only adjuncts to al-Qaeda, but core members of the jihadist group.
“Some of those Baathists became early recruits to the al-Qaeda affiliate established by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi... It was under the watch of the current Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that the recruitment of former Baathist officers became a deliberate strategy
“‘The Baathists are using Daesh. They don’t care about Baathism or even Saddam,’ [said a former Syrian rebel]… ‘They just want power. They are used to being in power, and they want it back.’” More here.
ISIS and the Assad regime are separately terrorizing a Palestinian refugee camp home to nearly 20,000 people in southern Damascus, WSJ’s Sam Dager reports: “Syrian opposition activists in southern Damascus said that while fighters tied to Islamic State controlled the southern half of the camp, the situation remained fluid. They said several Islamic State fighters were killed Sunday including a commander who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Khalid.” More here.
African leaders have set Wednesday as the day they’ll meet in the capital of Equatorial Guinea to craft a joint strategy against Boko Haram, AFP reports, here.
Who else is doing what today? State’s Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken is in Beirut today as part of a regional trip that swings him through Saudi Arabia next, then the United Arab Emirates and Oman before wrapping up in Tunisia on Friday… Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is in Malaysia meeting with the defense minister and service chiefs to talk future lines of cooperation. While there, he’s also slated to chat with U.S. Sailors and Marines deployed to the region and assigned to the embassy.
Here are 65 awe-some military photos in quick the shooter’s timing was exquisite, here.
The Army is sorry some of its diversity training at Fort Gordon last week contained a slide on “white privilege,” USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook reports: “The Equal Opportunity briefing took place Thursday for about 400 soldiers of the 67th Signal Battalion, Capt. Lindsay Roman, an Army spokeswoman, said Friday. The slide titled ‘The Luxury of Obliviousness’ has bullet-point items about ‘white privilege.’ One item reads, ‘Race privilege gives whites little reason to pay a lot of attention to African Americans or to how white privilege affects them…To be white in America means not having to think about it.’” More here.
Over the weekend, AP’s Lita Baldor had an exclusive piece about how surveys that show that U.S. Special Operations forces doubt women can meet the demands of their commando jobs. Baldor: “Surveys find that men in U.S. special operations forces do not believe women can meet the physical and mental demands of their commando jobs, and they fear the Pentagon will lower standards to integrate women into their elite units, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press.” More here.
Speaking of SpecOps: Military Times is just publishing the final installment of its five-part series, Task Force Violent, on the “MARSOC Marines.” Today’s installment focuses on the commander’s plea to Marine Corps Headquarters at the Pentagon for formal reconciliation and absolution. The commander says that if the Corps was to publicly acknowledge that the Marines didn’t kill any Afghan civilians in that messy incident eight years ago, it would go a long way toward easing the psychological burden that the men all carry. Read that piece, by Military Times’ Andy deGrandpre, here.
An IED in Kabul this morning leaves 4 policemen and 2 civilians dead. Afghanistan’s Khaama Press, here.
The shipping news: Make that 308! The Navy is now building toward a fleet goal of 308 ships according to Defense News’ Chris Cavas: “The US Navy is now building towards a fleet goal of 308 ships, according to the latest 30-year shipbuilding plan — a small evolution from the previously-cited 306-ship target. The two ships added to the fleet total are a 12th LPD 17-class amphibious transport dock and a third Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB).” More here.