Pakistan says not so fast; Comms gear in Cheyenne Mountain; Anbar ain’t Tikrit; Brennan: some critics of Iran deal 'disingenuous'; And a bit more.
Breaking: A coalition service member was killed this morning when an Afghan soldier turned his gun on U.S. troops at the provincial governor's compound in Jalalabad. AP from Kabul, here.
Meantime, not so fast: Members of Pakistan’s Parliament aren’t big on getting involved in Yemen, despite Saudi’s request. Reuters: “…Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was due in Pakistan later on Wednesday when he is likely to urge Pakistan to reject the Saudi request. ‘The Yemen war is not our war...Our advice to the government is that the army should not go (to Yemen),’ said opposition member of parliament Shireen Mazari. ‘As Muslims, we are duty bound to counter any threat to holy shrines but there is no such threat today.’”
Overnight: Saudi planes strike an airbase north of Aden, Reuters, here.
The U.S. is speeding up the delivery of weapons to Saudi Arabia as it deepens its involvement in Yemen. Reuters’ Angus McDowall and Mohammed Mukhashaf: “The United States is speeding up arms supplies and bolstering intelligence sharing with a Saudi-led alliance bombing a militia aligned with Iran in neighboring Yemen, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Tuesday. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S., a key ally of oil-rich Saudi Arabia, had also set up a coordination center in the Sunni Muslim kingdom, whose forces have led an air campaign against the Shi'ite Houthi group which rules most of Yemen.”
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, to reporters in Riyadh: "Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force… As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center.”
The WSJ’s Asa Fitch: “…The support, which includes deliveries of precision-guided munitions, comes almost two weeks after a Saudi-led coalition of mostly Arab states began a campaign of airstrikes against the Shiite-linked Houthis. In Washington, Col. Steve Warren, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said the shipments were ‘a combination of pre-existing orders made by our partner nations and some new requirements as they expend munitions.’ He didn’t provide details.” More here.
And AQAP predictably is taking advantage of the chaos in Yemen, Ash Carter said in Japan. The NYT’s Helene Cooper, with the secretary: “Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen is seizing territory, exploiting the recent turmoil in the country to capture areas in what has become a broad expansion by the Sunni extremist group, Defense Secretary [Carter]… said on Wednesday. Calling the situation ‘obviously very unsettled,’ Mr. Carter said that the war in Yemen had left a number of groups vying for power, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as A.Q.A.P., an enemy of the United States.
Carter: “A.Q.A.P. has seized the opportunity of the disorder there and the collapse of the central government…
Cooper: “[Carter warned] that the group had ‘ambition to strike Western targets including the United States’ and said that American counterterrorism efforts had been stymied by the fall of the Yemeni government. ‘Obviously it’s always easier to conduct counterterrorism when there’s a stable government in place,’ Mr. Carter said. ‘That circumstance obviously doesn’t exist in Yemen.’” More here.
Sam Mundy, the Marine two-star, is reportedly heading up the U.S. contingent at a “joint fusion center” in Saudi Arabia while Washington expedites the shipment of ammo and bombs for the war in Yemen. McClatchy’s James Rosen: “U.S. military officials said Tuesday that the United States has stepped up weapons shipments to the Saudi-led Sunni Muslim coalition of Arab countries... the weapons are mainly ammunition and bombs, likely including precision-guided weapons to compensate for the absence of Saudi or allied foot soldiers in Yemen to provide targeting information.
“Additionally, the number of U.S. military personnel assigned to what U.S. officials have called a ‘joint fusion center’ in Saudi Arabia to oversee the air campaign has risen to about a dozen... [and] is being led by Marine Maj. Gen. Sam [Mundy], the deputy commander of Marine Corps troops at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla. It is unusual for the Pentagon to choose a two-star general to lead a mission in which U.S. troops, warplanes or Navy ships are not directly involved.” More here.
ICYMI: Frontline ran a big report last night on Yemen. Watch it here.
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The Pentagon is stuffing communications gear into a hollowed-out section of Cheyenne Mountain as a contingency against a newer kind of weapon. Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber: “The gear is being moved into Cheyenne Mountain to protect it from electromagnetic pulses, said Adm. William Gortney, commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD… Last week, the Pentagon awarded defense firm Raytheon a $700-million contract to install new equipment inside the mountain...
“The Colorado complex is the embodiment of the Cold War, an era when bunkers were built far and wide to protect people and infrastructure. Cheyenne Mountain was the mother of these fallout shelters, a command center buried deep to withstand a Soviet nuclear bombardment…” Read the rest, here.
Adm. Gortney: Russia is “messaging us that they are a global power…and it wouldn’t surprise me” if they sent bomber flights through the Gulf of Mexico. Defense News’ Aaron Mehta, here.
Also: North Korea has a "road-mobile KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile" that they could easily place a small nuclear bomb upon, Gortney said. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio with more, here.
And despite warnings from Pyongyang, activists have sent DVDs of the antagonistic comedy “The Interview” across the border and into North Korea via balloons. AFP, here.
AP: Two CIA officials should be criminally charged, Pakistan says: “A Pakistani judge on Tuesday ordered that criminal charges be filed against a former CIA lawyer who oversaw its drone program and the one-time chief agency operative in Islamabad over a 2009 strike that killed two people. Former acting general counsel John A. Rizzo and ex-station chief Jonathan Bank must face charges including murder, conspiracy, terrorism and waging war against Pakistan, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court ruled. A court clerk and a lawyer involved the case, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, confirmed details of the judge's ruling.” More here.
Meantime, the U.S. and Pakistan move closer on a billion-dollar helicopter deal. Reuters: “…U.S. authorities notified Congress of a proposal to supply helicopters and missiles to sharpen up Pakistan's counter-terrorism efforts. U.S. ally Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people, is fighting a Taliban insurgency in its northwest, a separatist insurgency along its Iranian border in the west, and has a heavily militarized and disputed border with arch rival India in the east.
“The $952 million proposal involves the United States supplying Pakistan with 15 AH-1Z attack helicopters, 1,000 Hellfire missiles, engines, targeting and positioning systems and other equipment. But negotiations are not complete.” More here.
In his first public comments on the matter, CIA Director John Brennan says some criticism of the Iran deal is “disingenuous.” AFP: “…the spy agency chief said the deal would impose a litany of restrictions on Iran's nuclear work that had once seemed impossible to secure.
Brennan at Harvard: "I must tell you the individuals who say this deal provides a pathway for Iran to a bomb are being wholly disingenuous, in my view, if they know the facts, understand what's required for a (nuclear) program… I certainly am pleasantly surprised that the Iranians have agreed to so much here… In terms of the inspections regime, the reduction as far as the centrifuges, the stockpile, what they're doing with the Arak reactor -- all of that I think is really quite surprising and quite good." More here.
This morning at 8:30, DepSecDef Bob Work gives a speech at the Army War College Strategy Conference in Carlisle, PA. Watch it here.
And tomorrow, Joe Biden will give what is being billed as a major speech on Iraq at NDU. AP: “Biden will speak at the National Defense University in Washington. That's the same place where President Barack Obama in 2013 laid out his counterterrorism strategy. The White House says Biden's speech will address the ongoing challenge to defeat the Islamic State group in Iraq and to build a more inclusive government. The address comes the week before Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is to meet with Obama in Washington. Biden was Obama's point man on Iraq earlier in the administration. His speech comes amid growing concern in the U.S. and abroad about Iran's heavy involvement in the Iraqi fight against Islamic State militants.” AP, here.
Kentucky Libertarian Sen. Rand Paul has joined the 2016 race, and National Journal’s Lauren Fox has a superb, brief roll-up of Paul’s national security priorities, here.
The Army said yesterday that if any of its females pass Ranger school, they’re more than welcome to try out for the annual Best Ranger competition afterward next year. Army Times’ Amy Tan, here.
Also: U.S. Special Operations troops won’t get to veto females joining their ranks, writes The Christian Science Monitor’s Anna Mulrine, reporting on a debate that is thought to be “fraught with misunderstandings,” here.
While yesterday’s power outage in the District was being sorted out, administration officials confirmed Russian hackers snagged sensitive schedules on servers accessed through the State Department last year, CNN’s Evan Perez reported. That bit, here.
There was a time when Soviets and Americans were comrades in arms. And the 70th anniversary of that day is about two weeks away. Peter Zwack for The Washington Times (behind paywall), here.
Clearing ISIS out of Iraq’s Anbar province with the Shia militias who helped in Tikrit raises the serious risk of inflaming sectarian tensions with Sunnis and could delay or derail the entire project, NYT’s Rod Nordland reports: “Replacing [the Shia militiamen used in Tikrit] in Anbar, for the most part, will be local Sunni tribes. But efforts to arm those tribes have moved slowly, as the Iraqi authorities remain suspicious that some might end up fighting against the Iraqi government or supporting the Islamic State…
“Coalition officials insist that the Iraqi government will decide which tribes to arm and that any military aid to them must go through the government. ‘This is their show,’ said one senior coalition official... Sunni leaders expressed doubt that the offensive would begin soon, largely because the process of arming Sunni tribes had gone so slowly. But he said the tribes were committed to ousting the Islamic State from Anbar.” More here.
The last official Syria-Jordan border crossing just closed, severing one of the few remaining avenues for transferring food and refugees into and out of the war-torn country. WaPo’s William Booth from Jordan: “The ancient road to Damascus that passes through here, a route plied by traders for thousands of years, is now severed. The government border crossing between Jordan and Syria has been sealed after the heavy fighting, barrel bombing and wild looting that took place last week at the checkpoint and nearby trade zone...
“The loss of the last official gateway between Syria and Jordan is both symbolic and serious — not only a blow to trade, it has also left many Jordanians with a feeling of being encircled and confined. For Syrians, it is worse...” More here.
A former Army O-6 admitted to breaking the law when he negotiated post-military employment with a company his office worked with while he was still in uniform. AP, here.
Some HumpDay absurdity: An Army corporal chose to re-enlist inside a tear gas training room at Fort Carson, Colorado. It’s a tough video to stomach—but hats off to Cpl. Creston Jones for finishing the oath in some pretty terrible conditions. Army Times’ Michelle Tan, here.