Yemen heats up again; New tack in ISIS war as Ramadi falls; China unveils new weapons; Kerry presses North Korea; Marines’ tragedy in Hawaii; And a bit more.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered Shiite militias to the deeply troubled Anbar province after some 500 troops and civilians were killed and 8,000 residents displaced when Islamic State fighters took Ramadi and Iraqi troops fled, Reuters reports this morning. This was less than a day after a U.S. general told reporters coalition air power had forced ISIS “to transition to the defensive.”
The option to send Shiite paramilitaries to the Sunni-dominant Ramadi was initially refused by the prime minister for fear it might strain sectarian tensions. But Abadi needs to wrest control of the strategic province, and will take just about any assistance he can get. That could include help from Iran, whose defense minister arrives in Baghdad this morning for talks with senior leaders.
Friday’s American special forces raid in Syria that killed the Islamic State group’s “oil and gas emir” Abu Sayyaf could signal an aggressive new approach to dismantling the insurgency, according to The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer. U.S. officials painted the Friday raid—an assault California Democrat Dianne Feinstein called “picture-perfect” for its efficiency, Yazidi hostage rescue and zero U.S. casualty count—as an intelligence-driven assault netting a treasure trove of cell phones, laptops and documents while Delta Force commandos took Sayyaf’s wife to Iraq for interrogation. A plan to capture (rather than kill) Sayyaf had been prepared more than two months ago, but bad weather and fears of civilian casualties delayed the mission, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Jets from the 10-nation, Saudi-led coalition resumed airstrikes on Houthi positions in the southern city of Aden overnight as the five-day ceasefire came to an unceremonious end on Sunday, Reuters reports. Aid groups requested an extension of the ceasefire but the coalition refused, citing repeated violations from rebels since the truce began on Tuesday, Yemen’s foreign minister said from Saudi Arabia.
State Secretary John Kerry wrapped up a weekend trip to China with a stop in South Korea, where he promised to increase pressure on North Korea over its nuclear program and “horrendous” executions, the New York Times reports. Much more from China below.
In Hawaii, one Marine was killed and another 21 on board were hospitalized after their Osprey suffered a “hard-landing mishap” during a Sunday morning training exercise. More from the AP in Honolulu.
And the Marines identified the 6 troops killed in last week’s helicopter crash during earthquake rescue operations high in the Nepalese mountains. The fallen include: Capt. Dustin Lukasiewicz; Capt. Christopher Norgren; Sgt. Ward Johnson IV; Sgt. Eric Seaman; Cpl. Sara Medina; and Lance Cpl. Jacob Hug. Military Times’ Gina Harkins profiles each one here.
From Defense One
The seizure of Maersk Tigris is not an outlier but a harbinger of things to come, argues the Atlantic Council’s Magnus Nordenmann, tracing a pattern of competition between established and emerging powers that extends from the South China Sea to the Arctic Ocean.
The Navy’s new binoculars can ID a face some 225 meters away. Tech Editor Patrick Tucker, who got an up-close look at the Pentagon’s inaugural Lab Day, describes how this could change on-the-ground intelligence-gathering.
The Pentagon’s newest civilian industry partnership program, Skillbridge, is helping troops land jobs after military service by plugging skills gaps in the civilian workforce. Frank DiGiovanni, director of the Defense Department’s force readiness and training, explains.
While one of the six Arab leaders skipped the White House’s Arab summit to attend a horse show, the remaining delegates forged a “new era of [security] cooperation” with Washington. National Journal’s S.V. Dáte has more from Camp David, Md.
The House’s defense authorization act would automatically enroll new troops into the Thrift Savings Plan as part of the broader effort to reform the Pentagon’s retirement benefits, writes Government Executive’s Kellie Lunney.
ICYMI: The Veterans Affairs Department spent more than $6 billion unlawfully and Secretary Bob McDonald wants the man in charge of finding a solution to tackle the issue instead of dropping it before Congress in a move some say casts him as a “whistleblower.” GovExec’s Eric Katz has more.
Mark your calendars: On Wednesday, join Navy Secretary Mabus and our Executive Editor Kevin Baron for a discussion on the future of the Navy. The Defense One LIVE Leadership Briefing Breakfast gets underway 8 a.m. EDT on May 20 at the CEB Waterview Conference Center in Rosslyn, Va. Sign up for that here.
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Even before the Abu Sayyef killing this weekend and the worsening Ramadi situation, the good news was that ISIS is “on the defensive” and the “U.S.-led campaign to degrade ISIS in Iraq is experiencing early success.” But the bad news, according to a new report from from the Institute for the Study of War’s Jessica Lewis McFate, is that “ISIS is the kind of adaptive and resilient enemy that is difficult to defeat outright….[and] the U.S.-led coalition will incur risk if it mistakes ISIS’s low-profile tactics as actual losses to its overall military capability.” Read her report entitled, “The ISIS Defense in Iraq and Syria: Countering an Adaptive Enemy,” released last night right here.
Solid, solid as a rock is Beijing’s will to keep turning tiny reefs into manmade islands to buttress its territorial claims in the South China Sea, and nothing Kerry said during his brief visit changed that. But Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is planning a trip to the U.S. this fall, proclaimed himself eager to talk about other matters, AP reports.
Those matters do not include China’s recent decision to refit some of its ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads, which apparently took U.S. officials by surprise, the New York Times reports.
Nor did Beijing take part in a weekend meeting in Hawaii between defense leaders from the U.S. and Asia on improving and coordinating amphibious capabilities, AP reports. That’s because a U.S. law bars certain kinds of military cooperation with China.
Meanwhile, the Marines are planning to hold up to 16 live-fire exercises a year on one of the Marianas Islands; some islanders hate the idea, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The Kremlin continued to deny that its troops are in Ukraine, one day after Kiev’s military said it had captured two wounded Russian troops—one of them purportedly a special forces sergeant—in the town of Schastya, less than 20 kilometers north of the rebel-held town of Luhansk, Reuters reports this morning.
The State Department’s Victoria Nuland is in Moscow to talk peace in Ukraine, possibly complicating the ambitions of European Union officials to negotiate their own peace deal. NYT’s Neil MacFarquahar has more from Moscow.
Four Pentagon officials mull the future of U.S.-Russian relations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies this morning in Washington, D.C., at 10 a.m. EDT. Catch the full roster and livestream over here.
Over in Tajikistan, Russia has deployed some 500 troops for joint drills with their ex-Soviet allies after weeks of tensions in northern Afghanistan. AFP has more on the exercise, which involves nearly “2,500 personnel from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation” involving Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Belarus here.
In Afghanistan, lawmakers as well as Kabul’s intelligence chief are reportedly opposed to the agreement signed recently between President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency to train and equip Kabul’s National Directorate of Security. More on that from Afghanistan’s Khaama Press.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for a Sunday morning car bombing that struck an EU police vehicle near Kabul’s main airport, killing three people, the WSJ reported yesterday.
And Afghan soldiers are taking 70 percent more casualties in the first four months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014, The Washington Post’s Tim Craig reports from Kabul.
How did U.S. commanders spend $2 billion of emergency relief funds in Afghanistan? It’s not entirely a pretty picture, as investigators with ProPublica report in this slick interactive released Friday.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently sat down with Vice News’ Shane Smith to talk a wide spectrum of national security issues (including ISIS, Afghanistan and quite a bit on Vladimir Putin’s evolving end game) in a four-part interview you can catch right here.
Can the Pentagon contain some of the rising costs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program using the same tack adopted for the Long Range Strike Bomber? That’s the latest hope according to the Air Force’s Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, William LaPlante. “[T]he service will be pushing for a more-open systems architecture in Block 4, the first post-service-entry upgrade, which is now being defined,” reports Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman. “‘It’s not decided.’ LaPlante said, ‘but we’re going to try.’ This would make it possible for later upgrades, or elements of them, to be competed.”
A little bit of charity ahead of Memorial Day: The Paralyzed Veterans of America is holding a Paralyzed Veterans Golf Open in Lansdowne, Va., this morning. The tournament raises money for Operation PAVE, an organization seeking to help veterans find work. Details for the event over here.