Baghdad jumps on Anbar; Japan joins US-Australian war games; Old strategy in Afghanistan is new again; Lighthouses for the South China Sea; And a bit more.
Iraqi military forces have just begun an offensive to retake western Anbar province from Islamic State, or ISIS, militants. Baghdad’s security forces have surrounded Ramadi from three sides, Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for Iraq’s Shiite militias told reporters this morning. They’re using weapons “that will surprise the enemy”—though few tactics are thought to be as overwhelming as the Islamic State’s 27 suicide car bombs that launched the militants’ takeover of the troubled city two weeks ago, as the Wall Street Journal writes.
U.S. eyes in the sky have pinpointed ISIS headquarters in at least seven buildings in downtown Raqqa some 350 miles northwest in Syria, but the risk of civilian casualties is so great that American war planners will not approve airstrikes on the targets, The New York Times’ Eric Schmitt reports. It’s an unsexy wrinkle in the U.S.-led air war that has Washington nervous. President Barack Obama explained last week that he views sending U.S. troops to do the Iraqi’s job to be an unsustainable answer to a conflict that continues after 10 months of dropping bombs across Iraq and Syria. Some Iraqi officers blame the fall of Ramadi on an “inefficient” U.S. air campaign.
Neither Baghdad nor Tehran took kindly to Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s weekend remarks blaming Ramadi’s fall on Iraqi troops lacking the fundamental “will to fight” on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. Carter defended the coalition’s air strategy and echoed his commander-in-chief’s view that dispatching U.S. troops to better direct airstrikes from the front lines remains out of the question. That, despite the wishes of Republicans like Arizona Sen. John McCain and House Armed Services Committee chairman, Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, who worries ISIS will hit the big red button the moment they get their hands on a nuclear weapon.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey has plenty of reason to hesitate recommitting ground troops to Iraq at a particularly fraught moment in Baghdad’s fate. The Washington Post’s Missy Ryan explains how the chairman’s penchant for caution is a battle-tested and underappreciated facet of the administration’s long game on Iraq. The same goes for Syria, explained Defense One’s Kevin Baron, in 2013.
Arming, lighting and escalating tensions (yet again) in the South China Sea. “The 10 nations of Southeast Asia are expected to spend $58 billion on new military kit over the next five years, with naval procurement comprising a large chunk,” according to new projections from IHS Janes Defence Weekly.
Meantime, Beijing just plopped down two lighthouses on islands in the disputed waters of the SCS, Reuters reports this morning. It’s part of a naval strategy China unveiled in a new policy document that took a swipe at the “provocative” actions of its neighbors in the region. More on the evolving naval dynamics of the Asia-Pacific below.
From Defense One
The end of the Perry-class frigate just moved one step closer on Friday, and Brad Peniston breaks down the enduring legacy of a small warship, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, at the scene of its decommissioning at Florida’s Mayport Naval Station.
A new, new joint Arab military force. A new plan drawn up yesterday by the Arab world’s military chiefs was in trouble even before it was announced. And it doesn’t appear likely it will go any farther than the Cairo conference room where it was concocted, argues Quartz’ Bobby Ghosh.
Swipe right? The NSA is tracking the finger-strokes of its smartphone users. A new Lockheed-built phone app promises to verify a user's identity based on the swiftness and shape of the individual’s finger strokes on a touch screen, NextGov’s Aliya Sternstein explains.
U.S. Cyber Command just revoked a half-billion dollar, 5-year contract sought to backfill some pretty significant staffing shortages, NextGov’s Sternstein again.
Come again? Mere days after Obama said climate change was an 'indisputable' national security threat, CIA and the intelligence community quietly ended its satellite climate data-sharing program with scientists. National Journal’s Jason Plautz has more.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Defense One. You can subscribe here or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to view it in your browser, click here.
Taliban suicide bombers killed two police officers in Afghanistan’s Wardak province this morning, the latest from the insurgents’ spring offensive that killed almost two-dozen Afghan soldiers and police in southern Helmand province Monday.
Kabul has a—well, not exactly new—strategy for Afghanistan and it involves forming local militias and enlisting the help of warlords to push back Taliban gains. It’s yet another sign the counterinsurgency looks far from settled, if Kabul’s military doesn’t yet appear to be as broken as Baghdad’s.
What do some of the militias look like? Since the tactic of arming local men is almost as old as the West’s involvement in the “graveyard of empires,” there are plenty of precedents to look to, but here’s a collection of black and white photographs compiled by The Atlantic’s Alan Taylor back in March 2013.
NATO plans to establish a long-term base in Kabul to help prevent Afghanistan from becoming the next Iraq, coalition Afghan war commander, U.S. Army Gen. John Campbell said. But don’t expect anything like a formalized plan until some time before next summer’s alliance summit in Warsaw, WaPo’s Tim Craig reports.
Gen. Campbell was also on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday night explaining how security takes up as much of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s time repairing Kabul’s dire economic outlook.
In Libya, meanwhile, one man is taking curious and serious steps to protect himself and a potential multi-billion-dollar loot that once belonged to deceased former dictator Muammar Gaddafi. It’s a refreshing diversion of a caper from The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris that’s worth the Tuesday click.
For the first time, Japan’s navy will be a part of a recurring U.S.-Australian war game called Talisman Sabre involving some 30,000 American and Australian troops in the Asia-Pacific this July, Reuters reports. It’s a another sign of the growing Washington-Tokyo coordination after finalizing a recent defense cooperation deal in late April. Pivot, anyone?
And for last week’s Culebra Koa 15 post-exercise wrap-up in the Asia-Pacific, Vice News’ Ryan Faith files this look at the U.S. Navy’s “strange, new” ships that are changing the way tomorrow’s wars at sea will be conducted.
One small step for Syria. Turkey and the U.S. just agreed “in principle” to a deal to use air power to protect Syrian rebels the U.S.-led coalition is training to fight ISIS in Damascus’ backyard. The AP’s Susan Fraser has more from Ankara.
Despite the bluster from the GOP over the White House’s inadequate counter-ISIS strategy, no Republicans are willing to make the bold move (“send in the troops”) to follow through on their criticism of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Fox News’ Juan Williams writes in The Hill.
A 23-year-old law stands in the way of reproductive therapies for disabled veterans with spinal cord and genital injuries. WaPo’s Emily Wax-Thibodeaux explains a new bipartisan effort to get that changed.
And lastly for Tuesday, at least locally, the darn Jade Helm conspiracy theories out of the Lone Star state refuse to go away, and The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser reports from Bastrop, Texas, on a few stubborn ideas why that might be.
And military darling Chuck Norris is now sorry he injected himself into the regrettable debate, according to The Hill.