Anbar goes grim; ‘Inevitable war’ with China?; Northrop pushes back on R&D; New PACOM chief; Green Beret scrutiny over US hostage policy; And a bit more.
In Iraq, the battle for Anbar took a grim turn as the Islamic State group, or ISIS, hit Iraqi forces amassed outside Fallujah with suicide bombers “from multiple directions,” killing 17 troops. The offensive came almost immediately after Baghdad announced a large-scale operation to take back western Anbar province, the AP’s Sinan Salahedden reports this morning.
Baghdad is using Shiite militias and volunteers—rather than their own broken army—to cut off ISIS supply lines to the provincial capital of Ramadi, WaPo’s Loveday Morris reported from Baghdad yesterday. “Of course we can’t fight without the popular mobilization…The mobilizations are Iraq’s unity; they are our right hand,” said an officer with the Iraqi army’s 11th Division.
China just warned of “inevitable war” with the United States in a white paper from Beijing’s State Council criticizing Washington for “meddling in South China Sea affairs.” The statements signal China’s eagerness to protect its rapid economic gains with an expansive military strategy despite the protests from its neighbors or its economic peer in America, as The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer writes, citing its more than four-fold defense budget increase since 2006.
This, of course, comes as no surprise inside the halls of the Pentagon—or Secretary Ash Carter’s plane, which is en route to Asia this week—as The Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold reports from Hawaii. “China’s issuing a white paper is a positive sign that Beijing is showing some level of transparency, [a] defense official said…[but] We believe there’s room for a lot more transparency from the Chinese side of this.”
“A show of U.S. firmness” from Washington is a necessity now to protect its allies and any semblance of regional decorum, argues the WaPo editorial board ahead of a regional summit this weekend in Singapore.
Finally, PACOM gets a new chief today. Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., becomes the Navy’s highest-ranking Asian-American as he takes the helm of U.S. Pacific Command, and a 360,000-strong U.S. force watching over China. His swearing in comes after an unusual delay since his 2014 nomination, as military leaders sorted out a succession plan for several departing members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Time’s Kirk Spitzer profiles Harris, the 59-year-old Harvard, Georgetown and Oxford alum. More below.
Meanwhile, the chief of defense industry giant Northrop Grumman pushed back against a new Pentagon policy requiring firms to get Defense Department approval for company funded research projects. Defense One Global Business Reporter Marcus Weisgerber noted Tuesday’s very public protest and explains the tensions and implications at the heart of the issue with billions of dollars at stake.
From Defense One
The Air Force just broke a monopoly long held by the United Launch Alliance yesterday when it at last certified billionaire Elon Musk’s firm SpaceX to launch military satellites.
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White House officials faulted Rand Paul for holding up critical surveillance reform legislation set to expire in mere days, without actually naming the Kentucky Republican senator and 2016 hopeful.
With the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan looming, there's still time to hold Pakistan to account as the hostile state it is, rather than the challenging ally so many American policymakers delude themselves into believing, Georgetown University’s C. Christine Fair explains after discovering her 2006 book, Fortifying Pakistan had been on Osama bin Laden’s bookshelf the night he was killed.
Rebel groups that employ terrorist tactics in civil wars seldom win or gain concessions—but they tend to make ending a conflict a much more prolonged and difficult process, a new study from Columbia University finds.
Welcome to Wednesday’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.
Turkey has NATO’s second-largest army; but can it have its own comparably sized defense industry? President Tayyip Erdogan certainly appears to think so, even as he’s reliant on U.S. Patriot missile systems along its border with Syria, Reuters’ Jonny Hogg and Can Sezer report from the capital.
“Ankara spends around $18 billion a year on defense with just over half of its equipment made domestically. “[Turkey’s military] exports rose 18 percent last year to $1.65 billion, and a tank and infantry rifle are nearly ready for mass production. Warship and fighter jet projects are in the early design phase but Erdogan hopes they will go into production by 2023, when he wants defense exports to total $25 billion.”
And speaking of that Syrian border with Turkey, “[a] new report from the Maryland-based nongovernmental organization Handicap International documents the gruesome scene” that followed the U.S.-led air campaign that began in September to protect then retake Kobani, U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman writes: “Families are returning to explosive booby traps often stuffed inside corpses, craters caused by improvised explosive devices as well as powerful coalition bombs, and other forms of both industrial and homemade unexploded ordnance that have left roughly 10 pieces of active munitions for every square meter of the city center.”
In Yemen, meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition continued to pound the capital of Sana’a early Wednesday morning, the AP reports. “Witnesses say planes also bombed a naval base in western Hodeida controlled by the Houthis. Saudi and allied jets also bombed the northern Houthi strongholds of Saada and Hajjah.”
“Stop me if you’ve heard this one.” The June 30 deadline for nuclear talks with Tehran will likely be extended, France’s Ambassador to the U.S., Gerard Araud, said yesterday. The reason: a raft of “technical details” that have yet to be worked out, he said.
“We are not bound to a specific time. We want a good deal that covers our demands,” said Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi.
Another guest house attack hit Kabul last night, but four Taliban failed in their attempt to repeat the bloody scene from two weeks ago. Armed with assault rifles and a grenade launcher, the four fighters managed to kill no one but themselves after Afghan security forces stormed the home “owned by a prominent Afghan political family that includes Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbaniin,” as Reuters reports this morning.
Green Beret Lt. Col. Jason Amerine was one of the first U.S. boots on the ground in Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11. “Now,” WaPo’s Dan Lamothe writes, “he’s heading into retirement under scrutiny by the Army for raising concerns to Congress” about the Pentagon’s failed efforts to recover U.S. hostage Warren Weinstein.
Reps. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Calif. and Jackie Speier, D-Calif., sent a petition to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno about the matter—which drew the attention of the FBI, who reported it to Odierno back in February—calling the push back Amerine faces the result of a “retaliatory investigation.”
So, what’s new PACOM chief Adm. Harris have to say about China: “I have been critical of China for a pattern of provocative actions that they’ve begun in the recent past. Like unilaterally declaring an air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea, parking a mobile oil platform off the Vietnam coast, and their lack of clarity on their outrageous claim — preposterous claim, really — to 90% of the South China Sea.”
On the “rebalance” to Asia: “The Navy has already brought our newest and most capable platforms to the area, like the P-8 surveillance airplane, the Littoral Combat Ship, the Virginia-class submarine and new amphibious ships like the U.S.S. America. The Marine Corps has brought the V-22 Osprey out here to great effect and we’ll have the Joint Strike Fighter out here soon…So I can tell you the rebalance is real.”
And what keeps him up at night: (of course) “North Korea.”
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus wants to diversify the Marine Corps by recruiting more females—with the hopes of raising the current tally of just 7 percent representation up to a quarter of the force, Marine Corps Times’ Derrick Perkins reports.
With the so-called “9/11 generation” beginning to leave the military, the Pentagon is coming to terms with the fact that it needs to do more to attract and retain the best and brightest. Join us Tuesday, June 9, as Defense One LIVE brings you Brad Carson, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, to discuss the Pentagon’s “Force of the Future.” Carson will be followed by a panel of deputy personnel chiefs of the Army and Navy that will execute that plan. It gets under way at 9 a.m., EDT at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City. Register for your seat at the discussion right here.
And for a little respite from our fairly heavy Wednesday newsfeed, we have 27 gorgeous photos of life in the U.S. Navy, via the military entertainment site We Are the Mighty. And at least if you, like us, are working in the D.C. region, you can feel a little better knowing others are coping with the wash of muggy weather blanketing your AO this week.