Taliban claims killing ambassadors in Pakistan; Syrian training begins; Selva profiled; Small future for armed drones; Stopping suicide; And a bit more.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of The D Brief incorrectly stated that U.S. taxpayers paid for Pentagon employees' spending on casinos and escorts during trips to Atlantic City and Las Vegas. The federal government is not financially liable and taxpayer funds are not being used to pay for the misuse, according to a defense official.
The Pakistani Taliban claim to have been behind the downing of a Pakistani army helicopter this morning that killed the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines to Pakistan, as well as the wives of the ambassadors from Indonesia and Malaysia, AP reports this morning. Thirteen passengers survived the deadly MI-17 crash, including ambassadors from the Netherlands and Poland.
After months of delays, the U.S. finally began training Syrian rebels with a company-sized unit of some 90 fighters, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced yesterday. But Pentagon officials have said for months the program—which begins with a modest class size that could expand, as Carter said, “once it proves itself”— will focus fighting the Islamic State, or ISIS, rather than Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian army. And that, in turn, delays concerns from many U.S. lawmakers and allies in the region and regarding the second- and third-order effects of the program on the increasingly crowded and bloody Syrian battle space. More on Syria, as well as Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey’s presser yesterday below.
Hours after floating a possible 5-day truce to hostilities in Yemen, Saudi warplanes attacked Houthi rebel positions in the northwestern province of Saada, damaging the tomb of the group’s founder, Hussein al-Houthi, this morning. Riyadh coalition jets also dropped munitions over three other provinces (southeastern Shabwa, Hajja in the northwest, and to the south in Aden) overnight and early Friday, Reuters reports.
From Defense One
What’s the future of armed drones across the world look like? Picture more jerry-rigged versions of the lighter, cheaper Shadow 200 than the hulking behemoths of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, Patrick Tucker explains why from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI, conference in Atlanta.
Speaking of drones on V-E Day, think the lessons of World War II have little place in the future of unmanned warfare? Think again, as New America Fellow Adam Elkus compares yesteryear’s blitzkriegs to the future “killer robot” swarms being developed today.
AUSA’s Gen. Gordon Sullivan (ret.) says America’s historically modest and largely symbolic military support to Europe risks sacrificing Washington’s credibility while Russia antagonizes the continent’s eastern flank. The former four-star just returned from a trip to Europe talking with U.S. and NATO officials.
Which fast-tracked Air Force four-star general has arguably the sharpest hair in the service, hosts a webcast with members of his command called “View from the Flattop,” and is poised to become the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Weisgerber has this can’t miss profile of U.S. Transportation Command’s Gen. Paul Selva.
The Army’s latest weapon against suicide: this new analytics technology to find at-risk soldiers. NextGov’s Frank Konkel has more.
How is the Pentagon’s new cyber strategy being received in China? The Council on Foreign Relations’ Adam Segal examines one of the more germane reactions from a scholar with the Chinese Academy of Military Science.
The NSA’s bulk collection of U.S. citizens’ phone metadata is illegal, a federal appeals court judge ruled in New York yesterday, National Journal’s Dustin Volz reports.
ICYMI—Pentagon employees put nearly $1 million in casino fees plus another nearly $100k for “adult entertainment” on their government charge cards in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. GovExec’s Eric Katz has more.
Welcome to Friday's edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Defense One, where we invite you to join us in marking the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day as we observe some 15 flyover formations featuring 19 different World War II-era U.S. aircraft cruising over Washington shortly after noon today.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed their “test bill” on nuclear negotiations with Iran by a vote of 98 to 1. The lone dissenting voice came from Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton. The measure would give Congress 30 days to review any deal the Obama administration strikes with Tehran. The House is expected to approve the bill next week with little resistance, The Washington Post’s Paul Kane and Mike DeBonis report.
Defense Secretary Carter offered some of his strongest words to date to members of the House and Senate pushing for nearly $180 million to arm Sunni and Kurdish fighters in Iraq: Fanning the flames of sectarian division in Iraq puts U.S. personnel at direct risk, and could jeopardize the entire counter-ISIS campaign in Iraq. The Hill’s Kristina Wong has more.
The FBI says ISIS sympathizers inside the U.S. could be much larger than previously thought, with Director James Comey yesterday putting the number in the “thousands.” ABC News has more.
Meanwhile in Syria, fighting between Assad’s forces and ISIS left nearly three dozen dead around a military airport in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor this morning, AFP reports.
And following up on reports this week of a possible chlorine gas attack again in Syria’s Idlib province, U.S. officials are pushing UN Security Council members to agree on a method for attributing gas attacks on the Syrian battlefield. Russia expressed reservations but isn’t completely opposed to the idea yet either, according to the AP.
From Afghanistan to Ukraine, with only 30 years in between. Two of the top U.S. officials to help get the CIA’s push to arm the Afghan mujahedeen in the 80s—Michael Pillsbury and former Sen. Gordon Humphrey, R-N.H.,—are now working with Kiev’s military to deliver them the arms they need to fend off Moscow’s meddling in Ukraine’s east, The Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous reports in this excellent Friday read.
Pyongyang just warned Seoul of “unannounced targeted strikes” on South Korea’s navy if they cross North Korea’s west coast “military maritime border,” Reuters reports this morning.
North Korea has gone on a nuclear spending spree while Pyongyang’s allegedly growing atomic arsenal “is already in the [Obama administration’s] rearview mirror,” NYT’s David Sanger reports from Seoul.
Raytheon is still losing money, more than $40 million so far, for delays to its network of GPS ground stations for the Air Force, Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reports. For a bit more on the issue, check out Marcus Weisgerber from late April on possible new chips that could patch a critical vulnerability in the military’s use of GPS systems.
And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., doesn’t like your $50,000 bomb-sniffing elephants or the $49 million the National Guard spent on advertising despite a “$101 million shortfall in its payroll account,” as DoDBuzz’s Michael Hoffman writes.
Want a little help predicting the next great armed conflict? The good folks over at War on the Rocks have you covered with this summer reading list of 10 books with titles spanning H.G. Wells’ “The Shape of Things to Come” to Wayne Gladstone’s more contemporary “Notes from the Internet Apocalypse.”
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