More US boots could be on the way to Iraq; OPM data on the dark web?; State OKs almost $2B in arms sales; A smashingly good time with tanks; And a bit more.
A flood of Islamic State group reporting has emerged in the past 24 hours. We begin stateside where at least 400 more U.S. troops could soon join the 3,080 already in Iraq if the White House approves a new Pentagon plan, the Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum and Gordon Lubold reported last night. The plan would send hundreds of advisors to a second site in Anbar province (Al Taqqadum, an Iraqi base outside the city of Habbaniyah; the first site is at the Al Asad military base) to help prep Iraqi forces to retake the provincial capital of Ramadi. President Obama was briefed on the plan last week, a few days before he said that the U.S. still lacks a “complete strategy.” (Administration and defense officials scrambled to clarify that Obama was talking about Iraqi training, not the wider counter-Islamic State effort, Nissembaum and Lubold write.)
And here’s a timeline of the White House’s public assessments of the ISIS threat, from the New York Times’ Shreeya Sinha.
Meantime, any bid to retake Mosul will likely wait until 2016, the NTY’s Michael Gordon writes. “More than 3,000 new Iraqi soldiers are to be recruited to fill the ranks of the 7th Iraqi Army division in Anbar and the 8th Iraqi Army division, which is in Habbaniyah, where the Iraqi military operations center for the province is also based…To assemble a force to retake Ramadi, the number of Iraqi tribal fighters in Anbar who are trained and equipped is expected to be increased from about 5,500 to as many as 10,000.”
About Mosul—Mosques are being blown up, schools abandoned, and tunnels reportedly being dug for a massive defensive reinforcement campaign that also involves countless snipers and bombs, according to a BBC composite of secretive reports from the city. (The city’s gardens, roads, and hotels are also getting a dramatic sprucing-up, so that’s something, frightened residents tell WSJ’s Nour Malas, who reports from Baghdad.) Still, it adds up to a grim scene that’s apt to persist for months while the Iraqi government struggles to gather forces for an offensive.
And for a quick review of the militants’ good-cop-bad-cop governance methods in captured cities like Mosul, check out this NYT’s report from late May.
In Syria, more setbacks for the Assad regime, WaPo’s Hugh Naylor reports from Beirut. More than 2,000 fighters from a Western-backed rebel coalition called the Southern Front “announced the capture of a strategic army base [known as Brigade 52] in southern Syria on Tuesday...the largest military installation in Daraa province, which borders Jordan.”
The U.S. has been dropping propaganda leaflets over Syria for months. The WSJ’s audio/visual folks translated several of the flyers, gathering them into this engrossing, disturbing collection.
And an incredibly frightened and bold collection of activists are reporting on everyday life under ISIS in the Syrian city of Raqqa. The members of the group, called “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently,” deliberately operate independent of one another, the Washington Post’s Liz Sly reports from neighboring Turkey. Among their works: a detailed account of the failed July raid to rescue American journalist James Foley, issued more than six weeks before the White House acknowledged the mission had taken place.
In Africa, a Libyan ISIS affiliate has captured a key power plant and could cut electricity to the central and western parts of the country. Meanwhile, “two competing militia factions—each with its own government—remain so preoccupied by their conflict that they are putting up little resistance to the Islamic State’s advances,” NYT’s David Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim reported yesterday.
From Defense One
The world’s biggest commercial empire—that’s what Beijing is building, with Chinese-financed and -built dams, roads, railroads, natural gas pipelines, ports, and airports in place or going up from Samoa to Rio de Janeiro, St. Petersburg to Jakarta, Mombasa to Vanuatu, and from pole to pole. Steve LeVine tallies it all up right here.
Iraq’s problem is so much bigger than just training its military. President Obama may blame the lack of a strategy for training the troops on Baghdad, but solving ISIS is much bigger than finding a fighting force. Kristin Roberts writes about the awful dilemma facing the U.S.-led coalition here.
Speaking of: it’s often hard to understand what motivates terrorists, so asking how people join such groups is more worthwhile than asking why, writes Simon Cottee.
Start looking for your data on the Internet even before you know it’s gone. In the wake of the OPM data breaches, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker lays out some expert advice for dealing with the inevitable.
Meanwhile, in Congress: will the 2016 defense authorization bill also contain long-discussed cyber security legislation? Senate leader Mitch McConnell says yes; Dustin Volz has the story. And who’s holding national security hostage today? As angry words fly over the defense spending bills; Molly O’Toole has everything you need to know.
DoD’s personnel-system reform is on the fast track: “There’s a desperate need for change,” so expect recommendations in August and action soon after, Pentagon personnel chief Brad Carson told the crowd at Defense One’s Force of the Future event yesterday.
Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson with Brad Peniston. Why not pass it on to a friend? You’ll find our subscribe link here. (Want to read it in your browser? Click here.) And feel free to send us what you like, don’t like, or want to drop on our radar right here at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drip, drip goes the Pentagon’s investigation of its anthrax shipping SNAFU. The U.K. joins the list of foreign countries to which the Army sent live samples of the virus, Military Times’ Patricia Kime reported yesterday. The facilities that received the samples now number 68 across 19 states and the District of Columbia, plus Australia, Canada, and South Korea; the investigation continues to unfold.
Troops can now bank on employment protection against sexual orientation discrimination, the Pentagon announced yesterday. The decision now provides “a pathway for service members to file discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation through the military equal opportunity system.” Military Times’ Kime has this story as well.
The State Department just approved two big international arms deals. First was the $1.9 billion sale of three Aegis combat systems for South Korean navy ships. The powerful command-and-control system will “provide enhanced capabilities on the ROK’s naval ships to defend against possible aggression and protect sea lines of communications,” the Pentagon said in a statement. When the deal is finalized, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics will all receive contracts for Aegis equipment. More on that from Reuters.
State also cleared a $462 million deal with Lebanon for six Super Tucano close air support attack planes. What’s interesting about the Pentagon announcement is that it does not list Embraer as one of the five “principal contractors” in the deal. Instead, the notice mentions Sierra Nevada Corp., who has partnered with Embraer to build such planes for the Afghan air force. This could mean the planes will be built in Jacksonville, Fla., like the Afghan aircraft.
Notable as well—Germany has selected MEADS, the Medium Extended Air Defense System, as its new missile defense system, replacing older Patriot missiles. It’s a huge win for Lockheed Martin, which has fought to keep the program alive after the Pentagon decided to cancel it in 2013. WSJ’s Doug Cameron has that one.
More than twice as many citizens of NATO nations blame Russia, not separatists, for the crisis in Ukraine. But fewer than half of those same residents polled support arming the Ukrainian military, a new report from the Pew Research Center reveals this morning.
A little more on weapons this Wednesday—Head to the Stimson Center for a talk about the global proliferation of man-portable air defense systems (aka MANPADS) with the phenomenal former Marine and NYT reporter C.J. Chivers and Small Arms Survey’s Matt Schroeder. That’s at 10 a.m. EDT in Washington. Full details here.
Democratic Presidential hopeful and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley hasn’t had much to contribute to the national security debate—until yesterday. “In the face of increasingly dangerous cyberattacks, it is imperative that we overcome gridlock in Washington,” the former Baltimore mayor wrote in a lengthy Foreign Policy op-ed. “The Protecting Cyber Networks Act, a bill that seeks to improve public-private information sharing to reduce cyberthreats, has stalled in the Senate. After making changes to protect consumer data and ensure the appropriate level of legal protection for companies, Congress should pass this legislation,” he writes.
O’Malley goes on to call for “a new agenda” to improve the nation's cyber security, consisting primarily of “greater investment,” and the passage of the Protecting Cyber Networks Act.
How much money has the NSA’s activities cost U.S. tech firms? One group that’s keeping count says that the number keeps rising. Back in 2013, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said the U.S. economy stood to lose $35 billion as foreign customers fled from U.S. cloud products and services in the wake of the Snowden disclosures. Yesterday, ITIF issued an ominous update: the actual cost will likely be much higher. “The U.S. government’s failure to reform many of the NSA’s surveillance programs has damaged the competitiveness of the U.S. tech sector and cost it a portion of the global market share."
For what it’s worth, major technology companies like Google and Apple are attempting to stem the bleeding by rolling out end-to-end user encryption for all customers, which would make user data more secure. It’s a move that FBI Director James Comey and NSA head Vice Admiral Michael Rogers both oppose, as Patrick Tucker reported back in November.
Does the Pentagon only want “squeaky-clean” soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor? WaPo’s Dan Lamothe urges us to consider the case of Green Beret Staff Sgt. Earl Plumlee, who fought off multiple insurgents in a complex attack by the Taliban against Forward Operating Base Ghazni two summers ago. He received the backing of many high-ranking officers and generals, but was denied the award while under investigation for allegedly trying to illegally sell a rifle scope online. The investigation went nowhere, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., wants the Pentagon’s inspector general to explain the downgraded award. Read the full story here.
Speaking of Pentagon PR headaches, Military Times has acquired emails from more than two years ago that reveal “calculated retribution… for what would become a series of investigative reports examining a whistle-blower’s claims that Amos abused his authority to ensure several rank-and-file Marines were punished for misbehaving in Afghanistan.” Read the acquired emails, obtained with a bit of FOIA legwork, here. Links telling the history of the scandal as it unfolded are in that page as well.
Thinking about jumping ship from the uniform to civilian life? Here are 5 tips from the Joint Chiefs of Staff Office of Reintegration, including: embrace networking; rehearse, rehearse, rehearse; and take responsibility for your plan, as others won’t do it for you. That via Task and Purpose, right here.
Finally, for a bit of smashingly good levity today—sometimes, in this complicated world, you just want to see a tank crush something. So watch this WWI-era tank flatten a ratty old tin-can of a car on the streets of Toronto in 1918. It reminds us of this conversation on NPR’s All Things Considered about a 20-acre course in Kasota, Minn., where you can drive a British Chieftain around and, for a little extra cash, run one over a car for good measure. Check out the business—aptly titled “Drive a Tank”—right here.