Are ‘lily pads’ the future of US forces in Iraq?; Afghanistan’s own Pentagon; American defense firms flood Europe; Salvation at sea; And a bit more.
The next U.S. move in Iraq could be “lily pad-like” outposts that put American advisors closer to—but not on—the front lines, the New York Times’ Helene Cooper, Michael Gordon and Peter Baker reported yesterday. Officials cautioned that the idea is still being drafted and President Barack Obama isn’t expected to decide on it for another few weeks.
The networked lily pads were pitched Thursday by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Martin Dempsey, as he traveled to Naples, Italy. “You could see one in the corridor from Baghdad to Tikrit to Kirkuk to Mosul,” Dempsey said. He also said the U.S. needs a Plan B in case Baghdad fails to convince Sunni tribal fighters join its desperate national unification efforts.
“It is not possible to know at this time the precise scope or the duration of the deployments of U.S. Armed Forces necessary to counter terrorist threats to the United States,” Obama wrote to Congress last night in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, which mandates an update to lawmakers every six months, the Washington Examiner’s Nicole Duran reported. The U.S. “has at least 16,750 ‘combat-ready’ troops deployed in 12 countries or regions: Afghanistan (9,100), Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq (3,550), Jordan (2,200), Kosovo, Niger, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and central Africa,” Obama’s letter said.
For what it’s worth: the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State is running a $9 million per day tab, with total costs resting at nearly $2.7 billion to date, the BBC reported last night.
The president’s order to add another 450 U.S. troops to Iraq amounts to “creeping incrementalism” that is hardly the best way to correct a “failed or inadequate strategy” in Iraq, the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Anthony Cordesman wrote yesterday.
Obama should increase the U.S. troop presence in Iraq “roughly threefold,” similar to what the U.S. maintains in Afghanistan today, Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon argued yesterday.
Afghanistan has its own “Pentagon,” but no leader for it, the AP’s Rahim Faiez and Lynne O’Donnell write after taking an exclusive tour of Kabul’s new $160 million Defense Ministry. Infighting between President Ashraf Ghani and his power-sharing partner, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, is but one of a number of reasons to curb one’s enthusiasm over both the immaculate new facilities and Kabul’s flagging counterinsurgency, still very dependent on NATO’s 13,000 troops in-country.
Iran is funding and supplying Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal’s Margherita Stancati reported from Kabul last night. According to Afghan and Western officials, “Iran’s strategy in backing the Taliban is twofold…countering U.S. influence in the region and providing a counterweight to Islamic State’s move into the Taliban’s territory in Afghanistan.”
And oh, by the way, Iran and Hezbollah should have been on our global threat assessment presented back in February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee concerned about the consequences of lifting Iranian sanctions in a letter dated June 3, WSJ’s Felicia Schwartz reports.
A White House veto threat looms like a storm after the House voted, 278-149, to pass its $579 billion version of the defense authorization bill, The Hill’s Martin Matishak and Kristina Wong reported last night. “The defense spending bill provides a 2.3 percent pay raise for members of the military instead of President Obama’s requested 1.3 percent increase. It also includes funding to keep the A-10 ‘Warthog’ airborne for another year and money to purchase Navy ships, guided missile destroyers, Blackhawk helicopters, tanker aircraft, F-35 aircraft and combat ships.”
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are still trying to prevent the GOP from stuffing billions of dollars in the “emergency” war fund instead of putting it in the base budget. The Appropriations committee shot down an amendment to move almost $36 billion from the former to the latter, but expect to see that tactic resurface when the bill goes to the Senate floor, Defense One Politics Reporter Molly O’Toole writes.
The Appropriations committee’s bill also cuts in half the White House’s $2.1 billion Counterterrorism Partnership Fund. That program was designed, in part, to finance training U.S. partners in Syria and to fight violent extremism and terrorist ideology, but lawmakers Thursday called it “too broad” to be accountable. However, the bill that passed the House yesterday leaves the full $2.1 billion in place, setting up future debate to clarify the program’s merit and scope, Al-Monitor’s Julian Pecquet reports.
From Defense One
No new AUMFs? Even as the U.S. plans to send up to 450 more military advisers to help take back Ramadi from Islamic militants, legislation to authorize the fight against them won’t be gearing up and out of neutral anytime soon, Alex Rogers writes in Defense One.
To beat Boko Haram, Nigeria must craft a future for its child soldiers. The insurgent group has pressed up to 10,000 children into military service; bringing them back into society must be a crucial part of any plan for peace, Bobby Ghosh argues.
By the numbers: After 51 months of fighting in Syria, the death toll has topped 230,000, including some 14,000 children and 30,000 opposition fighters. Robert M. Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations does the awful math, here.
Could WiFi lighten soldiers’ rucks? A team of researchers have used wireless networking gear to transmit DC power instead of data, promising a future in which radio waves might replace at least some of the batteries in a pack. Patrick Tucker reports.
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An eight-year-old war crimes case involving Marine special operators in Afghanistan is being revived by the House Armed Services Committee’s Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. Jones wants Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford “to publicly apologize on behalf of his service for what became a witch hunt designed to put honorable men in prison over phony claims they killed innocent civilians,” reports Military Times’ Andrew deGrandpre, whose five-part series on bungled leadership and a questionable investigation concluded in early April.
In the fight against veteran suicides, a new algorithm is leading the charge. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs “reported that a computer algorithm using hundreds of variables among millions of V.A. patients was able to correctly predict small subgroups with suicide rates up to 80 times higher than V.A. patients as a whole,” NYT’s Dave Philipps reported yesterday.
“The top 1 percent of patients tended to be young, single males with several medical problems including sleep disorders, pain and traumatic brain injuries. Most were taking antidepressants and sedatives. More than 90 percent had used V.A. mental health services in the year before their deaths… ‘Doctors are pretty bad at assessing risk,’ one of the researchers said. ‘The database is so overwhelmingly better than just guessing, which is what we’ve been doing.’”
American defense firms, including Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, are flooding the European scene after the White House last week floated the possibility of bolstered missile defenses on the continent’s eastern flank, National Defense Magazine’s Sandra Erwin reports.
Russia, in predictable whataboutism, said yesterday that adding U.S. missile systems to its western doorstep “would mean complete destruction by the American side of the regime of the [1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] treaty with all its attendant consequences,” AFP reported from Moscow (emphasis added).
And Germany, meanwhile, just dropped its case against U.S. intelligence officials’ alleged tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, Berlin’s chief prosecutor announced this morning.
Sino-SecDef meeting: Ash Carter received a deputy head of China’s Central Military Commission at the Pentagon yesterday; the defense secretary asked Beijing, once again, to cease its island-building in the South China Sea, and also suggested the U.S. and Chinese militaries meet more frequently. Reuters’ David Brunnstrom reports.
It’s life in prison for China’s former domestic-security chief, who was found guilty in a secretive trial of accepting bribes worth $21 million — and just maybe of being insufficiently loyal to Chinese President Xi Jinping, experts tell the Washington Post’s Simon Denyer and Brian Murphy.
In completely unrelated news, China also detained nine people who went online to “spread military-related rumors, slander military cadres and falsely accuse troops of being involved in ‘mass incidents’,” aka protests, Reuters’ Sui-Lee Wee reports.
So what if there’s still a coup in Thailand; the U.S. military needs to be engaged in the region—and dropping the annual Cobra Gold exercise would be a mistake, State Department’s Scot Marciel told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific yesterday.
Speaking of delicate conflicts and suspect regimes, the UN released the results of a year-long investigation into human rights abuses by Eritrean leaders in Africa, WaPo’s Adam Taylor explains why the investigation is unlikely to change the troubled east African nation. Might be helpful to recall that two years ago, a handful of Eritrean military officers fled in their plane to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia.
In case you were wondering: Where does the UN have peacekeepers across the world? AFP presents this handy graphic that tallies troops and deployed military assets.
If you think it’s getting hot here stateside as we approach summer, consider this bomb-sniffing dog with special operators in Afghanistan. The poor fella had to be carried down off a mountain because it was reportedly 117 degrees Fahrenheit and the rocks were scalding his paws.
For a quick dip in cooler waters, watch this U.S. Coast Guard salvation at sea of four fishing boat crew members just before their boat sank off the coast of Alaska. That’s all for us. We’ll see everyone back on Monday. Have a great weekend!