Anbar counteroffensive begins (again); UAV pivot to Libya; Three-way aircraft carrier swap; Walker throws his hat in; And a bit more.
Have drones, will travel…near Libya. The United States is looking to its North African allies to stage drones close to Libya so that Western intelligence agencies’ can gain a better picture of the Islamic State group’s increasingly destabilizing affiliates in the region, the Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous and Gordon Lubold reported last night.
Drones launched from the proposed base “also could be used in future airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Libya, and the base could serve as a launchpad for missions by Special Operations Forces against militants there, U.S. military officials said.
A new site “would almost certainly be a pre-existing base under the sovereign control of the host government, which would in turn give the U.S. permission to position drones there along with a limited number of U.S. military personnel.” But “so far, none of the North African countries that could offer access to a base have agreed to do so, according to senior U.S. officials. Governments in the region see Islamic State as a threat but are worried that the group will target them more squarely if they agree to host the American military.”
Current SOP—and why it could stand to change: “The U.S. uses Naval Air Station Sigonella, in Sicily, Italy, for some drone flights over Libya,” though poor weather often prevents such flights from getting off the ground. Other staging areas include “bases in Niger, both in Agadez in the central region of the country, and outside of the capital of Niamey, which it mainly uses to track al Qaeda-linked militants in Mali. But officials say those bases are too far from Libya to be useful for operations there.”
For what it’s worth: “officials said the White House didn’t envisage a concerted, Iraq-style bombing campaign for Libya, saying any strikes likely would take place sporadically to head off any suspected attacks.”
News of Washington’s search comes after reports this weekend that a local rebel coalition pushed ISIS-aligned fighters out of the eastern Libyan city of Derna, near Egypt, and nearly two days after ISIS claimed responsibility for a car bombing outside the Italian consulate in downtown Cairo that killed one and injured nine others on early Saturday.
Fighting is underway right now in Iraq as Baghdad’s patchwork of security forces kicked off an offensive to retake Anbar province from ISIS, Reuters reports. The joint operation—which ties together army, police, Iraqi special forces, Shiite militias and Sunni tribal fighters—began at dawn with a series of early morning raids before a presumed assault on Fallujah, said Hadi al-Ameri, who commands the largest Shi’ite force, the Badr Organisation.
This is at least the second time Baghdad has announced a military offensive to retake Anbar since ISIS seized the provincial capital of Ramadi in mid May, AP reminds readers. A previous attempt was declared 47 days ago.
Iraqi security forces reportedly surrounded Ramadi and Fallujah over the weekend and on Sunday announced the creation of a safe corridor for civilians to depart the cities ahead of an offensive, according to Kurdish Rudaw News.
About that Badr Organisation—They released photos over the weekend alleging that they’re in possession of at least one M1 Abrams tank, Long War Journal reports: “Badr is not the first Shiite militia to publicize its use of the M1 Abrams. The Hezbollah Brigades, a US-designated foreign terrorist organization, showed an Abrams, flying the Hezbollah Brigades flag, being transported by the group earlier this year.”
And in Baghdad on Sunday, nearly three dozen people were killed and another 100-plus wounded when a series of car bombs detonated in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods. Reuters has that one.
Food insecurity on the rise—About one-third of Iraq’s wheat production typically comes from regions that are now held by ISIS, WSJ reports. “Some 4.4 million Iraqis now require U.N. assistance” and “an estimated 2 million are displaced within the country. That number is expected to rise as forces prepare to launch a counteroffensive in Anbar province.”
Funding the globe-spanning counter-ISIS fight. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron wants to shift more of his country’s war funds to fight ISIS with special forces, spy planes and drones, the NYT reported yesterday.
And while we’re on the Brits, here’s video of a Reaper drone tagging an armored vehicle used by ISIS in Iraq just last week.
From Defense One
What’s the biggest difference between U.S. and Chinese military strategy? A close read of the two countries’ recent national strategy documents reveals that while the Pentagon exists to protect the country from external threats, much of China’s military energy is directed at its own citizenry. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker takes a look, here.
Tunisia is building a 100-mile wall to keep out terrorists from next-door Libya. The question is: will the barrier be as effective as Israel’s fortified border with Egypt, or merely a modern-day Maginot Line? The Atlantic’s David A. Graham looks at historical precedents, here.
Three women advance to the next phase of Ranger school. On Friday, the Army announced that the women — the last of the 19 women who began the first gender-integrated session of the elite special operators’ course — will move on to the mountain stage, along with 158 of their male classmates. Defense One’s Molly O’Toole has the story, here.
In four days—Thursday, July 16—join us for a discussion on the DOD Insider Threat Program. Technology Editor Patrick Tucker will sit down with Patricia Larsen, co-director of the National Insider Threat Task Force, and Mark Nehmer, deputy chief of implementation at the DOD Insider Threat Management and Analysis Center with the Defense Security Service. The event begins at 8 a.m. EDT, at the CEB Waterview Conference Center in Arlington, Va. Register for your spot here.
For a bit more about insider threats, snag a copy of our new e-book that takes you deep into the subject here.
Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Brad Peniston. Want to share The D Brief with a friend? Find our subscribe link here. (And if you want to view today’s edition in your browser, you can do that here.) And please tell us what you like, don’t like, or want to drop on our radar right here at email@example.com.
Despite a surge of optimism yesterday in the negotiations in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear program, “disputes…unexpectedly persisted” this morning “threatening plans to wrap up a deal by midnight,” AP reports. The hang-ups that remain are much as they were at the end of last week: “Iran’s demand for a lifting of a U.N. arms embargo and its insistence that any U.N. Security Council resolution approving the nuclear deal be written in a way that stops describing Iran’s nuclear activities as illegal.”
Here’s a big NatSec blow to Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto: notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped prison again. AP: “Guzman climbed down a hole 10 meters (30 feet) deep that connected with a tunnel about 1.7 meters (5-feet-6-inches) high that was fully ventilated and had lighting…tools, oxygen tanks and a motorcycle adapted to run on rails that they believe was used to carry dirt out and tools in during the construction. The tunnel terminated in a half-built barn-like building in a farm field…One woman who lives near the barn-like structure where the tunnel emerged, said outsiders bought the surrounding land about a year ago and immediately started building.” Read the rest here.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will at last officially enter the 2016 race Monday evening, joining more than a dozen others already vying for the Republican nomination. He’ll make his formal announcement—and not a premature one via mysterious forces on Twitter, as happened Friday—at the Waukesha County Expo Center in Wisconsin. He’s lately managed to avoid the foreign policy gaffes that marred his early presidential “exploration,” such as answering that he would handle Islamic State fighters as he did pro-union protesters in his home state. Meanwhile, his strong poll numbers have pushed him into the top tier and he’s made at least four trips in five months to try to burnish his security credentials. Look for him to emphasize his unique brand of leadership and argue that it’s what’s needed in the White House — and for coverage this evening in Defense One.
The Navy has warned its sailors over email that the OPM hack is bad news for “every sailor, Marine and Navy Department civilian who has completed the SF-86 security questionnaire from 2000 to the present,” Navy Times reported.
Meantime, is there anything worse than losing that much sensitive data on so many members of the military? Sure—losing one’s fundamental ability to even trust the data left behind. Read that take from the folks at the intelligence and natsec blog Overt Action, here.
The Navy is ditching its fried foods, Lance Bacon tells us for Navy Times. “Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced a host of sweeping changes in May that will affect everything from promotions and training to uniforms and fitness. As part of that, he has set his sights on a well-balanced diet,” promising to “further develop the concept at one sea-based and one shore-based unit next year, and implement it fleet-wide in 2017.”
Three aircraft carriers will swap crews this summer, part of a historically elaborate effort to reduce the burden on the fleet and its people as the ships change homeports or head to nuclear refueling. Get the details from Navy Times’ Lance Bacon, here.
And the Army’s pulling its Stryker brigade out of Hawaii, much to the delight of those who protested the environmental impact of training on the islands. But the move is also a practical concession to the fact that the training grounds were insufficient to the task. Said one logistics expert, “The people of Hawaii made a good point: If you can’t deploy a Stryker brigade, and you can’t train a Stryker brigade and it’s expensive to have a Stryker brigade here, what the hell is it doing here?” AP, here.
The plot thickens in the firing of a Marine female O-5 from training facilities at Parris Island, S.C., in late June, NYT reports. After dramatically improving female Marines’ accuracy with their weapons, the “strong-willed and demanding” Lt. Col. Kate Germano clashed with superiors, culminating in a loss of trust and confidence in her ability to lead, officials said—and setting up a tense debate on the Marines’ goal of integrating women into more combat roles in the months ahead. Read the story in full here.
Don’t miss this TED Talk by Defense One contributor Gayle Lemmon, who tackles the issue of U.S. Army females working alongside U.S. special operators in Afghanistan. Watch it here.
#JadeHelm and the Tin Foil Crazy Train rolls on...as a retired two-star reportedly called for the arrest of President Barack Obama and now the phrase “death squads” has found its way into the discussion.
Meanwhile on planet earth, Marines are planning an exercise scheduled for next summer that will use more than 132,000 acres of land to replicate “future operational conditions” in crisis response operations, Marine Corps Times reports: “Such training is in line with the Marines' new Expeditionary Force 21 concept, a strategic vision for the next decade, which organizes the force into special purpose Marine air-ground task forces. Each SP-MAGTF integrates command, ground, aviation and logistical elements operating over wide geographic areas…
“Located in Johnson Valley, the land was gained under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, which granted 79,000 acres to the Marine Corps for ‘exclusive military use’ and designated 53,000 acres for shared use with the public. The shared area is available for public recreation 10 months of the year. The Marines can use it for two 30-day periods annually.”
NEXT STORY: Can Tunisia Stop Terrorism With a Wall?