Heartbreak in Chattanooga; ISIS missile hits Egyptian warship; Shake-up at CSBA; $135K to keep flying drones; And just a bit more.
The FBI is leading what U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called a “national security investigation” following yesterday’s two-site, drive-by shooting rampage in Chattanooga, Tenn., that left four U.S. Marines dead and three others wounded. The gunman, a middle-class 24-year-old Kuwaiti-born man who came to the U.S. in 1996, was not previously known to law enforcement officials for possible links to terrorism—although the gunman’s “father was on a terrorist watch list and was questioned while on a trip abroad, but...he was eventually removed from the list,” the New York Times reports.
What happened: “The first shooting began at about 10:50 a.m. when a gunman drove up and fired 25 to 30 rounds at a military recruitment center in a strip mall east of downtown Chattanooga, where one Marine was wounded, Pentagon officials said,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “The shooter then apparently drove seven miles to a Navy Operations Support Center, ramming his car through a security gate, officials said. He opened fire around 11:30 a.m., killing four Marines and injuring a police officer and sailor.” All of the dead were killed at the second site.
“While we expect our Sailors and Marines to go into harm’s way, and they do so without hesitation, an attack at home, in our community, is insidious and unfathomable,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said.
A dismal tally grows: “By my count, this is the 7th shooting involving multiple military deaths since 2009 Fort Hood tragedy. Several more with just one casualty,” Military Times’ Leo Shane III tweeted yesterday. Stars and Stripes lists the other attacks here.
Investigators haven’t yet confirmed a motive for the attacks, and so internet sleuths, of course, are all too eager to fill in what gaps remain about the college-educated gunman, including this look from the Daily Beast into the shooter’s short-lived blog, launched four days ago and written in “a popular style of Islamic religious reasoning” wherein the world is described as a prison.
What can’t be far from investigators’ minds is the fact that, as WSJ notes, “Last month, Islamic State urged its supporters to carry out attacks during Ramadan, the Islamic month of daily fasting that comes to an end this weekend.”
In Egypt, ISIS is now a naval threat. That after yesterday’s news (via Washington Post) that an ISIS affiliate took credit for a missile fired at an Egyptian warship off the shore of the country’s beleaguered Sinai Peninsula.
“In an online statement, the militants said they used a guided missile to hit the ship off the shore of Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula. The group— which calls itself the Sinai Province of the Islamic State — also circulated photographs that appeared to show the projectile flying toward the vessel and exploding on impact…Egypt’s military said in a statement that a shootout with militants had set the vessel aflame and that no sailors were killed in the attack. Sinai Province claimed to have destroyed the naval frigate.”
“The type of weapon used to target the ship has not been disclosed,” Long War Journal reports, “however the Islamic State’s Sinai province is known to have seized and used Kornet anti-tank missiles in a major attack in the Sinai on July 1…
“The use of anti-tank rockets against naval vessels may have a chilling effect on shipping in the region,” LWJ notes, with WaPo adding, “The Egyptian government relies on about $5 billion in annual revenue from the Suez Canal,” which would mean any threat to Egypt’s shipping lanes could “deal a serious blow to the country’s image as a stable power in the region.”
Meantime in Washington, a major shake-up is under way at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, one of the capital’s most prominent national security think tanks, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports. First, Andrew Krepinevich, CSBA’s president since 1993, is retiring in March. News of his retirement follows a board meeting last week. The think tank in recent years has seen a decline in government grants and a boost in consulting revenue.
But that’s not all. Noted defense budget analyst Todd Harrison is leaving for a position at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Harrison starts at CSIS in September, a move quietly announced last month.
Harrison to Defense One: “I’ve really enjoyed working with my colleagues at CSBA for the past six years. I’ve learned a lot from them that I will carry with me the rest of my career. And I’m excited to working with a great group of scholars at CSIS where I can continue to grow and learn.”
Nelson Ford, the chairman of CSBA’s board, in a statement to Defense One: “While Andy will remain my dear friend and CSBA’s mission will continue unabated, it’s true we’re losing his monumental leadership, and the incomparable skills of Todd. We’re using the months we have, working with Andy, to find a suitable replacement, while employing CSBA’s tremendous remaining talent to inform and tackle today’s pressing national security issues.” Read the rest here.
From Defense One
The Iran deal is forcing Hillary Clinton to confront a key question of her campaign — one that she’s largely avoided so far: How will she use her tenure as Obama’s first secretary of state and her complicated relationship with the president in her bid to become the next? Full embrace, arm’s length, or something in between — maybe a fist bump? Her delicate dance can be seen in her response to the nuclear agreement — taking credit while glossing over the fact she was for sanctions before she was against them before she was for them. Read more from Defense One’s Molly O’Toole — including that time Tehran filed a formal complaint at the U.N. after Clinton said she’d “totally obliterate” Iran if it launched a nuclear attack against Israel, here:
The U.S. should consolidate its international broadcasters into one entity with one mission, argues Al Pessin, a 38-year veteran of Voice of America. Instead, a new bill making its way through Congress would perpetuate the Balkanization of VOA, Radio Free Europe, Radio Sawa, and the rest. Read his take, complete with a surprising anecdote from London, here.
The heartbreaking tale of the nearly 300 schoolgirls captured 15 months ago by Boko Haram has taken an even darker turn. Many are allegedly carrying out atrocities on behalf of their captors, including flogging prisoners who are unable to recite the Quran or killing Christian captives. “Given their presumed state of duress, can these girls be held responsible for their actions?” asks Catherine Powell, a Council on Foreign Relations fellow and a professor at Fordham Law School, who looks at how international law might view their plight.
Welcome to Friday’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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
President Obama is meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir today, his first meeting with a key Arab ally since negotiators reached a deal over Iran’s nuclear program, WSJ reports. Meanwhile, we have some deadlines to watch as both U.S. and Iranian leaders sell their citizens on the new agreement:
Monday, July 20: The UN Security Council takes up a vote on the issue at 9 a.m. EDT, RFE/RL reported. And on this note, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—Senators Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md.—have asked the White House to postpone that UNSC vote until after Congress reviews the deal. That letter, here.
Tuesday, July 21: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter travels to Saudi Arabia following through on Obama’s pledge at a Camp David summit to boost arms sales and intelligence coordination with anxious Gulf allies.
August 3: U.S. State Secretary John Kerry travels to Doha, Qatar, to brief the full Gulf Cooperation Council on the deal.
And the CIA is telling hawks that Iran is more likely to spend its $100 billion in post-sanctions funds on its economy rather than significantly boosting its funding for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or destabilizing regional non-state actors like Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Houthis in Yemen, the Los Angeles Times reports.
About that conflict in Yemen, the country’s exiled Vice President Khaled Bahah (working out of the Saudi capital of Riyadh) said his nation’s strategic port city of Aden has been “liberated” from Houthi militias after four months of fighting. Bahah took to Facebook to make the announcement, the Guardian reports.
“On Tuesday, loyalist forces launched Operation Golden Arrow against Iran-backed rebels who seized control of much of Aden in March, forcing the government into exile in neighbouring Saudi Arabia,” AFP reports. “The counteroffensive was carried out by southern militiamen of the Popular Resistance, backed by reinforcements freshly trained and equipped in Saudi Arabia.”
For what it’s worth, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman just met with the chief of Hamas this morning, Reuters reports from Dubai.
During a joint operation with African Union troops Wednesday night in Somalia, U.S. forces ordered a drone strike on rebels that wound up killing an al-Shabab commander named Ismael Jabhad, AP reported.
ICYMI: The U.S. Air Force is dangling a lot of cash in front of its Predator and Reaper pilots to get them to stay. As much as $135,000 in retention bonuses—that’s $15,000 per year for as many as nine years, WSJ’s Gordon Lubold first reported Tuesday.
“The service this year also will automatically assign 80 graduates from the Air Force’s flight schools directly into drone duty…The service trains about 1,000 active-duty pilots a year, with additional pilots schooled for drone duty. Under the plan, the Air Force expects to train and retain about 300 drone pilots a year and return the drone roster to a more robust state by 2017.”
“In a complex global environment, RPA [remotely piloted aircraft] pilots will always be in demand,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said, according to a report from Air Force Times, which also notes, “The Air Force’s current operations tempo requires it to produce about 300 active-duty pilots per year, but it is only turning out 190 each year.”
Want to watch an F-16 ascend 15,000 feet in 45 seconds? The Aviationist has you covered.
And while we’re on aircraft, Frank Kendall, the Defense Department’s undersecretary for acquisition, told U.S. lawmakers in late June that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s previously troubled “operating software is ready to go ‘with some minor workarounds’ that need to be remedied later.” Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio has that one here.
And lastly this week, “sometimes you have to break protocol to be successful,” U.S. Army Maj. Crispin Burke writes in this nifty read about “five examples of military leaders who broke the rules, got away with it, and most importantly, made the world a better place.” Included: the time an Air Force captain threw his wallet across a conference table full of colonels discussing the mid- to late-1960s F-X jet, and declared, “You f*ckers are lying.” Read the tale of “40-Second Boyd,” and four others, over at Task & Purpose here.