Pentagon’s Syrian training fail; How to hack the CIA’s cloud; Taliban peace talking; Obama doctrine at its breaking point?; And a bit more.

CORRECTION: An earlier edition of The D Brief said that Brad Carson could remove the "acting" qualifier of his title as under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness at the Defense Department. In fact, the White House only announced Carson's formal nomination for the job. The Senate still has confirm.

Just 60 Syrian fighters. Nearly 10 months after Congress approved the Pentagon’s $500 million program to establish 15,000 moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the program, now three months in, has only cranked out a mere 60 fighters…out of a goal of 5,000 for the year. “I can look at your faces and you have the same reaction I do, which is that’s an awfully small number,” Carter told angry lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Defense One Politics Reporter Molly O’Toole reports.
Why this is particularly worrisome: Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told lawmakers “Israel and Jordan ‘very much believe [in] the possibility’ that the Assad regime could soon collapse, touching off ‘a foot race’ of al-Qaeda and Islamic State forces ‘converging on Damascus.’” That makes for a pretty fraught set of circumstances considering the U.S. hasn’t even decided how to defend the Syrian fighters it’s training should they come under attack from the Assad regime, The Washington Post’s editorial board warned last night.
For what it’s worth in Iraq, the U.S. appears to be digging in at Camp Taji. On Monday the Defense Department awarded Virginia-based group SOS-International a $100 million contract for “base life support” some 20 miles north of Baghdad at Taji.
And holy what the... over in Mosul, some unknown entity appears to have poisoned a Ramadan meal yesterday that killed 45 ISIS fighters, Haaretz reported.

Peace negotiators from Afghanistan, the Taliban and Pakistan’s foreign ministry at a mountain resort 90 miles north of Islamabad last night agreed to hold more peace talks, WaPo reported. Those get underway in two weeks, after Ramadan.
“No sooner had the talks begun than it became apparent that the Taliban were divided about whether to engage in a process facilitated by Pakistan,” The New York Times reports in this no-surprise take on the lack of coordination among the Taliban and claims the talks have in fact been hijacked by Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI.
The Taliban are still trying to get their blows in where they can, yesterday dispatching a suicide bomber to a NATO convoy for the second time in a week. No coalition casualties resulted from the attack. Shortly afterward, Afghan police killed two attackers after another suicide bomber set off his vest in a failed attempt to storm an Afghan intelligence office in Kabul.
U.S. and Afghan officials now say ISIS has a toehold in three Afghan provinces, The Hill reported yesterday. That, after Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar announced his support for the group over the weekend.

From Russia with love. Battalions of Islamic fighters from Chechnya are fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, the NYT’s Andrew Kramer reports from Mariupol. And the fighters are reportedly unafraid (wearing no body armor) and show a boldness that would rival Tarantino’s “Inglourious Bastards,”—slipping into no-man’s land to patrol and skirmish at will. The Ukrainians, for their part, welcome the fierce fighters as Kiev copes with the residue of years of corruption in its under-funded military ranks.
Revenge in Mali? French special forces just killed an al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb fighter in the northern Kidal region who purportedly was just exchanged for a hostage. Long War Journal has the details and bio for Mohamad Ali Ag Wadossene here. “A Malian military official stated that a dozen other AQIM fighters were also captured in the assault.”

From Defense One

President Obama welcomes Vietnam’s Communist party leader to the White House today, and National Journal’s George Condon, Jr., reminds us that “You have to go back 12 presidents and 70 years to find the last president before Obama not to have been personally touched by [the Vietnam conflict]”—a war that plays an underappreciated role in the Obama doctrine of U.S. foreign policy.

On the heels of the recent closed-door U.S.-China dialogues in Washington, it’s a little fun and informative to ask if the Great Powers will ever go to war again? Rosa Brooks, Laura Dickinson, Doug Ollivant, Tom Ricks, Anne Marie Slaughter and 15 others weigh in on the topic in this latest lightning round addition to our “Future of War” series with New America.

Are there viable alternatives to the intervention-wary Obama doctrine? Obama doesn’t hesitate to intervene in some places with elite military and intelligence powers that are overdue for explaining--and convincing--but he continues to refuse to repeat the Iraq War. That leaves it up to the next president to fulfill the vision of hawks like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who scoff at the White House’s high bar for sending American troops to intervene in the world’s hot spots, as Kevin Baron writes in this sweeping look at America’s current counterterrorism strategy with a view to 2016.

FBI Director James Comey is wrong about what would be lost if strong encryption becomes standard in global communications, says Mieke Eoyang, director of Third Way’s National Security Program, and former staffer on the House intelligence and armed services committees, in this three-point rebuttal in Defense One. Comey is on Capitol Hill today.

So you want to hack into the CIA’s new Amazon cloud servers? Here’s how you do it. Start by getting a job at Amazon’s Commercial Cloud Service, then get a top secret security clearance…and Tech Editor Patrick Tucker explains the rest here.

And while you’re studying up on that insider threat, snag a copy of our new eBook on just that topic.

The OPM hack has revealed quite a few ominous revelations for modern U.S. government cyber protections. But it’s also given us these three lessons on espionage, as laid out here by Brandon Valeriano of the University of Glasgow.

From new nukes to the growing threat of interstate war, the new U.S. National Military Strategy is the boldest statement yet of the “complex and rapidly-changing” global security landscape, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Janine Davidson writes in these five keys to the new path forward for the American military.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Defense One. 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

The Army is speeding up long-planned cuts in its numbers, dropping 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 civilian employees over the next two years, USA Today reports. The reductions would bring the Army’s end strength to 450,000 troops in 2017, one year earlier than planned.
And if you haven’t yet, check out StoryCorps’ “Military Voices Initiative,” which captures stories from members of the military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan so they can be shared with you and others. Here’s one place to start: It’s the story of two Marines, one deployment, one divorce and one family.

Brad Carson may soon be able to remove the “acting” qualifier to his title. The White House yesterday announced the president's intent to nominate Carson to be the Defense Department’s under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, a position he's currently holding in an acting capacity. Check out this profile of Carson—and the office that’s been tough to keep people in for long—from mid-April when he hopped over from his job as the Army’s under secretary; or read Carson’s June commentary in Defense One on the Pentagon’s “biggest personnel overhaul in 45 years” right here. Or watch the Defense One LIVE event last month with Carson laying out some of the ambitious plans and thinking behind all of it, here.
The White House also named a new ambassador to Libya yesterday—Peter William Bodde, the (now) former ambassador to Nepal. The State Department notes Bodde was previously the assistant chief of mission for assistance transition at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. He was also the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad from 2006 to 2008.
And while we’re at it, Just Security’s co-editor-in-chief Ryan Goodman revealed he will take a new gig as special counsel for the Defense Department’s legal team.

Will the U.S. buy France’s two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships built for Russia? France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a Q&A with Defense One’s Kevin Baron at the German Marshall Fund Monday that France was “courageous” and “strategic” to withhold the ships--as certain allies insisted they do. “The conditions are still not there [in Russia] for delivering” the €1.2 billion helicopter carriers, he said. So he wouldn’t object if they ended up in US hands? Le Drain: “If we can agree on a price, why not?”
Russian sanctions are meant to hurt, but there’s one item that’s sorely missed in Moscow's markets: cheese. Masha Gessen writes in The New York Times the Russians are missing their favorite mozzarellas, parmesans and gorgonzola's because of war, and are instead being treated to a variety of Soviet-like substitutes.

“This is why [Libya] can’t have nice things.” Want to see what a Libyan Air Force Mig-23 jet looks like flying at speed some 8 feet off the ground? It’s clearly a stupid stunt, but we get to watch it from the safety of The Aviationist web site, which posted video of the scene here.
Meantime in Mali, thieves stole explosives from a French military base in Miramas, including at least 150 detonators and 40 grenades. That story of dangerously weak battlefield accountability, here.
And for a final word of caution today, American police are recommending you not purchase the latest handgun-shaped iPhone case, the NYTs reports. “Officers do not have the luxury of time when making split-second decisions while interacting with the public,” the New Jersey State Police said on Facebook. Amazon just dropped the product from their virtual shelves. And another seller told the paper he dropped the cases from his stock, too— “Especially the black one, which is virtually impossible to differentiate from a real gun at a quick glance.”