Reclaiming Ramadi; Did ISIS dox US troops?; Who lost Iraq, redux; Swiss raid French lake to help thirsty cows; and a bit more.
The push for Ramadi. Iraqi Security Forces are close to reclaiming Ramadi, a key city that fell to Islamic State militants in May. USA Today’s Jim Michaels: “Iraq forces have surrounded the city of Ramadi and are preparing for a final assault in what will be the first significant test of American-trained forces against the Islamic State, according a senior official with the U.S.-led coalition that is supporting the mission.”
The order of battle: Iraq has about 10,000 troops there, including 3,000 trained by American advisors. About 500 U.S.-trained tribal fighters are also part of that fight, Michaels reports. For ISIS, the estimated number of militants has ranged from several hundred to 2,000. More here.
What’s the condition of the city? Not good. There’s “not a single bridge around the city is left — ISIL’s blown them all up,” Capt. Lanier Bishop, a 31-year-old Marine fighter pilot from Marietta, Ga., told the The New York Times’ Helene Cooper after flying over the city last week.
More from Cooper, reporting from the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf, on Iraqi infrastructure destroyed by ISIS: “Normally, that would not pose much of a problem for American troops, who can lay their own bridges over the Euphrates River into the city. But the Iraqis do not have that kind of battlefield engineering equipment, and that has slowed them down as well. What’s more, Captain Bishop said he had seen destroyed highway overpasses, apparently blown up by the Islamic State, that block access into the city, further slowing the pace of the advance. And the militants have laid booby traps and bombs along routes into the city, American pilots said.”
Did ISIS release personal information about more than 1,000 U.S. troops? The short answer is maybe. From NBC News: “A hacker group claiming to be affiliated with the terror organization ISIS on Tuesday posted what it said was the personal information of hundreds of members of the military and government personnel, and urged terrorists to carry out attacks.” The info was posted from a Twitter account affiliated with ISIS hacker Abu Hussain Al Britani.
Mississippi couple accused of trying to join ISIS. Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, and Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, 22, were arrested at a Mississippi airport Saturday before they left the country. “They’re accused of conspiring and attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS,” CNN reports. “Court documents detail what federal investigators say were the couple's plans to travel to Syria and join ISIS, as allegedly communicated through social media to the undercover FBI employees over the past several months.” More here.
From Defense One
Who lost Iraq? Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are renewing the debate over the war. Speaking last night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, Bush said the Iraq War could have been won after his brother, George W. Bush, ordered the 2007 surge, had not President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton squandered its gains and allowed the Islamic State to rise. Coming as close as he’s been yet to being visibly impassioned, Bush said Clinton “stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away,” Bush said.
The Clinton campaign struck back, saying that it was W’s invasion that gave rise to the Islamic State. “ISIS grew out of al Qaeda in Iraq. And where did AQI come from? It didn’t exist before the invasion,” Clinton senior advisor Jake Sullivan said.
One thing both campaigns seem to agree on, reports Defense One’s Politics Reporter Molly O’Toole: They’re both looking past the primary to a general election Bush-Clinton showdown. Preview that dynasty-off here.
Syrians are using Google Earth to help call in U.S. airstrikes, reports Quartz’s Tim Fernholz, citing the New York Times. Kurdish militia fighters in Syria are using Android tablets and free Google mapping tools to track battle lines and coordinate close air support with the U.S. military. More here.
Defense contractors are getting sick of executive orders like the one requiring them to give their employees up to 56 hours of paid sick leave every year, reports GovExec’s Charles S. Clark. President Obama has been using such orders to enact policies amid congressional gridlock, and the “rapid growth in compliance requirements is becoming untenable,” the presidents of the National Defense Industrial Association, the Aerospace Industries Association, the Professional Services Council and the IT Alliance for Public Sector wrote in a Tuesday letter to the White House. More here.
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The saga over the Navy’s newest, costliest aircraft carrier continues. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work has ordered “shock testing” on the $12.9 billion USS Gerald R. Ford, which could delay its deployment six months, Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reported yesterday. The Navy had wanted to delay these tests until as late as 2025.
What is shock testing? Per Capaccio: “In a shock trial, underwater charges are set off to assess how well a ship can withstand them. A crew is on board, and the test isn’t intended to damage equipment. The results are used to judge vulnerabilities and design changes that may be needed.”
The Ford, the first in a new class of supercarriers, is in the final stages of construction at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, reports Defense News’ font of naval knowledge, Chris Cavas. The first ship in a class has not always been shock-tested, he writes: “When the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers entered service in the early 1990s, for example, the third ship, John Paul Jones, was the ship selected for shock tests, and more recently, the Mesa Verde, third ship of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks, carried out shock tests for the class in 2008.”
China holds massive military drills. Thought that U.S. Army exercise with more than 1,500 soldiers last week was big? Well, China is conducting “live-fire drills involving more than 140,000 troops that aim to improve joint operational command,” Bloomberg reports. “China plans 100 joint exercises this year as the country’s largely untested military steps up efforts to sharpen combat-readiness at a time of rising tensions over territorial disputes with Asian neighbors. President and commander-in-chief Xi Jinping has boosted military spending and pushed the PLA, the world’s largest military with 2.3 million active members, to enhance its ability to fight and win battles.” More here.
A new Maginot Line. The Atlantic Council’s Robbie Gramer and Rachel Rizzo compare China’s fortification of islands in the South China Sea to France’s Maginot Line. In their War on the Rocks post, they write that the “new islands Beijing is building in the South China Sea add to the worries of U.S. defense planners observing China’s expanding [anti-access/area denial] capabilities. But the islands also force China to consolidate its forces and rely heavily on these small islands in the same way France concentrated its best forces around its advanced and immobile defensive system in the 1930’s.” More here.
Speaking of those artificial islands, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies takes a look at the different airstrips that Beijing and others have built in the in the South China Sea. More here.
A high-speed arms race? The U.S., China and Russia are “waging a secret arms race that could soon usher in a new generation of high-speed weapons never before seen in warfare,” Politico’s Philip Ewing reports. “Such hypersonic weapons, intended to attack targets many times faster than the speed of sound — before a defender could even react — have become the newest hope for military commanders seeking to gain an edge over potential adversaries. While most details and the level of funding remain classified, some predict they could be perfected within the next five years.” More here.
Confirmed: St. Louis metropolitan police have Skunk, a horrible-smelling liquid for use on protestors during civil unrest. Earlier this year, a police spokeswoman refused to confirm or deny it (“We do not discuss our chemical munitions inventory,” she wrote.) But an open-records request by Tech Editor Patrick Tucker uncovered invoices that show that the Metropolitan Police Department has indeed acquired the non-lethal weapon, which was developed in Israel and first used against Palestinians. More here.
Meanwhile, Pentagon taking back Humvees from Ferguson police. The St. Louis suburb, which has seen renewed unrest since the anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown, is being forced to return two surplus Humvees, The Guardian reports. The city has been authorized only two of the military vehicles, but received four. More here.
Senators: Give military spouses more access to guns. “South Dakota Republican Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune introduced legislation Thursday that would allow military spouses to purchase handguns in the state where their active-duty spouse is permanently stationed for assignment,” Military Times’ Oriana Pawlyk reports. The law would not apply to spouses living on military bases. More here.
Wanted: new security helicopter. The Air Force, again, appears to be taking early steps to replace its 1970s-era Huey helicopters that are used for security at nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile sites in the northern United States. After several failed attempts to find a replacement over the past decade, a meeting with defense companies is planned at the end of the month, according to reports from Jason Sherman at InsideDefense and Lara Seligman at Defense News.
Iran and Russia held a wargame this week. The state-run FARS News Agency said the Iranian destroyer Damavand and Russian warships, Volgodonsk and Makhachkala, participated in the drill in Anzali, a port near the Caspian Sea. More here.
Iran deal support. The group SupportPeace.org took out a full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times backing the Iran deal with a letter signed by 24 prominent Americans of Iranian descent. The list includes executives from tech giants like Google and Dropbox, actors, professors, and Wall Street. More here; h/t Charlie Clark.
And we’ll leave you with this: Two Swiss Air Force Super Puma helicopters made “a really weird and unexpected incursion into the French airspace” at the end of July, David Cenciotti at The Aviationist reports. The helicopters collected more than 50,000 liters of water from Lac des Rousses, a French lake near the Swiss border. The water was then brought to thirsty dairy cows in an effort to bump up their milk production. More here.