Afghan insiders kill NATO troops; Oshkosh wins $30B JLTV battle; Was ISIS intel skewed?; SecDef heads west; And a bit more.
Apparent insider attack in southern Afghanistan leaves two NATO troops dead. Two men dressed in Afghan military uniforms opened fire on a vehicle containing NATO troops, killing two, at the former British base known as Camp Bastion in Lashkar Gah before being shot dead in what appears to be the third insider attack of 2015, AP reports. Nationalities of the deceased troops have not been released, and it’s not yet clear if the attackers were Kabul’s own troops or insurgents who acquired the uniforms elsewhere.
Meanwhile, slightly north, Taliban fighters captured Helmand’s Musa Qala district—“a stronghold for militants and opium,” Reuters notes—after more than a week of fighting. Their advance on police and army posts was only briefly interrupted by U.S. airstrikes on Saturday that killed more than three dozen fighters.
“We left the district early in the morning because the Taliban were attacking from all sides,” Musa Qala district governor Mohammad Sharif said, adding that his men fought until they ran out of ammo and food. “We had asked for reinforcements for days but none arrived and this was what happened.”
Back stateside, the wait for the Army’s new Humvee replacement is over. Wisconsin truck-maker Oshkosh won the $30 billion contract battle to provide up to 55,000 new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles over the next quarter-century, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker and Marcus Weisgerber report. “The Army awarded a $6.7 billion contract Tuesday to Oshkosh for an initial batch of 17,000 vehicles—which, fully loaded, cost nearly $400,000 each—for the Army and Marine Corps. Production will begin in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, according to an Army release, with a later decision on the full scale of production to come in 2018, the year the vehicles are expected to be ready for battle.”
Why replace the Humvee? The new trucks are meant to give the Army back the vehicle performance lost when it had to up-armor Humvees to protect troops from IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tucker and Weisgerber write.
Why Oshkosh? A handful of Army and Marine Corps officials would not say why they selected the Wisconsin truckmaker because the losing bidders can contest the contract in coming weeks. Throughout the competition, Oshkosh had touted a new suspension design giving its truck higher ground clearance and a smoother ride on rugged terrain.
Who lost? AM General and Lockheed Martin, whose own trucks were pitted in more than a year of trials against Oshkosh’s vehicle, a smaller version of its M-ATV MRAP.
Self-driving version in the pipeline? That could easily be done, John Bryant, senior vice president for defense programs for Oshkosh Defense, said. “We can operate our TerraMax fully autonomously where you program it and it just goes; we can have it where one operator can loosely control multiple vehicles; we can do follow the leader.” Read the rest, here.
While we’re talking acquisition: the Pentagon is not conducting a formal review of the F-35 order, despite what incoming Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told lawmakers in early July. “We’re not making any formal evaluation or revisit to those objectives at this particular moment in time,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters during his first appearance since taking the job in mid-June.
But Cook left some breathing room for the skeptics. “There is nothing at this point to indicate any formal review of this number. But there will be the standard budget review of all programs going forward to FY 17.” Read more here.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is wheels-up this morning for a four-day U.S. trip, along with Defense One’s Kevin Baron and a few other reporters. Here’s the itinerary, per Cook: Carter will attend a change-of-command ceremony at U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base outside St. Louis. He will then go to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas to watch the Air Force’s Red Flag massive air-combat drill. Then it’s off to California where Carter will head south to Camp Pendleton, where he will see Marines storm the beach before heading north.
Silicon Valley stop. Naturally, Carter will check out the Pentagon’s new Silicon Valley office, where he will host a roundtable with business leaders. Carter will also announce the Pentagon’s “participation in a major new economic initiative in the area,” Cook said. (Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work got a sneak peek a few weeks ago.)
And Carter’s former chief of staff, back when he was Deputy Defense Secretary, Wendy Anderson, has made the leap to Hollywood. Well, awfully close, anyway; Anderson just took a job with California-based Strong Eagle Media, which produces “inspirational military stories,” Variety writes. “The company already has two projects in the works for its military hero series, to be released in 2016, including ‘Citizen Soldier’ and ‘Danger Close.’”
From Defense One
Army takes biggest hit in OPM hack. It may not quite be asymmetric warfare, but someone used inexpensive keystrokes to drain Pentagon coffers of a big chunk of change: $132 million this year to provide credit monitoring for the people affected by the data theft. “More than 40 percent of that sum will come from the Army’s budget, a little more than a quarter from the Air Force and a smaller slice from the Navy. Another 17 percent — about $23 million — will come from Defensewide appropriations,” GovExec’s Eric Katz reports.
The U.S. should deploy more troops as UN peacekeepers, writes George Washington University’s Paul D. Williams in Defense One. “The United Nations badly needs new contributions to shore up a peacekeeping system that is increasingly under pressure in parts of Africa and the Middle East and is likely to be called upon for new missions. Next month, President Barack Obama will co-convene an international summit of world leaders to discuss the problem on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, and that’s a start. But Washington should stop lecturing other countries about contributing more troops and instead start leading by example.” Read his argument here.
Needed: one step forward. Over the weekend, Pakistan’s national security advisor called off a planned meeting with his Indian counterpart amid a host of public cross-border disagreements. The Council on Foreign Relations’ Alyssa Ayres pointed the finger at Islamabad for this latest failure of diplomacy. What is required at this point, she writes in Defense One, is a demonstration that the government is getting serious about terrorism. “Pakistan needs to stop shifting the blame from the terrorism problem that is chewing up its own society and causing enmity with its neighbors.” Read her whole piece here.
The U.S. military gets a guidebook to the cloud. The Defense Department’s information technology arm adds up the lessons learned so far and puts out a collection of best practices for a Pentagon herding its myriad information services toward their cloud-based future. “The guide is aimed at DOD ‘mission owners’ wanting to migrate an existing information system from a physical environment to a virtualized cloud environment.” NextGov’s Frank Konkel has the story.
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So how’s the Pentagon’s battle against the Islamic State going? Hard to say, especially now that the Pentagon’s inspector general is looking into allegations that CENTCOM officials “improperly rework[ed] the conclusions of intelligence assessments prepared for policy makers, including President Obama,” The New York Times Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo reported last night.
“The prospect of skewed intelligence raises new questions about the direction of the government’s war with the Islamic State, and could help explain why pronouncements about the progress of the campaign have varied widely,” they write. “Under federal law, intelligence officials can bring claims of wrongdoing to the intelligence community’s inspector general, a position created in 2011. If officials find the claims credible, they are required to advise the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. That occurred in the past several weeks, the officials said, and the Pentagon’s inspector general decided to open an investigation into the matter.”
The CENTCOM response: “The I.G. has a responsibility to investigate all allegations made, and we welcome and support their independent oversight,” spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder said, declining to say more about the ongoing investigation.
Speaking of winning wars, “Maybe we need a new way of thinking about security challenges, one that isn’t tied to Victorian ideas of defeating an enemy on the battlefield. Maybe achieving victory looks like something else, such as shifting the danger from an acute to a minor threat,” writes Joshua Foust in this Hump Day #LongRead in Playboy magazine.
Meanwhile back at the Pentagon, spokesman Cook confirmed Tuesday that Turkey would join the coalition airstrikes against ISIS. The announcement follows Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s calling on Turkey to step-up its participation in the campaign.
“Our cooperation with the Turks, and the expansion of that cooperation, remains a work in progress at this point, and so we see this as a step forward, but we also see that there’s opportunity for Turkey and the U.S. and the rest of the coalition to further refine exactly what that cooperation looks like going forward,” Cook said.
In Syria, the Assad regime has racked up nearly 250 deaths in 10 days of air strikes on neighborhoods east of Damascus, Reuters reports.
And there’s an effective fighting force in northern Syria that’s fighting ISIS and wants to build ties with the West. “The problem for the United States is Ahrar al-Sham’s grounding in militant Islam — a concern that has also dogged previous efforts to find partners in Syria,” NYT’s Ben Hubbard reports from Turkey.
“They are in a gray zone, but in a civil war if you are not willing to talk to factions in the gray zone, you’ll have precious few people to talk to,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Ford.
In northern Iraq this morning, Kurdish forces began an assault in Kirkuk, about 100 miles north of Baghdad, clearing ISIS out of villages lost more than a year ago, Reuters reports.
And while much has been written on the Islamic State’s gruesome treatment of captured women and girls, less is known about how ISIS treats its young boys. NBC News’ Richard Engel files this dreadful report from Istanbul on how the group hacks off the hands and feet of captured boys who refuse to become child soldiers.
U.S., China navy chiefs Facetime ahead of Chinese president’s visit next month. For the second time since April, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert spoke with his Chinese counterpart over video teleconference, the Navy said Tuesday.
What was on the docket? “The continued use of Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), development of the Rules of Behavior for the Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters (RoB) confidence building measure, participation in the next Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), pending port visits, and an upcoming visit by [the U.S. Navy’s] prospective commanding officers to China,” according to a U.S. Navy official. Their next VTC is tentatively scheduled for later this fall, presumably after President Xi Jinping stops by Washington.
Meantime, the U.S. Navy “plans to increase the number of military and humanitarian drills it conducts in the Asia-Pacific as part of a new strategy to counter China’s rapid expansion in the South China Sea,” a Philippine military spokesman said this morning.
Why exactly? “To help protect the transport of fresh Filipino troops and supplies to Philippine-occupied reefs in the disputed South China Sea” where China has reportedly blocked such moves in the recent past, according to Reuters.
Nice ribbon, boot camp. And lastly, the Navy has created a new decoration to give the 3% of new sailors who graduate from boot camp with honors. “But some don’t think the ribbon is a cause for celebration,” writes Mark D. Faram at Navy Times. “Some lampooned the move while others said it would make the Navy too much like the Air Force, where recruits get a ribbon for completing basic training (the Army, for the record, does this too).”