Prison break in Afghanistan; No US-Russia comms in Syria; USAF bomber will do more than bomb; Do drone strikes even work?; And a bit more.
Taliban fighters in police uniforms stormed a prison in eastern Afghanistan’s Ghazni province this morning and freed hundreds of inmates in the country’s third mass prison break in eight years, AFP reports. And “inmates had staged a protest inside the prison hours before the Taliban attack—a possible indication that the escape was coordinated,” the Wall Street Journal adds.
A half-dozen insurgents began the assault with a car bomb at the gates before attacking guards with rocket propelled grenades, killing four police and wounding seven others, at about 2:30 a.m. local. The perimeter wall collapsed in the blast, allowing the six fighters to enter the compound.
Kabul’s interior ministry said 355 of the prison’s 436 inmates escaped. “Most were Taliban and other militants,” AFP writes.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, Mullah Omar’s son said his dad died “a natural death” from Hepatitis C, according to an audio recording posted Sunday evening, Reuters reports. In an apparent jab at the current Taliban leadership—Omar’s former deputy, Mullah Mansour—Omar’s eldest son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, 27, said his father had not appointed a successor. But he also didn’t make any claims to the top spot, instead offering his allegiance to the broader Taliban cause, reminding followers that the group’s enemy remains “the U.S.-backed Afghan government.”
The “spillover effects” of the Syrian conflict are set to galvanize Europe into ending the conflict, not unlike what happened in the wake of the Bosnian war, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told Voice of America in Estonia on Sunday. “However, the general warned that military intervention without a reliable partner in Syria could create a ‘failed state,’ leaving armed forces as the sole instrument of power.” That, here.
Meanwhile, a communications breakdown. Here’s how the U.S. military and Russian forces are de-conflicting their operations to avoid “unintended incidents” in Syria: they’re not. “To my knowledge, there is no military-to-military contact at this point,” Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, CENTCOM spokesman, told Defense One Friday. The former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, for one, says the communication breakdown is “very dangerous.” Molly O’Toole has the story.
The U.S. has made “remarkable progress” setting up a more stable Iraqi leadership and its security forces while pushing back the Islamic State across Iraq and Syria, White House special envoy John Allen told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. Asked about the besieged cities of Mosul and Fallujah, the retired four-star noted the successes in Tikrit and Kobani, but conceded to interviewer Martha Raddatz, “You’re exactly correct, and we’re not done. There’s much work to be done.”
On the way ahead in Syria: “Syria has got to have a political transition away from Bashar al-Assad. He can’t be part of the solution. And so we have to be in constant conversation with our international partners and ultimately with the opposition elements in Syria,” Allen said. “Because the expanding or supporting the fight on the ground just increases the violence and it increases the conflict. And then it increases the refugee and humanitarian catastrophe that we face.”
On Russia’s intentions inside Syria: “It’s too early for me to speculate on that.”
On the beleaguered train-and-equip program in Syria: “Department of Defense is embracing what has been learned from this. And I’ll leave it for them to comment on the specifics associated with that.”
On the growing refugee crisis posing a national security risk for the U.S. and Europe: “I think we should watch it. We should be— conscious of the potential that Daesh may attempt to embed agents within that population. But I also have to tell you I have tremendous confidence” in the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. Read his interview in full here.
The EU this morning cleared the way for military action to seize and destroy the boats of human traffickers inside Libyan territorial waters, AFP reports.
The U.S. Air Force’s secretive Long Range Strike Bomber, at a price tag of roughly $550 million each, can do a lot more than just drop bombs, Defense One’s Global Business Reporter Marcus Weisgerber reports. “More than just a first-strike weapon, it is expected to be a centerpiece of future U.S. warfare.”
How? “Targeting pods bearing high-power cameras have been installed on B-1 and B-52 bombers, breathing new life into those seasoned airframes. Today, the B-1 is used regularly to strike ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria...The stealthy new bomber is meant to be able to do the same thing—in well-defended airspace. Like the B-2 bomber and the F-22 and F-35 fighters, the new aircraft will have its antennas embedded in its skin.”
A “battle manager” above enemy territory: “One of the new missions that this combat cloud enables is battle management inside well-defended airspace...Gathering and crunching data as it goes, the bomber will use its high-bandwidth communications to send information and even directions to satellites, other aircraft, and even ground forces. It could steer other aircraft around hidden SAM batteries, for example, or pass target instructions as lat/long data or even video.”
Its powerful radar, when combined with long-range missiles, could give the bomber another new role: interceptor, a role traditionally given to smaller, more maneuverable fighter jets.
How do nukes, drones and lasers figure in? Read the rest here to find out.
From Defense One
There’s no evidence that drone strikes work — that is, they don’t bring us any closer to resolving a conflict, writes David Alpher, an adjunct professor at George Mason University who analyzed data from 14 years of drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan. “On the contrary, ample evidence shows drone strikes have not made Americans safer or reduced the overall level of terrorist capability. The strikes amount to little more than a waste of life, political capital and resources.” Read Alpher’s argument, here.
Xi can’t always get what Xi wants. The upcoming U.S.-China summit is unlikely to give Beijing the outcomes it wants most, writes the Council on Foreign Relations’ Elizabeth Economy. Those include recognition of a new international order. “Chinese scholars and officials speak often of a new international order. It is unclear what this means exactly except that they believe China is on track to assume a role equal to that of the United States in purveying security and establishing international norms and institutions—in the context of either a bipolar or multipolar world.” Economy explores that, and a few other things the Chinese really want, here.
Wave your hand, unlock a door. That’s one promise, anyway, of so-called contactless fingerprinting. Another is faster, cleaner, and even surreptitious identity-checking by U.S. military in the field. But the ability to collect biometric data without physical contact has sparked concerns about surveillance and data theft. NextGov’s Aliya Sternstein has the story, here.
In just over a week—on Wednesday, September 23—join DOD acquisition head Frank Kendall as he keynotes Defense One LIVE’s “The State of Defense Acquisition” in Crystal City, Va. Catch the full agenda and register for your spot right 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? Here’s our subscribe link. And please tell us what you like, don’t like, or want to drop on our radar right here at email@example.com.
Two huge military tradeshows are on tap this week, one in London and the other in the DC area. We’ll start on the other side of the pond, where Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber is at DSEI, one of the largest arms expositions in the world.
Expect to hear lots about how Europe is changing the way it thinks about defense to counter Russia’s resurgence as the boogeyman in the region. The exposition kicks off Tuesday, but there are a bunch of seminars today, including one focusing on future types of helicopters. Most of the British military leaders are schedule to speak at the event, including Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Gen. Sir Nicholas Carter, chief of the general staff.
Make sure you follow Marcus on Twitter (@MarcusReports) for updates and lots of pictures.
Back in Washington, the Air Force Association’s annual Air and Space conference kicks off in National Harbor, Maryland. The looming question is when will the Air Force select a winner — either Northrop Grumman or a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team — to build its new stealth bomber.
But don’t expect many industry announcements, says Defense News’ Aaron Mehta: “Major companies such as Boeing, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman are skipping the traditional press release deluge of defense shows and, in some cases, are not holding any formal briefings for reporters,” he writes. But Defense Secretary Ash Carter is to speak, as are most of the top Air Force leaders.
Egypt’s crackdown on violent extremists led to the death of a dozen Mexican tourists this morning when security forces mistakenly attacked a convoy of four vehicles they thought contained militants in the country’s western region, near the border with Libya, Reuters reports.
Russia isn’t hitting the brakes on its military build-up inside Syria, U.S. officials told The New York Times on Sunday. “At least seven giant Russian Condor transport planes [have] taken off from a base in southern Russia during the past week to ferry equipment to Syria, all passing through Iranian and Iraqi airspace… Their destination was an airfield south of Latakia, Syria.”
Washington’s near-term problem: “how to encourage Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq, who came to power with the blessing of the United States, to block the Russian flights.”
The bigger picture: Moscow’s flights ferrying equipment and troops to Latakia “could become the most significant new Russian military foothold in the Middle East in decades,” NYT writes.
About 200 Russian marines and six Russian howitzers now guard the air base south of Latakia, according to U.S. intelligence estimates. “More prefabricated buildings have been delivered, increasing the housing capacity to 1,500 people,” reports NYT. “Dozens of Russian vehicles have been observed at the base, including about a dozen advanced infantry fighting vehicles. American intelligence has not detected Russian fighter jets.”
“But some American officials said Russian Su-25 and MiG-31 attack planes might arrive in the next phase of the buildup. They could be sent in crates and assembled in Syria or be flown to the base, officials said.” Read the rest, here.
Female Marine officer warns against lowering standards in light of the Corps’ new study. Less than a week after the Marine Corps released their findings on the combat effectiveness of all-male versus co-ed units, Lt. Col. Kate Germano says the service perhaps inadvertently set the women up for failure because “to have expected women to succeed in the study would have demanded that the participants have faced the same high performance standards from the very beginning of their Marine Corps service.” Which they do not, she argues in the pages of Time.
“Although female recruits have historically underperformed in every quantifiable category at boot camp,” she writes, “the Marine Corps has never acknowledged this to be a fundamental obstacle to the success and credibility of female Marines. Ultimately, the impact of lowered expectations for female performance at boot camp were reflected across the spectrum of the study’s results.”
“Over the past year, many male Marines voiced concerns that the Marine Corps would lower standards in order for females to qualify for the infantry. However, to be fair, male senior leaders have perpetuated lower standards for female conduct and performance in the Marine Corps since the first women were recruited. We have simply become what our leaders allowed us to be.”
Peek behind the curtain of the cybersecurity intelligence analysts of iSight Partners in this NYT profile of the company, which is set to go public next year. “Our business,” said CEO John P. Watters, “is tracking the arms merchants and bomb makers so we can be left of boom [military jargon for the moment before an explosive device detonates] and avoid the impact altogether.”
“iSight analysts spend their days digging around the underground web, piecing together hackers’ intentions, targets and techniques to provide their clients with information like warnings of imminent attacks and the latest tools and techniques being used to break into computer networks… Its analysts—many of them fluent in Russian, Mandarin, Portuguese or 21 other languages—infiltrate the underground, where they watch criminals putting their schemes together and selling their tools.” More here.
And lastly today, please do not get drunk with your friends in the Pentagon parking lot. Especially when you have wires protruding out the door of your car. That’s what happened Sunday at about 7:20 a.m., when Pentagon police hauled in three people who awoke suddenly and tried to drive away when authorities called in a bomb squad to investigate the scene. Fortunately, nothing hazardous was found, and all three in the car were taken into custody. That story here.