AP: US knew about Kunduz hospital; Obama halts Afghanistan drawdown; SecDef hushes women-in-combat talk; Sextants return to USNA; and just a bit more...

Troubling new allegations surround the Kunduz bombing. U.S. Special Forces were reportedly tracking a Pakistani operative believed to have been using the Doctors Without Borders hospital “to coordinate Taliban activity” in the days before the facility was destroyed by a U.S. gunship, killing nearly two dozen patients and staff in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on Oct. 3, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
“The special operations analysts had assembled a dossier that included maps with the hospital circled, along with indications that intelligence agencies were tracking the location of the Pakistani operative and activity reports based on overhead surveillance, according to a former intelligence official who is familiar with some of the documents describing the site,” writes Dilanian. “The intelligence suggested the hospital was being used as a Taliban command and control center and may have housed heavy weapons.”
However: “No evidence has surfaced publicly suggesting a Pakistani died in the attack, and Doctors Without Borders, the international organization that ran the hospital, says none of its staff was Pakistani.”
“This would amount to a premeditated massacre,” said Meinie Nicolai, president of DWB’s operational directorate.
The implications of the AP report “complicate an already murky picture and add to the unanswered questions about one of the worst civilian casualty incidents of the Afghan war. They also raise the possibility of a breakdown in intelligence sharing and communication across the military chain of command.” Read the report in full, here.

President Barack Obama has halted the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan, “scrapping his withdrawal plan from a war he once declared over and leaving a final drawdown to a successor,” Defense One’s Molly O’Toole writes.
If the Afghan security forces were to fail, he said Thursday, “it would endanger the security of us all…This modest but meaningful extension of our presence, while sticking to our current, narrow missions, can make a real difference. It’s the right thing to do.” Read the rest, here.
Many welcomed the president’s decision, but many also called it “insufficient.” Former Green Beret and White House policy advisor Michael Waltz is in both camps, and lays out five reasons to expand a policy re-assessment of Afghanistan even further—including too few intelligence assets devoted to the fight there, rules of engagement that are still too restrictive, the U.S. still maintains it is leaving Afghanistan, and two others you’ll find here.
Want a brief history of U.S. troop deployments to Afghanistan since 2001? The graphics team at Agence France-Presse has you covered here.

The Pentagon’s pending review of women in combat roles is getting tense. One day after the service chiefs submitted their analytics-backed recommendations on which frontline combat jobs and special forces roles should remain closed to women, U.S. Defense Secretary Carter circulated a memo—obtained by Defense One—ordering senior military leaders to pipe down about the issue until the secretary issues his decision, expected at the start of next year. But U.S. Army Chief Gen. Mark Milley had one more thing to say, as Defense One’s Gayle Tzemach Lemmon writes:
“Women have been fighting in combat for quite some time,” Milley said. “Last time I checked, my daughter is every bit as much of an American as my son. I don’t want to see either one of them get hurt...But I think both of them have a right to defend their country.” Read Lemmon’s report in full, including the Oct. 2 memo, here.
And by the way: the Army is about to graduate its third female from Ranger School today, Stars and Stripes reports.
Meantime, the Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe found that there were seven reported sexual assaults in a Marine unit created for the sole purpose of researching the integration of women into combat roles, he reported Thursday.
The USMC reax: “This behavior — whether on duty, on liberty, or online — is not in keeping with our core values and is detrimental to victims and to unit cohesion and readiness,” said Maj. Chris Devine, a Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon. “Without violating the confidentiality of our Marines, it’s impossible to tell if the sexual assaults they experienced occurred at the ITF, while on liberty or leave, or at a prior unit. Because of the anonymous reporting, these cases of sexual assaults could have occurred [as a member of the integrated task force] and could have occurred prior to joining.” More here.

From Defense One

How many ISIS fighters has the U.S. actually killed? The Defense Department cautions against using “body counts” as a metric of success in its campaign against the Islamic State, but it continues to advertise them anyway. So what are the appropriate increments of progress toward the goal President Barack Obama laid out to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS,” asks The Atlantic’s Kathy Gilsinan.

How much should local governments spend on cyber defense? IT leaders in one Arizona county are working to document the returns on cybersecurity investments. Route Fifty’s Bill Lucia has the story.

ICYMI: As cyber threats proliferate, the U.S. Naval Academy wants to ensure future navigators know what to do if satellites and GPS suddenly go dark. Quartz’s Steve Mollman explains.

P&B watch, FY16 budget edition: The latest defense authorization bill includes a 1.3 percent pay raise for troops in 2016, an overhaul of the retirement system, and money for basic housing allowances. But the whole project is in limbo as the president weighs his veto threat of the measure he says unduly dodges sequestration. Government Executive’s Kellie Lunney has more.

Welcome to the Friday edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Tell your friends to subscribe here: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Want to see something different? Got news? Let us know: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.

In Turkey this morning, Ankara’s military shot down an “unidentified aircraft violating airspace from Syria” after warning it to depart three times, The Guardian reports. BBC’s Daniel Sandford adds that Turkish officials say the aircraft was in fact a drone. And here are some purported images of the quite small aircraft.
Meanwhile in Syria, Iranian and Hezbollah fighters began an offensive south of the key city of Aleppo backed by Russian airstrikes, Reuters reports this morning. “The assault means the army is now pressing insurgents on several fronts near Syria’s main cities in the west, control of which would secure President Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power even if the east of the country is still held by Islamic State.” Said one Syrian military source: “This is the promised battle.”
Fighting on Thursday north of the city of Homs left 60 dead, half of them women and children, according to the UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
And for the first time, the Justice Department has charged a suspect with both terrorism and hacking, WaPo reports: “Ardit Ferizi, a citizen of Kosovo, was detained in Malaysia on a U.S. provisional arrest warrant…Ferizi is accused of passing the data to Islamic State member Junaid Hussain, a British citizen who in August posted links on Twitter to the names, e-mail addresses, passwords, locations and phone numbers of 1,351 U.S. military and other government personnel.”

Today at the White House, President Obama welcomes his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye. You can guess what tops the agenda: North Korea and China, as AP writes.

Beijing, meantime, is reportedly striking a conciliatory tone over South China Sea tensions, Reuters writes. “China is willing to hold joint exercises with ASEAN nations next year in the South China Sea on rules about accidental encounters at sea, search and rescue, and disaster relief,” according to a statement carried by the Defence Ministry on its microblog.
And heads up: Freedom of navigation movements near China’s artificial islands is simply routine and not provocative, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Thursday. “If a freedom of navigation patrol happens soon, it would most likely be conducted by the destroyer Lassen,” Navy Times’ David Larter writes ahead of a proposed patrol still pending authorization from the White House.

More worrisome F-35 news. This time it’s about that black high-tech Darth Vader-like helmet. Tests this “summer discovered that a lightweight pilot’s neck could snap during a low-speed ejection.” More here.

Lastly today: As many in the Beltway know, when it comes to the CIA, don’t lie to the Agency. But don’t lie about working for the Agency either. Former Fox News analyst Wayne Simmons knows that all too well now after his arrest Thursday for claiming to have been an agent of Langley for decades. Simmons talked a lot of game, WaPo notes. So much that at one point he found himself deployed overseas as an intelligence adviser to senior military officers. “I’d sure like to know what senior leaders he was advising,” says Doctrine Man!!. The Agency, in case you’re wondering, refers any further questions to the U.S. Attorney's Office.