Syrian ceasefire, more or less; Bloody day in Baghdad; USAF activates new cyber weapon; When a bigger budget isn’t better; and a bit more.

Despite some “incidents,” Syria’s ceasefire “is largely holding,” UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said this morning. The French, meanwhile, want answers on some of “incidents,” and have convened a meeting of the cease-fire task force for 9 a.m. EDT. in Geneva.

The Saudi-backed opposition High Negotiations Committee claimed Syria’s government violated the deal “15 times within the first day (Saturday), and that there were further violations by Russia and Hezbollah,” Reuters reports.

While they talk in Switzerland, you should go see how Russia views the ceasefire. You can find their map of the affected areas—a very tiny smattering of turf—here.

On Sunday, Airstrikes were reported in Aleppo province, across northern Syria, and in one town in the northwest. As well, Syrian state news reported artillery fire originated from Turkey and landed inside its borders near the town of Tel Abyad and Suluk—where U.S.-backed forces repelled an Islamic State offensive on Saturday, but not before ISIS reportedly captured took some 100 hostages between Tel Abyad and Khanaser, south of Aleppo.

For what it’s worth, about a week ago some 30,000 Syrian residents reportedly fled the scene toward ISIS-held territory for fears of what the Syrian Democratic Forces might do to those who had passively allowed ISIS to take towns in the area. A bit more on the context there, here.

Baghdad just had its bloodiest day of the year. Two suicide bombers struck a crowded market in Sadr City, killing 70 and wounding more than 100 others on Sunday. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and one other at Abu Ghraib, next to the international airport, which opened with six car bombs and killed 17 Iraqi troops. “Army and police sources said the militants had attacked from the nearby Islamic State-controlled areas of Garma and Falluja, driving Humvees and pickup trucks fixed with machine guns,” Reuters reports.

Baghdad sent helicopter gunships to Abu Ghraib, reportedly killing some 20 fighters. It also called on the help of Hashid Shaabi, a enclave of Shiite militias, to help recover some semblance of order to Abu Ghraib.

Start preparing for the collapse of the Mosul Dam, the State Department warns U.S. citizens living in Iraq. The potential calamity is not particularly imminent, the State Department said in a statement this morning. Rather, the advice comes “out of an abundance of caution.”

Baghdad disagrees, calling “the potential for the dam’s collapse rare and referred to warnings in some reports as unsubstantiated,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

A new fact-sheet estimated somewhere between 500,000 and a million-and-a-half Iraqis “live along the river in high-risk areas, along a 300-mile flood path that also includes much of Iraq’s irrigated wheat farmland,” the Journal writes. “‘The flood wave would resemble an inland tidal wave between Mosul and Samarra, and would sweep downstream anything in its path, including bodies, buildings, cars, unexploded ordinances, hazardous chemicals, and waste,’ it warned. Flooding south of Samarra ‘would resemble that of Hurricane Katrina,’ with water reaching Baghdad in days.” Read the rest, here.


From Defense One

Don’t fall for Obama’s $3 billion arms buildup at Russia’s door, say Lawrence J. Korb and Eric Goepe: “There is no Russian resurgence. Washington is playing on your Cold War fears to get you to pay for something the U.S. does not need and can’t afford.” Read their piece, here.

The rise and fall of the “kill box” in U.S. military strategy. The free-fire zone was once reserved for state-on-state conflict. But in today’s counterterrorism wars, you can be marked for death simply by finding yourself inside an American kill box. Scott Beauchamp writes for The Atlantic, here.

Obama’s security clearance overhaul lands with a thud before lawmakers. The plan, which assigns the Pentagon to guard new investigations, appears to just be “window dressing on a broken home.” Via Nextgov, here.

Welcome to the Leap Day edition of the The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1864, Abraham Lincoln nominated Ulysses S. Grant to be the Army’s first three-star since George Washington. Here’s a subscription link to send your colleagues: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Got news? Let us know: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


2016 candidates are glossing over one of the most important parts of their foreign policy platforms: the size of the Pentagon’s budget. “Giving the Pentagon a blank check does not ensure security,” writes the New York Times editorial board this morning. “It got most of what it wanted in the decade after 9/11, yet America still struggles to keep Afghanistan and Iraq from falling to insurgents.”

Their bottom line: “Before any infusion of new funds, the Pentagon, which has wasted billions of dollars on misguided programs, needs to prove it can be a better steward. Congress needs to reform the military health care program, whose costs are spiraling out of control. One place to save: Scale back the planned $1 trillion, 30-year modernization of a nuclear arsenal that will never be used and spend the money on conventional weapons that are needed to fight the Islamic State and other threats.” More here.

While we’re on the topic of military advice, let’s jump to U.S.-Japan space relations, courtesy of military budget guru Todd Harrison from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Harrison and his pal, Zack Cooper, discuss “non-kinetic [anti-satellite] weapons, such as lasers to blind satellites and jammers to disrupt their communications.” These gizmos “are particularly worrisome because they could be used prior to the initiation of overt military conflict, effectively creating a ‘grey zone’ dilemma in space where intentions are ambiguous and the risks of escalation and miscalculation are high,” Harrison and Cooper write. Read their report, which was just released this morning, here.

The U.S. just made its second cyber weapon in a month fully operational—the Cyberspace Vulnerability Assessment/Hunter (aka, “CVA/H”). What’s it do? “Provides the ability to find, fix, track, target, engage and assess advanced persistent threats to [Air Force] missions on prioritized network enclaves within the [Air Force Information Network].” Got all that? No? Read on here.

In case you missed it, Defense Secretary Ash Carter sat down with NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday to talk the Pentagon’s ramped-up efforts against ISIS, Russia’s complicating presence in Syria, and the White House’s plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden says the U.S. military may not follow orders from a President Donald Trump, if POTUS Trump keeps up the promises from the campaign trail. The Washington Post has that one, here.

So what should a new U.S. president focus on in the realm of national security? Michele Flournoy and Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Security worked up an agenda with seven recommendations, here.

Female USAF flight officer hits 1,000 combat flight hours. “Major Jennifer,” one of the 10 percent of the F-15 pilot-and-backseater community who are women, reached an elite status on Feb. 13 during a strike mission against the Islamic State. A weapon systems officer with the 391st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, “Jennifer flew her first combat sortie in 2009 during the first of her two tours in Afghanistan,” Military Times reports.

And the UAE’s very first female strike pilot led a recent mission against ISIS. CNN, here.

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