Iraq’s death toll rose past 140 this week after two bombings hit predominantly Shiite neighborhoods around the capital, killing at least 54 and wounding another nearly 100, AP reports: “In an online statement, IS claimed responsibility for the deadliest bombing of the day, which took place in Baghdad’s northeastern Shaab neighborhood and where at least 28 people were killed and 65 others were wounded. In that attack, a roadside bomb first exploded outside the concrete blast walls surrounding the open-air market, followed by a suicide bomber who blew himself up as people gathered to help the victims of the first explosion.”
Just a short while later, “a parked car bomb struck a fruit-and-vegetable market in the Shiite-dominated neighborhood of Dora, in southern Baghdad, killing eight people and wounding 22 others,” while in Baghdad’s eastern Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, “a suicide car bombing hit a crowded outdoor market, killing 18 people and wounding 35 others,” AP writes.
On the bright side, Iraqi authorities were able to get the natural gas facilities at Taji—which ISIS hit in what AP called a “spectacular attack” on Sunday featuring waves of suicide bombers—back up and running.
Last word (for now) from AP: “The assault on Taji came as Islamic State militants are being pushed back along several front lines in Iraq, prompting the Sunni extremists to increasingly turn to insurgency-style attacks to detract from their losses.” More here.
The Pentagon says it has all the troops it needs for Iraq. Or rather, Baghdad reportedly hasn’t asked to use those Apaches and extra advisors Defense Secretary Ash Carter offered in mid-April. “Remember, this is the Iraqis' fight,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Monday. Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the top U.S. commander in Iraq “has everything he needs right now to carry out this fight against [the Islamic State group]. And he will continue to get additional capabilities as needed, and obviously, in consultation with the Iraqis at every step,” Cook said.
The numbers: “The U.S. currently has about 3,500 troops in Iraq, far below the latest White House authorization cap of 4,087,” Military Times reports.
Major world powers are meeting 1,300 miles from Syria (in Vienna) to discuss a way to extend the ceasefire and allow humanitarian aid into besieged cities like Dara’a, in the south, The Wall Street Journal reports from Austria.
Don’t look now, but Russia is reportedly building a remote base near Palmyra, AP reports off DigitalGlobe satellite imagery posted by the American School of Oriental Research’s Cultural Heritage Initiative. See also this Economist report from three days ago on “The withdrawal that wasn’t.”
And now some news from the desperate-ISIS front: Germany’s domestic intelligence chief warns that ISIS-trained children as young as 13 are returning to their home countries to carry out attacks. “However,” NBC News reports, “security officials in Germany are limited in their actions against minors. The legal system prohibits surveillance of people aged under 16 and children are held ‘non-accountable’ until the age of 14.”
U.S., allies open to arming Libya’s “legitimate government,” Secretary Kerry said at a press conference with the Italian foreign minister and Libyan Prime Minister in Vienna, CNN reports.
Explained Kerry: “We are, all of us here today, supportive of the fact that if you have a legitimate government and the legitimate government is struggling against terrorism, that legitimate government should not be made the prisoner or it should not be victimized by virtue of the UN action that has been taken that has always awaited a legitimate government...So we believe it makes sense, but obviously, carefully sculpted. And that’s what we will make sure we do.”
(Not sure which of the three Libyan governments Kerry’s talking about? Read this explainer from Tech Editor Patrick Tucker.)
U.S. troops have allegedly been spotted conducting foot patrols in Libya, the Middle East Eye reported Monday. “There are some US troops on the ground here, near the frontline,” one Misratan soldier, Ibrahim, told MEE. “Everyone here has seen them, but they are not fighting, they are just observing and doing patrols.”
A bit more about that “sighting”: the reportedly very chatty soldier said “there were at least six or seven personnel, who he described as well-armed and well-equipped, with three Japanese vehicles that were noticeably superior to the usual Toyota Hilux trucks favoured by the Libyan armed forces. The US personnel were in occasional communication with one or two very senior Misratan commanders.” More here.
Car bomb attack foiled near Afghanistan’s MoI at about 9 a.m. local, Stars and Stripes reports. “In a statement posted to Facebook, the Interior Ministry said the driver was recognized as he was attempting to get through a checkpoint near the ministry headquarters… In a video accompanying the Facebook post, a man who identifies himself as Shah Agha said he was recruited by a man named Qari Ehsanullah, who he said is the Taliban shadow governor of the Tagab district in the northeastern Kapisa province. He said Ehsanullah took him to training and brought him to Kabul to surveil the area of the ministry and hospital before attempting the attack. The video also shows Afghan officials tearing apart a white car and pulling out many plastic shopping bags filled with powdery substances and detonating cord.”
The foiled attack comes one day after the capital was put on lockdown due to massive protests from the country’s Hazara community over energy distribution plans northwest of Kabul.
The U.S. can’t buy its way to peace with the Taliban, the Washington Post reports from Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan. The heart of the matter: “Two months ago, after the United States and other countries had invested about $200 million in the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program, the six-year effort was effectively suspended while officials reassess its goals.”
The problem, according to one former Taliban commander: “If the government stops paying, these people will find another way to get money, and negotiations will fail.”
And to the west, Taliban factions are reportedly declaring holy war on each other in Ghor and Badghis provinces, Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported Monday.
From Defense One
• 9:00 to 10:30am: Panel: Information Warfare - Security Challenges & Solutions in the Maritime Domain
• 12:15 to 1:45pm: Sea-Air-Space Luncheon featuring Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, by Ben Watson, Bradley Peniston, and Marcus Weisgerber. On this day in 1943, Royal Air Force bombers hit German dams, knocking out power and flooding river valleys. Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next president’s Marine One on track. That’s what Col. Robert Pridgen, the Marine running the program said Monday at Sea-Air-Space. The helicopter, which is based on the Sikorsky VH-92 helicopter, is on or ahead of schedule, he said. That’s a big change from the previous program, which went off the rails due to technical problems and requirement changes. Not the case this time around, Pridgen said. The new helicopter is supposed to fly next year.
Making the Osprey more lethal. The Marine Corps are looking to add firepower and speed to its V-22 Ospreys, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation, said at Sea-Air-Space on Monday. “We’re looking at the same kinds of systems as you’d find in the UH-1Y [Venom and AH-1] Cobras,” Davis said via Navy Times. (If that sounds familiar, you may have read our piece about the Osprey firing rockets in late 2014.)
Navy to get new aircraft carrier in September. At least that’s the plan right now, Capt. Chris Meyer, program manager for the USS Gerald Ford, said on Monday. Sailors are already living on the massive ship, which will undergo sea testing this summer. The $12.8 billion ship, built by Huntington Ingalls Industries, was supposed to be delivered in March.
Navy personnel chief nominated for vice CNO. If confirmed, Vice Adm. Bill Moran would replace Adm. Michelle Howard, who is expected to be nominated for U.S. Naval Forces Europe, but has yet to be formally nominated for the post, Navy Times reports. More here.
The State Department just cleared roughly half a billion dollars in Hellfire and Harpoon missile sales to the UAE and Egypt. The Emiratis are slated to receive 4,000 AGM-114 R/K Hellfire Missiles over three years, along with a training package that costs $476 million. And Cairo is looking at receiving 20 UGM-84L Harpoon Block II Encapsulated Missiles in a package totaling almost $150 million.
Nervous over Beijing’s MIRVs. The folks at the Stimson Center just released a book-length report on China’s nuclear competition in Asia, centering on its production of DF-5B MIRV intercontinental ballistic missiles. Writes the Stimson crew: “The Lure and Pitfalls of MIRVS: From the First to the Second Nuclear Age,” finds that India and Pakistan are likely to respond by placing multiple warheads atop some of their missiles.”
And what are these MIRVs? “The advent of multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles — or MIRVs — during the Cold War increased superpower arsenals by thousands of warheads, prompting concerns of pre-emptive strikes and foiling attempts at effective strategic arms control.” More here.
Stimson is also hosting an event today at 9:30 a.m. EDT on the “impact of drone proliferation on security, strategy and policy.” Details on that can be found, here.