Violence sweeps across Somalia; US-backed force advances in north Syria; Iran’s fingerprints on Fallujah plan; Army maintainers’ skills erode; and a bit more.

In Somalia, a raid and a U.S. drone strike, and then a deadly al-Shebab attack in the capital. On Wednesday, Al-Shebab militants killed 16, including two lawmakers, and wounded another 55 in a complex attack on a hotel in central Mogadishu, Reuters reports this morning after security forces shot dead the last of what the militant group said were three fighters who carried out the attack.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is still waiting to find out if it actually killed a Shebab “senior military planner” named Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, who is believed to have been behind attacks in Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya.

“He held several positions of authority within the terrorist organization over the years, including head of the Amniyat, al-Shabaab’s security and intelligence branch,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Wednesday.

Separately, “Local security forces in the coastal Somali town of Kismayo announced on Wednesday that Mohamed Mohamud Ali, the suspected architect of the bloodbath in [the 2015 attack on a university that killed nearly 150 people], had been killed in a raid in southwestern Somalia overnight,” al-Jazeera reports this morning. “Sixteen armed men, four of them senior commanders including Mohamed Mohamud Ali, known as Dulyadin...were killed by the Somali commandos and the special forces of the Jubaland,” an autonomous region in southern Somalia, said the region’s minister of state security, Abdirashid Janan.

The U.S. military said it helped in that hit, but “declined to describe what kind of support it provided the African forces in the raid, though the US routinely provides intelligence and helicopter transport to east African allies,” The Guardian reports.

Elsewhere in Africa, the UN says Mali needs an extra 2,500 peacekeepers after “Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility on Wednesday for an attack [Tuesday] on two U.N. sites in northern Mali where a peacekeeper from China and three civilians were killed and over a dozen others were wounded,” Voice of America reports. “Ban’s report…calls for increasing the maximum number of U.N. soldiers in Mali by 2,049 personnel, which would raise the force’s authorized strength to 13,289. The report said the additional troops should bring capabilities such as intelligence gathering and surveillance, explosive disposal and protecting supply convoys. Ban also called for adding 480 U.N. police, which would raise the ceiling for police in the U.N. mission, known as MINUSMA, to 1,920 personnel.” More here.

The U.S.-backed Syrian force sweeping across the north wants civilians to leave the area so they aren’t killed as they move on the strategic foreign fighter gateway town of Manbij, Reuters reports on location at the Euphrates River. “We confirm that this campaign will continue until the liberation of the last inch of the land of Manbij and its rural areas,” said a joint statement in the name of the attacking Syria Democratic Forces and allied Manbij Military Council.

“We urge our people in the city of Manbij to stay away from all centres and positions where the Daesh terrorists are present because they will be military targets for our forces. We call on them to take measures to ensure their safety,” Manbij Military Council commander Adnan Abu Amjad said, adding his council “represented all the area's ethnic groups which he listed as Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Circassians.”

Allegations of civilians casualties in the area are already mounting, including 15 deaths around Manbij, according to the advocacy site

Meantime, Syrian allied strikes have reportedly killed 58 in northwest Idlib, hospital director told CNN Wednesday.

For the first time since 2012, a small amount of aid has reached a besieged suburb of Damascus, The New York Times reported Wednesday. “Despite appearances of a relaxation, however, international aid workers, opposition figures and Western officials said the aid deliveries, conducted by the United Nations and the Red Cross, were minimal and contained no urgently needed food.”

So what was involved? “[S]ome wheelchairs and a few dozen boxes of items like infant formula, vaccines, mosquito nets and anti-lice shampoo, according to residents reached by telephone and the internet. Another aid convoy was allowed into the nearby town of Moadamiya, which had not received any supplies for a month.” Read the rest—including a generous amount of disgust from officials and aid workers over the small number of supplies allowed in—here.

Assad has dispatched his PR maven to the National Press Club in Washington today, via Skype. Bellingcat digs into what we can expect from that, here.

In Iraq, Iran’s fingerprints are all over Baghdad’s Fallujah plan, U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman writes. “All sides agree that liberating Fallujah is simply a matter of time. The effect, though, of an Iranian sponsored victory may only further complicate the total war against the Islamic State group.”

Said one analyst: “We shouldn’t kid ourselves… This is what pushes the Mosul operation into delaying it indefinitely, because there are still other questions [about the involvement of Shi’ite militias across Iraq] that haven’t been answered yet.” More here.

And on other ISIS-claimed turf, this time in Libya, militias are advancing on the group’s stonghold of Sirte with competing agendas, NYTs reports as “military action on the ground is moving faster than the country’s tangled politics.” That, here.

From Defense One

We’re now 8 days out from our first-ever Defense One Tech Summit on June 10. Come hear speakers from Silicon Valley to Crystal City — Ash Carter, DOD, NSA, DARPA, USAF, and more — at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Get the full schedule, registration page, livestream link — here.

What’s missing as NATO rearms its eastern flank? Diplomacy. An arms buildup alone won't keep the Baltics safe, but a parallel Cold War-style diplomatic track just might, argues Ulrich Kühn of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy in Hamburg, Germany. Read that, here.

A judge shouldn’t force Congress to debate war. Feckless lawmakers are certainly ducking one of their most solemn duties. But a soldier's lawsuit won't fix things, writes The Atlantic’s Garrett Epps.

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of The D Brief, by Ben Watson, Bradley Peniston, and Marcus Weisgerber. On this day in 455, the Vandals began their Sack of Rome. Send your friends this link: And let us know your news:

B-52s head to Europe for training. Three Buffs are to deploy June 2 from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, to RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, to participate in exercises led by U.S. European Command (Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 16 and Saber Strike 16) and U.S. Africa Command (Just Hammer). It’s the third year in a row for B-52s at RAF Fairford; the giant bombers were also in Europe in March for Exercises Cold Response and Serpentex, according to a U.S. Strategic Command press release.

What penalties will Boeing face for delivering KC-46 tankers late? “As with any contract schedule breach, the Air Force will seek consideration commensurate with the impact of the breach,” Maj. Robert Leese, a service spokesman at the Pentagon, said in an email this morning. The Air Force will “secure consideration from Boeing” as it now resets the project’s schedule. The Air Force’s contract with Boeing does not does list specific penalties for missing schedule deadlines, Leese said. The big hiccup delaying the deliveries is that the tanker cannot tank up C-17 cargo planes because of a problem with the refueling boom.

That didn’t take long. Just three months after retiring from the Army, Gen. John Campbell has been appointed to BAE Systems’ boards of directors for a three-year term. “His knowledge and perspective on the U.S. military’s needs around the world will be highly valuable, and I’m pleased to welcome him to the board,” said Michael Chertoff, BAE’s board chairman. Campbell’s final post was as the top American commanders in Afghanistan. He was succeeded in Afghanistan by Gen. John Nicholson.

Afghan assessment coming shortly. The U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan will send his recommendations “up the chain” in the next few days, spokesman Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland said Wednesday, The Washington Examiner reports. “Two big questions face the veteran military commander: whether to ask the president once again to extend the stay of some 9,800 U.S. troops who are part of two separate missions in Afghanistan, and whether to recommend ending the ban on targeting Taliban forces with offensive airstrikes, in order to back up the struggling Afghan forces, who are just now beginning to have some success against a resurgent Taliban.” More here.

The White House’s position on troop levels in Afghanistan is hampering soldiers’ ability to stay sharp, the Washington Post reports after getting their hands on a new report from the Army. “According to the Army document, only 6 percent of the [4th Infantry’s Combat Aviation Brigade] is dedicated to maintaining aircraft. That small number is specifically for recovering aircraft that land or crash in a hostile environment. Instead, 427 civilian personnel — at a cost of $101 million annually — are maintaining the CAB’s fleet of helicopters. Through 2014 and 2015, 390 contractors maintained both the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions’ aircraft for $86 million when their CABs were deployed to Afghanistan.” More here.

Shhhhhh….America’s special forces veterans are adopting a quiet and possibly revelatory therapy for PTSD, The Daily Beast’s Kim Dozier reports. “It’s called Accelerated Resolution Therapy, a new tool to treat acute trauma, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression that is being adopted into the menu of treatments available at Walter Reed and other army centers, and a vanguard of trailblazing veterans groups. Partly because it works so fast, military leaders hope it could help handle a backlog of PTSD cases, and encourage more troops to seek treatment. It requires no surgical procedure, unlike another new-ish treatment called stellate ganglion block, in which local anesthetic is used to numb or block part of the nervous system.”

The big OPSEC advantage: “unlike talk therapy or other commonly used methods, where the subject shares what’s bothering them out loud, the soldier need share nothing with the therapist.” Read the rest, here.