Mass arrests in Turkey; Incirlik AB re-opens; GOP convention preview; The race to equip warplanes for quick modification; And a bit more.
Eyes are on Turkey this morning after Friday’s failed coup by a portion of its military has triggered the broad crackdown everyone knew was coming. Despite their spectacular failure, the plotters did manage to steal at least one refueling tanker plane from Incirlik Air Base, temporarily halting American airstrikes and other counter-ISIS flight ops from the base. But the Pentagon said Sunday normal operations there have resumed.
Toward the capital of Ankara, however, there’s a lot of personnel shuffling to take care of in the coming days. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has so far fired 9,000 people, including 90 governors, 103 generals and admirals ( nearly one-third of the military’s top brass); arrested another 6,000 troops; and suspended some 3,000 judges, according to the Interior Ministry this morning.
Many Turkey-watchers fear the government’s response will plunge the country farther from the “promise of democracy” Erdogan has failed to deliver on during his presidential tenure, considering “No politician in Turkey’s history has managed to master democracy better than Erdogan–only to then hold it hostage for his own political ends.”
Also this morning, President Erdogan “extended an order for fighter jets to patrol the airspace over Istanbul and Ankara, and banned military helicopters from taking off in Istanbul,” The New York Times reports.
Erdogan says he knew about the planned coup at least seven hours before it happened. If his remarks are to be believed, he had a real Hollywood-style escape from his vacation near the coastal resort of Marmaris: “Around 25 soldiers in helicopters descended on a hotel in Marmaris on ropes, shooting, just after Erdogan had left in an apparent attempt to seize him, broadcaster CNN Turk said. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had also been directly targeted in Istanbul during the coup bid and had narrowly escaped, the official said, without giving details.” The alleged attack at the vacation site bombed places Erdogan “had been at shortly after he left,” causing the president to escape “death by minutes,” a Turkish official told Reuters.
Shortly afterward, rogue F-16s reportedly locked radars on Erdogan’s jet as it flew to Ankara. “Why they didn't fire is a mystery,” a former military officer told Reuters.
Meanwhile back at Incirlik, “An MQ-1 Predator was the first aircraft to take off from Incirlik after the airspace was reopened, followed by a KC-135 tanker,” Marine Corps Times reports, quoting Lt. Col. Christopher Karns, a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces Central Command. “The Air Force flies KC-135 tankers, MQ-1 Predators and A-10 Thunderbolt II fighters from Incirlik. The Marine Corps also has EA-6B Prowlers there,” MC Times notes, adding, “The Turkish officer who was in command of Incirlik Air Base and 11 other Turkish troops on the base were arrested by Turkish authorities for allegedly taking part in the coup attempt.” More here.
The Republican National Convention kicks off today with a focus on national security, or at least that sliver represented by “Benghazi Day,” Military Times’ Leo Shane III reports. Speakers include: “Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a National Guard lieutenant colonel who led a combat combat support battalion in Iraq, and Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, a 22-year Navy SEAL who led special operations personnel in Iraq. Both will deliver prime time speeches Monday touting their credentials and praising Trump’s plans to rebuild the military.” Also included: “Pat Smith, the mother of a U.S. foreign service officer killed in the attack, Marine Corps veterans John Tiegen and Mark Geist, security contractors involved in the fight.”
But don’t expect any big revelations, Shane writes: “It’s unlikely that officials will outline clearer how Trump will pay for the massive expansion in shipbuilding, new aircraft purchases and end strength increases that he has promised in recent months. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort said the goal of the week is not to detail new specifics for the candidates plans but to help the American public ‘better understand the breadth of the man himself” as well as highlight ‘the failed policies of the (President Barack) Obama and Clinton administration.’”
Shane and colleague George Altman have also just released a big feature on the U.S. military’s take on the two presidential candidates, Trump and Hillary Clinton—writing that, “By and large, the military thinks Trump and Clinton are total losers.” Catch that, along with a raft of polling data, over here.
While the U.S. remains “on edge” this morning in the wake of this weekend’s killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, La., information has emerged that the presumed shooter was a former Marine who served in Iraq during 2008—and whose victims included another veteran, Matthew Gerald. “The alleged gunman was identified as Gavin Long, a 29-year-old African-American man and former Marine sergeant, according to a person briefed on the investigation. The suspect was from Kansas City, Mo., and was affiliated with an antigovernment group,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Sunday’s shooting occurred about 8:40 a.m. at a shopping center not far from Baton Rouge police headquarters, said Col. Michael Edmonson, superintendent of the Louisiana State Police. Baton Rouge officers at the scene observed a man carrying a rifle and dressed all in black standing behind a beauty-supply store, he said. Police believe the alleged gunman Long lured the officers there to ambush them, a person briefed on the investigation said.”
A bit more about the ex-Marine: “Long served in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years as a data network specialist, including a six-month deployment to Iraq in June 2008, according to his military service record. He left in 2010 with the rank of sergeant, having spent time at stations in Okinawa, Japan and California. The Marine Corps declined to comment on the nature of his discharge from the service.” More from the Journal, here.
From Defense One
Yesterday’s bipolar nuclear strategy isn’t going to cut it in Asia. In a region with nuclear powers declared, undeclared, and potential, the U.S. needs a strategy to match, says Georgetown University’s Matthew Kroenig. Read about the myriad nuclear relationships, and what the U.S. do about them, here.
Flexible flyers: companies race to equip warplanes for quick modification. With innovation a new strategic imperative, aircraft builders are making it easier for planes to accept hardware and software improvements. Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber Marcus Weisgerber reports from the Farnborough Air Show, here.
The Navy’s future submarines may go to sea with robot remoras. The sucker-headed fish are drawing attention as the fleet imagines ways to bring drones to the undersea domain. Editorial fellow Caroline Houck reports, here.
Congress should demand wiser, not more, war spending. There’s too much slush in the supplemental, as shown by the fourfold jump in spending per deployed servicemember, argues William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He explains, here.
Following the failed coup, Erdogan’s broken democratic promise to Turkey lives on. No politician in Turkey's history has managed to master democracy better than President Erdogan, only to hold it hostage for his own political ends. Via Quartz, here.
In the future, we’ll stop truck attacks with the push of a button. Sound guns, car zappers, and pain rays are some of the ways we will (and won’t) stop vehicle-based terrorism in the next decade. Tech Editor Patrick Tucker reports, here.
Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1914, Congress created the Aviation section of the Army’s Signal Corps, giving aircraft their first official niche in the service. Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Air Force says the F-35 can go fight ISIS—probably sometime between August and December—if the U.S. wants it to, Air Force Times writes: “Reports indicated the plane might not reach operational capability until near the end of 2016 due to problems with its onboard software. But [Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command] said fixes have been made and the plane is almost ready to go. 'We’re not quite ready yet, but things are going very well in the program,' he said. 'I see it at the front end of that August to December window.'”
F-35s could go everywhere, according to officials ready to get this program moving. In addition to the Middle East, deployments could send the aircraft to Europe and the Pacific region—possibly joining aircraft rotations over the South China Sea. More “We’re doing fine, really,” coverage of the F-35, here.
Beijing just announced military drills in the South China Sea, AP reports. Officials said this morning that “an area southeast of the island province would be closed from Monday to Thursday, but gave no details about the nature of the exercises. The navy and Defense Ministry had no immediate comment.”
The announcement comes one day after America’s top naval officer, Adm. John Richardson, visited Chinese officials in Beijing—with that scheduled meet expected to wrap on Tuesday.
On top of China’s SCS drill announcement, “In a further show of defiance, Beijing followed the ruling by landing two civilian aircraft on new airstrips on disputed Mischief and Subi reefs and dispatched its coast guard to block a Philippine fishing boat from reaching a contested shoal.” Read the rest, here.
In Iraq, “Powerful Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr instructed his followers on Sunday to target U.S. troops deploying to Iraq as part of the military campaign against Islamic State,” Reuters reported Sunday night. “Sadr, who rose to prominence when his Mahdi Army battled U.S. troops after the 2003 invasion, posted the comments on his official website after a follower asked for his response to the announcement. 'They are a target for us,' Sadr said, without offering details. The Mahdi Army was disbanded in 2008, replaced by the Peace Brigades, which helped push back Islamic State from near Baghdad in 2014 under a government-run umbrella, and maintains a presence in the capital and several other cities.”
And in Syria this weekend, an explosion rocked a munitions factory in Aleppo, causing an enormous ball of fire to be seen from at least as far away as 100 kilometers.
Regime troops, meanwhile, cut “the last supply route into eastern areas, sparking concern for tens of thousands of civilians,” AFP reports as “an estimated 300,00 people [who] live in the rebel-controlled neighbourhoods of Syria's second city… [fear] they could face starvation.”
The Telegraph’s Josie Ensor has a similar report from Aleppo, writing on that last route known as Castello Road as “the sound of barrel bombs [came] crashing to the ground.”
Finally today, former CIA Director Leon Panetta says the international community is on the verge of a “worst-case scenario” in Syria: “Assad continues to remain in power, continues to kill Syrians. That refugees continue to flow out of Syria, that the Russians continue to have a presence there and continue to attack our moderate forces that we're trying to train in Syria. And that ISIS then uses that and creates an even bigger base from which to conduct attacks against this country. That's the worst-case scenario.”
Asked CBS News' Margaret Brennan in reply: “Sounds like you're describing what's happening now.”
Replied Panetta: “It is what's happening now. And it's what can continue to happen in the future if we don't deal with it.”
The former SecDef’s advice: “[T]he next president is gonna have to consider adding additional special forces on the ground to try to assist those moderate forces that are taking on ISIS, and that are taking on Assad's forces. And we have to increase our air strikes. We've got to do all of those things in order to put increasing pressure on ISIS but also on Assad. We can't surrender one objective for the other. We've gotta continue to press on both fronts.”
Watch the full interview over here.