Truck bomb in Syria; Marines deploy anti-drone rifle; USAF may hire civilians to dogfight pilots; Putin’s best summer ever; and a bit more.

A large truck bomb has rocked the Kurdish city of Qamishli in Syria, killing nearly 50 and wounding at least 140, al-Jazeera and Kurdish media Rudaw News report this morning here and here, respectively. AFP calls it the deadliest attack to hit the city since the start of the Syrian war. ISIS took responsibility for the bombing two hours after it hit Qamishli, calling it “a response to the crimes committed by the crusader coalition aircraft” in Manbij.

“[T]he truck bomb attack targeted the main security building of the Kurdish forces located on Amuda road. The neighborhood is also home to some of the Kurdish autonomous region’s ministries and the offices of the Democratic Union Party (PYD),” Rudaw reports, adding “there were rumors of car bombs having infiltrated the city a few days before the attack, ‘but people kept saying it is just rumors. It is like that everyday.’”

It’s difficult “to put into words the looks on the faces of Syria children traumatised in one bombing/rocket attack/air strike after another,” said AFP reporter Sara Hussein, who uploaded aftermath footage from the scene, which she said some of the footage was simply too bloody for broadcast. Read more of her feedback here.

Exposed: the arms pipeline from Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Slovakia, Serbia and Romania to the Middle East—with a helping hand from U.S. Special Operations Command. That according to a year-long investigation by a “team of reporters from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP),” The Guardian reports this morning, writing some of the biggest deals were approved just last year. “Eastern and central European weapons and ammunition, identified from videos and photos posted on social media, are now being used by western-backed Free Syrian Army units, but are also in the hands of fighters from Islamist groups such as Ansar al-Sham, the al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, Islamic State, factions fighting for the Syrian president, Bashar-al-Assad, and by Sunni forces in Yemen.”

How did they arrive at these findings? “Detailed analysis of airport timetables, cargo carrier history, flight tracking data and air traffic control sources helped pinpoint almost 70 flights that very likely carried weapons to Middle Eastern conflicts in the past year…Since December 2015, three cargo ships commissioned by the US military’s Special Operations Command (Socom), in charge of the covert supply of weapons to Syria, have left Black Sea ports in the Balkans for the Middle East, according to American procurement documents and ship tracking data.”

The haul: “Some 4,700 tonnes of Warsaw Pact weaponry—including heavy machine guns, rocket launchers and anti-tank weapons, as well as bullets, mortars, grenades, rockets and other explosives—have been delivered from Bulgaria and Romania to military facilities in Jordan and Turkey, according to procurement documents and ship tracking data. The latest US-chartered ship left Bulgaria on 21 June carrying about 1,700 tonnes of the same materiel to an unidentified Red Sea port.” Lots more to that story here, or read the full report from investigators over here.

Speaking of weapons, the U.S. Marines are using a “Battelle DroneDefender anti-drone rifle” to thwart ISIS in northern Iraq, the Washington Post’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff reported Tuesday. “According to the rifle’s description on the manufacturer’s website, the rifle takes “no extensive training” and “disrupts the adversary’s control of the drone, neutralizing it so no remote action, including detonation, can occur.” The rifle is a “non-kinetic” weapon, meaning it doesn’t use bullets. The system has the ability to disrupt the user’s control link to their drone as well as its ability to sync with a GPS network. It is unclear what type of frequency the rifle uses to attack its target, but the size of the dual front-mounted antennas suggest that the disruption pulse is distributed across multiple radio frequency bands. The rifle has a range of roughly 400 yards, will hit a drone in a 30-degree cone and can be ready to use and fire in less than a second, according to the site.” More here.

Get to better know Iraq’s Golden Division of counterterrorism police, via this short history from WaPo’s Loveday Morris, who calls them Iraq’s “best weapon” against ISIS.

And ICYMI: France, UK, and the U.S. all called for an “immediate” truce to fighting in Aleppo on Monday. Growing support for the measure “could lead to a draft resolution to enforce the UN plan,” AFP reported, adding the crucial caveat that “it remained unlikely that Russia, Syria's ally, would back such a measure.” That, here.

Pentagon turning to private ‘bad guys’ to dogfight U.S. fighter pilots. That’s right: “Viper” and “Jester” from “Top Gun” might soon be replaced by contractors. “Facing a shortage of pilots, dollars, and training time, the Pentagon wants private pilots and fighter jets to play the bad guys during dogfighting and other drills with military pilots,” writes Defense One Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber. More here.

That news emerged yesterday when Air Force Secretary Deborah James sat with Weisgerber for a Defense One Leadership Breakfast. (Here’s the video, via Facebook Live.) James played down talk of the Air Force looking to buy two separate planes to replace the A-10 attack plane. “I have not actually seen a proposal on any of this that has come forward to me,” she said. “Where would we get the money [is] not at all clear to me.” More here.

Indeed, the Air Force has a nine-figure bill looming as it prepares to buy new B-21 bombers, upgrade ICBMs, and develop a controversial new cruise missile. Asked whether that money should come out of the Air Force’s already taxed budget or a different account, James said: “Certainly, I’m in favor if it’s done for one leg of triad, the submarine force, it ought to be done for the two other legs.” She was referring to the special budget account Navy’s Ohio-Class Replacement Submarine. More here.

Other tidbits: The Air Force released a list of bidding parameters for a new jet training aircraft it wants to buy, here. The service is facing a shortfall in maintenance workers, here.

From Defense One

Vladimir Putin’s best summer ever. Hacking the Democratic Party’s servers is just part of Putin’s plan to prove that democracy doesn’t work. With Britain leaving the EU, Turkey suspending military operations and increasing autocracy, and Trump talking about NATO becoming a pay-for-play deal, the Russian leader must be celebrating his geostrategic gains. From Truman Project’s Nathan Kohlenberg, here.

(And a pushback from Heritage’s James Jay Carafano: “Putin’s Days Are Numbered.”)

China is rising near a key U.S. war base. Here’s how we push back. Djibouti is host to the sprawling American Camp Lemonnier, the base of operations against extremists in a wide range of countries, and Obock, where China is building its first overseas naval installation. To balance the rise of Chinese influence, the US must support democratic processes and hold the government accountable to international law, argues James D. Durso. Read that, here.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1777, Congress created the Army Medical Department. Send your friends this link: And let us know your news:

U.S. intelligence agencies are coalescing around a narrative of Russian government involvement in the hack of Democratic National Committee servers that ripped the scab off Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders tensions from months ago—and could be the first time a foreign government has interfered in an American election, The New York Times reported last night. “American intelligence agencies have told the White House they now have “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee,” the Times’ David Sanger and Eric Schmitt reported. President Barack Obama himself didn’t rule out the possibility in an interview with NBC News Tuesday night, saying, “Anything’s possible,” before adding, “on a regular basis, they try to influence elections in Europe.”

But proving intent to prop up GOP contender Donald Trump is a more elusive trick, the Times writes. “American intelligence agencies have their doubts that the Russian intention, at least initially, was to sway the American election. The intrusion began just shortly after Mr. Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination. At the time, his chances looked minuscule. One senior official noted that while the cyberattack might have been intended to embarrass Mrs. Clinton, who was the presumptive nominee, it could not have been aimed at bolstering Mr. Trump.” More here.

For what it’s worth, the Kremlin this morning denied (of course) interfering in the U.S. election via the hack.  

Don’t look now, but there are more hacked credentials up for sale on dark web, including allegedly “stolen credentials that purportedly give access to servers of the US Navy, Centers for Disease Control, US Postal Service, and other US government sites,” Tech Insider reported Tuesday. “Prices range from .5 Bitcoin ($329) for the CDC to 3.5 Bitcoin for the Navy, or about $2,300 at current market rates. [The seller ‘popopret’] told Tech Insider the credentials were acquired by ‘sniffing a botnet,’ which suggests the hacker had hijacked a large number of computers (a botnet) and was actively keeping an eye on them (sniffing) for interesting traffic being passed through, such as usernames, passwords, and documents. Neither this claim nor whether the seller's credentials are legitimate could be independently verified by TI. However, it's worth noting that The Real Deal is often the source of major data breaches and hacker exploits.” More here.

Eastern diplomacy, contextualized. America’s Navy Chief, Adm. John Richardson, explained to reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday why he spent a good portion of last week in China, more than a week after the Hague ruling on jurisdictional claims in the South China Sea. “I made it absolutely clear,” Richardson said, “that we’ve got interests in the region and we’ve got commitments to allies and partners in the regional and, oh by the way, international law permits us to be there and we're going to continue to be there. I think they kind of understand that we are going to be there.” They also discussed the occasionally very heated media wars over the South China Sea, Richardson said. More of that, here.

Your HumpDay #LongRead (don’t worry: it’s not that long): How the U.S. Army evolves, by Army officer Luke O’Brien, who takes a close look at a new book called “Forging the Sword,” which examines “the numerous doctrinal changes the Army has undergone since 1975,” O’Brien writes in War on the Rocks.

And lastly today, “If War Is Hell, Then Coffee Has Offered U.S. Soldiers Some Salvation,” NPR reports in this combat caffeine comparison beginning with the Civil War, then running through Vietnam before ending in Afghanistan—where tea (chai—and frequently nothing like you’d get at Starbucks, your D Brief-er can attest) is the preferred brew. The common thread running through it all? Getting to better know those you work with in wartime. All that, here.