A big intel haul in Syria; Cluster-bombing Aleppo; Afghan SOF in fierce fights; Obama, Trump speak; and a bit more.

The U.S. military’s big 4TB intelligence score in Manbij, Syria. Make that 4.5 terabytes, consisting of more than 10,000 documents on the Islamic State group’s operations in the strategic border town in the north, a known hub for transiting and dispatching foreign fighters, U.S. military spokesman Col. Chris Garver said Wednesday.

“We are learning more about Daesh at all levels from this,” Garver said. “It’s a lot of material. It’s going to take a lot to go through, then start connecting the dots and trying to figure out where we can start dismantling ISIS all over from the information that we’re finding up there.”

The data includes computer files, thumb drives, weapons caches, communications equipment, troop manifests, and ISIS-written textbooks, Stars and Stripes and the Washington Post reported.

The stash of files “was collected in various locations in the region around Manbij, where Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters, backed by American Special Operations commandos, have battled Islamic State fighters at a crucial junction between the Turkish border and Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria,” The New York Times reports.

In Iraq, U.S. troops have moved closer to the front lines as America expands its advisor mission, Military Times reported Wednesday: “a small team of American forces deployed for the first time to work alongside an Iraqi battalion and help install a bridge over the Tigris River south of Mosul, U.S. defense officials said. The weeklong mission of engineers in late July was disclosed publicly for the first time on Wednesday. The bridge will provide the Iraqis with a vital ground link to the military airfield known as Qayyarah West, which will play a key role in the imminent attack on Mosul.”

Russia to the rescue in Aleppo. This morning, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced, “On behalf of the President of the Russian Federation, today, (we will) start a large-scale humanitarian operation together with the Syrian government to help civilians in Aleppo,” AP reports, adding the militaries are offering “three corridors… for civilians and fighters who lay down their arms.” Shoigu also used the televised address to ding the U.S. for not collaborating with Russia in the Syrian battlespace.  

“Given the fact that our American counterparts have not provided intelligence about the Nusra Front and Syrian Free Army squads (we) will create a fourth corridor for a safe exist with weapons in the north of Aleppo in the direction of the Castello highway,” said Shoigu.

So far there have been “no immediate signs of people converging on the crossings,” AP writes, quoting an opposition activist as saying “there are no corridors out of east Aleppo and even if there were, he would not take them… The latest offer — like those before it — is largely seen by opposition fighters as a publicity stunt and psychological warfare against the rebels.”

As part of the deal, the Assad regime says it’s giving rebels three months to lay down arms and give up the game. Reuters has more on that, here.

Meantime, “Assad’s forces on Thursday took the Bani Zeid neighborhood on the northern edge of the Aleppo from the rebels as part of a steady advance meant to tighten the siege” on what was once the country’s most populous city.

ICYMI for the last two months, Assad’s Russian-backed air force has been cluster-bombing the dickens out of Aleppo, Human Rights Watch said in a new report just released today. The group says it has “documented 47 cluster munition attacks which killed and injured dozens of civilians in opposition-controlled territory across three governorates since May 27, 2016,” adding, “The actual number of cluster munition attacks is most likely higher” and includes an alleged cluster bomb attack on U.S.-backed forces near the border with Iraq in mid-June. Read on, here.

As the request of U.S. State Secretary John Kerry, Russia said this morning it will send a military attache to Geneva to discuss way ahead in Aleppo, AP reports in this one-sentence story.

Get a better handle on the fighters from Afghanistan who have flocked to Syria’s battlefields in support of the Assad regime via this NYT report from Herat, close to the Iranian border. “Thousands of Afghans, almost all of them Shiite Muslims from the Hazara ethnic minority, have fought in Syria in the past few years, serving in brigades supporting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to their relatives and commanders in Syria. Most of the Afghan men are recruited or drawn from the Afghan diaspora within Iran, a crucial ally of the Assad government. But more and more of the men are coming directly from Afghanistan in the past year, in part because of the increasingly dire state of the Afghan economy, relatives and officials here say.”

In Afghanistan, Kabul’s elite special forces are bearing the brunt of some of the most intense battles, as The Wall Street Journal writes from Shindand, in the west, that that they’re “not feeling so special anymore.”

In the eastern province of Nangarhar, the U.S. military is sending more of its troops to fight the ISIS presence in the east, the Journal also reported Wednesday. “Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said he was making use of a special authority to bring in additional assets, including ground forces, for short-term counterterrorism operations. He wouldn’t indicate how many extra troops had entered Afghanistan, or the timing of their arrival, but said operations were ongoing.”

The fine print: “The arrival of additional forces marks another escalation in a nearly 15-year conflict that also involves efforts to put down the long-running Taliban insurgency,” WSJ reports. Given President Obama’s plans “to slow the withdrawal of troops, leaving 8,400 in the country when his term ends next year, down from around 9,800 troops now,” it’s worth noting—as the Journal writes, that the “additional forces aren’t included in the total because they are members of the military’s global counterterrorism force and will leave Afghanistan after the operation is completed,” according to a senior U.S. official.

That same official “said the first phase of the operation, named Green Sortie, involves airstrikes and missions to kill and capture enemy commanders. He declined to say how many troops were involved.” More here.

From Defense One

Pentagon opens Boston tech outreach office, with an eye to biotech. The East Coast Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, or DIUx, joins the Pentagon’s other DIUx office, based in the Silicon Valley area and unveiled in 2015. NextGov, here.

Obama finally decides who’s in charge when America comes under cyberattack. For years, there's been confusion in the private sector and among agencies about who does what when hackers hit the homeland. Not anymore. Also NextGov, here.

France, ISIS and the fragile unity of a nation under attack. With each new terrorist incident in France, the solidarity that accompanied previous ones becomes harder to sustain. The Atlantic, here.

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1945, the U.S. Senate approved a charter establishing the United Nations, firmly ending its pre-war isolationism. Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.

Obama’s night in Philly. The president took the stage at the Democratic National Convention to laud his former secretary of state—and, as expected, take a few swipes at the GOP’s contender, Donald Trump, Military Times’ Leo Shane III reported from Philadelphia. “Until you’ve sat at that [Oval Office] desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis, or send young people to war,” Obama said. “But Hillary has been in the room. She has been part of those decisions....Even in the middle of crisis, she listens to people, and keeps her cool, and treats everybody with respect.” That, here.

About 10 hours before Obama took the stage, Trump seized headlines yet again by doubling-down on his talk about Russian hackers’ alleged interference in the U.S. election. Many outlets, including the AP and the WSJ, wondered whether it was an invitation to espionage.

The line (in case you missed it): “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said. “I think you'll be rewarded mightily by our press!”

His remarks could amount to a felony, The Daily Beast wrote shortly after the quip heard round the world. “It’s probably the most egregiously stupid thing I’ve ever heard a party nominee say ever,” said Bradley Moss, a lawyer specializing in national security law.

A bit more on the legal implications: “Moss believes that there’s a legal case to charge Trump for his comments, because he was calling for Russia to take ‘imminent lawless action,’ which is speech not covered by the First Amendment. Moss added that Trump could theoretically be charged as a conspirator under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. ‘You could argue what Trump was urging Russia to do was hack Hillary’s server and release the contents to the media—conspiring with them to hack into a private server and release confidential information to the public,’ Moss explained. However, it’s unlikely, Moss continued, because the Department of Justice and FBI are unlikely to want to be ‘diving into a political nightmare.’”

The Pope speaks on international security—and offers a stark warning. After the ISIS-inspired attack on a Catholic church in northern France, the Pope said Wednesday “the world is at war because it has lost the peace.” More on that, here.

In Germany, officials are responding to the wave of recent terror attacks by bolstering the police force and implementing tougher background checks on asylum-seekers, AP reports this morning.

Russia and China say they’ll hold joint military drills in the South China Sea in September, AP and Reuters report this morning. But fear not, Chinese official said the drills will be “routine” and not aimed at any particular country.

And oh by the way, China says it’s pressing ahead with its own anti-missile system in the region, and just released footage alleging to be from a test of that system conducted six years ago.

North Korea wants your attention, and it’s declaring a “war footing” with the U.S. to get it. “North Korea’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs told The Associated Press on Thursday that Washington ‘crossed the red line’ and effectively declared war by putting leader Kim Jong Un on its list of sanctioned individuals, and said a vicious showdown could erupt if the U.S. and South Korea hold annual war games as planned next month.” More from AP’s interview, here.

And the North has just stolen the personal info of 10 million South Korean shoppers, Seoul says.

For what it’s worth: Trump just got the North Korea bump, Reuters reports this morning: “A column carried on Tuesday by DPRK Today, one of the reclusive and dynastic state's mouthpieces, described Trump as a ‘wise politician’ and the right choice for U.S. voters in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election. It described his most likely Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, as ‘thick-headed Hillary’ over her proposal to apply the Iran model of wide sanctions to resolve the nuclear weapons issue on the Korean peninsula.” More of that over here.

Finally today: escapism in TV form, via the folks at the military entertainment site We Are the Mighty. They’ve compiled a list of their top 10 military TV comedies. One of your D-Brief-ers knew about “F-Troop,” but “China Beach” is a whole ’nother story, one that WATM says “the wounded are healed, and everyone else stays sane—by getting crazy.” Eight more over-the-top shows to peruse in video form (of course), right here.