Jailhouse interview with ISIS; NorK missile hits Japanese waters; Pallets of US cash to Iran; USAF calls F-35 battle-ready; and a bit more.

How ISIS plans external attacks. A more complete picture has emerged of the circuitous path the Islamic State group takes when sending fighters out of Syria and sometimes back to their home countries to carry out attacks, The New York Times’ Rukmini Callimachi reports this morning from Germany, after interviewing a former ISIS fighter, Harry Sarfo, in a maximum-security prison near Bremen. The story revolves around “an intelligence unit of the Islamic State known in Arabic as the Emni, which has become a combination of an internal police force and an external operations branch, dedicated to exporting terror abroad,” Callimachi writes.

According to her interview with Sarfo, and backed up by hundreds of pages of European court documents, new recruits play an integral role in linking up attackers and sharing information for external attacks like what occurred in Brussels and Paris. “Taken together, the interrogation records show that operatives are selected by nationality and grouped by language into small, discrete units whose members sometimes only meet one another on the eve of their departure abroad.”

In short, the findings reveal “a multilevel secret service under the overall command of the Islamic State’s most senior Syrian operative, spokesman and propaganda chief, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. Below him is a tier of lieutenants empowered to plan attacks in different regions of the world, including a ‘secret service for European affairs,’ a ‘secret service for Asian affairs’ and a ‘secret service for Arab affairs.’”

And ISIS has also reportedly been poaching al-Qaeda fighters from from Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, too.

Oh, by the way, says Sarfo: “For America and Canada, it’s much easier for them to get them over the social network, because they say the Americans are dumb — they have open gun policies,” he said. “They say we can radicalize them easily, and if they have no prior record, they can buy guns, so we don’t need to have no contact man who has to provide guns for them.”

There’s also a bit of color to the battlefield in Syria in Callimachi’s report: Sarfo said shortly after joining the group in Syria, he was driven to the desert outside of Raqqa—a nondescript locale that turned out to be a nest of caves with everything above ground painted with mud to deter surveillance aircraft flying overhead. From there, a 10-phase training period began. Not long afterward, Sarfo said the group’s brutality led him to attempt an escape, which led to his arrest at the airport on Bremen just over a year ago. Read the rest of what happened between that desert in Raqqa and Bremen—as well as a raft of information useful to intelligence officials—over here.

Japan is on edge after North Korea launched two likely No-Dong ballistic missiles last night; one failed immediately, the other landed in the Sea of Japan after flying about 1,000 km (620 miles), “one of the longest flights by a North Korean missile,” AP writes. “Japan’s Defense Ministry said the missile landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, the 200-nautical-mile offshore area where a nation has sovereign rights for exploring and exploiting resources. Japanese media reported it was the first North Korean missile that has splashed down in Japan's EEZ.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described it as a “grave threat” to Japan and said Tokyo “strongly protested.”

U.S. Strategic Command released a statement saying they “detected what we assess were two North Korean missile launches at 5:53 p.m. CDT… The simultaneous launch of two presumed No Dong intermediate range ballistic missiles occurred near the western city of Hwangju. Initial indications reveal one of the missiles exploded immediately after launch, while the second was tracked over North Korea and into the Sea of Japan.”

Judging intent: One analyst “at Seoul's Institute for Far East Studies said the latest Rodong launch appeared to be aimed at showing an ability to attack U.S. military bases in Japan, a major source of reinforcements for U.S. troops should a war break out on the Korean Peninsula.”

And what’s likely just around the corner: “North Korea is expected to carry out more weapons launches in coming weeks to protest annual U.S.-South Korean military drills that begin later this month,” writes the AP. “North Korea describes the drills as an invasion rehearsal.”

Get up to speed on most of North Korea’s 2016 launches (at least since February) in this tally, also from the AP.

Meantime, Japan just picked a new, “hawkish” defense minister—one day after reports emerged of a new Japanese defense white paper highlighting rising threats from North Korea as well as Chinese aerial and maritime antagonism. “New Minister of Defence Tomomi Inada, previously the ruling party policy chief, shares Abe’s goal of revising the post-war, pacifist constitution, which some conservatives consider a humiliating symbol of Japan’s World War Two defeat.” More from Reuters, here.

From Defense One

F-35 is ‘ready for war;’ now the Air Force wants more, and faster. Buying more JSFs would lower the per-plane price tag and allow the service to retire older jets sooner. Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber has the story, here.

Neither Clinton nor Trump will be able to fix the Pentagon’s budget. CSIS budget guru Todd Harrison says that with the federal budget capped through 2021, defense spending will be an immediate first test of the next American president. Weisgerber, again, here.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1958, the USS Nautilus sailed beneath the ice cap at the North Pole. Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.

A criminal complaint in Turkey targets Dunford, Votel, and Clapper. “The complaint, which has to be accepted by Turkish prosecutors before any action is taken, was filed Tuesday and names Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Joseph Votel, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, and U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper,” AP reported Tuesday.

What is alleges: “[T]hat the American officials conspired with a faction of the Turkish military at Turkey's Incirlik Air Base, a key hub for U.S. military air operations against the Islamic State group in nearby Iraq and Syria.”

News of the formal complaint comes just days after Votel vehemently denied any such accusations, calling such charges “unfortunate and completely inaccurate.”

But that didn’t stop Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from making wild accusations anyway: “The West is supporting terrorism and taking sides with coups," Erdogan said to a crowd in Ankara on Tuesday. “They have actors inside [Turkey] but the scenario of this coup was written abroad.”

All of this comes amid an unprecedented purge of Turkish officials by Erdogan, the scale of which is staggering and has been rolled-up neatly here by the NYTs.

The White House sent pallets of cash to Iran, $400 million worth in non-U.S. currency, with very suspicious timing in January—very possibly on the exact day when four American prisoners were released from Iranian captivity, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday evening. “The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi,” the Journal writes, with the critical kicker that the shipment “also coincided with the formal implementation that same weekend of the landmark nuclear agreement reached between Tehran, the U.S. and other global powers.”

And that timing lends to the story—which comes out more than six months after the cash was sent—the appearance of impropriety. It also leads some, perhaps jokingly, to ask whether this means there will soon be a “going rate” for “diplomat, soldier or just citizen.”

However, the Journal writes, “Senior U.S. officials denied any link between the payment and the prisoner exchange. They say the way the various strands came together simultaneously was coincidental, not the result of any quid pro quo.”

State Department Spokesman John Kirby: “Not only were the two negotiations separate, they were conducted by different teams on each side, including, in the case of The Hague claims, by technical experts involved in these negotiations for many years.”

Complicating factor: “Since the cash shipment, the intelligence arm of the Revolutionary Guard has arrested two more Iranian-Americans. Tehran has also detained dual-nationals from France, Canada and the U.K. in recent months.” Read the rest, here.

The U.S. is still dropping bombs over Yemen, launching at least four airstrikes against al-Qaeda fighters there in the month of July, U.S. Central Command said Tuesday. “Eleven members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were killed in the strikes, all which took place in the province of Abyan,” The Long War Journal writes.

For what it’s worth: “According to CENTCOM, the US has launched 12 airstrikes against AQAP in Yemen this year,” LWJ’s Bill Roggio writes. “However, The Long War Journal has recorded 22 airstrikes against AQAP in Yemen in 2016. This discrepancy may be due to the fact that CENTCOM may not have released all of its data. It is also possible that the CIA instead executed some of the airstrikes, or that strikes attributed in the press to the US military were conducted by Saudi Arabia.”

With the U.S. military (for now) semi-regularly bombing ISIS in Libya, it could be very instructive for American voters to get Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick Tim Kaine’s input, The New York Times writes in a Tuesday op-ed. For years, Kaine has been a staunch defender of a new authorization for the use of force against ISIS, the same authority used now across half a dozen countries. Read the Times’ op-ed take on the new war in Libya, here.

The Obama administration should really stop trusting Russian President Vladimir Putin, say the Washington Post editorial board in their rock-and-a-hard-place take on the war in Syria, here.

More on the USAF’s new nuke plans: Following up on Weisgerber’s report on Friday, Bloomberg reports that a) DoD acquisition chief Frank Kendall “has convened a closed session of the Defense Acquisition Board for Wednesday” and b) “The Air Force plans to award two 36-month contracts by September 2017 for the ICBM’s technology development phase and then one contract in about 2020 for engineering, manufacturing, development and first five production lots, Leah Bryant, spokeswoman for the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, said in an e-mail.” Read, here.

Lastly today: In 1942, Disney made a cartoon “on how to effectively operate a high-caliber rifle used to take down tanks,” the military entertainment site, We Are the Mighty, wrote in late July. “‘Stop That Tank!’ was a 22-minute instructional film produced by Walt Disney Productions in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada,” they write. “In it, a cartoon rendition of a prancing Adolf Hitler breaks the monotony of the forthcoming chore: sitting through another instructional film that the soldiers would soon be watching. Afterwards, Disney’s signature vintage mix of using actual characters, cartoons, and a narrator, provide detailed instructions on the proper techniques of using the rifle — such as loading, aiming, firing, and cleaning.” Read more here, or watch the video for yourself over here.