US fires cruise missiles at Yemen; Network failure at USAF drone command; Anti-drone tech for ISIS fight; Russia’s inflatable tanks; and a bit more...

U.S. attacks positions in Yemen with “limited self-defense strikes.” The USS Nitze fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at three radar sites in Houthi-controlled turf on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. The U.S. response came after U.S. ships dodged more missiles from Yemen on Wednesday (the first episode was on Sunday). The radar sites targeted by U.S. Tomahawks were “involved in the recent missile launches threatening USS Mason and other vessels operating in international waters in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said late last night in a statement.

“The strikes—authorized by President Obama at the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford,” Cook said, “were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway. The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate, and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb, and elsewhere around the world.”

The Tomahawks hit “areas in Yemen where the radar were located as near Ras Isa, north of Mukha and near Khoka. Shipping sources told Reuters sites were hit in the Dhubab district of Taiz province, a remote area overlooking the Bab al-Mandab Straight known for fishing and smuggling.”

Despite no early mention of any concern for civilian casualties from the Tomahawk’s, an anonymous defense official told Reuters this morning that “the targeted radar sites were in remote areas where the risk of civilian casualties was low.”

It’s a concern worth flagging, as Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations did Wednesday evening, since the “last time the U.S. Navy fired cruise missiles into Yemen, 41 civilians were killed.”

It’s also worth bringing up because of Saturday’s deadly strike by the Saudi-led coalition on a funeral that killed at least 100 and wounded another 500. That attack, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday, appears to have been a war crime. More on their take, here.

As before, the Houthis deny the thwarted attacks on U.S. Navy vessels came from their fighters or territory under their control—adding the U.S. move was designed to "escalate aggression and cover up crimes committed against the Yemeni people." More here.  

For what it’s worth: the U.S. military recently used “self-defense strikes” as the reason for targeting al-Shabab militants in Somalia twice in a three-day period in late September. The Long War Journal has more on that scene, here.

And here’s a short list of missile attacks on U.S. warships.  

A massacre took place in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Tuesday when “at least 100 were killed when the Taliban fighters opened fire on them from all directions as they tried to flee through the agreed-upon retreat route,” Afghan officials said Wednesday. Writes the NYTs: “Accounts of the massacre, which happened Tuesday near the southern city of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province, punctuated a growing crisis in Afghanistan’s armed forces that goes to the heart of their sustainability: They are sustaining enormous casualties from a revitalized Taliban insurgency and are facing increased problems recruiting. Many vacancies go unfilled.”

A glimpse at casualties, more broadly: “From March to August, about 4,500 Afghan soldiers and police were killed and more than 8,000 wounded, according to information provided by a senior Afghan official who had seen the tallies, but like others spoke on condition of anonymity to share sensitive information. In August, the police and the army sustained about 2,800 casualties, more than a third of them fatal.”

The big problem: the soldiers aren’t being replaced. For example: “In August, the police recruited 650 new officers, in the face of more than 1,300 lost to casualties, arrests or desertion.”

Why is this year’s fighting seemingly so much more difficult to reign in compared to years past? Haroon Chakhansuri, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, “attributed the recent intensity of the war to insurgents receiving what he described as unprecedented support from Pakistan, long accused of harboring the Taliban as a proxy,” the Times writes.

Chakhansuri: “We can see there is a lot of truth and evidence — in the examples of fighting in Uruzgan and Kunduz — that terrorist groups and their operations are led by foreigners and generals, and they are receiving military and financial support from outside Afghanistan,” he said. “The way this war is managed, it shows that this is done by experts. This is very clear.” Read the rest, here.

From Defense One

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Welcome to Thursday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1775, the Continental Congress ordered the creation of the Continental Navy. (Send your friends this link: And let us know your news:

The U.S. Air Force is looking into what took down its SIPR system at Creech Air Force Base, home to many of the U.S. military’s drone operations, on September 9. Not that that means the drone ops were scuttled, reports: “Speculation into the matter was prompted by a solicitation, posted Oct. 7. The contract request noted, ‘On 9 September 2016, the SIPRNet system currently in operation at Creech AFB failed and critical services were impacted. The services were somewhat restored with the use of multiple less powerful devices. This temporary solution stabilized the services, but will not be able to maintain the demand for very long. If this solution fails, there is currently no other backup system.’ The outage would not have affected remotely piloted aircraft missions because those flights are not operated on the SIPR network.” More here. Or check out Buzzfeed’s more presumptive take, here.

Don’t think for a second that deception in wartime is a thing of the past. The U.S. military deployed inflatable “dummy tanks” back in the Second World War; now Russia is using a sharp-looking inflatable decoy of its MiG-31 fighter jets, The New York Times reports. Also available from the manufacturer: inflatable S-300 air defense systems; T-80 tanks; missile launchers; and, yes, bouncy castles. More here.

Japan says it will expand its base in Djibouti, Africa. Why? “To counter Chinese influence,” Reuters reports this morning. The justification: Tokyo “need[s] to have aircraft there to evacuate Japanese citizens from nearby trouble spots or areas hit by natural disasters… Japan is considering deploying C-130 transport aircraft, Bushmaster armored vehicles and extra personnel to the base but has not yet decided on how many.” More here.

Recall that The Economist called Djibouti “The superpowers’ playground” back in April—highlighting the busy military scene there with troops from the U.S., France, Japan, Spain, Germany—with additional interest from Saudis, Indians and the Russians. Not to mention, of course, China. That, here.

Speaking of military expansion plans, Russia plans to set up a “Pacific Heavy Bomber Division to patrol seas near Japan, Hawaii, and Guam,” IHS Janes reported Tuesday. “The division will be located at airfields at Belaya, in the Irkutsk region, and Ukrainka, in the Amur region, which are in the Central and Eastern Military Districts respectively. Consisting of ‘several dozen Tu-95MS [NATO designation 'Bear'] strategic missile bombers and Tu-22M3 ['Backfire'] long-range bombers’, according to media statements, the division is based on the 6953rd Guards' Red Banner, Pacific Air Group, which was disbanded in October 2008.” More here.

Lastly today: A young Canadian woman is headed to Syria to fight ISIS—again. Her name is Shaelynn Jabs, she’s 20 years old, and she’s already been injured fighting the group once, forcing her to come home for medical help in March. Now she’s back, as she promised she would if she healed up, CBC News reported this week. “In Syria, she joined the Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG), also serving with the all-female Kurdish faction known as the YPJ. Jabs planned to work as a medic after researching online how to wrap tourniquets and treat bullet wounds, but soon found herself in combat. Not long after her arrival, Jabs was asked to carry the casket of fellow Canadian John Gallagher, who reportedly died in a suicide bomber attack. She didn't know him, but considered it an honour. It made her realize she could be next, she said, and she found that freeing,” CBC reports.  

"It made me able to do things without fear," she said of carrying the body of Gallagher. Much more to her story, here.