Yemen says no to USSOF?; Trump talks safe-zone with Turkey; A bigger threat than banned refugees; About-face on cyber norms; and just a bit more...

Yemen under the microscope. Yemeni officials have requested a “reassessment” of the deadly U.S. and UAE special forces raid January 28 on an al-Qaeda facility, the Associated Press reports this morning. But Foreign Minister Abdul-Malik al-Mekhlafi denied a Tuesday report from The New York Times alleging, “Yemen has withdrawn permission for the United States to run Special Operations ground missions against suspected terrorist groups in the country, according to American officials.”

According to the Times, “the Yemeni ban on operations does not extend to military drone attacks, and does not affect the handful of American military advisers who are providing intelligence support to the Yemenis and forces from the United Arab Emirates.”

About a third of the way through, the Times’ story notes, “Neither the White House nor the Yemenis have publicly announced the suspension. Pentagon spokesmen declined to comment, but other military and civilian officials confirmed that Yemen’s reaction had been strong.”

Said Foreign Minister al-Mekhlafi this morning: "Yemen continues to cooperate with the United States and continues to abide by all the agreements” while staying “involved in talks with the U.S. administration on the latest raid." That short hit from AP, here.

For a closer look at the underlying dynamics in Yemen—and how President Trump is trying to work through them—Reuters spoke with experts and tribal leaders who described a murky, uncertain picture of what lies ahead: "Rather than advancing a political solution that almost everyone agrees is the only way to solve the conflict, it seems the Trump administration's actions are just adding fuel to the fire," said Adam Baron, a Yemen expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Added a nameless Yemeni tribal leader: "If they had just bombed the place it would have been much easier and less risky, but it looks like Trump is trying to say 'I'm a man of action'. It looks like the new President has watched a lot of Steven Seagal movies.” More here.

Also in Yemen: The UN said this morning it needs more than $2 billion to avert famine after nearly two years of war that has left “nearly 19 million Yemenis—more than two-thirds of the population—[in] need assistance and protection.”

Parsing the meaning of the White House’s announcement it has put Iran “on notice: "If the administration believes the latest round of sanctions puts Iran on notice, that would only serve as a marginal and incremental change to Obama's strategy against Iran," Christopher Swift, a former official in the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, told US News. Deploying the USS Cole could be a marked shift, said Swift. "Quite honestly, that's the thing that has me a little more worried right now." Much more over here.  

While we’re on the subject of Iran, don’t miss the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Missile Defense Project, “Missile Threat,” where you cand a robust look at Tehran’s missile arsenal.

Elsewhere in the region: Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan “agreed in a phone call overnight to act jointly against Islamic State in the Syrian towns of al-Bab and Raqqa,” Reuters reports. “The two leaders discussed issues including a safe zone in Syria, the refugee crisis and the fight against terror, the sources said. They also said Erdogan had urged the United States not to support the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia,” which it is doing to a very substantial degree as Western special forces partnered with Syrian Kurds pushed ahead this week with phase three of the Raqqa offensive, dubbed Euphrates Wrath.

Turkish sources also told Reuters “new CIA Director Mike Pompeo would visit Turkey on Thursday to discuss the YPG, and battling the network of U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating a July coup attempt,” Reuters writes, noting the White House has not yet confirmed that visit. More here.

Secretary Kelly takes the blame. “Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a House committee that the Trump administration should have taken more time to inform Congress before implementing its executive order temporarily blocking entry of people from seven nations,” The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

"The thinking was to get it out quick so that people trying to come here to harm us could not take advantage of a period of time to jump on an airplane," Kelly said. “Going forward, I would have certainly taken some time to inform the Congress, and certainly that’s something I’ll do in the future,” he said, adding the confusion that resulted from the rushed rollout was “all on me.” More here.

A former FBI analyst dug into the figures on federal terrorism cases and found “nothing” to support the White House’s claims on protecting the country from terrorist attacks—but she did find this: “Since January 2015, the FBI has also arrested more anti-immigrant American citizens plotting violent attacks on Muslims within the U.S. than it has refugees, or former refugees, from any banned country.” That’s part of a very exhaustive analysis posted over at Lawfare blog, which you can dig into for yourself here.

The Pentagon’s latest demographics data is out, thanks to analysts at CNA, working off figures from fiscal year 2015. Some of the dominant takeaways: “Enlisted recruits from neighborhoods in the lowest and highest household income brackets are somewhat underrepresented. Geographically, accessions from the South are overrepresented, providing 20 percent more accessions than their population share would predict. In the enlisted force, racial minorities are overrepresented, primarily due to overrepresentation of African Americans.”

And there’s also this stat on the rise of female officers: “The percentage of women in the enlisted force has moved little in the past two decades, fluctuating between 14 and 15 percent. By contrast, the percentage of female commissioned officers has steadily climbed throughout, hitting 17.7 percent in FY15. For both the enlisted and officer forces, military women are considerably more racially and ethnically diverse than men; this difference is large and is found in every service.” Find the full study, an annual report mandated by the Senate Armed Services Committee, here.


From Defense One

The Future Depends on Fixing Readiness Now, Vice Chiefs Tell Lawmakers // Caroline Houck: Service leaders' annual pilgrimage to Capitol Hill also serves as Phase One of Mattis' long-range plan.

'You're Fired!' Will Not Fix Federal Cybersecurity // Earl Crane: Sacking agency heads after a breach won't make data and systems safer. Here's what will.

The US Does An About-Face on New Cyber Norms // Nextgov’s Joseph Marks: The U.S. delegate now says a UN cybersecurity group should pause hashing out new rules for online behavior and instead try to get governments to adhere to the ones we have.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1238, the Mongols took the Russian city of Vladimir. Exactly 666 years later, Imperial Japan launched a surprise war against Russia. (Got a tip? Let us know by clicking this link to email us: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.)


The Pentagon wants to rent space in Trump Tower. The military needs a place to put the communications team and other White House support personnel when President Trump is at his New York home, and a DoD spokesman said the Pentagon was “working through appropriate channels and in accordance with all legal requirements.” But Richard Painter, an ethics advisor President George W. Bush could not recall a similar funneling of Pentagon money to the commander-in-chief’s private business interests. “I have never heard of a president charging rent to the DOD or any other part of the government so they can be near him on his travels,” Painter said. “He should give them for free a very limited amount of space and they can rent nearby if needed.” The Washington Post has more, here.

In Afghanistan, six Red Cross workers were killed and another two have gone missing in northern Jowzjan province, AFP reports this morning. The organization has not released the names of those killed, and doesn’t yet know who is responsible.

Surprise, surprise: Corruption and “double-dealing” persist in Afghanistan, Bloomberg reports this morning.

Afghanistan’s military wants more U.S. air support, its national security advisor told reporters in Brussels Tuesday.

ICYMI: Get to better know the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, operating over Iraq “to jam enemy communications and radar, leaving ISIS leaders and fighters blind and deaf, and with no idea what one another are doing,” Air Force Times reported Monday.

In other weapons news, this time in the cyber domain: “Federal prosecutors in Baltimore are expected to seek an indictment as early as this week against a former National Security Agency contractor who is accused of carrying out the biggest theft of classified information in U.S. history,” WaPo reported Tuesday. “The indictment against Harold T. Martin III is expected to contain charges of violating the Espionage Act by ‘willfully’ retaining information that relates to the national defense, including classified data such as NSA hacking tools and operational plans against ‘a known enemy’ of the United States, according to individuals familiar with the case.”

About Martin’s haul (or hoarding): “Some U.S. officials said that Martin allegedly made off with more than 75 percent of TAO’s library of hacking tools — an allegation which, if true, would be a stunning breach of security.” More here.

And lastly, another bit of military aircraft news: In Japan, F-35Bs are flying around Okinawa, their first announced training flights since arriving in-country on their first overseas deployment last month. Stripes, here.

Four more years of BRRRRRT: The A-10 Warth...er, Thunderbolt II won’t be retired until at least 2021, USAF chief Gen. David Goldfein told reporters Tuesday. The Air Force will set a date with Defense Secretary James Mattis, Goldfein said. FlightGlobal, here.

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