Turkey discloses locations of US troops in Syria; Army seeks Internet-of-Battle-Things; Trump’s undisclosed meeting with Putin; Big exercises in eastern Europe; and just a bit more.
Turkey puts U.S. forces on blast in Syria. Turkish news wire Anadolu published a map of 10 U.S. military bases and outposts in the country. “The Anadolu news agency even listed the number of U.S. troops in several locations and in two instances stipulated the presence of French special forces,” The Daily Beast reports on the episode. The list “points to a U.S. presence from one end to the other of the Kurdish self-administration region—a distance of more than 200 miles.”
Recall, of course, that “Turkey has openly criticized the Trump administration—and the Obama administration before it—for relying in the battle against ISIS on a militia led by Kurds affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK,” TDB writes. “A separatist movement now at war with Turkey, the PKK has been listed by the U.S., EU, and Turkey as a terror organization.”
Notes TDB: “Anadolu had already published the information Monday on its Turkish language service and then issued it on its English language services Tuesday. In addition, some of the locations on the Anadolu list were already known in public. The Iranian Tasnim news agency, for example, last November published the names of two bases and two outposts, and the Jusour Center, a Syrian think tank, published the locations of two additional outposts in April.”
The coalition’s reax: “Publishing this type of information would be professionally irresponsible and we respectively [sic] request that you refrain from disseminating any information that would put Coalition lives in jeopardy,” Col. Joe Scrocca, coalition director of public affairs, told TDB in an email. Read more about each location, via TDB’s write-up, here. More on the wider war against ISIS below.
From Defense One
US Army Seeks Internet-of-Battlefield-Things, Distributed Bot Swarms // Patrick Tucker: After nearly two decades of war against technologically unsophisticated foes, the Army Research Lab is reorienting to counter China and Russia.
Advisory Group Prepping 'Moonshot' Plan to Fight Botnets // Joseph Marks: DHS has commissioned two reports describing what might be done about networks of compromised computers.
The Summer of Misreading Thucydides // Kori Schake: There's a delicious irony in the Trump team's affection for the historian—who repeatedly shows how populists lead societies to ruin.
Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1963: Test pilot Joe Walker flies his X-15 into space. Have something you want to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
Donald Trump had an undisclosed hour-long conversation with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit, the Washington Post reported Tuesday after word of the meeting surfaced Monday evening on “The Charlie Rose Show.” During an evening banquet for the G20 heads of state and their spouses, the U.S. and Russia presidents left the table to confer nearby, accompanied only by a Russian interpreter, the New York Times reports. The paper quotes Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a New York-based research and consulting firm, who said he had heard directly from attendees: “Pretty much everyone at the dinner thought this was really weird, that here is the president of the United States, who clearly wants to display that he has a better relationship personally with President Putin than any of us, or simply doesn’t care.”
No big deal, Trump tweeted: “Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!”
Also reported yesterday: the identity of the eighth person in the July 2016 meeting set up by Donald Trump Jr. with Russians: Ike Kaveladze, a U.S.-based employee of a Russian real estate company. WaPo, here. In 2000, a nine-month Congressional inquiry determined that Kaveladze had laundered $1.4 billion of Russian and Eastern European money through U.S. banks. NYT (from 2000), here.
Here’s a concerning #LongRead: California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was given specific direction by the Kremlin on how to attack the Magnitsky Act — then he did it, The Daily Beast reports this morning.
NATO, Russian exercises mobilize tens of thousands of troops in eastern Europe. On the Western side, there’s Saber Guardian 17, “a series of over a dozen distinct battle drills being carried out by 25,000 troops from 20 countries moving across Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria,” reports Foreign Policy. On the Russian side, there’s Zapad-17. Officially, Moscow says the exercise will involve just 12,700 troops — a number that comes juuuust under the 13,000 level that would, under a 2011 agreement, allow Western observers to join the exercise. “But experts and NATO officials say Moscow is more likely to conduct a series of engagements that will swell those ranks by tens of thousands” — arriving at a total of up to 100,000. And that makes NATO nervous, FP continues. “Given that Russia used a massive military exercise in 2014 to obscure its incursion into Crimea, and invaded South Ossetia in Georgia in 2008 during another exercise that covered troop movements, the alliance is keeping a close eye on Zapad.” Read on, here.
See also: An Atlantic Council panel dissected Zapad-17 earlier this month, moderated by D1’s Caroline Houck. Watch, here.
North Korean weapons can’t hit the U.S. mainland with "any degree of accuracy," Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Paul Selva, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “The North Koreans have yet to demonstrate the capacity to do the guidance and control that would be required” to successfully re-enter an ICBM through the earth’s atmosphere. More from Reuters, here.
One more thing from the Selva hearing: Like the SecDef, he’s no fan of a new Space Corps. Why? “This proposal currently is without adequate study of the root causes of the identified problems, and assumes that a space corps will resolve space challenges without acknowledging the ongoing effort between the Air Force and [U.S. Strategic Command],” he wrote in response to policy questions. More from The Hill, here.
The mood in Mosul: vengeful. That, according to AP’s Susannah George, reporting on revenge killings in the formerly ISIS-held northern Iraqi city.
Tweeted George this morning about what she found: “It is as if the brutality of IS rule in Iraq and the personal nature of the battle created a moral and legal grey area… And when I asked about handing detainees over to Iraq's judicial system one of the soldiers I interviewed laughed at the suggestion.”
Her full story — as it suggests a deep distrust of the Iraqi judicial system, and gets right at the heart of complicated, post-Mosul efforts at stabilizing the country — is worth the click, here.
In case you’re wondering where things stand in the Raqqa offensive, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War have produced a robust map laying out the battle lines and recent gains by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
What you’ll also learn: ISIS now has a "a new type of motion-activated IED."
As well, “The SDF has struggled for over a month to penetrate one ‘significant defensive IED belt’ on the northern outskirts of Ar-Raqqa City... These challenges have been exacerbated by the poor combat performance of elements of the Syrian Arab Coalition of the SDF. Most clearing operations are reportedly led by the Syrian Kurdish YPG while allied Sunni Arabs – often suffering from lower standards of training, equipment, and motivation – serve as the rear holding force.” All that and more, here.
Also playing a part in Syria: “A murky charitable foundation run by the family of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday from Moscow. “Kadyrov has ruled predominantly Muslim Chechnya since the 2004 assassination of his father, a separatist leader who switched sides to support the Russian government after two bloody wars in the 1990s. In recent years, Kadyrov has used Russia's military support of Syrian President Bashar Assad to boost his authority at home and to position himself as Russia's most influential Muslim abroad.”
The story deals less with the fact that Kadyrov is involved in Syria, and more with the apparent highly suspect nature of the foundation acquiring funds from Chechen taxpayers. His foundation is rebuilding mosques in Aleppo and Homs. More here.
And Lebanon’s army is about to begin an offensive on the border with Syria, Reuters reported Tuesday from Beirut. The location: “Juroud Arsal, a barren area in the mountains between Syria and Lebanon, [that] has been a base of operations for insurgents fighting in the Syrian civil war, including jihadists from Islamic State and the group formerly known as the Nusra Front.” Story, here.
Egypt says its security forces have killed a prominent ISIS leader in the Sinai, Reuters reports from Cairo. “The statement said security forces conducted a raid on a building under construction in Arish, a city in North Sinai, where militants had set up a base of operations. An ensuing firefight led to the death of one of the group's leaders, Ahmed Hassan Ahmed Al-Nashu, who is known as Ghandur Al-Masri, and the escape of another.” That, here.
For its fight against ISIS affiliates, Singapore has offered the Philippines “a military transport airplane, drone surveillance aircraft and use of combat training facilities,” Reuters reports this morning. “Surrounded by Muslim majority countries and with a Muslim minority of its own, Singapore is worried by the small but dangerous number of people in the region who have been radicalized by Islamic State.” Story, here.
China’s new lethal drone, “the Caihong 5 (CH-5), or Rainbow 5,” is ready for mass production, The Diplomat reported Tuesday. “The first mass-produced CH-5 made its 20-minute maiden flight at an airport in China’s northern Hebei Province on July 14, China Daily reports... The major draw for buyers is the drone’s relative cheap price tag in comparison to Western models.”
The comparable U.S. model: General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper. While the CH-5 may not have the speed or range of the Reaper, it increases the payload of previous Chinese drones by a factor of 2.6 — carrying as much as 1,200 kilograms, The Diplomat writes. (FWIW: The MQ-9’s payload is roughly 1,700 kilograms, or 3,750 pounds.) What’s more, “The CH-5 is reportedly capable of linking up with other combat drones to conduct joint missions.” Full story, here.