Terror on Spain’s coast; Trump meets on Afghan strategy; Navy details destroyer collision; Armed militias after Charlottesville; and just a bit more...

Spanish police have killed five “would-be attackers” this morning just hours after two cars plowed into civilians at a Barcelona vacation spot known as La Rambla, and in the coastal city of Cambrils on Thursday, Reuters reports.

ISIS claimed responsibility shortly after the attacks began in La Rambla (map from Reuters, here) and then eight hours later in Cambrils — eventually leaving 34 dead and at least 100 injured, with victims spread across 34 different countries, according to NBC News. “Police shot dead five of the Cambrils attackers, who were wearing fake suicide belts.” So far this morning, “Four suspects have been detained in separate arrests across the region.”

However, the driver of the van in the first attack at La Rambla is still believed to be at large, Reuters reports.

There were three related events, The New York Times’s Rukmini Callimachi explains on Twitter this morning. The first was “An explosion in a house in Alcanar on [Wednesday], the van attack in Barcelona [on Thursday] and [the] car attack in Cambrils.”

These three events suggest different plans she calls A, B and C: “Plan A was to load the large truck with explosives & ram it causing a catastrophic explosion. That failed [because] they couldn't rent big truck. Plan B was to load 2 smaller vans with explosives. That failed too. They didn't know how to prep the explosive & blew up [the] house [in Alcanar] instead. That brought them to Plan C — which was to use 2 smaller cars to ram people, first on the Ramblas, and later in the town of Cambril.”

Jihadi trivia: “The town of Cambrils where the attack happened is next to Salou,” Lorenzo Vidino of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism told Callimachi. “Both [cities] play[ed] a role in the 9/11 attack.”

President Trump’s response to the attacks? First, a rather conventional one: “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!”

But 45 minutes later: “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!” This was widely viewed as an allusion to an debunked tale Trump told on the campaign trail, in which the U.S. Army leader had 49 Filipinos shot with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. Toronto Star: “It would be remarkable even if the story were true: the president advocating extrajudicial killing, involving religious prejudice, as a method of deterring terrorism. But the story is fake, historians say. Trump was citing an internet hoax that has circulated in email forwards since at least 2001.” Read, here.

From Defense One

Armed Militias Won't Stop After Charlottesville, and That Worries Law Enforcement // Caroline Houck and Patrick Tucker: The presence of armed, right-wing militia at political events is becoming more common.

Rename US Army Bases for Heroes, not Confederates // Mark R. Jacobson: Our soldiers should walk through gates that honor those who fought for the United States, not against it.

Why defense firms stayed silent after Charlottesville; Making weapons do more; Lockheed gets huge SOCOM deal. And more. // Marcus Weisgerber: Global Business Brief.

Why Military Chiefs Are Condemning White Supremacy // Andrew Exum: The U.S. armed forces have had troubles with extremists enlisting in the past, and they don't want it to happen again.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1965: Operation Starlite, the first major ground battle of the Vietnam War. Have something you want to share? Email us at the-d-brief@defenseone.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)

President Trump’s Afghan strategy meeting is today at Camp David. Can reducing the number of troops, or removing them completely (except for some special operators) actually help advance the full range of America’s strategic interests? That’s the question put forward by Barry Posen, director of MIT’s Security Studies Program, writing in The Atlantic this morning. The title of his piece: “It's Time to Make Afghanistan Someone Else's Problem.” Read it, here.
In honor of “men who mean just what they say — the brave men of the Green Beret.” The American service member killed fighting ISIS in Afghanistan this week was a special operator: U.S. Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Aaron R. Butler, 27, of Monticello, Utah, the Washington Post reported Thursday. He was killed Wednesday by an IED in eastern Nangarhar province. Of the 10 Americans killed in the entire country this year, seven have come from the fight against ISIS in the east. More here.

Confusion on Trump’s North Korea policy? Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson worked Thursday to clear the air on the White House’s policy toward tensions on the Korean peninsula. The approach is not particularly new — “diplomatic and economic pressure, with military options ready if needed,” the Washington Post reports — but it has become newly strained after the president’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, gave a series of interviews with reporters this week saying there is no military solution to Korean tensions.  
Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford also “effectively contradicted [Bannon]” on Thursday, The New York Times reports, with Dunford “emphasizing [during his three-day visit to China] that Mr. Trump was prepared to take military action if necessary.” Bannon even floated a U.S. troop withdrawal, something the Times reports Dunford dismissed on Thursday as well.
“I’ve not been involved in any discussions associated with reducing or removing our presence in South Korea. If that was said, I don’t know about it,” Dunford told reporters in Beijing.
South Korea’s president sought to ease tensions a bit, speaking from Seoul on Thursday to remind the public the U.S. has “promised to have full consultation with South Korea and get our consent in advance” of any military action against North Korea. “This is a firm agreement between South Korea and the United States. The people can be assured that there will be no war.”
North Korea’s latest position: Our nuclear program is not up for negotiation. "As long as the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat continue, the DPRK ... will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiation table or flinch an inch from the road chosen by itself, the road of bolstering up the state nuclear force." That, via Reuters, here.

Three to be disciplined for the June 17 collision between the U.S. destroyer Fitzgerald and a larger cargo ship, the Washington Post reports. An investigator’s report posted last night details harrowing tales of mortal peril at sea; brave sailors risking death to save shipmates; and a watch crew that somehow lost track of what was going on around it. Read the whole 41-page report, with illustrations and a minimum of jargon, here.

In happier news: Yesterday, the sea service did something for the first time in its 241-year history: it commissioned a ship into naval service outside the United States. In a ceremony in a Bahraini port, the Military Sealift Command’s Mobile Landing Platform Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3) was redesignated Expeditionary Sea Base Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3). Why? “The ship’s reclassification provides U.S. Central Command and 5th Fleet greater flexibility to better meet regional challenges,” said a Navy statement.
Not familiar with the ESBs? They’re odd-looking warships: giant floating platforms built to simplify expeditionary operations. Read the Navy fact sheet and check out set of photos, here.

Report: UAE offsets are funding a U.S. think tank. When many countries import weapons, they often require the foreign vendor to plow money into local companies. But The Intercept reports something far less common: cash payments by weapons makers to the United Arab Emirates funneled through multiple organizations to “the Middle East Institute, a prestigious D.C. think tank that has a history of promoting arms sales to Gulf dictatorships.” (Full disclosure: Defense One has published the occasional op-ed by MEI officials.) “Offsets are a common practice in the global arms trade, and they are largely unregulated,” arms-trade expert William Hartung told The Intercept. “I’m less familiar with the idea of using cash payments, which seem at best a form of legalized bribery. And if the UAE is truly ploughing some of these funds back into lobbying efforts or funding of think tanks in the U.S., it seems particularly inappropriate — an egregious case of foreign influence peddling, indirectly financed by U.S. companies.” At press time, MEI leaders hadn’t commented. Read, here.

Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!