US troops help in Irma’s wake; Next Air Force One won’t refuel in the air; US-, Russia-backed forces race to secure Syria’s Deir ez-Zour; Navy puts FONOPS on a timetable; and just a bit more...
Thousands of U.S. troops are on station to help as Hurricane Irma grinds north along Florida’s Gulf coast, bringing rescue and relief to victims from the Caribbean Sea to Tampa. On Sunday, here’s what the Pentagon said it had going.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands: three Navy warships and their embarked Marines are moving injured patients and delivering food and water. Also: “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ power restoration teams, debris removal experts, temporary roofing teams and port survey personnel are on-station”; “The Defense Logistics Agency is shipping commodities and large generators to the Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico area”; and “U.S. Transportation Command continues its support to St. Martin for evacuation and humanitarian assistance, and the strategic lift of commodities to the Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico area.”
In Florida: Almost 4,500 servicemembers under U.S. Northern Command are positioned to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Florida state authorities. As Irma moves on, they will operate from airfields plus two Navy amphibs, a cruiser, and the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to do search-and-rescue, evacuations, emergency supply, power restoration, communications support, and more. Read the whole list, here.
From Defense One
The Drive To Slash $1 Billion from Air Force One // Marcus Weisgerber: Details emerge about Boeing's cost-saving pitches at Mar-a-Lago, and what Air Force leaders are really planning to cut. First to go: aerial refueling.
Russia's Zapad-17 Has Already Succeeded // Lt. Col. Jyri Raitasalo: Moscow's message of larger-than-life military power has been eagerly amplified by Western politicians and media outlets.
Winter Is Here, But the US is Not Ready for Cyber War // Alex Wagner: How can DHS and Congress protect HBO and Equifax when they're slow to protect their own '.gov' domains?
Put Our President and North Korea's Kim in a Room Together // Peter Zwack: Nothing else is working.
Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. The 9/11 attacks happened 16 years ago today. About one-fifth of today’s U.S. population has been born since. Have something you want to share? Email us at email@example.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
A vote on still more sanctions against North Korea is scheduled today at the UN. To improve its chances of passing, the initial draft of the sanctions has been watered down at the request of Russia and China, Reuters reports.
Originally, the resolution called for “an oil embargo on the North, a halt to its key exports of textiles and subjecting leader Kim Jong Un to a financial and travel ban… [Now] It no longer proposes blacklisting Kim and relaxes sanctions earlier proposed on oil and gas, a draft reviewed by Reuters shows. It still proposes a ban on textile exports.”
North Korean officials say the country is on standby for whatever happens at the UN today, AP reports. “North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement early Monday saying it was watching the United States’ moves closely and warned that it was ‘ready and willing’ to respond with measures of its own. It said the U.S. would pay a heavy price if the sanctions proposed by Washington are adopted.”
There’s no word yet on whether the revised sanctions still seek to authorize UN members to stop nine North Korean ships that the U.S. claims “have carried out activities prohibited by previous U.N. sanctions resolutions.” More from AP, here.
North Korean officials took a break from their usual rocket launches to throw a party celebrating their sixth nuclear test, The New York Times reported this weekend.
In that party: Alleged footage North Korea says is from that sixth nuclear test, The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda noticed — and posted the footage to Twitter. More here.
In Syria, the race to secure Deir ez-Zour and the surrounding countryside from ISIS is in full swing. Russian-backed Syrian and Hezbollah troops are working on the city proper, with Russia having just sent nearly 200 “de-miners” to the city this morning, Reuters reports off Russian state media, Interfax.
What do Deir ez-Zour’s residents want right now? Pizza, AFP reports from the city this weekend after Russian-backed troops broke the nearly three-year ISIS siege on Tuesday. More on the people’s needs: “On Saturday, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent began distributing supplies that had been trucked in the previous day. Hundreds of civilians massed around huge green trucks, waiting to receive white cardboard boxes packed with bags of rice, bulgur wheat, olive oil and preserves, as well as hygiene products... Other residents headed for government warehouses where goods were being sold at reduced prices -- hummus, sugar and animal fat used in Middle Eastern delicacies.” Read on, here.
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces launched their own offensive on the areas around Deir ez-Zour on Saturday. The name for their operation: “Jazeera Storm.” Kurdish Rudaw news reports “It is codenamed after the Arabic word for the areas that are tasked to the Deir ez-Zor Military Council, part of the SDF.”
The goal: secure the Khabur River valley, which “runs south through Deir ez-Zor province, flowing into the Euphrates River about 35 kilometres east of Deir ez-Zor city.”
What’s supposed to happen: “Tala Silo, the SDF spokesperson, told reporters in a village south of Hasakah province that the Military Council has taken part in all operations launched by the SDF and therefore it is natural that this time around the SDF will join the Deir ez-Zor operation. Once military operations are complete, control of the areas liberated by the Military Council will be handed over to local civilian bodies, similar to what has occurred in Manbij and Tabqa, the Coalition stated.”
By Sunday, the U.S.-backed troops had retaken some 250 sq-kms, according to coalition spokesman, U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon.
Now two months after the Mosul offensive ended, U.S. intel analysts are overwhelmed by some 30 terabytes of intelligence on ISIS gathered from the city, LA Times’ Bill Hennigan reported late last week. They’ve also added “thousands” of new names to Interpol’s global watchlist, which is already at about 19,000 names.
The videos alone that have been gathered are “equal to nearly two years of nonstop video footage” and have been sent “to the National Media Exploitation Center in Bethesda, Md., a little-known arm of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency… Analysts there are scrutinizing handwritten ledgers, computer spreadsheets, thumb drives, mobile phone memory cards and other materials for clues to terrorist cells or plots in Europe or elsewhere.”
Known-knowns so far: “U.S. officials said they have gleaned planning ideas and outlines of potential operations rather than ongoing terrorist plots. But they also have gathered details into the group’s leadership and the hierarchy of fighters under command.” More here.
South of Mosul: some 1,400 ISIS-linked women and children are being held by Iraqi officials, Reuters reported this weekend. “It is the largest group of foreigners linked to Islamic State to be held by Iraqi forces since they began driving the militants from Mosul and other areas in northern Iraq last year,” an aid official told Reuters. “Most came from Turkey. Many others were from former Soviet states, such as Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Russia, Iraqi army and intelligence officers said. Other Asians and a ‘very few’ French and Germans were also among them.” More here.
ISIS fighters attacked a police convoy in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula this morning, killing 18 police and wounding seven others, AP reports, calling it “one of the deadliest attacks this year in the restive region bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip.” ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack via their Amaq news agency.
What happened: “Police and military officials said roadside bombs destroyed and set ablaze four armored vehicles and a fifth one carrying signal jamming equipment. The gunmen later opened fire with machine guns and commandeered a police pickup truck.”
Quick background: “Monday’s attack came a day after authorities said they had busted a militant cell planning attacks in Cairo. Police said they killed 10 militants in two simultaneous raids on apartments in a densely populated Cairo neighborhood.” Read on, here.
ISIS war update from the Philippines: Some in the group may have had enough. That’s the message, anyway, from Manila. “Some Islamic State-linked militants besieging the southern Philippines city of Marawi have sent ‘feelers’ they are prepared to surrender after three and a half months of fighting,” Reuters reports, adding there are believed to be just 50 to 60 fighters left in Marawi.
In addition to the attempts at negotiating, “Two troops were killed at the weekend, taking to 147 the number of security forces killed in the Marawi conflict. Some 655 militants and 45 civilians have been killed, according to the army.” More here.
Pakistan and China began exercises on Thursday that are scheduled nearly to the end of the month, The Diplomat reported this weekend. "The Shaheen series of exercises between the two countries, who are close partners, began in March 2011 and has since gone through five major iterations... a spokesperson for the PLAAF noted that China had sent a wide range of aerial assets and troops, including Shenyang J-11 twin-engine multirole fighters, Xian JH-7 fighter-bombers, KJ-200 airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, and surface-to-air missile crews and radar operators. [Chinese state media] Xinhua added that Pakistan had sent an undisclosed number of JF-17 Thunder fighters and its own early warning aircraft—likely Pakistan’s Shaanxi ZDK-03 K. Eagle or Saab 200 Erieye—to the exercises." More here.
ICYMI: The U.S. has finally adopted “a clear, firm, enforcement of the international maritime order” in the South China Sea, writes Joseph Bosco, former China country director in the office of the secretary of defense, in The Diplomat.
What’s changed: “Pacific Command (PACOM) under Admiral Harry Harris announced [the week before last] that, henceforth, PACOM will conduct FONOPS on a regular schedule so that each individual transit will be seen by China and others as a routine happening and not a special, provocative event. The Navy laid the foundation for this sensible new posture with the three operations already conducted this year.”
Now it’s time to apply this to the Taiwan Strait, Bosco argues. Read on, here.