Mattis: Russia, Iran arming Taliban; More missile-defense money; How much do you pay for war?; 3 questions about America’s next missile sub; and just a bit more...

SecDef Mattis says Russia and Iran are arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal reported traveling with Mattis to Kabul on Wednesday.

Mattis: “Those two countries have suffered losses to terrorism, so I think it would be extremely unwise if they think they can somehow support terrorism in another country and not have it come back to haunt them.”

How, exactly? The Journal: “Military officials said weaponry and support from the Russians and Iranians serve to strengthen the Taliban, but also bestow a sense of legitimacy. ‘That’s a lot more dangerous right now than what they’re providing in terms of materiel,’ a military official said.”

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calls the allegation “a campaign based on falsehoods.”

And ICYMI, “militants struck Kabul’s international airport in an attack apparently timed to coincide with Mr. Mattis’s arrival” on Wednesday, the Journal writes. “Afghan officials said eight rockets were fired at the airport, while the U.S. military said the attack involved suicide vests and several rounds of high-explosive ammunition, including mortars.” More here.

Also in Afghanistan: Air-dropping supplies to NATO and Afghan troops is on the rise, Military Times reports. “On Sept. 1, ‘the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron conducted the first combat airdrop in Afghanistan in more than two years,’ an AFCENT spokesperson told Military Times. According to AFCENT figures, 12,000 pounds have already been delivered to ground forces in Afghanistan so far this year.”

What to make of it: “The airdrops could also be an indication that American troops may be operating closer to the front lines of combat than American officials have generally admitted.” Read on, here.

The Defense One Summit returns this Fall on Thursday, Nov. 9 at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. With the renewed focus on geopolitical power, top military, foreign-policy, and intelligence leaders will convene to discuss the future of American and global security.

When: Thursday, November 9, 2017

Where: Marriott Marquis, Washington, D.C.

Register for your spot, here. Federal, military, academic, media, and others can register free of charge. Fees are applicable for industry employees and retirees only. More details, here.

From Defense One

Here’s How Much of Your Taxes Have Gone To Wars // Marcus Weisgerber: Previously unreported Pentagon data shows how much the average U.S. taxpayer has paid for combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria.

3 Questions: America’s Next Nuclear-Missile Submarine // Ben Watson: Built to deter America's enemies for the next 60 years, the Navy's new missile sub is slated to be the U.S. military’s third most-expensive program — ever.

The World Will Soon Have a New Terror Hub in Myanmar If the Rohingya Crisis Continues // Bertil Lintner: Unless the West takes practical steps to help the Rohingya, terrorism may find a new frontier in Asia — and China may buttress its regional power.

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1850: Congress abolishes flogging in the U.S. Navy. Have something you want to share? Email us. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)

The U.S. military will send more “strategic” assets to South Korea “on a more regular basis,” Seoul’s national security adviser told reporters this morning, according to the Washington Post.
Chung Eui-young, national security adviser to President Moon Jae-in, “did not define ‘strategic assets’ but South Korean officials usually define this as B-52 bombers, stealth warplanes, nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers.”
Worth noting: “The decision, which has not yet been confirmed by the Pentagon, comes at a time of escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea, with many analysts concerned that the incendiary rhetoric, combined with more frequent flyovers by American bombers, could lead to a catastrophic miscalculation.”
And on the peninsula this morning, “To celebrate its armed forces day, which falls on Sunday, South Korea's military showed off some of its new weapons during a parade Thursday. For the first time, the military displayed its Hyunmoo ballistic missiles, which have all of North Korea within range and are a key element of its ‘Kill Chain’ pre-emptive strike system.” More here.

An “an inconspicuous chemical plant” in North Korea “may be secretly fueling the growing missile array that threatens the United States,” The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The rocket fuel is called “UDMH, which is used in the long-range missile launches that have escalated tensions between North Korea and the United States...Some have argued that North Korea cannot produce the fuel, implying that the country imported it from Russia or China…But the new finding, produced by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury University, suggests that North Korea has mastered UDMH production, closing off one of the last avenues for outside curbs on the country’s increasingly sophisticated weapons programs.” Read on, here.

Surprised by North Korea’s recent missile advances: NORTHCOM Commander, Gen. Lori Robinson, DODBuzz reports. “Even in my very short time in NORTHCOM and my very short time of watching what he’s doing, the amount of things that he’s increased in his capability and capacity has been amazing,” she told a crowd at the Women in Defense National Conference in Washington, D.C. Wednesday.
So, what now? “That means we continue to work on better discriminating sensors; that means we continue to work on reliability of kill vehicles; that means we continue to work on our ground-based interceptors,” she said. More here.

Apropos of Twitter’s new 280-character limit,here's a list of all of North Korea's new missile systems we've seen for the first time in 2017,” via The Diplomat’s generous Ankit Panda.

More money for missile defense. Pentagon leaders has asked lawmakers to put $416 million toward, among other things adding 20 anti-missile interceptors to the 44 currently deployed in Alaska. “The request, which requires Congressional approval, would add the funding on several missile defense programs — some classified — mostly by taking it from unspent Army and Army Reserve operations and maintenance accounts in the fiscal 2017 budget,” Defense News reports.
The sum includes $136 million to start work on the new Alaska interceptors, which will be part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD. Other funds would accelerate upgrades on four Navy warships to be armed with anti-ICBM Standard Missile-3 Block IIA missiles. The reprogramming request “also adds funding for a variety of threat-discrimination technologies and radars. That includes a floating Sea-Based X-band radar, evaluations for a nascent medium-range discrimination radar in Hawaii to help Alaska-based interceptors, and a life-extension for the Cobra Dane surveillance radar on Shemya, Alaska.” Read on, here.
The extra interceptors will give U.S. defenders more shots at incoming missiles — as from North Korea. Joshua Pollack does the math: “If GMD must take 4 shots per attacking warhead, 44 allows 11 engagements. 64 allows 16.” This points to a fundamental challenge with missile defense, he writes: “This is a very costly arms race for the defender. Not so long ago, senior DOD officials saw it as unsustainable.” (Reuters wrote about U.S. defense leaders’ doubts back in 2015, here.)

In Iraq, Baghdad is still reeling from the Kurds “yes” vote for independence earlier this week, NYTs reports from Irbil. And now Baghdad has threatened “to send troops and seize oil fields there” and even said it may cancel international flights in and out of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
“Iraqi aviation authorities notified foreign airlines on Wednesday that it would cancel all permits to land and take off from two international airports in the Kurdish region as of Friday afternoon,” the Times writes. “The action followed an ultimatum by Prime Minister Abadi on Tuesday for Kurdistan to surrender control of its two international airports or face a shutdown of international flights. The Kurdish Regional Government said Wednesday that it would refuse to hand over the airports.” More here.

Russian and Syrian airstrikes in northwestern Idlib governorate have killed “at least 150 civilians,” opposition rescue workers told Reuters Wednesday. "The renewed bombing campaign came after an array of jihadist rebels led by the former Qaeda offshoot in Syria last week waged a wide-scale offensive against government-controlled areas in northern Hama. 'We have pulled 152 bodies and we have rescued 279 civilians since the Russian and regime bombing campaign,' said Salem Abu al Azem, a senior rescue worker from the opposition-run Civil Defence in Idlib, adding bodies were still being pulled out of the wreckage of buildings flattened by air raids."
Russia’s response: We’re only attacking “hard-line Islamists.” Read on, here.

Iran says a new nuclear arms race has begun, and it points to the U.S. as proof, Defense News reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told the UN General Assembly his concerns on the topic — largely a reaction to President Trump’s tweet in February about being “the top of the pack” in terms of countries that are going to have nukes.

Russia says it has destroyed the last of its [declared] chemical weapons, “describing the elimination as a ‘historic event’ and complaining that the United States has failed to purge its own chemical arsenal,” NYTs reported Wednesday. “The carefully choreographed event, broadcast on state television, cast Mr. Putin as a peacemaker and determined defender of international law. It seemed designed to offset the reputation he has acquired for belligerence and the flouting of international norms amid Russia’s military interventions in Ukraine in 2014 and in Syria.” Read on, here.

Russia tested another ICBM in Kazakhstan, its defense ministry announced Tuesday, according to The Diplomat. “The missile’s warhead successfully destroyed a maneuver target at the Sary-Shagan range in Kazakhstan…The nuclear-capable Topol-M (aka RS12M2/NATO reporting name SS-27) is a three-stage solid fueled ICBM first test launched in 1994. It has a reported maximum range of about 11,000 kilometers (6,835 miles) and can carry a single 550 kiloton nuclear-tipped warhead. The missile can also be upgraded to carry independently targetable warheads.”
In case you’re curious, “Independent assessments in 2015 estimated that Russia has around 300 ICBMs deployed with a little over 1,000 warheads. According to an April 2016 estimate by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, ‘Russia deploys an estimated 307 ICBMs that can carry approximately 1040 warheads, nearly 40 percent of the country’s total strategic warheads.’” More here.

Lastly today: Want a better window into how the U.S. has been arming and training UAE forces for the war in Yemen? The Center for International Policy’s Bill Hartung recently authored a report diving into that and a bit more, including:

  • “More than one-quarter of major U.S. arms offers to the UAE since 2009 – valued at $7.2 billion – were for bombs such as the Paveway and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and tactical missiles such as the Hellfire that have been used in the war against ISIS and in the Saudi/Emirati-led intervention in Yemen.”

And “The United States has also been a major supplier of military training to the UAE military, training over 5,000 students from 2009 to 2016… In addition, a private contractor, Knowledge International, has provided 125 ex-U.S. Army officers to help train UAE land forces.” Read on, here.