US troops killed in Niger; Last ISIS stronghold in N. Iraq falls; Report: Russian strike killed dozens of civilians; Why tac nukes are still a thing; and just a bit more...

Three U.S. Green Berets were killed in Niger on Wednesday and two more were injured, AFRICOM announced last night. Their “joint U.S. and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger,” according to AFRICOM spox Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo. A “partner nation member” was also killed in the attack.

“The deaths represent the first American casualties under hostile fire in a mission in which United States Special Forces have provided training and security assistance to the Nigerien armed forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,” The New York Times writes. “A Special Forces soldier died in a vehicle accident in Niger in February.”

No groups have yet claimed responsibility for the ambush, writes the Times.

“The attack took place 120 miles north of Niamey, the capital of Niger, near the border with Mali, where militants with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, have conducted cross-border raids. Niger’s troops were also believed to have suffered casualties, but details were not immediately known.”

According to the Washington Post, “Local media reported that the joint patrol was lured into an ambush near the village of Tongo Tongo in the Tillaberi region. The attackers were described as coming from neighboring Mali, where al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch has been battling both the government and a French-led coalition seeking to root them out of their desert hideouts.” More here. RIP, gentlemen.

Iraqi security forces have liberated the ISIS-held town of Hawijah, the U.S. military says this morning — just 14 days after the offensive began. Reuters calls it the “last ISIS stronghold in northern Iraq,” and there are still a few pockets of resistance to the north and east of Hawija. That (largely) finished offensive now leaves just the Middle Euphrates River valley to be cleared of Islamic State fighters.

According to CENTCOM, “The ISF are concurrently conducting operations in Western Anbar province and have already secured the towns of Anah, Rayhanah, and Akashat.”

Reuters, on what remains: “The militants continue to control the border town of al-Qaim and the region surrounding it. They also hold parts of the Syrian side of the border, but the area under their control is shrinking as they retreat in the face of two different sets of hostile forces - a U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led coalition and Syrian government troops with foreign Shi'ite militias backed by Iran and Russia.”

From Defense One

Why Tactical Nuclear Weapons Are Still A Thing // Albert J. Mauroni: In the debate over low-yield nukes, opposing camps are largely talking past each other. Here are some thoughts about why they remain necessary.

The US Will Be Dropping A Lot More Bombs on Afghanistan // Caroline Houck: More air support for Afghan forces will help drive the Taliban to the negotiating table, Mattis and Dunford tell Congress.

General Motors Wants to Disrupt the Military Truck Market // Marcus Weisgerber: Building on its hydrogen fuel cell-powered pickup truck for the Army, the automaker will soon unveil a self-powered mobile chassis.

DHS Forms Election Security Task Force // Joseph Marks: The new task force will draw resources from across the Department of Homeland Security, including intelligence analysis.

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1986: Details of Israel’s nuclear arsenal are revealed in the British press. Have something you want to share? Email us. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)

Puerto Rico relief update. Thousands more troops and dozens of additional helicopters have arrived to the devastated U.S. territory, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. The total troop presence has now risen to nearly 9,000 — up from just over 4,000 a little more than a week ago. Somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand more are expected soon, according to Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, who leads the military’s recovery efforts.  
“What I want to do is max out the mobilizations of the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard on Puerto Rico,” Buchanan told the Post. “Because that enables us to, first of all, get these people to work, and you know, they know the communities and understand the language. They can be very, very helpful.”
What’s next: “As additional troops arrive, Buchanan said he anticipates shifting personnel to reach as many people as possible,” the Post writes. “Marines and sailors are concentrated primarily on Puerto Rico’s eastern side, around Ceiba, but probably will move farther south as additional U.S. troops move to the east. Hughes, the Navy admiral first on scene, is expected to stay involved as long as is needed.” More here.
Also: The death toll on Puerto Rico now stands at 34, up from 16 only days ago. has more, here.

Mere days after moving some 60 ICBMs around for military drills, President Vladimir Putin says he’s not so sure a military strike on North Korea would succeed, Reuters reports from Moscow. “Can a global strike against North Korea be launched to disarm it? Yes. Will it achieve its aim? We don’t know. Who knows what they have there and where. Nobody knows with 100 percent certainty as it’s a closed country.”
According to Vlad, “More sanctions [are] the road to nowhere, Putin told the same forum, saying around 40,000 North Korean citizens were currently working in Russia.” More here.

Japan is about to purchase $113 million in air-to-air missiles from the U.S., Defense News reported Wednesday. “The weapons package includes up to 56 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles, which are more commonly known as AMRAAMs, as well as containers, weapons support, spare and repair parts, and technical and logistical support. The AMRAAM is manufactured by Raytheon in Tuscon, Arizona.”
The more you know: “The AMRAAM is of the U.S. military’s most ubiquitous air-to-air weapons, having been bought by 37 countries including the United States. It can be carried by a wide range of U.S. and foreign jets — including Japan Air Self-Defense Force planes like the F-15 and, eventually, the F-35 — although its most famous use occurred in June when a U.S. Navy Super Hornet pilot used it to hit a Syrian Sukhoi Su-22.” Read the rest, here.

ICYMI: Two days ago, State cleared an $850 million sale of GPS-guided bombs to Australia — for its new F-35s. 3,900 GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II (SDB II), to be exact. And an additional “up to thirty (30) GBU-53/B Guided Test Vehicles (GTV)” to go along with another 60 GBU-53/B Captive Carry Reliability Trainers.” More here.

Dozens of Syrian civilians reported dead in Russian airstrike. “A Russian airstrike has killed 38 civilians as they tried to cross the Euphrates river to escape fighting in eastern Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province,” according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Via The Guardian: “nine children were among those killed as they tried to cross the river aboard rafts, escaping from areas where Russian-backed regime forces are battling the Islamic State group.”
There are two campaigns “being fought against Isis in east Deir ez-Zor, with the one on the western side of the Euphrates river, which slices diagonally across the province, led by Syrian troops and backed by their ally Russia.
The second is being fought by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, on the eastern bank of the river.” Read on, here.

Who’s a big fan of the U.S. military now? Philippine President Rody Duterte and his military chief, AFP reports from Manila. Where the change comes from: “Military chief General Eduardo Ano, returning from Hawaii where he met US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris last week, said Thursday (Oct 5) the allies had agreed to increase joint military exercises for 2018 after they were scaled down this year.”
Ano, to reporters: "The president said: 'I want to be friendlier to the US'. So we have a closer relationship and more exercises. He (Duterte) said to continue engagement with the United States. They are still our number one ally."
The focus of future exercises, Ano said, would be not just counter-terrorism and disaster response — but “even territorial defence,” AFP reports. More here.