Turkish troops are fighting Kurds in Iraq; ISIS media ops wither; Here’s how GMD-vs.-ICBM might go; China is quietly reshaping the world; and just a bit more...

Turkish “commando units” are officially operating inside Iraq for the first time in almost a decade, Turkey’s Hürriyet Daily News reports this morning. The troops “entered the Zap region of Iraq after crossing from the Çukurca district of the southeastern province of Hakkari.”

The target: PKK militants, 21 of whom have been killed in airstrikes since the operation began on October 16, “according to statements made by the military.” Turkey’s aim is to cut off the PKK’s ability to conduct cross-border attacks. Read on, here.

About 100,000 Kurds fled their homes in Kirkuk Wednesday, Reuters reports this morning from Irbil. Reason for departing: “fear of attack by Shi‘ite Muslim paramilitaries, known as Popular Mobilization, assisting government forces’ operations in the region.”

Notes Reuters: “Sunni Muslim Kurds comprise the largest community in Kirkuk followed by Shi‘ite Turkmen, Sunni Arabs and Christians, according to the Iraqi Planning Ministry in Baghdad.”

And if all this Kirkuk drama hasn’t been enough already, “Iraq’s Supreme Justice Council ordered the arrest of Kurdistan Regional Government Vice President Kosrat Rasul for allegedly saying Iraqi troops were ‘occupying forces’ in Kirkuk,” Reuters adds.
The Mosul dam is also now under control of the Iraqi security forces after Peshmerga troops handed it over, according to Baghdad officials Wednesday. More from The Wall Street Journal, here.

Also new this morning: Iraq’s oil ministry warned companies against signing deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government — mere days after the KRG inked a $400 million deal with Russian giant Rosneft. More on that deal from Bloomberg, here.

Over to Syria: Take “A visual tour of the price Raqqa paid for its freedom from ISIL” via photos from Reuters photographers, curated by Quartz.

And what role should the U.S. play in Syria after Raqqa? James Jeffrey, former ambassador to Iraq and Turkey, explains his take in a four-minute chat with NPR’s Morning Edition on Wednesday. The short answer: There is no easy answer. Listen here.

In case you wondered, ISIS media operations have taken a huge hit in recent months with the fall of Mosul and now Raqqa. Explore some astonishing before/after comparisons of ISIS propaganda output — frequencies, themes and more — via this Twitter thread from terrorism scholar Charlie Winter.


From Defense One

Let's Walk This Through: If North Korea Launches An ICBM, Then... // Joshua Pollack: It takes a lot of rosy assumptions to get to President Trump's 97% chance of success.

America Has Become Dispensable in Iraq // Emma Sky: The conflict in Kirkuk offers further evidence of Iran's steady rise.

China Is Quietly Reshaping the World // Anja Manuel: The staggering scope of the country's infrastructure initiative—and what it means for the international order.

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free. OTD2004: R.I.P. Lewis Urry, who invented both the alkaline and lithium-ion batteries.


Puerto Rico’s governor meets with President Trump today at the White House. It’s been now 29 days since Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico — long enough for U.S. veterans to “deploy themselves” to help out in recovery efforts, CNN reported Wednesday.  
How’s the overall recovery effort going? More than 80% still lack electricity and only 69% have clean water. But now “64 of 67 Puerto Rican hospitals are open, with 41 now hooked up to the power grid,” USNI News reported Wednesday off data from Northern Command.
NPR spoke with FEMA’s Puerto Rico director Michael Byrne this morning in San Juan, and he fills in some more details — including some 6,500 miles of cable to be laid down for the power grid — here.

Rising worries about nuclear-war-by-accident. Foreign Policy: “After a North Korean missile test in mid-September, a U.S. warship patrolling the Sea of Japan received a warning order, or WARNO, to be prepared to fire Tomahawk missiles at North Korean targets, a military source told Foreign Policy. “‘It’s not unheard of to do that,’ a former senior defense official said of the order to prepare the cruise missiles. ‘But I would say it is a fairly significant indicator that the possibility of using Tomahawks is rising.’” All this contributes to “fresh concerns inside and outside the Pentagon that a potential miscalculation — driven by heated rhetoric or technical mistakes — could lead to an accidental conflict on the Korean Peninsula.” Read on, here.
MIT’s Vipin Narang: “Discrimination problem: do we really think DPRK early warning can discriminate between conventional vs nuclear incoming? [North Korean leadership] Has to assume worst”

Report: US to release aircraft-carrier technology to India. In a move surely calculated to boost the burgeoning bilateral defense relationship, the Trump administration will allow General Atomics to export the  Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, Mumbai-based The Economic Times reports. Famously derided by President Trump as inferior to catapults powered by “goddamn steam,” EMALS offers a more efficient, lower-maintenance, gentler-on-the-aircraft ride.

Best ship in the Atlantic Fleet? It’s the destroyer Mason, which warded off suspected Houthi cruise-missiles in the Red Sea and became “the only warship in U.S. naval history to successfully employ the Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) while under attack,” according to a fleet statement from earlier this year. “Mason’s actions protected 1,000 U.S. sailors on the warships and countless more mariners in merchant vessels. Many of Mason’s tactical operating procedures and lessons learned across the attacks are now being used to increase combat readiness and toughness across the force.” The ship received the Battenburg Cup in a ceremony Tuesday. USNI News has the story, here.

A Taliban-claimed suicide bomber killed nearly four dozen Afghan troops in the south — specifically in Maiwand district, Kandahar, close to the Taliban-held Helmand province. It’s also the third large Taliban attack on Afghan military bases this week, raising the death toll to more than 100, France24 reports.
What happened: A “suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden American-made Humvee armoured vehicle, likely captured from Afghan security forces, into the gate of the base…That began an hours-long assault by Taliban gunmen, which was interrupted by a second Humvee breaking all the way into the base and detonating inside.” The attacks left the base “in ruins,” Afghan officials told Reuters.
Ten Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting, according to the Afghan defense ministry — which listed the uneven damage to its troops as such: “Of 60 soldiers manning the base in the province of Kandahar, 43 were killed, nine were wounded and six were missing after the militants attacked in the middle of the night.”

Ever wonder how Chad wound up on the travel ban? (This is the same Chad that responded to the Trump administration’s addition of their country to its Travel Ban 3.0 by pulling its troops from the fight against Boko Haram.) The Associated Press has the answer: “Chad had run out of passport paper.” Details here.

A White House staffer reportedly drafted sympathy statement for the troops killed in Niger — but it was never released, Politico reported Wednesday in the latest crisis comms twist for the Trump administration. What’s more, “The NSC staffer, who apparently wrote the original draft and emailed it first to herself and then others shortly after 10 a.m. on Oct. 5, hung up on a POLITICO reporter who called to ask about it.” Story, here.  

In video: See some astonishing drone footage illustrating “the scale of the Rohingya migration crisis,” via Reuters.

For your ears only: Sixteen years after entering Afghanistan, the first men who rode in on horses tell their story. That podcast via West Point’s Modern War Institute, here.

And finally today: Marine Rob Jones lost both legs in Afghanistan seven years ago — but this fall he’s using his new legs to run 31 marathons in as many days to raise money for veterans, ABC News reported Wednesday. He’s already biked solo across the country from Maine to southern California. Story here. Or find Rob’s route and join him for part of it, here.

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