What's next in the war on ISIS; AI sent to hunt nukes; Army vet charged as Chinese spy; USAF scraps $24M fridge plan; and just a bit more...
The next step in the war against ISIS. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are advancing on the Islamic State group’s “stronghold in northeast Syria,” in the town of Dashisha, the U.S. State Department announced this morning in a statement.
That followed this separate announcement Monday that the U.S. and Turkey have finally agreed to a “roadmap” for the contested north-central city of Manbij — which the State Department released after Secretary Mike Pompeo met with his Turkish counterpart in Washington.
The particulars out of that: Not a lot. For example, according to State’s release, the two diplomats “reaffirmed their joint resolve to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”
And about that “roadmap,” we learned Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoğlu “considered the recommendations of the Turkey-U.S. Working Group on Syria pertaining to the future of our bilateral cooperation in Syria on issues of mutual interest, to include taking steps to ensure the security and stability in Manbij. They endorsed a Road Map to this end and underlined their mutual commitment to its implementation, reflecting agreement to closely follow developments on the ground.” A bit more, here.
How Turkey’s Anadolu news views the roadmap:
- The U.S.-backed Kurdish forces of the “YPG/PKK will be driven out of Manbij;
- YPG/PKK members will be removed from local organizations;
- Turkish American forces [will] patrol and reestablish local organizations;
- [The two nations will] Implement the same roadmap to other regions in Syria.” That's according to Anadolu's Kasım İleri.
For what it’s worth: “Turkey has several times announced that it has reached an agreement on Manbij, including with the former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson just days before he was removed from his post in March,” The New York Times’ Carlotta Gall reports from Istanbul. “The United States has repeatedly said no deal has been reached.”
What’s more, “Even on Monday, the two sides appeared out of sync,” Gall writes. “The State Department statement was vague, giving no details of the plan, and several American officials, asked to confirm information from Turkey, said the announcement had taken them by surprise.” So business as usual in U.S.-Turkish relations...
Happening today: U.S. Army Col. Thomas Veale briefs the press on how that ISIS war is going at 11 a.m. ET. Catch it live, here.
From Defense One
Scrapped: $24M Plan to Replace Refrigerators On Air Force One // Marcus Weisgerber: Rep. Joe Courtney says the no-bid deal “didn’t pass the smell test.”
NATO’s Most Urgent Pledge Isn’t 2%-of-GDP. It’s Better Cyber Defense. // Sorin Ducaru: The alliance has made strides toward its 2016 Cyber Defense Pledge. But more must be done, and urgently.
After a Major Cyber Attack, Does the Public Deserve an Explanation? // Mitch Herckis, Route Fifty: The ransomware that crippled Atlanta raises unanswered questions about how to communicate with citizens after a cyber-attack.
Another Defense Agency to Tap CIA's Commercial Cloud // Frank Konkel, Nextgov: The U.S. Army’s National Ground Intelligence Agency aims to use secret and top-secret services from the Amazon-developed C2S Cloud.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. OTD1944: On the eve of D-Day, Ike scrawled a short statement to be delivered if the invasion was thrown back into the ocean.
Peace on the Korean peninsula? Not so fast, South Korean officials now tell The Wall Street Journal.
The gist: “A peace declaration has been a policy goal for Seoul’s liberal Moon Jae-in administration, which considers it a gateway to more concrete agreements with North Korea, including a formal treaty or a denuclearization deal. But Seoul officials’ caution appears due in part to the little time remaining before the June 12 Singapore meeting and expectations that a declaration would be largely symbolic.”
Complicating the forecast: “The absence of China from the Singapore summit,” analysts told the Journal. Read on (paywall alert), here.
Meet the Pentagon’s new, classified and “largely unreported” AI systems designed to hunt for nuclear weapons. Reuters reports this morning “there are multiple classified programs now under way to explore how to develop AI-driven systems to better protect the United States against a potential nuclear missile strike.”
So what kind of money does this program require? Unknown exactly, Reuters writes; but here’s one thing we do know: “The Trump administration has proposed more than tripling funding in next year’s budget to $83 million for just one of the AI-driven missile programs, according to several U.S. officials and budget documents.”
This new effort already has a pilot program in place, too. Take a guess where that might be, then check your answer in Reuters’ report, here.
An ISIS-linked suicide bomber killed at least 12 people in Kabul on Monday — and at a meeting where “As many as 3,000 clerics had gathered” just an hour before to declare “suicide bombing un-Islamic and [that] there was no religious justification for such violence,” The New York Times reported.
And changing gears slightly, take a look at the Taliban’s quite unusual training uniforms, shared on Twitter Monday by U.S. Army veteran Joe Kassabian. Military Times talks a bit of smack about the new unis, here.
ICYMI: Another U.S. airstrike targeted al-Shabab fighters in Somalia on Saturday, U.S. Africa Command announced Monday. More than two dozen fighters (and not one civilian) were believed to have died in the attack, which hit fighters outside of the northern coastal city of Bosasso.
The U.S. Navy wants to send a warship through the Taiwan Strait. So what’s the problem with that? It “could provoke a sharp reaction from Beijing at a time when Sino-U.S. ties are under pressure from trade disputes and the North Korean nuclear crisis,” Reuters reported Monday evening.
Alternative: “Another, less provocative option would be resuming the periodic, but still infrequent, passages by other U.S. Navy ships through the Strait, the last of which was in July 2017.”
For the record, “The last time a U.S. aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in 2007, during the administration of George W. Bush, and some U.S. military officials believe a carrier transit is overdue,” Reuters writes. Read the rest, here.
A U.S. Army veteran “has been charged with attempted espionage for China,” The New York Times reports this morning after four years of investigations, and “less than a month after a former C.I.A. officer was charged with spying.”
Involved: “Tens of thousands of dollars in cash. Documents listing locations of United States Cyber Command outposts. A passcode-protected thumb drive, hidden behind a sock in the toe of a shoe,” the Times’ Mike Ives reports from Hong Kong.
So who is this guy? “Ron Rockwell Hansen of Syracuse, Utah,” the Washington Post reports. “Hansen, 58, worked as a military intelligence case officer at the DIA from 2000 to 2006, when he retired from the military. Between 2006 and 2011, he did contract work for the DIA, according to the criminal complaint.”
Some of the investigation’s findings: "Mr. Hansen told an American undercover agent in April that China would pay $200,000 for the operations plan of the American military regarding 'potential military intervention with China,'” according to the Times.
Another curious finding: How to pass future classified documents. “Hansen had a suggestion for [a former associate who was assisting the FBI as an] informant: Cut a hole in a nearby tree and hide them inside.” Read on at the Times, here, or the Post, here.
The Army’s next big thing: Futures Command. To be led by a four-star, the new organization “will help drive” the Army’s six top modernization priorities, starting with improvements to its ATACMS artillery, Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy told Bloomberg.
Where will HQ be? Army teams are fanning out to look at five candidate cities, including Boston and Raleigh, North Carolina. (Bloomberg’s source didn’t know the other three.) A bit more, here.
RIP Frank Carlucci. The Washington Post remembers “a soft-spoken but hard-driving crisis manager for four presidents and whose reputation as a tamer of federal bureaucracies led to stints as secretary of defense, national security adviser and deputy CIA director. He died June 3 at his home in McLean, Va.