Trump-Putin: what Europe fears; Gunman kills 5 in US newsroom; Mattis in Seoul; China expanding in Africa; and just a bit more…

Ahead the July 16 Trump-Putin summit, could a plan for Syria be in the cards? Maybe, CNN reports, citing "two diplomatic sources familiar with the sit-down" between Trump and the King of Jordan this week at the White House.

The gist: "According to these sources, Trump's plan would allow the Russians to help Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad take back an area along the Jordanian border where the US-led coalition and its military partners are experiencing increased opposition from ‘an unidentified hostile force’ in recent days despite a previous ceasefire.”

In return for giving Russia a green light on that southern clearance op (a bloody and ongoing thing this week), “Trump is looking to the Russians for assurances that the Syrian regime will not massacre the US-backed rebels in the region — allowing them to cease hostilities and ship out of the area. He would also expect the Russians to establish an exclusion zone to prevent fighting in southwest Syria and block Iranian-backed forces from the region, the sources said, adding that kicking Iran out of Syria is a key part of Trump's plan for US withdrawal.”

For what it’s worth: “Don't count on the Russians carrying out any ‘promise’ to rollback Iranian presence in Syria,” the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy’s Boris Zilberman tweeted Thursday after reading this from Russia’s permanent representative to the UN.

The short read on that: “Iran’s presence in Syria is legal, and it can’t be removed from the Middle East,” Mideast analyst David Daoud wrote on Twitter. Link to that story (in Arabic), here.

From Defense One

The Trump-Putin Summit: What the Europeans Fear // Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic. A U.S. leader meeting a Russian one is not particularly unusual. The context is.

Trump Backs Russia on Election Interference Ahead of NATO Summit // Natasha Bertrand, The Atlantic: The president’s remarks came amid increasing anxiety among U.S. allies about next month’s meeting, which will be immediately followed by a one-on-one with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

General: Project Maven Is Just the Beginning of the Military’s Use of AI // Marcus Weisgerber: Air Combat Command chief invites tech firms to help build next-gen tools for the Pentagon. Also says dissent is part of being an American.

Only 6 Non-Federal Groups Are Sharing Cyber Threat Data with DHS // Joseph Marks, Nextgov: A 2016 law intended to bolster collective cyber defense isn’t attracting private-sector participants.

Global Business Brief, June 28 // Marcus Weisgerber: How to be an acquisition leader; Updating warships like Tesla; Hypersonic planes; and a bit more.

Rushing Libya’s Elections Will Lead to Disaster // Alexander Decina, Council on Foreign Relations: The country won't be ready for its scheduled elections on Dec. 10. Their failure could engender chaos that could shake the entire region.

Welcome to this Friday 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.

SecDef Mattis was in Seoul on Thursday after The New York Times writes he was “ensconced in meetings with high-ranking Chinese military officials in Beijing” the three days prior.
Not a lot out of that trip so far, short of this: “Mattis said that the United States would maintain current troop levels in South Korea and offered assurances that the two nations’ alliance was still ‘ironclad’ despite the recent cancellation of a massive joint military exercise.”
Added Mattis on all that: “The recent decision to suspend the Freedom Guardian exercise creates increased opportunity for our diplomats to negotiate, increasing prospects for a peaceful solution on the Korean Peninsula.”
Mattis then flew to Tokyo, where he is today, the Associated Press reports, travelling with the secretary. There he met Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, and praised the relationship with Japan.
He then reiterated his goal of dismantling "all of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction, including biological and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles of all ranges.” A bit more, here.

At least Mattis has a U.S. ambassador to RoK to work with now. The South Korean post had remained vacant since Trump took office — but not anymore. Retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris is the new guy as of Thursday. Harris was selected in May, just before he “retired as commander of the US Pacific Command,” Quartz reports in a sort of review.
First up for Harris, according to CNN: Facing “the challenge of helping Pompeo facilitate the next step in talks with Pyongyang — which, despite Trump's claim to the contrary, remains a nuclear threat, according to the secretary of state's testimony on Capitol Hill this week.” More here.  
One more thing from South Korea: “U.S. Forces Korea will celebrate the opening of its new headquarters at Camp Humphreys” today, Stars and Stripes reports.
A bit more on the facilities: “The new four-story headquarters building, which has a Korean-style tiled roof, is already operational, but Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony will officially mark the transition. It’s near the Eighth Army headquarters, which moved last summer.”
And a bit of history on the move: “The 2004 relocation agreement was supposed to be implemented by 2008 but was pushed back to 2012, then 2016 due to construction and quality control issues that plagued the mostly South Korean-funded $11 billion expansion of Camp Humphreys. The military finally stopped giving deadlines, saying the move would be conditions-based.” More of that, with quite a bit of history, here.

For Afghanistan, current Joint Special Operations Command’s Lt. Gen. Scott Miller was confirmed Thursday as the new commander of the Afghanistan war in a voice vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee, CQ/Roll Call’s John Donnelly reported on Twitter.

ICYMI: China is expanding its military presence in Africa, adding counter-piracy and counterterrorism services to potential client states, CNBC reported this week from the first-ever China-Africa Defense and Security Forum in Beijing.

Journalists gunned down in Maryland newsroom. Five people — two reporters, two editors, and a sales assistant — died in shotgun blasts Thursday as a gunman with a grudge walked through the Annapolis offices of the Capital Gazette.
Thursday’s attack was the 11th mass shooting in the United States in the past year, and brought the toll in such attacks to 138 dead and 613 wounded. “For a country that has grown numb to mass shootings, this was a new front,” The New York Times reports. “Schools have become a frequent target, with college students on down to kindergartners falling victim. A movie theater was shot up. Churches, too. But this was a rare attack on a news organization, one of the oldest in America, which dates its roots back to the 1700s and boasts on its website that it once fought the stamp tax that helped give rise to the American Revolution.”
Police were promptly dispatched to media offices across the country in the immediate aftermath of the attack. The New York Police Department described its deployments as “a standard practice to shift resources strategically during active shooter or terrorist events.”
It’s almost water to fish at this point, but several high-profile figures have used inflammatory rhetoric against the media recently, including POTUS, who in February called the “Fake News media” an “enemy of the people.” There are plenty more instances of the president of the United States verbally (and in Twitter video form) attacking the American press.
Extra reading: Defense One’s Kevin Baron has written about how the president’s disparagement of the press puts reporters — and their mission — at risk.
Onward: The surviving Capital Gazette staff put out a newspaper today. The opinion page is blank, save for the names of their dead colleagues, and this: “Tomorrow this page will return to its steady purpose of offering our readers informed opinion about the world around them, that they might be better citizens.”

Meanwhile: Protests in DC and beyond. People from at least 48 states converged on Washington this week for several protests of the now-suspended Trump administration policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border. On Thursday, 575 protestors were arrested in the Hart Senate Office Building after they chanted “Abolish ICE” and refused to leave.  
A prelude to more? “Thousands of demonstrators are expected to descend on Lafayette Square on Saturday in a protest calling for the end of family detentions and the return of the at least 2,500 children who were separated from their parents at the southern border. Organizers of the D.C. rally said similar protests will take place in 351 congressional districts across the country.” Washington Post, here.

Finally this week: Help the U.S. Army with its new slogan, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey said Monday. Dailey wants the new one to connect in some way to two distinct groups of people, reported Monday. And those are “18-to-24 year olds and influencers in [recruits’] lives such as parents and older relatives.”
Out: “Army strong.”
In: Who knows? Just not the last one, “Army of one,” or the one before that, “Be all you can be,” Task & Purpose reminds us.
But that’s where you can step in and submit your ideas to us — since we can’t seem to locate an option taking submissions on behalf of the service. Email your pitches to, and if we get enough inoffensive ones, we’ll share them here.