US soldier killed in Afghanistan; A worse fitness-app data leak; How Russia could test NATO; US warships sail the Taiwan Strait; and just a bit more….

An apparent insider attack in Afghanistan has killed the first American soldier from the volunteer advisory units known as Security Force Assistance Brigades, NATO’s Resolute Support officials announced on Friday.

The soldier’s name: Cpl. Joseph Maciel of South Gate, Calif. He died on July 7 in Tarin Kowt District, Uruzgan Province. “Maciel was assigned to 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Georgia. Task Force 1-28 Infantry is currently deployed in support of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.”

Notes The New York Times: “The death, the third American military fatality in Afghanistan this year, was a reminder that United States soldiers remain in the line of fire, although the war is now largely fought by Afghan security forces backed by American air power.”

And for the record: “About 150 troops from the American-led coalition have been killed in such attacks during the nearly 17-year-old war, according to data from the United States military, with the number of the attacks peaking in 2012.”

Two other soldiers were wounded in the attack on Friday, and the Washington Post has a bit more about the wider situation in the country, here.

Also in Afghanistan this weekend: U.S. and Afghan special forces retook “Gurgoray, a town purported to be the [Islamic State in Afghanistan’s] capital in Deh Bala district in Nangarhar province,” just 11 miles from where the U.S. dropped the “mother of all bombs” in April 2017, according to the NYTs.

A bit more about that op: “The U.S. and Afghan offensive involved five Special Forces teams and three Afghan commando companies. In total, 600 members of the U.S. Army Special Forces, also known as Green Berets, participated in the mission, which began in April and continued into June.” Read on, here.

From Defense One

This is How Russia Could Test NATO, Warns Former US Army Europe Commander // Patrick Tucker: Ben Hodges co-writes a new report that explores the possibility that Russia might engineer a military crisis on the Poland-Lithuania border.

Welcome to this Monday 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.

Another big fitness-app data breach appears to have happened, allowing open-source investigators at Bellingcat to link heart rate monitor data to find people at locations related to: JSOC; MI5; GCHQ; Nuclear weapon storage sites; Guantanamo Bay; Afghanistan; Iraq; Jordan; Mali; Chad; Djibouti; South Korea; North Korea; Crimea and more.
The name of the fitness app: Polar. Bellingcat teamed up with Dutch journalism platform De Correspondent to do the work of framing this freely available data.
But there’s a big and problematic difference in the Strava leak from January and this data from Polar. The quick summary: “By showing all the sessions of an individual combined onto a single map, Polar is not only revealing the heart rates, routes, dates, time, duration, and pace of exercises carried out by individuals at military sites, but also revealing the same information from what are likely their homes as well.”
And Polar isn’t the only app still doing this kind of stuff. Garmin is another. The entire very detailed report is worth the click, here.

SecState Pompeo is on destination #3 of a five-stop blitz from North Korea to Belgium. Pyongyang was stop #1 this past Thursday through Saturday (more on that below); Tokyo came next (photo here), where he met with South Korean and Japanese officials on Saturday and Sunday.
And that bring us to today’s visit in Hanoi, (photo here) where Pompeo briefed Vietnamese officials on the U.S. stance on the South China Sea, and what came out of the Pyongyang talks.

  • So what did come out of Pyongyang talks? “Many hours of productive conversations,” Pompeo said from a tarmac on Saturday. “These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues — some places a great deal of progress; other places there’s still more work to be done.” Not much else, but you can hear Pompeo say what else he’s looking forward to in the weeks ahead in his 1-minute chat, here.
  • However, according to North Korea’s foreign minister, the Thursday-Saturday talks with Pompeo were “deeply regrettable” as the SecState pushed a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization,” The New York Times reported Saturday.
  • Update: Pompeo did not like reading DPRK’s foreign minister quotes in the press on Saturday, the Times reported Sunday in a follow-up. Meantime, America’s “maximum pressure” public approach to North Korean “denuclearization” continues.

Later today, Pompeo flies to the UAE at a critical juncture in the UAE-led offensive on the Yemeni port city of Hodeida (in its 23rd day). He stays there through mid-Tuesday.
Then it’s off to Brussels for the NATO summit on Wednesday, as well as EU energy talks and counter-ISIS discussions with NATO members.

POTUS is on Twitter this morning taking the by-now usual shots at NATO. In his own words: “The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more. Germany is at 1%, the U.S. is at 4%, and NATO benefits.......[Tweet break]...Europe far more than it does the U.S. By some accounts, the U.S. is paying for 90% of NATO, with many countries nowhere close to their 2% commitment. On top of this the European Union has a Trade Surplus of $151 Million with the U.S., with big Trade Barriers on U.S. goods. NO!”
Note: The U.S. is not paying 90% of NATO — but it’s a lie the president likes to repeat (he said it Thursday night, too, at a rally in Montana).
Also: “while it’s true that many of the countries are upping their military funding, almost all of those increases were proposed in budgets created before his election.” That’s from Defense One last year. Read and see the charts, here.

If you’d like additional reporting showing the Russian military presence inside Ukraine, here’s a weekend report from Riga-based Russian news aggregator, Meduza. The set up: “Facing charges for death of a fellow soldier, Senior Lieutenant Oleg Leontyev, said he fought in the 'territory of a neighboring country where we were officially 'not present.'” Read a bit more in an English summary of the Meduza report, here; or read the report (from Thursday) in Russian, here.

And ICYMI this weekend: U.S. warships sailed past the Taiwan Strait. The destroyers Mustin and Benfold are the first American warships to pass through the strait since July 2017, CNN reported Saturday. A tiny bit more to that one, here.