Mattis wants ‘civilian surge’ in Afghanistan; POTUS at NATO; New space-plane tests go well; For sale: stolen Reaper manual; and just a bit more...
Correction: Today’s D Brief initially misstated the type of additional personnel that may be “surged” to Afghanistan. They are Defense Department civilian employees, not outside contractors.
As expected, Trump hammers allies. CNN: “President Donald Trump came out brawling in his first public comments here ahead of NATO's annual summit, accusing a close US ally of being ‘a captive of Russia,’ calling members of the alliance ‘delinquent’ in their defense spending and insisting they increase it ‘immediately.’”
Stoltenberg objects. “Trump's comments drew forceful pushback from the typically staid NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who went back and forth with Trump over the importance of preserving the alliance. ‘The strength of NATO is that despite these differences, we have always been able to unite around our core task to protect and defend each other because we understand that we are stronger together than apart,’ Stoltenberg told Trump. Trump fired back: ‘How can you be together when a country is getting its energy from the person you want protection against or from the group that you want protection against?’ ‘Because we understand that when we stand together also in dealing with Russia, we are stronger,’ Stoltenberg said.” More, here.
Mattis, mute. Defense One’s Kevin Baron tweets a pic of SecDef with POTUS in Brussels: “The US defense secretary is expected to say nothing at #NATOSummit. Avoiding all cameras at all costs. Stark contrast to most every other NATO country's actively present and public speaking defense and foreign ministers.”
Pompeo's mission: Convince NATO members to "[step] up pressure on Iran and [reassure] allies about alternative oil supplies," Reuters reports.
What the UK wants. Writing in Defense One, Steve McCarthy of the UK embassy’s defence staff in Washington, D.C., pleads for continuing work on programs set in 2014 and 2016, and a recognition of the alliance’s immense value.
NATO good, says U.S. Senate: Defense News: “Hours after Trump landed in Brussels, the Senate passed a non-binding measure, 97-2, that expresses support for NATO, its mutual self-defense clause and calls on the administration to rush its whole-of-government strategy to counter Russia’s meddling in the U.S. and other democracies.
Some numbers on U.S. and Russian public opinion on NATO:
- Republican support for NATO has dropped 5 points in the past year, while Democratic support surged 20 points, according to a new poll from Pew Research Institute.
- And on the question “Does NATO do the right amount or too little?” Democrats (36%) and independents (32%) were more likely to approve of the status quo than Republicans (22%).
- And on the Moscow side, 67% of Russians believe a world government exists and 74% think it's fighting against Russia's national interests, according to this poll spotted by The Telegraph's Alec Luhn.
Mission check: If NATO was founded “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down,” what happens when the consensus frays? At War on the Rocks, Ulrike Franke looks at the ways the old unofficial motto is starting to come apart.
From Defense One
Hacker Caught Selling Maintenance Manuals for Military Drones // Patrick Tucker: A poorly configured router allowed the theft of drone manuals, a list of maintainers, material on the Abrams tank, and more.
The Rocket for America’s Next Space Plane Just Fired 10 Times in 10 Days // Marcus Weisgerber: By 2021, the Phantom Express is slated to carry new satellites to orbit on a daily basis.
What the UK Wants from the NATO Summit // Steve McCarthy: Continue work on programs set in 2014 and 2016, and recognize the alliance’s immense value.
A No-Cost, No-Brainer of a Nuclear Deal // Joe Cirincione: Extending New START would be an easy win out of the Trump-Putin summit.
Don’t Give Russia the Gift of Extending New START // Matthew R. Costlow: With Moscow’s recent behavior, there’s no need to rush on a treaty that still has nearly three years to run.
America’s Moment of Truth With North Korea Is Coming // Uri Friedman: Mike Pompeo’s visit wasn’t it. But the visit hinted at what it might look like.
Tomorrow's Quantum Computers Are Already Threatening Today’s Data // John Breeden II: Large-scale quantum computing could be just five years away.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. On this day in 2014, the Russian military fired thousands of artillery shells across the western border, killing dozens of Ukrainian soldiers. (Hat tip to Bellingcat’s Aric Toler)
What Afghanistan needs is a “one-time surge” of U.S. civilians, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a late June memo to the Pentagon, Stars and Stripes reported Tuesday. “Less than 70 percent of positions for DOD civilians are filled in Afghanistan – and that number is trending downward,” Stripes writes off that June 29 memo.
A few ways to achieve what Mattis wants include “extending the terms of civilians already in the country, speeding up the process for those waiting to deploy, and temporarily deploying civilians with certain skills for short-term stints,” Stripes reports.
For some perspective, “By December 2011, there were nearly 3,000 serving in Afghanistan... As of September 2017, there were still 1,200 appropriated fund civilians in Afghanistan, according to the Defense Manpower Data System’s online data.” Read on, here.
The UK “is planning to almost double the number of its troops in Afghanistan,” Reuters reports from remarks by Prime Minister Theresa May in London Tuesday.
Headed to the fight(s): “an extra 440 troops, which would bring Britain’s total to about 1,100.” More here.
The Syrian military pivoted some of its attention from the ongoing offensive in the south to strike back in the northwest “after a surprise attack by insurgents that reportedly killed two dozen soldiers” late Monday night, the Associated Press reported from Beirut — calling it “a rare advance for the armed opposition, which has suffered a series of major defeats across the country in recent months.”
That NW location: “the village of Ateera near the border with Turkey” in Latakia province. A bit more here.
Close call for the AUMF. America’s “forever war” nearly had its day in court. But that’s not the case anymore since the U.S. service member who challenged his deployment to Syria is now no longer a service member, the U.S. Court of Appeals announced Tuesday in a development noticed by University of Texas national security law professor Steve Vladeck. Read the court’s notice in full, here.
That war in Yemen? It’s in its 1,203rd day, and the Saudis are still intercepting Houthi missiles launched north across the border, Reuters reports.
Targeted: “Jizan Economic City, where Saudi Aramco is building a 400,000-barrel-per-day refinery that is expected to become fully operational in 2019.” Tiny bit more, here.
FWIW: The other antagonists in Yemen — al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — are still waging war with the Houthis, too, Oxford University’s Elisabeth Kendall notes this morning on Twitter. The group has killed more than two dozen Houthis in just the past six days in Al-Bayda province alone. AQAP’s claims, here.
On the Yemen peace talks front, fractures could be growing in the traditional north-south divide, American Enterprise Institute’s Maher Farrukh noticed on Tuesday. Negotiators of the Southern Transitional Council just wrapped their first National Assembly declaring their objective to fully restore the "sovereignty of the South State in accordance with the borders of May 21, 1990."
Adds Farrukh: “Other parties will not agree to this. The demand could lead to a second phase of the #Yemen war in the South.”
Get to better know the history of that north-south divide in our #LongRead on Yemen’s past, present and uncertain future, here.
U.S. Treasury pastes “terrorist” label on a Shiite militant group in Bahrain, AP reported Tuesday from Washington. The al-Ashtar Brigades are "yet another in a long line of Iranian-sponsored terrorists who kill on behalf of a corrupt regime," Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department said Tuesday.
CFIUS, China, and the Pentagon’s needs. The U.S. military needs a lot more people to conduct “national security reviews of foreign investments in U.S. companies,” Bloomberg wrote Tuesday off a new report from the Government Accountability Office.
The report’s lengthy title: “Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States: Action Needed to Address Evolving National Security Concerns Facing the Department of Defense” (PDF link here)
The gist: The number of DOD personnel with CFIUS responsibilities “has not kept pace with the growing workload.”
For some metrics, Bloomberg writes “The number of transactions CFIUS reviewed from 2012 through 2017 more than doubled, from 114 transactions to 238. During that time, the number of transactions the Department of Defense was responsible for co-leading increased by about 57 percent, to 99, but manpower hasn’t kept pace, according to the report.” Continue reading at Bloomberg, here.
And finally today: Read along as Derek Anderson, “a 32-year-old rescue specialist with the U.S. Air Force” details the high-risk Thai cave rescue operation — which finally came to an uplifting end on Tuesday, via a Tuesday AP report from Mae Sai, Thailand.
What you'll learn about: Buoyancy compensators; how falling oxygen levels dramatically upped the suspense, how crucial positive pressure masks were in the operation, and much more.