Border-wall shutdown threatened; US, Taliban met last week; Do Not Buy list of software; TSA surveillance; and just a bit more...

Weekend Trump tweet: No border wall? No government. The tweet, as written by the president on Sunday:

  • “I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!” Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!”

Seven hours later, he resumed verbal attacks on the special counsel’s investigation into alleged Russian ties to the 2016 Trump campaign — before pivoting back to the border wall again this morning in his only tweet so far. Here’s The New York Times with a shutdown forecast.

Happening today: Italian PM to 1600 Penn. President Trump meets with Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, today at the White House. Conte — who arrived to Washington on Sunday (photo here) — has been in office just 59 days.

One easy topic of conversation for the two leaders: How NATO needs to spend more on defense.

One difficult topic of conversation: How Italy can’t quite afford to spend more on defense, as CNBC reports this morning in a preview.  

A preview of Conte’s likely concerns: The new Italian PM "will probably argue that Libya is a mess that Obama created, which will resonate well with Trump, that migration is very hard to control as a consequence, and that this migration poses a risk of terrorist attacks against Europe, U.S. interests in Europe, and even the United States," said Erik Jones, professor of European Studies at John Hopkins University. A bit more, here.


From Defense One

Pentagon Creates 'Do Not Buy' List of Russian, Chinese Software // Marcus Weisgerber and Patrick Tucker: Increasingly alarmed at foreign hacking, DOD and intelligence officials are racing to educate the military and defense contractors.

Mattis: No Pentagon Policy Changes Since Trump-Putin Helsinki Summit // Paulina Glass and Marcus Weisgerber: The defense secretary also said that his department's policies on Iran remain the same despite tougher Trump administration rhetoric.

Defense One Radio, Ep.13: Afghan Ambassador to the US; Washington Post's Josh Rogin and Bloomberg's Eli Lake. // Defense One Staff: Welcome to our podcast about the news, strategy, tech, and business trends defining the future of national security.

Secretary of a State of Confusion // Uri Friedman: Senators tell Mike Pompeo: We have "serious doubts about this White House and its conduct of American foreign policy,"

The ACLU Used Amazon's Facial Recognition and it Labelled Congress Members as Criminals // Dave Gershgorn: Not only did the algorithm falsely match 28 members of Congress to criminal mug shots, but the false matches were more common for congresspeople of color.

The Meaning of North Korea's Remains Transfer // Uri Friedman: The Korean War never officially ended. But its participants are now chipping away at the last sources of hostility.

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. On this day 73 years ago, two Japanese torpedoes sank the USS Indianapolis in the center of the Philippine Sea. Only 318 of the Indianapolis’s 1,196 crewmen survived in a harrowing turn of events that would be retold (with the date off by one day) in the 1975 film “Jaws.”


The U.S. met face-to-face with the Taliban in Qatar last week, The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend.
In attendance: “Ambassador Alice Wells, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, led the U.S. delegation, which met with members of the Taliban’s political commission in Doha, Qatar.”
For what it’s worth: Afghan officials were not present for that meeting, NYTs reported separately this weekend.
U.S. officials are warning not to expect anything yet from these talks, despite what they call “a serious, new interest” by the Taliban to negotiate. More from the Journal, here.

ISIS is still killing and kidnapping in Syria, Agence France-Presse reports today — following up on a series of attacks on multiple villages in the southern province of Sweida.
From last week: "More than 250 people were killed on Wednesday when IS carried out a string of suicide attacks and shootings in the provincial capital Sweida and villages to the north and east." Afterward, at least three dozen Druze women and children were kidnapped — four of whom managed to escape. A bit more here.
The U.S. military are nearby, right? Sort of — but not really. They’re training Syrian rebels to fight ISIS in the nearby location of Tanf, about 290kms away as the crow flies. More from that location, via Voice of America from last week, here.   

The view from Iraq: Dry, waterless. Reports Agence France-Presse in a short video: “As southern Iraq suffers through a punishing drought, desperate cattle breeders are having to sell off animals to keep others alive.”

In Afghanistan, ISIS attacked a medical training facility in the east on Sunday, killing three staff members in an assault carried out by two gunmen, Reuters reports this morning.

In Africa, Al-Qaeda’s Mali affiliate disrupted elections on Sunday with a barrage of “10 mortar rounds in the village of Aguelhok in the northern region of Kidal,” Reuters reported from the capital city of Bamako.
The group: Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM). Get to better know the group via this recent analysis from The Long War Journal’s Caleb Weiss.  
Context: “Vote counting was under way on Monday, the day after a presidential election in which President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is seeking a second term despite worsening insecurity since he took power five years ago.” More here.

A bit south across the congo, Zimbabwe is having its first ever without Robert Mugabe on the ballot. NPR’s Eyder Peralta has a bit more from Zimbabwe this morning, here.

Back up and to the edge of the Sahara — America’s armed drones are on station and looking for kills over Niger, the U.S. military confirmed this morning for the first time. According to Reuters, “Niger’s government granted American forces permission last November to arm their drones but neither side had previously confirmed their deployment. Before that, U.S. drones had only been used for surveillance.”
Staging location: A “base in the capital Niamey while the military completes construction of a $100 million drone base in the central city of Agadez.”
Being hunted: Fighters from a “local Islamic State affiliate in western Niger [that] last October killed four U.S. soldiers.” A bit more, here.

How’s the war in Yemen going? There have been alleged kidnappings (of Saudi soldiers by Houthi rebels) and an assassination of an alleged spy in the past week. Which is to say everything is dangerously as it has been in Yemen for months, if not years. Al-Jazeera has a look at “ordinary life” from your average fisherman’s POV in the contested western port city of Hodeida from this weekend, here.

TSA shadowing more Americans. Boston Globe: “Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.”
Agency officials declined to confirm even the existence of the program, but an internal TSA bulletin issued in March says it aims to counter threats “posed by unknown or partially known terrorists.”
But its arbitrary nature has TSA agents unconvinced of its value. “It is a time-consuming and costly assignment, they say, which saps their ability to do more vital law enforcement work.” Read on, here.

Election insecurity. NBC News: “After nearly two years of calling Russian election interference a hoax and its investigation a witch hunt, President Donald Trump on Friday presided over the first National Security Council meeting devoted to defending American democracy from foreign manipulation.” But current and former officials told NBC that there is still “no coherent Trump administration strategy to combat foreign election interference — and no single person or agency in charge.”
White House officials: Not true; we’ve had a strategy since last year.
NBC: “No such strategy has been made public — or even mentioned before.” Read on, here.

And finally this morning: B-52 drills are still apparently happening in the vicinity of North Korea — judging by this weekend report from Japan’s Channel One.
The gist: “[T]wo B-52 bombers and refuel planes practiced in mid-July around Japan outside [North Korea’s] SA-5 radar range,” peninsula-watcher Noon in Korea tweeted this weekend. “The bombers made abrupt turn East before Hokkaido to enter Sea of Japan, which is a vulnerable area for NK.” Read on for NIK’s take on what’s notable from those drills here, here, and here.

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