Good & bad news in Afghanistan; Airstrikes in Idlib; ISIS, still in Iraq; Best war films; And a bit more.
Good news, bad news for Afghanistan. First the good news: The founder of the Afghan militant Haqqani network — Jalaluddin Haqqani — has “passed away after a long battle with illness,” according to the Afghan Taliban.
Details so far (like date or place) are scant; and it’s worth noting, as the BBC does, that reports “Rumours about Haqqani's death have circulated for years.”
A bit more about this guy: “Haqqani was among the main recipients of U.S. covert military and financial aid during the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet army in the 1980s,” the Washington Post writes. “But he joined the radical Taliban movement after it took over the country in 1996, serving as a cabinet minister and provincial governor. When Afghan forces backed by U.S. airstrikes toppled the Taliban in 2001, he put his considerable military experience to work in fighting the Americans.”
In that time, “Haqqani has lost a wife, four of his sons and several other family members in various U.S. airstrikes and attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the years.”
But across the Afghanistan battlespace, little appears likely to change as a result of Jalaluddin’s passing, the Post reports. That’s because “His sons long ago took over the day-to-day running of the group known as the Haqqani network, and at a time of increased Taliban attacks on the government, his death is expected to have little impact.”
Add this news to the weekend “confirmation” from U.S. officials that the Afghan leader of ISIS was indeed killed by an American airstrike in eastern Nangarhar province on August 25, CNN reported in a follow-up on Sunday. That guy’s name: Abu Sayed Orakzai.
Whackamole: “The death of the leader is the third time US forces have killed a self-proclaimed head of ISIS in Afghanistan since July 2016,” CNN adds. Read the rest on Afghanistan and the Af-Pak region below the fold.
From Defense One
ISIS Never Went Away in Iraq // Krishnadev Calamur: “You can say that almost all of Iraq has been liberated from ISIS during the day, but you can’t say that at night.
The US-China Cold War Is Now Playing Out in Pakistan // Johann Chacko: It is causing a long, tough re-negotiation over the terms of the relationship between Washington and Islamabad.
Russia Is the Latest World Power Eyeing the Horn of Africa // Quartz’s Abdi Latif Dahir: Moscow is in negotations with Eritrea to establish a new logistics hub, location and opening date TBD.
Defense Department Seeks ‘Rapid Cloud Migration’ Ideas for MilCloud // Frank Konkel, Nextgov: MilCloud 2.0 is about to host a lot more data, and the Defense Department wants ideas for how to get it there faster.
Defense One Radio, Ep. 18 // Defense One Staff: Gayle Lemmon on Syria, Afghanistan's future; All about US Army Futures Command and more.
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. On this day in 1886, Apache chief Geronimo surrendered at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona — a move that “signal[ed] the end of the Indian Wars in the Southwest.”
Now for the bad news out of Afghanistan: An “apparent insider attack” appears to have killed a U.S. servicemember and wounded one other on Monday in the eastern part of the country, officials with the NATO-led Resolute Support mission announced. It’s still too soon to know the identity of the deceased American, but he or she is now the sixth American to die in Afghanistan in 2018.
Just one day prior, Resolute Support got its new commander, Gen. Austin Scott Miller. His statement 24 hours later: “The sacrifice of our service member, who volunteered for a mission to Afghanistan to protect his country, is a tragic loss for all who knew and all who will now never know him. Our duty is to honor him, care for his family and continue our mission.”
BTW: Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Dunford is in the Af-Pak region this week. Military Times’ Tara Copp is among the reporters traveling with Dunford, who will first drop by Pakistan to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Before Dunford even left the states, Reuters reported on one hiccup that he might have to work through on his trip this week. Those could stem from the news that the Pentagon had officially cancelled “$300 million in aid to Pakistan that had been suspended over Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against militants.”
The situation there: “U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in particular, had an opportunity to authorize $300 million in CSF funds through this summer - if he saw concrete Pakistani actions to go after insurgents. Mattis chose not to,” officials told Reuters this weekend.
For the record: “Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in U.S. assistance since 2002, including more than $14 billion in CSF, a U.S. Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-insurgency operations.” Read on, here.
Next, Dunford is off to India along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Reuters again got the lead on some of the expected negotiations between the two countries’ military leaders, reporting those talks could lead to drone sales to New Delhi — including Guardian drones — and an agreement “which would enable [the two countries’ militaries] to share advanced satellite data for navigation and missile targeting,” according to an Indian source. It’s perhaps worth nothing that this meeting with Indian officials has been postponed twice already in the Trump era.
Also worth noting: America is India’s second-biggest weapons supplier. Russia is first. Read a bit more from Military Times, here.
Russia bombs Idlib. As Monday became Tuesday in Syria, Russian warplanes began bombing targets in Idlib province, one of the last redoubts of the seven-year-old rebellion. For weeks, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and his allies in Moscow have been massing forces in apparent preparation for an assault on what are believed to be about 30,000 rebel fighters.
3 million civilians in the vicinity. The war has displaced much of Syria’s antebellum population of 23 million. Many have fled to Idlib, and are now squarely in the path of destruction.
Trump: don’t attack! On Monday night, President Trump tweeted a warning: “President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy…”
Then Russian warplanes struck 17 targets. “First case of Russian strikes in 22 days - had been low level clashes between #Assad forces + rebels on the borders,” tweeted reporter Gemma Fox.
Russia: who, us? President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to take responsibility or otherwise comment on last night’s strikes, but said, "We know that the Syrian armed forces are getting ready to solve this problem," calling Idlib a "pocket of terrorism." AFP, here.
What now? New York Times: “On land, Syria’s government is mustering thousands of conscripts to bolster its depleted forces. At sea, a Russian naval flotilla is just offshore, ready to intervene with formidable firepower. In Idlib Province, millions of civilians are dreading what comes next.” Read on, here.
A question you don’t want to hear in space: "What is this: a production defect or some premeditated actions?” This story’s lede from Agence France-Presse: “Russia launched checks Tuesday after its space chief said an air leak on the International Space Station last week could have been deliberate sabotage.” WTF, here.
For your ears only: The end of the world — or something like it. The folks at WNYC’s On the Media podcast checked in with @armscontrolwonk Jeffrey Lewis and his “new piece of speculative fiction documenting a hypothetical nuclear conflict with North Korea.” They also spoke with Marsha Gordon, film studies professor at North Carolina State University, about the 1983 made-for-TV movie, "The Day After," which imagines a massive nuclear strike in the Midwestern U.S. Listen to that episode here.
For your eyes only: What 200 years of history looks like in Brazil after it’s gone up in flames, also from AFP.
And finally this morning: We have a long list of the so-called “greatest war films ever made, according to critics and audiences” and assembled by Newsweek. You’ll have to click more than 60 times to figure out the entire list. So if you don’t want to do that, you can email us your suggestions and if we get enough, we’ll share them here in The D Brief.
NEXT STORY: ISIS Never Went Away in Iraq