Yemen war change of plans, sort of. The U.S. military will stop refueling Saudi-led coalition aircraft for the war in Yemen, the Pentagon announced Friday evening — shortly after the Saudis said they can do all that on their own now thanks to a newfound “military professionalism and self-sufficiency.”
What war, you ask? It’s almost four years old now, though its roots stretch back decades. Read all about it here.
For the record: The Washington Post got the jump on this refueling development early in the afternoon Friday.
While this move could be seen as a setback for Saudi forces, “Yemeni forces supported by the coalition recently announced a new offensive to capture the Houthi-controlled port city of Hodeida,” the Post writes.
And so Riyadh is continuing to march forward with a new phase of the conflict — allegedly involving 10,000 new troops — that “Aid officials warn... could imperil hundreds of thousands of people” in and around Hodeida.
How the U.S. military still plans to help the Saudis: In “building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country’s borders, and contribute to counter Al Qaeda and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in that Friday announcement. “The U.S. will also continue working with the Coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country.”
And Mattis is still relying on a United Nations-supported “resolution of the conflict, led by UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths.”
Also flagged in Mattis’s note: “continued bipartisan interest from Congress… to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country.”
ICYMI: The Pentagon launched a classified operation in Yemen this year to help the Saudis, Yahoo News reported this weekend. The name: Yukon Journey. But what’s involved in this op is… well, classified.
For the record, part two: The death toll in Yemen is climbing, and is believed to be well over 57,000 just since the start of 2016, the Associated Press reported this weekend.
BTW: The Houthis’ leader penned an op-ed in the Washington Post on Friday making his case for stopping airstrikes over Yemen.
Outrage over that op-ed included AEI’s Maher Farrukh. Said Farrukh: “I'm used to reading Houthi propaganda lines like ‘the US is leading aggression’ and ‘US calling to stop the war on Yemen is to save face after the humiliation caused by Saudi Arabia’ in places like al Masirah and Saba News but never though I would see this in the Washington Post.”
Further complicating the Saudis’ effort in Yemen: The Turks have reportedly handed over audio of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi’s death to European, American and Saudi officials, WaPo reported Saturday. What happens next? Read on, here.
From Defense One
DHS-Funded Tech Could Help Calculate the Costs of Cyberattacks // Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: The agency awarded $1.3 million to research helping organizations weigh the benefits of different cyber tools.
DEA and ICE are Hiding Surveillance Cameras in Streetlights // Dave Gershgorn and Justin Rohrlich, Quartz: So far, the public doesn't know where or how the cameras are being installed.
Rust Is a $21-Billion Problem for the Pentagon // Aaron Boyd, Nextgov: DoD is having trouble figuring out how to prevent damage from nature’s basic chemical reactions.
State Department Relaxing Rules on Transfer on Drone, Chip Technology // Patrick Tucker: The rules will pave the way for 5G cellphones — and even drones that talk to each other in midair.
Trump's Wrong. Not All War Veterans are 'Sick' // Paul Rieckhoff: It's important we debunk false narratives about veterans who struggle with mental health injuries.
The US Border Patrol’s Last Hiring Surge Invited a Rise in Corruption // Justin Rohrlich, Quartz: Now it's hiring again.
Trump's Space Force Faces an Uncertain Fate // Marina Koren, The Atlantic: Congressional lawmakers, including Republicans, were skeptical of the idea long before the midterms.
Ep. 28: What if America pulls out of Afghanistan? with Seth Jones, Bill Roggio and more. // Defense One Staff: Welcome to our podcast about the news, strategy, tech, and business trends defining the future of national security.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you find this useful, please consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. On this day in 1864, Union Gen. William T. Sherman ordered his troops to destroy Atlanta’s industrial district before departing the city for Sherman’s march to the sea three days later.
Trump bails on WW1 memorial, skipping a memorial ceremony honoring the U.S. Marines and others who fell at Belleau Wood. The White House blamed poor weather and traffic, but at least the former did not prevent other heads of state and U.S. military leaders from attending.
A bit of video from the Arc de Triomphe, via Patrick Gaspard: "To the strains of Ravel’s Bolero, the fatalities of WWI trench warfare are remembered. The war was responsible for 40 million global fatalities."
Meanwhile on social media, the president, who has rarely lost an opportunity to criticize NATO allies for underfunding their defense, tweeted Friday that French President Macron’s proposal to form a European army was “insulting,” although the two met cordially later in the day.
Who among us hasn’t mixed up the Baltics and Balkans at one time or another? Just probably not to Baltic ambassadors’ faces, as POTUS45 did this weekend in France. (Reported by Le Monde, via BBC’s Mark Lowen)
The Guardian’s Julian Borger: “The whole weekend was supposed to be a show of western solidarity, and ended up proving its absence. Trump showed himself ill at ease with most of his European counterparts and the fleeting encounter with Putin was a reminder of his much greater affinity for autocrats.”
Here are a few podcast recommendations from AshLee Strong, the press secretary for House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Included: Defense One Radio.
In our latest episode: What if America pulled its troops out of Afghanistan? What would change for Kabul, Washington, and the rest of the world? We asked Seth Jones of CSIS and Bill Roggio of FDD. Listen to episode 28 today, right here.
So what are you waiting for? Subscribe today for nearly 30 hours of interviews with folks like:
- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani,
- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg,
- U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson...
And conversations spanning everything from:
- the war in Yemen,
- peace talks with the Taliban,
- ISIS in Africa,
- unmasking Moscow’s spies,
- the history of Russian disinformation,
- how to stop an off-the-shelf drone,
- nuclear war with North Korea and much more.
North Korea’s ICBM program is steaming ahead, with production continuing at 16 secret bases, the New York Times reports, citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials and a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Also: sanctions on North Korea are reportedly collapsing, in part because Pyongyang “has leveraged its new, softer-sounding relationship with Washington, and its stated commitment to eventual denuclearization, to resume trade with Russia and China.”
And America's early-warning system remains elusive: “because of a series of budget and bureaucratic disputes, the [highly classified] early warning system, begun by the Obama administration and handed off to the Trump administration, has yet to go into operation.”
How does America plan to shoot down ballistic missiles? See our explainer here.
Back stateside: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is holding a record 44,000 people in detention — 4,000 more than has been funded by Congress, The Daily Beast reported this weekend.
At least the U.S. isn’t sending spies into citizen’s homes like China as it surges resources and personnel to deal with allegedly questionable people of the Uighur population on its border region of Xinjiang. Read more on that from the University of Washington’s Darren Byler, writing this weekend in CNN.
What did the U.S.-China pow-wow on Friday yield? Not much of anything new, at least publicly, Agence France-Presse reported this weekend.
Still in place:
- the U.S. military’s insistence on flying, sailing and operating “wherever international law allows.”
- China’s insistence that the U.S. “stop sending its vessels and military aircraft close to Chinese islands and reefs and stop actions that undermine China's sovereignty and security interests.”
- Tense trade relations. Read on, here.
Don’t miss: The incarcerated women who fight California’s fires, via The New York Times from August 2017.
Veterans aren’t getting their GI Bill benefits thanks to an IT “glitch” at the VA, NBC News reported Sunday. “At the end of August, Veterans Benefits Administration had nearly 239,000 pending claims — 100,000 more than at the same point in 2017… [A]s of Nov. 8, more than 82,000 are still waiting for their housing payments with only weeks remaining in the school semester, according to the VA. Hundreds of thousands are believed to have been affected.”
BTW: The Guardian reported late last week Trump's acting attorney general involved in firm that scammed veterans out of life savings.
And finally today: Former Navy SEAL and Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw “started [last] week as a punchline and ended it as a star,” WaPo reports from the entertainment front. Advised Crenshaw on national TV (Saturday Night Live): "Americans can forgive one another. We can remember what brings us together as a country.” Story and video here.