Deadly explosions near Kabul; Defiant Turkey vows S-400 buy; CIA’s murkier drone strikes; R&D to rise; And a bit more.

Several explosions rocked a celebration just outside of Kabul today “attended by Afghanistan’s chief executive and the former president” Hamid Karzai, AP reports from the capital. Both men were unharmed; however, so far three people are believed to have been killed and 32 wounded — but those numbers are expected to rise.

The blasts are said to have come from mortar shells hitting the ground outside facilities housing hundreds of Afghans. Writes AP, “The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on an affiliated website, saying it targeted a ‘Shiite celebration attended by senior government officials.’” More here.

On one other side of that Afghan war, “Nabi Mohammadi, who spent years risking his life for Americans, became an American last week,” the Des Moines Register reported this week. “The soft-spoken native of Afghanistan, who helped Iowa National Guard troops patrol a violent region of his homeland, took the U.S. citizenship oath at the federal courthouse in Des Moines.” Story, here.

From the region: Pakistan is cracking down on extremists. Under "pressure from global powers to act against groups carrying out attacks in India," Reuters reports Pakistani officials seized 182 religious schools and more than 100 people, according to an announcement from the interior ministry this morning.

What to do with the facilities — which include “34 schools or colleges, 163 dispensaries, 184 ambulances, five hospitals” — is still anybody’s guess. A bit more here.

In the city of Baghouz, Syria, “There were no signs of combat and calm prevailed for a fourth day to allow for evacuations.” AP’s Gabriel Chaim has photos from ISIS’s last Syrian pocket, here.


From Defense One

How Many Civilians Die in Covert US Drone Strikes? It Just Got Harder to Say // Katie Bo Williams, Defense One: Trump has revoked an Obama-era reporting requirement even as the CIA has resumed lethal strikes.

NSA-Cyber Command Chief Recommends No Split Until 2020 // Patrick Tucker: That’s another delay for a separation planned several Defense Secretaries ago.

The US-China Tech War Is Being Fought in Central Europe // Philip Heijmans, The Atlantic: The Czech Republic’s complicated relationship with the Chinese giant Huawei offers a lesson in the benefits and pitfalls of courting Beijing.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson, Bradley Peniston and Katie Bo Williams. Thanks for reading! And if you’re not subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1911, President William Howard Taft ordered 20,000 troops to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the Mexican Revolution.


Expect biggest R&D request ever for 2020, Bloomberg reports. In a particular boost for satellites and hypersonic weapons, the Defense Department will ask for $104 billion, some $9 billion more than appropriated this year and the most in the department’s history, according to defense officials, speaking ahead of the March 11 release of the request. Read, here.
But missile defense funding will remain flat, Foreign Policy reports.
Want to know more? Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber rounds up the 2020 known knowns in his next Global Business Brief newsletter, out later this morning. Subscribe to GBB here.
One other thing: “The XQ-58A Valkyrie, a jet-powered drone designed to fly alongside manned fighter jets and navigate autonomously, completed its first test flight Tuesday at Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona,” the Washington Post reported off an Air Force announcement Wednesday.

New activity in North Korea is seen as “missile-related,” according to South Korea’s spy chief, and “the U.S. and South Korean militaries are closely coordinating intelligence over the developments,” the Associated Press reports this morning from Seoul.  
Where this comes from: “Movement of cargo vehicles was spotted recently around a factory at Sanumdong in Pyongyang, which produced North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States,” Reuters reports.
The Sanumdong factory is different from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (also referred to as Tongchang-ri) that’s been in the news this week, too, for new restoration work.
Bigger picture: “Some analysts see the work at Sohae as aimed at pressing Washington to agree to a deal, rather than as a definite move to resume tests.” More from Reuters, here.

WH message to the Saudis: I’m sticking with you. President Trump's pick for ambassador to Saudi Arabia — a post that has been vacant for two years — on Wednesday defended the importance of the U.S.-Riyadh relationship in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
John Abizaid, the retired four-star up for the post, told senators that he was not "unaware of the challenges facing the U.S.-Saudi partnership," including the war in Yemen and "the senseless killing of Jamal Khashoggi," the Washington Post columnist who was murdered and dismembered in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul last year. But, he said: "In the long run, we need a strong and mature partnership with Saudi Arabia."
Sound familiar? Lawmakers continue to clamor for Trump to hold Saudi Arabia's young ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, accountable for any role he may have had in the murder. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Wednesday that MBS had gone "full gangster," asserting: "Obviously, we know, he's ordered, I believe, and all the evidence, I believe, strongly indicates he ordered or knew of efforts to murder Jamal Khashoggi." But the Trump administration has already signaled it intends to stick with Riyadh. Read more, from Defense One's Katie Bo Williams, here.

Turkey: We’re buying S-400. The purchase of advanced Russian anti-aircraft missiles is a “done deal,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a TV news station Wednesday. That follows a warning by NATO’s supreme commander, U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who told lawmakers on Tuesday that Ankara should not be allowed to also buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Scaparrotti is worried that the S-400 might send Russia information about NATO’s latest jet.
Eject Ankara from the F-35?: This is no small thing. Turkey is the largest Tier 3 partner in the F-35 program and has contributed close to $200 million to the fifth-generation fighter jet’s development,” wrote Selim Sazak and Caglar Kurc last year in Defense One. “If the crisis escalates further, it is likely to have severe reverberations.”

Chinese telecom Huawei is trying to sue the U.S. government over access to American military contractors, AP reports this morning.
Quick background there: “Huawei, China’s first global tech brand, is at the center of U.S.-Chinese tensions over technology competition and cyberspying. The company has spent years trying to put to rest accusations it facilitates Chinese spying or is controlled by the ruling Communist Party.” Read on, here.
Extra reading:

Spotted in Beijing today: “a kidnapping in broad daylight,” Financial Times’ deputy bureau chief in Beijing, Lucy Hornby tweeted today. "Three men in black caps and tight black jackets with yellow insignia grabbed a low-income woman. She ran into the street to avoid them, sobbing. They dragged her across the road by her coat and shoved her into a grey van with Tianjin plates. The good citizens who witnessed this event were visibly shaken and upset. About 50 people from all classes stopped to witness this event, many trying to photograph or impede the operation but none daring to intervene directly." (This is apparently not without recent precedent in Beijing.)

A Russian jet intercepted a USAF RC-135A somewhere over the Baltic Sea, The Aviationist reported Wednesday after the video was released by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The gist: First, the date is unclear. Beyond that, David Cenciotti writes, "Close encounters between Russian fighters and U.S. spyplanes and bombers (and vice versa) have occurred for decades now... we have often published shots of U.S. spyplanes during unsafe intercepts by Su-27 but we have never seen footage filmed from inside the cockpit of the Russian fighters dispatched to visually identify and escort the American aircraft. Until yesterday... Interesting, even though it does not show anything nefarious."

Russians who ‘disrespect’ government are now criminals, thanks to lawmakers “pass[ing] legislation Thursday that imposes restrictions on online media and criminalizes anyone who insults the state,” AP reported from Moscow. “The bill introduces fines for publishing materials showing disrespect to the state, its symbols and government organs. Repeat offenders could face a 15-day jail sentence... The bills are expected to quickly pass in the upper house before President Vladimir Putin signs them into laws.”

Meanwhile, China’s Communist Party is warning against “erroneous thoughts” as Reuters reports party “officials [are] fall[ing] over themselves to pledge allegiance to President Xi Jinping and his philosophy.”
This year’s milestones for China:

  • “30 years since the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square;”
  • “60 years since the Dalai Lama fled from Tibet into exile;”
  • “70 years since the founding of Communist China.” Reuters has more on ideological crackdowns in the Middle Kingdom, here.

Sen. Martha McSally: sexual assault in the ranks threatens U.S. national security. The squadron commander-turned-Arizona senator said that Thursday on “CBS This Morning,” one day after she stunned a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the issue by revealing that she had been raped by a superior officer when she was in the Air Force. Reuters, here.

Lastly today: classified U.S. Navy nuclear-reactor manual found on British beach. Or part of it, anyway; the MSN story is a bit vague. But photos posted by Ian Le Breton, who said he found the manual while walking his dog along the English Channel, clearly show the cover of “Book 2” of a classified casualty manual for the A4W/A1G reactor, two of which power the Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers. Le Breton told MSN: “It is impossible to say if it is still in use. The regulations it refers to were created in 1954 so it is from sometime after that.” Read, here.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.