More troops to border?; Houthi drones bomb Saudi cities; US-Taliban talks resume; Camo-piercing camera; And a bit more.
1,000 more troops to the U.S.-Mexico border? That’s what the Department of Homeland Security requested of the Pentagon last week, on top of the roughly 5,000 already there, including about 3,000 from the active duty and 2,100 from various National Guard units.
The new request specifically taps Texas National Guard units, and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is on board — as he indicated in late June. The Pentagon, however, has not publicly decided; but few observers see any reason the department will decline the request.
Why now? “To provide supplemental holding and Port of Entry enforcement support to [Customs and Border Protection personnel] within the State of Texas,” according to a Monday statement from the Defense Department.
A bit more on that mission: “The Guard members will help manage CBP-run holding facilities for single, adult migrants in the towns of Donna, on the eastern end of the border with Mexico, and Tornillo, which is in the middle of the border,” Agence France Presse reports. “They will also provide support at ports of entry and commercial airports in El Paso and Laredo, in order to improve border security and traffic flow.”
And for the record, “223,263 people were detained in the Rio Grande Valley sector between October 2018 and May 2019, up 124 percent from the same period a year earlier,” AFP writes, citing CBP stats. And so far this fiscal year, “90% of apprehensions [in the sector] are from countries other than Mexico,” according CBP stats released Monday.
More than 50 U.S. Army units already deployed to the border, as listed in this datatable posted by Military Times back in March.
By the way: DHS is using what ProPublica calls “secret gang databases” to justify separating migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. The data comes from a “fusion” intelligence-gathering center in El Salvador, created in May 2017 and funded by the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
The benefit of using these databases: “Once a person is flagged as having a gang affiliation, they are fast-tracked for removal.”
Why is this notable? The claims that stem from those databases — which include well-known groups like MS-13 — often fall apart when a judge asks for evidence, as this Houston Chronicle report illustrated in late June. Said one lawyer to ProPublica: “It’s probably been at least $100,000 in legal fees, pro bono on [one single] case — but that’s what it takes. You have to move heaven and earth.”
One big, lingering problem with the cell: A lack of transparency, which is, one could argue, somewhat fundamental to the pursuit of justice. As ProPublica writes, “Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to answer questions about the fusion center, including where and how often the gang intelligence is being used along the border and whether it has been the cause of other family separations.”
Another thing: Conditions in a Clint, Texas, migrant detention center are deteriorating, according to the New York Times. To wit, “Outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox were spreading among the hundreds of children and adults who were being held in cramped cells, agents said. The stench of the children’s dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents’ own clothing — people in town would scrunch their noses when they left work. The children cried constantly....‘It gets to a point where you start to become a robot,’ said a veteran Border Patrol agent who has worked at the Clint station since it was built.”
From Defense One
New Camera Could Help Drones See Through Camouflage // Patrick Tucker: Researchers copied a technique pioneered by creatures like the mantis shrimp.
Pentagon Looks to Virtual Reality to Prepare Troops for Nuclear War // Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: The Defense Threat Reduction Agency wants info about VR training systems that could simulate “radiological threats.”
China Should Consider Supporting a Korean Nuclear Deal // Peter Huessy, Council on Foreign Relations: If Beijing hoped that a nuclear North Korea would decrease U.S. presence in the Pacific, that strategy has backfired.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not a D Brief subscriber already, you can do that here. On this day in 1776, Gen. George Washington ordered the Declaration of Independence to be read to his troops on Manhattan.
The Houthis want the Saudis out of Yemen as the Iran-backed group keeps up its hectic pace of launching armed drones toward Saudi cities. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Houthi rebels' Supreme Revolutionary Committee, tweeted the call Monday afternoon.
Wrote al-Houthi: “We call on the states of aggression to declare a withdrawal from Yemen, and the Republic rejects aggression, blockade and the air embargo. Withdrawing from Yemen is the ideal decision to take at this particular time. It is enough for the countries of aggression to use Yemen as a test field for the European and American weapons for five years, proving the horror of their criminality.”
That request follows remarks Monday from an unnamed Emirati official who told reporters that the UAE was not only continuing to remove its troops from Yemen, but also shifting from a “military” to a “peace” strategy. He also said Riyadh was onboard with the Emiratis’ moves, explaining via al-Jazeera, "This is not really a last-minute decision. This is part of the process within the coalition that's been discussed extensively with our partners, the Saudis." More on the Saudis’ consent, via Reuters, here.
And about the Houthi drones launched into Saudi Arabia, AJ cites Saudi statistics to report “At least one person has been killed and 56 wounded in Saudi Arabia in three such Houthi attacks since June 12.”
The Houthis are also talking about their drones this morning, bragging that they have a new one which has “a range of 1500 to 1700 km” and “was tested in several successful operations targeting Saudi and UAE airports,” according to analyst Evan Kohlmann of FlashPoint Intel.
Here are some of the recent Houthi drone and missile attacks:
- Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport and Tihama power station were targeted Monday. (Reuters)
- A "Saudi spy drone" was allegedly downed in Jizan over the weekend, "the eighth [Saudi UAV] they claim to have destroyed in the past three weeks," Kohlmann writes on Twitter.
- The Houthis also targeted Jizan and Abha’s airports on Saturday.
- Jizan and Abha were both targeted again on July 4.
- They also claimed to have targeted a U.S.-Saudi Patriot anti-missile battery in Yemen’s Marib Province on July 4.
- And they allegedly hit a recon drone on July 3.
- They also targeted Abha again on July 2, injuring nine people.
- The Houthis also promised these attacks will not stop so long as the Saudis remain in Yemen.
And all of those attacks are just for the month of July, which still has 22 days to go.
One more thing from the Yemen region on Monday: The Saudis say they stopped the Houthis from an “attempted attack on an unidentified commercial ship in the southern Red Sea,” Reuters reports today. According to the Saudis, their naval forces “destroyed an unmanned boat laden with explosives which the militants had used for the attack.”
The Houthis, however, called the allegations “pure slander and completely baseless.” And given the bullet points above, it would seem out of character with those other July attacks. More from Reuters, here.
Across the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, the U.S. military has quietly renewed training a single troubled unit of Somali troops, Reuters reported one week ago.
What happened: “The assistance, part of U.S. military aid to the country aimed at helping the government fend off Islamist insurgents, was suspended in December 2017 after the Somali military was unable to account for food and fuel. U.S. and Somali investigators visiting bases also found far fewer soldiers than had been reported. Many of the men present were missing their guns, indicating they were not ready for active duty.”
In case you are curious, “The aid suspension did not affect some Somali military units, like the Special Forces group Danab that is trained directly by U.S. forces.”
Learn more about those Danab troops — and the wider U.S military mission to rebuild the Somali army — in our special podcast “Escalating in Somalia.”
The U.S. and the Taliban resume Round 8 of peace talks today in Qatar, one day after “a delegation of Afghan citizens and the militants ended a meeting with both sides calling for an end to civilian casualties,” Reuters reports from Kabul.
The takeaways from that Monday meeting include an agreement that “a post-war Afghanistan would have an Islamic legal system, protect women’s rights ‘within the Islamic framework of Islamic values,’ and ensure equality for all ethnic groups,” the Associated Press reports today.
Worth noting: “No date was given for the tougher negotiations to follow, when the many sides in Afghanistan’s protracted conflict will sit down to hammer out the details of what an Islamic system will look like, how constitutional reform will come about, and what will become of the many local militias affiliated with the country’s powerful warlords, who are affiliated with Kabul,” AP writes.
In a hurry? Find takeaways from Monday’s meeting in this 33-second video from AFP.
Today’s talks in Qatar are expected to focus “on the timeframe for U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal, verifiable anti-terror guarantees, intra-Afghan negotiations, and an eventual cease-fire,” according to AP. More here.
China to U.S.: Cancel arms sale to Taiwan. Beijing has formally transmitted, via diplomatic channels, its “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to a proposed $2.2 billion sale, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters on Tuesday.
Background, via AFP: First reported in June, the proposed package of tanks, air-defense missiles, and more “would be the first big-ticket US military sale to the democratically-governed island in decades, and comes as ties between Washington and Beijing are already strained by their trade war.”
ICYMI: An argument that “this weapons package fails to materially improve Taiwan’s defenses and continues to saddle the United States with most of the (putative) defensive burden. A better approach is to push Taiwan to acquire more countermeasures to China’s naval and air forces, thereby increasing the cost of a Chinese invasion.” Read that in Defense One, here.
President Trump says he “will no longer deal” with the UK ambassador to Washington, NBC News reports off a Monday tweet that followed Sunday’s publication of leaked diplomatic cables in which Amb. Kim Darroch described the U.S. president as "inept," "insecure," and "incompetent." Read, here.
Three questions worth considering in all this U.S.-UK diplomatic fallout resulting from allegedly leaked cables, via former CIA-er Aki Peritz:
- Who has access to these diplo cables?
- Who does it profit to leak them?
- Who would be unscrupulous to leak sensitive stuff at this juncture?
When ISIS roared through the Iraqi city of Mosul, the group headed to the museum and smashed ancient artifacts like a colossal 3,000-year-old statue from the Temple of Ishtar in Nimrud.
That artifact is known as the Lion of Mosul, and now it’s back thanks to a 3-D printing effort as part of Google’s digital arts and culture project, AP reports. The item is soon headed to “London’s Imperial War Museum in an exhibition that looks at how war devastates societies’ cultural fabric — and at the ingenious and often heroic steps taken to preserve it.”
Why London, which has its own troubled history of looting antiquities abroad? “The British Army recently set up a Cultural Property Protection Unit — modern-day monuments men and women — and the exhibition includes a pack of ‘archaeology awareness playing cards’ distributed to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
What else is there in London? “Meticulous Nazi lists of artworks they’d stolen; video of the Taliban blowing up Afghanistan’s 1,000-year-old Bamiyan Buddhas; footage of IS militants methodically sledgehammering statues in the Mosul museum.” Read on, here.
And finally today, for our Oklahoma readers: You have just five days left to visit the "Pulitzer Prize Photographs" exhibit at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. The set is on loan from the Newseum in Washington D.C., and departs on July 14.
The photos date back to 1942. Your D Brief-er’s first visit to the collection was unspeakably inspiring and emotionally draining — from Presidents’ Kennedy and Eisenhower’s solemn walk after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, to the 1951 “Flight of Refugees Across Wrecked Bridge in Korea,” to the Albanian baby passed through a barbed-wire fence during treks out of Kosovo at the turn of the century.
Taking the top prize in 2018: A series of photos from the war in Yemen, via the talented eye of Lorenzo Tugnoli of the Washington Post. You can find his award-winning work, here.