3 coalition troops killed in Iraq; DOD restricts non-essential travel; Trump limits travel from Europe; Cybersecurity regulations; And a bit more.
Two U.S. service members and a British comrade in Iraq were killed in a rocket attack on Wednesday. And that means — including the two U.S. Marine special operators who died in a mountain shootout on Sunday — five Americans have been killed in Iraq in as many days, the BBC’s Joan Soley pointed out. The three coalition forces who died Wednesday were killed on Camp Taji when “approximately 18 107mm Katyusha rockets struck the base,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement.
Another 12 were wounded in the attack, which is under investigation according to CENTCOM. Already, Iraqi Security Forces “found a rocket-rigged truck, a few miles from Camp Taji.” And you can see images of that truck, via the Twitter feed of coalition spox Col. Myles Caggins, III, here.
Said SecState Pompeo, on Twitter shortly afterward: “Today’s deadly attack on Iraq’s Camp Taji military base will not be tolerated. [British Foreign Secretary Dominic] Raab and I agree — those responsible must be held accountable.”
“We will continue to liaise with our international partners to fully understand the details of this abhorrent attack,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his own statement.
FWIW: March 11 “would have been Qasem Soleimani's 63rd birthday,” Michael Tanchum of the Austria-based Institute for Europe tweeted Wednesday.
Related, proximally: “Syrian state media reported on Wednesday that unidentified jets hit targets southeast of a Syrian town along the border with Iraq,” Reuters reported Wednesday. “But there was no indication so far that those strikes were by the United States.”
Back in the states, House lawmakers passed a bill (PDF) to limit the president’s ability to use military force against Iran unless authorized by Congress or if the U.S. must defend against an imminent attack from Tehran. The bill, which cleared the Senate in February, passed the House Wednesday in a vote of 227-186.
Said Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, in a statement Wednesday evening: “This legislation doesn’t prevent the President from defending the United States against imminent attack. Rather, the resolution demands that the decision of whether or not we go on offense and send our troops into harm’s way should only be made after serious deliberation and a vote of Congress. If President Trump is serious about his promise to stop endless wars, he will sign this resolution into law.”
From Defense One
Pentagon Suspends Troop Travel in Affected Countries; Trump Limits Travel from Mainland Europe // Katie Bo Williams: Defense Secretary orders 60-day ban on troops, civilians, and families traveling “to, from, or through” Germany, South Korea, Italy, France, others.
Trump Is Peddling Dangerous Disinformation on Coronavirus // McKay Coppins, The Atlantic: Fact-checkers and scientists have scrambled to correct the president's false and misleading statements, which are being amplified by partisan media, digital propagandists, and administration officials.
As Coronavirus Explodes in Italy, Doctors Are Forced to Choose Who Gets Care // Yascha Mounk, The Atlantic: With patients overflowing hospitals, a leading medical organization offers guidance for military-style triage, including: deny care to people too old to be likely to recover.
More Industry Regulations Are Needed to Improve US Cybersecurity, Congressional Report Says // Patrick Tucker: New mandates should increase companies’ network monitoring and allow them to share data with a new government bureau, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission wrote.
The Prognosis: Latest News on Coronavirus & National Security // Defense One Staff : COVID-19 news is moving quickly. Here's the latest in the military, defense industry, and related spheres.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 2003, the CDC issued “a global alert for a severe form of pneumonia of unknown origin in persons from China, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.” The following day, this affliction would get the name Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. By July 5, or about three and a half months later, the World Health Organization announced that the outbreak had been contained.
DOD restricts non-essential travel to countries hard-hit by COVID-19. The ban, announced by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, affects more than troops: “Defense and military personnel and their families will be forbidden for 60 days to travel ‘to, from, or through’ countries designated as a Level 3 risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” D1’s Katie Bo Williams reported.
Which countries are on the list? When the ban was announced, “the list included only Italy, South Korea, China, and Iran. But within hours the CDC updated its Level 3 list to include 29 European countries affected by the virus, including thousands of troops and families in Germany. Servicemembers’ families are also banned from traveling to Level 2 countries, which at the time of the announcement included the UK and Bahrain, but those countries were removed from the list by Thursday morning.” Read on, here.
As well, President Trump announced new limits on travel from most mainland European countries. The 30-day restrictions apply to “most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries” — specifically, the 26 in the Schengen Area — “at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States,” a DHS statement said.
Public-health experts noted that this attempt at containment does nothing to stop the virus from spreading in this country, though here’s something that might: Trump’s promise to push emergency legislation mandating paid sick leave for people who want to care for COVID-sickened relatives.
Sick leave helps control outbreaks: “A 2012 study of the 2009-10 H1N1 pandemic found that lack of sick leave (and people then going to work because they had to) was responsible for an estimated 5 million additional influenza-like illnesses in the U.S. population,” writes medical historian Marian Moser Jones of the University of Maryland.
Wednesday began with WHO declaring the outbreak an official pandemic, and with senior U.S. public-health officials warning that things are likely to get much worse — along the lines of the exponential growth seen in China and Italy, where strapped doctors and hospitals are having to choose which patients receive lifesaving care.
‘Many, many millions’: Dr. Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress, “I can't get you a realistic number until we put into the factor of how we respond. If we are complacent and don't do really aggressive containment and mitigation, the number could go way up to many, many millions.”
What’s needed: as many Americans as possible must stay home, away from large groups, according to Fauci and many others. The virus is live in a nonimmune population, which means that its spread is unlikely to be stopped, only slowed enough to stretch out the coming demand on American medical professionals and hospitals — #flattenthecurve, as the trending hashtag puts it.
After three days of talks, Turkish and Russian officials almost have a new ceasefire deal for Syria’s Idlib region,” Reuters reports off remarks from Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar today in Ankara.
Akar and his negotiators are trying to hammer out the details of the next joint Turkish-Russian patrols, he said, which are supposed to trace a portion of the M4 highway beginning March 15.
What now for Turkey? “If the status quo remains the same, a resumption of hostilities is inevitable,” warns Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute. And that’s not good for Turkish President Recep Erdogan, for whom “the fate of Idlib is of existential value.”
Long story short: “The prospect of the Syrian regime conquering Idlib risks catalyzing a series of developments that could kill Erdogan’s hopes of re-election when Turkey next goes to the polls,” Lister writes. He may have some time, though, because Turkey’s next presidential election isn’t until 2023.
One possible path forward is a so-called “Gazafication scenario” for Idlib. In this framing, “territory stretching from the M4 to the Turkish border (approximately 35 kilometers at its longest) remains under Turkish-controlled opposition rule. Playing the role of Hamas in this case would be former al Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al Sham.” Read on, here.
And finally: Today on the Hill, there are just three hearings involving uniformed and civilian Defense Department leaders testifying before lawmakers. All four have already begun, and they include:
- CENTCOM’s Gen. Frank McKenzie testifying to the Senate Armed Services. That started at 9 a.m. ET, and it’s already finished.
- Navy and Marine Corps leaders talked to the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee. That, too, is already a wrap.
- Postponed: “Navy and USMC installations and quality of life” was scheduled gonna be the focus of House appropriators at 9, but that’s been delayed.
- And U.S. military “missile defense and missile defeat programs” are the focus of HASC’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing this morning, which started at 9:30 a.m. ET.