Some paratroopers RTB from the DC area; Ex-generals, defense CEOs speak up; US strikes Taliban; China, Iran target presidential campaigns; And a bit more.

SecDef Esper has ordered 700 paratroopers back to Fort Bragg, N.C., and “the remaining 900 soldiers from the division as well as a military police unit from Fort Drum, N.Y., could begin withdrawing as early as Friday,” the New York Times reported Thursday evening.

And aside from those units, 2,000-plus National Guard troops are still in D.C., and that number is “set to climb to 4,500,” according to the Times.

BTW: Lightning struck dangerously close to two National Guard troops last night “near the Lafayette Park perimeter,” D.C. Fire and EMS tweeted early this morning. “Both were transported with non life threatening injuries.” 

Request from the mayor: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has formally asked President Trump “withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from our city.” Find the full letter the mayor sent POTUS, here

Worries at DIA. “The government’s increasingly militarized response to nationwide protests has sparked concern among employees of [the Defense Intelligence Agency], who fear they might be compelled to help conduct surveillance on American demonstrators,” Yahoo News reported Thursday off input from some nameless insiders. 

The Air Force’s incoming Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., just posted a nearly five-minute video message to social media this morning. It’s a sobering watch; he explains how as a black American, he feels like he’s had to live “in two worlds,” and what that means for servicemembers and family members.  

More former military officials are speaking up, and that includes former Defense Secretary William Perry, who joined James Mattis on Thursday condemning the president for having “peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Park” on Monday “forcibly subdued and dispersed with tear gas under the orders of Attorney General Barr.” 

Perry: “In the United States, those who serve in the government and the military swear an oath to support the Constitution, not any individual. That is what makes our nation great.” More from Politico, here.

And retired Marine general John Kelly told the Washington Post on Thursday that Trump “has clearly forgotten how [James Mattis resigned as SecDef roughly 18 months ago] or is confused.” Politico has that (since the WaPo report is now buried in a flood of associated news), here.

Former SOCOM Chief Bill McRaven said he is "absolutely" concerned that foreign despots could see troops being used to clear protestors at the White House and think it's ok for them to do the same with their troops. "I was very pleased to see Jim Mattis, and obviously Mike Mullen, and today John Kelly come out and reinforce what we know to be the principles of the U.S. military,” he told MSNBC this morning. 

“We all raise our right hands and swear an oath to the Constitution of the United States. It's not the president of the United States, it is to the Constitution,” McRaven said. “Trust me, every man and woman in uniform recognizes that we are all Americans and that the last thing they want to do as military men and women is to stand in the way of a peaceful protest. Again, great to see the voices being raised and a little bit of sanity, hopefully, coming back to this very, very tragic situation.”

Is all this talk by former military leaders good for civil-military relations? Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams has reactions from experts.

Defense CEOs were speaking out even before the dam burst on the military and ex-military statements. Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber rounds up a sampling.

Some good news for the U.S.: The unemployment rate dropped to 13.3% in May, down from 14.7% in April, according to fresh data from the Labor Department. However, AP reports today, today’s numbers are “confound[ing] economists’ expectations of another round of severe losses, [and] suggests that thousands of stores, restaurants, gyms and other companies reopened and rehired more quickly than many analysts had forecast.” More here.

But elsewhere, "from restaurants in Thailand to car factories in France," AP reports separately, "many jobs just aren’t coming back.”

From Defense One

The Generals Are Speaking Up. Is That a Good Thing? // Katie Bo Williams: Scholars are warning about what others are celebrating as a necessary corrective to a commander in chief gone wrong.

CEOs of Major Defense Companies Speak Out About Racism, Call for Unity // Marcus Weisgerber: In many cases, their internal messages and social media posts went out days before military leaders issued their own calls for reflection.

Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense CEOs address racism; Special budget for countering China; Business’ great power competition and more.

What The Iraq War Can Teach Us About Better Policing // Patrick Tucker: One lesson: if you treat a neighborhood like a battlespace, you’re well on the way to losing the war.

Cool It With the ‘America In Decline’ Talk // Daniel DePetris: Clear-eyed assessment, not reductive defeatism, is required to develop a foreign policy that meets U.S. interests.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall called for economic aid to war-torn Europe during a speech at Harvard University. The eventual result of that speech would be what we know today as the “Marshall Plan.”

COVID-stricken carrier back on the job. AP: “Ten long weeks after a massive coronavirus outbreak sidelined one of the Navy’s signature warships, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt has returned to sea and is conducting military operations in the Pacific region.” Read on, here.
Homecoming planned for another carrier kept at sea by COVID. USS Harry S. Truman, which has been marking time for weeks off the Atlantic seaboard, will finish up some drills and return to its homeport of Naval Station Norfolk in mid-June, service officials said. The ship deployed in November to the Middle East and was on its way back when the pandemic led Navy officials to order the ship to get no closer than the waters off Virginia. 
The crew got the word Thursday from brand-new Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite, who flew out to the carrier to deliver the news. More, here.
ICYMI: Last summer, the Navy proposed to retire the Truman, which was commissioned in 1998, rather than spend an estimated $3.5 billion repairing and refueling it. Trump nixed the plan.

The U.S. military just carried out airstrikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan on Thursday, Col. Sonny Leggett of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan tweeted this morning. The strikes — two of them — were an effort to “disrupt coord[inated] TB attacks on ANDSF checkpoints, [in accordance with] the US-TB agrmt” struck late February in Qatar. 

In Libya, Turkey seems to have captured a Russian-made Mi-35 helicopter from rogue general Khalifa Haftar’s Russian-, Egyptian-, and UAE-backed forces, according to an enthusiastic Turkish reporter.
It looks like Haftar’s drive on Tripoli has “suddenly collapsed,” Reuters reports today as his “last major stronghold” near the Libyan capital has been retaken by fighters with Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord.
Haftar’s men are now reportedly withdrawing “from the town of Tarhouna, heading towards Sirte, far along the coast, and the airbase of al-Jufra in central Libya.” 
Worth noting: Haftar still seems to be controlling “the east and oil fields in the south,” which means this could all go on for quite some time still. Read on, here.
AFRICOM just launched a new website, this one featuring “more evidence of #Russian interference,” like those jets Moscow sent to Haftar recently, according to a tweet from the combatant command this morning.

And finally this week, China and Iran are trying to hack Biden and Trump campaign Gmail accounts, Google’s Shane Huntley, who directs its Threat Analysis Group, announced on Twitter Thursday. The Washington Post reports “There were no signs the accounts were compromised” during what appears to have been another phishing operation
Facebook says it will soon start labeling posts from state-run media outlets, according to a notice from the social media company on Thursday. According to FB, “these publishers...combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state, and we believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government.” 
Expect to notice changes for U.S. users as early as next week. Afterward, “Later this summer, we’ll apply the label to ads from state-controlled media outlets, starting with a few outlets and adding more over time.” More from FB, here.

Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!