House GOP pushes back on European drawdown; Thousands volunteer for Space Force; Navy to ban Confederate flag; Hypersonic missile mishap; and a bit more.

Twenty-two House Republicans want President Trump to stop his reduction of U.S. forces in Germany, they wrote in a recent letter released to the public Tuesday. 

“As Republican Members of the House Armed Services Committee, we are very concerned about reports that the Administration is considering a significant reduction of U.S. troops currently based in Europe as well as a cap on the total number of U.S. troops which can be present there at any one time,” they write. “We believe that such steps would significantly damage U.S. national security as well as strengthen the position of Russia to our detriment. 

“In Europe, the threats posed by Russia have not lessened,” the lawmakers continue, “and we believe that signs of a weakened U.S. commitment to NATO will encourage further Russian aggression and opportunism… Over 75 years of investments and of sacrifices have led to NATO being the most successful alliance in history. But its work is not done.” Continue reading, here

We have some updated numbers on how many U.S. troops are deployed around the world, thanks to a letter from POTUS to the House and Senate, in accordance with the War Powers Resolution. The status report flagged:

  • Saudi Arabia, which is hosting “approximately 3,600” American troops "provide air and missile defense capabilities and support the operation of United States fighter aircraft" in order to "protect United States forces and interests in the region against hostile action by Iran or supporting groups."
  • Jordan is hosting "approximately 3,145" U.S. troops for the counter-ISIS mission.
  • Lebanon has "approximately 40 United States military personnel" whose job is "to enhance the government’s counterterrorism capabilities."
  • Egypt has about 460 American troops.
  • Niger hosts "approximately 760 United States military personnel" for "airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations and to provide support to African and European partners conducting counterterrorism operations."
  • Kosovo hosts about 640 helping the multinational Kosovo Force.

And there are no approximate numbers given for the American military presence across the following countries — though we did a little digging to try to find the most recent estimates available:

  • The Philippines has hosted “around 250” U.S. forces since about 2002 (per a February report by the New York Times).
  • Cuba, where about 5,700 U.S. troops remain (as of 2018; Miami Herald). 
  • Somalia hosts “about 500” (as of March; NYT).
  • Djibouti, where “roughly 4,000” American troops are temporarily deployed, CBS News reported in 2017. 
  • Kenya hosts “about 200” troops and another 100 civilians and contractors work, NYT reported in January. 
  • Turkey hosts “about 2,500” (as of January, per Washington Post).
  • Yemen, where a “small number” of Americans are deployed, according to the White House.
  • Syria, where “about 900” Americans remain (as of October, per NYT).
  • Iraq hosts 5,000 or so (March 29, AP).
  • Afghanistan has “fewer than 10,000” (April 30, CNN).

Related reading: This from Axios back in January, which adds Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, and the UAE. You may recall the context at the time was a possible U.S.-Iran war following the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

By the way: A rocket appears to have targeted U.S. elements in Baghdad on Monday, which al-Jazeera reported marks “the 29th such attack against American troops or diplomats since October.” Fortunately no one was harmed. It was “the first to target the airport since May 6 when three Katyusha rockets struck near its military sector.”

And ICYMI: A U.S. Air Force C-130 overshot the runway and collided with a wall in Taji, Iraq, on Monday. "Four service members on the plane sustained non-life-threatening injuries and are being treated at Camp Taji's medical facility," U.S. Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III, spox for Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement on Tuesday. And for the record, “Enemy activity is not suspected,” he added.

From Defense One

We Need Joe Biden // Michèle Flournoy and Kathleen Hicks: Donald Trump has failed. Our national cohesion and security can’t wait another five years.

The Pentagon Can’t Afford All of the Weapons It Wants, New Report Says // Marcus Weisgerber: Based on projected funding levels, the military will be forced to choose winners and losers among its priority projects.

Dear Mr. Secretary, You Can Rename Army Bases Right Now // Mike Jason, John Nagl, and Paul Yingling: If the Army’s civilian leader is serious about starting to address institutional racism, here’s a helping hand.

Take Rebel Names Off US Army Bases // David Petraeus, The Atlantic: It is time to remove the names of traitors like Benning and Bragg from our country’s most important military bases.

Explainer: What Is Antifa? // Stanislav Vysotsky, The Conversation: Despite Trump's attempts to paint the movement as an organized threat, its members are decentralized, rarely violent, and focused on resisting the persecution of minority groups.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with 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 2014, ISIS seized the Iraqi city of Mosul, sending shockwaves around the world just as the U.S. military was trying to finish drawing down after more than a decade of counterinsurgency in Iraq. Watch the 2016-17 recovery of Mosul in our 90-second animation on YouTube, here.

Happening today: Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, testifies at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the military’s coronavirus “response to defense industrial base challenges” at 2 p.m. ET. Catch the livestream, here.

The Navy joins the Marine Corps in banning the Stars-and-Bars from public spaces. Service officials sent out this short notice to the media on Tuesday: “The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, has directed his staff to begin crafting an order that would prohibit the Confederate battle flag from all public spaces and work areas aboard Navy installations, ships, aircraft and submarines.”
Submitted for the Army’s consideration. If Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy is serious about renaming bases that carry Confederate names, write John Nagl, Paul Yingling, and Mike Jason in Defense One, he can do it with a stroke of his pen. So they wrote up a draft memo for his signature — including proposals to rename 10 bases for Medal of Honor recipients. Read, here.

President Trump was about to fire SecDef Esper last week, but “was persuaded not to do so by aides and other advisers,” the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. After Esper was criticized for taking part in a presidential photo op made possible by federal forces’ violent removal of protesters, the defense secretary spoke out against the president’s hints that he might invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy more active duty troops to American cities. Read on, here.
How much did the protest deployment cost? Pentagon officials have missed a deadline to respond to a Congressional inquiry about the cost of deploying roughly 1,600 active duty troops to the Washington, D.C., region amid the protests last week. (Foreign Policy)
D.C.'s NG contracted COVID. Some members of the D.C. National Guard have tested positive for the coronavirus after being deployed in response to protests, NBC News reports.
Meanwhile: There’s no evidence for Trump’s and Barr’s claims about “radical left-wing terror groups” making trouble during the ongoing protests, AP reports off a review of 217 arrest reports in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. Those claims include the president’s baseless speculation in a Wednesday tweet that the 75-year-old Buffalo man whom police pushed to the ground and left bleeding, might have been connected to antifa.
In fact: “federal court records show no sign of so-called antifa links so far in cases brought by the Justice Department” of the 51 people arrested in connection with the protests, NPR reported over the weekend.
But: “The single instance in which an extremist group is mentioned in court documents is a case against three Nevada men. Federal prosecutors allege the trio belong to the right-wing Boogaloo movement that wants to bring about a civil war. The men have been charged with plotting violence during Las Vegas protests.” Read on, here.
Explainer: What is Antifa? Stanislav Vysotsky, associate professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

On Tuesday: USAF Chief-of-Staff-in-waiting Gen. Charles Brown was confirmed during a vote in the Senate. has more, here.

Some 8,000 airmen volunteered for the Space Force last month. "During the month of May, more than 8,500 active-duty Airmen within 13 eligible officer and enlisted career fields volunteered to build the ranks of the newly-created U.S. Space Force," service officials announced Tuesday.

The foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Italy called for a ceasefire in Libya, according to a joint statement released Tuesday with the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell. That comes just a few days after Russia-, Egypt-, and UAE-backed General Khalifa Haftar himself called for a ceasefire — a call that came following several weeks of bruising pushback from Turkish-backed forces around Tripoli. (For the record, Turkey declined the ceasefire offer.)
According to Turkey’s President Erdogan, “Now the goal is to take over the whole Sirte area and get it done. These are areas with the oil wells, these are of great importance,” he said Monday, per Reuters
And about Libya’s oil production, CNBC reports today, “Output in Africa’s third-largest oil producing nation plummeted in late January from around 1.2 million bpd to just over 320,000 bpd, and is now estimated to be around a mere 90,000 bpd.”
What next? The Washington Post can catch you up on the big picture in Libya, summarizing developments as recently as midnight, here.

Russia apparently wants attention, so it flew aircraft “within 20 nautical miles of Alaskan shores.” Two Tu-95 bombers, accompanied by two Su-35 fighter jets and an A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft came close to U.S. airspace, NORAD officials announced this morning.
Worth noting: “The Russian military aircraft remained in international airspace and at no time did they enter United States sovereign airspace,” NORAD tweeted. More here.

Coronavirus update: More than 112,000 Americans have died, according to the NYT’s coronavirus tracker.
Dr. Fauci: It isn’t over yet. “In a period of four months, it has devastated the whole world,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top U.S. infectious disease expert,  told biotech executives during a conference held by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. “And it isn’t over yet.” Read, here.

And finally today: When a hypersonic missile falls out of a B-52...expect the details to remain classified. That’s what Aviation Week’s Guy Norris is finding out as he digs for what happened after a recent evaluation, “which is thought to have involved an aircraft from the 419th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, California.”
Some indications suggest “the mishap potentially occurred over land—possibly over a designated test range such as the Edwards Precision Impact Range Area or the nearby Naval Air Weapons Station test range at China Lake—rather than during transit for a wet dress rehearsal or live fire test over the Pacific range.” Read on, here.