New tensions in NE Syria; Iran bounties on US troops; Eyes on Belarus; US expands Huawei blacklist; And a bit more.
Developing: Mixed reports coming in alleging the U.S. military killed a Syrian soldier and wounded two others near the northeastern city of Qamishli on Monday. Two news agencies, citing Syria’s state-run media and a “war monitor” reported that two U.S. helicopters attacked a Syrian army checkpoint “after a U.S. patrol was prevented from passing by.” Reuters reports off Syrian state-run media, and Agence France-Presse add more here here.
“Coalition troops returned fire in self-defense. The coalition did not conduct an air strike,” said the U.S. spokesman for coalition forces, in a statement. Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition troops of unspecified nationality on “routine patrol” were passing through a checkpoint held by pro-Syrian regime forces when the group took on small arms fire from people nearby. That from Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve’s Col. Myles B. Caggins, here.
JUST IN: U.S. intelligence says Iran has paid bounties to Taliban fighters of the Haqqani Network for attacks on Americans, including at (not Balad in Iraq, as initially mentioned here; but in fact) Bagram Air Base, per CNN. “...identifying payments linked to at least six attacks carried out by the militant group just last year alone, including a suicide bombing at a US air base in December, CNN has learned.” The Dec. 11, 2019, attack on Bagram Air Base “killed two civilians and injured more than 70 others, including four US personnel, according to a Pentagon briefing document reviewed by CNN.” Full story from Zachary Cohen, here.
From the region: Turkey and Russia’s presidents spoke by phone today, with Syria and Libya reportedly dominating talks.
And Turkey’s military leaders just dropped by Libya’s capital city of Tripoli. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Chief of Staff General Yasar Guler were joined by the Qatari defense minister and Germany’s foreign minister. The four men arrived to Tripoli in the hopes of securing a ceasefire for the UN-backed government and the UAE-, Egypt- and Russia-backed forces of Khalifa Haftar. Reuters reminds us “Turkey and Russia have emerged as the main power brokers in Libya’s conflict, with military front lines settling in recent weeks around the central towns of Sirte and Jufra. Previous attempts to secure a ceasefire and a political deal in Libya, including at an international conference in Berlin in January, have stalled.”
Donald Trump’s going to Oshkosh (the Wisconsin city) to talk about jobs and the economy today during two afternoon stops for the president, including Mankato, Minn.
B’gosh, you may remember Oshkosh (the company) from the U.S. Army and Marine Corps’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. The company just got a new $127 million order for 248 more of those last month, Defense News reported in early July. “The low-rate initial production contract was worth $6.7 billion, and the entire program is estimated to be worth $30 billion through 2024.”
Car guys: The Duramax diesel engine inside each JLTV is made by GM Defense, as Defense One Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber reported in late June.
And the Army is looking for a new LTV, which is why it inked a recent $214 million deal with GM Defense, which was “GM’s first major military production contract in decades.” More here.
ICYMI: The UN Security Council refused Trump’s pitch to extend an Iranian arms embargo, the Washington Post reported Friday. Now, “The vote paves the way for the embargo to be lifted on Oct. 18, as described in the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers, including the United States,” the Post writes.
“We can’t allow the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell weapons. I mean, that’s just nuts,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday. Earlier in the day, he promised reporters without elaborating that the U.S. “will continue to work to ensure that the theocratic terror regime does not have the freedom to purchase and sell weapons that threaten the heart of Europe, the Middle East and beyond.”
For the record, “only the Dominican Republic voted with the United States for the embargo’s extension,” the Post reports. And “Russia and China voted against it. Eleven members abstained, including France, Britain and Germany, the European countries that helped negotiate the 2015 deal and have struggled to salvage it.” Read on, here.
From Defense One
The Pentagon's AI Factory Gets a Powerful New Tool // Patrick Tucker: The Joint Common Foundation aims to help the Department to standardize and secure its data and make it easier to find.
We Need to Reorganize More than the Military // Steve Ferenzi and Keith Weber: U.S. defense and diplomacy needs a major redesign to get serious about strategic competition with China and Russia.
What Do You Tell Young Americans Doubting the Military's Moral Compass? // Scott Cooper and Paul Lewis: After scandals, pardons, and protests, military and civilian leaders have some work to do rebuilding public trust.
The Plan That Could Give Us Our Lives Back // Robinson Meyer and Alexis C. Madrigal: The U.S. has never had enough coronavirus tests. Now a group of epidemiologists, economists, and dreamers is plotting a new strategy to defeat the virus, even before a vaccine is found.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Kevin Baron with Ben Watson. 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 1945, “Napoleon is always right,” reads one of the more famous and tragic lines from George Orwell’s short novel “Animal Farm,” which was first published 75 years ago today.
Annual U.S. and South Korean military exercises are scheduled to start Tuesday. But don't expect flashy spectacles like August 2017’s live-fire drills with F-35s, the Associated Press reported Sunday from Seoul. That's because the joint exercises were already scaled back or suspended by the White House's attempts to denuclearize North Korea. This week this joint U.S.-RoK drills will largely feature “computerized simulations aimed at preparing the two militaries for various battle scenarios, such as a surprise North Korean attack.”
Worth noting: (1) Trump administration and Seoul officials have still not agreed on a new price increase for hosting U.S. troops in 2020. And (2) progress toward denuclearizing North Korea hasn’t materialized in any sort of public form — especially “since the collapse of Trump’s second meeting with Kim in February last year in Vietnam, where the Americans rejected North Korea’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities,” AP writes. More here.
By the way, Reuters reports South Korea is battling its “worst coronavirus outbreak in months,” thanks in part to a “church where more than 300 members of the congregation have been infected but hundreds more are reluctant to get tested.”
Lithuania is watching what’s happening in Belarus very closely, with Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius warning today (Reuters) that Russian military help for embattled longtime President Alexander Lukashenko would be considered “an invasion.”
“There are no reasons for military support from Russia, and no legal or other grounds for it,” Linkevicius said Monday, in Vilnius. “It would constitute an invasion into the country and would destroy the last traces of its independence.”
Keep up with the latest in Lukashenko’s future via AFP’s ongoing Twitter thread on unrest across Belarus, here. AP has this.
Al-Shabaab extremists launched two deadly attacks in Somalia on Sunday and Monday, Reuters reports from Mogadishu. The first began with a car bomb and then five gunmen attacked a seaside hotel. Five attackers were eventually killed, and ten civilians died in the fighting.
Shabaab allegedly booby-trapped a dead soldier’s body. On Monday, five soldiers were killed when al-Shabaab attacked an army base in the country's southwestern Goofgaduud area. Three soldiers died in the first car bomb attack at the gate, which prompted other soldiers reportedly to abandon the base. Shortly afterward, "Shabaab fighters entered it, planting a booby-trap bomb on the body of one of the dead men," Reuters reports. When soldiers returned to the base and the bodies, the bomb detonated and killed two more soldiers. More here.
Elections watch: Speaker Nancy Pelosi just called the House “back into session over the crisis at the U.S. Postal Service, setting up a political showdown amid growing concerns that the Trump White House is trying to undermine the agency ahead of the election,” AP reports.
Background: “Democrats have accused Trump, who is trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in opinion polls, of trying to hamstring the cash-strapped Postal Service to suppress mail-in voting,” Reuters reports.
Obligatory caveat from Reuters: “Trump has repeatedly and without evidence said that a surge in mail-in voting would lead to fraud. Voting by mail is nothing new in the United States, as one in four voters cast ballots that way in 2016.”
And so on Sunday the House Oversight and Reform Committee "demanded that leaders of the Postal Service testify at an emergency oversight hearing Aug. 24 on mail delays," AP writes. Two men the committee called to testify include Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the chair of the Postal Service board of governors, Robert Duncan.
New job in the military: infowarrior. Each U.S. military service “has created new positions or units to deal with renewed information warfare threats,” Military.com reported Sunday off input from Army Europe’s director of public affairs.
About those new posts: “The Navy has added shipboard information warfare commanders to aircraft carrier strike groups. A new information warfare-focused Air Force unit was activated earlier this year. The Army is in the process of standing up a new cyberwarfare battalion that will have a dozen teams capable of being dispatched to support operational forces.” And three years ago, the Marine Corps “established a three-star billet to oversee the service's information-warfare efforts — a new deputy commandant of information position. Its efforts also include three new Marine expeditionary force information groups, known as MIGs, each of which has about 4,000 personnel organized to spot and respond to a host of threats.” Continue reading, here.
Lastly today: The U.S. just expanded its Huawei supplier blacklist. The Commerce Department announced 38 new entities to its list of Huawei affiliates barred from acquiring chip components manufactured with U.S.-made parts. Now 152 different Huawei affiliates are on the so-called blacklist because of “evasive measures” that included “going through third parties” to acquire the parts, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Fox Business.
“A new separate rule requires companies on the economic blacklist to obtain a license when a company like Huawei on the list acts ‘as a purchaser, intermediate consignee, ultimate consignee, or end user,’” Reuters reports.
“We will not tolerate efforts by the CCP to undermine the privacy of our citizens, our businesses’ intellectual property, or the integrity of next-generation networks worldwide,” said SecState Pompeo in a statement Monday. More at Reuters, here.