Today's D Brief: Biden natsec team; IS attacks Kabul; Army reorganizes commands; More COVID records; And a bit more.
President-elect Joe Biden’s foreign policy team is beginning to take shape, led by the former vice president’s longtime national security aide, Antony Blinken. Blinken is expected to be Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Bloomberg reported Sunday ahead of official cabinet nominations, which are expected on Tuesday.
What a Blinken pick signals, in short: “a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement,” the Associated Press reports in a preview.
A “centrist with a streak of interventionism,” is how the New York Times describes Blinken, whose “extensive foreign policy credentials are expected to help calm American diplomats and global leaders alike after four years of the Trump administration’s ricocheting strategies and nationalist swaggering.”
What to expect from Blinken, up front: An emphasis on the coronavirus pandemic, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday in its preview.
Perhaps the biggest challenge confronting Biden and Blinken, and how those two are expecting to meet that challenge: “competing with China by choosing multilateral efforts to advance trade, technology investments and human rights — instead of forcing individual nations to choose between the two superpowers’ economies,” the Times reports.
Biden is expected to name his national security advisor on Tuesday, too. And Jake Sullivan, who was the head of policy planning at the State Department under Hillary Clinton, is expected to fill that role. Sullivan “played a key role in negotiating with Iranian officials as the Obama administration sought to put together the Iran nuclear agreement,” the Journal reports.
Biden’s pick for UN ambassador could come Tuesday as well, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield is expected for that job, Axios reported Sunday. She’s a 35-year veteran of the Foreign Services, and last served in that capacity as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs for four years ending in 2017, the Journal reports. “Before that she was U.S. ambassador to Liberia from 2008 to 2012 and held diplomatic postings in several other countries.”
From Defense One
The Fraught Politics Facing Biden’s Foreign Policy / Thomas Wright: His presidency may be the establishment’s last best chance to demonstrate that liberal internationalism is a superior strategy to populist nationalism.
NATO Experiments With Deceptive Tactics to Lure Russian Hackers // Patrick Tucker: Latest cyber wargame shows new uses for honeypots, which have worked against the Russians in the past.
Personality, Not Policy, Will Determine Top House Armed Services Republican // Katie Bo Williams: The pick may telegraph whether the GOP intends a cooperative or combative approach to the Biden administration.
Trump Should Act Against Russia’s Use of Chemical Weapons // Gregory D. Koblentz and Andrea Stricker : Existing sanctions aren’t deterring Moscow. Fortunately, there’s bipartisan agreement on the need for new ones.
The Final Pandemic Surge Is Crashing Over America // Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic: For the first time, the U.S. recorded 1 million COVID-19 cases in one week.
There's No Easy Fix For Australia's Special Forces Culture // Damian Powell, The Conversation: A blistering war crimes report is forcing us to take stock of what the Australian Defence Force asks of its soldiers.
Welcome to this Monday 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 1783, Annapolis, Md., became America’s capital — but only for about nine months.
For the 13th straight day, the U.S. set new hospitalization records because of the ongoing third wave of new coronavirus infections sweeping across the country, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
Do you work at the Pentagon? The building will increase its COVID-19 protection measures beginning on Thursday, the Defense Department said in a Nov. 20 statement.
Why? On account of “a steady increase in COVID-19 cases and positive test results on the Pentagon Reservation since the end of August 2020, as well as an increase in cases in the National Capital Region since the middle of September 2020,” the Department said in its statement.
For a list of escalated countermeasures to help limit the spread of COVID-19, read over the Pentagon’s eight bullet points, here.
One last thing, and it’s about masks and history: About 102 years ago, amid the first wave of the 1918 influenza, a group of Americans formed what was called the Anti-Mask League. And it almost certainly made that pandemic much worse. NPR’s Tim Mak (an Army-trained medic) has the story from May, here.
A U.S. Navy admiral made an unannounced visit to Taiwan this weekend, Reuters reports. Unnamed sources told Reuters Rear Admiral Michael Studeman made the trip. Studeman “is director of the J2, which oversees intelligence, at the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command.” The Pentagon wouldn’t confirm the visit.
Why this matters: “China claims democratically-run Taiwan as its own territory,” Reuters writes. And in recent months, “The Trump administration has ramped up support for Taiwan, including with new arms sales and high-level visits.” Tiny bit more, here.
Islamic State militants hit Kabul targets as Pompeo arrives in Qatar for talks. “Mortar shells slammed into a residential area of Afghanistan’s capital and killed eight people Saturday, hours before outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held what are likely his last meetings with the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators trying to hammer out a peace deal,” the AP reported. “The assault came as peace talks were underway in Qatar, where Pompeo told Afghan government negotiators that the U.S. will ‘sit on the side and help where we can’ in the negotiations with Taliban militants.” Read on, here.
BTW: Pompeo visited Paris this weekend, and made sure to hold a private meeting with right-wing French media. That, via Bloomberg, here.
Is the U.S. military trying to expand its drone war to Kenya? The Times of UK reported this weekend that that is the case, according to unnamed Pentagon sources. “The plan would involve both responding to attacks by militants and launching pre-emptive strikes against targets identified by US intelligence.” More behind the paywall, here.
The U.S. Army just began consolidating its Europe and Africa Commands, which had been previously based in Germany and Italy, respectively. The new command — abbreviated as USAREURAF to denote the full “U.S. Army Europe and Africa” nomenclature — is led by Gen. Chris Cavoli, who has commanded Army Europe since January 2018.
The thinking behind all this: “The European and African theaters are inextricably linked,” Cavoli said in a follow-up press release. “Their close geography and economic ties mean that regional security issues span both continents. In today's modern security environment we need to think across the entire hemisphere and not artificially divide problem sets — this consolidation allows that."
Worth noting: Poznan, Poland, will host a “rotational forward headquarters” under this USAREURAF reorg. That element will help the recently reactivated V Corps, which Army Times wrote about in February.
When V Corps is fully mission-capable, the Army says, it “will focus on Europe and assume many of the operational and tactical-level functions from U.S. Army Europe and Africa — eventually including command and control of Atlantic Resolve rotational units as well as assigned units such as the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade and the 41st Field Artillery Brigade.”
Not so fast: For the record, these consolidation plans are “anticipated to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2022,” according to the Army.
Also involved in the USAREURAF reorg: U.S. Army Africa, which is based out of Vicenza, Italy, is now officially re-designated as the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force-Africa (or SETAF-AF). That task force is led by Army Maj. Gen. Andrew Rohling, and he will also serve as Deputy Commanding General for Africa, the Army said.
What to know about SETAF-AF: Its soldiers are “responsible for all Army operations and assets in Africa and Italy, to eventually include the 173rd Airborne Brigade.” More here.
Happening today: The Air Force’s top special operations commander, Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, is scheduled to speak today for about an hour beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET in a virtual event hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies. Details and registration, here.
Lastly today: U.S. formally leaves the Open Skies Treaty. Six months after giving the required six-month notice, the Trump administration has withdrawn the United States from a multilateral agreement that is widely believed to have increased stability. The Hill reports.
Background: Past news and analysis about Open Skies at Defense One.