Today's D Brief: Armed unrest expected in US; Illegal Afghanistan drawdown?; CNO’s shipbuilding concerns; Syria update; And a bit more.
Next week could be a week of right-wing terrorism across the United States. That’s because the FBI is warning “Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” according to an internal bulletin obtained by ABC News on Monday.
The FBI’s alert also flagged “state, local and federal government courthouses and administrative buildings” as targets of demonstrators still angry over outgoing President Donald Trump’s election loss.
What to expect: Agents “supporting our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we serve. Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity,” the bureau said in a statement Monday.
As many as 10,000 National Guard troops will be in D.C. by Saturday, Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters Monday. And “Up to 15,000 National Guard members could be deployed in Washington during the presidential inauguration,” the Washington Post reported after Hokanson’s call.
One uncomfortable reality: “There are less forces total in all of the main ‘war on terror’ area of operations today than there will be in DC,” Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute tweeted Tuesday — with the official deployed numbers for Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia, here.
- By the way: Now is as good a time any to read “Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America,” from Kathleen Belew. In a hurry? Catch our Defense One Radio interview with Belew this summer, here; or listen to her 2018 interview with WHYY’s “Fresh Air,” here.
Newly closed to the public: The Washington Monument, because “Groups involved in the Jan. 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol continue to threaten to disrupt the 59th presidential inauguration on Jan. 20,” according to a National Park Service statement Monday.
Which means “They've closed the Washington Monument due to threats from right-wing American extremists,” Defense One’s Kevin Baron tweeted Monday. “Not al-Qaeda. Not the Taliban. Not ISIS. American right-wing extremists.”
Coverage continues below the fold...
From Defense One
Exclusive: Longtime US Diplomat Weighs America’s Legacy in Syria // Katie Bo Williams: The immediate damage of the Turkish invasion has been repaired, Bill Roebuck says, but warns ISIS could reemerge without more U.S. assistance.
Donald Trump Won’t Attend Biden’s Inauguration. So How Will He Leave Washington? // Marcus Weisgerber: The timing of the departure has numerous logistical implications, including the plane’s call sign.
The Wrong Way to Gauge Readiness // Defense Undersecretary Matthew Donovan: Too much focus on mission capable rates misses the larger and more important picture.
Defense One Radio, Ep. 85 // Defense One Staff: Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Angus King, along with Rep. Mike Gallagher, on boosting America’s cyber defenses.
Welcome to this Tuesday 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 1962, the U.S. military escalated its involvement in Vietnam with Operation Chopper, America’s first major combat operation in a conflict that would last another 13 years before ending in a retreat from Saigon.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf finally quit his illegally-held post on Monday, citing a November judge’s ruling “that Wolf was put into the acting secretary’s position unlawfully, because it violated the order of succession meant to happen when a department secretary left office,” CNBC reports. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor will take over for Wolf, CNN reports.
For the record, Monday was “the 642nd straight day with no Senate-confirmed Secretary of Homeland Security,” national security law professor Steve Vladeck tweeted, as he’s known to do on this topic.
New: Three possible plots to overthrow the government. HuffPost reports “[N]ew leaders of the Capitol Police told House Democrats they were closely monitoring three separate plans that could pose serious threats to members of Congress.” The plots were shared with lawmakers in a phone call Monday evening.
- One is a rally that’s being framed as the “largest armed protest ever to take place on American soil”;
- The second is a protest celebrating Ashli Babbitt, the conspiracy theorist who was killed trying to enter the Speaker’s Lobby at the Capitol building last Wednesday;
- And the third is most worrisome, and reportedly involves “insurrectionists forming a perimeter around the Capitol, the White House and the Supreme Court, and then blocking Democrats from entering the Capitol ― perhaps even killing them ― so that Republicans could take control of the government.”
Caveat: This is just the sort of information certain parties would love to see all over TV and online news, regardless of whether or not any of the three demonstrations materialize, “officials on the call warned lawmakers.” And to that end, “HuffPost is not disclosing certain information, such as who appears to be organizing these plots and when they are to take place.” Read the rest, here.
Speaking of propaganda: You say booting insurrectionists off social media could be like whack-a-mole? “Fine. Let’s play whack-a-mole,” a cyber racism expert tells the Associated Press. “There’s a lot of evidence that deplatforming people who are harmful from these platforms is effective,” said Jessie Daniels, a professor of sociology at Hunter College and author of “Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights.” He was speaking to AP on Monday for a report on far-right propaganda and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. “The pushback from tech people is that it’s whack-a-mole, that if they’re not here, they’ll go somewhere else,” Daniels told AP. “Fine. Let’s play whack-a-mole. Let’s do this. Let’s chase them off of every platform until they go away.”
Related: Facebook is removing “Stop the Steal” content from its site, the company announced Monday. “We’ve been allowing robust conversations related to the election outcome and that will continue,” Facebook said in a blog post. “But with continued attempts to organize events against the outcome of the US presidential election that can lead to violence, and use of the term by those involved in Wednesday’s violence in DC, we’re taking this additional step in the lead up to the inauguration.” More here.
The so-called QAnon shaman, with horns and fur, got out of the Navy as an E-2 after just two years of service. Military.com has the story, here.
Related: Catch up on the military’s “haphazard” efforts to deal with white supremacists and other extremists in the ranks in this roundup from Politico.
Another thing: Defense contractors Northrop Grumman and Leidos both paused political donations to all U.S. lawmakers — at least until most of the attention around insurrection subsides. More at Defense News.
Airstrike in Afghanistan kills 18 civilians; Kabul blames the Taliban (for sheltering in homes with civilians). It happened late Saturday in southwestern Nimroz province, al-Jazeera reports.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military is continuing to pull troops from Afghanistan even though Trump signed a law forbidding it. The 2021 Defense Authorization Act “bars using funds appropriated for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to pay for a drawdown below 4,000 U.S. troops until acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller submits to Congress a ‘comprehensive, interagency assessment of the risks and impacts,’” Reuters reported Monday.
Numbers: “In November, the Pentagon said it would reduce the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. It is unclear how many troops have been moved out of Afghanistan since the law passed. One defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. troop level already is close to 3,000.” Read on, here.
And finally today: The CNO says shipbuilding mistakes have put the Navy’s superiority to China at risk. In a call with reporters, Adm. Michael Gilday said, “I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I feel like if the Navy loses its head, if we go off course and we take our eyes off those things we need to focus on, I think we may not be able to recover in this century.”
Delays and cost overruns on new classes of ships have cost the Navy the trust of Congress. (The poster child is the USS Ford, about which Bloomberg recently reported: Navy’s Priciest Carrier Ever Struggles to Get Jets On, Off Deck.) Frustrated lawmakers have denied three-quarters of the Navy’s 2021 funding request for its Large Unmanned Surface Vessel development program.
“The solution, the CNO said, is to make sure new technologies are thoroughly developed and matured before trying to integrate them onto a new class of ships — instead of packing unproven tech into equally unproven hulls,” as Breaking Defense’s Paul McCleary puts it.