Today's D Brief: Deadly Iraq rocket attack; NATO may add troops in Iraq; ‘9/11-style’ inquest into Capitol riot; Confederate base names; And a bit more.
Correction: An earlier version of today’s D Brief misstated where NATO officials said they might add troops. That country is Iraq, not Afghanistan.
A rocket attack on a U.S. base in Erbil, Iraq, killed one civilian contractor and injured one U.S. service member on Monday, Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams reported from the base in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The attack also injured five other contractors, all but one American, according to a U.S. defense official. The contractor who was killed was not an American citizen, according to multiple defense officials.
At least one local civilian was killed in the attack, which also struck a nearby residential neighborhood, according to local media reports.
A group called Saraya Awliya al-Dam took immediate responsibility, and claimed to have fired 24 rockets in the attack. The group is widely seen as a front for Iran-linked militia in Iraq, in particular Kataib Hezbollah, the group that killed multiple Americans in two attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq in 2019 and 2020. More from Williams, here.
Reax from Tehran: “Iran considers Iraq’s stability and security as a key issue for the region... and rejects any action that disturbs the peace and order in that country,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh reportedly said via state-run media. Tiny bit more via Chinese state-run media, here.
Get to better know Saraya Awliya al-Dam, the somewhat-new militia that claimed responsibility. They’re just one of at least 10 group’s that “demand the full withdrawal of US and Coalition forces from Iraq,” according to al-Arabiya. They “primarily target US forces, but in practice this often means Iraqi contractors – such as truck drivers – are the victims of these attacks.”
Also: “The groups have no clear leadership or command structures,” which makes substantively linking their activity to Iran quite difficult, Phillip Smyth of the Washington Institute told al-Arabiya back in November. And their apparent goal seems to be to “strike targets [across Iraq] without prompting a significant response from the US.” A bit more, here.
From Defense One
Rocket Attack Hits US Base in Iraqi Kurdistan; Casualties Reported // Katie Bo Williams: Five Americans wounded, including one US troop, and one non-U.S. civilian killed in attack claimed by an Iran-linked militia group, as indirect fire hits airport compound and other sites in Erbil.
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Israelis join IDEX; Drones, hotter than ever; Latest M&A deal, and more...
Confederate Military Base Names Just Met Their Gettysburg // Kevin Baron: A Black admiral, a gruff Marine, a never-Trumper, and the maker of a viral video slamming Confederate sympathizers? Say goodbye to “Fort Bragg” and the rest.
The Pentagon Needs Budget Agility to Compete with China // Dan Patt and Bryan Clark: It can take two or more years to shift funding from a failing program. That’s more than a money problem.
The Pandemic’s Deadly Winter Surge Is Rapidly Easing // The COVID Tracking Project, The Atlantic: Cases are down 57 percent from the country’s all-time peak in early January, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
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NATO is mulling a ten-fold troop increase in Iraq, “potentially taking the mission from its current maximum of some 500 troops to around 4,000 or 5,000,” four unnamed diplomats told Reuters ahead of a key meeting on Thursday.
What you need to know presently: “The mission will expand gradually, in response to the situation,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday in a preview.
Who is causing violence in Afghanistan today? “Well, everyone,” the Associated Press’s Kathy Gannon reports today from Islamabad. And her long list of culprits includes “the Taliban, the Islamic State group, warlords, criminal gangs and corrupt government officials.” And that means there is “a rogue’s gallery of spoilers” for any potential ceasefire deal struck between Kabul and the Taliban.
Gannon traces about a half-dozen other dismal metrics (Afghan casualties, U.S. investment, national poverty rate, e.g.) to illustrate the seemingly increasingly bad place Afghans find themselves in, here.
By the way: The Taliban have reportedly penned an open letter to citizens of the U.S., Afghanistan’s Tolo News reports. More here.
Myanmar’s military junta says it wants to hold elections, eventually. So far, Reuters reports, “The military has not given a date for a new election but has imposed a state of emergency for one year.”
The official word: “Our objective is to hold an election and hand power to the winning party,” Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, spokesman for the ruling council, said in his first press conference since the Feb. 1 overthrow of civilian leader Suu Kyi’s government.
Bitter irony: The Zaw Min Tun’s press conference was livestreamed on Facebook, which is a social media platform that the ruling military has banned.
Counter-coup protests across Myanmar have not subsided in the past couple of days. Indeed, “a civil disobedience movement has brought strikes that are crippling many functions of government,” Reuters reports. Protesters even “block[ed] trains between Yangon and the southern city of Mawlamyine.” More here.
The House may launch a 9/11-style investigation into the Capitol riot. Two days after the Senate acquitted former president Donald Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 attack, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to Democratic colleagues that the House “would soon consider legislation to form a commission to ‘investigate and report’ on the attack and interference in election proceedings, as well as an appropriation to pay for enhanced security features on the Capitol grounds,” the Washington Post reports.
The investigation may have bipartisan support, Forbes adds.
“The largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen.” That’s how Microsoft President Brad Smith described the SolarWinds breach in an interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday. Smith joined several cybersecurity professionals to explain the known methods and impact of the Solar Winds hack in a 13-minute segment that begins here.
And finally today: What’s next for former SCO man Will Roper? He’s joining Sally Donnelly and Pallas advisory firm in a part-time role as a Senior Counselor, The D Brief has learned. Roper most recently served as the Air Force’s Assistant Secretary of Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.
Another former administration official making moves: Anthony Ruggiero, former Deputy Assistant to President Trump for National Security Affairs, is heading back to the Iran-watchers of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington, D.C. More at FDD, here.