Today's D Brief: Photos from Iraq attack; Troops & COVID; Spratleys FONOP; AFSOC plans new plane; And a bit more.

The rockets that struck U.S. forces at an Iraqi base on Monday night destroyed a contractor living facility, killing one and wounding four others, including an American service member, Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams reports from northern Iraq.

Reminder: 14 rockets fell on the capital of the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil on Monday. The attack was claimed by an Iranian-supported militia group called Saraya Awliya al-Dam. 

Williams' photos of the U.S. base, located on the far end of the city's international airport, show tented structures completely burned to their metal frame skeletons, revealing blackened tables and bunks. 

The U.S. service member who was wounded in the attack suffered only a "minor injury" and has returned to duty, brigade commander Col. Scott Desormeaux said in an interview. But some of the contractors' injuries were serious enough to warrant surgery, he said. More from Williams, here.

U.S. reax? “The president of the United States and the administration reserves the right to respond in a timely manner of our choosing,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. Meantwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered help in the investigation to Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, CNBC reported.

NATO’s post-COVID future in Iraq? Unnamed diplomats told Reuters on Monday the alliance is mulling a troop increase from 500 or so to possibly more than 4,000 once the pandemic eases, eventually. (In Tuesday’s D Brief, we cited this possible troop increase, but mistakenly noted the changes were for Afghanistan instead of Iraq.) The plans are expected to be announced in an alliance video teleconference scheduled for Thursday. More from Reuters here

SecDef Austin previewed his NATO input in an op-ed Tuesday evening in the Washington Post. The heart and soul of his commentary is laid out in the first two grafs: “President Biden made it clear two weeks ago that diplomacy will be our primary means of engaging with the world, and it must be our first tool of choice. At the same time, the president also recognizes that all of our decisions and actions must be accomplished from a position of strength,” Austin writes. “For the Defense Department, this means fielding a credible force, ready to back up the hard work of diplomacy. It also means working closely with our allies and partners to secure our common interests and promote our shared values abroad. Simply put, we cannot meet our responsibilities alone, nor should we try.” Read on, here


From Defense One

New Plane Key to Special Ops Vision for Africa, General Says  // Marcus Weisgerber: Air Force Special Operations Command is planning flight demonstrations in coming months.

Defense One Radio, Ep. 87 // Defense One Staff: “The Daughters of Kobani” with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

Defense One Radio, Ep. 86 // Defense One Staff: Insurrection, social media, and the future of tech policy.

Don’t Downgrade Space // Dan Tomanelli: Moves and hints portend a worrying shifting of priorities under the Biden administration.

What the Fear of China Is Doing to American Science // Rory Truex, The Atlantic: A campaign against Chinese scientists threatens the openness that defines U.S. universities.

Welcome to this Wednesday 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


Three top defense officials are testifying this morning on the Pentagon's COVID-19 response. That starts at 11 a.m. ET before the House Armed Services Committee. Details here. Watch a livestream here.
Currently: U.S. troops are helping to vaccinate people in Los Angeles and Oakland, California. Active duty troops are also starting up two more centers in New York and Virginia, and will open a fifth in the U.S. Virgin Islands in early March, Air Force Gen. Glen Vanherck told reporters on Tuesday. A total of 20 servicemember teams have been authorized. (Military Times)
By the numbers: Some 487,855 people have died of COVID in the United States, more people than live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. An average of 2,183 people have died each day in the past week. But: “Over the past week, there has been an average of 81,200 cases per day, a decrease of 43 percent from the average two weeks earlier,” the New York Times reports.

This afternoon, Army Chief Gen. James McConville will elaborate on “great power competition” at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington. Here’s what McConville told us on the very topic back in October: “When we take a look at great power, competition, [it’s] very different than the type of combat that we've been used to which I talk about irregular warfare, or counterinsurgency, or kind of terrorism. We're talking about the ability to do large-scale, ground combat operations where we will be contested not only in the land, but in the sea, in the air, and cyber, and space. And so as we train our troops to do this, we go out to combat training centers [and] we present them with multiple dilemmas that are going to allow them to operate in these types of environments.”
In terms of China, McConville is fond of "long-range precision fires," or the kind of weapons that can send an artillery round very close to a target 43 miles away, e.g. (More on that topic at Defense One, here.)
When it comes to Russia, McConville said, "having strong allies and partners in Europe is extremely important. And we do have very, very strong partners and a lot of the partners — whether it's Poland, Romania, Germany, really in all the Baltic states; they are very interested and working together with us. We share the same values; we share the same interests, and they just want an opportunity for freedom and for their people to have the opportunity to prosper. And so what we want to do is work with them to increase their capacities and their capabilities. You know, basically to deter any type of malign activity that's going on in the region. And that's really the goal that we have.” More where that came from, here

China, India expected to join Iranian-Russian naval exercise. The wargames in the northern Indian Ocean, which began Tuesday, will include “shooting at sea and air targets and liberating hijacked ships, as well as search and rescue and anti-piracy operations,” Al-Jazeera reports.
BTW: "This is the second joint Russian-Iranian naval exercise since December 2019, when the two countries plus China held a drill in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman," Voice of America reports. "Iran and China also participated in military exercises held in Russia in September 2020."

The U.S. Navy just sailed by the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, the 7th Fleet announced overnight. China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines all claim some portion of the Spratleys. The guided-missile destroyer Russell conducted this latest “freedom of navigation operation,” a full list of which you can find here.
Why FONOP the Spratleys? China, Vietnam, and Taiwan require either permission or advance notification before a foreign military vessel passes through their territorial sea, the Navy said in the 7th Fleet announcement. “Under international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, the ships of all States — including their warships — enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea…By engaging in innocent passage without giving prior notification to or asking permission from any of the claimants, the United States challenged these unlawful restrictions imposed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.”
Bigger picture: This latest FONOP “follows a joint exercise by two U.S. carrier groups in [the] South China Sea and another warship sailing near Chinese-controlled Paracel islands earlier this month,” Reuters reports. “Those actions had suggested that the Biden administration was not about to scale back operations challenging Beijing’s claims after the ramp-up seen during the Trump administration.”

And finally today: The U.S. Navy is trying to break free of marathon deployments to the Persian Gulf. “After showing signs of improvement following two deadly collisions in 2017, the Navy is again under pressure to provide aircraft carrier presence to the Middle East,” Defense News’ David Larter writes. It’s a decade-old problem: U.S. Central Command wants carrier groups, “despite what experts say is limited public evidence that such deployments deter the United States’ top geopolitical adversary in the region: Iran.”
Relief on the horizon? “With experts and lawmakers alike intent on considering competition with China, might the new administration finally break the cycle of deploying the fleet beyond its means to service Central Command’s demands? There’s reason to believe that may be the case,” Larter writes. Read on, here.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.