Today's D Brief: U.S. strikes militants in Syria; Space-threat data, shared; VCJCS’ deterrence idea; Hacking military vehicles; And a bit more.
The U.S. military hit Iran-backed militants in Syria with retaliatory airstrikes near the Iraq-Syria border at about 2 a.m. local time. The Pentagon called the strikes a direct response to the recent rocket attack that killed a contractor and wounded six others in northern Iraq on Feb. 15. Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams reported on the attack at the time on location. Find her photos here; and her reporting here.
On the receiving end: “Multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kait’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kait’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS),” the Defense Department said in its statement Thursday evening.
At least one militiaman was killed and an unspecified number were wounded, an Iraqi militia official told the Associated Press. The strikes, he said, hit “an area along the border between the Syrian site of Boukamal facing Qaim on the Iraqi side.” A U.S. defense official told NBC News the target area is a “transit hub,” and AP reported monitoring groups nearby claimed the strikes hit trucks carrying weapons from Iran-backed bases in Syria.
Bigger picture: The White House wants to thread a delicate needle with this response, which it says “sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel.” The other consideration involves the Biden administration’s stated intent to act “in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin thanked the Iraqis for their help “investigat[ing] and develop[ing] intelligence for us, and that was very helpful to us in refining the target,” according to the Pentagon’s statement.
“We're confident that the target was being used by the same Shia militia that conducted the strikes,” Austin said, and emphasized, “There's not much more that I'll be able to add at this point other than the fact that we're confident in the target we went after, we know what we hit.”
Russia’s foreign minister complained that Moscow wasn’t given more than four or five minutes’ warning before the strikes, NBC News reported.
One more thing about Russia: It’s Pantsir missile defence system that the U.S. reportedly extracted from Libya back in June? That system has now reportedly “ended up in Turkey, under joint U.S. and Turkish custody.” More from The Africa Report, here.
From Defense One
Hyten: US Must Broaden Its Strategic Deterrence Concept — and Keep Its ICBMs // Patrick Tucker: The Joint Chiefs vice chair said a “new strategic defense review” should take account of communications and sensors.
F-35 Still the ‘Cornerstone’ Fighter, Top Air Force General Says // Marcus Weisgerber: After calling for a new fighter, Gen. Brown clarified the F-35 is alive and well while a new study reevaluates fighters and drones for 2036.
Space Firms Put Aside Rivalries to Share Threat Data // Marcus Weisgerber: A new clearinghouse has begun gathering and distributing information about threats to space networks, products, and services.
ISIS and Al-Qaeda’s Sub-Saharan Affiliates Are Poised for Growth in 2021 // Colin P. Clarke: A rundown on jihadi groups’ expansion in the Sahel and Nigeria, the Horn of Africa, and the continent’s southeastern Swahili coast.
Four Ways US Naval Forces Should Be More Assertive // Capt. Robert Francis: Non-aggressive assertiveness can achieve long-term advantages and have strategic effects.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with 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 seven years ago, Russia illegally invaded eastern Ukraine and, shortly afterward, seized the Crimean peninsula as well as Ukraine’s Sevastopol Naval Base. “The United States does not and will never recognize Russia’s purported annexation of the peninsula, and we will stand with Ukraine against Russia’s aggressive acts,” the White House said this morning in a statement. “We will also continue to honor the courage and hope of the Revolution of Dignity, in which the Ukrainian people faced down sniper fire and enforcers in riot gear on the Maidan and demanded a new beginning for their country. The United States still believes in the promise of Ukraine and we support all those working towards a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous future for their country.”
President Biden travels to Houston this morning to check in on storm recovery and COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Stops include the Houston Food Bank, the Harris County Emergency Operations Center, then it’s off to NRG Stadium (formerly Reliant, where the Texans play NFL sportsball), the White House previewed Thursday.
About NRG: It’s a busy place, with folks waiting a couple hours to receive their vaccine, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday, the day services there opened. More about the site from Houston Public Media here.
Elsewhere: The U.S. Navy now has outbreaks on two of its ships in the Middle East, the service announced this morning. One of the two ships — the amphibious transport dock USS San Diego — is already pierside in Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is located. The other ship — guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea — “is expected to pull into port to conduct further testing of all who have possibly been exposed and provide rapid testing capability and medical treatment centers,” the Navy says. And in case you're wondering, “The port location will not be disclosed, in advance, due to operational security.”
Know any folks in the military hesitant to get a vaccine? SecDef Austin’s team released a three-minute video this week hoping to shore up broader support for vaccinations across America’s million-plus military. Find a transcript here.
A different kind of contagion: The people vaccinating Americans “are seeing hope, and it’s contagious,” the Washington Post reported Thursday.
Pakistan and India agreed to a ceasefire for the first time since 2003, Voice of America reported Thursday. Military commanders for both sides promised to return to various bilateral agreements, a joint statement said. It added that in “the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable” peace, the two sides “agreed to address each other’s core issues/concerns, which have propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence.” The New York Times has a bit more.
AFRICOM’s commander just wrapped a three-day swing through West Africa, which began with two days in Ghana and ended with a stop Thursday in Nigeria. U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend visited several key leaders, including Ghana’s president and defense minister, as well as Nigeria’s military chief.
ICYMI: “Nigeria purchased 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, which will be delivered later this year,” AFRICOM said in its release.
- By the way: Gunmen just kidnapped another 300 schoolgirls in northwest Nigeria today, Reuters reports, adding that no one has yet claimed responsibility.
Why Ghana? The country “contributes to efforts to counter violent extremism through its leadership within the Accra Initiative,” AFRICOM said, “which supports regional information sharing and cross-border security operations between the littoral West African states and the Sahel.” A bit more on that Accra Initiative, here.
DHS to give states and cities $77 million to prevent domestic violent extremism. “On Thursday, DHS issued more than $1 billion in homeland security grants to eligible state, local, territorial and tribal partners, as we do each year,” Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained in a Washington Post oped. “I have designated domestic violent extremism as a National Priority Area for the first time, and will require state and local governments to spend 7.5 percent of their DHS grant awards combating this threat. In practice, this means state and local governments nationwide will spend at least $77 million to prevent, prepare for, protect against and respond to domestic violent extremism.” The Post has a bit more in its news coverage of the shift, here.
More evidence has emerged that the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean is slower that it has been in a thousand years. And “This has implications for everything from the climate of Europe to the rates of sea-level rise along the U.S. East Coast,” the Post reports, here.
Lastly today: Military vehicles are increasingly networked and computerized, which means they’re increasingly vulnerable to hacking. A Pentagon contest to envision such hacks and how to stop them drew more than 500 entries; tune in today at noon ET to watch the nine finalists show their ideas.
The contest is hosted by the National Security Innovation Network, a program office under the defense undersecretary for research and engineering; and its partners: 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Army, U.S. Army DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center, Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team, and Dell Technologies.
Just for fun: this fake ad for technicals is making the rounds on Twitter.
Have a safe weekend, everyone! And we’ll see you again on Monday.