Today's D Brief: African leaders converge in DC; Russian IO campaign targets right-wing Americans; Erdogan's missile threat to Athens; TikTok bans grow in the US; And a bit more.
U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit preview: Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and State Secretary Antony Blinken are co-hosting a three-day summit of African leaders in Washington, D.C., beginning Tuesday. The first day’s agenda is expected to involve business and finance, healthcare, and climate crisis mitigation, space-related developments, and discussions on defense and security cooperation; and U.S. officials say President Joe Biden will announce $55 billion in new funding for African nations over the next three years.
The summit “is rooted in the recognition that Africa is a key geopolitical player,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday at the White House. “The continent will shape the future not just of the African people but also the world,” he added.
You may recall population projections for Nigeria, which anticipate the country will nearly double to about 400 million people by 2050, ranking it third behind India and China, and displacing the U.S. to the fourth spot by mid-century. By 2030, a fifth of the world’s population will be from Africa, and “by 2050 a third of all the world’s children will be African,” according to the United Nations.
For what it’s worth: Five African nations were not invited. Those include Eritrea, and four others that have been suspended from the African Union—Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Sudan. All 49 other African nations have been invited to the White House’s three-day summit.
- “Africa’s rising cities: How Africa will become the center of the world’s urban future,” via the Washington Post, reporting 13 months ago on the continent’s potential;
- “Africa Needs Good Governance, Not Guns,” argues California Democratic Rep. Sara Jacobs, writing Monday in Foreign Policy;
- “Nigeria in 2050: major player in the global economy or poverty capital?” via the Institute for the Security Studies, writing this past March;
- See also how the “Nigerian military [allegedly] ran [a] secret mass abortion programme in [its] war against Boko Haram,” according to Reuters, reporting last week from the capital city of Maiduguri; for the record, Nigerian government officials denied the allegations, as Reuters reported in a follow-up Monday;
- And Reuters was back on Monday with another round of bad news for Maiduguri: “Nigerian Army massacred children in its war against Islamist insurgents, witnesses say”; Nigerian officials have not yet responded to the allegations.
From Defense One
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Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: Startup dies in crypto collapse; Highest-paid defense CEOs; Hypersonic success; and more...
Congress Prepares One-Week CR as Lawmakers Work Toward Full-Year Funding Deal // Eric Katz: The continuing resolution would push off a government shutdown from Friday night to Dec. 23.
Stop Building a Military to Attack China // Dan Grazier: Concentrate instead on deterring Beijing, and keeping a Chinese invasion force from going anywhere.
The Physical Obstacles to the Pentagon’s Connect-Everything Vision // Patrick Tucker: Jets, destroyers, and soldiers are very different data customers, but the Pentagon wants to serve them all equally.
‘Can We Actually Build It?’ Defense Industry Leaders Look Ahead to Uncertain 2023 // Marcus Weisgerber: The war in Ukraine—combined with worker shortages, inflation, and other factors—has made it more difficult and more expensive to produce the most in-demand weapons.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 2003, and less than nine months after the start of America’s Iraq invasion, U.S. forces located Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hiding in a “spider hole” just south of his hometown of Tikrit.
New: Suspected Russian sources are “target[ing] right-wing U.S. audiences with divisive political narratives to a greater extent than previously known” on social media platforms like Gab, Gettr, Parler, and Truth Social, according to the online forensics researchers at Graphika and Stanford University, who detailed their findings in a new report published Tuesday.
Messaging included “allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and 2022 midterms, as well as attempts to undermine public support for Ukraine in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war.”
The effort involved about three dozen inauthentic accounts, and seems to follow “previous foreign influence operations likely conducted by the same actors since at least 2020,” the authors write. The forensics teams flagged these 35 accounts because, they say, “Due to an apparent lack of enforcement, the actors have established a degree of persistence unavailable on most mainstream platforms and are able to conduct their operations with relative ease.” Read more (PDF), here.
In terms of U.S. military aid to Ukraine, “We will have further announcements in the coming days,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday, three days after the latest announcement of U.S. weapons to Kyiv. “We’re going to look at what’s actually happening in the air and on the ground in Ukraine, not so much as what’s happening…on television stations in Russia,” he told reporters.
Periodic reminder to folks seeking an “off-ramp,” or a way out of this conflict: “Russia can end this war immediately by ceasing its attacks against Ukraine and completely and unconditionally withdrawing its forces from the territory of Ukraine,” G7 leaders said in a joint statement Monday. But, “To date, we have not seen evidence that Russia is committed to sustainable peace efforts.” Furthermore, the leaders said, “We are determined that Russia will ultimately need to pay for the restoration of critical infrastructure damaged or destroyed through its brutal war. There can be no impunity for war crimes and other atrocities.”
New: Ukrainian forces appear to have attacked a key bridge in occupied Melitopol that the Russian military frequently used to move elements to and from Ukraine’s eastern front. The city’s exiled governor shared purported video of the now-sagging bridge, which connects Melitopol with neighboring Kostyantynivka. “The attack is the second in the city of Melitopol in recent days after Ukraine’s military used U.S.-supplied long-range artillery to demolish a hotel housing Russian military personnel,” the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
This week in anonymous sourcing: Israel thinks Iran is trying to limit the range of ballistic missiles that Tehran allegedly wants to sell to Moscow to help Putin’s flagging Ukraine invasion. That’s what four senior Israeli officials told Axios on Monday, nine days after Russia’s deputy defense minister reportedly visited Iran’s capital. It’s not precisely clear, however, which weapons would have their range limited to the alleged 300 kilometers, since Axios only flagged “a Fateh-110 missile system, which [already] has a range of 300 kilometers.” Read the rest, here.
Speaking of ballistic missiles, Turkey’s president threatened to attack Greece with its Tayfun (or, Typhoon) short-range ballistic missile, according to public remarks at a town hall over the weekend in the north of the country. (The missile was tested in October, and traveled about 350 miles; Athens is just 138 miles from the nearest Turkish territory, al-Monitor noted Monday.) Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias condemned the threat Monday, telling reporters in Brussels, “North Korean attitudes cannot and must not enter the North Atlantic Alliance.” The Associated Press has more, here.
Think Russia has been off its game when it comes to cyber warfare during this invasion? You’re not alone. That’s partly why Gavin Wilde of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace just published an assessment of what he calls “oft-overlooked facets of Moscow’s conceptualization of ‘cyber’” in its wider military strategy. Dive into that new report, here.
Developing: Indian and Chinese troops were reportedly injured Tuesday when Indian forces allegedly blocked the Chinese soldiers from entering territory that is claimed by both countries, according to Reuters. The troops came face-to-face in the mountainous northeast part of India, which borders China, and the disagreement came to fisticuffs, which led to some of the minor injuries. If confirmed, it would be the first such skirmish since 2020.
And lastly: TikTok bans are growing in the U.S. Alabama and Utah just joined Texas, Maryland, and South Dakota in banning the social media app TikTok from government devices. Reuters cut to the heart of why these bans are piling up, writing Tuesday that they all “follow warnings from FBI Director Chris Wray last month who said the Chinese government could use the ByteDance-owned app to control data collection on millions of U.S. users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations.” Several other states have current actions underway to limit or investigate use of the app on government devices; that includes Indiana, as well as Massachusetts, California, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont.
Related reading: “Former U.S. Pilot Helped Chinese Aviators Train for Aircraft Carriers, Indictment Says,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Tuesday from Australia, where former U.S. Marine Daniel Edmund Duggan has been held since his arrest in late October. CBS News has more on his case, here.