Today's D Brief: US sends more troops to Taiwan; Americans 'live in an age of extremist mass killings'; Somali strike kills 7; 'Godzilla egg' in Japan; And a bit more.

The Pentagon says it’s nearly quadrupling the number of American troops deployed to Taiwan for training. The policy change will raise the current number from around 30 to as many as 200, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. “The additional troops will be tasked with training Taiwan forces not only on U.S. weapons systems but on military maneuvers to protect against a potential Chinese offensive,” U.S. officials told the Journal

The Pentagon seems to be calculating that this relatively modest rise won’t set off alarm bells in Beijing, “but that’s a question that is constantly being evaluated and looked at specifically with every decision involving support to Taiwan,” one official said. 

By the way: Taiwan’s top diplomat met with U.S. officials Tuesday in Washington, the Journal reported separately Thursday from Taipei. The talks lasted some seven hours and centered around “national security,” according to Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency. At least five U.S. lawmakers traveled to Taiwan during the month of February, including Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna from California—with whom Defense One’s Jennifer Hlad spoke recently. You can read over that interview, here

From Defense One

Marines to Begin Testing Leased Vessel for Pier-less Operations  // Jennifer Hlad and Lauren C. Williams: The service is leasing three commercial Stern Landing Vehicles as it waits for the Landing Ship Medium to arrive.

One Year In: What Are The Lessons from Ukraine For The Future Of War? // Peter W. Singer: From drones to network attacks to the LikeWar of social media, the conflict marks a turning point from old to new.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad and Lauren Williams. If you’re not already subscribed to this newsletter, you can do that here. On this day in 1942, Japanese submarines fired artillery at targets on America's west coast, near Santa Barbara, Calif. Due to waves, the nearly two-dozen rounds caused very little damage; but the psychological effect was profound, and caused many to think a Japanese invasion was imminent. Indeed, the following night, some Californians mistakenly thought they saw Japanese aircraft approaching, so they contacted authorities—who authorized anti-aircraft batteries to open fire from positions across Los Angeles, inciting further panic.

American mass killings linked to extremism are (at least temporarily) declining—after they spiked during a five-year period beginning in 2015. That’s according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League.
Topline read: “In 2022, domestic extremists killed at least 25 people in the U.S., in 12 separate incidents,” the report’s authors write. “This represents a decrease from the 33 extremist-related murders documented in 2021 and is comparable to the 22 extremist-related murders in 2020.” That “continues the recent trend of fewer extremist-related killings after a five-year span of 47-78 extremist-related murders per year,” ending in 2019.
But panning out more historically, “From the 1970s through the 2000s, domestic extremist-related mass killings were relatively uncommon.  However, over the past 12 years, their number has greatly increased. Most of these mass killings were committed by right-wing extremists.” Relatedly, “All the extremist-related murders in 2022 were committed by right-wing extremists of various kinds, who typically commit most such killings each year but only occasionally are responsible for all (the last time this occurred was 2012).”
“It is not an exaggeration to say that we live in an age of extremist mass killings,” the report says. Read over the findings for yourself, here

The White House says it will take a closer look at the human rights record of potential weapons customers around the world under a new policy, Defense One’s Lauren C. Williams reports. The previous standard for restricting arms transfers was just for cases where the U.S. government had material knowledge that those weapons would be used for genocide, crimes against humanity, or grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The new policy restricts sales when the arms “more likely than not” will be used “to command or to facilitate the commission of serious human rights abuses, serious violations of international humanitarian law, genocide, crimes against humanity,” State Department officials said.
“Arms transfers can advance U.S. national security when they are used responsibly by partners who share our values and our interests, and that they can pose real risk of civilian harm when they are used irresponsibly. And that that is not only a counter to our values, but counter to U.S. interests,” the officials said.
Bill Hartung of the Quincy Institute notes that the Biden administration “has a mixed record on these issues thus far. To its credit, in Ukraine the administration has supplied much needed weaponry to a nation defending itself from a brutal Russian invasion. But in other cases—including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and Nigeria—the administration has supplied billions of dollars worth of weapons to regimes that have attacked neighboring countries or harshly repressed their own citizens, up to and including extrajudicial killings. President Biden and his team will have to change course if they are going to live up to the rhetoric of the new policy,” he wrote.
For more, Quincy released a related report in October entitled, “Promoting Stability or Fueling Conflict: The Impact of U.S. Arms Sales on National and Global Security.” See also, “A Values-based Approach to Foreign Policy? Lessons for the Biden Administration,” by Mary Kaldor of the London School of Economics, writing Thursday in Just Security.

A new U.S. military airstrike in Somalia killed seven alleged militants, officials at U.S. Africa Command said Wednesday. Like several of the last few strikes in Somalia, this latest Tuesday strike occurred approximately 300 miles north of the capital city of Mogadishu, and is believed to have killed only al-Shabaab fighters. AFRICOM described it as a “collective self-defense strike,” but provided few additional details.
It’s been nearly a month since that U.S. special operations raid on a “mountain complex” in northern Somalia. According to analysts at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “The mountain range, which spans much of northern Puntland, has been a hideout of ISS since its inception in late Oct. 2015.” That 25 January operation led to the death of a man named Bilal-al-Sudani, whom the Pentagon described as “an ISIS leader in Somalia and a key facilitator for ISIS’s global network.” In the weeks since, the U.S. military has carried out several raids that killed accused ISIS leaders in northeastern Syria (18 FEB, 16 FEB, e.g.)
Earthquake latest: The death toll has risen to more than 47,000 from the Feb. 6 quake that hit Turkey and Syria, the Associated Press reported Thursday from Ankara. That includes 43,556 in Turkey alone, according to the interior minister. Another “164,000 buildings have either collapsed or are so damaged that they need to be demolished,” AP writes.
From the region: 

Ransomware affects U.S. grocery shelves. A recent cyberattack hit produce giant Dole and temporarily shut down the company’s North American production. A company spokesman confirmed the attack took place, but “declined to answer questions on the incident, including whether a ransom was demanded by the hackers,” according to CNN, reporting Wednesday. An apparent lack of Dole salads has caused uproar on social media sites like Facebook. Read more, here

And lastly today: Is Godzilla real?! Authorities in Japan are trying to determine the origin and purpose of a large metal sphere that washed up on the beach in Hamamatsu, south of Tokyo. While they’ve determined it is hollow and not a threat, they haven’t figured out exactly what it actually is; but locals around Hamamatsu have called it “Godzilla egg,” “mooring buoy,” and a thing “from outer space,” according to the BBC. Story, here.