Today's D Brief: $6B accounting goof; India’s PM in DC; Interpol sees right-wing terror spike; Sub-rescue ships deployed; And a bit more.
$6 billion for Ukraine weapons found. The Pentagon says it again overestimated how much money it’s spending to send weapons to Ukraine—using, e.g., “replacement costs rather than net book value,” according to Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh. And as a result, the department now has $6.2 billion it can use for future weapons drawdowns bound for Ukraine.
The newly-discovered funds include the $2.6 billion or so the Pentagon previously found via similar accounting reviews in mid-May. That money was discovered after a review of the prior fiscal year’s drawdowns. The $3.6 billion Singh announced Tuesday brings the total to just under $6 billion, she said.
New: The State Department just announced $1.3 billion in new aid to Ukraine. “We’re going to invest over $520 million to help Ukraine overhaul its energy grid, more than half of which, as you’ve heard, has been destroyed by Russia,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday in London. Those funds include $657 million “to help modernize Ukraine’s border crossings, its rail lines, its ports, other critical infrastructure that connect the country with Europe,” Blinken said. He also insisted Ukraine’s allies are determined to make Russia one day pay for the war it started almost 490 days ago.
“Let's be clear: Russia is causing Ukraine's destruction, and Russia will eventually bear the cost of Ukraine's reconstruction,” Blinken said in London. “Until that time, we will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine as they make the greatest sacrifices to defend, to rebuild, to reimagine their country.”
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad, Caitlin Kenney, and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1898, the U.S. Navy captured the Pacific island of Guam from the Spanish, whose contingent of about four dozen troops on the island had no idea Spain and the U.S. had been at war for the past two months.
The Somali president is dropping by the Pentagon this afternoon for talks with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Just two days ago, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud appointed a new army chief after the previous general was fired after four years on the job and amid a recently reported “resurgence” of al-Shabaab violence across the country.
Mohamud wants to begin what he’s calling a “second phase” of attacks against al-Shabaab strongholds. The first phase, as it were, involved Somali forces backed by U.S. and African Union troops; about 2,000 of those AU forces began withdrawing from Somalia this week. However, there are still believed to be around 22,000 AU troops inside Somalia; but unless their United Nations mandate is extended, that mission will end in late December 2024. Fifty-four of those troops perished late last month when Shabaab forces attacked an AU and adjacent Somali base in the Lower Shabelle region, about 80 miles southwest of Mogadishu; all 54 were from Uganda.
Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, who commands AFRICOM, reportedly met with Somali military officials last Wednesday. Then on Friday, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, who leads Army Special Operations Command, and Navy Rear Adm. Jamie Sands of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, visited Somali officials ahead of that “second phase” of clearing operations.
Also on Friday: A suspected U.S. airstrike killed nearly four dozen suspected Shabaab fighters near the border with Kenya on the same day Braga and Sands met with Somali officials. Two alleged senior commanders, Aden Abdirahman Aden and Idris Abdirahim Nur, were killed in that strike, according to the Somali National News Agency. Voice of America has a bit more on the anticipated withdrawal of AU forces and what it could mean for the future of Mogadishu, here.
Big picture: Africa is now “the world's terrorism hot spot, with half of the victims killed last year in sub-Saharan Africa,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday, citing UN officials as well as a new report from Interpol. Contributing factors include political and economic upheaval, “identity-based mobilization,” and porous borders, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari said Tuesday.
But there’s also been a 50-fold increase in right-wing terrorism around the globe over the past 10 years, particularly across Europe, North America, and parts of the Asia-Pacific, Interpol said. UN Secretary-General Guterres agreed, and said, “Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements are fast becoming the primary internal security threats in a number of countries” around the world. AP has more, here.
From the region:
- “Fighting surges in Sudan's capital as three-day ceasefire expires,” Reuters reported Wednesday;
- “Armed factions in Somalia's Puntland agree ceasefire after deadly clashes,” Reuters reported separately on Wednesday from northeastern Somalia;
- “Nigeria’s leader replaces security chiefs in major shakeup,” AP reported Monday from Abuja;
- “‘It was hell’: Hostage freed after years in Africa recounts ordeal and frustrations with US response,” AP reported separately on Monday following the March 2023 release of 62-year-old American Christian missionary Jeff Woodke, who had worked in Niger for three decades before he was kidnapped in October 2016.
India’s prime minister comes to Washington. Narendra Modi, who was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 because the state government he was leading at the time had committed human-rights abuses, is getting the red-carpet treatment eighteen years later. Modi’s visit will include an Oval Office meeting with Joe Biden and an address to Congress.
In context: “India is emerging as an increasingly vital player in a region the United States has prioritized in its foreign policy — a potential bulwark against China and an increasingly powerful actor in sectors including technology, defense and the arts,” writes the Washington Post. But the country’s tilt toward illiberalism is at odds with the kind of message Biden has embraced during his presidency about the importance of proving that democracy is a preferable model to the more autocratic principles espoused by foes such as China and Russia.” More, here.
Mideast leaders in particular will be watching Modi’s visit because they want the respect that Washington increasingly accords India, writes CSIS’ Jon Alterman: “Most Middle Eastern states are united by a sense that while they need a close relationship with the United States, the United States disrespects them. The U.S. government criticizes their heavy hand in domestic politics and second-guesses their security strategies...Feeling as if they are too often treated as vassal states, they are hungry to achieve their own sense of agency. India has done exactly that, calmly articulating when its interests align with the United States and when they do not.” Read on, here.
Biden’s Kinsley gaffe: China is annoyed that Biden called Xi Jinping a dictator on Tuesday, perhaps especially since Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Monday visit with the Chinese autocrat had seemed to have calmed tensions between the two countries.
Biden’s quote, made at a fundraiser in California: "The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two boxcars full of spy equipment in it was he didn't know it was there...That's a great embarrassment for dictators. When they didn't know what happened. That wasn't supposed to be going where it was. It was blown off course." Reuters has a bit more, including a quick overview of Xi’s dictatorial credentials.
Developing: U.S. Navy salvage equipment was just added to the Oceangate submersible recovery efforts. The Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage sent subject matter experts and a Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System to help in the rescue effort of the Titan submersible, Navy officials said in a statement Monday. The submersible contains five people, and has been lost since Sunday evening, and officials believe there is only enough air in the tiny vessel to last until Thursday morning.
The new U.S. Navy equipment can “provide reliable deep ocean lifting capacity for the recovery of large, bulky, and heavy undersea objects such as aircraft or small vessels,” officials said Tuesday. The experts and additional gear were expected to arrive in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Tuesday evening. Officials from U.S. Transportation Command also sent three C-17 cargo aircraft containing “commercial, rescue-related cargo and equipment,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said Tuesday.
Three U.S. C-130s are also involved in the search. But “The Coast Guard is the lead on this mission,” Singh told reporters at the Pentagon. “I believe that we are doing everything we can in terms of surveying the area, and that's been the focus of the department right now,” she added.
By the way: An overloaded boat full of at least 500 migrants sank off the coast of Greece early Wednesday morning last week. UN officials are now calling for an investigation since there appear to be significant holes in the Greek Coast Guard’s account of what happened in the sunken ship’s final hours. The Guardian has more details, here.
And lastly: The U.S. Navy’s oldest aircraft carrier “looks as good or better than it was” before Operation Iraqi Freedom, the ship’s captain this week told Defense One’s Jennifer Hlad, who is based in Hawaii. The carrier, the USS Nimitz, was commissioned in 1975 and had its service life extended to fiscal year 2025, according to the service’s most recent 30-year-shipbuilding plan. Capt. Craig Sicola, who first flew F/A-18s off the Nimitz during a deployment in 2003, said that extension is a testament to the sailors who have “taken care of it so well” over the years.
“We weren’t designed to be around this long, and she’s fantastic,” Sicola said as the ship neared Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for a port call en route home to Bremerton, Washington, after a 7-month deployment in the Pacific Ocean.
The ship’s flight deck also logged its 350,000th arrested landing in April, a procedure that involves a tailhook and metal cables, making it the first of the Nimitz-class carriers to reach that milestone. Sicola was “the guy” who made the landing, he said; but the moment was more a testament to the hard work of the sailors who run the arresting gear, which is more than 50 years old.
For what it’s worth: That same arresting gear played a key role in the first landing of an F-35C on an aircraft carrier, a milestone Hlad and Sicola were also present for.
Next: The Nimitz will get in at least one more deployment before it retires in 2026, Sicola said.