Friday Defense Briefing

Senior officials have been giving wildly disparate estimates of how many Americans are fighting for ISIS—because U.S. intelligence doesn’t really know the answer to the question. – The Daily Beast

Despite some loosening of spending caps in the past year, Pentagon budget planners need to present Congress with some stark choices, an experienced specialist said on Thursday in releasing a new analysis of President Obama’s fiscal 2015 defense budget. – Defense One

The readiness of American troops for combat could be “worse than most people think,” according to a top budget analyst. – The Hill

The War

Fighters affiliated with the extremist Islamic State (IS) group have reportedly kidnapped some 50 men from a Sunni village north of Baghdad. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

More than 20 people were killed and dozens injured after two bombs went off in Iraq’s capital Baghdad on Thursday. – BBC

Taliban militants detonated two truck bombs and tried to storm police and intelligence buildings in eastern Afghanistan, killing 33 people and wounding more than 150, officials said Thursday. – Los Angeles Times

In a 55-minute video, Mr. Zawahiri announced the expansion of al Qaeda into the Indian subcontinent while denouncing Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the caliphate—or religious empire—he declared in June. The Islamic State’s shocking success has outdone that of al Qaeda’s, taking more ground than any other contemporary Arab militant group in a bid to become the leader of the global jihadist movement. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

India put several provinces on heightened alert on Thursday after al Qaeda announced the formation of a wing of the militant group in India and its neighborhood, a senior government official said. – Reuters

Some 600 British citizens are waging jihad in Iraq and Syria with U.K. passports tucked in their pockets. The masked men appearing in Internet videos showing the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff spoke with London accents. So it’s not a moment too soon for Whitehall and other European governments to address the threat such terrorists pose. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

In a rare public reference to intelligence sources by an Israeli intelligence officer, an official of the Shin Bet intelligence agency said today that not one of the Palestinians executed by Hamas last month for allegedly spying for Israel was in fact an Israeli asset. – Washington Free Beacon

A British-backed team has been quietly investigating Islamic State for war crimes since January, with operatives in Syria collecting evidence for future prosecution of the militant group’s leaders, people familiar with the matter say. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Foreign Armies East

NATO Summit Day One Wrap-Up – BBC

The UK Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged 3,500 troops to a new Nato high-readiness force, which is likely to be agreed upon at the final day of the Nato Summit in Newport. – International Business Times

Eighteen foreign fighters from the Islamic State, including an American jihadist, were killed in a Syrian air raid on a town near the militant group’s main stronghold city of Raqqa in eastern Syria, a human rights monitoring group said on Thursday. – Reuters

Two days after British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told a Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) conference in London that the government would be urging its NATO alliance partners at this week’s summit to invest more in defense, a report has come out saying Britain will miss a key spending target itself as soon as 2015. – Defense News

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said it has seen releases of steam and water indicating that North Korea may be operating a reactor, in the latest update on a plant that experts say could make plutonium for atomic bombs. – Reuters

South Korea said Thursday it would create a joint military unit with the United States, as a report suggested the contingent would target North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction if a full-scale conflict broke out. – Defense News

Much ink has been spilt over the volume and complexity of the almost overwhelming set of security challenges facing Western leaders as they convene in Wales for the 2014 NATO Summit. Missing from that agenda: industry. – Defense One

Accordingly, the West urgently needs a major rethinking of its strategy. On August 30, Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk opened the door, telling his cabinet that Kiev should apply for NATO membership, reviving an idea widely discussed a decade ago. Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko said her party will press for legislation authorizing a nationwide referendum, perhaps in October, on joining NATO. – The Weekly Standard

Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels clashed just east of the strategic port of Mariupol on Friday, hours before envoys from Ukraine and Russia were expected to announce a ceasefire as the starting point for a wider peace plan. – Reuters

About 2,000 Russian servicemen have been killed so far in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said on Friday, citing intelligence data. – Reuters


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Thursday Defense Briefing

44 pledged Wednesday to “degrade and destroy’’ the Islamic State and said that the militant group’s latest beheading of a U.S. journalist will only serve to galvanize those seeking to punish the militants. – Washington Post

Approximately 200 U.S. soldiers are headed to Ukraine for peacekeeping exercises in mid-September, the Pentagon announced Wednesday. – The Hill

The Pentagon is pushing its strategy to develop new technologies and capabilities alongside allies to drive down costs and foster innovation, the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering said on Wednesday. – Defense News

U.S. intelligence agencies last month reported that a group of 22 Yemeni-Americans were training in Houston to be seamen on oil tankers, raising terrorism concerns over the unusual activity. – Washington Times

In vowing in Estonia on Wednesday to defend vulnerable NATO nations from Russia “for as long as necessary,” 44 has now committed the United States to three major projections of its power: a “pivot” to Asia, a more muscular presence in Europe and a new battle against Islamic extremists that seems very likely to accelerate. – New York Times

Foreign Armies East

French officials said Wednesday that they will not deliver the first Mistral-class amphibious warship that Russia had ordered from Paris as part of a $1.7 billion weapons sale, a strong rebuke after months of aggressive actions by Russia in eastern Ukraine. – Washington Post

Britain is considering providing arms and training to Kurdish forces to help its fight against Islamic insurgents, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday. – Reuters

A senior Israeli military intelligence official acknowledged on Tuesday that only several hundred Hamas operatives out of a total that he put at 16,000 were killed during this summer’s 50-day war in Gaza, leaving the group’s fighting force largely intact. – New York Times


A long-term NATO Readiness Action Plan to deal with global upheaval in areas such as Russia, the Middle East and North Africa will be a key focus of NATO’s summit in Wales, an alliance official said. – Defense News

The War

Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram has captured the town of Banki, which borders Cameroon, after government troops fled, residents say.  The military has not yet commented on the latest town to reportedly fall to the insurgents in recent weeks. – BBC

Somalia’s government has offered an amnesty to fighters of Islamist group al-Shabab, amid uncertainty over whether its leader survived a US air strike.  The militants would be reintegrated into society if they surrendered over the next 45 days, a statement said. – BBC

India ordered several provinces on Thursday to be on increased alert after al Qaeda announced the formation of a wing of the militant group in India and its neighborhood, a senior government official said. – Reuters

Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) have significantly stepped up their recruiting efforts in Pakistan and other South East Asian countries, highlighting the competition between the two terror groups to enlist radicalized fighters. – Washington Free Beacon

In a video message released by al-Qaeda’s media arm, terrorist leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the creation of a new branch of the organization in South Asia. Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent would “raise the flag of jihad” through Muslim lands it now deems “occupied” by nonbelievers. In the 55-minute video, Zawahiri designated Umar Asim, a militant with ties to the Pakistani Taliban, as the new al-Qaeda branch’s head. – Washington Post

Taliban insurgents detonated two powerful truck bombs outside the office of Afghanistan’s spy agency and a police compound in the central town of Ghazni on Thursday, killing 18 people and wounding around 150, the provincial governor said. – Reuters

Turkey is struggling to close a “jihadist highway” that lets foreign militants slip across its border into Syria, amid pressure from Western governments and mounting security fears at home. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)




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Wednesday Defense Briefing

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said Tuesday that the United States should be on a “high state of alert” as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches. – The Hill

44 on Wednesday pledged that the U.S. would “degrade and destroy” the Islamist terrorist group responsible for the beheading of two American journalists, saying the U.S. was “repulsed” by the slayings. – The Hill

The United States has been launching drone strikes for at least a dozen years, killing more than 2,400 people across the globe during 44’s time in office alone. Many of them have been militants planning attacks on U.S. troops or partner nations, but the program also has killed enough civilians that it remains highly controversial. – Washington Post

A strategy to fight the Islamic State and not al Qaeda, or the reverse, will ultimately fail. The U.S. must take the threat from each head on and craft and implement a strategy to defeat the groups or resign itself to playing defense against a growing threat from the global jihadist movement. – AEI’s Critical Threats

The Islamic State has thrown down the gauntlet to al Qaeda and seeks to supplant its former ally as the symbol and leader of a global movement acting out a twisted definition of jihad. – Foreign Policy

While the world was discussing U.S. strikes on the Islamic State in Iraq and debating the merits of action within Syria last week, American officials were apparently planning military action somewhere quite different: Barawe, Somalia. – Washington Post

44 has ordered 405 additional U.S. troops to Iraq on Tuesday, bringing the total of U.S. forces authorized there to more than 1,000, the White House announced Tuesday. – The Hill

Foreign Armies East

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday declined to rule out sending combat troops to support U.S. air strikes in Iraq, amid a growing confrontation with radical Islamists who have seized large swaths of that country and neighboring Syria. – Reuters

Syrian forces carried out their fiercest assault on the rebel stronghold of Jobar in Damascus since the start of the three-year war, conducting at least 27 air strikes on Tuesday and killing a child, according to activists and rights groups. -Reuters

A Libyan military jet has crashed in the eastern city of Tobruk, causing a huge inferno and killing a child and at least two other people, officials say. – BBC

Germany will deliver protective equipment and medical aid to Ukraine’s army, a government spokeswoman said on Wednesday, one day before a NATO summit in Wales where leaders will discuss how to respond to the conflict with Russia in eastern Ukraine. – Reuters

The forces responsible for Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal will conduct major exercises this month involving more than 4,000 soldiers, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday, in the latest sign of rising tension with NATO over the Ukraine crisis. – Reuters

The UK will look at “every possible option” to protect a British hostage being held by Islamic State, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said. – BBC

The Afghan army is struggling both to provide security and prosecute illegal killings carried out by its own soldiers, officials say—and millions of dollars hang in the balance. – The Daily Beast

The War

Islamist militias in Libya took control of nearly a dozen commercial jetliners last month, and western intelligence agencies recently issued a warning that the jets could be used in terrorist attacks across North Africa. – Washington Free Beacon

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Tuesday Defense Briefing

Defense insiders are abuzz about the prospect of a congressional mea culpa on defense spending. The collective hope stems from a world picture that suddenly includes several burgeoning threats that were on 44’s “junior varsity” list at the start of the year. – Defense News

44 sent a letter to Congress on Monday notifying them that over the weekend he authorized U.S. military airstrikes and humanitarian assistance to break the month-long siege of the town of Amirli in northern Iraq. – The Hill

The Pentagon is preparing to open a drone base in one of the remotest places on Earth: an ancient caravan crossroads in the middle of the Sahara. After months of negotiations, the government of Niger, a landlocked West African nation, has authorized the U.S. military to fly unarmed drones from the mud-walled desert city of Agadez, according to Nigerien and U.S. officials. – Washington Post

CIA Director John Brennan may have dodged a bullet over his agency’s potentially unconstitutional snooping on the Senate, but critics insist his reprieve is only temporary. Calls for the spy leader to resign after the CIA admitted that officials spied on the Senate have lost steam in recent weeks, since lawmakers left town for a five-week summer recess. – The Hill

The House Armed Services Committee will receive a closed-door briefing on the latest security developments in Iraq and Ukraine on Sept. 9, according to a House aide. The session will focus on “worldwide security threats with a focus on Ukraine and ISIS,” the aide said. – The Hill

Washington will soon face an even bigger challenge: a rapidly evolving Chinese military that is focused on defeating Washington if war ever comes. – The National Interest

The War

A suspected U.S. drone strike targeted senior leaders of Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia, but it’s not clear if the leader of the Islamic militant group was wounded or killed, a Somali official said Tuesday. The Pentagon would only say it carried out an operation in Somalia, but didn’t offer additional details. – CNN

An attack by members of the Shabab militant group on a government detention center in Mogadishu on Sunday left at least 12 people dead, including seven attackers, officials said. – New York Times

The fight in northern Iraq appeared to be the first time American warplanes and militias backed by Iran had worked with a common purpose on a battlefield against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, even though the Obama administration said there was no direct coordination with the militias. –New York Times

A plan to resettle six men held at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo in Uruguay is still being negotiated and is unlikely to occur before upcoming elections in the South American country, an official said Monday. – Associated Press

At least eight policemen have been killed in a bomb attack on a convoy in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, officials say.  The bomb was reportedly detonated remotely as they drove through the village of Wefaq, near the Gaza border. – BBC

Libyans have overrun a residential compound abandoned by the American Embassy when it pulled out of Tripoli in July, according to a video circulated online Sunday. Dozens of gleeful trespassers could be seen gathered around a swimming pool inside the compound, and a few dived in from the second-floor balcony, all fully clothed. – New York Times

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says hundreds of Americans are known to have associated with the Islamic militant group fighting in Iraq and Syria. – POLITICO

A military unit that is on permanent high alert and can move rapidly when a crisis arises will be approved by the leaders of North Atlantic Treaty Organization when they meet in Wales this week, the secretary-general of the alliance said on Monday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Prime Minister David Cameron, trying to show toughness in the face of young British Muslims’ going off to fight in Syria and Iraq, proposed legislation on Monday that would give the police the power to seize the passports of Britons suspected of having traveled abroad to fight with militant groups. – New York Times

A teenage girl planning to go to Syria was arrested at an airport in southern France this weekend, and a man accused of recruiting her was arrested hours later, a French government official said. – Los Angeles Times

A top Kremlin security official said Tuesday that Moscow would now review its military strategy in the face of expected NATO plans to establish a rapid-reaction force capable of deploying quickly to Eastern Europe. – Washington Post


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Thursday Defense Briefing

Aircraft from the carrier George H.W. Bush have struck about 30 targets in Iraq since the U.S. military began pounding the insurgents who are destabilizing Iraq, Navy officials said Wednesday. – Military Times

As the Pentagon works to analyze and repair widespread cracks in its F-16D fleet, it is recommending that partner nations closely inspect their F-16B and D models. – Defense News

The US Army has been saying for a decade that once the last American soldier leaves Afghanistan, the service will need at least two to three years of additional supplemental funding to reset and modernize. With the last US troops scheduled to leave Kabul at the end of 2016, ending 15 years of war, that bill is coming closer to its due date. – Defense News

The US Air National Guard has always been defined by its ability to fulfill both military and civil missions. But with budget draw downs, the service faces increasingly tough choices about how to spend what remains of its modernization budget while serving two masters. – Defense News

Interview: Over the past decade-plus, the US National Guard has established itself as a core part of America’s military action overseas. At the same time, the Guard has to balance its military actions with its responsibilities at home. Since taking over as director of the Air National Guard in January 2013, Lt. Gen. Stanley “Sid” Clarke has been in charge of laying out the future of the air component. – Defense News

The bipartisan National Defense Panel, which includes the president’s own appointees, offers him a true strategic blueprint for coping with the challenges of today and tomorrow. It has made a major contribution to the national security of the United States and the president should both make the most of its findings and act quickly on its recommendations. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government

The War

Despite outrage at home and abroad over the grisly beheading of an American journalist, 44 is unlikely to deepen military involvement in Iraq or Syria and will instead stay the course with U.S. air strikes, U.S. officials say. – Reuters

U.S. Special Operations troops launched an unsuccessful operation earlier this year to rescue captured American journalist James Foley and other captives from the Islamic State militant group in eastern Syria. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint

U.S. counterterrorism officials say Twitter’s crackdown on tweets from the Islamic State is complicating efforts to identify the terrorist group’s key members and activities by intelligence agencies that increasingly use social media to spy on the militants. – Washington Times’ Inside the Ring

A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced 18 men to prison terms of 10 months to 25 years for their part in a series of militant attacks against government and foreign targets between 2003-06, state media reported late on Wednesday. – Reuters

Kuwait detained a prominent Sunni Muslim cleric at the Gulf state’s airport on Wednesday after the United States included him on a sanctions list on suspicion that he is funneling money to militants in Iraq and Syria, a security source told Reuters. – Reuters

Clashes between irregular forces of a renegade general and Islamists erupted in Libya’s eastern Benghazi city on Wednesday, killing at least five people, medical and military sources said. – Reuters

Israeli airstrikes killed three senior commanders of the armed wing of Hamas early Thursday in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, Israeli and Palestinian officials said, the most significant blow to the group’s leadership since Israel’s operation in Gaza began more than six weeks ago. – New York Times

Foreign Armies East

Russia is crafting a way to bolster its naval capabilities over the next six years, a move Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday is a response to tensions with NATO. – Washington Times

The Russian defense ministry said Wednesday it was conducting fresh military exercises in the south of the country as fighting intensified between rebels and government forces in Ukraine. – AFP

Military leaders in Pakistan appear to be growing increasingly anxious about the standoff between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and two key opposition figures seeking his resignation, adding further volatility to the country’s political crisis. – Washington Post

Heavy shelling hit residential neighborhoods in Ukraine’s rebel stronghold of Donetsk and government forces fought street battles in other towns on Wednesday as they sought to crush a four-month-old separatist rebellion. – Reuters

Germany broke with post-war tradition on Wednesday and agreed to supply weapons to Iraq to combat Islamist militants in an announcement coinciding with a decision in Washington to intensify military strikes in the region. – Financial Times

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Wednesday Defense Briefing

The U.S. military, at the request of host nations in the region, is no longer identifying the specific land-based aircraft carrying out airstrikes in Iraq, a defense official told Military Times on Tuesday. – Military Times

The mission for U.S. troops in Iraq to help Kurdish and Iraqi security forces in their fight against Islamic militants remains limited for now, but may expand after Iraqi leaders form a new government, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday. – Military Times

A competing rifle outperformed the Army’s favored M4A1 carbine in key firings during a competition last year before the service abruptly called off the tests and stuck with its gun, according to a new confidential report. – Washington Times

[A] Pentagon agency has launched a new, high-tech effort to protect troops while reducing armor. The Ground X-Vehicle Technology Program is investigating options available to improve both the mobility of military vehicles and the safety for troops inside. The goals, expressed here by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, appear to be a tall order – Washington Post’s Checkpoint

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has selected Rexon Ryu as his new chief of staff, picking a former trusted aide over someone from inside the building with deep Pentagon experience, Foreign Policy has learned. – Foreign Policy’s The Complex

A prominent federal budget analyst is predicting the best Congress will do this year on spending bills is pass two massive government-wide measures. – Defense News

[N]ow as crunch time begins inside the Pentagon as the services’ craft their 2016 budget plans, sequestration fears have returned. And at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium here last week, numerous officials used speeches to warn of the looming defense budget caps. – Defense News

The US Air Force has grounded over half of its F-16D Fighting Falcons, the service’s Air Combat Command (ACC) announced Tuesday. – Defense News

The plan laid out by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert aims to grow the fleet’s forward presence from about 97 ships at any given time this year to 120 ships by 2020. To do this, Greenert plans to grow the Asia-Pacific presence from 50 to 65 ships by 2019, and to boost the Middle East presence from 30 to 40 ships, including the four littoral combat ships to be stationed in Bahrain by 2019. – Military Times

It’s crunch time for UCLASS. On September 10th — after multiple delays — the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer and his Defense Acquisition Board will sit in judgment on the proposed combat drone. The question: how best to bring the robot revolution to the deck of the 90-year-old aircraft carrier. – Breaking Defense

The U.S. Navy is hard at work developing new underwater transports for its elite commandos. The SEALs expect the new craft—and improvements to large submarine “motherships” that will carry them—to be ready by the end of the decade. - Real Clear Defense

The Pentagon’s personnel chief is taking exception to statistics from a recent study that concluded 25 percent of military households use food banks. – Military Times

The War

Read the latest Iraq update – Institute for the Study of War

Accused terrorists being held in a Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba have cost the federal government roughly $300,000 for liquid nutritional supplements due to hunger strikes. – Washington Times

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria posted a video on Tuesday that it said showed the beheading of James Foley, an American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago, according to a transcript released by the SITE Intelligence Group. – New York Times

Thousands of new fighters joined Islamic State in Syria last month in its fastest expansion to date, a body monitoring the war said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Hamas fighters, clad in black and armed with assault rifles, navigated the dimly lit tunnel with ease, saying they felt at home in their network of underground passages in the Gaza Strip. A rare tour that Hamas granted to a Reuters reporter, photographer and cameraman appeared to be an attempt to dispute Israel’s claim that it had demolished all of the Islamist group’s border infiltration tunnels in the Gaza war. – Reuters

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen is declaring its support for the Sunni extremist group that has taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria, creating the potential for a new alliance against the United States. – The Hill

An offensive by a militant Shia movement in Yemen that has taken its fighters to within 50km of the capital has reignited fears of a new wave of sectarian violence on the Arabian Peninsula. – Financial Times

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the country, said on Tuesday the militant groups Islamic State and al Qaeda were “enemy number one of Islam” and not in any way part of the faith. – Reuters

Libyan militiamen fired rockets into an affluent district of Tripoli early on Tuesday, moving a battle with a rival armed faction closer to the center of the capital after fighters on one side came under air attack. – Reuters

Algeria has arrested 200 Syrians who had been hoping to reach Italy with the help of Libyan Islamists who had promised to smuggle them by boat, a security source said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

The Japanese defense ministry has brought forward a proposal to construct at least one large amphibious assault ship that will enlarge the country’s naval aviation capability. The program may also enhance sales prospects for the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey. – Aviation Week

Japan’s military is showcasing its ability to defend remote islands, as its role expands at home and abroad under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. – Associated Press

China recently conducted the second flight test of a new, ultra-high-speed missile that is part of what analysts say is Beijing’s global system of attack weapons capable of striking the United States with nuclear warheads. – Washington Free Beacon

Chinese troops have advanced in recent days into disputed territory claimed by India, echoing a similar incursion last year that raised tensions between the two rival giants, official sources said Tuesday. – AFP

The PAK Army has assumed security responsibility of the sensitive “Red Zone” in Pakistan’s capital as opposition forces camped out in the capital enter it demanding the government’s resignation. – Defense News

NATO will stop short of basing substantial combat forces in eastern Europe to avoid a complete rupture in relations with Russia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. – Bloomberg

Russia on Tuesday tested surface-to-air missiles during army exercises in the southern Russian province of Astrakhan, a defense ministry spokesman was quoted as saying, in a move to show its military might as fighting rages in neighboring Ukraine. – Reuters

Russia announced plans Tuesday to bolster its navy with more advanced weapons in response to NATO’s vow to halt the Kremlin’s push into Ukraine and feared expansion into eastern Europe. – AFP

Ukrainian forces pushed deeper into territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels on Tuesday, fighting street battles in the besieged city of Luhansk and pressuring the outer defenses of Donetsk in a further blow to the separatists’ crumbling virtual state. – New York Times

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Tuesdeay Defense Briefing

Almost 8,000 senior enlisted personnel must go before a continuation board later this year to determine whether they can continue to serve or must retire. – Navy Times

The Navy’s Standard Missile-6 successfully intercepted a mock cruise missile flying low and slow over land. Hitting that target is one sign of how far Navy missile defense programs have cast their net beyond their traditional domain. – Breaking Defense

Sources say the U.S. will eventually need to send 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops to help the Kurds and Iraqis launch a serious offensive against the Islamists. The U.S. has a strategic interest in defeating ISIS and preventing a safe haven for global jihad, so get on with it, Mr. President. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The United States said Monday that it had completed the destruction of the deadliest chemical weapons in Syria’s arsenal, a rare foreign policy achievement for President Obama at a time when the Middle East is embroiled in violence and political turmoil. – New York Times

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is banning flights over Syria due to the “ongoing armed conflict and volatile security environment” in the country, the agency announced on Monday night. – The Hill

The State Department defended missile sales to Turkey just hours after news emerged that Ankara is hosting and abetting a senior Hamas operative who planned to violently overthrow the Palestinian government in the West Bank and wage war on Israel. – Washington Free Beacon

The War

Unidentified warplanes on Monday bombed a small arms depot and other locations in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, that are controlled by Islamist-aligned militias, suggesting that a foreign state had intervened in the escalating battle for control of the city. – New York Times

Struggling to hold the insurgents back, the riposte from commanders of the Afghan security forces has been clear: across the country, they are now telling their men to kill captured Taliban fighters instead of taking prisoners. – Reuters

A roadside bomb killed six people traveling to school in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, officials said, as the military reported further air strikes against the Taliban. – Reuters

The motorcade of a Saudi prince was attacked Sunday evening in a suburb of Paris, with up to eight armed men stopping the convoy and taking a suitcase containing more than $335,000 in cash and sensitive documents. – Washington Post

Foreign Armies East

South Korea and the United States on Monday launched an annual military drill, Seoul’s defense ministry said, despite condemnation by North Korea which has threatened a “merciless” retaliatory strike. – AFP

As tensions spike between China and other countries in Asia’s disputed waters, serving and retired Chinese military officers as well as state media are questioning whether China’s armed forces are too corrupt to fight and win a war. – Reuters

After angrily insisting for months that “friends don’t spy,” the German government struggled Monday to respond to news media reports that its intelligence services routinely spy on Turkey, a NATO ally, and inadvertently captured at least one conversation each involving Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was secretary of state and her successor, John Kerry. – New York Times

Separatist rebels on Monday attacked a caravan of cars carrying refugees trying to flee war-ravaged eastern Ukraine, killing “dozens” of people in a devastating barrage of artillery fire, Ukrainian military officials said, though rebel leaders denied there had been any attack at all. – New York Times

Israel’s Shin Bet security service [yesterday] reported the uncovering of a plot by Hamas to oust the Palestinian Authority (PA) from control of the West Bank in an armed uprising. – Washington Free Beacon

As the U.S. military strikes the Islamic State group in Iraq, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces have significantly stepped up their own campaign against militant strongholds in Syria, carrying out dozens of airstrikes against the group’s headquarters in the past two days. – Associated Press

Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Tuesday to drive Islamic State fighters out of Tikrit, hometown of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, while the militants warned they would attack Americans “in any place”. – Reuters


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Monday Defense Briefing

Navy jets are again at the tip of the spear, striking targets inside Iraq. But they had to break off air support operations over Afghanistan to do it, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said. – Military Times

Last summer, the X-47B UCAS (Unmanned Combat Air System) became the first pilotless aircraft to take off and land from a carrier — but the Navy cleared everything else off the flight deck first. Today, though, for the first time in history, the X-47B both took off and landed alongside a manned aircraft, the Navy’s standard F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter. – Breaking Defense

The California legislature has passed a last-minute measure to equally offer a tax incentive package to both contracting teams vying for the next-generation U.S. Air Force bomber program, overturning an earlier law that gave a $420 million discount to the Boeing/Lockheed Martin team alone. – Aviation Week

As the midterm elections loom, voters should keep in mind not only the price of American power, but the costs of American disengagement. As Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel put it this week, “The world is exploding all over.” If America’s military decline continues, this trend will only grow worse, putting an already stalled economy on even shakier ground and threatening our security at home and our interests abroad. – US News and World Report’s World Report

The War

A drone attack killed three suspected al Qaeda militants on Saturday in Yemen’s eastern Hadramout province, a local official told Reuters. – Reuters

Al-Qaida urged the family of an American aid worker it abducted in Pakistan three years ago to demand that the U.S. government negotiate a prisoner exchange for his release. – Associated Press

Disrupting safe havens where terrorist-in-training are groomed for future attacks at times may require preemptive military action. But the United States cannot fix all of the failed states or eliminate all of the ungoverned spaces where terrorists can set up shop. That means the best approach is one that continues international efforts to quarantine conflict zones, maintain a hostile operating environment for terrorists, discourage foreign recruitment and identify returning fighters before they can act. – The Hill

Chadian troops have rescued 85 Nigerians kidnapped Monday by Boko Haram militants, CNN sources in Nigeria said Saturday. – Washington Times

An attack in the very early hours of Friday morning on two Pakistani air bases was thwarted largely due to improved security measures that show the military has learned lessons from previous attacks, say analysts. – Defense News

The Islamic State militant group has executed 700 members of a tribe it has been battling in eastern Syria during the past two weeks, the majority of them civilians, a human rights monitoring group and activists said on Saturday. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

When will Japan’s ATD-X indigenous stealth fighter prototype make its first flight? Hard to tell. The consortium that is developing the jet is planning a test flight for January, according to an Aug. 12 report in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper. But the following day, a spokesman for Japan’s Defense Ministry told IHS Janes that the organization, led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, has “not firmed up” when the first flight will occur. – Defense News

North Korea warned Sunday of a possible “merciless” pre-emptive strike as it blasted an upcoming joint US-South Korean military exercise as a rehearsal for nuclear war. – AFP

China’s use of swarming tactics with fishing vessels to project and protect Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea appears unstoppable, experts say. – Defense News

Although no defense projects were established during US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recent visit to India, US-Indo defense ties are developing and announcements on new initiatives are antici­pated next month, Ministry of Defence officials and defense analysts said. – Defense News

The Ukrainian military on Sunday moved into the heart of the separatist hub of Luhansk for the first time, officials said, chipping at one of the cornerstones of the pro-Russian rebels’ disintegrating virtual state. – New York Times

Unidentified war planes flew over the Libyan capital Tripoli early on Monday and explosions could be heard, residents said. – Reuters

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Thursday Defense Briefing

There are now almost 1,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, the Pentagon said Wednesday.  Another 129 troops were sent to Iraq this week. Including 100 or so troops who are assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, a total of about 964 troops are now in the country.  – The Hill

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter test fleet will be able to fly six hours between engine inspections for weapon test and refueling missions, as restrictions on the fifth-generation fighter continue to ease. – Defense News

U.S. Army contracting officers overpaid an American company upgrading Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters as contract costs increased almost 70 percent, according to an audit by the Pentagon inspector general. – Bloomberg

The Pentagon needs to fundamentally change the way it buys satellites in an effort to lower costs as US defense spending contracts, a top Air Force general said. – Defense News

The U.S.’s top-ranked military officer met his Vietnamese counterpart here Thursday, as the U.S. capitalizes on tensions between China and its Asia-Pacific neighbors to revamp its own regional alliances. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Defense officials said late Wednesday that United States airstrikes and Kurdish fighters had broken the siege on Mount Sinjar, allowing thousands of Yazidis trapped there to escape. – New York Times

US helicopters and MV-22 Ospreys are on the ground in northern Iraq and operating from a secure airfield protected by Kurdish forces, the latest sign of an expanding Iraq mission that now includes about 1,000 US troops, defense officials said Wednesday. – Defense News

The War

Read today’s Iraq updates – Institute for the Study of War

Islamic State militants are massing near the Iraqi town of Qara Tappa, 122 km (73 miles) north of Baghdad, security sources and a local official said, in an apparent bid to broaden their front with Kurdish peshmerga fighters. – Reuters

After seizing five oil fields and Iraq’s biggest dam, Sunni militants bent on creating an Islamic empire in the Middle East now control yet another powerful economic weapon – wheat supplies. – Reuters

An Army judge at Guantanamo Bay reversed himself Wednesday, deciding that all five Sept. 11 defendants would be tried together after prosecutors objected that a separate trial for one would be too much for victims to bear. – Los Angeles Times

The government in Pakistan attempted to seal off the capital Islamabad on Thursday to prevent mass protests by its opponents amid a deepening political crisis and fears of further street violence or a military coup. – Financial Times

A fiery Pakistani cleric will be allowed to lead his supporters on an anti-government protest march to the capital, a senior policeman said on Thursday, reversing an earlier government decision. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia donated $100 million Wednesday to a U.N. body established to coordinate and assist international counter­terrorism efforts and called on other nations to match its support. – Washington Post

A top leader of al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has hailed the seizure of swathes of Iraqi territory by the Sunni guerrilla group Islamic State, raising the possibility of cooperation between two of the most active Islamist militant networks. – Reuters

Syrian government forces backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah took almost full control of a town just outside Damascus from Islamist rebels on Thursday, a pro-opposition monitoring group said, a blow to the rebels who had held it for more than a year. – Reuters

Militants with the Islamic State group seized several towns in northern Syria’s Aleppo province early Wednesday, dealing a blow to rival rebel factions who were forced to withdraw from areas they took this year, according to fighters reached near the front line. – Los Angeles Times

Foreign Armies East

The Royal Navy,“is seeing signs of expansion—which is a really weird place to be.” Including its new aircraft carriers, the evolving Type 26 Global Combat Ship—a Swiss-army-knife  warship for antisubmarine warfare and a multitide of other missions -and a forthcoming replacement for its ballistic missile submarines, the navy will have half of the U.K. military’s procurement budget for buying weapons by the early 2020s. – The Daily Beast

Germany is preparing to deliver military equipment to Iraqi Kurds in a decision that could weaken Berlin’s longstanding ban on supplying arms to conflict zones. – Financial Times

France will deliver weapons to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic extremists in Iraq, President Francois Hollande announced on Wednesday. – AFP

A Russian aid convoy destined for rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine resumed its southward journey on Thursday, in apparent defiance of demands by the government in Kiev that the shipment be stopped. – New York Times

Britain will be part of an international mission to rescue Yazidi refugees stranded in northern Iraq, Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday. – Defense News

The SAS is on the ground in Iraq as part of the operation to rescue 30,000 “desperate” Yazidi refugees, it emerged on Wednesday, as US forces landed on Mount Sinjar. – The Telegraph

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Tuesday Defense Briefing

The U.S. intelligence community Monday pushed back at reports that the White House was not warned about the growing strength of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ahead of the group’s recent offensive. – The Hill

Air strikes aimed at halting the advance of Sunni Islamic State militants in Iraq have been effective and the US is open to further requests for help, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Monday. – AFP

The building program of the US Navy’s Virginia-class submarines has an outstanding reputation, both for keeping to cost and for on-time delivery…Bets are off, however, for the North Dakota, the 11th and newest unit of the class. – Defense News

The War

A pretrial hearing for suspects in the Sept. 11 terror attacks is in recess until mid-week while the U.S. military judge decides whether to reconsider his decision to try one of the men separately from the other four. – Associated Press

An appeals court ruled Monday an Iraqi-born man should be extradited to the United States to face charges that he helped coordinate Tunisian jihadists believed responsible for a suicide attack in Iraq in 2009 that killed five American soldiers outside a U.S. base. – Associated Press

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Pakistan on Tuesday of waging “proxy war” by sending militants to attack India and he used a trip to the disputed Kashmir region to stress that reconciliation between the nuclear-armed neighbors needs peace. – Reuters

Airstrikes and night raids by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan have left “thousands” of victims and their families without justice, the human rights group Amnesty International said Monday in a detailed and hard-hitting report. – Washington Post

Israel is preparing to build a network of sensors to try to detect tunnel building into its territory from the Gaza Strip, but it could take months to prove the technology works, a senior army officer said on Monday. – Reuters

The Yemeni president vowed on Monday a relentless fight against al Qaeda insurgents who killed 14 soldiers last week, as the army dispatched troops and warplanes to try and track down the militants. – Reuters

Thousands of people from Iraq’s Yazidi minority trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq by Islamic State militants have been able to escape in the past three days with help from Kurdish security forces and others, a U.N. official said on Monday. – Reuters

The former NATO chief commander and military leader in Europe says he thinks the U.S. needs to put boots on the ground to fight with Iraqi and Kurdish troops against the Islamic State. – Military Times



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