Monday Defense Briefing

The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) has begun carrying out a game-changing plan for sustainment on a global scale, one that relies heavily on competition to help drive down costs. – Defense News

Investigators have narrowed their focus to the third stage turbine of the F135 engine as the likely source of a fire that erupted as an F-35A fighter was preparing for takeoff at Eglin AFB, Florida, last month. – Aviation Week

The US Navy and Congress are in a sort of faceoff over the fleet’s cruiser force. To extend their service lives, the Navy is asking to take half its cruisers — CGs in Navy-speak — out of service now and gradually bring them back starting in 2019. Congress, fearful that Pentagon budget-cutters will instead decide to cut costs and reduce the force, is insisting the ships be modernized now and kept running. – Defense News

The Navy is upgrading the sensors, radar, computer networks and electronics on-board its LPD 24 amphibious transport dock, the Arlington, in anticipation of its scheduled deployment next year, service officials said. – DOD Buzz

According to a new study, United States defense leaders should focus more on a “great power conflict” reflective of a newly aggressive Russia and rapidly modernizing China. Doing so would force the Defense Department to modernize its existing force and invest significantly in maintaining technological advantages at the expense of unlikely-to-be used ships, aircraft and soldiers. – Defense One

At an expansive industrial shipyard on the banks of the James River, the nation’s most advanced nuclear-powered submarines are being produced ahead of schedule and on budget. That performance by Newport News Shipbuilding and its Groton, Connecticut-based partner General Dynamics Electric Boat helped the companies land the largest single contract in Navy history this spring. – Associated Press

The United States revealed it has maintained a secret military presence in Somalia over the past several years. According to U.S. officials, the troops have been active there since the middle of 43′s second term. – Global Security Newswire

The War

U.S. officials are worried that al-Qaida has developed a new kind of bomb that can go undetected by airport security, the Los Angeles Times reports. – Global Security Newswire

Wearing a black turban and black robes, the leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic state that stretches across eastern Syria and much of northern and western Iraq made a startling public appearance, his first in many years, at a well-known mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul, according to a video released on Saturday whose contents were confirmed by experts and witnesses. – New York Times

Warplanes carried out multiple bombing raids in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday, a day after the leader of a powerful al-Qaeda-inspired militant group appeared online in a video from the city’s main mosque. – Washington Post

The al Qaeda offshoot terrorist group conquering parts of Iraq is gaining strength thanks to prisoner releases and its social media magnetism for foreign fighter recruits. – Washington Times

State media reported Saturday that an Iranian military pilot was killed in Iraq, the first confirmation that Iranian forces are involved in the Iraqi government’s battle to repel an offensive by al-Qaeda-inspired extremists. – Washington Post

The military chief of Syria’s main Western-backed rebel group warned Saturday that the country risked a “humanitarian disaster” if allies do not send more aid to help his moderate forces halt the advance of Islamic militants. – Associated Press

Clashes between Shiite rebels and tribesmen allied with the government have killed at least 35 people and wounded 40 others in some of the fiercest fighting to hit the country in months, a Yemeni security official said Sunday. – Associated Press

Clashes in the north Yemen town of Omran continued on Sunday between the army and fighters from the Houthi movement after at least 104 people were killed on Saturday, while in the south six soldiers were shot dead by al Qaeda militants. – Reuters

Portuguese police have arrested a man trained in a jihadist camp as he was trying to illegally board an Angola-bound plane via its landing gear at Lisbon international airport, local media said on Sunday. – Reuters

Government forces are stepping up a counterattack against the Taliban after stumbling in their efforts to retake territory seen as critical to preserving Kabul’s hold in the country’s south. – Wall Street Journal

Taliban insurgents set fire on Saturday to about 200 oil tanker trucks supplying fuel for NATO forces in an attack just outside the Afghan capital Kabul, police said. – Reuters

Somali militants claimed responsibility for attacks in eastern Kenya that aid organizations said killed at least 22 people—the second such strike in the region in less than three weeks. – Wall Street Journal

Foreign Armies East

Queen Elizabeth II smashed a bottle of whisky against Britain’s biggest warship on Friday as she gave her name to the new aircraft carrier at a ceremony in Scotland. – Defense News

With a fierce onslaught of gunfire and mortar shelling, Ukrainian government forces on Saturday expelled pro-Russian insurgents from Slovyansk, a long-blockaded rebel stronghold, government officials and separatist leaders said. – New York Times

India has made major changes in its defense production policy that will enable foreign manufacturers to set up production in India without going through the cumbersome process of seeking licensing. – Defense News

India and Israel may reach a new level of defense cooperation under the new government in Delhi, with both sides discussing a list of defense items that could be supplied to India on a government-to-government basis. – Defense News

China’s military is investing heavily in advanced submarines, including both ballistic and cruise missile firing vessels and attack subs. – Washington Times

Japan’s Ministry of Defense has hinted it may try to re-establish a centralized procurement agency to streamline purchasing and concentrate talent and resources so Japan can participate in the global arms trade. – Defense News

Admiral Dennis Blair, USN (Ret.) writes: The changes in Japan’s security policy are long overdue, and they will strengthen a steadfast ally—one that America badly needs.and, in turn, support our common interest in ensuring a more peaceful world. – Politico

Thailand’s military government said on Monday peace in the Muslim-dominated south was an “urgent national priority” for the Buddhist-majority country following a decade of unrest blamed on separatists. – Reuters

 

 

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Thursday Defense Briefing

The Pentagon is pushing back against the notion that there is ‘mission creep’ in Iraq, as more troops, aircraft and ammunition are deployed to defend against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants. – Military.com

Control of Terrain in Iraq on July 2, 2014 – Institute for the Study of War

U.S. military advisors have secretly operated in Somalia since around 2007 and Washington plans to deepen its security assistance to help the country fend off threats by Islamist militant group al Shabaab, U.S. officials said. – Reuters

The War

Fighters from al Qaeda’s Nusra Front withdrew from two towns in eastern Syria on Thursday, leaving most of the border province of Deir al-Zor under the control of advancing forces of the Islamic State, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. – Reuters

A suicide bomber attacked an Afghan military bus in the capital on Wednesday, killing eight members of the country’s fledgling air force, authorities reported. The Islamist Taliban insurgency said it was responsible for the attack, which came amid growing uncertainty over a politial impasse resulting from Afghanistan’s two-stage presidential election – Washington Post

Palestinian militants in Gaza fired 14 rockets into southern Israel early Thursday, hitting two houses in the border town of Sderot, after Israel carried out 15 airstrikes overnight against Hamas-related targets in Gaza in response to earlier rocket fire, the Israeli military said. – Washington Post

Foreign Armies East

Saudi Arabia has deployed 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers withdrew from the area, Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television said on Thursday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s appointment of its deputy defense minister as the new intelligence chief on Tuesday — days after sacking him — and the appointment of former spy chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan as a special envoy marks a return to hardliner politics by the kingdom as militants approach its borders. – Defense News

At least nine civilians are reported dead in an attack on a village in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine. The rebels have accused the Ukrainian army of shelling and bombing the village of Luhanska. – BBC News

In a testament to Soviet engineering, a Ukrainian SU-24 flying over the Donetsk oblast was hit by a surface-to-air missile but managed to keep flying, accomplish its mission and return to base safely. –Washington Post

When the first ship is formally christened by its namesake on July 4, it will begin the countdown not only toward the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s introduction into service but the return of a capability that the U.K. hopes will help it regain influence in the open sea. – Aviation Week

After expelling a top military figure earlier this week, China’s Communist Party intensified its crackdown on corruption by ousting three more officials from its ranks who appeared to have close ties with another former political heavyweight. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The Chinese military revealed this week that it has set up a high-level cyberspace intelligence center amid growing concerns around the world over Beijing’s aggressive cyber espionage. – Washington Free Beacon

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Mid Week Defense Briefing

For the first time in its history, the Navy promoted a woman on Tuesday to become a four-star admiral. Surrounded by friends, family and peers, Adm. Michelle J. Howard was promoted to her new rank at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. She’ll take over as the vice chief of naval operations, the No. 2 officer in the service. She is not only the first woman to hold the job, but the first African-American. – Washington Post

Pentagon Report on current and future military power of North Korea (PDF) – Here

The Department of Defense spends more per unit for prescription drugs than Medicare or Medicaid, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. – Washington Times

The transatlantic crossing of the F-35B for its international air show debut is on hold, as one of the four Lockheed Martin fighters due to make the trip remains on the ground at Eglin AFB, Florida. – Aviation Week

Despite stiff opposition in some quarters to cutting back on some military compensation programs, overall military personnel costs are in fact coming down, and the Pentagon’s long battle against rising pay and benefits is showing signs of gaining momentum, the Pentagon’s top money manager said. – Military Times

Concerns about the comparative scarcity of healthy food choices on military installations have led defense officials to launch a comprehensive study of dining facilities, fast food and vending machine options, according to Defense Department officials. – Military Times

A new leader took control of Marines in Europe and on the East Coast of the United States following a change of command in Virginia on Tuesday. – Associated Press

More than 100 Filipino and U.S. Marines in assault amphibious vehicles conducted a mock assault on imaginary enemies in military drills Monday on a beach in northwestern Philippines facing the South China Sea, where Manila is locked in a territorial dispute with China. – Associated Press

Read the latest Iraq Situation Report – Institute for the Study of War

The War

Keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists has become a key technological area of focus for special operations, according to the Army general recently nominated to head U.S. Special Operations Command. – Washington Times

44 has authorized targeted killings of the leaders of the al Qaeda offshoot led by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi using drone strikes or special operations, as the Iraqi terrorist on Tuesday urged jihadists to conduct worldwide attacks. – Washington Free Beacon

A young, red-bearded ethnic Chechen has rapidly become one of the most prominent commanders in the breakaway al-Qaida group that has overrun swaths of Iraq and Syria, illustrating the international nature of the movement. – Associated Press

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has seized control of the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal, activists said, as it ramped up its eastern Syria operations in an attempt to erase the Syrian-Iraqi frontier and carve out a proto-state. – Financial Times

The militia leader who has been charged in connection with the 2012 killing of the United States ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, has provided American interrogators with “voluntary statements” that corroborate “key facts” about the attacks, the Justice Department said in a court document filed Tuesday night. – New York Times

Democrats are defending the administration for submitting a war-funding request nearly four months after sending Congress its base military spending plan. – Defense News

The United States should continue using drone strikes to kill Americans abroad who pose a terrorist threat, argues the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. – The Hill

Recent gains by its former Iraqi franchise could spur al-Qaida to launch attacks on the West in order to buttress its reputation, experts say. – Global Security Newswire

A Taliban suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying Afghan troops on Wednesday morning, killing at least eight people and breaking a period of relative quiet in the Afghan capital. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

A man accused of traveling to Syria to receive weapons training from Islamist militants was sentenced in Austria on Tuesday to 21 months in jail, in the latest case to highlight the lure of the Syrian conflict for radicalized young men based in Europe. – Reuters

The United States on Tuesday blacklisted a Ugandan Islamic group, the Allied Democratic Forces, for targeting children in armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. – Reuters

Al Shabaab militants shot dead three Somali soldiers in the capital Mogadishu on Tuesday, their fourth attack since the start of the Ramadan fasting month that the Islamists have threatened to target. – Reuters

Al Jazeera, the Qatari-funded television station whose reporting of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings won it millions of viewers in the Middle East, is defiant following a backlash by Arab governments that accuse it of supporting Islamists. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the sea from its east coast Wednesday, South Korea’s defense ministry said, the latest of a series of missile launches as it stokes tensions ahead of a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Seoul. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Japan’s prime minister announced a reinterpretation of the country’s pacifist constitution Tuesday, freeing its military for the first time in over 60 years to play a more assertive role in the increasingly tense region. – New York Times

The security of Chinese military bases is being threatened by illegally built high-rise buildings, and in one case villas built inside a base, and fake tourists seeking access to sensitive sites to spy, state media said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Israel Defense Forces began a campaign of retribution against Hamas targets in Gaza Monday after troops found the murdered bodies of three teenage boys abducted last month near their settlement of Gush Etzion. But the Hamas commander who is seen by Israel as responsible for a wave of kidnapping attempts in the West Bank is actually based in Turkey. – The Daily Beast

The Russian Ministry of Defense is planning to acquire four new naval minesweepers with delivery of the first ship scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2015 and the remaining three from 2016 to 2018, the ministry said in a statement. – Defense News

Ugandan troops hunting for fighters loyal to Joseph Kony in the jungles of Central African Republic on Tuesday clashed with Seleka rebels for a third consecutive day, in the latest distraction to U.S.-backed efforts to apprehend the fugitive warlord. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Pakistani officials said on Tuesday they would target any militants, including the Haqqanis, as they proceed with a military operation in the remote region of North Waziristan, but mounting evidence showed many militants had already fled. – Reuters

 

 

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Tuesday Defense Briefing

44 has authorized another 200 U.S. troops to secure the American Embassy in Iraq as well as Baghdad’s international airport, bringing the total U.S. deployments to Iraq this month to 775. – Washington Post

The Pentagon wants to partner with allies to counter weapons of mass destruction (WMD), particularly as it faces a budget crunch, a new US Defense Department report states. – Defense News

The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said Monday China’s first-time participation in the world’s largest maritime exercises in Hawaii will help Beijing and other nations work together in a crisis. – Associated Press

The general in charge of U.S. and allied forces in Europe recommended Monday that more troops be sent to the region, rejecting long-term plans that call for reductions in the face of a growing Russian threat. – The Hill

The former four-star general who led the U.S. troop surge that largely quelled the Iraqi insurgency says he is unsurprised by the return and success of a Sunni Islamist group even more extreme than al Qaeda. – Washington Times

A retired Army general who served three tours in Iraq is warning against immediate U.S. airstrikes to beat back the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). – The Hill

Violence in Iraq could delay the delivery of American F-16 fighter jets to the Baghdad government after contractors had to be evacuated from a key air base, the Pentagon said Monday. – AFP

Indications are growing that the US Navy, faced with large-scale Congressional opposition to its plan to decommission the aircraft carrier George Washington, is preparing to begin the process to refuel and modernize the ship. – Defense News

Raytheon has declined to protest the Air Force’s decision to award the lucrative Space Fence contract to its competitor Lockheed Martin, a Raytheon spokesman said in a statement released late Monday. – Defense News

A Pentagon plan to cut costs by reducing senior staff at Strategic Command and other military headquarters may not produce significant savings, an audit says. – Global Security Newswire

The War

The pending trial of the leading suspect in the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is reopening debate not only about the causes of the assaults but also the Obama administration’s approach to handling terror suspects. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

US senators are readying a measure that would for the first time revise the legal underpinning for America’s fight against violent Islamic groups. – Defense News

An al-Qaida breakaway group’s formal declaration of an Islamic caliphate across the stretch of territory it controls in Syria and Iraq sparked celebrations among the group’s followers Monday but condemnation and even ridicule from its rivals and authorities in Baghdad and Damascus. – Associated Press

Radical Islamist groups in the Netherlands have become a decentralized and elusive “swarm” that may broaden their focus from the conflict in Syria to the wider Middle East, the Dutch intelligence service warned on Monday. – Reuters

If groups like ISIS can fill their coffers, run economies and consolidate their hold on power, we may be facing a new, more dangerous brand of global terrorism that will threaten the United States and its allies for years to come. – New York Times

The Pashtun tribes of Waziristan have never been truly conquered, and courting them as allies has almost always ended up backfiring on whoever has tried — ask the British, Pakistanis, Afghans and, for that matter, the Americans. –New York Times

The Islamic Front seeks to achieve a goal that has eluded rebels in more than three years of fighting: creation of a professional opposition army. But its rebel groups are focused beyond that. They hope to create an Islamic state that would rule by some measure of sharia. – Los Angeles Times

Two police officers were killed Monday in Cairo while trying to defuse explosive devices planted outside Egypt’s presidential palace, the Interior Ministry said. – New York Times

Foreign Armies East

Israeli aircraft pounded dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday after vowing to extract a heavy price from the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which it accuses of killing three kidnapped Israeli teenagers on the West Bank. – Washington Post

Ugandan troops in Central African Republic (CAR) have killed at least 15 fighters from the mainly Muslim Seleka force, a group that has carved out fiefdoms in the country since leaving power earlier this year, local sources said on Monday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has appointed Prince Khaled bin Bandar as head of intelligence three months after his predecessor, who was in charge of efforts to support Syrian rebels against President Bashar al-Assad, was sacked. – Reuters

A gun battle between Mexican soldiers and an armed group that attacked a convoy left at least 22 people dead on Monday in one of the bloodiest confrontations the military has had in the drug war. – New York Times

The president of China, North Korea’s only major ally, visits South Korea this week where the leaders of the two countries are expected to call on Pyongyang to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons, although Beijing will make sure it is not seen as taking sides. – Reuters

India’s space agency on Monday launched five foreign satellites, reflecting its ambition to get a bigger cut of the world’s $300 billion annual space business. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Despite calls by India’s new defense minister for a 20 percent boost in spending, sources in the Foreign Ministry say that number will more likely be 10 percent due to New Delhi’s financial conditions. – Defense News

The Polish defense ministry has shortlisted Raytheon Co. and a European team comprising Thales Group and MBDA in its ongoing tender to acquire a new medium-range air- and missile- defense system, rejecting bids by the Lockheed Martin-led Meads consortium and the government of Israel. – Aviation Week

Ukrainian forces used aircraft and artillery against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country early Tuesday, as fighting intensified after President Petro Poroshenko declared an end to a 10-day unilateral cease-fire that had failed to stop the violence. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

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Moday Defense Briefing

The U.S. is speeding up shipments of 800 Hellfire missiles to Iraq to help the embattled Baghdad government beat back the threat posed by Sunni militants, the Pentagon said Friday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The Pentagon pushed back Friday on comments made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki that the US is slow-rolling a sale of Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters to Baghdad. – Defense News

The U.S. has started flying armed drones over Baghdad to protect U.S. civilians and military forces in the Iraqi capital, a Pentagon official said Friday. – Associated Press

The US Army is threatening to slash modernization funding for Stryker, Abrams and Bradley vehicles if the service is forced to halt a $10 billion program to replace thousands of M113 infantry carriers. – Defense News

The Air Force awarded a $1.3 billion contract to two giant defense firms on Thursday to design and build a new combat rescue helicopter. – The Hill

The Navy is implementing specific design and engineering improvements to its Littoral Combat Ship following the construction of the first two vessels, the Freedom and the Independence. – DOD Buzz

Almost a decade after it first began development, and just two years after a 2012 Nunn McCurdy breach almost scuttled the program, the Army’s JLENS (Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System) aerostat has been placed in a “strategic reserve,” allowing it to be called upon by a combatant commander who has the cash to operate it. – Defense News

Bath Iron Works is getting ready to bring fuel aboard the Navy’s biggest destroyer in preparation for firing up some of the world’s largest marine turbines this summer. – Associated Press

Congress’ inability to change the status quo is eroding the military’s readiness for the next fight and mortgaging the future for the present. Eventually, policy makers will need to restore balance across the Defense Department portfolio to adequately ensure tomorrow’s forces get the very best equipment, just like those who served before them. – The National Interest

The War

This weekend’s Iraq Situation reports – Institute for the Study of War

The Libyan militia leader accused of being part of the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, has been “compliant but not cooperative” with U.S. interrogators, Representative Mike Rogers said on Sunday. – Reuters

The Taliban has massed hundreds of fighters in Helmand province in its most ambitious attempt this year to seize ground as the U.S. combat mission winds down in Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials. – Washington Post

While the US Defense Department’s Afghanistan war budget is expected to receive little resistance from lawmakers, the Pentagon is under pressure from the White House Office of Management Budget to lower, then eliminate supplemental requests, sources said. – Defense News

Senior congressional Republicans are vowing to closely scrub 44’s new war-funding request, with one saying it “cries out for oversight.” – Defense News

If success really largely is about timing, it is tough to imagine a better political scenario in which 44 could achieve his own goal of updating America’s legal framework for fighting violent You Know What groups. – Defense News

The battle over new rules for unmanned aircraft in the U.S. is pitting the drone industry’s two starkly different cultures against each other: high-tech entrepreneurs versus big aerospace and defense companies. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Security forces went on full alert in the southern Philippines on Sunday, police said, after military intelligence reported sightings of Islamist militants in the region after the detention of a top al Qaeda-linked leader. – Reuters

At least five Yemeni soldiers and four suspected Islamist militants died in two attacks in southern Yemen on Saturday, the state news agency Saba and a local official said, in incidents that coincided with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

Italy’s defense minister, during a Friday meeting with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, will ask the US to boost the Italian workshare on the Joint Strike Fighter program at its final assembly line, even as Italy reduces spending on the aircraft. – Defense News

About four hundred Russian sailors arrived in western France on Monday for training on Mistral amphibious assault ships before the first of two is delivered to Moscow by the end of the year. – Reuters

The long-awaited inaugural launch of a new Russian space rocket, the Angara, was abruptly canceled on Friday just minutes before takeoff, the Russian space agency Roscosmos reported. – New York Times

The Russian Air Force is upgrading its long-range aircraft, making the decades-old planes more lethal amid increasing encounters near US airspace, a top US general responsible for defending the American and Canadian airspace said. – Defense News

North Korea said Monday that leader Kim Jong Un guided the test launches of tactical ballistic rockets aimed at U.S. and South Korean forces, the second such launch drill reported in state media in three days. – Associated Press

Turkey, which has been spending around US $4 billion a year on weapons and upgrades, may double that to meet procurement goals for 2023. – Defense News

Saudi Arabia on Saturday sacked its fourth deputy defense minister in less than 15 months  amid concerns over extremist militants gaining more ground in neighboring Iraq and getting closer to the borders with the kingdom. – WSJ’s Mideast Real Time

Pakistan launched a ground offensive against militants in the North Waziristan tribal region, the Pakistani military said Monday, after nearly half a million people fled the area to avoid violence. – Wall Street Journal

NATO

The appointment of Alexander Stubb, dubbed a “NATO hawk” by the opposition Finns Party, as Finland’s new prime minister has raised expectations that the non-aligned Nordic state will accelerate a path toward NATO. – Defense News

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Friday Defense Briefing

The U.S.-Iraq joint operation center has begun functioning and additional teams of American special-operations forces have arrived in Baghdad, the Pentagon said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Absent from the White House’s formal notification to Congress of a deployment of US military advisers to Iraq is any mention of the 2001 resolution that authorized force against al-Qaida and related groups. – Defense News

The Pentagon named a two-star Army general with experience in Iraq to head the mostly Special Forces advisory mission to shore up the struggling Iraqi army against Islamic extremists threatening Baghdad. – Military.com

The U.S.-Iraq joint operation center has begun functioning and additional teams of American special-operations forces have arrived in Baghdad, the Pentagon said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Today’s Iraq Situation Report – Institute for the Study of War

A giant U.S.-led naval exercise began off Hawaii on Thursday with China joining its Asia-Pacific rivals for the first time, but analysts doubted the drills would ease tensions over Chinese maritime claims and some said Beijing could use them to strengthen its navy. – Reuters

U.S. Navy warships teamed up with Philippine crews on Thursday for combat drills, as a maritime dispute simmers between China and the Philippines in the nearby South China Sea. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

An elite American military counterterrorism unit that has been operating in the southern Philippines for more than a decade is being phased out, the Pentagon’s Pacific Command said Thursday. – New York Times

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told the administration on Thursday that he was tired of hearing Pentagon news through the media before it’s brought to his committee. – The Hill

The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have halted all F-35 flights after a fire damaged an Air Force F-35A during takeoff Monday morning at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. – Military Times

The F-35A that caught fire June 23 was a recent delivery from low-rate initial production lot 5 of the stealthy fighter. – Aviation Week

Although the Marine Corps intends to go back to its amphibious roots, don’t expect to see any epic beach assaults like those of previous eras, the Marine in charge of force planning and development said Thursday. – Stars and Stripes

An MQ-1 Predator drone that crashed about 8.6 miles northwest of Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico in October lost its satellite communications link with its pilot before flipping over and falling out of the sky, an Air Force investigation has found. – Washington Post

The War

More than 6 in 10 people believe the captured Benghazi attack suspect is an enemy combatant who should be tried by military commission. – The Hill

The question looms over who will triumph: the al Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which aims to carve out a modern-day Caliphate, or myriad Iraqi Sunni armed factions, who fight based on a nexus of tribal, family, military and religious ties and nostalgia for the past before the U.S. invasion in 2003. – Reuters

Targeted drone strikes, a centerpiece of the administration’s counterterrorism policy, represent a “slippery slope” toward a state of never-ending war, according to a new report issued by a bipartisan panel of former intelligence and defense officials. – Washington Post

Lawmakers on Thursday mostly held fire on the White House’s coming $60 billion war-funding request, saying they have yet to be given ample details to comment. – Defense News

44 has requested $6 billion for new military aircraft, drones, vehicles and bombs as part of his $58.6 billion request to fund the war in Afghanistan and other contingency operations in 2015. – Defense News

The Pentagon will probably request warfighting budgets in addition to its annual defense spending plan even after the U.S. ends its combat role in Afghanistan, the Defense Department’s comptroller said. – Bloomberg

A military judge isn’t backing down from his order to the U.S. government to give defense lawyers details of the accused USS Cole bomber’s odyssey through the CIA’s secret prisons, but may let prosecutors shield the identities of some agents, according to people who have seen a secret Guantanamo war court order. – Miami Herald

Due process has weakened to such an extent that it harms all of our rights — because these reduced standards for due process will inevitably be taken into account by future presidents and courts in other cases. 44’s effort to transform the war against al-Qaeda into a hybrid beast that blurs the line between war and crime. – National Review Online’s The Corner

General John Abizaid, USA (Ret.) and Rosa Brooks write: Current U.S. drone policies open the door to a dangerous and unstable future. Yes, states must be able to respond effectively to nontraditional threats from nontraditional actors, but whenever lethal force is used, it must also be consistent with the rule of law and fundamental human rights. In the end, U.S. security rests not only on a strong military but also its ability to offer credible leadership, consistent with our longstanding values. – Washington Post

Cameroon security forces have killed at least 10 suspected Boko Haram militants in three clashes in the north of the country near its border with Nigeria, a senior military official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Pakistan stepped up its drive against the Taliban in North Waziristan on Thursday with heavy strikes and a commando raid on Miram Shah, the district’s largest town, in what military officials described as the prelude to a major ground offensive. – New York Times

Foreign Armies East

North Korea fired three short-range projectiles off its east coast on Thursday, a day after it warned of retaliation against the release of an American comedy film involving a plot to kill its leader, Kim Jong-un. – New York Times

Japan is poised for a historic shift in its defense policy by ending a ban that has kept the military from fighting abroad since World War Two, a major step away from post-war pacifism and a big political victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. – Reuters

A giant U.S.-led naval exercise began off Hawaii on Thursday with China joining its Asia-Pacific rivals for the first time, but analysts doubted the drills would ease tensions over Chinese maritime claims and some said Beijing could use them to strengthen its navy. – Reuters

Two pilots were killed Wednesday when an army helicopter crashed in the central Pakistani city of Multan while carrying out a training exercise, military officials said. – AFP

Afghan Air Force pilots will head to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, to train on new A-29 Super Tucano close air support aircraft, the Air Force has announced. – Military Times

A controversial French-Russian warship project that has been decried by NATO came a step closer to completion on Thursday when the stern of the helicopter carrier was dispatched to France. – Defense News

Four Ukrainian servicemen were killed and five wounded in an overnight attack by separatist fighters on a military post in the east of the country, a military analyst said on Friday. – Reuters

 

 

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Thursday Defense Briefing

Senior  administration officials’ closed-door briefing to senators Tuesday night revealed that the White House did not anticipate and was not prepared for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), which has wreaked havoc in Iraq and seized many key cities in recent weeks. – Washington Free Beacon

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Wednesday that the White House failed to act on intelligence showing that Sunni extremist group the Islamic State in Iraq in Syria (ISIS) was gaining strength prior to its advance in Iraq. – The Hill

The Senate’s Pentagon spending bill likely will include language blocking an Air Force proposal to cut costs by retiring its A-10 attack plane fleet, a key member tells CongressWatch. – Defense News

The commandant of the Marine Corps pushed back on criticism of the Marines’ amphibious combat vehicle Tuesday, calling development of the vehicle his top priority for the remainder of his tenure. – Military Times

The F-35A struck by fire as it took off from Eglin Air Force Base has been secured and is under armed guard in a secure hanger and the Air Force and Marines are not flying their versions of the Joint Strike Fighter program until they know more about the fire’s causes. – Breaking Defense

The Air Force’s B-2 Spirit is receiving a technological upgrade to allow the service’s bat-winged, nuclear capable bomber to fly through 2058. – DOD Buzz

The key to improving morale in the Air Force’s nuclear missile corps is to put more responsibility in the hands of junior officers and enlisted airmen, the commander of the missile corps said Wednesday. – Associated Press

The Joint Chiefs signed up to the defense strategic guidance, but the president owns it. He has issued clear guidance that the U.S. will not be engaged in major counterinsurgency or nation-building or long-term stabilization operations, period. So long as this remains the official doctrine from on high, then expect the Air Force to stand by the plan to retire the A-10. Eventually Congress will, too. – The Hill
The War

The Taliban have launched a major offensive in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand province, Afghan officials said, massing hundreds of fighters in an attempt to seize ground from government forces as U.S. and international forces depart. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The administration’s embrace of targeted killings using armed drones risks putting the United States on a “slippery slope” into perpetual war and sets a dangerous precedent for lethal operations that other countries might adopt in the future, according to a report by a bipartisan panel that includes several former senior intelligence and military officials. – New York Times

Libya has become a “magnet” for terrorists since the U.S.-led ouster of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, a Pentagon official said in testimony Wednesday. – The Hill

The al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades had urged Lebanese Sunni Muslims to attack the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah a day before Wednesday’s suicide bombing in central Beirut. – Reuters

Syria’s al Qaeda wing has pledged loyalty to the rival Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in a Syrian border town, a monitoring group said, boosting ISIL’s control on both sides of the frontier. – Reuters

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday that Votel is 44’s pick to serve as the next commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, the powerful four-star command that oversees U.S. Special Operations forces across the globe. The decision requires Senate confirmation, but it’s hardly a surprise. Rather, it continues a swift, quiet ascent by Votel through the most elite forces in the military. – Washington Post

The White House on Thursday will ask the US Congress for $60 billion to fund military operations in Afghanistan and other global contingencies, Defense News has learned. – Defense News

The U.S. State Department is expanding a program to counter al-Qaida and other extremist groups using Twitter, YouTube and other digital media. – Global Security Newswire

The U.S. State Department has named a self-proclaimed Pakistani charity as a “foreign terrorist organization”, a status that freezes any assets it has under U.S. jurisdiction. – Reuters

Iraqi security officials said Wednesday that fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria were advancing on the Haditha Dam, the second-largest in Iraq, raising the possibility of catastrophic damage and flooding – New York Times

Iran is directing surveillance drones over Iraq from an airfield in Baghdad and is secretly supplying Iraq with tons of military equipment, supplies and other assistance, American officials said. Tehran has also deployed an intelligence unit there to intercept communications, the officials said. – New York Times

Violence rocked the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Wednesday when a bomb exploded at a shopping mall in the upscale Wuse 2 neighborhood, killing at least 21 people and sending a pall of black smoke into the sky. – Los Angeles Times

Suspected Islamist militants attacked an airport in the eastern Yemeni city of Seiyun early on Thursday, clashing with soldiers and occupying parts of the building, sources at the airport said. – Reuters

A French court on Thursday approved the extradition to Belgium of the French suspect in a May 24 shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels that left four people dead. – Reuters

Britain has banned Mohammed al-Arifi, a conservative Sunni Muslim cleric from Saudi Arabia with over 9 million Twitter followers, as it tries to deter young Muslims from going to join Islamic militants in Syria. – Reuters

Missile Defense

The Pentagon’s senior financial official says that Sunday’s successful intercept test will permit plans to acquire more missile interceptors to move forward. – Global Security Newswire

The U.S. Air Force has awarded a $1.86 billion contract to Lockheed Martin to complete production work on two more missile-defense satellites. – Global Security Newswire

Foreign Armies East

North Korea named a new armed forces minister, the fourth person in the position in 2½ years. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

North Korea test-fired three short-range projectiles Thursday into the waters off its east coast, South Korean media reported. – Associated Press

Relations between the U.S. and Chinese militaries have improved “modestly” in the past year, a senior U.S. Navy official said, despite discord over territorial tensions and strategic issues in the Asian-Pacific region. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The head of India’s biggest weapons agency says that the country will soon be ready to export indigenously developed ballistic and cruise missiles. – Global Security Newswire

 

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Mid Week Defense Briefing

Today’s Syria Situation Report – Institute for the Study of War

The nation’s top Marine said Taliban attacks had grown “more desperate” as they looked to inflict casualties on American troops drawing down from Afghanistan. – The Hill

The al Qaeda-linked army now conquering territory in Syria and Iraq ultimately wants its emerging Islamic state to be a launching pad for attacking the U.S. homeland, says a new congressional report. – Washington Times

Nearly half of the roughly 300 U.S. military advisers and special operations forces expected to go to Iraq are now in Baghdad and have begun to assess Iraqi forces in the fight against Sunni militants, the Defense Department said Tuesday as the U.S. ramped up aid to the besieged country. – Associated Press

The U.S. military’s largest international naval exercise in the Pacific begins this week with China’s navy taking part for the first time by sending four warships—more than any participating nation other than the United States. – Washington Free Beacon

44 has nominated senior officers to some of the military’s most powerful posts, including leadership of U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced Tuesday. – Washington Post

A group of top Air Force generals will gather behind closed doors at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday to hash through ways to cut 3,400 positions from the service as part of a proposal to shave $1.6 billion from the Pentagon’s budget over the coming five years, defense officials said this week. – Washington Times

Even as Pentagon officials call on Congress to accept painful cuts outlined in their spending proposal for next year, their own budget projections ignore the long-term caps currently in place for fiscal 2016 and beyond. – Roll Call

A bipartisan group of 300 House members last week defied the wishes of both the Obama administration and Appropriations Committee leaders by voting to keep the Air Force’s venerable fleet of A-10 Warthog close-air support planes. – Roll Call

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on Tuesday said that Senate leaders still have yet to schedule time to take up next year’s defense authorization bill. – The Hill

Senior US senators are still working on an agreement for floor amendments to a 2015 Pentagon policy bill, and its Republican manager wants his colleagues to get their amendments in now to avoid a repeat of last year’s chaos. – Defense News

Flights of F-35A fighters are grounded Tuesday at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, one day after a “significant fire” damaged one of the aircraft during takeoff. – Military Times

The fire that broke out on an F-35A model Monday will not ground the fleet or alter plans to bring the Joint Strike Fighter to the UK, service officials said today. – Defense News

The processes that govern — and often stymie — how the US military buys weapons could be the biggest threat to America, a former Pentagon official said Tuesday. – Defense News

The War

The White House will soon send the Pentagon’s 2015 war spending request to the US Congress, with sources saying the budget plan will likely head to Capitol Hill by the end of the week. – Defense News

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday predicted the United States would not make it out of the next decade without another terrorist attack, likely much bigger than 9/11. – The Hill

An al Qaeda offshoot this month took control of half of Iraq, looking to recreate a terror-Islamist safe haven. 44 ran against 43′s antiterror policies. But as the Awlaki memo shows again, responsibility for the nation’s security has forced him to deal with realities that his liberal allies refuse to face. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is threatening to take control of Balad Airbase, Iraq’s largest airfield and one of America’s most important military outposts during its occupation of the country. – The Daily Beast

At least 18 people were killed when gunmen stormed a village in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna overnight, a police spokesman said on Tuesday, the latest in daily bloody attacks that have racked Africa’s most populous country. – Reuters

More than 50 people have been killed in two days of clashes in Central African Republic, witnesses and officials said on Tuesday, with foreign troops struggling to stop recurrent violence between Muslim and Christian communities. – Reuters

Missile Defense

Raytheon is awaiting word from the Pentagon to resume producing a kinetic kill vehicle, following a missile-intercept test on Sunday described as successful. – Global Security Newswire

The missile-defense deployments of recent decades have had many fathers. But make no mistake: It took a fight to deploy any missile defenses to protect the American people. Alaska led in this fight, and in no small part because of Ted Stevens and Mead Treadwell, who is currently running for Stevens’s old Senate seat. Treadwell has demonstrated the knack and tenacity to follow in Stevens’s footsteps and help realize 40’s vision for defending our country and our way of life. – NRO

NATO

Germany on Monday dismissed a news report that it was considering withdrawing its Patriot interceptors from Turkey by the end of the year. – Global Security Newswire

North Atlantic Treaty Organization foreign ministers have agreed in principle to offer “a substantial package to Georgia to help it come closer to NATO,” the alliance’s secretary-general said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

NATO will not approve a formal step to membership for Georgia at its summit in Britain in September and will delay taking a decision on whether to admit Montenegro until next year, NATO officials said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Nearly three quarters of Germans would oppose NATO having permanent NATO military bases in eastern Europe as requested by Poland and the Baltic states because of a perceived threat from Russia, according to a new poll released on Wednesday. – Reuters

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Monday Defense Briefing

The U.S. military is expected to significantly increase the number of troops, ships and watercraft rotating through Australia as a result of the beefed-up Force Posture Agreement announced last week. – Stars and Stripes

The 300 U.S. advisers authorized to assist the Iraqi security forces will find an army in crisis mode, so lacking in equipment and shaken by desertions that it may not be able to win back significant chunks of territory from al-Qaeda renegades for months or even years, analysts and officials say. – Washington Post

The military has almost tripled the number of hours its drones have flown annually in shared U.S. airspace since 2011, according to federal data. Now, the military and the federal government are preparing for a far bigger expansion of drone flights that will transform U.S. aviation — but could also pose the biggest challenge to safe air travel in decades. – Washington Post

Missile Defense

The Canadian government is studying a recommendation that it become a partner in the US continental missile defense system, either by contributing locations for radars or by conducting research into improving the system. – Defense News

The U.S. missile defense system managed by Boeing Co on Sunday hit a simulated enemy missile over the Pacific in the first successful intercept test of the program since 2008, the U.S. Defense Department said. – Reuters

The War

The Iraqi government said Sunday that Sunni militants had taken control of a major Iraqi post on the Syrian border, strengthening their ability to move men and supplies into Iraq’s heartland. – New York Times

An Iraqi army airstrike in the country’s north killed at least seven civilians and wounded 12 more, residents said Sunday, further inflaming antigovernment sentiment among the country’s Sunnis that insurgents are thriving on as they continue to take territory. – Wall Street Journal

More than 400 large U.S. military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world since 2001, a record of calamity that exposes the potential dangers of throwing open American skies to drone traffic, according to a year-long Washington Post investigation. – Washington Post

The Pentagon will keep its counter-IED office but broaden its mission to respond to terrorist and insurgency surprises on the battlefield, in addition to combating roadside bombs. – Defense News

The U.S. built a state-of-the-art prison and medical facility at Guantanamo Bay, and in an overwhelming bipartisan vote Congress created a military tribunal there to try enemy combatants. The next President should use it rather than pretending that imprisonment and interrogation at sea are somehow morally superior. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Suspected Al Qaeda militants shot dead a Yemeni intelligence officer in the southern city of Mukalla on Monday, a security official told Reuters. – Reuters

Yemen’s defense ministry and Shi’ite rebels agreed a ceasefire on Sunday after clashes which have shaken the capital Sanaa and its outskirts, the country’s official 26 September newspaper said. – Reuters

Pakistan’s military on Monday gave residents of North Waziristan until the end of the day to leave the remote mountainous region ahead of a widely anticipated major ground offensive by the army against Islamist militants. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky has announced the Czech Republic is in talks to sell Russian-built Mil Mi-24 helicopters to the Iraqi Defense Ministry. – Defense News

The Israeli military said Monday that it had struck Syrian Army targets in response to an attack in the Golan Heights the day before that killed an Arab-Israeli teenager and wounded two others. – New York Times

A planned training of 400 Russian sailors for the Mistral-class helicopter carrier has been pushed back again, as the Russian Navy training ship Smolny is now due to arrive June 30, the planning schedule of the Saint-Nazaire harbor shows. – Defense News

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Friday Defense Briefing

44 said Thursday that he would deploy up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help its struggling security forces fend off a wave of Sunni militants who have overrun large parts of the country, edging the United States back into the conflict – The White House

The House late Thursday defeated an amendment from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that would prohibit the use of federal dollars toward combat operations in Iraq amid the country’s growing unrest. – The Hill’s Floor Action

The United States is flying F-18 attack aircraft launched from the carrier USS George H.W. Bush on missions over Iraq to conduct surveillance of insurgents who have seized part of the country, a U.S. official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Today’s Iraq Situation Report – Institute for the Study of War

The United States this week finished altering its ground-based, long-range nuclear missiles to each carry just one warhead, the Great Falls Tribune reports. – Global Security Newswire

The House late Thursday gave voice vote approval to a proposal that would prevent a round of military base closures. – The Hill’s Floor Action

The U.S. Air Force’s top civilian defended the strategy to retire the A-10 aircraft, as House lawmakers gear up for a key vote that may determine the fate of the Cold War-era gunship. – DOD Buzz

The Army is opening about 33,000 more jobs to women, according to a newly released memo signed by Army Secretary John McHugh. – Military Times

Missile Defense

Lieutenant General Ralph Jodice, USAF writes: “Bad guys are a threat. They are real, and they are out there. When they sense weakness or smell blood in the water, they will strike. Patriot is one example of how a missile-defense partnership can work for the U.S. and its allies, while keeping us all ahead of that bad-guy threat curve without breaking the bank.” – Wall Street Journal Europe (subscription required)

The War

Irony?  Faced with a de facto jihadi state spanning both Syria and Iraq, 44 now has little choice but to try to re-create overnight, from scratch and in miniature, the kind of U.S. presence — providing intelligence, tactical advice and perhaps even air support — he abjured three years ago. – Washington Post

The administration isn’t ruling out airstrikes in Syria against a Sunni militant group that is on the march in Iraq. – The Hill’s Floor Action

In Iraq’s chaos, the Kurds are emerging as significant winners — and their victories are fueling sentiment among their population to declare outright independence. – Associated Press

A car bomb in Syria’s western Hama province killed 34 and wounded more than 50, Syria’s state news agency SANA said on Friday, blaming the attack on rebels fighting forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. – Reuters

The Libyan suspected of playing a key role in the deadly attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi is talking freely with American interrogators aboard a Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea, according to senior American officials. – New York Times

Four Taliban militants struck a NATO post in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar on Thursday, destroying dozens of trucks and sparking a gun battle with polices, Afghan officials said. – Reuters

The FBI believes that up to 15 Somali-American men from Minnesota have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Middle East, and now one of them is talking. He wants to “bring back the caliphate.” – Washington Times

Beginning in about 2005, the CIA began secretly developing a ­custom-made Osama bin Laden ­action figure, according to people familiar with the project. The face of the figure was painted with a heat-dissolving material, designed to peel off and reveal a red-faced bin Laden who looked like a demon, with piercing green eyes and black facial markings. – Washington Post

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced a measure that would prohibit the transfer of “dangerous” Guantanamo Bay detainees as an amendment to the “minibus” spending bill being considered in the Senate. – The Hill’s Floor Action

In the most dramatic sign yet of new spillover into Lebanon as the Sunni extremist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria expands its reach in the region, Lebanese security forces surrounded and detained 12 men in a Beirut hotel on Friday. Local news media reported that they were members of the militant group, known as ISIS, suspected of plotting to assassinate a leading Shiite political figure. – New York Times

A suicide bomber killed one person and wounded at least 20 at a security checkpoint in Lebanon’s Eastern Bekaa Valley on Friday, on the main highway joining Lebanon and Syria’s capitals, Lebanese police said. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

Philippine and American troops are set to hold naval exercises this month near a disputed shoal, which will almost certainly anger China with tension already high in the South China Sea. – Reuters

North Korea was likely assessing its ability to evade missile defenses when it test-fired two ballistic missiles in March, South Korean sources say. – Global Security Newswire

India is expanding a covert uranium enrichment plant that could potentially support the development of thermonuclear weapons, a defence research group said on Friday, raising the stakes in an arms race with China and Pakistan. – Reuters

Germany plans to increase its defense budget in the coming years, however it is still expected to fall short of NATO spending guidelines. – Defense News

Ukraine reportedly has not stopped providing strategic missile-maintenance services to Russia, despite an order by Kiev to halt all joint military cooperation. – Global Security Newswire

Fighting raged for a second successive day in the east of Ukraine on Friday, a day after clashes in which Ukrainian government forces said about 300 separatists were killed. – Reuters

As government troops and insurgents were locked in heavy battles in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, NATO’s chief said a new Russian military buildup was underway near the border. – Washington Post

Turkey’s highest criminal court on Thursday ordered the release and retrial of 230 military officers who were convicted in 2012 of trying to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The decision by the constitutional court came one day after it delivered a landmark ruling saying that the defendants’ rights had been violated. – New York Times

Israel is pursuing its largest military operation in the West Bank in a decade as it hunts for three teenage Jewish students, whose disappearance it blames on the Islamist group Hamas. – Financial Times

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