- By Paul McLearyPaul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. He joined the Washington office in 2015 after working for Defense News, where he was also on the Pentagon beat, and covered stories relating to Pentagon spending and the defense industry. While there, and in a previous incarnation as a New York-based reporter, Paul embedded with U.S. Army and Marine Corps units in Iraq and Afghanistan to cover ground combat operations, where he got inside a secretive drone program being run out of Bagram air base. He has also traveled with the U.S. Navy, covered NATO meetings in Europe with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and stalked major international arms shows in Paris and London., Adam RawnsleyAdam Rawnsley is a Philadelphia-based reporter covering technology and national security. He co-authors FP’s Situation Report newsletter and has written for The Daily Beast, Wired, and War Is Boring.
Trump: NATO should pay for U.S. support. The Republican nominee for president of the United States says he is ready to toss aside the key plank of the NATO alliance: a commitment to a common defense. In a 45-minute interview with the New York Times, Trump couched his foreign policy views in mostly transactional terms, and in doing so outlined his vision for Washington’s role in the world more expansively than he has at practically any point in this campaign.
Trump said he would come to the aid of NATO allies in the Baltics in the face of a Russian invasion only if they “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”
When it comes to keeping U.S. forces deployed in South Korea, Japan, Europe, and elsewhere, he said, “if we decide we have to defend the United States, we can always deploy” from American soil, “and it will be a lot less expensive.”
He agreed with the Obama administration’s point that the Islamic State is a greater threat the to the United States than the Assad government in Syria, and would continue to hit the group.
He agreed with the Obama administration that the nation’s nuclear weapons are in dire need to an upgrade.
When it comes to pressuring Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to follow the rule of law in his post-coup crackdown on dissent, which has seen the arrest or dismissal of 60,000 members of the military, academics, judges, and other public servants, Trump said the U.S. is in no position to lecture.
The day after Mosul. The U.S.-led coalition working to kick the Islamic State out of Iraq and Syria — or at least from the cities of Mosul and Raqqa — say the plans are already in place to take both cities. Now they’re concerned about what happens the day after.
After a meeting of 30 coalition representatives at Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland on Wednesday, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters that the international community needs to be able to provide the humanitarian and political support necessary “the day after Mosul is eventually liberated.”
Exiting the session, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters the humanitarian issue is “biggest strategic concern” for the coalition.
Prepping for the fight. The coalition in Iraq is training six Iraqi army brigades — or about 10,000 troops — for the initial assault on the Islamic State-held city, Fallon told SitRep. The push into the city is expected to begin as early as October when thousands of Kurdish troops hit the city from the north, and Iraqi troops move from the south.
But head of U.S. Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel warned not to look past the coming military assault however, as the fight for the city of 2 million is expected to be much harder, and more complex, than the battles for Ramadi and Fallujah in recent months. “We shouldn’t underestimate the amount of preparation necessary to take on an operation like that,” Votel said. “It’s a big city…large geographic area, so we want to make sure we are well prepared.”
When does the fight start? American and NATO officials have offered cautious assessments of when Iraqi and Peshmerga forces will begin their assault on Mosul, but Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has insisted that it can begin as early as this fall, while reports indicate that President Barack Obama would like to see the city retaken by time he leaves office in January.
Carter and Votel wouldn’t put a timetable on it, but Carter did say he’s concerned that stabilization and humanitarian relief plans need to be in place “in time for the execution of the military aspect.” In a related move, Secretary of State John Kerry hosted another meeting this week that hopes to raise at least $2 billion in international donations for humanitarian work in Iraq.
Bexit doesn’t mean exit. At least from all military commitments. FP’s Dan De Luce attended a meeting with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon before the ISIS summit Wednesday, where the official delivered a simple message: The exit from the European Union won’t keep Britain from maintaining — and expanding — its military commitments around the world. Since the June 23 Brexit vote, “Britain has announced plans to deploy more forces to Iraq and Afghanistan, send hundreds of troops to Estonia and Poland, purchase sophisticated surveillance aircraft and attack helicopters, and has voted to fund a new fleet of nuclear-armed submarines,” he reports.
Asked if Turkey’s military would be weakened by the sweeping purges taking place, Fallon said that “it’s too early to draw any lessons on the impact” of those measures. But he said that “different services in the Turkish military reacted differently,” in an apparent reference to senior air force officers that the government has linked to the coup bid.
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China is wading into the 2016 presidential race by registering its displeasure with the Republican platform on foreign policy and national security. Reuters reports that China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement bemoaning “preposterous” and “groundless” claims made in the GOP platform regarding “Taiwan, Tibet, trade and the South China Sea.” The draft Republican platform for 2016 supports arms sales to Taiwan, decries China’s “cultural genocide” in Tibet, calls China’s South China Sea claims “preposterous,” and criticizes China’s currency manipulation and theft of American companies intellectual property.
The British Navy might want to check its deductible as one of its nuclear submarines just got in a small fender bender around the Strait of Gibraltar. The HMS Ambush, an Astute-class nuclear-powered submarine, collided with a merchant vessel on Tuesday while sailing underwater. Photos obtained by the BBC show damage to the front of the Ambush’s sail. Fortunately, the British Defense Ministry reports that no one was injured in the collision and the sub’s nuclear reactor remains undamaged.
Syrians have fled their country by the thousands for a number of reasons — to escape bombings by the Assad regime and Russian forces and avoid living under the rule of the Islamic State. But Reuters reports that a growing number of Syrians are also leaving in order to avoid being conscripted into the regime’s armed forces. Experts and monitoring groups estimate that Syria’s armed forces, numbering around 300,000 before the war, have shrunk to less than half of that due to casualties and defections. Potential conscripts, facing such grim odds and indefinite periods of service, are dodging the draft by fleeing to neighboring countries like Lebanon or farther afield in Europe.
The city of Sirte in Libya was once the only city held by the Islamic State outside of Syria and Iraq, but now government forces are closing in on the jihadist group’s last remaining redoubt there. The Washington Post reports that Islamic State forces have been trapped in a conference center in the city center as forces aligned with the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli tighten their siege. Islamic State fighters have left a trail of improvised explosive devices behind them, slowing the advance of government troops, but Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Taher Siyala says advisers from “various important countries” are currently providing help with intelligence and logistics.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions today against three senior al Qaeda leaders based in Iran whom it says provided “financial and logistics support” to the group. Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam J. Szubin named Faisal Jassim Mohammed Al-Amri Al-Khalidi, Yisra Muhammad Ibrahim Bayumi, and Abu Bakr Muhammad Muhammad Ghumayn as specially designated global terrorists “responsible for moving money and weapons across the Middle East.” The Department named Al-Khalidi as al Qaeda’s Military Commission Chief and accused Bayumi and Ghumayn of supporting al Qaeda members in Iran by negotiating for their release with Iranian authorities and providing financial support to members living there.
Spent shell casings are big business in Afghanistan where scrap dealers will buy up the used ammo in order to extract the copper contained within them. The problem is that Afghan troops have taken to firing off thousands of rounds unnecessarily in order to make more money from the recycling business. Anonymous Afghan military officials told the wire service that the practice is widespread, with one officer saying troops in Helmand fired off 7,000 shells in May in order to sell off the casings. Scrap dealers will pay around $2.55 for every 2.2 pounds of casings.
The Air Force hasn’t even put the first rivets into the next generation B-21 stealth bomber and already the program is mired in controversy. After the initial awarding of the contract to Northrop Grumman survived challenges from Lockheed and Boeing, the fighting is now focused on costs. The Air Force says it couldn’t possibly reveal the total cost of the program, believed to be somewhere around $100 billion, because it says the top line figure could betray its capabilities to adversaries. An effort by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to institute a critical cost threshold and reduce the authorization for the program by $300 million have also garnered pushback from fellow lawmakers.
There aren’t many people who’ve been run over by two tanks and lived to tell about it, but Turkey’s Sabri Unal is one of them. He took to the streets to support the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during last week’s coup attempt and tried to stop two tanks participating in the putsch, Tank-man-style. The effort failed to stop the armor and Unal ended up having to duck under the chassis of the tanks as they moved over him, earning a shattered elbow in the process.
Correction, July 21, 2016: A previous version of this article referenced NATO allies in the Balkans. It should have said the Baltics.
Photo Credit: Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images