- 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.
With Adam Rawnsley
Oops. Presidential offspring Donald Trump Jr. admitted in a statement Sunday that he — along with several members of the Trump presidential campaign — met with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 who claimed she could provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
The meeting between candidate Trump’s then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Kremlin-linked Natalia Veselnitskaya was first detailed on Saturday by the New York Times. In a subsequent statement, the younger Trump, perhaps inadvertently, confirmed that the meeting was intended to provide the campaign with information from Russian sources.
“Impenetrable” Cyber defense on hold. Only hours after President Trump Tweeted that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin “discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit,” POTUS informed Twitter that it was actually a terrible idea. “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t,” Trump wrote. As so often happens, Trump’s change of heart came after a member of his cabinet went on national television to praise the president’s original plans. This time, it was Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s turn to get burned by the boss.
From Kiev with…The back and forth came on the same day that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson promised Ukrainian officials that Washington would keep sanctions on Moscow in place until Putin “reverses the actions” that prompted them and restores the country’s “territorial integrity,” by pulling troops out of eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile... The National Security Agency tracked hackers from Russia’s domestic intelligence agency breaking into networks at American nuclear power plants and energy utilities in late June, the Washington Post reports. The hacks targeted front office systems at the facilities rather than software controlling operations, but officials worry that the hacks could be a preliminary step towards future breaches into more sensitive systems.
Mission accomplished-ish. Iraq says complete victory over the Islamic State in Mosul “is certain,” with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi saying the city has been cleared except for “just one or two pockets” of ISIS resistance. Iraqi officials say they’ll make a final declaration of victory once the remaining Islamic State fighters, currently surrounded by Iraqi troops, have been defeated. But there’s a long road ahead, with ISIS suicide bombers still hiding in the city, and several other cities in the country’s north still under ISIS control.
Syrian Ceasefire. In other Trump/Putin news, the ceasefire in southwest Syria the two leaders agreed to last week appears to be holding as of Monday. Iranian officials say it should be expanded to cover the entire country, but things are hardly far enough along in Washington for U.S. officials to start taking advice from Tehran.
Gitmo back? On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein visited the Guantanamo Bay prison for an update on current operations, leading to some speculation that the U.S. could begin sending detainees to the facility once again. So far, the Pentagon has released no information on any ISIS or al Qaeda fighters it may have captured in recent months, while publicizing plenty of missions in which U.S. special operations forces and American aircraft have taken out terrorist leaders on the battlefield.
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Names are hard. A bungled White House press release accidentally appointed Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, to the post of president of the Republic of Taiwan, otherwise known as Taiwan.
Hi there. The Air Force flew two B-1B bombers from Guam near the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea over the weekend, dropping inert munitions at a South Korean practice range in Gangwon province. Officials tell NBC News that the move was designed to”send a clear message” to North Korea in the wake of its intercontinental ballistic missile test.
Sanctions. The White House is trying to put the brakes on Congressional legislation applying new sanctions to Russia and Iran, worried that signing the bill would poison any rapprochement with Moscow. Sources tell Axios that Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is supportive of the legislation and unmoved by pleas from the West Wing for flexibility.
Ukraine. Officials in Kiev are breathing a small sigh of relief after a meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. President Trump’s affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin made many in Ukraine nervous after the election but Tillerson’s statement calling on Russia to respect the ceasefire in eastern left Ukrainian officials feeling that the Russia-friendly tilt of U.S. foreign policy might not come entirely at their expense.
Bailing. Germany is beginning its threatened withdrawal of troops from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. Germany’s parliament passed legislation mandating the removal of German troops participating in the anti-Islamic State coalition after Turkey refused to allow members of parliament to visit the facility. After the withdrawal is complete, Germany’s military will begin operating from a base in Jordan in order to resume its participation in the coalition.
Venezuela. The political turmoil in Venezuela is taking its toll on the country’s military. Reuters reports that the Venezuelan military has imprisoned 123 troops since the beginning of anti-government protests in April, charging some 30 soldiers with desertion and 40 with disloyalty or insubordination.
Photo Credit: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images