The Cable

SitRep: White House vs. Tillerson vs. North Korea; U.S. Casualty in Iraq Identified

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley American casualty identified. The U.S.soldier who was killed in Iraq on Sunday has been identified. Spc. Alexander W.  Missildine, 20, of Tyler, Texas. He was killed when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. One other soldier was wounded in the attack in Ninawa Province in northern Iraq. ...

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

American casualty identified. The U.S.soldier who was killed in Iraq on Sunday has been identified. Spc. Alexander W.  Missildine, 20, of Tyler, Texas. He was killed when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. One other soldier was wounded in the attack in Ninawa Province in northern Iraq.

Missildine, from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Polk, La. would have been about 6 years old when the United States first invaded Iraq in 2003.

U.S. prisoner in Iraq. Elsewhere in Iraq, The International Committee of the Red Cross told FP late Monday that it had visited an American citizen the Pentagon has accused of fighting with the Islamic State in Syria.

The unidentified American apparently surrendered to Kurdish troops in Syria on Sept. 12 before being handed over to the Americans. Last week, the Pentagon informed the ICRC that it was holding the man.

Marc Kilstein, an ICRC spokesman said the Red Cross visited with the man in the past few days, but “in accordance with our confidential approach, we are not in a position to comment on the individual’s identity, location, or conditions of detention.” Now it is up to the Trump administration to decide how to handle the case, if the individual was indeed fighting for ISIS.

Who’s where when. We’ll hear quite a bit about the United States’ forever wars on Tuesday. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 10:00 a.m. to talk about the new Afghanistan strategy. Livestream here.

The two then hustle over to the House side of the capitol to do it all over again for the House Armed Services Committee. Livestream here.

The House committee then hears about plans for Iraq after ISIS from Pentagon and State Department officials at 3:30 p.m. Appearing are: Brig Gen. James Bierman from the Joint Staff; Joseph Pennington, deputy assistant secretary for Iraq at State; Pamela Quanrud, director of the global coalition to defeat ISIS at the State; and Mark Swayne from the Pentagon’s office for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict. Livestream here.

White House vs. Tillerson. Despite president Trump undermining his Secretary of State by telling him he was “wasting his time” in attempting diplomacy with North Korea, and a White House spokesperson saying the U.S. won’t talk to the North about its nukes, everything is fine, officials insist.

Aussies bulking up. The Australian navy is preparing to equip its warships with new air-defense technologies, “allowing them to work more closely with U.S. and Japanese counterparts to offset threats in the Asia-Pacific region, such as missiles fired by North Korea,” the WSJ reports.

“Nine anti-submarine frigates are set to be fitted with combat systems to aid their integration into a possible future missile shield, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Tuesday. The technology will enable these ships ‘to engage threat missiles at long range, which is vital given rogue states are developing missiles with advanced range and speed, Turnbull said.

Iran hacks. “Over the last two years, U.S. banks and government agencies have enjoyed a notable respite from malicious Iranian cyber activity. The timing of this drop-off happens to coincide with the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran in 2015,” reports FP contributor Kate Brannen. “Now with U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to walk away from the nuclear deal, cybersecurity experts say it is likely Iran could resume its attacks against Western targets should Trump actually follow through with his threat.”

Welcome to SitRep. As always, please send any tips, thoughts or national security events to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or via Twitter: @paulmcleary.

Manafort. Shortly after taking over as Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort emailed an associate of Kremlin-connected Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska asking if Deripaska was aware of Manafort’s new role in the campaign and how Manafort — reportedly deep in debt to Deripaska could — could “use to get whole” again with the oligarch.

Contacts. President Trump’s personal lawyer had two additional undisclosed contacts with Russian nationals during the 2016 campaign according to documents turned over to Congressional investigators. Michael Cohen, then Trump’s personal counsel, emailed a business associate to discuss a potential trip to Russia to attend an economic conference and received a pitch for a real estate project from a former member of Russia’s Federation Council.

Facebook. The Washington Post has uncovered another political advertisement purchased by a Russian troll farm during the 2016 election, this one attempting to sow racial division in the U.S. by showing an African American woman firing a rifle. On Monday, Facebook announced new changes to its ad policy in response to the revelation of foreign, asking ad purchasers mentioning a political candidate’s name to confirm the client they are representing.

Zapad. U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges says Russia’s recent Zapad war games in Belarus involved around 40,000 Russian troops, putting it way beyond the 13,000-troop threshold at which the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe demands hosting countries allow more observers.

Amaq and chill. British Home Secretary Amber Rudd says she’ll push to increase the sentence for those convicted of repeatedly streaming terrorist propaganda videos from 10 to 15 years. Rudd says British prosecutors could also use the new law to charge individuals who distribute information about personnel employed by military, intelligence, and police forces in an attempt to aid terrorist plots.

Service provider. A Russian company has helpfully agreed to serve as an Internet service provider for North Korea, connecting the mostly walled-off country to the wider Internet and, many fear, providing another pathway for North Korean hackers to attack targets. Reuters reports that on Sunday the Russian firm TransTeleCom began routing North Korean Internet traffic, making the firm North Korea’s second digital link to the outside world next to China’s Unicom.

Ship tracking. Twitter users are tracking what they believe to be U.S. Navy vessels in the Pacific, using Automatic Identification System (AIS) beacons, seemingly switched on in the wake of recent ship collisions, to track the ships as they move through congested waters. One user appeared to locate the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan when it turned on its AIS tracker after approaching the port of Hong Kong.  

Targeting. The bizarre so-called “sonic attacks” that targeted State Department personnel in Cuba were first aimed at American intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover. The attacks began shortly after Trump’s election and U.S. spies reported being affected with the most severe symptoms with the attacks later spreading to other members of the U.S. mission in Havana.

Expelliarmus. In response to the attacks on American diplomats and apparent spies, the State Department is reportedly planning to kick out two thirds of Cuba’s diplomats from its embassy in Washington. A U.S. source explained the move to McClatchy by arguing that “Cuba is not upholding its commitments of the Vienna convention, of protecting diplomats.”

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

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