The Cable

SitRep: Corker Slams Trump; Generals Promise Victory in Afghanistan, Again

  By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Gloves are off. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) tears into President Trump in an interview with the New York Times, saying that the Trump has “hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” and his bellicose ...

The US commander in Afghanistan John Nicholson shakes hands with US soldiers. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images
The US commander in Afghanistan John Nicholson shakes hands with US soldiers. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

 

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Gloves are off. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) tears into President Trump in an interview with the New York Times, saying that the Trump has “hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” and his bellicose rhetoric risks putting the country “on the path to World War III.”

Corker, the recent recipient of taunts from Trump on Twitter, denied the impression that Trump’s more aggressive tone than his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson amounts to a good cop-bad cop routine saying “that’s just not true.” He added that Trump “concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

End of the Taliban, the sequel: This time we mean it. Sixteen years after the United States first sent troops to fight the Taliban in 2001, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, joined a long and distinguished list of American generals who promised to defeat the Taliban. For real this time, though.

And how will he do it? By sending expensive U.S.-built helicopters that the Afghan air force can’t fly, afford, or maintain without more U.S. assistance. Nicholson promised Saturday that “a tidal wave of air power is on the horizon” in the war against Taliban insurgents and that “this is the beginning of the end for the Taliban.”

New rules of engagement. In an eye opening moment last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told members of two Congressional panels that U.S. pilots are changing how they target Taliban and Islamic State militants in Afghanistan. For the last several years, pilots could largely only strike the fighters if they were engaging U.S. troops. Now the hunt is on, Mattis said, whether Americans are in danger or not. The NYT’s Thomas Gibbons Neff has more.

Who’s where when. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will deliver a speech this morning at 9:00 a.m. at the annual AUSA conference in downtown Washington D.C. The meeting brings together top Army brass and hundreds of defense contractors who drag tanks, MRAPs, helicopters, cannons, drones, and other hi-tech equipment to the city’s convention center looking to catch the service’s eye. Livestream here.    

U.S. troops helping in Yemen. The NYT also features a revealing look at the U.S.-backed campaign in Yemen to take out al Qaeda operatives there, and the role U.S. special operations forces play there.

China wants your internet. FP’s Colum Lynch and Elias Groll write that Beijing is making a push to place its diplomats and functionaries in a wide range of international agencies, including those that help regulate the internet.  “In recent years, Chinese candidates have taken on senior posts at the World Bank, Interpol, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the International Telecommunication Union, and the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization.”

Saudi and Russia make a deal. One more piece of President Donald Trump’s much-hyped arms sales to Saudi Arabia came into focus on Friday when the State Department announced a $15 billion sale of forty-four Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems to the kingdom. FP’s Paul McLeary has more on the meaning of the deal here.

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

Family business. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has promoted his little-known sister, Kim Yo-jong, to the North’s Workers Party’s Politburo. Ms. Kim had previously worked in North Korean propaganda, helping to cultivate the personality cult around her older brother.

Astroturf. The Russian election meddling story has taken a strange turn with the revelation by The Daily Beast that the Russian influence campaign in 2016 included two black video bloggers apparently hired to trash Hillary Clinton on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and spread conspiracy theories about the Democratic candidate. The two men, calling themselves Williams and Kalvin, claim to be from Atlanta but have unclear ties to the United States and appear at times unfamiliar with American culture and geography.   

Turkey. American and Turkish diplomats are locked in a tit-for-tat feud after Turkish authorities arrested a local employee of the U.S. embassy on charges that he had conspired to overthrow the Turkish government on behalf of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. The U.S. embassy in Turkey issued a statement which called the charges “baseless” and said that leaks about the case from Turkish authorities were “aimed at trying the employee in the media rather than a court of law.” The U.S. embassy in Turkey announced that it was cutting back on non-immigrant visa services — a move responded to in kind by the Turkish embassy in Washington.

 

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

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