The Cable

SitRep: Pentagon Eyeing Eastern Europe, Trump Says Generals Won’t be Allowed to Talk

SEAL identified; Iraqis refuse to hold ground; and lots more

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft flies at the Air Base of the Lithuanian Armed Forces in iauliai, Lithuania, on April 27, 2016 behind flags of US, Lithiania and the NATO.  / AFP / Petras Malukas        (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft flies at the Air Base of the Lithuanian Armed Forces in iauliai, Lithuania, on April 27, 2016 behind flags of US, Lithiania and the NATO. / AFP / Petras Malukas (Photo credit should read PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images)

 

More of everything in Eastern Europe. The Defense Department has already outlined plans to send a third U.S. Army brigade to Eastern Europe to bolster NATO’s defenses on its eastern flank, but as American commanders draw up a budget request for fiscal year 2018, military leaders are looking at doing even more. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told FP’s Dan De Luce, “I don’t think we’re done in that regard.” Other investments include space systems, cyber weapons, and ballistic missile defense capabilities. As the chairman points out, “it’s the 21st century, so it’s about a lot more than numbers of brigades. You have to look at the investments we’re making in a full range of capabilities.”

SEAL identified. The U.S. Navy has identified the Navy SEAL who was killed Tuesday in Iraq as Charles Keating IV. He was advising Kurdish peshmerga troops near the town of Tal Askuf just north of Mosul when his unit was attacked by a large Islamic State force. Keating is the third American servicemember killed in combat in Iraq since October.

Leaving on a jet plane. Defense Secretary Ash Carter heads back to Washington Wednesday after spending a few days in Stuttgart, Germany, where he welcomed new U.S. European Command chief Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti and met with 11 countries helping in the fight against ISIS.

Real talk. In a full-throated rebuke of the way in which major powers are waging war, the president of French medical relief agency Medecins Sans Frontieres on Tuesday accused several governments — including the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Syria — of either directly attacking medical workers or participating in coalitions that have done so. FP’s Colum Lynch and John Hudson write that Joanne Liu, speaking in a special session of the U.N. Security Council on the protection of health care workers, “said four of the council’s five permanent members — Britain, France, Russia, and the United States — “have, to varying degrees, been associated with coalitions responsible for attacks on health structures over the last year.”

Close hold. “My regiment isn’t specialized in holding ground…We liberate and then withdraw.”– Iraqi army Lt. Col. Helan Mahmood, head of a special forces regiment, on why his unit fighting in northern Iraq refused to hold a village recently taken from the Islamic State.

Congrats! Now comes the hard part. Last week, U.S. Air Force Gen. David Goldfein was nominated to become the next Chief of Staff of the Air Force. His service is coming off a historically unprecedented run, having taken part in combat on a daily basis for the past 15 years while losing virtually no pilots to enemy fire. That incredible run comes as a result of flying over uncontested airspace in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Somalia, however, and if those pilots had to tangle with Russian or Chinese pilots, things would likely look a little different.

Considering the dangerous Russian flybys of American aircraft and ships in the Baltic Sea, and recent deployment of American fighter planes to the Philippines, David Barno and Nora Bensahel have a timely new piece arguing the U.S. Air Force “and its current airmen have never experienced serious losses of people and machines in air combat.” The wars of the past decade and a half have “now perversely made the service much less ready to fight the next big war.”

Trump: Generals should be barred from talking to the press. The Presumptive Republican nominee for president doesn’t think the military should tell the American people what they’re doing, or why they’re doing it. And he sure doesn’t want generals on television.

Speaking in Indiana on Monday, Donald Trump said, “I don’t want [generals] saying things like ‘our nation has never been so ill-prepared.’ Even though it’s true.” He added, “I don’t want our generals on television. I will prohibit them.” Trump also flashed his grasp of history, telling his audience, “you think Gen. George Patton or Gen. Douglas MacArthur, do you think they’d be on television saying about how weak we are? Number one, they wouldn’t be on television because they’d be knocking the hell out of the enemy and they wouldn’t have time.”

For sure. If there’s one thing that we know about generals Patton and MacArthur, it’s how much they hated any hint of self-promotion or media attention.

Thanks for clicking on through as we work through an action-packed week of SitRep. As always, if you have any thoughts, announcements, tips, or national  security-related events to share, please pass them along to SitRep HQ. Best way is to send them to: paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley

Protect ya (country’s) neck

China is trying to step up recruitment for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with a new rap video. The promo features a narrator laying down rhymes like “Are you afraid? No! Are you afraid? No! Just need the order to kill kill kill!” complete with Jerry Bruckheimer-style action sequences showing off China’s latest and greatest military hardware. The BBC took a dive through Chinese social media platforms to gauge the public response to the PLA’s youth outreach branding and found the reaction mixed.

North Korea

North Korea’s is continuing to improve its ballistic missile submarine program according to an analysis of satellite imagery from 38 North. The site’s Joseph Bermudez took a look at images of Pyongyang’s GORAE-class submarine docked in port after its April 23 test launch of a ballistic missile. In a previous submarine-launched ballistic missile test, North Korea reportedly used a barge, rather than a submarine, to carry out an eject test for the missile. In the most recent imagery, the barge has moved from its usual spot to a different location, suggesting it’s no longer necessary and the GORAE may be farther ahead in its development.

Israel

Washington and Jerusalem aren’t seeing eye to eye during negotiations to renew the yearly $3 billion defense package the American government sends to Israel. Reuters reports that Israel is seeking up to $10 billion more than the current 10-year package allows, “partly by asking for guaranteed funding for missile defence projects hitherto funded on an ad hoc basis by the U.S. Congress.” The Israelis are looking for at least $3.7 billion annually, and wants guaranteed missile defense aid built into the agreement for the first time, “bringing the full package to more than $40 billion over the next decade,” as opposed to currents plans for the package to be about $30 billion.

Iraq

After the Islamic State killed a U.S. Navy SEAL in attack in Iraqi Kurdistan this week, the Defense Department is expecting the jihadist group to attempt more attacks against its forces in Iraq. An anonymous U.S. intelligence source tells Voice of America that the intelligence community is wary of the group’s resilience in the face of territorial losses in Iraq and Syria, and believes it will try to paper over its losses by “lashing out” with a frenetic operational pace. Earlier this week, an IHS Jane’s report indicated that the group has increased the number and lethality of its attacks in the first quarter of 2016.

The Islamic State

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) suspects that Islamic State is making its own chemical weapons. Agence France Presse carried comments by OPCW chief Ahmet Uzumcu saying his organization doesn’t have conclusive proof but it nonetheless believes that the jihadist organization may have used sulphur mustard that it developed on its own. The Islamic State has been accused of carrying out chemical weapons attacks in both Syria and Iraq. The Assad regime has accused the group of using chemical weapons against Syrian Arab Army troops in Deir Ezzor as recently as April.

Pakistan

Sorry, Pakistan, but you’re going to have to pay for those jets out of your own pocket. That’s the message the U.S. Congress is sending to Pakistan after it threatened to yank financing for F-16 jets ordered by the country. Pakistan can still purchase the fighter jets, but Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) has promised to block any U.S. funding for the deal in a reflection of congressional anger at the Pakistani government for what many say are its close relationships with anti-American Islamist militants. The jets, along with other military equipment, approved for sale to Pakistan will cost around $700 million.

GITMO

The Pentagon has been outsourcing parts of both the defense and prosecution of detainees at Guantanamo Bay to a private contractor, Buzzfeed reports. “The government has hired the same firm, SRA International, to serve both the prosecution and defense teams, sparking concerns of a conflict of interest that could undermine the integrity of one of the most significant terrorism cases in modern history.” The Defense Department has paid SRA almost $39 million over the last five years.

Bots o’ war

Raytheon’s line of smaller drones are a hot item in the Pentagon, prompting the defense contractor to speed up delivery, UPI reports. The company is expediting two systems, the Coyote and the Silver Fox. The Coyote bears a resembles AeroVironment’s Switchblade loitering munition, but the tube-launched, short endurance disposable drone is used purely for surveillance and has been deployed by civilian agencies for monitoring weather.  The Silver Fox is a slightly larger drone that can be used for long range intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.

Technology
Encrypted chat apps are all the rage among cell phone users and now the Defense Department would like to get one all for itself. Fox News reports that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has asked for proposals for an encrypted messaging app that can provide self-destructing “one time eyes only messages” between users. Darpa also wants its messaging app to use a blockchain, similar to that used in Bitcoin transactions, in order to distribute messages and quickly surface evidence of hacking attempts. The research outlet envisages the app being used by troops on the battlefield.

Photo credit: PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images

 

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