- 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
Bulls on parade. President Trump has wrapped up his gaffe-free trip to Paris, leaving the French capital directly after the massive Bastille Day parade — which he appeared to love. While things went well with the French, the embattled president couldn’t avoid domestic scandal however, as Trump continues to be shadowed by his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer claiming to represent the Kremlin promising him dirt on then-rival Hillary Clinton.
Tremendous. Trump also conceded that he neglected to ask Putin a question who he backed in the 2016 race. POTUS said he forgot to ask, “Who were you really for? Because I can’t believe that he would have been for me. Me. Strong military, strong borders — he doesn’t care about borders — but strong military. Tremendous.”
More cash. Macron also pledged to spend more on his country’s military beginning next year.
U.S. strike in Somalia. American and Somali government forces raided a compound used by al Shabaab in Kunyo Barrow in southern Somalia on Thursday, Pentagon and Africa Command officials confirm to FP’s Paul McLeary. Few details are available, but officials say there there were no U.S. casualties.
Africa Command spokesperson Capt. Jennifer Dyrcz said that “U.S. forces conducted an advise and assist mission against al-Shabaab with members of the Somali National Army” who U.S. forces are assisting “to counter al-Shabaab in Somalia to degrade the al-Qaeda affiliate’s ability to recruit, train and plot external terror attacks throughout the region and in America.”
In March, President Trump signed off on an order giving the Africom commander more leeway in attacking al Shabaab targets, and giving U.S. troops and aircraft the ability to conduct more operations in the country. In May, one Navy SEAL was killed and two others wounded in a firefight with al Shabaab fighters, the first American casualty in the country since the early 1990s.
China sanctions. Washington is reportedly preparing a new round of secondary sanctions on Chinese companies and individuals that do business with North Korea, according to Reuters.
The new measures would target select companies and minor financial firms but no big banks, and could be announced within a matter of weeks, according to the report. The United States slapped an initial round of sanctions on Chinese firms who help prop up Pyongyang in late June — a departure from a traditionally cautious approach to ratcheting up pressure on North Korea’s main source of support. FP’s Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian has more.
New normal. China bluntly told Japan on Friday to “get used to it” after it flew six warplanes over the Miyako Strait between two Japanese islands in a military exercise, Reuters reports. “Japan’s defense ministry issued a statement late on Thursday describing the flyover by the formation of Xian H-6 bombers earlier that day as “unusual,” while noting that there had been no violation of Japanese airspace.”
US doubles down on support for war in Yemen. Since an October airstrike in Yemen by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that killed more than 130 people, “the United States doubled the amount of fuel it provided to coalition jets, according to figures obtained from the U.S. military,” writes Samuel Oakford in The Intercept. “The numbers underline the fact that U.S. support for the campaign has continued and even increased despite growing attention to civilian casualties and alleged war crimes by the coalition.”
No go on transgender ban. The House narrowly voted down a Republican proposal to bar the Pentagon from paying for gender-transition surgeries, Defense News’ Joe Gould reports. “The proposal from Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., endangered Democratic support of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The lower chamber on Thursday failed to adopt it as an amendment to the NDAA in a bipartisan vote, 209-214 — with 24 Republicans joining the minority.”
No thanks, NATO. “Turkey has agreed to pay $2.5 billion to acquire Russia’s most advanced missile defense system, a senior Turkish official said, in a deal that signals a turn away from the NATO military alliance that has anchored Turkey to the West for more than six decades,” Bloomberg reports.
Welcome to SitRep. Send any tips, thoughts or national security events to email@example.com or via Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.
End of the honeymoon. The Trump administration’s efforts to enlist China’s help in cracking down on North Korea appear to be crumbling, with the U.S. preparing a new round of sanctions against Chinese companies doing business with Pyongyang. Reuters reports that the administration is gearing up to sanction several Chinese firms, including small banks and companies on a list that Trump shared with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting between the two leaders.
Remnants of war. The residents of Mosul will be fighting the ghost of the Islamic State for a generation after the group’s defeat in the city. The Washington Post reports that the State Department’s top weapons removal official believes it could take decades to clear the city of all of the thousands of improvised explosive devices left behind by the terrorist group. Stanley Brown, director of the department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, said that “in some ways there’s nothing like Mosul that we’ve encountered.”
Post-conflict. Mosul’s devastation, pockets of sporadic fighting, and a lack of Iraqi government preparations for post-conflict reconstruction and governance are preventing displaced civilians from returning home again. Reuters reports that an estimated 300,000 residents are still living in camps and that restoring the city to its former status will cost in the neighborhood of a billion dollars.
USAID announced an additional $119 million in emergency aid to Iraq to help deal with the aftermath of the fight for Mosul according to VOA News. The money will go to buy emergency humanitarian supplies like food, clean water, and shelter for Iraqis in need.
Hezbollah. The head of Hezbollah’s executive assembly is warning that the terrorist group will “surprise Israel” in the next war. The Jerusalem Post reports that Hashem Safieddine made an appearance on Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV channel claiming the group has new military weapons that will give it an edge in the next conflict with Israeli forces.
Settlement. Canada’s decision to pay out $8 million to a Canadian former Guantanamo Bay detainee accused of killing an American soldier is causing controversy for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. American troops arrested Omar Khadr in Afghanistan when he was 15, accusing him of throwing a grenade during a 2002 firefight that killed Sgt Christopher Speer. Khadr sued Canada, alleging that the Canadian government was complicit in the violation of his human rights. But the decision to settle the suit has critics, including the American widow of Sgt. Speer, outraged, with 70 percent of Canadians opposed to the deal in a recent poll.
Folding money. Defense Department Inspector General Glenn Fine says he’s found $33 billion the Pentagon could save if it followed his office’s suggestions. In a report released on Thursday, Fine said the 58 recommendations could yield the savings, the largest of which would come from buying 44 fewer CH-53K helicopters that Fine says the Marine Corps can’t justify purchasing.
Push notifications. The Pentagon will have to notify Congress every time it identifies Russian hackers breaching a Defense Department system, according to an amendment passed by House lawmakers. The Hill reports that the National Defense Authorization Act amendment from Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), which passed a House vote on Wednesday, would require notifications from both the secretary of defense and director of national intelligence.
Case of the missing turbines. Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov is denying that Russia sent turbines made by German industrial giant Siemens to Crimea. Siemens has filed a lawsuit accusing Russia of sending two turbines it said were destined for a project in Taman, Russia were instead sent to Russian-occupied Crimea in Ukraine in a violation of European Union sanctions. Peskov insists that the turbines sent to Crimea were Russian products not made by Siemens.
History fight. Russia and NATO are fighting about the 1940s on Twitter. The incident started when NATO’s flagship Twitter account tweeted out a short trailer for a documentary about the “Forest Brothers,” a group of Lithuanian guerrillas who fought against Soviet occupation after the Second World War. Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister for defense, was none too pleased, saying that the video about “killing our soldiers,” at least to him, “confirms that we are dealing with Nazi remnants in NATO.”
Photo Credit: Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images