Drone Pilot SchoolThe D Brief: Plan for Iraq?; New Somalia strikes; DDG-1000 ops; Army LT hits gold; And a bit more…

July 26, 2021by helo-10

Iraqi PM is at the White House today. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and President Biden are expected to announce that U.S. troops will end the combat mission in that country by the end of the year, the Washington Post reports—though no press conference appears on today’s White House schedule.

The plan may not actually reduce U.S. forces in Iraq by much, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. Many troops may simply shift to advise-and-assist roles, according to the Post

So why do it? Here’s the New York Times’ take: “What appears to be a set piece of diplomatic theater is the latest effort by Mr. al-Kadhimi to tread between the needs and demands of Iraq’s two closest allies, the United States and Iran. Pro-Iranian factions have been clamoring for a U.S. departure, while Iraqi officials acknowledge they still need the help of American forces.

Earlier this month, U.S officials insisted the U.S. was not pulling troops out of Iraq. As Defense One’s Tara Copp and Jacqueline Feldscher reported then, a senior official called reports that the United States was getting ready to withdraw forces “totally false.” 

Biden, Ghani talk. The U.S. president spoke with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday; he “emphasized continued U.S. support, including development and humanitarian aid” for the country, and “reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to continue supporting the Afghan security forces to defend themselves,” according to a White House readout.

No end to strikes? The head of U.S. Central Command won’t guarantee that U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan will end Aug. 31, the New York Times reports. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said he is “concentrating on the here and now,” but said the U.S. military will continue “logistical support.”

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was 95 percent complete as of July 19, according to CENTCOM, but “a series of airstrikes by the Americans last week demonstrated to the insurgents that the U.S. military was still a potent threat on the battlefield,” NYT writes.

But as the Taliban continues to choose violence, the U.S. is “losing leverage fast” and must use tools like financial assistance “and diplomatic sway” immediately, denying the Taliban “recognition and legitimacy” unless it follows through with a “negotiated political settlement,” Lisa Curtis writes at Just Security. Curtis is a senior fellow and director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. Read more, here.

From Defense One

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Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston and Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. Today in 1945, HMS Vestal was sunk by a kamikaze pilot off Thailand, becoming the last Royal Navy ship sunk during World War II.

U.S. forces struck targets in Somalia on Friday, the second strike there in a week and the second of the Biden presidency. The action targeted militants from the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab terrorist group near Qeycad, Galmudug, a Pentagon statement said. 

The Hill: “Shortly after taking office in January, Biden initiated a review of the policy on drone strikes and commando raids in places like Somalia that are not considered conventional war zones.” The review included a temporary hold on such strikes and the requirement that most strikes needed White House approval. 

But the moratorium was broken last Tuesday, when U.S. Africa Command chief Gen. Stephen Townsend ordered the first strike in months, under his authority to provide “collective self-defense.” Read on, here.

The U.S. conducted at least 50 air strikes against targets in Somalia in 2020, U.S. Africa Command told Military Times in December.

Navy wants to see a lot more Zumwalt-class destroyer ops. Defense News: “2022 will be a big year for the Zumwalt-class destroyer program, as first-in-class Zumwalt and sister ship Michael Monsoor continue finding their place in the fleet — and perhaps make a debut at a major naval exercise,” Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, commander of Naval Surface Forces, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.

Ely Ratner was sworn in as assistant defense secretary for Indo-Pacific security while en-route to Singapore with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Voice of America reports. Ratner was previously the executive vice president at the Center for a New American Security, and served as the deputy national security advisor to then-VP Joe Biden from 2015 to 2017. 

Lastly today: Army LT wins gold in Tokyo. First Lt. Amber English, a logistics officer and member of the Army Marksmanship Unit, took first place in women’s shotgun skeet, edging out Diana Bacosi of Italy, the 2016 winner. Stripes has more, here.

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