TRUMP TALKS ISIS DEFEAT: Donald Trump is on the stump in the crucial battleground state of Ohio, where today he is set to spell out in more detail his plans to defeat radical Islamic terrorism. It’s supposed to be one of those Teleprompter affairs where Trump sticks to the script, and he is expected to renew his call for banning people from countries that are rife with terrorism and can’t be properly vetted, and again advocating an “America First” policy that avoids nation-building and involvement in conflicts that don’t directly threaten U.S. security.
ISIS LOSES GROUND: The Islamic State suffered losses on several fronts over the weekend. In Iraq, Kurdish and Iraqi Security Forces reportedly recaptured four villages as preparations continue for a future offensive to liberate the ISIS stronghold of Mosul. In Syria, where the Islamic State “capital” of Raqqa is the ultimate goal, U.S.-backed fighters liberated a strategic Syrian city of Manbij. The local population was jubilant, with women ripping off their black burqas and smoking cigarettes, while men cut their beards and flashed the peace sign, according to reports. While in Libya, government-aligned fighters captured more buildings in the Islamic State stronghold of Sirte. The Pentagon Friday expressed confidence the several hundred ISIS fighters left in Sirte would soon be routed.
PREVENTING “ISIS 3.0”: Former U.S. commander and CIA director, retired Gen. David Petraeus, has written another opinion piece warning about something that should be obvious to even the most casual observer of the war against the the Islamic State in Iraq. It’s not defeating the Islamic State that’s the real problem, it’s figuring out how to provide governance after the shooting stops. “There is no question that the Islamic State will be defeated in Mosul,” Petraeus writes in the Washington Post, but he asks “Can the post-Islamic State effort resolve the squabbling likely to arise over numerous issues and bring lasting stability to one of Iraq’s most diverse and challenging provinces? Failure to do so could lead to ISIS 3.0.”
ISIS LEADER KILLED: Defense Department officials confirmed Friday evening that Hafiz Sayed Khan, the leader of Islamic State's branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was killed by a U.S.-Afghan special operations force airstrike last month, Anna Giaritelli writes. "U.S. forces conducted an airstrike targeting Khan, the Islamic State in the Levant-Khorasan emir, in Achin district, Nangarhar province July 26, resulting in his death," according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman Gordon Trowbridge.
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RUSSIA’S MOVES IN UKRAINE: The Pentagon is expressing concern over "increased tensions" along the border that separates Russian-occupied Crimea from the rest of Ukraine, and accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of stoking the violence with false accusations. Russia and Ukraine stepped up their security postures after Moscow blamed Ukrainian "saboteurs" for the death of two Russian service members in Crimea. "Russia has a record of frequently levying false accusations at Ukraine to deflect attention from its own illegal actions," Trowbridge said.
BOMBSHELL REPORT: The New York Times is out with a report saying $12.7 million in secret payments from the pro-Russian political party of former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych were earmarked for Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
From the Times: “Mr. Manafort’s involvement with moneyed interests in Russia and Ukraine had previously come to light. But as American relationships there become a rising issue in the presidential campaign — from Mr. Trump’s favorable statements about Mr. Putin and his annexation of Crimea to the suspected Russian hacking of Democrats’ emails — an examination of Mr. Manafort’s activities offers new details of how he mixed politics and business out of public view and benefited from powerful interests now under scrutiny by the new government in Kiev.” He has not responded to requests for comment.
HUNTER VOUCHES FOR TRUMP’S TEMPERAMENT: California Rep. Duncan Hunter defended Trump in an op-ed in Politico Friday, saying his recent comments about President Obama and the Islamic State prove he is the right man for the job, Gabby Morrongiello reports.
Hunter believes those questioning Trump fitness to serve as commander in chief have "purposefully" conflated his temperament with his style because "they're not used to it [and] they can't process it. Trump's comments regarding the Islamic State, underscoring the President's failed foreign policy is proof," Hunter claimed. "So the immediate reaction is to describe this comment, no different than others, as reckless and as an indictment on Trump's temperament. It's not."
TURKEY SAYS “HAND HIM OVER”: The Turkish government has officially asked Washington for the arrest and hand over of 75-year-old Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Ankara blames Gulen for fomenting the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A four-person delegation from the U.S. Justice Department will travel to Turkey on Aug. 22 to discuss the evidence behind Turkey’s extradition request. The White House confirms Vice President Joe Biden will be visiting during that time
ABOUT THAT $400M TO IRAN: Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are now saying the $400 million sent to Iran in January “appears to violate” federal law banning the shipment “of any goods” to the regime, Joel Gehrke reports. "Although the administration has denied there was any quid pro quo, the close temporal proximity of the payment to the release of the hostages suggests otherwise," the senators wrote. "As the Justice Department is never remiss to point out in court, an illicit quid pro quo can be inferred from the timing of the quid and the quo."
Stanford University Law professor Allen Weiner has a different legal opinion. The former agent to the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal argues the payment “reflects the United States’ commitment to respect the rule of law, keep our promises, and pursue peace and accountability under international law.” Or as the headline on his Washington Post op-ed called it, “American diplomacy at its finest.”
NO FIRST USE? August must be op-ed season because former U.S. Strategic Command chief and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright is out today with a piece advocating that President Obama unilaterally declare a “no-first-use” policy for U.S. nuclear weapons. Writing in the New York Times, Cartwright, along with scholar Bruce Blair, says “President Obama has an opportunity to further delegitimize nuclear weapons by adopting no-first-use as a core principle of United States security policy on the grounds that first-use is unnecessary and a threat to national survival and humanity itself. We could still maintain a robust nuclear umbrella to protect ourselves and our allies.”
OH HEY, WE’VE GOT A NEW ISIS FOUNDER: Now it’s Trump and “his friend Putin,” according to Sen. Claire McCaskill. "It was also important to realize that Assad, by what he did in his country, allowed ISIS to move into ... Syria and get strongholds and recruit," McCaskill said on Fox News Sunday, Kelly Cohen reports. "That was the work and support of Putin who is Trump's best buddy, so you can say Trump and his friend Putin are the founder of ISIS, which probably would be more accurate than calling out the commander in chief in that way."
When asked directly Friday to settle the question, “Who is the real founder of ISIS?” a Pentagon spokesman demurred. Probably a wise call.
While we’re at it, Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson claimed over the weekend that Obama is the president who went into Afghanistan. "Remember, we weren't even in Afghanistan by this time. Barack Obama went into Afghanistan, creating another problem," Katrina Pierson said in an interview on CNN, referring to the completion of the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq in 2011.
To use what will likely become a fact-checking catchphrase for the rest of this election: He didn’t.
POKÉMON GO, STOP, GO: The Pentagon on Friday clarified its policy on the Pokémon Go augmented reality craze. The ban applies to loading the game on U.S. government-issued devices, but not to using your personal smartphone on Pentagon property, according to Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Trowbridge. Trowbridge is not a player himself, but fellow spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, helpfully confirmed the existence of a virtual Pokémon “gym” in the Pentagon’s center courtyard.
F-22 0, BEES 1: Check out what happened when an F-22 Raptor met a swarm of bees.
The Hill: GOP, Dems Dig In For Defense Fight
Military.com: Joint Chiefs Chairman Resists Calls To Cut Number Of Top Brass
Marine Corps Times: U.S. Marines, Sailors Flex Their Amphibious Muscles In Russia's Backyard
National Defense: Crewless Ships In The Navy: Not If, But When
Star and Stripes: Navy Looking At Teaching Robots How To Behave
Marine Corps Times: Female Marine can't complete Infantry Officer Course; no more women now enrolled
Bloomberg: Religious Liberty Is a Little Different in the Military
Wall Street Journal: Honeywell Nears $3 Billion Deal to Buy JDA Software
Seattle Times: Pentagon OKs giving Boeing contract to build 19 Air Force tankers
Wall Street Journal: SpaceX Launches Japanese Satellite
New Scientist: US Air Force wants to plasma bomb the sky using tiny satellites
San Francisco Chronicle: Suit warns of Russian ‘back door’ into U.S. fingerprint systems
Reuters: U.S. General Calls On Russia To Allow Observers At Military Drills
AP: Islamic State Gets Know-Nothing Recruits And Rejoices
New York Times: Afghan Forces Struggle To Stand Firm Against Taliban In Helmand Province
San Diego Union-Tribune: Companies Fined For Illegally Evicting Troops And Their Families
Military Times: Iraq war comic series puts the graphic in graphic novel
THURSDAY | AUGUST 18
10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. CSIS hosts Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander of U.S. Naval Air Forces in the Pacific Fleet, to discuss the future of naval aviation. csis.org
THURSDAY | AUGUST 25
10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, speaks at CSIS about the future of military innovation and joint capabilities. csis.org