U.S. AND RUSSIA MEET AGAIN ON SYRIA: Just five days after the Pentagon said, “We’re not there yet,” Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are meeting in Geneva to try again to hammer out an agreement to cooperate in fighting the Islamic State in Syria. While U.S. military officials harbor deep reservations about sharing intelligence and targeting info with the Russias, Kerry believes it may be the key to stopping the bombing of Aleppo and getting a cessation of hostilities to take hold.

WHY NOW? After Turkey’s decision to send troops and tanks into Syria to clear Islamic State fighters out of the border town of Jarabulus, an operation that took less that 24 hours, many wonder what took so long. A senior Turkish official speaking anonymously offered an explanation yesterday to the Washington Post, saying while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had plans drawn up over a year ago, his military commanders, many of whom participated in last month’s failed coup, opposed them. That anonymous Turkish official suggests what happened this week shows Erdogan’s new control over the country’s military.

BREAKING: Turkey’s state-run news agency reports a truck bomb at a police checkpoint in the southeast has killed at least 11 police officers and wounded 78 other people. Kurdish militants are being blamed.

IRAQ DEFMIN OUT: Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi lost a vote of confidence in the Iraqi  parliament yesterday, accused of corruption over weapons contracts. It’s the latest indication of political instability in Iraq as it prepares for the pivotal push to liberate Mosul from Islamic State control. Last month, Iraq’s interior minister resigned after a deadly bomb attack in Baghdad.  In a series of tweets, Col. John Dorrian, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said, “The decisions of Parliament are an internal Iraqi matter… The Coalition remains focused on our mission to defeat Da'esh [ISIS] by supporting [Iraqi Security Forces] as they continue the campaign to liberate the country.”

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CLOSING GITMO: Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that it is his “hope and expectation” that Guantanamo Bay will be closed by the end of Obama’s administration in January, Nicole Duran writes. Sixty-one detainees remain at the prison after a transfer of 15 men to the United Arab Emirates this month. What Biden didn’t explain is how that can be accomplished when the Obama administration admits there some some detainees who are too dangerous to ever be released, and Congress has barred their transfer to the United States. As they say, “hope is not a plan.”

Republicans immediately used the statement to take jabs at vulnerable Democrats on ballots this November, including Maryland Rep. John Delaney. “It looks like the Obama administration is granting John Delaney his wish of closing Gitmo and bringing dangerous terrorists to the United States," read an NRCC statement.

The White House was having to explain other remarks Biden made during his visit to Turkey, during which he said that “God willing” there will be enough evidence to extradite Fethullah Gulen, who Turkish officials say are behind the failed coup, from the United States. “I think the point that Vice President Biden was making is that there is a well-established process that is outlined in the extradition treaty between the United States and Turkey and in the U.S. law that governs how these kinds of requests are resolved," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Biden couldn’t apologize enough during his joint news conference with Turkey’s president Erdogan, who is furious that Gulen has not been handed over forthwith, and also feeling disrespected by the failure of President Obama to show enough support for Turkey’s democratically-elected government. Biden was practically pleading for understanding and forgiveness. “I wanted to personally be here, and was asked by the president to personally be here to represent, to tell you and all of your colleagues and your countrymen how very, very, very sorry I am, the president is, the American people are for the suffering and loss you have endured.”

SPOILING FOR A FIGHT? Iranian patrol boats have again provoked a confrontation with U.S. ships in international waters in the Persian Gulf (which the U.S. military calls the Arabian Gulf, so as not indicate it belongs to Iran). In this latest incident, three warning shots were fired into the water by the coastal patrol boat USS Squall. The Iranian boats are manned by the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the most militant element of the Iranian military.  Earlier in the week IRGC boats conducted a high-speed intercept of the American destroyer USS Nitze. At the Pentagon, spokesman Peter Cook said he had no idea why Iran was poking the U.S. Navy in the chest. “We certainly hope it doesn't continue, because it serves no purpose other than to raise tensions in an important part of the world; and tensions that we don't seek to have escalated.”

THE AFGHAN FIGHT: The U.S. is arguing that while Taliban fighters are stepping up attacks in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, they aren’t able to hold any significant territory. Resolute Support spokesman Brig. Gen Charles Cleveland, briefing reporters yesterday, insisted most of the Taliban attacks are quick raids with no long-lasting results. "It's literally 15 to 20 Taliban. They will assault a checkpoint, or in some cases a district center. The Taliban will loot that place. And then [Afghan soldiers] will come back and move them out."

PICKING BACK UP: Lawmakers may still have another week off from D.C., but think tanks are starting to pick up steam looking at all the work Congress has to do in the short legislative sprint before members head back home to campaign. The Brookings Institution hosts an event Monday morning on defense spending and the Budget Control Act. The next day, the Heritage Foundation talks about what’s still on Congress’ to-do list, including the defense policy bill conference and passing a defense spending bill in the Senate.

QUESTIONING THE STATUS QUO: Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Paul Selva said Thursday that troops are trained not to question military orders. While that’s helpful on the battlefield, it’s not so great for sparking innovation and new ways of solving problems. "We need to build back in, and continue to build into that process, this idea that the actual activity of military operations must be disciplined, but that doesn't mean we don't go back and look at and ask questions of how we do it better,” he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

AN AGE OLD ARGUMENT: Arizona Sen. John McCain’s primary opponent, far behind in the polls, is attacking McCain as too old for the job. In an interview on MSNBC, former Arizona State Sen. Kelli Ward said McCain is falling down on the job. "He has gotten weak. He has gotten old. I do want to wish him a happy birthday. He's going to be 80 on Monday, and I want to give him the best birthday present ever — the gift of retirement." Maybe McCain will take a page from that classic 1980 Ronald Reagan retort, “I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

THE SWINGING TWO-STAR: USA Today has the emails and interviews to tell the steamy story of Army Maj. Gen. David Haight, “Army Ranger, decorated combat veteran and family man.” Except as USA Today puts it, “He also led a double life: an 11-year affair and a ‘swinger lifestyle’ of swapping sexual partners that put him at risk of blackmail and espionage, according to interviews and documents.”  

COOK TIMER: It may seem a bit pointless to keep tracking how constantly late Peter Cook is in beginning his Pentagon briefing. Maybe if just once they started on time, we could retire the Cook Timer. Yesterday’s 2 p.m. briefing began at 2:17. By contrast, Brig. Gen Charles Cleveland’s 11 a.m. briefing from Kabul began at 11 a.m. Cook’s standard explanation is that he’s getting late-breaking information to provide the press corps, but how hard would it be to announce the briefing would be delayed, so reporters aren’t cooling their heels in the PBR?


AP: N.Korea Missile Test Adds To 'Military First' Celebration

The National Interest: Why Japan And South Korea Should Fear North Korea's Underwater Nuclear Weapons

USNI News: Navy Awards Frigate Combat Management System Contract To Lockheed Martin

Defense News: US Seeking Global Armed Drone Export Rules

Reuters: Australia Warns Shipbuilder DCNS After Massive Security Leak

Breaking Defense: Pentagon Study Urges ‘Immediate Action’ On Thinking Weapons; VCJCS Selva Cautious

CNN: Trump doesn't understand what Sharia is

Daily Beast: ISIS Provokes a Backlash Against the Veil

Military.com: Iraq Forces Retake Key Town South of Mosul

Reuters: New Syrian rebel advance against IS may take months, commander says

Military Times: U.S. pilots provide first account of tense Syrian jet encounter

Marine Corps Times: The U.S. Marines have a long history in Libya. Now they're killing ISIS there.

Military Times: U.S. drawdown on track, despite spate of violence in Afghanistan

Associated Press: Belgian media report blast at Chimay sports center

Foreign Policy: Zika is the first front of the 21st-century biowar

Military Times: Army, Coast Guard hardest hit by Zika



10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. The Brookings Institution hosts a panel discussion on the defense budget and overseas contingency operations spending. brookings.edu

1 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Government officials from the U.S. and the Netherlands will discuss how to improve information sharing between allies to better counter terrorism. csis.org


11 a.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. A panel of experts discusses the defense items Congress must address in the remaining months of 2016. heritage.org