KIDNAPPED IN KABUL: Two foreign professors, one American and one Australian, were abducted near the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul yesterday.

ALL ACCOUNTED FOR: The Islamic State posted pictures online over the weekend of American military gear, including weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, and body armor, that they claimed was taken from U.S. troops operating in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. Among the haul was a military ID card for Spc. Ryan Jay Larsen, but a Pentagon spokeswoman says the soldier is accounted for and is with his unit. No explanation of how the equipment was lost, although a spokesman in Afghanistan denies U.S. forces had to beat a hasty retreat.

REPUBLICANS CRY RANSOM: Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton on CBS says the the Obama Administration's $400 million cash delivery to Iran in January that coincided with the release of four American prisoners “was in fact ransom.” Cotton argued it doesn’t really matter what President Obama calls it. “It matters what the ayatollah thinks and what every dictator and terrorist and gangster around the world think. And they all clearly believe, in their own words, that this was a ransom payment. And that means that they are going to take more American hostages, which is exactly what Iran has done since January.”

Over on FOX Cotton went on to say the Obama administration’s payment to Iran shows the  U.S. government is working “like a gun cartel.” On NBC, Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, defended the administration. "There was a legitimate claim against the United States. The United States bargained it down to a fraction. We're making claims in international tribunals, and we're having claims made against us all the time," Kaine said.

And while the administration insists it was simply settling a decades-old legal claim in conjunction with the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. government has a history of paying ransom for hostages dating back to George Washington and the Barbary pirates.

Good Monday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre), National Security Writer Jacqueline Klimas (@jacqklimas) and Senior Editor David Brown (@dave_brown24). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll be sure to add you to our list.

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RULEBOOK FOR DRONE STRIKES: The administration declassified an 18-page report on Friday night detailing how lethal counterterrorism strikes are approved. Some of the highlights:  Not all strikes need to be individually approved by the president, but they do require “near certainty” that civilians will not be killed. The May 22, 2103 document says “The conditions  precedent for any operation shall include at the minimum the following: (a) near certainty that an identified HVT [high value target] or other lawful terrorist target other than an identified HVT is present; (b) near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed; (c) [REDACTED.] (d) If lethal force is being employed: (i) an assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation, (ii) an assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S, and an assessment that no other reasonable alternatives to lethal action exist.”

BETTER LATE IN SIRTE: As we reported last week, the U.S. air campaign to assist forces aligned with Libya's liberty government has been relatively modest since it began a week ago. The easy targets were hit in the first few days, some tanks and vehicles, but reports from the front lines say Islamic State fighters holding the coastal town of Sirte are altering their tactics in response to the air attacks, and a local commander is quoted by the Washington Post as saying, “If the Americans had supported us from the beginning, we would have saved so many lives.” The Post’s assessment: The American air intervention has altered the military equation on the ground and given a much-needed boost to the morale of the fighters battling the Islamic State. “But in a densely packed urban environment, where territory is seized street by street and house by house, eradicating the militants from Sirte remains a formidable struggle, illuminating the limits of the U.S. air campaign.”

DISAGREEMENT ON ISIS STRIKES: Clinton has said that, while she would support a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force specific to the fight against the Islamic State, she believes the administration has legal authority under the authorizations from 2001 and 2002. Kaine, however, has different ideas. “I have very grave doubts about whether the legal authorities currently in place allow us to wage an offensive war against ISIL,” he said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

EMAIL REPERCUSSIONS CONTINUE: In emails on her private, unclassified server, Clinton talked about an Iranian scientist who was later executed by Iran for treason. U.S. officials said Shahram Amiri was offered millions to share info on Iran’s nuclear program with the U.S. Cotton called the move reckless and said it showed Clinton doesn’t have the judgment to serve as commander in chief.

BENGHAZI REVISIONISM: Just when you thought the idea that the 2012 attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans was caused by an inflammatory anti-Muslim video had been thoroughly debunked, it turns out it’s not. Defending Clinton on ABC yesterday, former acting CIA Director Mike Morell revived the discredited talking point saying, “You know, she said it was terrorism, right, to Chelsea. She said to them it was the video. Those two things can both be true at the same time. And it turns out right, it turns out that the video did play a role in that attack. And Republicans don't want people to believe that.” Donald Trump tweeted, “Michael Morell, the lightweight former Acting Director of C.I.A., and a man who has made serious bad calls, is a total Clinton flunky!”

GOLD STAR MOMS VS. TRUMP: Meanwhile, Trump can’t seem to escape the controversy stirred up by his remarks last week about the Khan family, who lost their son while he was serving in Iraq. Two liberal political action committees launched a new ad on Sunday featuring a Gold Star mom talking about the “sense of outrage” she felt at Trump’s remarks. “I would like to tell Donald Trump what it feels like, the sense of emptiness that only losing a child can bring. Those people should be honored and treated with kindness for the rest of their lives, and I don't think that Donald Trump will ever understand that," Michelle DeFord said in the ad.

KASICH CALLS PUTIN “A THUG”: Ohio Gov. John Kasich is warning the next commander in chief not to tolerate Russian aggression, a not-so-veiled message to Trump who has periodically commended Russian President Vladimir Putin for his "strong" leadership. "Putin, I think, is a thug,” Kasich said on CNN. “He wants to reconstitute the old Soviet Union and it's not going to happen.”

Kasich also expressed astonishment at the decision to soften language from the GOP party platform about providing lethal weapons to Ukraine to counter a separatist insurrection backed by Russia. NPR has the backstory about how Diana Denman, a platform committee member from Texas, was allegedly “steam rolled” into changing her language calling for the U.S. to provide lethal defensive weapons to the Ukrainian government.

SOUTH CHINA SEA PATROLS: Just a month after the Hague ruled that China had no territorial claims to the manmade islands in the South China Sea, the Chinese announced that they had been conducting combat patrols around the area with several H-6 bombers and Su-30 fighter jets.

SIX MONTHS LEFT: With just six months left in office, experts say Obama does not seem poised to make any major changes to the U.S. nuclear posture. One thing he is said to be  considering is codifying a “no first use” policy, but it wouldn’t be binding on the next president.

COOL NEW WEAPONS: Here are 15 of the coolest, most cutting-edge weapons that defense firms and the Pentagon are developing for the near future, as compiled by our David Wilkes and Jacqueline Klimas.


Associated Press: Why It Matters: America’s place in the World

Wall Street Journal: Erdogan and Putin to meet this week in Moscow as relations with U.S. are strained

Defense News: US Air Force Boss: Faster F-35 Buy Rate Might Not Be Possible

Reuters: Obama Prepares To Boost U.S. Military’s Cyber Role

Breaking Defense: Paladin Howitzer Lacks Fire Protection: DoD IG

UPI: 'Mayhem' system wins DARPA's Cyber Grand Challenge

Washington Post: 4 takes on Trump's national security qualifications

The Daily Beast: Vladimir Putin Plots A New Fleet Of Spies In Space

Defense One: How ISIS Is Shaking Up Transatlantic Views on Surveillance and Counter-Terrorism

Air Force Times: Security at Air Force bases, recruiting stations is moving forward, general says

Navy Times: 'Rogue Archer': Navy officer's contacts with Taiwan probed in spy case

Army Times: 'CTC on wheels' boosts largest U.S. Army Alaska exercise in 15 years

Reuters: Jets pound rebels after they break Aleppo siege

Wall Street Journal: Taliban, Islamic State Forge Informal Alliance in Eastern Afghanistan

Military Times: Spooked By Obesity Trends, The U.S. Military Is Redefining Its Basic Fitness Standards



9 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The Hudson Institute hosts a panel of experts to discuss how the U.S. should defend Taiwan.

10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. CSIS hosts Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, to discuss maritime security.


12 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Atlantic Council hosts a panel to bridge the gap between the Las Vegas “Hacker Summer Camp” and cybersecurity policy.


12:30 p.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. Stimson hosts Gen. Mark Milley, Army chief of staff, to discuss U.S. foreign policy and national security policy.