‘THE WORLD IS WATCHING’: With 10 weeks of protests growing more effective — and violent — in Hong Kong, and amid reports that China’s People’s Armed Police are assembled in the nearby city Shenzhen for “exercises,” U.S. officials are calling for restraint on both sides.
“Increasingly violent demonstrations have plunged the Chinese-ruled territory into its most serious crisis in decades, heightening fears of a hardline crackdown and sparking demands that the U.S. do more to guard Hong Kong’s special status,” writes Rob Crilly in the Washington Examiner.
“The people of Hong Kong are bravely standing up to the Chinese Communist Party as Beijing tries to encroach on their autonomy and freedom,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell tweeted. “Any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable,” he wrote, linking to remarks he made last month on the Senate floor. “The world is watching.”
PROTESTERS OR TERRORISTS?: China is accusing Hong Kong demonstrators of engaging in “terrorism” and is threatening to stamp out protests mercilessly.
“Such violent crimes must be dealt with resolutely and in accordance with the law, without mercy,” Yang Guang, spokesman for China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said Monday in remarks translated by state-run media.
“Yang’s warning, the third in a series of unprecedented public comments by Beijing’s Hong Kong office, put a spotlight on protesters who reportedly threw petrol bombs at police, although state media acknowledged these incidents involved ‘a very small number’ of people,” writes the Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke.
HONG KONG’S AIRPORT CRIPPLED: Today thousands of protesters are occupying the departure area of the main terminal of Hong Kong’s airport — one of the world’s busiest — for a fifth consecutive day. The sit-in forced the cancellation of more than 100 flights yesterday.
Hong Kong is in a state of “panic and chaos,” said Chief Executive Carrie Lam at a news conference at the fortified government headquarters. “Take a minute to look at our city, our home,” she told reporters. “Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?” she said, her voice wavering, according to Reuters.
MEANWHILE IN MOSCOW: In Russia’s capital, tens of thousands of demonstrators protesting election laws are being met with mass arrests and a violent crackdown by police. The protests were sparked by the exclusion of anti-regime candidates from next month’s Moscow city council election.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty tweeted a video made by Lyubov Sobol, one of the opposition candidates barred from the upcoming municipal elections, showing armed, masked men barging into her office.
“It’s way beyond serious in Moscow, and the methods used by protestors – information – is increasingly effective,” tweeted retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling. “But this video is chilling.”
SKYFALL-OUT: Russia is denying there was any leak of radioactivity after an explosion killed five workers testing a new type of nuclear-propelled cruise missile.
The missile, which has been dubbed “Skyfall” by the West, is designed to use a small nuclear reactor to give it essentially unlimited range and the ability to evade U.S. missile defenses, which are largely designed to thwart a small number of ballistic missiles.
The accident has been described as a “mini-Chernobyl” by some U.S. analysts.
TRUMP’S CURIOUS TWEET: President Trump weighed on the mysterious explosion, boasting that U.S. weapons technology is far superior to the “failed” weapon.
“The United States is learning much from the failed missile explosion in Russia,” Trump tweeted. “We have similar, though more advanced, technology. The Russian ‘Skyfall’ explosion has people worried about the air around the facility and far beyond. Not good!”
Trump’s tweet is curious because America does not have a nuclear-powered cruise missile nor any plans to develop one. Such a missile would emit radiation as it flew to its target, which the United States has said makes it impractical for use as a propulsion system for any kind of aircraft or missile.
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HAPPENING TODAY: The top U.S. negotiator working to end the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan is coming home empty-handed but still expressing optimism that a peace deal with the Taliban is at hand.
“We’ve concluded this round of talks that started Aug 3 between the US and the Taliban. Over the last few days, the two sides focused on technical details. They were productive,” tweeted special representative Zalmay Khalilzad yesterday. “I am on my way back to DC to consult on next steps.”
SORRY STATE OF THE AFGHAN FORCES: The latest report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, found for the fourth reporting period in a row the number of Afghan security forces has decreased and is now at the lowest level since the NATO-led Resolute Support mission began in January 2015.
There are 79,535 personnel in the Afghan forces, 77.4% short of its authorized strength, a nearly 10 percentage-point decline from last quarter.
And now the New York Times has done its own analysis, which concludes “the country’s security forces are in their worst state in years — almost completely on the defensive in much of the country.”
“An analysis of more than 2,300 combat deaths of government forces, compiled in daily casualty reports by The New York Times from January through July, found that more than 87 percent occurred during Taliban attacks on bases, checkpoints or command centers,” the Times reports. “These numbers indicate that the Taliban can attack many such bases almost at will.”
GRAHAM’S CONCERN: Sen. Lindsey Graham, who spent time with President Trump over the weekend, says he warned the president not to repeat the mistakes of President Barack Obama in being too anxious to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.
“Here’s what I would ask him to do: Take good, sound military advice, unlike President Obama, who ignored sound military advice,” Graham said on Fox News Channel yesterday, “We can end this war, Mr. President. You’re right to want to end it. But you’ll never get al Qaeda and ISIS at the peace table. They don’t want peace.”
Graham said he had advised Trump to make sure that any deal with the Taliban includes a provision for U.S. troops to stay and fight terrorists.
“If we leave Afghanistan without a counterterrorism force, without intelligence-gathering capability, ISIS will reemerge, al Qaeda will come back. They will occupy safe havens in Afghanistan. They will hit the homeland. They will come after us, all over the world,” he said. “There will be no good deal to end the war in Afghanistan if you don’t deal with ISIS and al Qaeda.”
THERE’S NOTHING LIKE DRIVING A STICK: The Navy will begin replacing the digital throttles on its destroyers with physical ones next year after a report found confusion and poor training on the touchscreen system contributed to a deadly crash, reports Russ Read in the Washington Examiner.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a damning report last week on the 2017 collision of the USS John S. McCain and the Liberian-flagged Alnic MC tanker, concluding “the root cause was the Navy’s lack of oversight,” which led to “insufficient training and inadequate bridge operating procedures.”
NOT YOUR FATHER’S HUMVEE: The Marine Corps has announced its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program has achieved initial operational capability.
The JLTV will replace the venerable High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HUMVEE, fleet.
“The warfighting capabilities the JLTV provides our Marines far exceed the capabilities offered by its predecessor,” said John Garner, a program executive officer, in a Marine Corps release.
BOARD GAMES: Last week, we learned that former defense secretary Jim Mattis has rejoined the board of General Dynamics, a position he held from 2013 to 2016, when he resigned to take the top job at the Pentagon. He was welcomed back by CEO Phebe Novakovic, who called him “a thoughtful, deliberate and principled leader with a proven track record of selfless service to our nation.”
Yesterday, the Center for Strategic and International Studies announced that Novakovic had joined its board of trustees, and CSIS president and CEO John Hamre cited her “exemplary leadership in both the national security and business sectors.”
Prior to joining General Dynamics, Novakovic served as special assistant to the secretary and deputy secretary of defense from 1997 to 2001. She also worked for the Office of Management and Budget and the Central Intelligence Agency.
FLASHBACK: You may recall we reported in June that in remarks to the Boston College Chief Executives Club, Novakovic said one of the top threats to America is the nation’s deepening political divide.
“As an American, I worry profoundly about our divisiveness as a nation,” she told the group. “Democracy requires shared values, and I don’t see that we have — we’re not having a national narrative about our shared values. There’s too much anger and hatred.”
“I worry a lot about the corrosive and cancerous effects of all that anger and hatred, sometimes flat out hatred, and that I think is scary,” she continued. “You can destroy yourself much faster than an enemy can. Typically great empires fall from the inside out.”
WTOP: Kentucky man accused of bringing shotgun, machete, booze to Pentagon parking lot
AP: UN probing 35 North Korean cyberattacks in 17 countries
Washington Examiner: Boris Johnson could shift UK policy on Huawei after US warnings
Washington Post: Blue Origin challenges Pentagon’s plan on satellite launches
AP: Iraq: Gulf Arab States Can Secure Persian Gulf Waters Alone
The Diplomat: Russia Showcases ‘Kinzhal’ Nuclear-Capable Air-Launched Ballistic Missile at Air Show
AP: Five Russian Nuclear Engineers Buried After Rocket Explosion
US News & World Report: Air Force Chief Grapples With Suicide Scourge: ‘I Don’t Have a Solution’
Military Times: Pentagon Investigation Finds Training Issue With Afghan Airdrop Operations
Breaking Defense: How Much Sealift Does U.S. Have For Crisis? It’s Not Sure
Newport News Daily Press: Propulsion Plant Work Complete On Aircraft Carrier Ford
Washington Examiner: Honey, I shrunk the MRE: Troops say the Army’s new tiny meals could yield big benefits
Washington Post: Marines Should Retain Officer Who Sent Classified Warning To Colleagues Ahead Of An Insider Attack, New Panel Finds
Washington Examiner: Ex-defense chief Jim Mattis joins General Dynamics amid rising scrutiny of DC ties to business
Wall Street Journal: The U.S. Abandoned Iraq. Don’t Repeat History in Afghanistan
TUESDAY | AUGUST 13
8:30 a.m. 300 First Street S.E. Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies forum on “American Strategy and the Iranian Challenge,” with Ilan Berman, senior vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council. www.mitchellaerospacepower.org/events
10:45 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. Hudson Institute discussion on “Ensuring U.S. Technological Superiority,” with Defense Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin and Rebeccah Heinrichs, senior fellow at Hudson. www.hudson.org/events
2 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. Woodrow Wilson Center forum on “Decoding the Disinformation Problem,” with former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., director, president, and CEO of WWC; Jessica Beyer, lecturer at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies; Ginny Badanes, director of strategic projects, cybersecurity, and democracy at Microsoft; Katie Harbath, global elections director at Facebook; David Greene, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Kate Bolduan, anchor at CNN; and Nina Jankowicz, fellow at WWC. engage.wilsoncenter.org
2 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. Hudson Institute discussion on a new Arms Control Association and Partnership for a Secure America report titled “Empowering Congress on Nuclear Security: Blueprints for a New Generation,” with Andrew Semmel, chairman of the PSA board of directors; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at ACA; Joyce Connery, member of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board; and Richard Weitz, senior fellow at Hudson. www.hudson.org/events
WEDNESDAY | AUGUST 14
8:30 a.m. 300 First Street S.E. Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies forum on “American Strategy and the Iranian Challenge,” with Rick Fisher, senior fellow on Asian military affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, and Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute. www.mitchellaerospacepower.org/events
THURSDAY | AUGUST 15
8 a.m. 2101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. National Defense Industrial Association discussion with Rear Adm. Francis Morley, director of the Navy International Programs Office. www.ndia.org
11:30 a.m. 1750 Independence Avenue S.W. Friends of the National World War II Memorial holds the 75th anniversary commemoration of Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of southern France to divide the nation’s German occupiers. www.wwiimemorialfriends.org
TUESDAY | AUGUST 20
8:00 a.m. 2201 G Street N.W. Defense Writers Group breakfast, with Gen. James Holmes, commander, Air Combat Command. nationalsecuritymedia.gwu.edu
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We can end this war, Mr. President. You’re right to want to end it. But you’ll never get al Qaeda and ISIS at the peace table. They don’t want peace.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham on Fox News Channel, arguing for President Trump to leave a residual force in Afghanistan after any peace deal with the Taliban.