ISIS-INSPIRED NEW YORK BOMBER: Akayed Ullah, the 27-year-old Bangladeshi man who attempted to detonate a crude bomb strapped to his body in a crowded New York subway passageway during yesterday’s morning rush hour, has told law enforcement authorities he was inspired by the Islamic State. The 12-inch pipe bomb did not explode, but burned the attacker, who also had a second device attached to his body. Ullah is being treated for burns to his hands and abdomen, while nearby commuters who received only minor injuries have all been treated and released.
There is no question that this was a case of domestic terrorism, the second in two months to target New York. “Let’s also be clear, this was an attempted terrorist attack. Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Ullah talked investigators from his hospital bed, according to an official who spoke to The Associated Press. He was “all over the place” about his motive but indicated he wanted to avenge what he portrayed as U.S. aggression against the Islamic State group, the law enforcement official said.
SITE Intel Group, which monitors terrorist networks, said no one has taken responsibility for the attack, but that pro-ISIS media were claiming it was a response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “Inspire” magazine, published by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, regularly provides detailed instructions on how to make pipe bombs, said SITE Director Rita Katz.
Just six weeks ago on Halloween, Sayfullo Saipov drove a truck down a crowded bike lane along the West Side Highway in Manhattan, killing eight people. The 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant was shot by police and arrested. He faces trial on multiple counts, including murder and attempted murder.
TRUMP BLAMES CHAIN MIGRATION: President Trump blamed lax immigration laws for the attack, specifically so-called “chain migration” in which immigrants can follow family members to the U.S. “America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country,” Trump said in a statement released by the White House. “Today’s terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security,” Trump said. He argued his travel ban was a first step in addressing the problem, and called on Congress to do more, including “increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, enhancing the arrest and detention authorities for immigration officers, and ending fraud and abuse in our immigration system.”
Trump also called for the “the strongest penalty allowed by law” for convicted terrorists, including the death penalty in appropriate cases. “America should always stand firm against terrorism and extremism, ensuring that our great institutions can address all evil acts of terror,” Trump said.
GRAHAM TRIES AGAIN: After the West Side Highway attack, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham pleaded with Trump not to rush the case against Saipov into the federal courts, where the accused has the right to remain silent. That advice fell on deaf ears, but Graham is hoping this case will be handled differently, and that Ullah will be treated as an enemy combatant, not a common criminal. “I don't want to read him his Miranda rights. I'd like to keep him talking, find out everything we can about him,” Graham told CNN yesterday. “Treat him humanely. I don't think you need to send him to Gitmo, you don't need to try him in a military commission.”
Graham insists he has no problem trying the suspect in federal court; he just wants to make sure Ullah is thoroughly questioned first. “I want to hold this person as a suspected enemy combatant for a few days, let the intelligence community talk to him, gather as much intel as we can. They will make a decision about where to charge him and how to charge him. But the first thing I want to do is treat this as an act of terror not a common crime,” Graham said.
ISIS STILL IN IRAQ, SYRIA: Iraq’s prime minister declared victory over ISIS in Iraq over the weekend, but yesterday the Pentagon was more cautious, congratulating Iraq for its “enormous progress” but also noting that pockets of ISIS were putting up “heavy resistance” in some parts of the country. About 3,000 ISIS fighters are still on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, with roughly a third of that, 1,000 or so, still in Iraq. “The Iraqi security forces, under the strong wartime leadership of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi have made enormous progress in the fight against ISIS,” Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters, adding, “There is still work to be done.’’
PUTIN DECLARES VICTORY: Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared victory in Syria, and today Moscow confirmed that Russian forces will begin withdrawing. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there is no longer the need for widely-deployed Russian military forces in Syria, but said Russia would retain the ability to conduct targeted airstrikes if necessary.
While the battle against ISIS continues in Syria, Russia’s goals have largely been achieved. Putin has succeeded in propping up the regime of Bashar Assad, securing Russia’s naval and air bases in Syria, and establishing Russia as the dominant force in determining the future of Syria.
Good Tuesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre), National Security Writer Travis J. Tritten (@travis_tritten) 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 add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter @dailyondefense.
HAPPENING TODAY: Trump will sign the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act at noon in the Roosevelt Room. While the policies included in the bill will go into effect immediately, the funding levels won’t. The bill would authorize $634 billion in base funding, well over the $549 billion cap set as part of the Budget Control Act. Congress has until Dec. 22 to come up with a new spending plan to raise caps or approve a third continuing resolution for the fiscal year.
ALSO TODAY: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to deliver remarks at the 2017 Atlantic Council – Korea Foundation Forum at 3:30 this afternoon. Tillerson's speech will be streamed live on www.state.gov
Tillerson also holds a town hall with staff today, in which he is expected to address criticism that in defending the State Department he has misstated some key facts, according to Reuters.
ENLISTING TRANSGENDER RECRUITS: The military is set to begin accepting transgender recruits for the first time on Jan. 1, despite Trump’s ban announced five months ago. Last month, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ordered the Pentagon to proceed with the enlistments and yesterday the same court rejected a Justice Department request for an emergency delay. In court, the DOJ argued the military would be “seriously and irreparably harmed” if forced to accept new transgender troops by that date, which was set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis after he delayed the Obama administration recruiting policy last summer.
D.C. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected the DOJ’s requested delay as part of the Doe v. Trump federal lawsuit filed against Trump, Mattis and other top defense officials by six transgender service members, a Naval Academy midshipman, and an ROTC student. "Defendants have had the opportunity to prepare for the accession of transgender individuals into the military for nearly one and a half years," Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her ruling. The Monday ruling may be appealed. “We disagree with the court's ruling and are seeking to stay the Defense Department's obligations under that ruling as we evaluate next steps,” said Lauren Ehrsam, a DOJ spokeswoman.
WHO CAN JOIN: The policy the court says must be implemented for now is not a blanket invitation for all transgender candidates. For instance, the rules written last year under the direction of then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter bar recruits with a history of gender dysphoria unless the applicant has been “stable without clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning for 18 months.” In addition, any applicant must have completed all medical treatment associated with gender transition, and have been “stable in the preferred gender for 18 months.”
The Pentagon says it will salute smartly and carry out the judge’s order to begin processing transgender applicants for military service as of Jan. 1, even as the Justice Department continues to seek relief in order to allow an ongoing policy review to be completed before the end of March. “This policy will be implemented while the Department of Justice appeals those court orders,” a Pentagon statement said.
MEANWHILE, ANOTHER INJUNCTION: Following the ruling in D.C., a judge in Washington state granted a third federal injunction blocking the Pentagon from moving forward with Trump’s ban, which he announced via a series of tweets in July. The newest order prohibits the president or any other official “from taking any action relative to transgender individuals that is inconsistent with the status quo that existed prior to” the tweets. “At the end of the day, what matters is whether or not someone is qualified and willing to serve, not their gender identity,” said Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, which is a plaintiff in the case. A district judge hearing another federal suit against Trump in Maryland also issued an injunction last month barring the Pentagon from moving ahead with a ban. But that’s not all. A ruling on a fourth injunction in a California suit is expected soon.
BECAUSE WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FLASHPOINTS: Trump is being urged by a pair of Republican senators not to waver when it comes to America’s long-standing military cooperation with Taiwan, despite a dramatic warning from China. “I take Beijing’s threats to use military force against Taiwan seriously,” Sen. Tom Cotton said Monday. “That's why I urge both the president and Congress to accelerate the sale of defensive weapons to Taiwan, as well as to bring Taiwan into joint military exercises with the United States.”
Such cooperation has alarmed Chinese officials for years, but Beijing has launched a particularly aggressive campaign against congressional legislation that would allow for the United States and Taiwanese navies to visit each other’s ports, among other defense cooperation plans.
Congress has ignored that pressure prompting a new threat from the Chinese Foreign Ministry. “The day that a U.S. Navy vessel arrives in [a Taiwanese port], is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unites Taiwan with military force,” Chinese Minister Li Kexin said last week during an event attended by Chinese and Taiwanese students, per the Taiwan News.
While the U.S. has a “One China” policy, which Trump initially questioned and then endorsed, its support of Taiwan is also prescribed by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which among other things says the U.S. will “consider any attempt to resolve the Taiwan issue by other than peaceful means, including boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.” It also states that U.S. policy is “to provide Taiwan with such weapons as may be necessary for its security and an adequate defensive capability.”
RODMAN & ROCKET MAN: Former NBA star Dennis Rodman wants Trump to give him a diplomatic assignment to North Korea, and promised he could make progress with dictator Kim Jong Un if given a chance. “I’ve been trying to tell Donald since day one: ‘Come talk to me, man,' " Rodman told the Guardian. "I’ll tell you what the Marshal wants more than anything … It’s not even that much.”
“If I can go back over there … you’ll see me talking to him, and sitting down and having dinner, a glass of wine, laughing and doing my thing,” he added. “I guess things will settle down a bit and everybody can rest at ease.”
TRUMP’S NEW R&E NOMINEE: The president has sent the Senate his nomination for the first undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. If confirmed, former NASA administrator Michael Griffin could take over the newly formed position in February following a restructuring of the Pentagon acquisition system ordered by Congress. The plan calls for splitting the position of undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics into two new positions in the hope of speeding up development and fielding of new technology. Griffin could fill one slot while Ellen Lord, the current AT&L undersecretary, is expected to fill the newly created undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment position.
War on the Rocks: In Afghanistan, Today’s Pro-Government Militias Could Be Tomorrow’s Insurgents
USA Today: Putin's troop withdrawal from Syria may not be all he says it is
Reuters: Russian credit to cover part of S-400 missile deal with Turkey: agency
New York Times: Whirlwind Putin Tour Highlights Moscow’s New Reach in Mideast
Wall Street Journal: Amid North Korea Tensions, a Narrow Diplomatic Window Opens
USNI News: SECNAV Memo: Navy Won’t Reactivate Perry Frigates for SOUTHCOM Mission; Will Send Ships to Fight Drug War in 2018
Roll Call: Budget Deal Could Bust Caps by $200 Billion
Defense News: Policy shift: DoD is pushing major program management back to the military
Military Times: Helmand again the focus of US strategy in Afghanistan
Stars and Stripes: US, Afghan special operations planning to ‘take the fight’ to growing ISIS safe havens in NW Afghanistan
Military Times: Trump accuses Dems of blocking military funding in budget negotiations
UPI: Report: Two years, $2M wasted on warfare system after Navy skips development step
Foreign Policy: A Shoutout for Two Key Things Harold Brown Did as Defense Secretary Under Carter
Defense One: Pentagon Unleashes 2,400 Auditors for Unprecedented Financial Review
CNN: Is N. Korea seeking biological weapons?
TUESDAY | DEC. 12
8 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. CTTSO advanced planning briefing for industry. ndia.org
9 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. U.S.-UK Relations in a changing world with Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House national security advisor. policyexchange.org.uk
9:30 a.m. 529 14th St. NW. Jerusalem: The Fatal Blow to Trump's "Ultimate Deal"? press.org
9:30 a.m. 529 14th St. NW. Inquiry on North Korean Political Prisons. Press.org
11 a.m. Pentagon Briefing Room. Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch briefs from Kabul, Afghanistan to provide an update on operations. Live streamed at www.defense.gov/live
12 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. 2017 Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum with Wilbur Ross, secretary of commerce. atlanticcouncil.org
12:30 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. Yemen: A country in crisis. cfr.org
1 p.m. 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Live Power Problems podcast recording: “All I Want for Christmas is an F-35: Trump, the Generals and the Defense Budget.” cato.org
2 p.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Revisiting lessons of the Vietnam War. brookings.edu
5 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Book launch of “Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts.” csis.org
WEDNESDAY | DEC. 13
8 a.m. 1800 Jefferson Davis Hwy. Special topic breakfast with Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard. navyleague.org
8:30 a.m. 2425 Wilson Blvd. Hot Topic: Army Cyber professional development forum with Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, commanding general of U.S. Army Cyber Command. ausa.org
9:30 a.m. Dirksen 419. Using force: Strategic, political and legal considerations with Stephen Hadley, Christine Wormuth and John Bellinger. foreign.senate.gov
10 a.m. Russell 222. Update on research, diagnosis and treatment for traumatic brain injury and concussion in service members. armed-services.senate.gov
1 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Ballistic missile defense: Evolving threats and new priorities with Rear Adm. Jon Hill, deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency. csis.org
1:30 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. CORDS at 50: A model of civil-military collaboration? csis.org
1:45 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The future of combating terrorism and countering the use of WMD: A Conversation with Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke. hudson.org
3:30 p.m. Rayburn 2118. Addressing physiological episodes in fighter, attack and training aircraft Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, and Rear Adm. Sara Joyner.
6 p.m. 1250 S Hayes St. Aerospace Industries Association Lyman award dinner. aia-aerospace.org
THURSDAY | DEC. 14
7 a.m. 901 17th St. NW. S&ET executive breakfast. ndia.org
9:30 a.m. 1501 Lee Highway. Mitchell Hour on the operational National Guard, a unique and capable component of the joint force with Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. mitchellaerospacepower.org
10 a.m. Dirksen G-50 U.S. Policy and strategy in the Middle East. armed-services.senate.gov
10 a.m. Senate Visitor Center 217. Closed briefing on new counter-terrorism guidance with Maj. General Albert Elton II, Joint Staff deputy director for special operations and counterterrorism, and Andrew Knaggs, deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations and counterterrorism. foreign.senate.gov
11:30 a.m. 1250 S. Hayes St. Aerospace Industries Association media luncheon. aia-aerospace.org
12:30 p.m. 525 New Jersey Ave. NW. CNAS event: Toward a common North Korea strategy with Rep. Ami Bera. cnas.org
6:30 p.m. 1777 F St. NW.D.C. Foreign Affairs November/December Issue Launch Guest Event: America's Forgotten Wars. cfr.org
FRIDAY | DEC. 15
11 a.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Defeating terrorism in the age of Trump with Sebastian Gorka. heritage.org
6:30 p.m. 1301 S. Joyce St. Military Reporters & Editors Association networking event with Brig. Gen. Seely, Marine Corps communications director. militaryreporters.org
TUESDAY | DEC. 19
9 a.m. 15th St. NW. Making Peace in Donbas? The Role of a Peacekeeping Mission with Ambassador Kurt Volker. atlanticcouncil.org