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The Trump Administration Really Needs An All-Day PowerPoint Briefing On OPSEC Awareness
Is the Pentagon gearing up to send a contingent of U.S. service member to South American in response to the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela? Apparently, according to the world's dumbest OPSEC fail.
Appearing at a press briefing at the White House on Monday, National Security Adviser John Bolton managed to get his handwritten notes, including a line about "5,000 troops to Colombia," captured by every photojournalist present in an embarrassing lapse of operational security — namely by holding his yellow legal pad, notes out.
National security adviser John Bolton holds his notes during a press briefing at the White House, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Washington. (Associated Press/Evan Vucci)
At the moment, it's unclear what, if anything, that "5,000 troops to Colombia" actually means. The slip came just days after military aviation observers noticed a U.S. Air Force Special Operations C-146A Wolfhound inbound to the capital of Bogota, and the commanding general of U.S. Army South arrived in Colombia on Monday to discuss military ties with the United States.
When questioned by reporters on Tuesday regarding Bolton's notes, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan demurred. "I haven't discussed that with Secretary Bolton," he said of a potential U.S. military deployment to Colombia. "I'm not commenting on it."
A White House spokesman was more cryptic when reached by Task & Purpose: "All options are on the table."
While both U.S. and Colombian officials threw cold water on the idea of an imminent influx of U.S. service members into the southern hemisphere, the cryptic responses from the Pentagon and White House suggests that maybe, just maybe, those notes were a warning to any Latin American countries planning on starting some shit during Venezuela's current crisis? Is it possible that, rather than a dumb OPSEC slip, Bolton's overtly visible notes are part of some Machiavellian effort to outflank America's foes on the geopolitical stage?
The short answer is, well, no. The longer answer: Fuck no.
This is somehow the third easily-avoidable OPSEC fail to hit senior level Trump officials since the start of the administration. In May 2017, the Washington Post inadvertently published then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis' phone number after Trump's bodyguard, Keith Schiller, was photographed with Mattis' digits on a sticky note in plain sight; the following August, a selfie taken in the West Wing included a full capture of then-Trump adviser Steve Bannon's whiteboard of power.
Let this be a reminder: When it comes to issues of OPSEC, Trump officials are clearly not playing four-dimensional chess. Hell, they're barely even playing checkers; if anything, they're eating the pieces.
WATCH NEXT: When Mattis Met Bolton
Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.
Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.
"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'
More than 700 women and children affiliated with ISIS escape Kurdish prison camp after Turkish shelling
BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.
Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.
Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is warning that it's "absolutely a given" that ISIS will come back if the U.S. doesn't keep up pressure on the group, just one week after President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from northern Syria.
"It's in a situation of disarray right now. Obviously the Kurds are adapting to the Turkish attacks, and we'll have to see if they're able to maintain the fight against ISIS," Mattis said in an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press," set to air on Sunday. "It's going to have an impact. The question is how much?"