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Russia Says It Killed ISIS Leader 2 Weeks Ago, Maybe, Possibly
After doing virtually nothing to aid the multinational campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the Russian government claims it may have just changed the course of the global war on terror forever.
The Russian Defense Ministry says it is “looking into” whether it killed ISIS chief and self-described caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi with a May 28 airstrike on a meeting of jihadi leaders on the outskirts of Raqqa, the New York Times reports.
The airstrikes, carried out by Russian Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-35 medium-range fighter-bombers, targeted a summit of high-ranking members of ISIS’s “military council,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement June 16. The bombing run took out at least 30 mid-level ISIS field commanders and nearly 300 fighters providing security detail, according to Russia.
That ISIS meeting, the Russians said, was called to explore exit routes for ISIS fighters fleeing the U.S-led coalition assault on Raqqa, which coalition military personnel and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have encircled in recent weeks as part of strategically and symbolically important push to liberate the jihadis’ de facto capital.
If true, the death of Baghdadi would represent a huge blow to ISIS forces under increasing pressure across the region. But the Russians’ claim to victory is sketchy, to say the least.
U.S. military personnel fighting ISIS as part of Operation Inherent Resolve are still scratching their heads over the alleged strike that the Russians say neutralized Baghdadi. The New York Times observes that the Russian statement “offered no explanation for the two-week delay in publicizing the airstrike,” though the Russian Defense Ministry stated that it had notified the Department of Defense of the strike ahead of time.
Pentagon air commanders operating out of the essential U.S. Central Command forward operating base at Al Udeid in Qatar are now “going back over the reports from May 28 and the subsequent days to see what the Russians had said about flight operations,” OIR spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon told the New York Times.
DoD commanders are throwing cold water on news of Baghdadi’s death. “We cannot confirm these reports at this time,” Dillon said. The Pentagon said in a statement to Reuters that it had “no information” corroborating the Russian account of Baghdadi’s death. Even a colonel with the Iraqi security forces told Reuters that Baghdadi “was not believed to have been in Raqqa” at the time of the Russian strike.
(Public affairs officials for the Department of Defense and Operation Inherent Resolve did not immediately respond to request for comment from Task & Purpose.)
Though the U.S.-led OIR coalition and Russia have regarded one another with caution and suspicion amid dueling operations in war-torn Syria, both militaries have been slowly squeezing ISIS leadership as they work to beat back the rising tide of jihadi extremism in the region. In April, U.S. special operations forces took out a chief adviser to Baghdadi during a rare raid in Syria.
The mystery of Baghdadi’s “death” is not a new story — premature reports of his demise have emerged before — but now it’s a question that will plague U.S.-led coalition commanders for the next few days. Whether Russia deserves any credit for taking out a huge chunk of ISIS leadership is another question entirely.
The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.
Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15 announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.
This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."
The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 when two Iranian drones came dangerously close, according to U.S. Central Command.
"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."
Green Beret with terminal cancer meets Trump to rally support for military medical malpractice reform
On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.
A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
The Pentagon is no longer topless. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper as the United States' first permanent defense secretary in more than seven months.
Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.
The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.
But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?