Overnight Defense: US drone destroys Russian tank in Syria | Budget includes $69M for top-secret detainee section at Gitmo | Anti-ISIS coalition divided over handling foreign fighters

Overnight Defense: US drone destroys Russian tank in Syria | Budget includes $69M for top-secret detainee section at Gitmo | Anti-ISIS coalition divided over handling foreign fighters
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THE TOPLINE: A U.S. drone, acting in self-defense, destroyed a Russian-made T-72 tank in eastern Syria over the weekend, the head of U.S. Air Forces Central Command told reporters Tuesday.

News reports indicate that three people inside the tank were killed.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian said U.S. forces for several hours used drones and B-52 bombers to strike fighters after they came under fire from the tank.  

"We detected and saw a tank that took a shot at us," Harrigian said via teleconference from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

"It continued to move, so we again executed self-defense rules of engagement to protect ourselves. And I believe, again, that's something we always have the right to do and will make sure we're in a position to do," Harrigian added.

Fox News reported Tuesday that it was a U.S.-made MQ-9 Reaper drone that destroyed the Russian tank, and that three people inside the vehicle were killed.

Read more about that here.


The U.S. drone strike follows a similar clash last week. In that conflict, U.S. forces killed several Russian mercenaries supporting the government of Bashar Assad.


Bloomberg, citing an unnamed U.S. official and three Russians, reported Tuesday that "scores" of Russians were killed in last week's strike in Deir ez-Zour province.

Two of the Russians told Bloomberg that more than 200 mercenaries, mostly Russian, were killed in the strike. The U.S. official put the death toll at 100, with 200 to 300 injured. 

If those numbers hold, it could be the deadliest clash between citizens of the United States and Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Read about that here.


TILLERSON RAISES ALARM AT MEETING OF ANTI-ISIS COALITION: Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump administration rigging the game, and your retirement fund could be the loser Haley’s exit sends shockwaves through Washington Turkey-Russia Idlib agreement: A lesson for the US MORE sought on Tuesday to refocus the U.S.-led coalition charged with fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group on its mission amid a series of confrontations in the region.

"The end of major combat operations does not mean we have achieved the enduring defeat of ISIS," Tillerson said at a meeting of coalition members in Kuwait.

"ISIS remains a serious threat to the stability of the region, our homelands and other parts of the globe," he added. "Without continued attention and support from coalition members, we risk the return of extremist groups like ISIS in liberated areas of Iraq and Syria and their spread to new locations."

He also announced that the U.S. would provide an additional $200 million for stabilization and recovery efforts in parts of Syria liberated from ISIS control. 

Read the rest here.


MATTIS: NO AGREEMENT ON WHAT TO DO WITH CAPTURED ISIS FIGHTERS: Members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) did not agree Tuesday on what to do with captured foreign fighters, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' Joint Chiefs chairman to meet with Saudi counterpart Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' despite 'Democrat' remark MORE said.

Speaking to reporters after a closed-door coalition meeting in Rome, Mattis said the issue was "not resolved in a final way," but that individual countries must take responsibility for ISIS fighters that hail from their nation.

"The important thing is that the countries of origin keep responsibility for them," Mattis told reporters traveling with him from Rome to Brussels. "How they carry out that responsibility, there's a dozen different diplomatic, legal or whatever ways, I suppose. But the bottom line is, we don't want them going back on the street."

"Doing nothing is not an option," he added later.

The debate over what to do with foreign ISIS fighters captured on the battlefield has heated up after the U.S.-back Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured two men that were part of an ISIS cell known as "The Beatles" because of their English accents.

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has more here.


$69M TO REPLACE TOP-SECRET DETAINEE SECTION AT GITMO: The Pentagon is requesting $69 million to replace the top-secret portion of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility that houses 15 "high-value" detainees, including the alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The request, first reported Tuesday by the Miami Herald, was part of the Pentagon's overall $686 billion budget request for fiscal 2019, which was released Monday.

"Existing facilities have far exceeded their service life expectancy and are deteriorating rapidly," Army budget documents read. "If this project is not provided, detainees will continue to be housed in facilities that will degrade to the point of risking failure to meet operational and life, health and safety standards."

The budget request comes weeks after President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE reaffirmed his desire to keep Guantanamo open and potentially send new detainees there by signing an executive order that rescinds former President Obama's order to close the facility.

Trump's order also requires Defense Secretary James Mattis to provide recommendations on how to handle any potential newly captured individuals.

Read more about the request here.



Pacific Command commander Adm. Harry Harris will testify before the House Armed Services Committee at 10 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. http://bit.ly/2ERW5iS

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on modernizing food aid with testimony from former officials and outside experts at 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2172. http://bit.ly/2ER5dEk

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on the administration's Israeli-Palestinian peace plan with testimony from outside experts at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2172. http://bit.ly/2nWNuDh

Another Foreign Affairs subpanel will hold a hearing on how to advance U.S. interests through the Organization of American States at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2200. http://bit.ly/2ExY7XS

The vice chiefs of the military services will testify about readiness before a Senate Armed Services Committee subcommittee at 2:30 p.m. at Russell Senate Office Building, room 222. http://bit.ly/2DB8xSB

Another Senate Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on military family readiness with testimony from Pentagon officials and outside experts at 3 p.m. at Russell 232A. http://bit.ly/2EPLmFz

A House Armed Services subpanel will hold a hearing on Air Force readiness with testimony from Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve officers at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2212. http://bit.ly/2nWRpzZ



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