Overnight Defense: Four Americans killed in Syria suicide attack | State of the Union becomes latest shutdown flashpoint | Missile defense review on track for Thursday release

Overnight Defense: Four Americans killed in Syria suicide attack | State of the Union becomes latest shutdown flashpoint | Missile defense review on track for Thursday release
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Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.


THE TOPLINE: The number of U.S. troops killed in action in Syria since 2015 doubled Wednesday after a suicide attack in Manbij.

Two U.S. troops were killed in the blast, bringing the total since U.S troops were deployed to fight ISIS in Syria to four.

Along with the service members, one Pentagon civilian and one contractor working with the Pentagon were killed in the attack, which local reports said happened at a restaurant in the center of Manbij.


The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took credit for the attack through its Amaq news agency, which said an attacker used an explosives-laden vest to target coalition forces.

Condolences: In a statement Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders extended the White House's "deepest sympathies" to the families of those killed.

"Our deepest sympathies and love go out to the families of the brave American heroes who were killed today in Syria," she said. "We also pray for the soldiers who were wounded in the attack. Our service members and their families have all sacrificed so much for our country."

Responding to the attack, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanHouse Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis Boeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January MORE stressed Wednesday that the "fight against terrorism is ongoing."

"Allow me to extend on behalf of [the Pentagon] our thoughts and prayers to the families and team members of those killed today in Manbij," he said ahead of a meeting with Japan's defense minister. "Our fight against terrorism is ongoing and we will remain vigilant and committed to its destruction."

"Today is a stark reminder of the dangerous missions that men and women in uniform perform on our behalf each and every day," Shahanan added.

Pence raises eyebrows: Hours after the attack, Vice President Pence gave a speech to diplomats in which he did not mention the bombing, but did reiterate Trump's earlier claim that "ISIS has been defeated."

"Thanks to the leadership of this commander in chief and the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, we're now actually able to begin to hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria to our coalition partners, and we are bringing out troops home," Pence said at a State Department event.

"The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated," he added in remarks at the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference, prompting applause in the room.

In a statement later, though, Pence condemned the attack and, rather than saying ISIS has been defeated, said "we have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities."

"President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE and I condemn the terrorist attack in Syria that claimed American lives and our hearts are with the loved ones of the fallen. We honor their memory and we will never forget their service and sacrifice," Pence said in a statement. "As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assured, for the sake of our soldiers, their families, and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate – not now, not ever."

Graham says to rethink withdrawal: Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw RNC chairwoman: Republicans should realize distancing themselves from Trump 'is hurting themselves in the long run' Latest Mnuchin-Pelosi call produces 'encouraging news on testing' for stimulus package MORE (R-S.C.) responded to the attack by saying Trump's announced withdrawal from Syria has emboldened ISIS.

"My concern by the statements made by President Trump is that you have set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we're fighting," Graham said while chairing an unrelated Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. "So, I would hope the president would look long and hard of where he's headed in Syria."

Graham, who is typically a Trump ally, was among the most vocal critics of Trump's decision to withdraw. Graham warned that he was making an "Obama-like mistake," an apparent reference to the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq.

Graham later said he felt better about Trump's Syria plans after a White House meeting, saying "the president understands the need to finish the job."

But on Wednesday, Graham again compared the situation in Syria to Iraq

"We saw this in Iraq. And I'm now seeing it in Syria," he said.


SHUTDOWN DAY 26: As the partial government shutdown drags on, the annual State of the Union address is now part of the fight.

In the morning, House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus MORE (D-Calif.) asked Trump to delay his State of the Union address set for Jan. 29 until after the government reopens.

Pelosi said because the Secret Service is the lead agency for security and it has not been funded due to the shutdown, the address should be put off.

As an alternative, Pelosi said Trump could consider doing the State of the Union in writing.

"Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th," Pelosi wrote in the letter to Trump.

But DHS says no issue: Later, the Department of Homeland Security pushed back on Pelosi's claim of "security concerns" with the address.

"The Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenWatchdog finds top DOJ officials were 'driving force' behind Trump's child separation policy: NYT More than million in DHS contracts awarded to firm of acting secretary's wife: report DHS IG won't investigate after watchdog said Wolf, Cuccinelli appointments violated law MORE said on Twitter.

Nielsen praised the service, which her department oversees, "for their mission focus and dedication and for all they do each day to secure our homeland."



After more than a year of delay, the Pentagon appears set to release the report Thursday. And Trump reportedly will go to the Pentagon for the unveiling.

Bloomberg reported on Trump's plans.

The Pentagon directed inquiries about the report's release to the White House, which did not respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Why the anticipation: The review of the military's missile defense needs was originally supposed to be released in late 2017 and then in February. But it was further pushed back when the administration decided to expand its scope from ballistic missile defense to all missile defense.

There was also speculation the administration did not want to release the report amid nuclear negotiations with North Korea. The rouge regime is one of the threats the defenses are meant to protect against, and a review saying that could complicate negotiations.

What's in the report: The review is expected to call for increased spending on new missile defense technologies, such as ways to track and detect missiles in space and stopping missiles before they are launched or in the early stage of flight.

At a think tank event last year, Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, also said the department is planning to increase investment in directed-energy systems used for missile defense.


SPACE FORCE FARCE: The internet has had plenty of laughs about Trump's plans to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the military.

Now, there will be a whole sitcom about it.


Netflix announced Wednesday that Steve Carell will star in new workplace comedy series "Space Force" being co-created with his old boss from "The Office," Greg Daniels.

Take a look at the teaser here.



The Stimson Center will host an expert panel on India's nuclear doctrine at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/2QhN1b9



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