Need An IED? Better Get Telegram

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Today's things: Missed update kills 26; Pentagon wants FDA gig; Telegram's got your IEDs; Niger/US st
 

5 NatSec Things

November 8 - Issue #13 - View online
Your Daily Look at War from the Cheap Seats

Today’s things: Missed update kills 26; Pentagon wants FDA gig; Telegram’s got your IEDs; Niger/US stories differ; F-35s for UAE?

Air Force doesn't update database and kills 26 people
If you’re going to shoot up a church on Sunday, might as well turn out to be an Air Force vet who got the gun you killed 26 people with because someone in the USAF forgot to update the database that might have stopped you from buying the weapon in the first place.
It’s a story custom-made for the Trump era: dead Christians, gun rights, and a Texan tearing off after the shooter with his own rifle because if ‘murca means anything, it’s our by God rights to shoot the fucker back.
I want to be on the side of gun owners - I used to be one, and might be again. Except that there is no logical explanation for why anyone in their right mind needs an AR anything. Unless you’re in the military. And you’re using it to shoot actual enemies of the state. Not 26 people who, in your deranged mind, you should open fire on at some point on a Sunday morning.
This isn’t about enforcing gun laws, it’s about far too many unhinged motherfuckers turning to automatic weapons to work out their shit. Imagine if we spent as much money on mental health in this country as the NRA did lobbying for the rights of mental patients to keep and bear arms. Which is what they’re doing, every time something like this happens and we don’t immediately all go, “Yeah, now’s the time to turn all of these things into molten metal…maybe make some merry-go-rounds out of 'em.”
Because the Pentagon needs one more job, takes on FDA
Things the Pentagon does well include: buying expensive hammers; helping countries that didn’t ask for assistance; shooting people in the face. Things the Pentagon does less well: make life-altering decisions about the kind of medicines and medical devices its troops should be able to use. Before the rest of the general public. 
But that’s what language in the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is going to make possible, if it gets passed. Since the military knows better than the FDA what should work for its soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. And the military is made up of people superior to other beings, simply because they volunteered for Uncle Sam’s World Tour and Sideshow of Idiots. 
This is another shot at widening the growing civil/military divide, and it bodes ill for a country that is already nearly to blows over how veterans should be treated. Now the military establishment is making a move on medical care. This feels like one of those, “First they came for” moments, and here’s hoping it ends here.
Maybe this is why Afghanistan wants to ban Telegram
The Afghan government recently wanted to block WhatsApp and Telegram. Since I’m an ignorant asshole, I didn’t know what Telegram was. Turns out it’s another app where you can set up sales of things you’d like to get rid of. In this case, things like M4s that were part of US efforts to arm Syrian rebels against Assad. 
Or all the things you’d ever need to make, say, an IED. Telegram in Syria has turned into a veritable Craiglist on crack for all kinds of weapons, from Cold War era anti-tank missiles to your garden variety suicide belts. “Tired of being the life of the party? Have we got a deal for you!”
So I can see why Kabul would want to block it, particularly if the Afghan government found out that any/all of the weapons lost to the Taliban by Afghan forces had found their way into some kind of Telegram bazaar. Because that would be embarrassing. Not as embarrassing as how much money the US spent ($500 million) to train 150 people, only to have their weapons show up as some jihadi’s “Getting Out Of Raqqa” sale. 
Nigerien and Americans on different missions that day in Niger
A little over a month ago, the world learned that “Nigerien” isn’t a misspelling of “Nigerian,” but that’s a citizen of a country where four US soldiers died as part of an “advise-and-assist” mission. Since the fourth was probably kidnapped and murdered by the same militants that ambushed the rest of the joint US/Niger patrol, folks have some questions about what actually happened that day.
All depends on who you ask: the Nigeriens insist that everyone in the area was doing reconnaissance or some other related task to directly target specific militants. The Americans insist that was the job of another team, and the one that ended up with dead guys was just there to help support the other counter-terror mission.
The US keeps trying to contain the narrative on this to make it look like we aren’t involved in a non-declared war in Africa. Not sure what’s in it for the Nigerians to counter that narrative, unless they’re stuck on telling the truth. I expect the final results of the investigation on this won’t be as forthcoming as some would like, and we’ll probably never really know what happened that day in Niger.
UAE might be the next in line to get that Lockmart F-35
QME: Qualitative Military Edge, which is the tenet of US foreign policy that the Americans are committed to helping the Israelis maintain. Which means that, no matter what the advantage to the US otherwise, that the Americans won’t sell weapons systems to other countries that might threaten Israel. Which brings us to sales of the F-35 to places like the UAE. 
Because in theory the F-35 is the most advanced fighter the US has yet produced, selling it to Arab countries would impact Israel’s QME. And since that’s just not kosher, the Americans have to be careful with who they sell the system too. Except in the case of the UAE, which has no bad intentions toward Israel, it’s possible that one of the F-35s weak points might be the selling point to make this deal happen. 
That’s the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), the cloud-based network that updates F-35 systems around the globe. It’s been a problematic system already, with multiple issues around its development. The Israelis relationship with the the aircraft is different, as they’ve secured the right to operate independently of the ALIS. 
The UAE deal wouldn’t have the same provision, which means the Americans, in the event of a UAE vs. Israel conflict, could literally shut down UAE F-35s remotely. That’s what we call a win-win-win: US sells aircraft, Israel maintains its QME, and the machines get something to control.
Hey! Tell me something
Tinkering with the format, and that’s going to happen for a while until I get settled into a voice and a rhythm. Last few issues were pretty terse, but don’t want to leg this thing out to a long-form blog post every day, since that’s maybe not sustainable. Still, I’m probably more comfortable at this word count than going so brief. Thoughts? Love to hear ‘em.
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