Overnight Defense: US strike in Somalia kills ISIS deputy | Trump's love of acting officials | Terrorist designation against Iranian military unit takes effect | Kim sets deadline for talks with US
Happy Monday 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: A U.S. airstrike Sunday killed the second in command of the Somali branch of ISIS, the U.S. military said Monday.
The airstrike happened near Xiriiro in the Bari region of northeastern Somalia, U.S. Africa Command (Africom) said in a statement, assessing that the strike killed Abdulhakim Dhuqub and destroyed one vehicle.
“As second-in-command of ISIS-Somalia, Dhuqub was responsible for the daily operations of the extremist group, attack planning and resource procurement,” the release said.
About the target: Dhuqub helped set up the first cell of an ideological predecessor to al-Shabaab in 2004, according to the United Nations. He later defected to the ISIS Somali branch.
The Somali branch of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is comparatively small, estimated to be about 150 to 200 fighters.
U.S. forces first launched strikes against ISIS-Somalia in November 2017.
No civilian casualties: The U.S. military says that no civilians were killed or injured in Sunday’s strike, but Africom added that its “process and procedures allow for additional information to inform post-strike analysis.”
Africom recently acknowledged two civilians were killed in an April 2018 airstrike against al-Shabaab after repeatedly insisting all its strikes in Somalia had killed no civilians.
EVERYONE’S ACTING: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense: US strike in Somalia kills ISIS deputy | Trump’s love of acting officials | Terrorist designation against Iranian military unit takes effect | Kim sets deadline for talks with US Trump learns to love acting officials Overnight Defense: Shanahan expects more troops to deploy to border | Transgender ban takes effect | International court rejects probe into alleged Afghanistan war crimes MORE has been the longest serving acting secretary in the Pentagon’s history for a few weeks now.
And he’s just one of several acting secretaries in President TrumpDonald John Trump2020 Dem hits back at Trump for giving ‘firefighting advice’ to Paris: ‘Do your own damn job’ French officials reject Trump suggestion to use ‘flying water tankers’ on Notre Dame fire Overnight Energy: Interior watchdog opens investigation into new secretary | Warren unveils 2020 plan to stop drilling on public lands | Justices reject case challenging state nuclear subsidies | Court orders EPA to re-evaluate Obama pollution rule MORE‘s administration.
Over the weekend, The Hill’s Brett Samuels took a look at Trump’s growing penchant for sticking with acting secretaries and the implications of that.
Trump’s argument: The president argues that having Cabinet members and others serve his administration in an acting capacity is better than having people confirmed by the Senate.
“I like acting because I can move so quickly. It gives me more flexibility,” Trump said in a February interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
The use of acting officials gives Trump even more power over those who serve him since they haven’t been through a Senate confirmation process.
Some who hope to win permanent positions might even be more likely to back the president on controversial moves.
It also could allow Trump to more quickly dispose of someone he grows irritated with or tired of.
“The president likes to say it gives him flexibility, and it does to some extent,” said Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks staffing for administrations.
“As the president, you can appoint actings. Let’s say he gets tired of the acting [Department of Homeland Security] secretary. Let’s say in three weeks he’s not working in the direction he wants to see him. He can appoint somebody else acting.”
Downsides: Acting officials lack the job security of a full-time nominee and could therefore be hesitant to carry out long-term planning they won’t be there to see through, Tenpas said.
Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University, said there are a number of negative factors in relying on acting officials.
“What’s wrong with substitute teachers? What’s wrong with backup quarterbacks?” he continued. “The answer is expertise, staying power, efficiency, knowing the job and accountability.”
TERRORIST DESIGNATION OFFICIAL: The Trump administration’s designation of Iran’s elite military unit as a “foreign terrorist organization” took effect Monday.
A notice published Monday in the Federal Register made the designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps officially go into effect.
The administration announced the designation last week, saying at the time it would take effect Monday. The unprecedented move is the first time the United States has label an entire government entity of a foreign country a terrorist organization. The designation comes with sanctions such as freezing any assets that might be in the United States and a ban on Americans doing business with the Guard.
NORTH KOREA’S TIMELINE: There has been little to no public signs of progress on North Korea talks since February’s failed summit in Hanoi, and now North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is setting a deadline for the United States.
On Friday, Kim said he was open to the third summit with Trump but that he will wait “till the end of this year” for the United States to be more flexible in negotiations, North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency reported Saturday.
“It is essential for the U.S. to quit its current calculation method and approach us with a new one,” Kim was quoted as saying during a speech to the Supreme People’s Assembly.
Trump’s response: Trump responded to Kim’s comments on Twitter on Saturday morning by touting their “excellent” personal relationship.
“I agree with Kim Jong Un of North Korea that our personal relationship remains very good, perhaps the term excellent would be even more accurate, and that a third Summit would be good in that we fully understand where we each stand,” Trump tweeted.
“North Korea has tremendous potential for extraordinary growth, economic success and riches under the leadership of Chairman Kim. I look forward to the day, which could be soon, when Nuclear Weapons and Sanctions can be removed, and then watching North Korea become one of the most successful nations of the World!” Trump continued.
Pompeo’s response: Speaking to reporters in traveling with him in Texas on Monday, Pompeo said “Trump is determined to move forward diplomatically.”
“This is the outcome we’re looking for: Chairman Kim made a promise in June of last year in Singapore. He made a commitment to denuclearize,” Pompeo said. “Our teams are working with the North Koreans to chart a path forward so that we can get there. [Kim] said he wanted it done by the end of the year. I’d love to see that done sooner.”
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran will speak at 10 a.m. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. https://bit.ly/2IA9ZtF
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— ABC News: High-ranking DHS official departs for post as Pentagon’s chief spokesperson
— Associated Press: US-Russia chill stirs worry about stumbling into conflict