National Security Brief: August 16, 2011

— Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu travelled to Damascus on Monday to deliver Turkey’s “final” warning to the Syrian government to “immediately and unconditionally” halt its crackdown on civilian anti-government demonstrators.

— At a closed door Security Council meeting, an assistant U.N. secretary-general cited reports that the Syrian army fired on defectors and executed soldiers who refused to turn their guns on unarmed civilian protesters, according to minutes obtained by Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch.

— The White House said Monday that despite the large-scale attack yesterday in Iraq that killed more than 70 people, there are no changes in the timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

— The U.S. military awarded at least 20 companies new contracts in Afghanistan worth a combined $1 billion in a step to shift contracts away from contractors who paid Taliban and Afghan warlords to ensure the safe arrival of convoys.

— As the U.S. military begins to drawdown from Afghanistan, commanders are ramping up the controversial Afghan Local Police program to help boost local defenses.

— Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah, a top Libyan security official, apparently defected yesterday, unexpectedly arriving in Cairo in a private plane with his family. The move comes as rebels are closing in on the capital Tripoli.

— While congress has allotted $1.3 trillion for war spending through fiscal year 2011, no one knows exactly how much the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost. A recent Brown University study showed that the wars have cost the U.S. $3.6 trillion, more than $12,000 per American.

— The U.N. World Food Program is investigating the theft of food aid to famine-ravaged Somalia, where small amounts of aid packages have shown up for sale in markets.