Bombs kill 20 in Kabul; Kim suggests more nuke talks; Wildfire chases Marines away; Wetsuit hacking for Arctic war; And a bit more.

Two ISIS-claimed bombs detonated in Kabul on Wednesday — the first (a suicide bomber) to kill civilians; the second (a car bomb) to kill first responders and journalists. At least 20 people were killed in the attacks (including two Afghan journalists reporting on the initial blast), and another 70 were wounded.

Location: Dasht-e-Barchi in western Kabul, what al-Jazeera calls “home to many members of the mainly Shia Muslim Hazara ethnic minority that has been targeted in the past” by ISIS in Afghanistan.

Said President Ashraf Ghani: “An attack on civilians and media workers of the country is an attack on freedom of speech and crime against humanity.”

Said the NATO-led Resolute Support military mission in Afghanistan: “Journalists are necessary pillars of democracy. We all rely on their skills, integrity and courage. We mourn the dead, hope for the best for the wounded and salute the brave editors and reporters who continue their mission.”

The one-two punch echoed an April 30 attack in Kabul that killed at least two dozen (including nine journalists).

Looking ahead, AJ writes “Wednesday’s attack underlined the danger in Kabul as elections approach next month, as well as the threat facing the Hazaras — a Persian-speaking minority that has long faced discrimination.”

For the record: “More journalists [12] have been killed in Afghanistan than any other country during 2018,” CNN reports off this dataset from the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

From Defense One

No One’s Supplanting U.S. Military Influence in Latin America // Juan Gabriel Tokatlian: Concerns about Chinese, Russian, and Iranian forays are overblown.

The US Navy Is Hacking Wetsuits for Arctic Warfare // Patrick Tucker: A new wetsuit treatment could allow troops to operate in frigid water for far longer.

The Worst May Be Yet to Come in Syria // Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic: As Bashar al-Assad and Russia prepare to assault Idlib, there are up to 3 million people with nowhere to go.

How Jalaluddin Haqqani Went From U.S. Ally to Foe // Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic: Influential for decades, the Haqqani network has lately been melding with the Taliban.

Hoping to Change Party’s Image, Dems Marshal Veteran Candidates // Daniel Newhauser, National Journal: “The Democratic Party just has a terrible brand within the military and we need to repair that. How do I hope to change it? Win. Get in.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief  by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague.

US-DPRK shuttle diplomacy is back. At a Wednesday meeting in Pyongyang with a South Korean envoy, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un said he had already taken steps toward denuclearization — and that the United States had not done enough in return.
But Kim also expressed faith in President Trump, and sent word that he would be open to another summit. New York Times: “Taken at face value, Mr. Kim’s remarks, as relayed by the South Korean envoy, signaled that North Korea was willing to strike a denuclearization deal personally with Mr. Trump, who has been more eager to engage North Korea than any of his predecessors. They also suggested Mr. Kim could accept the rapid denuclearization the Trump administration has sought — for the right incentives.”
Observers were quick to note that this approach is well-tailored for Trump, who campaign speeches featured an “I alone can fix it” motif. They also noted that the North Korean got more than the U.S. leader out of the Singapore summit, which may explain Kim’s eagerness for another round of face-to-face talks.
What else took place in yesterday’s meeting, via NK News: The North and South Korean sides:

  • Set the date for next North-South summit: Sept. 18.
  • Discussed how to push forward the Panmunjeom Declaration toward peace.
  • Agreed to discuss in summit how to build mutual trust and ease military tensions.
  • Agreed to open joint liaison office.

FWIW: The U.S. denied entry to North Korean athletes who were to compete on a unified North-South team in the Dragon Boat World Championships in Gainesville, Georgia.

Remember those California wildfires? A pilot shortage is leaving many tankers sitting unused on runways, The Sacramento Bee reported Tuesday.
The quick read: “The shortage is particularly acute among low-flying S-2T tanker pilots. An average of four of the state’s 23 tankers have been grounded on certain days in August because they lacked pilots… Cal Fire leaders say they cannot remember having so many aircraft grounded during peak fire months because of staffing shortages. They can call on private companies and federal aircraft to fill in during an emergency, but they acknowledge that the department’s pilot shortfall is straining the fleet.”
And the outlook: “The staffing issue is going to take a while to address… they’ll need about 40 more pilots in the next few years. Eight people are currently in training to become air tanker pilots, but [Cal Fire Chief of Flight Operations Dennis Brown] said historically less than half of trainees actually decide to become air tanker pilots with Cal Fire.” Continue reading, here.

A new wildfire popped up in California on Tuesday, too — and it’s prompted the Marines to evacuate “its entire mountain warfare training center in Bridgeport,”’s Hope Hodge Seck tweeted ahead of this longer report. “The order came at the recommendation of the U.S. Forest Service. The mountain-warfare training center is located northwest of Bridgeport, California, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains about 20 miles from the Nevada border.” Read on, here.

The Pentagon’s first-ever Chief Management Officer — and third in command in the building — appears to be on his way out, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. His name: John H. Gibson II, and he was confirmed by the Senate in February.Why he’s leaving? Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is unsatisfied with Gibson’s “lack of performance,” the Journal reports. A bit more behind a paywall, here.

Other Pentagon personnel news from Wednesday:

  • The White House is seeking a replacement for SecDef Mattis, the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin wrote in his column.
  • Replied President Trump of these rumors: “[Mattis]’ll stay right there… We’re very happy with him. We’re having a lot of victories … and he’s highly respected all over the world.” Video of those remarks, here.

And finally this morning: CENTCOM Chief, Gen. Joseph Votel was spotted in southern Yemen on Wednesday. Photo and context, here.
Get your headphones handy, because on this week’s Defense One Radio podcast:

  • We’ll talk about the conflict in Yemen with Peter Salisbury of the London-based think tank Chatham House.
  • Then we’ll hear about the future of Syria with Heiko Wimmen of the International Crisis Group. We’ll look at Idlib, where 3 million Syrians are at risk from a possible Russian-backed offensive on rebels there; and we’ll take a look at what a post-war Syria could look like — with or without the U.S.

Subscribe or listen to past episodes on Apple Podcasts, here.

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