Key Afghan police chief reportedly killed; Defense cuts coming?; Russia cuts Med presence; Marines link F-35, artillery; And a bit more.

Violence rips a huge void in southern Afghanistan’s future, and U.S. troops are wounded as a result. Here’s what we know so far: The U.S. commander of the Afghanistan war, U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller, was exiting a meeting with Kandahar officials at the governor’s compound when the governor’s guards opened fire while VIPs loaded into a helicopter, local Tolo News reports.

Two Americans and one contractor were wounded in the attack, the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan announced later in the morning. Associated Press reported the original attacker is reportedly dead. Kandahar’s spy chief was also wounded, according to Tolo.

Said Miller’s NATO-led Resolute Support command in an early statement: “Initial reports indicate this was an Afghan-on-Afghan incident… General Miller is uninjured. We are being told the area is secure.”

Update: The Taliban said in a statement they tried to assassinate Gen. Miller as well as the Kandahar police chief — about which, more below… 

But the biggest news — and the reason for the province’s void — is the reported death of Kandahar’s police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq. A short yet barrel-chested man who commanded respect in every room that hosted him, Raziq had been a pillar of relative security in southern Afghanistan for nearly a decade.

As a 20-something, he ran the Border Police at the key Af-Pak crossing of Spin Boldak — and gained a reputation as someone unafraid to skim off the top, and even direct funds to his friends and allies’ pockets. He later faced war crimes allegations for his tough and brutal tactics, covered well by Mattieu Aikins in this 2011 report for The Atlantic.

Your D-Brief-er can attest to his men’s effectiveness on the Kandahar battlefields from 2010 to 2011 — when Raziq and his Border Patrol partnered with U.S. Special Forces to clear the Taliban from multiple pockets in and around Kandahar.

As a 30-something, Raziq was promoted to police chief of Kandahar amid whispers he would eventually climb much higher in Afghanistan politics. Shortly afterward, assassination attempts became much more common (see, e.g., here, here and here — and that’s just a quick search; read more attempts on his life here).

Raziq managed to keep a low-ish profile (for U.S. audiences anyway) the last couple years, but an August 2017 interview with Tolo News revealed he still harbored a great deal of animosity toward the Taliban — calling them “puppets of other countries.”  

Oh, by the way: Raziq never fully escaped the cloud of alleged war crimes by the UN, as this 2017 Reuters story reveals.

If Raziq is confirmed dead, it would mark an enormous void in the future of security for almost all of southern Afghanistan. And the void would happen at an incredibly delicate time for Kabul, as President Ashraf Ghani — at least publicly — works to maintain momentum for peace talks with the Taliban. Privately, The New York Times reports this morning, Ghani is not so optimistic about the wisdom of peace talks.

Just last week, and for the second time in four months, America’s Afghan war envoy met with Taliban officials in Qatar, and cut out Kabul officials along the way, irritating Ghani. It’s still unclear what exactly came out of that U.S.-Taliban meeting in Qatar.

BTW: President Trump was asked on Wednesday why he has not yet visited a combat zone like Iraq or Afghanistan. Replied POTUS45: “Well, I will do that at some point, but I don’t think it’s overly necessary. I’ve been very busy with everything that’s taking place here. We have the greatest economy…”

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How To Get Nuclear-Weapons Treaties Back on Track // Daryl G. Kimball: The agreements that hold back a strategic arms race are in trouble. But there is a way forward.

How Realistic Fake Video Threatens Democracies // Robert Chesney and Danielle K. Citron, Council on Foreign Relations: Governments must use technology, education, and public policy to meet this new, dangerous form of disinformation.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you find this useful, please consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. On this day 17 years ago, airstrikes fell inside and around Kandahar City, Afghanistan, as U.S. Army Rangers maneuvered into the provincial capital from helicopters.

Defense cuts coming? President Trump appeared to say so on Tuesday, asking his service secretaries during a Cabinet meeting to cut five percent from their 2020 budget requests. He later told a reporter that the Defense Department was not exempt, “because now that we have our military taken care of, we have our law enforcement taken care of, we can do things that we really weren’t in a position to do when I first came.”
But then Trump muddied the waters, citing figures that don’t line up with a 5-percent cut. Defense News’ Aaron Mehta does a good job explaining what doesn’t make sense, here.
Also, ISIS has been “defeated”? That’s what the president told the Associated Press, which released a transcript of the Tuesday interview on Wednesday. “We’ve defeated ISIS. ISIS is defeated in all of the areas that we fought ISIS, and that would have never happened under President Obama,” Trump said, notwithstanding ongoing operations against much-reduced Islamic State forces.
That’s not what the rest of his administration says. Last month, the State Department warned that ISIS, al Qaeda, and its affiliates have adapted and dispersed in response to military pressure by the U.S.-led coalition. They “have proven to be resilient, determined and adaptable, and they have adjusted to heightened counterterrorism pressure in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere,” State officials said in their annual report on terrorism.
JCS chief added this warning on Tuesday: “Perhaps the greatest challenge facing us today is the danger of complacency,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said. “Little progress has been made in addressing the underlying conditions that lead to violent extremism.”

How Russian and Iranian trolls work. #Likewar analysts are poring over a new data dump from Twitter that illuminates how state-run propaganda agents use the social media service to spread lies and uncertainty. “On October 17, Twitter released an archive of over ten million tweets posted by accounts from 2013 through 2018. Of the total, over nine million tweets were attributable to 3,800 accounts affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, also known as Russia’s infamous St. Petersburg troll factory. Over one million tweets were attributable to 770 accounts, originating from Iran,” wrote the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, who dug in eagerly.
Bottom line: the lion’s share of the trolls’ efforts go toward keeping their own populations in line, and then applying lessons and techniques abroad. DFRL has a seven(!)-part look at what they’ve learned, here.

Russia has significantly reduced its naval presence in the Mediterranean, CNN’s Ryan Browne reported off word from U.S. officials Wednesday. Moscow used to keep more than a dozen warships in the AO; now it’s about half that.

And finally: Who wants to plug an F-35 into a HIMARS? The U.S. Marines, that’s who. They have and it went pretty well, The Aviationist reported recently off the initial word from Marine Corps Times.
The thinking behind linking the two systems was “to shorten what is known as the sensor-to-shooter cycle – the amount of time it takes from when an enemy target is detected by a sensor – either human or electronic – and when it is attacked,” writes TA. “Shortening the time is paramount in highly dynamic battlefield.” Continue reading, here.

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