Afghanistan ceasefire; Russia-backed attack in Ukraine; Arms flow into Libya; Bracelet of silence; And a bit more.

Taliban, U.S. set ceasefire deal. The United States and the Taliban have reached an agreement for a seven-day ceasefire that will start ‘very soon,’ a senior administration official revealed on Friday, adding that that the U.S. has agreed to reduce its military presence in the country “if the Taliban live up to their commitments.” That’s according to Defense One’s Kevin Baron, who reported from the Munich Security Conference over the weekend.

The ceasefire will reportedly start on Feb. 22, Jeff Schogol wrote at Task & Purpose this weekend, citing “an Afghan government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.”  

Meanwhile: Afghanistan has finally named a president, four months after election day. President Ashraf Ghani has won a second term with 50.64% of the vote to his challenger chief executive Abdullah Abdullah’s 39.52%, the Associated Press reports today from Kabul. 

In a country of 35 million people, 9.6 million of whom are believed to be registered voters, Ghani won the Sept. 28 election by a tally of 923,592 votes to Abdullah’s 720,841. What’s more, “Nearly one million of the initial 2.7 million votes were purged owing to irregularities, meaning the election saw by far the lowest turnout of any Afghan poll,” Al-Jazeera reports.

Reminder: “Ghani and Abdullah head a fragile national unity government that was put together under U.S. pressure after both leaders claimed victory in Afghanistan’s last elections in 2014,” AP writes. 


From Defense One

US Agrees to Reduce Forces in Afghanistan ‘If Taliban Live up To Their Commitments’  // Kevin Baron: The tests will begin with a seven-day ceasefire to start “very soon,” a senior U.S. administration official told reporters.

Esper Says White House ‘Never’ Pressured Him on JEDI // Kevin Baron: Denying claims that Trump meddled, Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he alone chose to review the $10 billion cloud contract.

The US Doesn’t Need a New New START // Joshua Schwartz and Christopher Blair: There is no reason to believe that withdrawing from the current one would improve U.S. security.

China’s Chernobyl Never Seems to Arise // Rory Truex, The Atlantic: Democracy is unlikely to break out in Beijing, but the coronavirus crisis may create an opening for a softer form of authoritarianism.

The Inconvenient Truth About ISIS // Kathy Gilsinan and Mike Giglio, The Atlantic: The group is even bigger now, and America’s conflict with Iran is only making the fight against it more complicated.

The Corrosion of World Order in the Age of Donald Trump // Terrence Mullan, Council on Foreign Relations: Can the world still work together to address today’s most pressing global challenges?

Expect 75 Recommendations to Improve Security, Plus Proposed Laws, from Congress’ Cyber Commission // Mariam Baksh, Nextgov: Rep. Jim Langevin says he and his fellow commissioners will propose streamlining Congressional oversight, incident reporting by industry, and more.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1201, the man who would invent trigonometry — Persian scientist Nasir al-Din al-Tusi — was born into a Shi’a family in the northeastern Iranian city of Tus. Exactly 754 years later, in 1955, the U.S. military ordered troops to within 900 meters of a still-forming mushroom cloud in Nevada as it practiced maneuver tactics for a nuclear war in the first of 14 tests known as Operation Teapot.


Happening tomorrow: SecDef Mark Esper travels to Minot Air Force Base, home of STRATCOM, in Omaha, Neb.
And next Monday, Esper talks with his South Korean counterpart in Washington, Yonhap News agency reported this morning. By the way, “The two countries have held a series of talks [on RoK hosting U.S. troops on the peninsula] but have yet to reach a deal amid Washington’s demand for a sharp increase in Seoul’s share.” More here.

Ukraine’s military says Russia-backed forces launched an attack near a demilitarized city in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, AP reports from Kyiv. One soldier was killed and four others were injured in the fighting, which Reuters calls “some of the worst [violence in Ukraine] since a Paris summit in December tried to narrow positions between Kiev and the separatists on implementing a peace deal, and it comes ahead of a possible second summit on the same issue in Berlin.” 
Separatists, however, point the finger at Kyiv’s forces. Regardless of who’s right, “The exchange of gunfire marks the latest spike in hostilities in the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed over 14,000 people since 2014,” according to AP
View purported video of the attack via Buzzfeed News’ Christopher Miller, here
Ukraine’s President President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Facebook that the violence was “not just a cynical provocation… it is an attempt to disrupt the peace process in the Donbass, which had begun to move through small but continuous steps,” More from AP, here; or from Reuters, here

Russia’s FSB agents murdered a Georgian asylum-seeker of Chechen origin named Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, the open-source sleuths at Bellingcat (along with their partners The Insider and Der Spiegel) reported on Monday. The attack happened this past August in Berlin, and in typical Bellingcat fashion, involves a lot of evidence and back story. Read all about it, here

We turn to North Africa now where a ship full of Turkish weapons is reportedly (Reuters) under attack, and the EU is about “revive a naval mission in the Mediterranean Sea to enforce [a United Nations Security Council] arms embargo on Libya,” the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. 
The operation is supposed to get started by the end of March, which would be a year since the previous such operation ended “when Italy’s previous government refused to allow rescued migrants to be brought to Italian ports.”
Worth noting: new “patrols wouldn’t block the weapons the U.A.E. is supplying to Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar by air over Saudi and Egyptian airspace,” the Journal adds. And to that end, “EU officials say the bloc’s ships would deploy radar systems to track air deliveries to Libya, which could then be reported to the U.N. Security Council.” A bit more, here.
For the record: “Turkey has sent heavy trucks [to Libya] by sea, while the UAE flew in 89 shipments totaling 4,680 metric tons between Jan 12 and Feb 16, Reuters reported Monday from Benghazi.
Otherwise in Libya, the war’s combatants are bracing for a “stalemate” and, as Reuters writes, a “standoff over oil” — even as the two sides meet for talks today in Geneva, according to AP

760 million Chinese people are living under some kind of residential lockdown, according to estimates from New York Times reporters in China.
Coronavirus count: 73,000-plus cases, 1,875 deaths, by Johns Hopkins’ COVID-19 dashboard. All of the deaths are in China, except for one each in France, Japan, Philippines, and Taiwan.

Lastly today: Researchers in Chicago have created a device called the Bracelet of Silence, which jams smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home products, the New York Times reported Friday. “A large, somewhat ungainly white cuff with spiky transducers, the bracelet has 24 speakers that emit ultrasonic signals when the wearer turns it on. The sound is imperceptible to most ears, with the possible exception of young people and dogs, but nearby microphones will detect the high-frequency sound instead of other noises.”
For the record: “an estimated one in five American adults now owns a smart speaker,” the Times writes. 
And one more thing: “At this point, the bracelet is just a prototype. The researchers say that they could manufacture it for as little as $20, and that a handful of investors have asked them about commercializing it.” Read on, here

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