Obama, Putin meet; Counterattack in Kunduz; JSOC doing what it does; A hero in Chattanooga; and a bit more...

Obama-Putin meet, fail to agree on Assad. In a drama-filled day that produced a series of awkward photos, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin still don’t agree on Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s future.

An Obama administration official described the meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly as “focused” with a “business-like back and forth” tone. Half of the meeting focused on Ukraine — which Russia invaded last year — and the other on Syria, where Russia has been mounting military forces.

“Two speeches, one reception and a meeting later, there was no hint that the two leaders had substantially narrowed the chasm between them on their principal disagreement: the future of Mr. Assad,” wrote the New York Times, here.

Russia’s plan in Syria: “Their objectives are to go after ISIL and to support the government,” the Obama administration official said. “I think the Russians certainly understood the importance of there being a political resolution in Syria and there being a process that pursues a political resolution,” the administration official said. “We have a difference about what the outcome of that process would be.”

Putin on the meeting: “The talk we had today…was very constructive, businesslike and very frank—surprisingly frank.” More here.

Militaries should talk. Both sides agreed that U.S. and Russian forces in Syria should should deconflict with each other, the administration official said.

Putin: let’s coordinate on ISIS. He “said he discussed with Mr. Obama the need for greater bilateral coordination with the U.S. against Islamic State, adding that the two leaders reached “a common understanding” that they need to work together and that they “would now consider setting up appropriate mechanisms.” The Wall Street Journal has more, here.

There’s even more below on the U.N. General Assembly meetings and situation in Syria...

A fight is brewing in Kunduz. Afghan forces are mounting a counterattack and American warplanes conducted an airstrike near Kunduz, the city largely seized by the Taliban on Monday, The Guardian reports. “The Taliban are being pushed back. In a few hours, the city will be free from their hands,” Dowlat Waziri, deputy spokesman for the defence ministry, told the paper.

The airstrike was meant “to eliminate a threat to the force,” U.S. Army Col. Brian Tribus, a spokesman for U.S. and NATO forces, told the Washington Post.

Capturing Kunduz would be a first for the Taliban, which hasn’t taken a major city in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Why else it matters: “The potential fall of Kunduz would be a huge blow to the Western-backed government in Kabul and comes as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani marks his first year in office. The seizure of the city would give Taliban insurgents a critical base of operations beyond their traditional strongholds in Afghanistan’s south. Afghan government leaders and the U.S.-led coalition here view the battle for Kunduz as a key test of the Afghan security forces in their continuing fight with the Taliban,” the Post wrote.

How the Taliban attack went down, according to Fox News: “Within 12 hours of launching the offensive around 3 a.m., the militants had reached the main square, tearing down photographs of President Ashraf Ghani and other leaders and raising the white flag of the Taliban movement, residents reported. Hundreds of Taliban forces also broke into a main Kunduz prison and freed more than 600 prisoners, including 140 Taliban fighters. Many people headed for the airport to flee the city.” More here.

Residents tweeted pictures of the Taliban invasion and prisoners walking through the streets. More from the The Atlantic here.

McCain blames Obama: “President Obama’s calendar-based drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan despite conditions on the ground has created an opening for the Taliban and placed at risk the hard-earned gains of the past decade,” declared Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz. The Taliban’s capture of the key city of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan is the latest manifestation of this dangerous reversal.”

From Defense One

Congress plans to keep government open. A short-term spending measure would keep the government running until early December, reports GovExec’s Sarah Mimms.

Putin makes the case for dictators with UN speech. Obama and Putin both want to defeat ISIS. But their visions for how the world should look after its defeat don’t match up, writes National Journal's Brian Resnick.

Who cares if Russia helps stabilize Syria? If Putin and Obama don't want a fight, Moscow and Washington should get over themselves and let this work, writes Quartz’ Steve LeVine.

Engineering soldiers for war: “It was the collapse of the Soviet Union that accelerated many of DARPA’s most radical super-soldier science programs. The revelation that the Soviets had developed an extensive biological-weapons program caused DARPA to bring biologists into its ranks, and with the life sciences at the fore, DARPA began to look inside the human body, toward a scientific capability that could transform soldiers from the inside out.” That and more in an excerpt from Annie Jacobsen’s new book, “The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency.”

Military experience isn’t preparing veterans for private success, writes Scott Beauchamp, a former infantryman. “It may be less about training and more about ethos. You already chose honor over money.” Read more, here.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief, from Marcus Weisgerber and Defense One. Want to share The D Brief with a friend? Here’s our subscribe link. And please tell us what you like, don’t like, or want to drop on our radar right here at the-d-brief@defenseone.com.

A look inside the Chattanooga shooting. A Marine gunnery sergeant shielded his young daughter when a gunman opened fire on a recruiting station earlier this year, according to a Marine Corps Times investigation. “Gunnery Sgt. Camden Meyer’s actions on July 16 are among several revelations gleaned from a Marine Corps investigation into what transpired when Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire on the Chattanooga recruiting center before killing five service members at a Navy facility across town. The investigating officer's report, released by Marine Corps Recruiting Command via the Freedom of Information Act, also discloses that two potential recruits — Marines call them poolees — were among the gunman's first targets, and that Meyer, the recruiting station’s noncommissioned officer in charge, subsequently discounted the adequacy of the training Marines receive for lone-wolf active-shooter scenarios.” More here.

Back to Syria, where Russia is creating an anti-aircraft bubble around its base, according to U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander. Moscow has already created a so-called anti-access, area denial, or A2/AD, area in Crimea.

“As we see, these very capable air defense [systems] beginning to show up in Syria, we’re a little worried about another A2/AD bubble being created in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Breedlove said Monday at the German Marshall Fund in Washington. “We see some very sophisticated air defenses going into these airfields. We see some very sophisticated air-to-air [fighter] aircraft going into these airfields.” More here from Breaking Defense.

Here’s one U.S. effort that’s going as planned: hunting militant leaders. From AP: “A dedicated manhunt by the CIA, the National Security Agency and the military's Joint Special Operations Command has been methodically finding and killing senior militants in Syria and Iraq, in one of the few clear success stories of the U.S. military campaign in those countries.” More here.

Over to Ukraine. Obama, in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, said “We cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated,” referring to Ukraine.

Russia’s response? From USA Today: Putin told the world leaders that “some of our colleagues” continue to expand NATO...even after the collapse of the Soviet Union that it was created to guard against. And in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that shares a 1,400-mile border with Russia, “discontent with leadership was exploited” by the same Western motivation, he said. The interests of people in separatist-held eastern Ukraine need to be respected, Putin said. More here.

U.S. Marines may train Ukrainians. From Marine Corps Times: “Marine leaders are considering expanding the Corps' mission in Ukraine by training local troops who could be tasked with taking on Russian-backed separatists. Marines could deploy to the Eastern European country to train the Ukrainian naval infantry, said Capt. Richard Ulsh, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa.” More here.

Who was the real target of Obama’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly? Republicans, says National Journal’s George Condon. “Pres­id­ent Obama rarely takes the op­por­tun­ity to talk back to the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates, es­pe­cially with top White House aides go­ing out of their way to claim he doesn’t watch their de­bates or heed their at­tacks. But on Monday, the pres­id­ent left little doubt that he has been pay­ing at­ten­tion to what they’ve been say­ing on for­eign policy. And he thinks they are wrong.” More here.

A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30 tanker refueled an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in flight for the first time this week. “A total of 59 contacts were conducted of which five contacts transferred 43,200 pounds of fuel during the four hour sortie,” the Royal Australian Air Force said in a statement. This follows the F-35’s in-flight refueling trials with an Italian Air Force KC-767 this summer. Some pictures here.