Assault on Ghazni, day 5; Russian spyware in your router; Open Skies, closed; Car attack in London; and just a bit more...

The Taliban attacked another base in Afghanistan, killing 17 more of Kabul’s troops, the Associated Press reports this morning from the capital. Another 19 troops were reportedly wounded in the Taliban assault — which extended for three days, but really gained steam Monday night after the Afghan troops ran out of equipment.

Location: Camp Chinaya, which held about 140 soldiers in northern Faryab province’s Ghormach district. It’s the Defense Ministry that says 17 of its soldiers died at Chinaya. A provincial council chief put the figure at 43 soldiers killed. The Taliban said 57 soldiers surrendered and 17 more were taken captive.

The battle for Ghazni City is in its fifth day, and clearance operations are ongoing, US Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Lt. Colonel Martin O’Donnel  told Afghanistan Tolo News this morning.

Going house-to-house: The Afghan National Army's 203rd Corps, the Afghan National Police's 303rd Zone, and Afghan Special Security Forces, Tolo reports.

From the skies above Ghazni, “US airpower has killed more than 220 Taliban since August 10,” O’Donnel said.

According to Afghanistan’s interior minister, “positive changes will be seen in the security of Ghazni city within 24 hours.” More from Tolo, here.

Resolute Support’s Twitter feed is pumping out imagery from their POV of the battle. Find overhead surveillance images here, or shots from the ground, here.

Is now a good time to report Resolute Support obscures status of 7 Ghazni districts as 3 more fall to Taliban? The Long War Journal filed that one on Monday — off this New York Times report.

  • The key line from the Times’ Rod Nordland and Jawad Sukhanyar: “By Monday, only two of [Ghazni] province’s 18 rural districts were confirmed to be completely in government control. That raised the prospect that if the insurgents did fully take the city, they might also be in a position to control an entire province for the first time in the 17-year war in Afghanistan.”

The bigger problem for the Taliban: The group’s fighters “have seized several districts across Afghanistan, staging near-daily attacks on security forces, but they have been unable to capture and hold urban areas,” AP writes.

From Defense One

Russian Military Spy Software is on Hundreds of Thousands of Home Routers // Patrick Tucker: In May, the Justice Department told Americans to reboot their routers. But there's more to do — and NSA says it's up to device makers and the public.

Hackers Find Scores of Vulnerabilities in Marine Corps Websites // Patrick Tucker: The Pentagon’s latest bug-bounty contest continues a successful run of hack-the-military efforts.

Soft-Power Watch: China's Burgeoning Cultural Institutes in Africa // Kemi Lijadu, Quartz: Despite the fact China is building institutions like those European countries have operated for decades, it is their structure which distinguishes them from their western counterparts.

Welcome to this Tuesday 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. On this day in 1945, the American War Production Board removed all restrictions on producing automobiles in the United States.

A man in his late 20s has been arrested in London on suspicion of terrorism charges this morning after driving his car into pedestrians and cyclists near the Houses of Parliament. At least three people have been injured in the event, which, if confirmed, would be London's fourth recent vehicular terror attack.
The bad news: “Eyewitnesses said the silver Ford Fiesta car was traveling at high speed when it hit pedestrians and cyclists,” the Associated Press reports.
The good news: The car stopped when it “crashed into a barrier designed to protect Parliament from vehicle attack.”
Said London’s assistant commissioner: “Given that this appears to be a deliberate act, the method, and this being an iconic site, we are treating it as a terrorist incident.”
Said a witness: “It didn’t look like an accident. How do you do that by accident?” Reuters adds “the suspect in Tuesday’s incident was in custody but was not co-operating with detectives. Although he had not been formally identified, the man was not believed to be known to security forces.”

Open Skies, less open. Since 2002, the Open Skies Treaty has allowed U.S. and Russian surveillance aircraft to fly over each other’s territories, a measure, generally (though not universally) regarded as good for global stability. Now Congress is pulling back until Russia “is in complete compliance with its obligations" under the treaty, Moscow Times reports.
NDAA provision. The change comes in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (named for Sen. John McCain, who went unmentioned by the president at Monday’s signing ceremony), which withholds funds for U.S. compliance.
Why now? “Over the past year, Russia has cut the number of air bases the U.S. can observe after Washington accused Moscow of violating the treaty by limiting flights over the militarized Kaliningrad exclave in Europe...The act also commissions a report on the costs of combating Russia’s treaty abuses over Europe and the U.S. On Tuesday, Russian lawmakers said that the act had "contradicted" the treaty and vowed a tit-for-tat response.” Read on, here.
Treaty’s value. As Stimson Center’s Michael Krepon wrote in 2016: “There are sound grounds to complain about Russian behavior under the Open Skies Treaty. Even so, the value of cooperative observation flights increases in troubled times. Amid last year’s rising tensions, the U.S. Open Skies aircraft carried out twice as many overflights as its Russian counterpart. U.S. flights have strengthened ties between NATO members and have reassured non-NATO states around Russia’s periphery.”
Other NDAA reports. The act also requires the Trump administration to report on 1) “whether the President has raised the issue of covered Russian systems in the appropriate fora with the Russian Federation under Article V of the New START Treaty” and 2) “whether the Russian Federation is in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty; and [whether] the prohibitions set forth in Article VI of the INF Treaty remain binding on the United States as a matter of United States law.”

China’s not happy, either. Reuters: Beijing says the new NDAA targets China, saying that it “exaggerated antagonism” by prioritizing “long-term strategic competition with China” and strengthening the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, which reviews foreign investment proposals. More, here.

The foreign ministers of Turkey and Russia met over the fate of Syria today. The quick Reuters takeaway, which isn’t much of a takeaway at all: FMs Mevlut Cavusoglu and Sergei Lavrov “hope… to find a solution over the northern Syrian region of Idlib, a rebel-held enclave which the Syrian government says it aims to recapture.” Reuters writes Syrian regime troops could begin an offensive on Idlib in a matter of days.
Next up for Russia and Turkey: Getting Germany and France to join them for upcoming talks on Syria’s future. The date for that one hasn’t been determined.

Reminder: It was 10 years ago that unarmed Russian troops began invading Georgia under the guise of “railway repairs.” Then those troops annexed the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“During the five-day conflict, 170 servicemen, 14 policemen, and 228 civilians from Georgia were killed and 1,747 wounded,” CNN writes off an EU tally of the fighting. “Sixty-seven Russian servicemen were killed and 283 were wounded, and 365 South Ossetian servicemen and civilians (combined) were killed.”
Related #LongRead: Here’s the story of how that war “sparked Moscow’s modern-day recruitment of criminal hackers.” It involves a man called the “king of spam,” and it was just published last week in the Russian investigative paper, Meduza. You’ll need a decent portion of your lunch to read it all.

The U.S. calls Russia’s pursuit of space weapons “disturbing.” Yleem D.S. Poblete, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, told a crowd at the U.N.’s Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
More specifically, Poblete pinpointed a “space apparatus inspector” that she said is exhibiting “very abnormal behavior.” Read on, here.

Finally today: What do you get when you mix Space Force buzz with the “Alien” movie franchise? This Duffel Blog satirical take on Colonial Marine Corps Pfc. Jenette Vasquez. Headline: “Female private files sexual harassment complaint with Space Force IG.”
One more thing… because the internet: Evidently there are more Space Force theme songs being produced — like this one. Let us know what else we may have missed.