Afghan SitRep; US hits ISIS in Syria; UN: Climate change more dire than thought; Pompeo in Asia; And a bit more.

17 years and one day since America began the war in Afghanistan, here’s what’s going on over there:

  • The Afghan military carried out operations in 14 of the countries 34 provinces, The New York Times reports.  
  • At least 50 Afghan security forces were killed on Sunday (NYTs + Tolo); at least 19 civilians also died across the country.
  • A group of about 10 children were killed on Friday in what’s believed to have been an Afghan (and not U.S.) airstrike.
  • A local police commander in Afghanistan was sentenced to six years in jail on charges he ordered protesters killed and tortured back in September — including the alleged use of a hired suicide bomber, Pajhwok Afghan News reports this morning. Location there: Achin district, Nangarhar province (where ISIS affiliates tried to establish roots).
  • BTW: The Guardian also has a quite grim single-day report of the life and violence inside Afghanistan, here.
  • The prospects for peace? “There are no tangible signs of momentum for peace talks with the Taliban,” the Times writes in its 17-year anniversary report.

In Kabul today: The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad — trying to drum up momentum for peace talks, local Tolo News reports this morning.

Khalilzad’s big ask: Get a group of negotiators together, Team Taliban.

Also on the horizon for Afghanistan: Parliamentary elections on October 20.

From Defense One

The US Army’s in Good Shape, But Tough Choices Loom // Carter Ham: Some 500 programs are being scrutinized for cuts to support top acquisition priorities.

The War in Afghanistan is Bad Politics and Bad Foreign Policy // John Dale Grover and Jerrod A. Laber: President Trump should keep his campaign promise to bring American forces home.

Defense One Radio // Defense One Staff: Ep. 23: Chuck Hagel on Trump, NATO, the future and more; Plus reax from Rosa Brooks and Mara Karlin.

Winning “Like War”: A Conversation about Social Media and Conflict with Peter Singer // Patrick Tucker: A new book looks at how “likes” and lies are reshaping the nature of war and peace around the globe. We sat down with the author.

Does Japan Need an Aircraft Carrier? // Jeffrey W. Hornung: A floating air base would help defend far-flung islands under Chinese pressure, but at a cost.

Welcome to this Columbus/Indigenous Peoples/National Pierogi Day 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 1862, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg ordered his men to retreat from Perryville, Ky., realizing his attempt to invade the state was finished.  

SecState Pompeo visited North Korea, South Korea, Japan and China this weekend, the Associated Press reports today from Beijing.
So what can we know about his Sunday chat with Kim Jong-un? Nothing short of the two of them made “significant progress” toward the North giving up its nuclear weapons, AP writes — acknowledging Pompeo gave zero specifics or clarity on his point than that.
One more thing: The two men spoke for 3.5 hours, AP writes.
How North Korea portrayed the Sunday chat: “productive and wonderful” and said that “mutual stands were fully understood and opinions exchanged,” according to AP’s read of state-run KCNA.
Afterward in China, Pompeo was chastised by his counterpart — who demanded that the U.S. stop its “groundless criticism of China’s domestic and foreign policies.” Reuters has that angle, here.
Meanwhile in Beijing, the usual issues popped up between Washington and Beijing’s men: America's support for Taiwan, China's "technology policies and territorial claims in the South China Sea," North Korea (of course), as well as President Trump's tariffs and logistics for another summit between Trump and Kim. More here.

ISIS is taking it on the chin inside Syria. That’s according to U.S.-led coalition airstrike numbers for the first six days of the month.
Syria’s Abu Kamal region — one of the remaining concentrations of the group’s forces — has been the hardest hit, notching 66 of the 70 announced strikes from October 1 to October 6.
FWIW: The previous week kept up pretty much the same page in the vicinity of Abu Kamal.
For a review of where the group is believed to be across Iraq and Syria and what could come next in the campaign to eliminate them, read the Institute for the Study of War’s recent analysis, here.   
Reminder: The DOD estimate on ISIS’s end strength in those two countries was reported (PDF) to Congress in August as “15,500 to 17,000 fighters in Iraq and 14,000 fighters in Syria.”

For your eyes only: Turkey carrying out airstrikes against alleged PKK positions in Iraq.

UN report: immense damage from climate change is closer than previously thought. For years, the international effort to stave off climate-related catastrophe has focused on keeping the rise in global average atmospheric temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius. But a new report from the UN-convened scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that widespread and lasting damage will accompany a rise of just 1.5 degrees — a level that the Earth is currently projected to hit in 2040.
What damage? The report “describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires,” with “inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty,” the New York Times writes. Want a breezier explainer? The Times has you covered, here.
The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.”
This just in: Nobel Prize for climate-change work. On Monday, half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics went to Yale economist William Nordhaus “for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis.” Explains Quartz: “His research suggests that best remedy for climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions is a global system of carbon taxes enforced by all countries.”
Reminder: The Senate’s Armed Services Committee is now led by an outspoken climate-change denier who has helped install several former aides in top positions at the EPA and the White House. And in December, the White House dropped climate change from a list of security threats.
But even (some of) the Trump administration acknowledges that the Earth is warming. In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration argued in a draft resolution that we might as well lower fuel-efficiency standards because the Earth is inevitably heading for a 4-degree Celsius rise by 2100. Washington Post, here.
Insect-borne viruses to inject drought-resisting genes in plants. And DARPA is concerned enough about coming droughts to sponsor research into a new way to quickly increase crops’ resistance: build viruses that can be carried by insects to inject new genes into the plants. Needless to say, this has sparked some concerns. Read, here.

And lastly: An update, of sorts, to last week’s supply-chain maybe-blockbuster by Bloomberg, which reported that China had inserted spy chips in server motherboards sold to Apple, Amazon, and other companies. (Those giant tech companies deny it).
New here: This Saturday statement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, whose crux is this: “Like our partners in the UK, the National Cyber Security Centre, at this time we have no reason to doubt the statements from the companies named in the story.” The whole thing is here.