Today's D Brief: Taliban strike another U.S. base; China’s hypersonics use US tech; Biden, Abdullah talk; USAF’s decision app; And a bit more.

For at least the second time in recent weeks, the Taliban have attacked a U.S. base in Afghanistan, which is complicating President Joe Biden’s call on when and how to withdraw American troops from the country, CNN reported Wednesday.

Locations hit: 

  • Forward Operating Base Chapman, in eastern Afghanistan's Khost province, where two separate alleged rocket attacks wounded seven civilians in late March;
  • And Kandahar Airfield, in southern Afghanistan, an attack which the New York Times Thomas Gibbons-Neff tweeted is likely the Taliban “responding to recent US air support in Arghandab” district, just outside of Kandahar City.

One reason why this matters now: The Taliban seems to now be “overtly responding to perceived [the February 2020] Doha deal violations by attacking American/NATO targets,” according to Neff. That deal calls for the removal of U.S. troops by the first of May; however, Biden’s team is reviewing that policy and has not yet announced a formal change of plans.

Bigger picture: “In some ways, not having an announcement has enabled the administration to use the deadline as a rallying call, in an effort to urge continued diplomacy and to get the Taliban to the table in Istanbul,” CNN reports. “But the recent spate of attacks is stoking fresh concern among defense officials about the Taliban's intentions.” More here.

Meanwhile: Like a TED Talk, President Ghani is explaining his “roadmap to peace” this week, according to Afghanistan’s Tolo News, which turned Ghani’s Wednesday remarks into a Twitter thread

One of Ghani’s big asks: For the Taliban to “come forward and explain their plan for peace,” Tolo reports.

In other news from the region: Russia’s foreign minister just wrapped a two-day trip to Pakistan, where he said Moscow is “ready to strengthen the anti-terrorist potential of Pakistan, including by supplying Pakistan with special military equipment,” though he did not elaborate, AP reported Wednesday from Islamabad.

From Defense One

The Air Force Is Making an App That Basically Does What a General Does // Patrick Tucker: The nascent app aims to generate options, recommendations, and mission orders.

Raytheon Giving Employees Bonuses for Getting COVID-19 Vaccine // Marcus Weisgerber, Government Executive: The company is not requiring employees to get the shots, but some facilities could be off-limits to the unvaccinated.

Experts Torn on Proper Role of National Cyber Director // Mariam Baksh, Nextgov: Former officials say someone needs to coordinate government entities but weighed pros and cons to the position being located within the National Security Council.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here

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President Biden called up Jordan’s King Abdullah Wednesday, the monarch whose half-brother made headlines over the weekend for what the king alleged was “sedition” that’s now been “nipped in the bud,” CNN reports off a statement released by authorities in Amman on Wednesday. 
Context: “Jordan is mired in economic problems amid a growing outcry against alleged government corruption and mismanagement,” according to CNN. “Anger has been building among its youth — who account for most of the population — over the state of a deteriorating economy made worse by the pandemic” as “Unemployment and poverty rates have reached record highs.”
About that Biden-Abdullah chat: “Together they discussed the strong bilateral ties between Jordan and the United States, Jordan’s important role in the region, and strengthening bilateral cooperation on multiple political, economic, and security issues,” the White House said in its own statement Wednesday.
Biden also told the king “the United States supports a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” which follows a U.S. decision to release $150 million in development funds to the Palestinians that had been held up under POTUS45. That aid package also “includes $75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, $10 million for peacebuilding programs through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and $40 million in security assistance,” the Times of Israel reported Wednesday. More here.

The U.S. and Iraq’s top diplomats reaffirmed their support across a range of issues — like U.S. troops one day leaving Iraq — in a video teleconference on Wednesday. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken led the call, which yielded a joint statement you can read over here.
Discussed in the call: 

  • How the coalition’s “combat” troops will eventually leave the country, “with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talks”;
  • COVID-19 and elements of the country’s healthcare infrastructure;
  • The importance of Jordan for regional security; 
  • Refugees and displaced people from the war on ISIS; 
  • The future of Iraq’s utilities and power sector; 
  • Water management; 
  • The “climate emergency” and “clean energy development”;
  • And the possibility of creating “online share the cultural and historical accomplishments of the Iraqi people with the rest of the world.” 

Not mentioned in the joint statement: Iran or how officials linked to Iraq’s neighbor factor into the future of regional security. Find the statement in full here.

Chinese hypersonic weapons use American and Taiwanese chip technology, the Washington Post reported Wednesday as the Biden administration mulls its options regarding a firm called Phytium Technology. “Phytium portrays itself as a commercial company aspiring to become a global chip giant like Intel,” the Post’s Ellen Nakashima and Gerry Shih write. However, “It does not publicize its connections to the research arms of the People’s Liberation Army.” More here.

In March, more unaccompanied children were picked up at America’s southern border than any month on record, the Associated Press reports off new data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
That includes 18,890 unaccompanied children that month alone, which AP writes is “well above previous highs of 11,475 in May 2019 and 10,620 in June 2014 reported by the Border Patrol.” The situation has led to “more than 4,000 people [being held] at a CBP holding facility...designed for 250” in Donna, Texas, according to AP. Read on for contributing factors, here.
BTW: Some House GOP lawmakers are headed to the U.S.-Mexico border today “to meet with local law enforcement and border patrol agents as well as visit DHS detention facilities,” C-Span’s Craig Caplan reports.
Also: VP Harris called up Mexico’s president on Wednesday. The two “agreed to continue to work together to address the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – including poverty, violence, and lack of economic opportunity,” according to the White House. A bit more on that call, here.

Off-duty Pentagon officer shoots two people, allegedly killing them. According to a statement by police in Takoma Park, Md., a near suburb of Washington, D.C., a unnamed, off-duty officer of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency confronted two people whom he believed to be breaking into a car. When they fled in “a vehicle,” the officer fired “his service weapon” at them. Both shortly “arrived at the Prince George’s Hospital,” where they died of gunshot wounds.
Investigating: The Takoma Park Police, which notified the PFPA, along with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office. The Washington Post has a bit more, including input from counsel.

Lastly today: The U.S. Air Force has named its latest version of the F-15 the “Eagle II.” The service aims to buy more than 140 of the twin-engine strike fighters. Defense News, here.