Today's D Brief: Jetliner forced down in Minsk; Blinken to Mideast; Russia’s JADC2; And a bit more.

A Belarussian jet forced a passenger airliner to land in Minsk so authorities could arrest a journalist on board. The air force claimed it had knowledge there was a bomb threat on the plane, which was flying from Greece to Lithuania, in what the Associated Press called “a brazen show of force by President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled with an iron fist for over a quarter-century.”

The apparent target of the forced landing: Raman Pratasevich, who is “a 26-year-old activist and journalist who ran a popular messaging app that played a key role in helping organize massive protests against the authoritarian leader,” AP reports. “He and his Russian girlfriend were led off the plane shortly after landing — and authorities haven’t said where they’re being held.” 

“State-sponsored hijacking” is what RyanAir CEO Michael O’Leary called the events this weekend, according to the Wall Street Journal. “The incident has sparked an international outcry and raised questions over the legality of the plane’s grounding and the ramifications for the airline industry,” the Journal reports.

Now what? Some European officials have called for a flight ban over Belarus, but so far nothing has been coordinated. Read more at CNN.

America’s top diplomat is headed to the Middle East this week to continue President Joe Biden’s “quiet, intensive diplomacy to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas,” the White House announced Monday in a statement from the president. U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken’s destinations will include Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt, AP previews.

In other notable diplomatic moves, Biden’s national security advisor met his Pakistani counterpart in Geneva on Sunday, according to the White House, which didn’t elaborate.

About Afghanistan: Its military says 50 Taliban fighters were killed in clashes across northeastern Laghman province, where the Taliban attacked after a short-lived ceasefire last week, according to Reuters. Two days prior, the Taliban reportedly took control of a different district in Laghman, and that was “the fourth to fall to the Taliban in the past two weeks and the second in a province that borders Kabul,” Bill Roggio of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank reported on Thursday. 

Related reading:110 soldiers arrested in Laghman for dereliction of duty,” via Pajhwok news.

Elsewhere in the country, what’s going to happen to the southern Kajaki dam after the U.S. exits by 9/11? Agence France-Presse’s Elise Blanchard looked into the question on Sunday here.

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Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1962, Naval aviator Scott Carpenter made three orbits of the Earth in Aurora 7.

“I just might have a bit of insight into what you're facing,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told cadets at the U.S. Military Academy’s commencement this weekend. “A democracy under strain, economic fall out, painful issues of racism and discrimination, social tensions and the end of a long and controversial war. Well, that all sounds pretty familiar to those of us from the Class of 1975.”In the U.S. today, said Austin, “You're watching as America's longest war winds down, and you're seeing technology change the character of war itself. And even as big and rising powers jostle and compete, you're seeing new threats from pandemics to terrorism, to cyber weapons, and you're seeing those threats race across borders like a gale.”
But, he continued, “Take it from someone who spent 41 years in an Army uniform. I've seen the problems but just like the nation it defends, the United States military strives to be a more perfect version of itself. And I will take that over our competitors any day.”
And about the future, Austin told the cadets, “I can pretty much guarantee you that something that we're not anticipating is going to happen [and] happen on your watch because we live in an imperfect world. One in which patriotic young men and women still learn the ways of war and volunteer proudly to keep their fellow citizens safe, and we're grateful to all of you for standing up and standing tall. Now we don't get to choose our times but we do get to shape our times.” Find his full remarks transcribed here.

Is Boko Haram’s leader dead? The Wall Street Journal’s Drew Hinshaw and Joe Parkinson reported Friday that the man, Abubakar Shekau, just two days prior — on Wednesday — “detonated a suicide vest during a confrontation with rival insurgents to avoid being taken alive…according to officials, mediators, phone calls intercepted by a West African spy agency and internal intelligence memos.”
Nigeria’s military says no one knows for sure if he’s dead just yet. Indeed, one official told the Washington Post, “In the past, we have reported that he is dead and then he comes back. It has been embarrassing.” The Journal reports that’s happened at least three times already.
Notable: “This is the first time [Shekau’s] demise has been linked to extremist adversaries,” the Post writes. And that extremist group is believed to be the Islamic State West Africa Province. Fighters allegedly with ISWAP reportedly killed Shekau while confronting him at his northeastern forest hideout in Sambisa.
If true, “there can be volatile, unpredictable scenarios going forward” because “junior terrorists [would likely be] running the show,” said Matthew Page, former State Department regional expert, to the Post. Continue reading here

You may occasionally wonder: Who are the 40 prisoners being held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? The New York Times has updated its docket thanks to the help of Gitmo veteran reporter Carol Rosenberg. “Expanding a detainee’s row in the table reveals more information about him, including related coverage, new photos and official documents,” the Times announced in a tweet Friday. 

The Department of Energy kicks off a four-day virtual “Innovation Summit” today, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks is delivering a keynote address just before 1 p.m. ET. Details here

And lastly: Today on Capitol Hill, U.S. national security in space is the focus of a House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing that gets started at 11 a.m. ET. Find the lineup and livestream here.
The quality of life on Army bases will draw House appropriators’ attention this afternoon at 2 p.m.
And top officials with the Army Corps of Engineers, which has a presence in more than 110 countries, will discuss their $6.8 billion fiscal year 2022 budget before a subcommittee of House appropriators (Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies) at 2 p.m., too. Details here.
By the way: That $6.8 billion is “the highest annual Budget ever requested for the Civil Works program,” according to the opening statement (PDF) from the Army's Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, Jaime Pinkham.
And just before sundown, senators will go behind closed doors to discuss the U.S.-Russia relationship at 6 p.m. That’s happening before the Foreign Relations Committee. Details, such as they are for that secretive session, here.

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