Today's D Brief: WH to launch special Afghan evacuation; Russia’s new security strategy; Kristi Noem’s National Guard; From Iraq to an insurrection; And a bit more.

The White House is about to launch a new effort to evacuate Afghan special immigrant visa applicants. It’s going to be called “Operation Allied Refuge,” and administration officials are expected to speak about it publicly later today, Reuters reports.

Updating: The U.S. military has completed “more than 95% of the entire withdrawal process” in Afghanistan, the U.S. Central Command officials said in a statement Tuesday.

With that exit looming, key WH officials are soon headed to Uzbekistan, led by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement Wednesday morning. 

Afghanistan’s president and America’s top Afghan envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, will be there, too. And they’ll all be meeting with officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. (Along with the Uzbeks, that ensemble is known in the U.S. State Department as the “C-5” countries.) 

Leading the WH’s agenda: “[H]ow to promote peace, security, and development in Afghanistan, and advance shared regional security interests, including counterterrorism cooperation,” Horne said in her statement. 

Guess who’s back in the U.S.A.? Former Afghan war commander, U.S. Army Gen. Austin Miller. He was greeted this morning at Joint Base Andrews by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley. 

FWIW: Former President George W. Bush called the U.S. exit from Afghanistan a “mistake,” and said he thinks “Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm,” and that overall the consequences will be “unbelievably bad and sad.” That’s all from a recent interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. 

From the region: Nine Chinese and four Pakistani people were killed when their bus exploded en route to their job site at the Dasu Hydropower Project in the mountains of northeast Pakistan, which is one of China’s Belt and Road projects. At least 27 other people were also injured in the explosion, the Wall Street Journal reports from Islamabad. (The New York Times reports the Pakistani death toll at three, with 41 others wounded.)

“The force of the blast blew the bus off the road and into the ravine below,” local officials said. Pakistan’s foreign ministry released a statement sourcing it to “a mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast.”


From Defense One

Reduce the Pentagon’s Dependence on China by Recharging US Battery, Electronics Industry // Jeffrey Nadaner: Congress can take several steps in the 2022 authorization bill.

Information Warfare Looms Larger in Russia’s New Security Strategy // Patrick Tucker: Kremlin’s first update in six years decries foreign influence, calls for more Russian info ops.

Kristi Noem’s National Guard Deployment Is America’s Future // Eric Schnurer, The Atlantic: The private sector has long been absorbing duties that belong to the government—and that pattern is intensifying.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Caitlin Kenney and Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1913, Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. was born in Omaha, Neb. Three decades later, he was in the Navy on the aircraft carrier USS Monterey in the Pacific theater during the Second World War. Three decades after that, he would become America’s 38th president. The Navy would later name a new class of carriers after President Ford; developmental issues with its aircraft launch system would later seem to irritate POTUS45, who said several times (including on Saturday) that he preferred older, more proven technology like steam for America’s 21st-century carriers.  


Easy sailing for SecNav nominee. Former surface warfare officer Carlos Del Toro’s hearing to become the U.S. Navy’s next secretary was orderly, cordial, and maybe not what you’d call must-see TV on Tuesday. He told lawmakers he supports a 355-ship requirement for the Navy, and said that any more than that number must sagely blend ships, capabilities, and lethality. He also emphasized that threats posed by China would be his primary focus, and that it was important to defend Taiwan, Defense One’s Caitlin Kenney writes. The Senate now has until Aug. 6 to confirm him before they head into a month-long recess.

Did the U.S. just shut down “the most aggressive” ransomware groups attacking American targets? David Sanger of the New York Times suggests that may be what’s happening to a group called REvil, which is short for “Ransomware evil.” And he suggests this may have happened mere days after President Joe Biden delivered a ransomware-related ultimatum to his Russian counterpart this past Friday.
Sanger reviews three theories for what’s happened, taking into consideration possible actions by the U.S., Russia, and even the group itself—since it’s believed to have recently collected $11 million after recently hitting one of America’s largest beef producers, JBS.
FWIW: “Cyber Command declined to comment.” Read on, here

Four Iranian intel officials were just indicted for trying to kidnap U.S. journalist Masih Alinejad, Politico reports.
Involved: “Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, aka Vezerat Salimi and Haj Ali, 50; Mahmoud Khazein, 42; Kiya Sadeghi, 35; and Omid Noori, 45, all of Iran,” the Department of Justice announced Tuesday. Those four “conspired to kidnap a Brooklyn journalist, author, and human rights activist for mobilizing public opinion in Iran and around the world to bring about changes to the regime’s laws and practices.”

Don’t miss an excellent #LongRead profiling Iraq war veteran Joshua James. He was awarded a Purple Heart in 2007. Fourteen years later, he joined the siege of the U.S. Capitol. So Time’s Vera Bergengruen and Bill Hennigan dug into James’ past, traveling to his hometown of Arab, Ala. Begin reading here

And finally today: The Air Force is testing a new navigational device that could be a fallback in case GPS goes down. “The system would look down—not up—for positioning data using Earth’s own magnetic field,” Popular Mechanics reported last week — after New Scientist flagged it first (though that’s paywalled).
This new approach comes with some fine print, however: “With an accuracy of 13 meters, magnetic navigation isn’t quite up to par with satellite navigation, though the system might become more accurate in the future,” PM writes. “The system also relies on mapping the magnetic field before fielding, and while that would be easy enough in the U.S., Europe, and parts of Asia, accurate maps of Russia and China might not be so forthcoming.” Read on, here.

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