Today's D Brief: OpSec and Allies Refuge; Merkel at the WH; Loud tanks; Landing in Bucharest; And a bit more.
Many details of the White House’s Afghan exfil mission remain under wraps, the New York Times reported Wednesday. And that’s understandable if you’re even casually familiar with operational security in the military. But White House officials did share Wednesday that they expect the extraction program, which would go beyond just Afghan interpreters and is known as “Operation Allies Refuge,” to begin within about two weeks.
Some of the elements that are still unknown: “who would ultimately be eligible for evacuation, what role the U.S. military would play, and where evacuees could safely be sent while their visa applications were reviewed,” the Times writes.
The U.S. military could host some of these folks on bases in select locations that are still TBD. “All options are being considered and that would include the potential for short term use of CONUS base U.S. installations, but no final decisions [have been] made right now,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday.
President Biden met Army Gen. Austin Miller on Wednesday evening. Miller returned to the states that morning after serving for three years as commander of United States Forces-Afghanistan—and surviving the assassination of Kandahar’s former police chief Abdul Raziq in Oct. 2018.
“Our mission in Afghanistan is not over,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a statement Wednesday. “The drawdown continues and will be complete by the end of August...DOD remains committed to protecting our diplomatic presence in country, continuing to provide funding to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and advising to Afghan security ministries, and preventing the re-emergence of violent extremist organizations.”
Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley chimed in with a statement on Wednesday, too. “We will continue to pursue the enemies of our country. From outside the borders of Afghanistan, we will seek out and eliminate terrorist threats. From inside the country, the U.S. will maintain a security force to protect the U.S. diplomatic mission. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul is vital to continue support to the Afghan people. Our vital national interest in Afghanistan remains the same, to deny safe haven to terrorist threats against our homeland. We are and will always remain prepared to protect America [from] terrorist threats.” Read over his full remarks, here.
One last bit about CJCS Milley, from way back in November 2020: He was “repeatedly worried about what [President Donald Trump] might do to maintain power after losing reelection, comparing his rhetoric to Adolf Hitler’s during the rise of Nazi Germany and asking confidants whether a coup was forthcoming,” according to a new book from the Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. WaPo unpacks that scene here.
From Defense One
Biden Nominee for Pentagon’s Top Weapons Buyer Withdraws // Tara Copp: Michael Brown to remain at DIU for now, Pentagon says.
Sullivan: Data Privacy Key To AI Race Against China // Patrick Tucker: New privacy-protecting technologies will enable democracies to work together to win the AI race against China, says Biden’s national security advisor.
British Defense Secretary Vows to Fix Tank that Deafens Troops // Marcus Weisgerber: Wallace is to meet with the CEO of General Dynamics, maker of the Ajax light tank.
Plywood Satellite Cleared for Space Launch // Tara Copp: The WISA Woodsat could reduce space debris by using materials that will burn as they fall back into Earth’s atmosphere.
Army’s New Facility Aims to Speed Up Fielding Tech // Brandi Vincent: Work there will support DOD’s new soldier goggles — formally known as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1975, U.S. and Soviet rockets lifted off for what has since been referred to as the Apollo-Soyuz “handshake in space”.
Merkel’s day in D.C. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Washington today for a meeting with President Biden in the Oval Office.
On Biden’s agenda: “countering the threat of climate change, ending the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing security and regional challenges, and shoring up democracy around the world, among other topics,” according to the White House’s public schedule.
Why is Germany especially important in 2021? We asked the question in our recent podcast on the future of transatlantic security. Listen to (or read) the answers experts gave us over here.
The U.S. is sending more than 3 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines. Those are expected by the end of the week, and will be distributed through COVAX, the international vaccine sharing program, the Associated Press reports.
Bigger picture: Vaccine deliveries to less-developed nations—especially in the Asia-Pacific—seem to be accelerating, AP reports separately today from Indonesia, which set a single-day record for deaths and new cases on Wednesday, according to CNN.
Why Indonesia matters: It’s the world’s fourth-largest country behind China, India, and the U.S. But its death count from COVID, at more than 69,000 killed by Wednesday, still pales in comparison with the U.S. and India (at 607,000 and 412,000 deaths, respectively).
NG’s big cash crunch. The National Guard is considering that it may have to cancel training, weekend drills, events, and schools, as well as ground aircraft, if it isn’t soon reimbursed $520 million for the mission at the U.S. Capitol, Military.com reports.
The critical date is July 1. If the money doesn’t arrive by then, “commanders in all 54 U.S. states and territories will be notified to brace for halted operations and the potential cancellation of drills in August and September.” More here.
A few of the suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s president were trained by the U.S. military when they were serving in Colombia’s military, the Washington Post reports. Thirteen of the fifteen Colombian suspects served in the country’s military at some point, Colombian officials have said, according to the Post.
Here’s Sen Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., on the revelation: “This illustrates that while we want our training of foreign armies to build professionalism and respect for human rights, the training is only as good as the institution itself. … The Colombian army, which we have supported for 20 years, has a long history of targeting civilians, violating the laws of war and not being accountable. There has been a cultural problem within that institution.”
Why ask Leahy? A law bears his name that bans the U.S. military from training militaries with a history of human rights abuses. Read about it here.
Updating: Mike Brown withdraws his nomination. President Biden’s nominee to serve as the Pentagon’s top acquisition chief took his name out of consideration Monday, citing an ongoing IG investigation into possible hiring and contracting violations during his tenure as head of one of the military’s technology incubators, Inside Defense reported Wednesday.
Background: Michael Brown has led the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley-based Defense Innovation Unit, or DIU, since 2018, and in April was tapped to take on the much larger role of managing the Pentagon’s weapons buying for its major programs, such as the F-35, Defense One’s Tara Copp reports.
About DIU: It was established with just a handful of employees by Defense Secretary Ash Carter in 2015, during the Obama administration, to speed innovations from the private tech sector to DOD. The organization has grown to a staff of 62 civilian and military personnel who have vetted thousands of commercial bids to create innovative solutions for the Defense Department. More on DIU, here.
And lastly: Today in the streets of Bucharest, the crew of a U.S. military Black Hawk helicopter was reportedly forced to make an emergency landing during a ceremony rehearsal celebrating Romania’s air force and its role in the Afghanistan war, Reuters reports.
The helo tore down two street lights and stopped traffic; but fortunately no one was harmed. The cause of the emergency isn’t yet clear; but Romanian officials said the ceremony will proceed—just without any aircraft like, you know, Black Hawks.