The D Brief: Taliban momentum; US acquiesces to Russian pipeline; US seeks talks with N. Korea; Honorary Green Berets; And a bit more...
Taliban’s “strategic momentum”: The group is pressing toward key cities in Afghanistan as U.S. forces work toward a withdrawal that is 95 percent complete, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.
Milley: “This is going to be a test now of the will and leadership of the Afghan people—the Afghan security forces and the government of Afghanistan.”
U.S. forces remaining after Aug. 31 will aim to prevent international terrorism, SecDef Lloyd Austin said alongside Milley. “Our major focus going forward is to make sure that violence, terrorism, cannot be exported from Afghanistan to our homeland, and so we’ll maintain the capability to be able to not only observe that but also address that if it does emerge,” Austin said, adding that the Taliban pledged in 2020 to not provide a sanctuary for al-Qaida in the future. AP has more, here.
Milley was asked about recent reports that he feared Donald Trump would attempt a coup. He did not deny he had concerns that Trump would not cede power or that he discussed those concerns with other Joint Chiefs. But he said “not one time” did he or the other service chiefs violate the oath they took to defend the Constitution, Defense One’s Tara Copp reported. “The military did not and will not be involved in domestic politics. We don’t arbitrate elections. That’s the job of the judiciary, the legislature and the American people. It is not the job of the U.S. military.” Read on, here.
Taliban advances, mapped. Long War Journal: “With rapid gains in recent days, the Taliban now threatens 16 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals, while 18 of the provinces in their entirety are under direct threat of falling under Taliban control.” Read that, here.
From Defense One
‘Not One Time’: Milley Says Joint Chiefs Did Not Violate Oath in Handling Trump // Tara Copp: Chairman doesn’t deny that he and other chiefs mulled resigning if given an illegal order.
Exclusive Interview: Lockheed’s CEO Wants His Company to Connect All the Pentagon’s Weapons // Marcus Weisgerber: Jim Taiclet has been forming alliances with commercial firms in an attempt to give Lockheed a leg up over its competitors.
Launch Arms-Control Talks with China // Louie Reckford: Instead of saber-rattling, the Biden-Harris administration and leaders across the political spectrum should be putting the pressure on Beijing to come to the table.
Promote Open Source to a Full Member of the Intelligence Community // McDaniel Wicker, Mark Quantock, and David Dillow: The exploitation of publicly or commercially available information must be recognized alongside spies, signals intelligence, and other established branches of practice.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston and Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. Today in 1942, the federal government instituted gasoline rationing to help ensure an adequate supply for the war effort.
U.S. drops opposition to Russian-German pipeline. Days after a White House visit by outgoing German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, the Biden administration said it would no longer try to block the Nord Wind 2 project, which will allow Russian fuels to flow to Europe via Germany—and deprive Ukraine of revenue and geopolitical leverage.
The move drew immediate howls from lawmakers of both parties. New York Times has more, here.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will get his own White House visit on Aug. 30, which administration officials said would “affirm the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea, our close cooperation on energy security, and our backing for President Zelensky’s efforts to tackle corruption and implement a reform agenda based on our shared democratic values.” Via The Hill, here.
U.S., South Korea officials agree to work to persuade North Korea to restart talks in pursuit of “complete denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula,” as Seoul’s Foreign Ministry put it in a statement Thursday morning. Washington Post, here.
A Trump friend and fundraiser illegally shaped U.S. policy as an agent of the UAE, the U.S. Justice Department alleges in an indictment unsealed on Tuesday. Now the Washington Post traces the influence of Thomas Barrack on various policy moves, including one memorable speech in which Trump pledged both to seek independence from and work closely with the UAE and other Gulf oil states. Read on, here.
Two soldiers have been named honorary Green Berets. Army Sgt. La David Johnson and Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah W. Johnson, two of the four U.S. troops killed in an October 2017 ambush in Niger “have been symbolically inducted into the Special Forces Regiment to recognize their bravery during the hellish battle,” Task & Purpose reports.
Lastly today: No, Russia isn’t making a warp-speed fighter. A Fox & Friends host on Wednesday said the Rostec Checkmate, whose prototype was recently unveiled at a Moscow air show, would fly “at a speed almost twice the speed of light.”
Task & Purpose: “Unless Fox News knows something the rest of us don’t, this was likely an error, and perhaps [Jillian] Mele meant to say “twice the speed of sound,” which many fighter jets are capable of achieving—and, as it happens, is included in an actual headline of a story about this exact aircraft.” Read more, here.