Today's D Brief: Afghanistan worsening; Taliban control a border now; Largest ransomware ever?; C-130 goes down; And a bit more.
“It just went dark.” The American exit from Bagram was unceremonious, at the least—they just ghosted the place, said one Afghan soldier, according to new details this weekend from the Wall Street Journal’s Ehsanullah Amiri and Gordon Lubold. “Once the power went out, the water stopped pumping, too, he and other Afghan soldiers here said. Scores of Afghan civilians entered the facility and looted it, stealing supplies before being turned away.”
American trash is about all that was left behind, along with keyless automobiles and confused Afghan guards. Flagpoles, Dr. Peppers, and even “a package of brown cinnamon Pop-Tarts, a staple of U.S. military cafeterias, sat on a dusty filing cabinet.” More here.
A $40 million American-built Afghan border crossing is now the Taliban’s. The Sher Khan Bandar complex at the Tajikistan border was a shining example of American generosity and a functioning Afghan government. Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the 2,000-foot long bridge over the Panj River is now under the control of Taliban, who say they haven’t changed a thing, permitting cross-border business to carry on. The difference: Taliban are collecting the fees (about $13,000 per day). More from the WSJ, here.
As Taliban rise, so do security concerns for U.S. embassy, Afghan’s Green Zone. “The embassy is currently down to 1,400 U.S. citizens and about 4,000 staff,” many of whom have not left the embassy’s fortress compound in months, Associated Press reports. Security in Kabul has reverted to worse times. Diplomats must be ferried by helicopter from the airport. “The 4-mile road trip through Kabul’s chaotic traffic was considered too dangerous.” Other Western embassies have closed or reduced staff, and aid workers are fleeing as well. The U.S. has warned the Taliban not to try and take Kabul. “The exodus prompted the Taliban to issue multiple statements assuring aid groups and Afghans working for Western organizations they had nothing to fear.” Another concern, the airport continues to cycle flights to India, bringing with them a new security threat: COVID’s Delta variant is now rampant in Kabul.
When is the war in Afghanistan actually over? “For Afghans the answer is clear but grim: no time soon… For the United States and its coalition partners, the endgame is murky.” AP’s veteran Pentagon reporters Bob Burns and Lita Baldor have this explainer, with a little history reminder of how past wars ended.
From Defense One
July Could Be the Last Month to Save the Iran Nuclear Deal // Ryan Costello: Domestic politics in Tehran and Washington are gradually closing the door.
How the Afghanistan Withdrawal Costs the U.S. With China // Richard Fontaine and Vance Serchuk, The Atlantic: The benefits of the withdrawal in terms of promoting competitiveness with China aren’t as compelling as they seem.
The 3 Simple Rules That Underscore the Danger of Delta // Ed Yong, The Atlantic: Vaccines are still beating the variants, but the unvaccinated world is being pummeled.
Fighter Jets Leave Afghanistan as US Departs Bagram // Tara Copp and Jacqueline Feldscher: Withdrawal from the mammoth base comes as officials continue to seek access elsewhere in the region.
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: Biden’s defense request gets first OK; F-35 in Finland; Former SecArmy’s new job; and more.
DoD Makes Recommendations to Close ‘Troubling Gap’ in Sexual Assault Response // Jacqueline Feldscher: Improving victim care, focusing on prevention and removing prosecution from the chain of command are some top priorities of the 300-page report.
Largest ransomware attack ever? Maybe so. “It all started with a Miami, Florida-based IT services company called Kaseya, which provides security software for scores of large-scale cybersecurity contractors, which in turn sell their security services to thousands of businesses worldwide. After hackers breached Kaseya’s servers on Friday (July 2), they were able to quickly leap into at least 40 cybersecurity contractors’ systems,” reports Quartz.
Whodunnit? Russians, of course. “Cybersecurity experts were quick to blame the attack on Russia-based hacking group REvil—the same gang that shut down JBS, the world’s largest seller of meat in June, and successfully extorted the Brazilian company for an $11 million ransom.” How bad is this trend? “In 2020, ransomware attacks rose 715% year over year, according to one estimate from the cybersecurity firm Bitdefender.”
“‘This is SolarWinds with ransomware,’” said Brett Callow, of Emsisoft, NPR reports:. “He was referring to a Russian cyberespionage hacking campaign discovered in December that spread by infecting network management software to infiltrate U.S. federal agencies and scores of corporations.”
Hong Kong activists turning into underground terrorists? Authorities claim to have foiled a bomb plot they say demonstrates that the mass protesters against China’s rule were violent organizers all along. “But democracy activists have accused the government of creating an environment in which lawful, peaceful protest is impossible—leaving residents desperate and, in some cases, radicalized.” Here, the New York Times reports how even street violence against law enforcement officers is drawing sympathy for the attackers.
Philippines Air Force C-130 crashes, 52 killed. The American-built Hercules missed its runway on approach. “The military said that 42 who were on the plane had been confirmed dead, with 49 others injured and five others still unaccounted for.” More from NYT, here. By Monday, officials had found the black box and two of the injured had succumbed to their injuries. More from Al Jazeera here.
USS Theodore Roosevelt gets a new homeport. The TR is moving from San Diego to Bremerton, Washington, for shipyard maintenance. She’s scheduled to sail July 16. Some more from Navy Times.
And finally… an anti-masker airman wants to fly again. A pilot with the 49th Fighter Training Squadron at Columbus Air Force Base, in Mississippi, who tried to claim his Christian religion exempted him from wearing a facemask like every other air crew member in the country, and was denied that claim, now wants to fly again. His lawyers argued Dr. Anthony Fauci has lied about COVID, and therefore adhering to CDC guidelines was akin to participating in a lie, which is a sin. The Air Force disagreed. Also: he’s unvaccinated, of course. No word yet if the Air Force will let him, or Jesus, take the wheel—or flight stick. More from Air Force Times, here.