Today's D Brief: HKIA latest; Resistance in Panjshir; Brutality watch; Marines to Haiti; And a bit more.
Questions of capacity are surfacing amid the U.S. military’s Kabul airlift efforts. Today the temporary holding facility for Afghans at the United States military’s Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar appeared to be full, according to CBS News.
The latest from Kabul includes a slightly improved intake system at Hamid Karzai International Airport, guarded by more than 5,000 U.S. troops. CNN’s Clarissa Ward reports on location that pushing, shoving, and screaming are still constant sights and sounds around HKIA. Two women even threw their babies to U.S. troops, who found the women later and gave the children back.
Said U.S. Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Jim Stenger in a statement: “I can confirm the uniformed service member depicted in the video is a Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The baby seen in the video was taken to a medical treatment facility on site and cared for by medical professionals.”
U.S. President Joe Biden is being updated this morning by his national security team in a meeting that began at 10:45 a.m. ET.
Biden will address the nation about the latest from Kabul at 1 p.m. ET from the East Room of the White House, according to his public schedule.
NATO’s foreign ministers released a joint statement on Afghanistan today. “Our immediate task now is to meet our commitments to continue the safe evacuation of our citizens, partner country nationals, and at-risk Afghans, in particular those who have assisted our efforts,” the ministers write.
And in a likely nod to the Taliban patrolling Kabul’s streets, they write, “We call on those in positions of authority in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate their safe and orderly departure, including through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.” They also called for “all parties in Afghanistan to work in good faith to establish an inclusive and representative government, including with the meaningful participation of women and minority groups.” Read on, here.
The holdouts of Panjshir. There’s believed to be just one region of Afghanistan that has not bowed to the Taliban, several outlets reported Thursday. It’s just north of Kabul in what’s known as the Panjshir valley. There, “Amrullah Saleh, latterly the country's vice president and a key powerbroker under the Western-backed governments of the last two decades, and Ahmad Massoud, the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, have both taken refuge in the area and called for an uprising against the Taliban,” Agence France-Presse reports.
Massoud penned an op-ed Thursday in the Washington Post entitled, “The mujahideen resistance to the Taliban begins now. But we need help.”
Bigger picture: “Analysts doubt Panjshir can become a serious threat to the Taliban,” AFP reports. And tactically, “The Taliban only need to lock down the Panjshir, they don’t even have to go in there,” one analyst said. More below the fold.
From Defense One
At Kabul Airport, 2,000 Marines Provide Security and Process Evacuees // Caitlin M. Kenney: Meanwhile, the airfield perimeter is mostly held by soldiers of the 82nd Airborne.
Why Was the Administration So Slow to Evacuate US Allies in Afghanistan? // Russell Berman, The Atlantic: “We have been screaming from the rooftops that we need to get these allies out,” one leader of a U.S.-based resettlement organization said.
These Afghans Were Our Allies. Now We Must All Help Them Become Our Neighbors // Doug Wilson and Matt Zeller: Americans have a new chance to serve the interpreters and others who helped our troops in battle.
More Seats Than Passengers: Paperwork, Taliban Slow Afghanistan Evacuation // Tara Copp and Jacqueline Feldscher: But the pace is picking up. Some 6,000 "will soon board planes," a State Department spokesman said.
We Have One Last Chance to Save Our Allies // George Packer, The Atlantic: If the United States acts now, it can still evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans whose lives are at risk for the aid they gave us.
Lessons from a Failed Stealth Jet Can Guide Naval Aviation’s Future // Brent D. Sadler: The Navy’s next jet must avoid the errors that doomed the Avenger II.
Welcome to this Friday 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 1998, the U.S. Navy launched cruise missiles at al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan’s Khost Province, as well as at the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan.
Senior Taliban and Haqqani network commander Anas Haqqani is working his battlefield circulation tour, including an alleged stop today to visit local leaders in Khost province.
Related reading: “Khalil Haqqani, long on America’s terrorist list, is welcomed by cheering crowds in Kabul,” via the New York Times.
Recidivism and brutality watch: Alleged Taliban fighters shot and killed the family member of an Afghan journalist working for Germany’s Deutsche Welle, DW reports. “The Taliban were conducting a house-to-house search to try and find the journalist, who now works in Germany,” according to DW. “Other relatives were able to escape at the last moment and are now on the run.”
But that's not all, DW warns. “The Taliban have raided the homes of at least three DW journalists. Nematullah Hemat of the private television station Ghargasht TV is believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban, and Toofan Omar, the head of the private radio station Paktia Ghag Radio, was, according to government officials, targeted and shot dead by Taliban fighters.” More here.
And if suspense over cellular coverage and damaged repeater towers rings a bell for any of our readers, this next detail may come as no surprise: “The Taliban cut cellphone services in many areas they’ve captured to prevent images [of alleged violence meted out by the group’s fighters] from being published,” the Associated Press writes off a belated report of Taliban violence early July in Ghazni province.
About the alleged Taliban atrocities last month: From July 4 to 6, after the group took control of Ghazni’s Malistan district, nine Afghan Hazara men were reportedly shot and killed—some execution-style with shots to the head or temple, including a 28-year-old—and three others tortured to death, according to a report from Amnesty International published Thursday. “These targeted killings are proof that ethnic and religious minorities remain at particular risk under Taliban rule in Afghanistan," said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
Another organization says it has proof Taliban fighters are going door-to-door in Kabul trying to disappear people whose names are on a list of Afghans who helped the U.S.-led coalition. “We had access to hard copies of concrete letters issued and stamped by the Taliban Military Commission to this effect,” Christian Nellemann, executive director of RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses told AP.
In the world of jihadi rhetoric, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is reportedly the first AQ voice to acknowledge the Taliban’s new status, scholar Tore Hamming tweeted Friday. The group “frames it as a victory of Islam against unbelief and proof that Jihad is the only correct methodology.”
Perhaps interestingly, AQAP says the Taliban never changed, and credited its members for “refusing to give up its principles and constants.” A bit more to that, here.
Loot watch: Now, “The Taliban are believed to control more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including U.S. Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones,” Reuters reported Thursday, citing an unnamed U.S. official. The loot also includes night-vision goggles and, of course, M4 rifles—as the Taliban’s special forces were filmed carrying earlier this week in Kabul (fwiw: that footage showed NVG mounts, but no NVGs mounted), and they were spotted at intersections in the capital city on Friday, according to Mattieu Aikins.
Said one U.S. official: “Ironically, the fact that our equipment breaks down so often is a life-saver here.” More from Reuters, here.
On the bright side: Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team has made it out of the country, CBS This Morning reported Friday.
And that C-17 photo of 640 Afghans being evacuated Sunday evening? It was actually 823—they forgot to count the kids. CNN and Defense One’s Tara Copp has the update, here.
Eighteen midshipmen have been expelled from the Naval Academy for cheating, the school announced Friday morning after completing an investigation into allegations of “honor violations” during a December 2020 physics exam.
“Character development is an ongoing process and midshipmen must make the choice to live honorably each day and earn the trust that comes with a commission in the Navy or Marine Corps. This incident demonstrates that we must place an increased focus on character and integrity within the entire brigade,” Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck said in the statement. In addition to the 18 students separated from the Naval Academy, 82 midshipmen who were found to have violated the honor code were retained but “entered into a five-month honor remediation program.” More details, here.
An Army senior non-commissioned officer charged with stealing tens of thousands of dollars while deployed in 2017 will face court martial soon, Army Times reports. The supply soldier assigned to U.S. Army Special Operations Command “faces seven [Uniformed Code of Military Justice] specifications of making false official statements, one specification of disposing of government property without authorization, one specification of theft, two specifications of forgery, seven specifications of fraud against the government, one specification of violating federal commerce laws and one of dereliction of duty.” Read more, here.
And lastly this week: The USS Arlington is on its way to Haiti, with 200 Marines aboard, as the humanitarian assistance mission there continues, according to U.S. Southern Command. The Joint Task Force commander will work from the ship once it arrives; three Coast Guard helicopters have helped or saved 202 people and transported nearly 7,000 pounds of medical supplies as of noon Thursday, SOUTHCOM said. Special tactics airmen are assisting the earthquake-response effort, as are three Puerto Rico Army National Guard helicopters and several other aircraft.