Today's D Brief: Window closing in Kabul; MBS in Moscow; Vax mandate for the military; And a bit more.
Most people in Afghanistan may only have two days left to flee Kabul. Evacuation flights out of the capital city could end on Friday, aid organizations have been told by Western government officials, according to the Wall Street Journal.
And if you have $6,500, accused war profiteer Erik Prince is ready to take you out of Kabul, the Journal reports.
The latest known evacuation metrics reveal approximately 19,000 people have been evacuated over a 24-hour period ending Wednesday at 3 a.m. ET. That involved 42 U.S. military flights—37 C-17s and 5 C-130s—with some 11,200 evacuees; and an additional 48 coalition flights carrying 7,800 people out of the country.
Total out of Kabul to date: 87,900 people—and 82,300 of those have been in the last nine days, Defense One’s Tara Copp writes. As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. military said it had “evacuated approximately 4,000 American passport holders plus their families. We expect that number to continue to grow in the coming days,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
CODEL to Kabul now? “Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., flew in and out on charter aircraft and were on the ground at the Kabul airport for several hours Tuesday,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday evening.
Said the lawmakers: “After talking with commanders on the ground and seeing the situation here, it is obvious that because we started the evacuation so late, that no matter what we do, we won’t get everyone out on time, even by September 11.” (Said one U.S. official to the Washington Post’s John Hudson: “It’s as moronic as it is selfish. They’re taking seats away from Americans.”)
Several other lawmakers have issued sharply worded statements knocking the White House over how things have developed, AP reported separately Tuesday. For example, Sen. Ben Sasse of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee said, “Damn the deadline. The American people are not going to surrender our fellow citizens to the Taliban...There’s absolutely no reason to trust the Taliban...If President Biden accepts the Taliban’s terms he’ll be the one holding the shovel in Afghanistan’s ‘graveyard of empires.’ Mr. President, tell the Taliban we’re getting our people out however long it takes, and that we’re perfectly willing to spill Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS blood to do it.”
We’re less than a week away from the U.S. military’s drawdown deadline. That was one of many things on the minds of G7 members Tuesday before they issued a statement asking the Taliban to “guarantee” safe passage out of Kabul. Hours later, President Joe Biden stood before cameras to tell the world that the U.S. would not stay in Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31, which is a mere six days away.
For their part, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE are among Middle East nations helping facilitate the evacuation process out of Kabul. The Emirates and Kuwait both agreed to host 5,000 Afghans for about 10 days before routing to their next transit point, or perhaps back to Afghanistan. Qatar agreed to host 8,000. Bahrain, for its part, is permitting overflights, and “its national carrier Gulf Air operated a flight from Isa Air Base to Dulles International Airport outside Washington on Monday as part of evacuation efforts,” Reuters reported Tuesday.
You may wonder: Where are the Saudis amid all this? In Moscow on business—or at least Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud was on Monday for a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. “We discussed our common endeavor to preserve stability and security in the region, and reviewed shared challenges facing our countries,” MBS tweeted. He also signed an agreement “aimed at developing joint military cooperation between the two countries.” (FWIW: Russia has conducted joint drills with Iran’s military for the last several years. No word yet on possible Russian-Saudi drills.)
China’s wolf warriors (and state-run media) are talking tough as America leaves Afghanistan. Beijing’s UN envoy Ambassador Chen Xu insisted the U.S.-led coalition be held accountable for unspecified human rights abuses in Afghanistan. “Under the banner of democracy and human rights, the U.S. and other countries carry out military interventions in other sovereign states and impose their own model on countries with vastly different history and culture,” Chen said Tuesday at the UN’s Human Rights Council.
Here’s one big-picture takeaway, according to Technology Review: “If wars are fought through innovation, the Taliban won.” The authors’ forecast for the future? “[W]e will see fewer purely technological conflicts that are won by the military with the greatest firepower, and more old and new technologies fielded side by side. It already looks that way in conflicts such as the one between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the pattern is one we may see more over time.” Read on, here.
This week in jokes: “Gen. Milley regrets not including Vietnam War history book on reading list,” the Duffel Blog satirical news site reported on Monday.
From Defense One
Air Force’s Kendall Creates Space Acquisition Office, Accelerates Absorption of Space Development Agency // Marcus Weisgerber: And the new service secretary is asking Congress to allow him to move faster yet.
Kabul Evacuee With Potential ISIS Ties Detained at Qatar Base // Tara Copp: Up to 100 evacuees have been flagged for further scrutiny during the more comprehensive screening they received at their first stop after Afghanistan.
How One Tech Entrepreneur Is Scaling Up Veteran-Led Evacuation Efforts // Patrick Tucker: Volunteers in the U.S. are telling fleeing Afghans where Taliban traps are.
Biden Sticks to Aug. 31 Afghanistan Deadline. Now It’s a Race to Get People and Get Out // Tara Copp and Jacqueline Feldscher: Military and civilian planes evacuated 21,600 on Tuesday. But within days, the military will need to focus on final withdrawal.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here.
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine just became mandatory across the U.S. military, the Associated Press reported Wednesday morning. “The memo, which was obtained by The Associated Press, does not dictate a specific timeline for completing the vaccinations. But it says the military services will have to report regularly on their progress.”
Bigger picture: “Hospitalizations and deaths are increasing among the military,” AP notes. “Over the past month, the number of service member deaths jumped from 25 to 34—by more than a third.” Read on, here.
ICYMI: A recent cyberattack gave the world a window into an Iranian prison and its “grim” conditions, the Associated Press reported Monday.
Location: The Evin prison, inside Tehran. It’s “known for holding political prisoners and those with ties abroad who are often used as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West,” AP writes.
Update: The incident managed to provoke a “rare, official apology” from Iran, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. “I take responsibility for these unacceptable behaviors,” Mohammed Mehdi Haj-Mohammadi of Iran’s Prisons Organization tweeted Tuesday. “I will commit to not letting these horrific incidents being repeated, and deal seriously with law breakers.” More on that episode and a bit of the prison’s history, via WaPo, here.
And lastly today: A group of four neo-Nazis are facing federal charges after allegedly planning attacks on the energy grid in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest. The group researched prior attacks on substations, gathered weapons, drew up a list of targets, and even tried to make their own thermite, the Department of Justice said in its announcement of charges Friday. The Idaho Statesman has more on the four men, three of them in the 20s, here.