The D Brief: Austin, Milley testify on Afghanistan; Syrian threats; Pentagon’s wildfire aid; Watch State of the USAF; And a bit more...

Austin, Milley: No one foresaw Afghanistan’s quick fall. Incorrect U.S. military and intelligence assumptions about Kabul’s governance and military structures led to the country’s fall—but the failures that occurred during the largest evacuation airlift in U.S. history were not the military’s fault, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told Congress on Tuesday. Defense One’s Tara Copp reports, here.

“We did not fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in their senior ranks,” Austin said in his opening remarks before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We did not anticipate the snowball effect caused by the deals that Taliban commanders struck with local leaders in the wake of the Doha agreement, that the Doha agreement itself had a demoralizing effect on Afghan soldiers, and that we failed to fully grasp that there was only so much for which—and for whom—many of the Afghan forces would fight.”

Members of Congress from both parties have expressed doubt that the Taliban’s swift victory was unforeseeable, particularly since years of reports from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction have warned about hollow and easily corrupted elements of the Afghan National Army and its leadership ranks. Military Times’ Meghann Myers has a very short tour of those reports and their drumbeats of doom.

Austin treaded carefully on the question of why the emergency airlift gained furious pace only after Kabul fell. “As for when we started evacuations: we offered input to the State Department’s decision, mindful of their concerns that moving too soon might actually cause the very collapse of the Afghan government that we all wanted to avoid, and that moving too late would put our people and our operations at greater risk,” the secretary said.

Speaking of Operation Allies Refuge, the Washington Post’s Alex Horton and Dan Lamothe have the most detailed look yet at the decisions and actions that shaped the U.S. military’s largest-ever emergency evacuation.

The UN rejected the Taliban’s request to speak at this year’s General Assembly, which formally comes to an end this week in New York City, Reuters reported Monday. 

From Defense One

To Deter China, Relearn The Lost Art of Dissuasion // Dan Patt and Bryan Clark: Threats of denial or punishment will not deter a peer adversary fighting at home.

AUKUS: Good Goals, Bad Implementation // Bradley Bowman and Mark Montgomery: Now begins the real work for the United States and its democratic allies: cooperating to strengthen their eroding deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.

Misinformation Is About to Get So Much Worse // Saahil Desai: A conversation with Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and chair of the 2021 National Security Commission on AI.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. OTD in 1066, William the soon-to-be-conqueror landed at Pevensey Bay, England.

Defense One’s State of the Air Force event begins today at 2 p.m. Register here (it’s free!) and be sure to catch the keynote interview with Air Force Chief Gen. C.Q. Brown at 4:05 p.m. 

Syria will push U.S. troops out of the country if they don’t leave voluntarily, Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday. Mekdad “called the presence of Turkish and U.S. troops in northern Syria illegal and a flagrant violation of international law,” Newsweek reported

Hundreds of U.S. troops remain in Syria, and the fighting there has not abated: A raid this weekend by the U.S.-led coalition killed three ISIS terrorists and detained two associates,” Stars and Stripes reported, citing Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto.

North Korea fired a short-range missile into the sea as Pyongyang’s U.N. diplomat slammed the U.S.’s “hostile policy” against it, “in an apparent return to its pattern of mixing weapons displays with peace overtures to wrest outside concessions,” AP reports Tuesday. 

The launch, its third round of weapons firings this month, came only three days after North Korea repeated its offer for conditional talks with South Korea. Some experts say the latest missile launch was likely meant to test how South Korea would respond as North Korea needs Seoul to persuade Washington to ease economic sanctions and make other concessions.” Read on, here.

Lastly today: Satellites designed for warning of missile attacks can be used to find and fight wildfires, but the military is hesitant to cooperate with civilian authorities to use them for that purpose, even as fires grow bigger and more deadly, the New York Times reports.

Fires have been so bad in recent years that the National Guard has started preparing for them like they do hurricanes, Defense One reported in July. Some military satellites are better than NASA firefighting satellites at detecting those wildfires early, the Times reports, because they are on a higher orbit and “scan planet Earth every 10 seconds.” 

“Fighting disasters is like fighting wars,” Darrel G. Herd, a retired senior research scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency who pioneered early orbital tests of wildfire detection told the Times. “You suffer if you don’t have adequate warning.” Much more, here