The D Brief: More US-Russian meetings?; Quad’s first confab; Aussie sub timeline; Marines cancel marathon; And a bit more...

U.S. military leaders should meet more with Russian counterparts, Milley says. This would help reduce tension and make miscalculations less likely in times of crisis, Gen. Mark Milley, Joint Chiefs chairman, told reporters on the way home from his meeting in Finland with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff.

Currently, U.S.-Russian military contacts are “largely limited to senior leaders such as the defense secretary, the chairman, and the supreme allied commander for Europe,” AP reported. “But he said the U.S. might look into allowing the military service chiefs to form stronger relationships with their Russian counterparts—which is currently not allowed.”

Milley also suggested that the two militaries might try allowing observers to watch each others’ exercises. “We might not do it, but we should at least take a look at it,” he said.

The chairman declined to say what he and Gerasimov discussed during their six-hour meeting. A Joint Chiefs statement said, “both sides seek increased transparency to reduce misunderstanding and increase stability.” 

Mil-to-mil contacts with Russia have been in decline for nearly two decades, but have been severely conscribed since 2016 as part of Congress’ response to Moscow’s illegal 2014 annexation of Crimea. Read on, here.

Why should opposing militaries work toward greater dialogue? Peter Zvack has written often on the subject, drawing upon his experience as a U.S. military attaché to Moscow. Read “Death of the GRU Commander,” and other pieces on the theme here and here

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Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston and Jennifer Hlad with Ben Watson. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. OTD in 1929, U.S. Army Air Corps officer Jimmy Doolittle took off, flew a set course, and landed—all without a window, proving instruments-only flight was possible.

In a 316-113 vote, the House passed a $768 billion defense policy bill on Thursday, which is about $25 billion more than the White House requested for the year. 

Obligatory fine print: “The NDAA is a policy bill, not a spending bill, meaning even if the final product has a top line of $778 billion, a separate appropriations bill with a matching dollar figure would also have to pass for the increase to become a reality,” The Hill reports, and adds, “Still, the NDAA sets a benchmark for congressional budget talks going forward.”

Next up: Attention turns to the Senate’s version. “Presuming the Senate passes it, a House-Senate conference will reconcile differences before both chambers vote on sending the bill to President Joe Biden,” Roll Call reports. Politico has more on what’s inside the House version, here.

Extra reading: “House Passes Defense-Policy Bill With Military-Justice Provision,” via the Wall Street Journal; and “Sens. Gillibrand, Ernst call House defense legislation ‘inadequate’ on military prosecutions,” also via Politico.

Executions and amputations as punishment will return to Afghanistan, one of the founders of the Taliban told The Associated Press, though the measures may not be in public like they were in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  

“Everyone criticized us for the punishments in the stadium, but we have never said anything about their laws and their punishments,” Mullah Nooruddin Turabi told AP. “No one will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran.” 

He added: “Cutting off hands is very necessary for security.” Read more, here.

Still, Pakistan is urging other nations not to isolate the new government in Afghanistan, and “is proposing that the international community develop a road map that leads to diplomatic recognition of the Taliban—with incentives if they fulfill its requirements—and then sit down face to face and talk it out with the militia’s leaders.” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told AP

The Aug. 27 drone strike in Nangahar killed an ISIS-K facilitator who helped plan attacks and build IEDS, U.S. Central Command said. The man’s name was Kabir Aidi, aka Mustafa, Military Times reports, and he was “directly connected” to the leaders that coordinated the suicide bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport that killed 13 U.S. troops and wounded several others.

Four of the Marines injured in that bombing are still hospitalized, Marine Corps Times reports, with one in “very serious but stable condition,” and three “in serious but stable condition” at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Meanwhile, AP takes a broad look across a region in increasing chaos. There are “new crises in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan” while “Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen are teetering on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, with skyrocketing poverty and an economic implosion that threatens to throw the region into even deeper turmoil.” 

And: “After more than a decade of bloodshed and turmoil sparked by Arab Spring uprisings and an Islamic State group onslaught, most of the region’s Arab countries have settled into a military stalemate or frozen conflict, accompanied by worsening economies, rising poverty rates, and heavier repression.” Read on, here.

It could be “decades” before Australia’s promised nuclear subs are operational, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Thursday. That’s because much time is needed to build the nuclear-power industrial base and other support organizations, Gilday said at Defense One’s State of the Navy event. USNI News adds context, here.

Meanwhile, two key U.S. shipbuilders have only about half their employees vaccinated for COVID, executives told Defense One’sMarcus Weisgerberon Thursday. Read, here.

The Quad meets for the first time today. The White House confab will welcome leaders from Australia, Japan and India for the first in-person meeting of the informal strategy forum that aims to coordinate anti-China policy in the Indo-Pacific. CNN has more, here.

Meanwhile, 24 Chinese fighter jets flew toward Taiwan and down its coast on Thursday, an unusually large aerial show of force. (AP)

The CIA has yanked its Vienna station chief, in part because of his weak response to incidents of “Havana syndrome” in the Austrian capital, the Washington Post reports

The phenomenon is “named after the Cuban capital where U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers had first reported unusual and varied symptoms, from headaches to vision problems and dizziness to brain injuries, that started in 2016.”

Are directed-energy weapons responsible? Iain Boyd, an aerospace engineer and former vice chair of the USAF’s Scientific Advisory Board, explores the evidence, here.

Lastly today: the Marine Corps has canceled their in-person annual marathon in and around Washington, D.C., citing COVID. But anyone who wants to can sign up to run 26.2 miles on their own as part of a virtual event. More, here.