Today's D Brief: Afghanistan’s new Taliban government; EU mulls autonomy from US; Ida’s death toll rises; Russia, GOP Leader McCarthy threaten tech firms; And a bit more.

The Taliban’s new government will be led by its co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and will otherwise consist solely of Taliban members, Reuters reports Friday, citing “sources in the group.”

Also in the Taliban’s new government: “Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban co-founder Mullah Omar, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai,” though their precise roles aren't clear just yet. The group's top religious official, Haibatullah Akhundzada, is expected to keep that responsibility moving forward. Read more at Reuters, here

The EU says it has set new “benchmarks” for engaging with the Taliban, potentially opening the door to other diplomatic efforts to negotiate with the new rulers of Afghanistan. The terms include several familiar requests, including “not serving as a base for terrorism, respecting the rights of women and the media, the establishment of an ‘inclusive and representative’ government, and allowing access for aid” and continued evacuations from Kabul, Agence France-Presse reports. 

EU defense officials are trying to learn from America’s loss in the Afghan war. And one of the more dire lessons is somehow reducing its dependence on the U.S. and its military, the Associated Press reported from a castle in Slovenia, where defense ministers convened Thursday. 

One big wrinkle officials acknowledged: “Without American support, European countries wouldn’t have been able to guarantee the safe exit of their citizens or even their troops” from Kabul during the rushed evacuation. And that’s one reason why officials are increasingly warming to some sort of 5,000-troop EU rapid reaction force.

“It’s nothing against NATO, it’s nothing against the EU-US alliance,” said European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. “It’s a way of becoming stronger, facing our responsibilities and mobilizing the resources in order to face the challenges that we will have to face.” Read on, here

Some small good news for ordinary Afghans: Western Union announced Thursday that it’s resumed money transfers to the country, and it’s even decided to waive transfer fees for the next two weeks, ending Sept. 17.

Fears of a new kind of American isolationism are shaking Syrian villagers’ faith in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Malsin reported Thursday from northeastern Syria. 

Context: “After a decade of war sparked by a popular uprising, Syria is now fractured among an array of forces and outside powers including Russia and Iran, who provide military support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey supports armed rebel groups. Islamic State fighters also remain active. During a visit by a Wall Street Journal reporter to Iraq and northeast Syria, American officers made the case that the U.S. presence is critical to keeping pressure on Islamic State insurgents and supporting U.S. allies in both countries.” More here.

From Defense One

Russia’s April Exercise in Crimea May Have Been A Ukraine Invasion Practice Run // Patrick Tucker: The use of smoke operations, plus the large troop presence, suggest that Russia was telegraphing its ability to launch a major assault on Ukraine, new analysis suggests.

The Kabul Airlift in 5 Charts // Elizabeth Howe: The largest emergency airlift ever handled by the U.S. military started slowly and built to a torrent.

China Hawks Try for Beijing Olympics Boycotts on Defense Bill // Jacqueline Feldscher: Democrats rejected proposals that could affect military bases, but unlikely allies appear to be forming.

California, Louisiana Receive Outside Help to Support Natural Disaster Response // Caitlin M. Kenney: Both states have units deployed that would otherwise be helping in their efforts.

The Forever War is Dead. Long Live the Forever War // Kevin Baron: The fight against terrorism will continue, yet our body politic is weakened by double-speak.

What Went Wrong in Afghanistan?  // Joseph J. Collins: The next decade will produce many studies to answer that question, but here is a preliminary answer from a long-term Afghanistan watcher.

Calculating the Costs of the Afghanistan War // Neta C. Crawford, The Conversation: The war in Afghanistan, like many other wars before it, began with optimistic assessments of a quick victory and the promise to rebuild at war’s end

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 1925, the U.S. Navy’s first airship (or aerostat, or dirigible balloon) crashed in a thunderstorm over eastern Ohio. Fourteen crew members perished, and 29 others survived as they rode three sections of the destroyed ship to the ground. 

At least 45 people have died from Hurricane Ida as it swept across the northeastern U.S. this week, including New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Maryland, the Wall Street Journal reports. President Biden approved emergency declarations for both Jersey and New York on Thursday.
Ida is also blamed for the death of at least 13 others across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, the Associated Press reports. On the bright side, running water has been restored for almost 500,000 people across Louisiana. However, some 900,000 still have no power—and most of those people live in New Orleans.
Biden heads to Louisiana today to survey hurricane damage around New Orleans, including Laffite, Grand Isle, Port Fourchon, and Lafourche Parish, according to Biden’s public schedule.
Review several ways the U.S. military’s 6,000 or so troops are helping with Ida recovery efforts around Louisiana in the public affairs imagery and videos gathered at DVIDS, here.

Today at the Pentagon, NORAD/NORTHCOM’s commander Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck is scheduled to brief reporters alongside Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby. That gets started at 11 a.m. ET, and will livestream at DVIDS, here.
Later, at 1 p.m., Italy’s Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini drops by for a visit with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. As far as we know, the two do not plan to take questions from the press.

This week in apparent espionage intrigue, some Spanish separatists in Catalonia have been working with Russian spies as they formed a protest movement called Tsunami Democratic, the New York Times reported Friday from Barcelona, citing a “10-page European intelligence report, the substance of which was confirmed by two Spanish officials.”

Russia threatened to fine Google and Apple if they don’t remove an app built by supporters of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. “The move follows weeks of private demands by the censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, to both companies, ahead of legislative elections that begin Sept. 17,” the Washington Post reported Thursday.
Bigger picture: Moscow’s anxiety “underscores the increasingly perilous waters tech companies must navigate worldwide as their services become ever more important to political campaigns,” the Post writes, and notes, “That includes the United States, where leaders of both major parties for years have sought to shape how policies are established and enforced — all the while complaining that the scales are tilted against them.”

Republican House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy tweeted out a threat to tech companies that comply with the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the New York Times reported Thursday, “after the panel asked dozens of firms to preserve the phone and social media records of 11 far-right members of Congress who pushed to overturn the results of the 2020 election.”
Perhaps most notably, the Times points out that “McCarthy asserted, without citing any law, that it would be illegal for the technology companies to cooperate with the inquiry, even though congressional investigations have obtained phone records before.” What’s more, “He said that if his party won control of the House, it would use its power to punish any that did.”
Said one law professor to the Times: “He is falsely portraying the committee as overreaching so that he can protect his own political interests, to the detriment of Congress’s ability to do its job and the public trust in our institutions of government.” Read on, here

And lastly this week: Something very concerning went wrong on Richard Branson’s historic July 11 Virgin Galactic flight, Nicholas Schmidle reported for the New Yorker on Wednesday. Long story short: Branson’s aircraft flew outside of its designated airspace, and the crew may not have made the safest decisions. Now his company is facing an investigation. Reuters has more here

Be safe out there this Labor Day weekend. And we’ll catch you again on Tuesday!