Today's D Brief: Austin, Blinken in Qatar; Panjshir resistance crushed?; ISI visits Taliban in Kabul; Pill for PTSD?; And a bit more.
SecDef Austin, SecState Blinken are in the Middle East today trying to negotiate a way home for the remaining U.S. citizens and Afghans fleeing Taliban control. One path forward could involve rolling back sanctions on Taliban officials in exchange for the safe passage of the two groups of travelers, the Wall Street Journal reports from Qatar, where “There are currently 4,000 Afghan evacuees,” after 41,000 or so have already travelled to the states.
ICYMI: Qatar continues playing an outsized role in America’s extended departure from Afghanistan—from hosting negotiations with the Taliban in Doha under POTUS45, to helping with the evacuation efforts under POTUS46; and, of course, Qatar has hosted U.S. aircraft supporting regional combat operations going back to at least POTUS43.
But not so fast on any new international departures from Kabul, because no one’s leaving the country from that airport until the Taliban announce their government, group spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid reportedly said Tuesday, according to Khaama Press.
BTW: Guess who became the first known foreign leader to visit the Taliban in Kabul? That would be Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, who reportedly dropped by Afghanistan’s capital city on Saturday.
- Related headline from late last week: “Taliban declare China their closest ally,” via The Telegraph.
Jokes the BBC's Paul Danahar: “As we prepare for the Taliban to seek new global alliances, it’s useful to remember that old proverb about Afghanistan’s warlords & rulers: ‘My enemy’s enemy’s friend’s enemy who was my friend is my enemy until he isn’t.’”
Taliban fighters violently broke up an anti-Pakistan protest led by women in Kabul today, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal report. The protests Tuesday were sparked by Hameed’s visit, and seem to have triggered escalating crowd control measures. Taliban special forces abruptly shut down an earlier protest by women in Kabul on Saturday, firing their weapons into the air to disperse the crowd, according to the Associated Press. On Tuesday, however, “They began beating protesters with rifle butts and sticks,” witnesses told the Times, “and the crowd scattered after the fighters began firing into the air.” Some of the protest organizers were detained, according to the Journal. Afghanistan’s Khaama Press carried video of the alleged incident in Kabul on Tuesday, shared via Twitter, here.
Developing: Afghanistan’s last pocket of resistance in Panjshir allegedly fell to the Taliban on Monday, CNN reported Monday.
In bad omens, “basic services are collapsing” in Afghanistan, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned Tuesday from Geneva. OCHA officials issued an emergency appeal for $600 million to help the estimated 11 million people in need across the country. Read more at Ariana News.
From Defense One
The Defense Budget Process Is Broken // Daniel DePetris: What the U.S. needs isn’t more money for the Pentagon, but an honest and tough debate about strategy.
This May Be First Step In Curing PTSD With A Pill // Patrick Tucker: A start-up, funded in part by the U.S. Army, could be on track to revolutionizing what we know about PTSD.
Marines Ground All New Amphibious Vehicles // Caitlin M. Kenney: Tow-hook problem suspends all 54 ACVs.
US Marines Must Relearn to Protect Pacific Supply Lines, Commandant Says // Caitlin M. Kenney: As a backup, Berger says, troops must learn to “forage” for some supplies.
Italy’s Carabinieri Were the Perfect Force for the Kabul Evacuation // Elisabeth Braw: The soldier-policemen of this hybrid outfit went outside the wire to bring thousands to safety.
US Air Force’s First Software Chief Steps Down // Brandi Vincent: Nicolas Chaillan, who led a Pentagon-wide DevSecOps effort, said he was leaving in part because of a lack of support from senior leaders.
Welcome to this Tuesday 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.
Vaxx litigation begins. Two staff sergeants have filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Food and Drug Administration, challenging the mandate on COVID-19 vaccinations for troops, Army Times reports. The soldier and Marine, both based in North Carolina, say that troops who have had the virus already should not need the jab. Read more, here.
Did Raytheon pay Qatari military consultants almost $2 million in a veiled scheme intended for the royal family? That's what a dual U.S.-UK national named Tarek Fouad alleges, according to the Wall Street Journal, after a March 2015 contract “to advise on the acquisition of an advanced command-and-control system, dubbed the Falcon Project,” eventually collapsed about two years later. Fouad was one of three directors at the Doha-based consulting firm, Digital Soula Systems, which was formed in 2013, and is majority-owned by a brother of Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani; another co-director alongside Fouad was an active duty lieutenant colonel in the Qatari armed forces.
According to Fouad, Raytheon paid DSS what was “supposed to be compensation for defense studies that Digital Soula Systems would produce for Raytheon...But metadata extracted from digital files of the studies appear to show that Raytheon itself had created them.”
The big problem: “Payments such as those alleged in Mr. Fouad’s lawsuit would have posed a serious [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] risk for Raytheon, according to lawyers who reviewed the bribery allegations and documents from Mr. Fouad’s lawsuit.” Fouad’s lawsuit was dismissed in a U.S. district court last year; but the case has reportedly “led to inquiries by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department.” Continue reading, here.
And lastly today: Can we cure PTSD with a pill? A new company with funding from the U.S. Army is looking into it, Defense One’s Science and Tech Editor Patrick Tucker reports.
The gist: “Dr. Jennifer Perusini, founder of Neurovation Labs, says PTSD has a unique biomarker called GluA1. It's a protein that is part of a glutamate receptor system, which helps memory formation. But trauma can also spur the creation of GluA1...Blocking the protein removed the anxiety, but the rats still displayed a healthy reaction to new frightening stimuli. That’s key, because it’s important to retain the ability to be scared by actual threats.” Read on, here.
NEXT STORY: Marines Ground All New Amphibious Vehicles