Today's D Brief: Kabul departures to begin, Qatar says; SASC oversight coming soon; Chinese influence ops growing; And a bit more.

A flight of at least 100 Westerners will soon depart Kabul, Qatari officials said Thursday—two days after State Secretary Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin dropped by Doha for talks with Qatari intermediaries. The Wall Street Journal reports the departing group includes a total of “some 200 Americans, U.S. permanent residents, and holders of other Western passports.” The folks trying to fly out of Mazar-e-Sharif will still have to wait, or find a way to travel to Kabul, according to the Journal

After the apparent breakthrough for Kabul departures, the Taliban want the U.S. to remove their leaders from the FBI’s most wanted list, accusing the Biden administration of violating the deal struck in Qatar during the Trump administration. Al-Jazeera has more here.

The Taliban now insist all protests must be pre-approved, according to a statement from its interim interior ministry, the Associated Press reports after several journalists were photographed after being allegedly beaten by the Taliban for reporting on a recent women’s rally in Kabul. 

In latent evacuation news, “More than 100 Afghan children and teens are in U.S. custody without their parents after the chaotic crush to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan,” the Washington Post reported from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. And according to CNN’s Kylie Atwood reporting Wednesday, “Approximately 60K people have arrived in the US as part of the evac efforts from Afghanistan, per DHS. 11% are U.S. Citizens, 6% are US Lawful Permanent Residents, 83% are Afghans.”

Back stateside: The Senate Armed Services Committee is almost ready to review the Afghanistan exit. It just announced three new hearings, with the first slated for next Wednesday, and the last two about two weeks after that. Up first will be Army Gen. Scott Miller, the last American commander of the war in Afghanistan—but that’s a closed hearing. 

SecDef Austin, CJCS Milley, and CENTCOM’s McKenzie have been tapped for the first public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 28. Tiny bit more via SASC, here.

For something completely different: Former President Donald Trump said in a fairly standard nonsensical statement Wednesday that Robert E. Lee would have won the war in Afghanistan. More where that came from, here

One serious Q. Where is captured American Mark Frerichs? Reporter Michael Ames asks that in a piece published in the New Yorker on Tuesday. Frerichs was abducted from Kabul “just as the Trump Administration was in the final stages of reaching an agreement with the Taliban to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan,” Ames reminds us. “Frerichs’s sister Charlene hoped that the Trump Administration would negotiate with the Taliban for her brother’s release.” But that never happened. Continue reading, here.

And we admit it’s probably impossible to end a two-decade war quietly. But certain domestic actors here stateside have made the occasion especially noisy—and riddled with inaccuracies. According to the Poynter Institute,  “GOP senators and Fox News promoted false and misleading claims about the scale of U.S. weaponry now in the Taliban’s hands, the abandonment of military K-9s, and Biden’s treatment of the families of 13 U.S. soldiers who died in the Kabul airport attack.” Read on, here.


From Defense One

The Pandemic Has Cost the Pentagon at Least $13.6B and Counting // Marcus Weisgerber: And that figure could rise as the Defense Department starts mandatory COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated civilian workers.

After 9/11, the U.S. Got Almost Everything Wrong // Garrett M. Graff: A mission to rid the world of “terror” and “evil” led America in tragic directions.

USAF Wants Wearables to Spot Outbreaks Faster // Brandi Vincent: Top officials are also looking into data integration and digital traceability tools to help keep staff healthy.

Welcome to this Thursday 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 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced off the coast of southern Oregon and its crew quickly began assembling a Yokosuka E14Y reconnaissance floatplane on the deck before sending it aloft to drop two incendiary bombs inside the United States. The Japanese were hoping to trigger forest fires, but the Oregon coastal rains put a damper on that. At any rate, the plane was reportedly spotted on its approach, and only one of the bombs was found by the Forestry Service (it left a 3-foot crater in the mud); fortunately no one was harmed in the attacks. 


‘We don’t need no stinking badges.’ The U.S. Navy sailed through the South China Sea just days after China announced new maritime identification rules, CNN reported Wednesday. The new rules call for “ships to identify their names, call signs, current positions, next ports of call, and estimated times of arrival with Chinese authorities upon entering the country's territorial waters,” CNN reports. And so, “When the USS Benfold passed near the Spratly Islands without abiding by the new rule, China accused the U.S. of ‘illegally’ entering its waters, claiming it had driven away the ship.” The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet disagreed in a statement. Read that, here.

Chinese influence ops are growing. Since cybersecurity firm FireEye called out a pro-China influence operation two years ago, the campaign has only grown in size and scope, according to a new report from FireEye.
The network also “attempted to draw Americans out to real-world protests against anti-Asian-American racism,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “They’re copying the Kremlin’s playbook,” one cyber researcher told the Journal.

After a long absence, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un recently showed his face in public. But it’s his relatively slim body that most peninsula watchers are apt to pick up on in this latest photo set. See for yourself, via 38 North’s Martyn Williams on Twitter, here.

Post-insurrection fencing could return to D.C. Just about two months after the fences around the Capitol came down, the head of the Capitol Police is recommending they go back up, Politico reports. The advice concerns a Sept. 18 rally defending rioters and insurrectionists from Jan. 6, and it’s being called “Justice for J6.” 

The White House is firing nearly a dozen Trump-appointed military advisory board members “who have supported or stood by silently while their former boss supported an insurrection,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki told CNN Thursday morning. “That's not really OK with us,” she added. The appointees held positions on advisory boards for the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, and West Point. Military Times and CNN both reported on the dismissals Wednesday,
Who are these people? They’re often “a mix of lawmakers and presidential appointees who traditionally meet several times a year to provide non-binding advice on issues like curriculum, student morale, and institution needs,” Leo Shane III reports, and notes, “Non-lawmaker members typically serve three-year terms, even across presidential administrations.”
The list of folks let go include lobbyists, apparently unqualified Arctic researchers, a “Dancing with the Stars” contestant, H.R. McMaster, and Kellyanne Conway. Several of those listed (excluding McMaster) seem to be publicly fighting the resignations through statements, TV show segments, or angry tweets. CNN has more, here.

ICYMI: Guinea’s military special forces overthrew the president in a coup on Sunday, and now U.S. special forces could face new scrutiny over their seeming alleged proximity to the events.
Presently in charge: 41-year-old Col. Mamady Doumbouya, who said he and his soldiers acted in response to “rampant corruption, human rights abuses, and economic mismanagement” by 83-year-old President Alpha Conde, who had already served two terms before declaring term limits do not apply to him, CNBC reported Tuesday.
The latest: Several West African leaders are headed to Guinea today to forge some sort of relationship with Doumbouya’s junta, the Associated Press reports from nearby Ghana.

Lastly today: Six former SecDefs say it’s time for a GWOT memorial. And they’re asking President Biden to throw his weight behind the appeal, in part because “the war on terrorism is now America’s longest war, touching young women and men who were not yet born on that harrowing day,” and also because, “We lost more than 7,000 troops during military operations in the past two decades. Each left behind family, friends, and fellow service members who deserve a place to remember them.”
SecDefs 22 through 27 signed onto the op-ed, published Wednesday in the Washington Post; that covers each surviving former Pentagon chief since the attacks on 9/11—Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, Ash Carter, Jim Mattis, and Mark Esper.
Another reason to bring up a GWOT memorial: “Legislation to secure a prominent location on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for a National Global War on Terrorism Memorial is stalled in Congress,” they write, “though there is some reason for optimism.” Read the rest at WaPo, here.

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