The D Brief: Taliban offered deal as Kabul fell; US-China mil-to-mil meeting; New ASW task group; Who’s tracking that rifle?; And a bit more...

Taliban offered to let the U.S. military secure Kabul during withdrawal, McKenzie says. Top Pentagon leaders were back on Capitol Hill answering questions about the end of the Afghanistan war on Wednesday. Gen. Frank McKenzie, who leads U.S. Central Command, “acknowledged that the Taliban offered to let the U.S. military take over security for Kabul until it officially departed the country on Aug. 31,” The Hill reported. “McKenzie told the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing Wednesday that Taliban leaders made the offer during a conversation in Doha the day Afghanistan fell to the extremist group.”

McKenzie responded that agreeing to such an offer was not in his instructions; in any case, “we did not have the resources to undertake that mission,” he said Wednesday. 

Tamer tenor. “The House Armed Services Committee meeting was decidedly calmer than that of its counterpart in the Senate, which took place a day prior, with only a handful of flare-ups,” The Hill wrote.

One of the most heated exchanges was over whether Biden had lied about the advice he received from military leaders to keep a small number of troops in Afghanistan, Defense One’s Jacqueline Feldsher reported. ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked Biden in an August interview if military advisors had asked to keep 2,500 troops in the country, and Biden replied, “No, they didn’t. It was split. That wasn’t true.” McKenzie and Milley, however, both told Congress on Tuesday that their view was that 2,500 troops should have stayed in the country. 

Many Republicans, including Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., jumped on this as evidence that Biden was lying, but Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the chairman of the committee, defended the president, arguing that Biden was saying in the interview that only 2,500 troops would not be able to maintain stability.

Smith urged others to go read the interview transcript themselves and “not take what is being said here as accurate,” charging Bacon with interpreting Biden’s words “to make sure we could successfully have a partisan attack on him.” 

A nonpartisan commission to look at the Afghanistan war? Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said she’ll propose it in an amendment to the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. This Afghanistan War Study Commission would aim to investigate every aspect of the war, from combat operations to intelligence collection to diplomacy, and produce an unclassified report of lessons and recommendations to ensure similar mistakes aren’t made in future conflicts. Duckworth expects the process to take several years. Read on, here.

Taliban vow ‘consequences’ for U.S. drone overflights. The new Afghanistan government demanded an end to the flights via Twitter, al Jazeera reported Wednesday. “We call on all countries, especially United States, to treat Afghanistan in light of international rights, laws and commitments…in order to prevent any negative consequences,” the Taliban said. U.S. officials did not immediately respond to the request.

From Defense One

Air Force Chief Anticipates ‘Something Special’ for B-21 Public Debut  // Tara Copp: The Raider is still on schedule to make its first test flight with the next year, Air Force chief says.

Defense Business Board Relaunches After Pentagon Review // Marcus Weisgerber: Former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James named chair of the diverse advisory board.

Biden’s Best Chance to Get Back on Course with Europe // Kurt Volker: The president should send his best team to NATO and EU talks, find common ground on China, and repair the damage done by the AUKUS submarine deal.

Strengthen U.S. Security Through Nuclear Arms Reductions // Steven Pifer and Rep. Ami Bera: Biden has an opportunity to bolster deterrence, reduce proliferation risks, and lower the risk of nuclear war.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Jennifer Hlad and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1949, the Berlin Airlift ended after more than 250,000 U.S. and British flights had airdropped tons of food and fuel over nearly 15 months.

Military officials from the U.S. and China had “a frank, in-depth, and open discussion” this week about a range of issues, Reuters reported. “Both sides reaffirmed consensus to keep communication channels open,” according to a Pentagon statement

This was the 16th round of the U.S.-People’s Republic of China Defense Policy Coordination talks, but the first since President Joe Biden, in a speech at the United Nations, countered China’s allegation that the U.S. decision to enter a new partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom is perpetuating a “Cold War mentality.”

ASW task group: The U.S. Navy is forming a task group of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to find Russian submarines in the Atlantic, The Defense Post reports

Task Group Greyhound—yes, like the Tom Hanks movie—declared initial operational capability on Sept. 1. “The plan is to take destroyers that have recently completed deployments and are awaiting maintenance availabilities and make them ready for training and operations in the Atlantic,” USNI News reported. The group should be fully operational by June 2022; the ships will be based at Mayport and Norfolk. A bit more, here

Congress moves to avoid partial shutdown. The House is expected to pass a measure already approved by the Senate that would push off a vote on increasing the debt limit to mid-October. AP, here.

Lastly today: Tracking tech could lead enemies to troops. Some military units are using technology to track their own weapons that could allow enemies to find troops on the battlefield, according to a new Associated Press investigation. Radio frequency identification technology is being used by the Army and Air Force, though the Navy said it will stop using it and the Marine Corps has not used it for security reasons.

“When embedded in military guns, RFID tags can trim hours off time-intensive tasks, such as weapon counts and distribution. Outside the armory, however, the same silent, invisible signals that help automate inventory checks could become an unwanted tracking beacon.” More, here