The D Brief: New strikes under 2001 AUMF; AQ leader killed; Hypersonics success; Soldiers injured in ninja attack; And a bit more...

2001 AUMF will cover new Afghanistan strikes, DOD says. Pentagon officials said Thursday that “over the horizon” strikes against terror groups in Afghanistan will be conducted under the war powers act Congress authorized just days after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, Defense One’s Tara Copp reported

But some in Congress question whether the two-decade-old law actually authorizes such strikes, which the Biden administration has said will help the U.S. prevent terrorist attacks on American soil without the need for U.S. troops on the ground. In this week’s hearings, several lawmakers demanded details about how the strikes would be conducted. 

“We want to see a plan, and we want to see it today,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and U.S. Central Command Chief Gen. Frank McKenzie on Wednesday. 

Public details are few. Pentagon leaders have said that at least one of Afghanistan’s neighbors is allowing U.S. aircraft to fly through its airspace, but none is allowing U.S. troops to operate there. Even what assets needed for such strikes remains undecided, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown told Defense One on Wednesday. Brown said the Air Force is talking with U.S. Central Command and the air component commander there to determine what’s needed. Read on, here.

From Defense One

The Forever War is Over. Its 2001 Authorization Lives On.  // Tara Copp: Pentagon says “over the horizon” strikes in Afghanistan will be conducted under the AUMF passed two decades ago.

 Hypersonics Test Shows the US Is Catching Up in the New Missile Race // Patrick Tucker: But questions remain about costs and priorities remain.

One Senator’s Plan to Cut Through the Politics and Get Answers on Afghanistan // Jacqueline Feldscher: Sen. Tammy Duckworth says a nonpartisan commission could compile lessons without the “political theater.”

Why Both Sides of the Atlantic Should Come Together on Tech // Lauren M. Speranza and Joanna van der Merwe: Insufficient coordination on investment priorities, integration, and governance has created space for Chinese and Russian gains.

We’re Already Barreling Toward the Next Pandemic // Ed Yong, The Atlantic: This one is far from over, but the window to prepare for future threats is closing fast.

Welcome to this Friday 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

Senior al Qaeda leader killed in airstrike ID’d. Salim Abu-Ahmad, who was “responsible for planning, funding, and approving trans-regional al-Qaeda attacks,” was killed in a Sept. 20 airstrike near Idlib, Syria, Military Times reported

More talk, less action. A new poll shows Americans prefer diplomatic engagement to any military activity overseas, Stars and Stripes reported

About 42 percent of those polled think the number of troops overseas—including in Germany, Japan, and the Middle East—should be reduced, and “that Washington should reduce its commitments to defense those nations.” 

Machines better than humans? According to the poll, “nearly 70 percent of Americans believe drones are less costly than sending troops into combat, and are an effective tool in dealing with terrorists in places like Afghanistan.” The poll was conducted by the New York-based Eurasia Group Foundation. More details, here.

CIA has reportedly evacuated tens of thousands of Afghans. Writes David Ignatius for the Washington Post: “Two former officers who served in Afghanistan told me the agency had rescued more than 20,000 Afghan partners and their families. The agency refused to comment on numbers.”

These include many Afghans who helped get Americans to safety during the larger evacuation, Ignatius is told. “The CIA’s allies remained a cohesive force even as the Afghan military collapsed, the sources said. They provided security at Kabul airport during the evacuation. And they conducted covert missions ‘outside the wire,; sometimes posing as taxi drivers, to rescue Americans who were stranded or too frightened to make their way to the airport. The knowledgeable source said that through such operations, the CIA team managed to rescue 2,000 U.S. citizens, 4,000 local staff from the U.S Embassy, and 1,500 NGO workers and foreign journalists.” Read on, here

GOP bill to cut aid for Afghan refugees fails. All 50 Republican senators voted Thursday to cut off housing, food and medical aid, and other assistance by March 2023 for Afghans who were granted parole to quickly enter the United States. The effort was defeated by an equally united Democratic caucus. Read on, here.

Two staff sergeants are asking a court to scuttle DOD’s vaccine requirement. On Aug. 17, Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Robert and Marine Staff Sgt. Hollie Mulvihill filed a complaint with Colorado’s U.S. district court, Military Times reports: “The two troops believe they should be exempt from the vaccine mandate because they already had COVID-19, and they’re pushing to get the case certified as a class action lawsuit. Read on, here.

1,927 people in the United States died of COVID on Thursday, the NYT reports.

It’s time now to start preparing for the next pandemic, The Atlantic’s Ed Yong writes. COVID, which has now killed some 675,000 U.S. residents—more than died from the 1917-18 flu—“revealed that the U.S., despite many superficial strengths, is alarmingly vulnerable to new diseases—and such diseases are inevitable. As the global population grows, as the climate changes, and as humans push into spaces occupied by wild animals, future pandemics become more likely. We are not guaranteed the luxury of facing just one a century, or even one at a time.”

What’s next? A lot more work.“Just as cholera forced our cities to be rebuilt for sanitation, COVID-19 should make us rethink the way we ventilate our buildings, as my colleague Sarah Zhang argued. But beyond overhauling its physical infrastructure, the U.S. must also address its deep social weaknesses—a health-care system that millions can’t access, a public-health system that’s been rotting for decades, and extreme inequities that leave large swaths of society susceptible to a new virus.” Read on, here.

Lastly today: A man dressed as a ninja attacked several special operations soldiers with a sword Sept. 18, forcing them to hide in an airport hangar, Stars and Stripes reports

Two soldiers reportedly had to get stitches after the attack, which happened at an airfield in the Mojave Desert in California. 

“It is unclear...whether the man was an actual practitioner of ninjutsu,” Stripes’ Chad Garland writes. More details, here.