Today's D Brief: Mosque bombing in Kandahar; Robot tanks in Texas; Turkey threatens Syrian incursion, again; Democracy in Iraq; And a bit more.

At least 16 people died after several bombs exploded at a mosque during Friday prayers in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. Tolo News reports three back-to-back explosions rocked the building, which was frequented by Shia Muslims, and left another 40 or so wounded. The Associated Press puts the death toll at 37 and the wounded at “more than 70” after witnesses said two suicide bombers struck outside the church before two other bombers entered and detonated.

ICYMI: ISIS claimed an attack on a Shia mosque last Friday that left 46 people dead in the northern province of Kunduz. “The Taliban and IS are Sunni Muslims,” AP reminds us, “but they are bitterly split by ideology and have fought each other on numerous occasions.”

Panning out: There have been at least 17 different attacks on mosques and religious places of worship over a nine-month period ending in July, and those attacks have killed an estimated 170 people, according to Afghanistan’s Human Rights Commission. Tolo has more, here.

Taliban officials are headed to Moscow for talks next week, and Russia is already downplaying any big expectations from that meeting with the leading official telling state-run media, “We do not expect any breakthroughs.” (By the way, state-run TASS calls the Taliban a “radical militant group” that is “outlawed in Russia.”)

Related reading:Violence Undermines China’s Plans in Afghanistan, Risks Luring it Into Quagmire,” via U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman reporting Thursday.

From Defense One

Pentagon Orders Texas Contractors to Mandate Vaccines for Employees, Despite Governor’s Ban // Marcus Weisgerber: The Defense Department says the federal contractor vaccine order supersedes state laws.

US Navy Lists Consequences for Sailors Who Refuse COVID Vaccination // Caitlin M. Kenney: Refusers could be stripped of warfare qualifications, removed from their billet, or even dismissed from service.

US Army to Stage Largest Robot Tank Experiment Ever // Patrick Tucker: Its lessons will inform the Army’s next-gen-unmanned-vehicles plan to ask tech firms to deliver the brains and established firms to deliver the wheels.

‘You Are Hereby Reprimanded!’ Airman Told to Begin Separation Due to Vaccine Refusal  // Tara Copp: Airmen, sailors who refuse vaccine are looking at career-ending consequences. Will the church step in?

AUSA Conference Wire: Financial Readiness // Defense One Staff : The Army’s top enlisted soldier has plans to help troops square away their finances.

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 2003, China sent its first manned mission into space, a 21-hour trip by astronaut Yang Liwei. AP has a window into China’s space program today, here

Turkish President Erdogan is threatening a new military offensive into Syria to fight Kurdish forces there, and it could happen shortly after the upcoming G20 meeting later this month in Rome.
If greenlit, it would be Turkey’s fourth military incursion into Syria in five years; last time, it “seiz[ed] hundreds of kilometres of border strip and push[ed] around 30 km into northern Syria,” Reuters reports, with one Turkish official pointing out “the Tel Rifaat region from which attacks are constantly carried out against us.”
Another Turk pointed a finger at Moscow and Tehran, “noting Russia was completely in control of the areas from which recent attacks had come, along with some Iranian elements.” Which is why Erdogan says he wants to speak to Presidents Biden and Putin on the sidelines of the G20. More from Reuters, here.
BTW: Moscow says its navy just “prevented a U.S. Navy destroyer from what it described as an attempt to intrude into Russian territorial waters in the Sea of Japan” after the two vessels allegedly passed within 60 meters of each other today, AP reports from the Russian capital. No response yet from the U.S. Navy on the allegations, which concern the guided missile destroyer USS Chafee. Reuters has a tiny bit more, here.

Back stateside, a soldier was arrested last week on Fort Bragg for his involvement in the failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. He’d recently completed a four-year stint with the New York National Guard, and re-enlisted on the active duty side as a combat engineer this past summer, Army Times reported Thursday.
He’d previously told FBI agents he played no part in the riot or violence on Jan. 6; however, police body camera footage later revealed him spraying an unknown chemical agent at officers at the Capitol.
One thing that helped nab him: He wore a hard hat with his local union—Ironworkers Local 33 of Rochester, New York. (Making him yet another rioter caught in part because of his distinctive apparel.)
Bigger picture: 75 of the more than 600 arrested so far from Jan. 6 had military experience, including “70 veterans, two National Guard troops, two reservists and one active duty service member,” Army Times reports. More here.
For the rest of the charged, “Guilty pleas are stacking up,” Buzzfeed’s Zoe Tillman reported Wednesday, rolling up “what rioters are admitting to, and what they and the government are getting out of these deals,” here.

And lastly: ICYMI this week, “Iraq held elections, which were mostly free and fair,” Fareed Zakaria flagged Thursday in the op-ed page of the Washington Post.
Why this matters: “Eighteen years after the United States’ invasion, which ushered in an era of chaos, civil war and the rise of the Islamic State, Iraq’s democratic system has endured,” Zakaria writes. “Elections have become routine. Political parties compete and horse-trade. There is even a degree of pluralistic media and an increasingly assertive judiciary.”
A second opinion: “The low turnout and apparent victory of populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the Iraqi parlimentary [sic] elections reflect a massive lack of trust in the country's political establishment,” argues Kersten Knipp in the op-ed pages of Germany’s DW.
Related reading:The Biggest Loser of Iraq’s Election Could Be Iran,” via Mina Al-Oraibi writing in FP on Wednesday.

Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll catch you again on Monday!