Today's D Brief: China buzzes Taiwan; Aussies seek bigger Indo-Pacific role; UAE and Wagner; RIP, Cleland; And a bit more.
GOP CODEL in Taiwan draws two days of Chinese military air patrols. China’s air force sent half a dozen aircraft into Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone on Tuesday and again with an airborne early warning and control plane on Wednesday, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry.
China’s defense ministry called the flights a “joint war preparedness patrol” and a “necessary measure to safeguard national sovereignty.” It was also a direct response to the “seriously incorrect words and actions of relevant countries over the issue of Taiwan,” according to a ministry statement Tuesday, and echoed in the state-run tabloid Global Times, according to CNN.
Visiting Taiwan in that delegation on Tuesday: U.S. Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, as well as Mike Crapo of Idaho and Mike Lee of Utah. They were joined by two other Republicans, Representative Jake Ellzey of Texas and (to our knowledge) an unidentified sixth GOP lawmaker, according to Taiwan News and the South China Morning Post.
“The delegation arrived in Taipei on Tuesday evening aboard a C-40 Clipper jet, which departed soon afterward,” the Associated Press reports, citing Taiwan’s official Central News Agency.
By the way: “A subtle shift may be underway in Europe, driven in part by the region’s growing frustration over China’s aggressive posture,” the New York Times’ Amy Qin and Steven Erlanger report from Taipei and Brussels—two weeks after a 66-member delegation from Taiwan visited several cities in Europe. “Of Taiwan’s 15 remaining allies, only one—the Vatican—is in Europe,” they write. Read a bit more about the CODEL and Tuesday’s Chinese overflights via Reuters, here.
And one last thing from the region: Review North Korea’s “expanding missile arsenal” via a six and a half minute explainer video produced by the Wall Street Journal.
From Defense One
Australia Seeks ‘More Proactive’ Role In Indo-Pacific // Jacqueline Feldscher: The ambassador says Australia can no longer be a “passive recipient” in today’s strategic environment.
Air Force-Backed Startup Reveals Hypersonic Aircraft Prototype // Marcus Weisgerber: The company fired the drone’s afterburning engine during a ceremony in Atlanta.
Thousands of Afghan Refugees Await Rescue. Here’s What the US Needs to Do // Zak Kallenborn and Mike Edwards: Various policy changes are needed to alleviate national-security and moral harms.
Welcome to this Wednesday 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. Happy birthday, U.S. Marine Corps, which was established on this day in 1775.
Those nearly 150 Afghan pilots who fled to Tajikistan were finally flown out of the country and to the UAE with the help of the State Department, the New York Times reported Tuesday evening. “The flight, bound for the United Arab Emirates, ended a three-month ordeal for the U.S.-trained military personnel, who had flown American-supplied aircraft to Tajikistan to escape the Taliban only to end up in custody,” according to David Zucchino of the Times.
Zucchino confirmed details of the flight with retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. David Hicks, who runs the volunteer group Operation Sacred Promise that’s helped with evacuations from Afghanistan since Kabul fell to the Taliban in mid-August. The State Department helped a separate group of Afghan pilots flee Uzbekistan and to a military base in the UAE back in September. It’s unclear if both groups are presently at the same location. Continue reading, here.
Russia gets all the attention for its Wagner mercenaries and their global escapades on battlefields as far-flung as Syria, Ukraine, Libya, and beyond. But the UAE should be taking a lot more heat for its enabling operations with Wagner mercs around the world, according to a new report from New America published last week entitled “The Abu Dhabi Express.”
The quick read: “This case study outlines how Russia leveraged its long-standing military cooperation with the UAE to piggyback the delivery of sensitive military material to forces allied with Libyan strongman, Khalifa Haftar, and Wagner Group operatives in a potential violation of a standing UN arms embargo,” the report’s authors write. “While the evidence reviewed does not provide conclusive proof of the alleged Emirati financial ties to the Wagner Group, these findings do add to the mounting evidence of UAE support for illicit mercenary activities, and, at minimum, suggest that the logistics pipeline that supports Russia’s military cooperation with the UAE in Libya is worthy of much closer scrutiny.”
One perhaps subtle reason that this matters: The Biden administration’s decision to proceed with a $23 billion arms sale to the Emiratis in April (Reuters) “only appears to reinforce the sense that American policy on Russia is not only inconsistent and incoherent, but also is not grounded in sound intelligence.” Read on, here.
Dozens of U.S. embassies—like China, the UK and Germany, e.g.—are being led by interim diplomatic officials in part because the Senate has approved less than 10 percent of President Joe Biden’s nominations, the Wall Street Journal reports. But other places like Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine haven’t yet had a nominee put forward.
What’s going on: “As of Nov. 5, Mr. Biden had made 78 ambassadorial nominations, seven of which, 9%, had been confirmed by the Senate,” the Journal’s Courtney McBride writes, citing White House data. By comparison, “At the same point in their first terms, former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump had seen 64 of 83 and 40 of 57 ambassadorial nominees confirmed, or 77% and 70%, respectively.”
Two notable obstructionists are Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, both of whom “have held up nominees generally deemed uncontroversial,” McBride reports. “Cruz has used the holds to press the administration to oppose the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, while Mr. Hawley has said he would hold up State and Defense department nominees until Mr. Biden’s secretaries of State and Defense resign over the administration’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.” Read on, here.
The U.S. military has failed to provide specially trained prosecutors in 64 percent of sexual assault and domestic violence cases, CBS News reported on Monday, citing a yet-to-be-released Defense Department inspector general report.
Federal law requires the military to assign prosecutors who are trained specifically to handle these types of cases, but the prosecutors assigned in more than half of the cases filed from 2018 to 2020 were inexperienced and lacked the requisite training, according to CBS News.
The Air Force fared the worst, with 94 percent of survivors in cases filed during the studied time period represented by prosecutors who weren’t trained to handle sexual assault and domestic violence cases—ironic, since the Air Force was the first service to implement the program in 2013, leading to its adoption across the DOD. More from the report, here.
Apropos of nothing: Three out of four adults believe Facebook is making U.S. society worse, according to CNN, which polled a thousand adults in the first week of November. More here.
For your ears only: There’s a new podcast about the political thrillers of the 1990s—stuff like “The Hunt for Red October,” for example, which happens to be the very first episode. Freelance writer John Ganz teams up with Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times for this project, which is called “Unclear and Present Danger.” Listen to episode one on your browser right here.
And lastly today: RIP, Max Cleland. The 79-year-old Vietnam vet and senator from Georgia passed away from congestive heart failure Tuesday at his home in Atlanta.
Despite his incredible drive, which included bouncing back from losing three limbs in a grenade attack in Vietnam before later leading what’s now known as the Department of Veterans Affairs, it was a 2002 attack ad Republicans aimed at him accusing him of being soft on terrorism that’s helped cement Cleland’s legacy in U.S. politics, according to the New York Times. “In the fraught post-9/11 era, the ad was also a harbinger of things to come,” the Times writes.
“After I lost the Senate race in 2002, my life collapsed,” Cleland told History.net. “I went down in every way you can go down. I lost my life as I knew it.” He would later write a memoir as a kind of therapy, and published it the same year he was named secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission by POTUS44. Find his full obit in the pages of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, here.