Today's D Brief: More Chinese threats as another CODEL visits Taiwan; Afghanistan collapse, one year later; 260 US troops to Europe; And a bit more.

More United States lawmakers visited Taiwan this weekend, prompting Chinese Communist Party officials to announce new military drills close to the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own. 

The five-person U.S. delegation was led by Sen. Ed Markey, former Army reservist and Democrat from Massachusetts. He was joined in Taiwan by Reps. John Garamendi, D-Calif.; Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif.; Don Beyer, D-Va.; and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, R-American Samoa. (See the customary tarmac and handshake photos, via Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry, here.) 

Markey began his regional trip with a stop in Seoul, where he met with newly-elected President Yoon Suk-yeol, “reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the U.S.-South Korea alliance,” visited the demilitarized zone, and discussed “the climate crisis, security on the Korean peninsula, and resilient supply chains,” according to Markey’s office. 

Markey also met with America’s top military commander in Korea, Army Gen. Paul LaCamera, as well as U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Philip Goldberg. Then the delegation met in Taipei on Sunday. 

Why visit Taiwan? To “reaffirm the United States’ support for Taiwan as guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, U.S.-China Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances and encourage stability and peace across the Taiwan Strait,” according to a statement from Markey. They also spoke to officials in Taipei about potential future business opportunities, “including investments in semiconductors,” which was the dominant focus of recent legislation signed by U.S. President Joe Biden. Markey chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asia, Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy Subcommittee—as well as a Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee. He’s also a member of the Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and its Small Business Committee.

Said Taipei’s Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu: “Authoritarian China can't dictate how democratic Taiwan makes friends, wins support, stays resilient and shines like a beacon of freedom.” 

In context: The visit occurred just 12 days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dropped by Taiwan. And China responded to that visit by announcing a series of drills that some security experts, including Becca Wasser of CNAS in our latest Defense One Radio podcast, viewed as a rehearsal for a potential future economic blockade of the island. 

China responded this time by announcing military drills “near Taiwan’s Penghu islands, which are in the Taiwan Strait and are home to a major air base,” Reuters reported Monday. Five Chinese navy ships were also called up for action on Monday, along with 30 aircraft—and 15 of those flew “on the east part of the median line of the Taiwan Strait,” according to Taiwan’s defense ministry, which replied in a statement of condemnation “for jeopardizing the peace and security of our surrounding region” with China’s new drills. (Sunday saw four Chinese ships and 22 aircraft flying near the island, with half of those flying east of the median line; six ships and 29 aircraft traveled similarly on Saturday, with 13 of the latter flying east of that line; six ships and 24 aircraft—10 of those east of the line—drilled on Friday.) 

According to Beijing’s defense ministry, the delegation’s visit on Sunday “fully revealed that the U.S. is the true spoiler and saboteur of peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits,” Col. Wu Qian said in a statement on Monday. “We sternly warn the U.S. side and the Democratic Progressive Party authorities that to contain China with Taiwan is doomed to fail, and to solicit the U.S. for independence is bound to bring self-destruction,” said Wu. 

And just like last week, China’s military also vowed to continue “military training for war-preparedness to firmly safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and resolutely smash any form of the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist schemes and interference attempts by external forces,” according to Wu. 

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It’s almost been a year since the Taliban took over again in Afghanistan, so news outlets are carting out their Kabul collapse anniversary reports and check-ins. That also means Republicans are going on the offensive to knock President Biden’s administration for the collapse, which began many, many years ago—since U.S.-backed security forces never took root in vast rural areas ruled by the Taliban, as the Crisis Group reported in 2015—then accelerated gradually after former U.S. President Donald Trump signed a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban in 2020, before total collapse erupted last August into scenes of desperation and almost unimaginable tragedy, e.g., on the runway of the Kabul airport.
Here are a few of the latest Afghanistan takes, hot off the presses Monday morning: 

Also news: U.S. officials now say they “won’t release any of the roughly $7 billion in foreign assets held by Afghanistan’s central bank on U.S. soil and has suspended talks with the Taliban over the funds,” the Wall Street Journal reported Monday morning. There are no plans to talk with the Taliban about anything any time soon, according to the Journal; and that’s bleak news for not only the 40 million or so who live in Afghanistan—but also for detained U.S. contractor, Mark Frerichs, who disappeared in Jan. 2020.  

Lastly: The U.S. Army is sending 260 more soldiers to Europe this fall for a temporary deployment in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Army said Friday in an emailed statement. The troops from the 101st Airborne Division’s Sustainment Brigade will “support the United States’ unrelenting commitment to our European and NATO allies,” the Army said, noting that the deployment is not a permanent change to the service’s force posture on the continent.
Pro-Ukrainian OSINT FTW: A pro-Russian Telegram channel seems to have perhaps inadvertently shared the location of a base for Wagner militants in occupied eastern Ukraine, near the city of Popasna, in Luhansk. Social media sleuths noted the location of the HQs (it was actually in an address on one of the placards in the background) and just a few days later, the place was destroyed by alleged Ukrainian artillery using U.S.-provided HIMARS. Aric Toler of Bellingcat publicized the before and after information from that alleged strike Sunday on Twitter.
“Wagner has been linked to war crimes,” the BBC writes in its Monday report on the incident. But for this most recent alleged strike, “The number of casualties is not clear and details remain sketchy.” Read on, here.