Today's D Brief: Maui toll, rising; More arms for Ukraine; Base renamings; MiG crashes in Michigan; And a bit more.
Hawaii’s wildfire death toll is rising, with the latest dismal count at 99 people killed in last week’s fast-moving blaze propelled by the winds of Hurricane Dora. When the fires began spreading on the island of Maui, “There were no sirens, no one with bullhorns, no one to tell anyone what to do,” the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday in its latest dispatch.
The Maui wildfire is now America’s deadliest in more than 100 years, and the fifth deadliest in U.S. history, behind the Cloquet and Moose Lake Fires of 1918 and three others from the 19th century. The fires that destroyed the Maui city of Lahaina are now 85% controlled, and “Another blaze known as the Upcountry fire has been 65% contained,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
More than 250 National Guardsmen have been activated for recovery efforts. And two Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters are helping, along with search-and-recovery teams. The military is working closely with Hawaii officials. “But what you don't want to do in a disaster situation is just rush in and create more logistics problems and more challenges when you're already dealing with a difficult situation,” Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Monday.
The Coast Guard has pivoted from search-and-rescue to cleaning up debris and pollution, Cmdr. Kyra Dykeman said Monday. That pivot includes "a 100-foot boom placed at the mouth of the Lahaina Harbor, to contain potential hazardous contaminants and materials,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
Coasties have also been “conducting underwater surveys in the Lahaina Harbor using sonar technology to identify any structural damage,” Ryder said. They’re using side-scan sonar and an underwater drone to map the region in a joint operation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
About 1,400 Airbnb vacation rentals are being used to house displaced families, and 160 private citizens have volunteered portions of their homes for others that have been displaced, Gov. Josh Green said Monday.
Damage estimates doubled Monday to nearly $16 billion, and “More economic losses are likely coming,” HSA reported Tuesday. AP reports “cadaver dogs” are scouring the damage looking for corpses; at least three bodies have been identified so far. According to Green, rescue crews “will find 10 to 20 people per day probably until they finish, and it’s probably going to take 10 days,” he told CBS on Monday. However, about that estimated duration: “It’s impossible to guess really.”
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you haven’t subscribed to this newsletter yet, you can do that here. On this day two years ago, the government of Afghanistan rapidly collapsed, giving the Taliban insurgency full control of the capital of Kabul after almost two decades of a failed U.S.-led military intervention. Outside observers are still trying to make sense of the precipitous collapse, which followed at least $2 trillion in U.S. investment, or $300 million every day for 20 years, as well as the deaths of more than 120,000 people, including nearly 2,500 U.S. service members.
So how are things in Afghanistan today? The answer seems to be much like the mid-1990s, when the Taliban first took control of the chaotic country just a few years after the Soviets withdrew following their own disastrous intervention throughout the 1980s. The BBC updated its profile of the country on Tuesday, and you can review that here. Bill Roggio of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies published his own check-in on Tuesday as well, and you can find that here.
New: The U.S. is sending another $200 million in arms to Ukraine, the Pentagon announced Monday. At least a dozen different kinds of weapons and equipment are involved in this latest package, including more items for destroying obstacles and minefields, tank ammunition, several kinds of artillery rounds, Patriot air defense system munitions, Javelin anti-tank rockets, almost five dozen water trailers and more.
The U.S. has pledged more than $43 billion in military support to Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in late February 2022. It’s unclear, however, exactly how much of that has made it to the hands of Ukrainian troops, since there’s often a lag between the announcement of a pledge and the actual delivery of arms. That doesn’t mean the weapons are floating around black markets in Europe and elsewhere unaccounted for; it just means deliveries are not as immediate as one might expect, or as Ukrainian forces would prefer.
Ukraine’s president visited frontline troops in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia and near Melitopol on Tuesday. “[T]he military emphasized the need for means of electronic warfare and frontline air defense systems to counter enemy aircraft and UAVs,” President Zelenskyy’s office said in a statement. “There is also a need for unmanned aerial vehicles, as they are quickly consumed in offensive operations,” it added.
Russia’s military chief Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that “Ukraine's military resources are almost exhausted,” while speaking at a conference in Moscow, which was attended by China’s military chief. Shoigu also said “the Russian army has debunked many myths about the superiority of Western military standards” in its Ukraine invasion, which he still describes not as a war or an invasion, but as a “special military operation.” In its coverage of the Moscow conference, Reuters noted Shoigu “did not give detailed evidence to back up either statement.”
Poland just conducted its largest military parade since the Cold War. The occasion marked the 103rd anniversary of Poland’s victory over the Soviet Union in the Battle of Warsaw. President Andrzej Duda, Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak “and other policymakers including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki looked on as soldiers marched past, while helicopters including Black Hawks and jets including F-16s and FA-50s flew overhead,” Reuters reported Tuesday from the capital. “Other equipment on display included M1A1 Abrams tanks bought from the United States, South Korean K2 tanks and K9 self-propelled howitzers as well as HIMARS rocket launchers, Patriot air defence systems and Polish-made Borsuk infantry fighting vehicles.”
- “Zelensky Called Him a Criminal. Now Ukraine Calls Him for Guns and Ammo,” the New York Times reported Saturday;
- “Russia’s central bank makes huge interest rate hike to try to prop up falling ruble,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday from Estonia;
- And “Twenty-two Russian diplomats leave Moldova as relations slide,” Reuters reported Monday.
A MiG-23 jet crashed in Michigan. The pilot and a passenger safely ejected from the Soviet-era warplane, which was being flown at the Thunder Over Michigan air show on Sunday. The jet crashed into an apartment-complex parking lot, damaging some cars but injuring no one, the BBC reports.
Apropos of the unprecedented state of Defense Department staffing, here are a few ways to visualize the 301 senior posts blocked by GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., via the Washington Post—sorted geographically, by service branch, domestic or abroad.
And lastly: We now have dates for the final two U.S. Army bases to be renamed in honor of more upstanding citizens than treasonous Confederate officers. Virginia’s Fort A.P. Hill was the last to get a date for its renaming, and that ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. ET on August 25 at the base’s Beaver Dam Field, officials announced Monday.
The Virginia base will be renamed Fort Walker in honor of Mary Walker, who graduated as a doctor from Syracuse Medical College six years before the start of the Civil War. She wanted to join the U.S. Army as a surgeon, but was initially barred because of longstanding prejudice against women. So she volunteered for the Union and treated soldiers around the Virginia area for the next two years, before she was eventually accepted into the Army as a War Department surgeon in 1863.
Georgia’s Fort Gordon is the other base yet to be renamed in a formal ceremony. Officials are changing its name to celebrate the country’s 34th commander-in-chief, President Dwight Eisenhower, in an event scheduled for October 27.
The other seven Army bases that changed names this year include:
- Fort Moore, Ga. (formerly Benning);
- Fort Liberty, N.C. (formerly Bragg);
- Fort Cavazos, Texas (formerly Hood);
- Fort Gregg-Adams, Va. (formerly Lee);
- Fort Barfoot, Va. (formerly Pickett);
- Fort Johnson, La. (formerly Polk);
- And Fort Novosel, Ala. (formerly Rucker).