Today's D Brief: 2nd US carrier in Eastern Med; N. Korea arming Russia; Taliban to visit China; CENTCOM’s digital push; and a bit more.

A second U.S. carrier strike group is headed toward the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in support of Israel, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Saturday. That announcement came four days after the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group arrived in the eastern Med “to deter any actor seeking to escalate the situation or widen this war,” as the U.S. military’s Central Command announced last week. 

Incoming: The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group, which includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea, guided-missile destroyers USS Gravely and USS Mason, and Carrier Air Wing 3 (with nine aircraft squadrons). The two carriers will “join” as a force posture message illustrating “the United States' ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and our resolve to deter any state or non-state actor seeking to escalate this war,” Austin said Saturday.

A note on these carrier operations: The Ford strike group has been operating in the Mediterranean for months, and was scheduled to be relieved by the Eisenhower, naval journalist Chris Cavas noted on social media this weekend. “The move of the FORD to the eastern part of the Med in response to the Hamas/Israel war is part of why that group is deployed—they respond to crises,” Cavas said. But otherwise, these movements are largely routine. A notable exception would be if the Ford strike group is ordered to stay in the region “into November and beyond,” Cavas added. 

Also inbound: A “small team of [U.S.] Special Operations forces to Israel to assist with intelligence and planning for any operations to help locate and rescue the 150 hostages Hamas is believed to be holding, including some Americans,” the New York Times reported Sunday. 

SecDef Austin visited Israel on Friday to meet with his counterpart, Yoav Gallant, and other Israeli officials. While there, “Austin highlighted how the United States is expediting security assistance to Israel, including precision guided munitions and air defense ammunition,” the Pentagon said

For what it’s worth, Austin has spoken to Gallant either in-person or via telephone seven times over the past nine days. 

Blinken’s whirlwind tour of the region: America’s top diplomat State Secretary Antony Blinken visited the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia on Sunday. He visited the UAE’s President Mohamed Bin Zayed on Saturday, and phoned his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to discuss the Israel-Hamas war on Saturday, too, the State Department said this weekend. A day earlier, Blinken visited Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Bahrain Crown Prince-Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday.

By the way: Mahmoud Abbas had tough words for Hamas on the Palestinian Authority’s own news agency WAFA on Sunday; but those words were later deleted, according to Reuters. “Hamas' policies and actions do not represent the Palestinian people, and the policies, programs and decisions of the (Palestine Liberation Organization) represent the Palestinian people as their sole legitimate representative,” the statement initially read. However, it was later changed to read, “The president also stressed that the policies, programs, and decisions of the PLO represent the Palestinian people as their sole legitimate representative, and not the policies of any other organization.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant promised Sunday to “eliminate the Hamas organization,” predicting what he called a “deadly” and “precise war,” vowing that what lies ahead “will be a war that will change the situation forever.” 

U.S. President Joe Biden told CBS News he believes Hamas should be “eliminated entirely,” according to an interview with “60 Minutes.” However, he cautioned, “[T]here needs to be a Palestinian Authority. There needs to be a a path to a Palestinian state.”

ICYMI: Two U.S. intelligence reports foresaw some sort of increased violence in the days ahead of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, the New York Times reports.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day in 1909, presidents of the U.S. and Mexico met for the first time near El Paso, Texas, bringing together POTUS27 William Howard Taft and Porfirio Díaz, who had ruled Mexico for nearly 30 years. The meeting required an incredible amount of security, including 4,000 U.S. and Mexican troops, Texas Rangers, U.S. Secret Service agents, FBI agents and U.S. marshals. After the summit began, one of the Rangers helped locate and disarm a would-be shooter just a short distance from the two dignitaries, almost surely preventing at least one assassination that day.

North Korea has so far sent Russia “more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions” for Russia’s ongoing Ukraine invasion, the U.S. mission to the U.N. said Friday.

A second opinion: Those munitions are traveling along “a new supply route that could influence the war in Ukraine and international security in East Asia,” the London-based Royal United Services Institute writes in a new Monday assessment entitled, “The Orient Express.” 

Developing: Ukrainian pilots will start training to fly F-16 fighter jets in Arizona this week, adding to the F-16 training effort already underway in Europe-based simulators, Politico reported Friday.

CENTCOM is moving away from paper and toward all-digital tools, the command’s CTO and Deputy Director of Operations write in a commentary piece for Defense One. A recent exercise underscored the need for U.S. commands to move toward tools that permit realtime processing of live digital feeds, write Schuyler Moore and Brig. Gen. John Cogbill, here.

The Taliban will join the Belt-and-Road conference in Beijing, Reuters reports. This year’s annual forum marks 10 years of China’s giant infrastructure-and-global-influence effort. And it’s a diplomatic step up for the Taliban, whose government still lacks international recognition. 

“The Taliban's acting minister for commerce and industry, Haji Nooruddin Azizi, will travel to Beijing in the coming days," a ministry spokesman told Reuters, which notes China has been in talks with the Taliban to take over a large copper mine in eastern Afghanistan. Read on, here.

And lastly: AUSA, in review. We discussed what the U.S. Army is learning from Ukraine and other themes from this year's annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington in our latest Defense One Radio podcast. Listen along, here.