Pentagon concedes Taliban seeking military victory, not peace deal, in wake of US exit

TALIBAN ‘CLEARLY HAVE GOVERNANCE DESIGNS’: The U.S. position is that with American troops gone, the Afghan government, supported by a U.S.-equipped, 300,000 strong military force, will be able to negotiate a sustainable and lasting peace with the Taliban from a position of strength.

Meanwhile, the Taliban, racking up battlefield gains and flushed with success, smell all-out victory and are making no moves to restart the moribund peace talks in Doha.

“I'm going to make it a habit not to get inside the Taliban's headspace here, and I'm certainly not going to talk about intelligence assessments,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby at yesterday’s briefing. “It is clear from what they are doing that they have governance designs certainly of a national scale. It is clear from what they are doing that they believe there is a military solution to the end of this conflict.”

“We continue to believe that the most sustainable and the most responsible end and solution to this war is a political one, one through negotiated diplomacy. A negotiated settlement that is Afghan-led. Nothing has changed about our desire to see that be the outcome,” Kirby said.

CHANGE OF COMMAND: While the Pentagon insists the U.S. withdrawal is in its final phases and is on track to be completed by the end of next month, the reality is that it is essentially complete now.

That was underscored by yesterday's change of command ceremony at the top U.S. military headquarters in Kabul, where Army Gen. Scott Miller, who’s been in charge of the war for three years, relinquished responsibility to U.S. Central Commander Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie.

In his farewell remarks, Miller said he has warned the Taliban against trying to take over by forces. “I'm one of the U.S. military officers who's had the opportunity to speak with the Taliban, and I've told them, I said it's important that the military sides set the conditions for a peaceful and political settlement in Afghanistan.”

"This ceremony marks an important milestone in and transition of our involvement in Afghanistan,” said McKenzie. “What it does not signify is an end of our commitment to our Afghan partners."

But Miller said what’s happening now does not bode well for the future. “We can all see the violence that's taking place across the country. But we know that with that violence, what is very difficult to achieve is a political settlement.”

BUT ‘THEY HAVE A ROBUST AIR FORCE’: The Pentagon keeps touting the fact the Afghans have a capability the Taliban does not.

“They have a good air force, a solid air force, an air force, by the way, that we're adding to and trying to improve the capability of,” said Kirby. “We're going to be giving them another 37 Blackhawk helicopters. That's more than they have right now, so in effect doubling their attack helicopter capability. We're purchasing for them three more Super Tucano strike aircraft — fixed-wing strike aircraft. And we've agreed to help refurbish a good part of their fleet of Mi-17 helicopters.”

“They have a robust air force. The Taliban does not, and they could use that air force in a strike capacity in support of their troops on the ground.”

TALIBAN EXECUTE ELITE COMMANDOS: The limits of that fledgling air force were on gruesome display last month in northern Afghanistan, where after a two-hour firefight, a group of Afghan commandos, considered the government’s most combat effective troops, were executed by Taliban fighters, according to eyewitness and mobile phone video obtained by CNN.

Outnumbered, pinned down, and out of ammunition, the 22 commandos called for airstrikes from the Afghan air force, but none came. So as the Taliban called for them to surrender, they laid down their arms and walked out, only to be gunned down in what is a clear war crime.

“But the rules of war don't exist on this battlefield,” reported CNN's Anna Coren, who said among the dead was 32-year-old Sohrab Azimi, the son of a retired Afghan general, who trained in the U.S. and was due to marry his American fiance next month.

Without U.S. intelligence and logistical support, the Afghan air force was missing in action.

One possible factor: an assassination campaign by the Taliban aimed at leveling the battlefield by conducting targeted killings of Afghan military pilots, where they live near Bagram Air Base.

“At least seven Afghan pilots have been assassinated off base in recent months, according to two senior Afghan government officials,” reported Reuters this week. “This series of targeted killings, which haven't been previously reported, illustrate what U.S. and Afghan officials believe is a deliberate Taliban effort to destroy one of Afghanistan's most valuable military assets: its corps of U.S.- and NATO-trained military pilots.”


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HAPPENING TODAY: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin delivers remarks at 4 p.m. at an all-day summit sponsored by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at 5 p.m.

The event begins at 8:15 a.m., with speakers including Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.; Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.; House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.; Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I.; Deputy NATO Secretary-General Mircea Geoana; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager; former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen; and former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work.

ALSO TODAY: The Senate Armed Services Committee considers the nominations of Carlos Del Toro to be Navy secretary at a time when there is bipartisan concern on the committee that the Navy’s shipbuilding plans are woefully inadequate to keep pace with China’s rapidly expanding navy.

Del Toro’s nomination will be considered along with Gilbert Ray Cisneros to be the Pentagon’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness; Kathleen Miller to be a deputy defense undersecretary; Mara Elizabeth Karlin to be an assistant defense secretary; and Michael Lee Connor to be an assistant Army secretary. 9:30 a.m. 106 Dirksen.

DAMNING REPORT ON NAVY’S ‘FIGHTING CULTURE’: The table of contents says it all.

A report on the “Fighting Culture of the Navy’s Surface Fleet” by a retired Marine lieutenant general and Navy rear admiral, commissioned by four Republicans, paints a damning picture of the Navy’s culture after several high-profile losses of sailors and warships.

Here the chapter headings outline the key shortcomings the report found:

  • Insufficient Focus on Warfighting

  • A Dominant and Paralyzing Zero-Defect Mentality

  • Corrosive Over-Responsiveness to Media Culture

  • Under-Investment in Surface Warfare Officer Training

  • Poorly Resourced and Executed Surface Ship Maintenance Program

  • Culture of Micromanagement

“The findings of this report are very concerning. Our sailors are too often deprived of the training and leadership they need to fight and win at sea,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, who requested the outside review along with fellow military veterans Reps. Jim Banks, Dan Crenshaw, and Mike Gallagher — all of whom served in the Navy or Marines.

“This report doesn’t mince words,” said Banks. “At a time when the Navy’s readiness is more critical than ever before, this report depicts a Navy leadership that’s distracted from the number one threat to American national security.”

Among the distractions the authors allege is zero-defect culture driven by fear of criticism by the press. “[Admirals] are supposed to lead us into battle, but they hide in foxholes at the first sight of and the Military Times,” one intelligence officer was quoted as saying. “The reporters are in charge, not us.”

The report also takes a swipe at the “woke” culture that is now a hot topic of debate in the military. “I guarantee you every unit in the Navy is up to speed on their diversity training,” said a recently-retired senior enlisted leader. “I’m sorry that I can’t say the same of their ship handling training.”

THE NAVY ‘WELCOMES THE INSIGHTS’: The Pentagon response was to say that Navy leaders “welcome the insights” in this report.

“They reiterate some of the things that they know they need to continue to work on and that they are working on it, and they welcome all input to help them as they continue to make sure that the surface community in the Navy continues to be the strongest and most viable surface fleet in the entire world,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

“Everybody here in leadership positions understands that our people are human and that there are mistakes and there are mistakes. Nobody's interested in having a zero-defect mentality throughout the military,” Kirby said. “Nothing that I've seen coming out of this report ... stands in stark contrast to what the Navy itself and the surface community know they need to continue to work on and that they are.”


HELP FOR HAITI: While the Pentagon says it’s reviewing Haiti’s request for U.S. troops to help restore order after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last week, for now, U.S. assistance is limited to law enforcement help to track down the people behind the attack.

“As for the requests,” Kirby said. “We're aware of it. We're reviewing it just like we would review any request for U.S. military assistance. If and when there is a decision to be able to speak to you about that, we'll certainly do it.”

In a statement, the Justice Department said, “At the request of the Haitian government, the Department of Justice, along with its U.S. government partners, is assisting the Haitian National Police in the investigation of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise. An initial assessment has been conducted in Haiti by senior U.S. officials.”

“Nobody from DOD was in that party that went down to Haiti,” said Kirby. “It was largely Department of Homeland Security and FBI, and it was to help the Haitians as they continue to investigate this terrible crime.”


BIDEN ON CUBA: ‘A CLARION CALL FOR FREEDOM’: The mounting frustration of Cubans over high prices, food shortages, and a surge of coronavirus cases, has sparked rare street protests in several cities and towns, which President Joe Biden yesterday called “a clarion call for freedom.”

“The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected,” Biden said in a statement.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio thanked Biden for the statement but called on him to do more, including facilitating “open and free satellite internet access” in Cuba, since restricting internet access is used by the Cuban government to stifle dissent.

In addition, Rubio urges Biden to clearly warn the Cuba regime that any effort to encourage mass migration will be viewed and treated as a hostile action against the U.S., coordinate a strong rejection and condemnation among U.S. allies, ban anyone carrying out an act of violent repression in Cuba from entering the U.S., and issue a clear and unambiguous statement that the current U.S. policies toward the regime implemented by the Trump administration will remain in place.


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Biden Afghanistan assessment rings hollow to allies amid Taliban surge

Washington Examiner: Top military official in Afghanistan to step down amid withdrawal

Washington Examiner: US hasn't ruled out sending troops to Haiti, White House says

Washington Examiner: 'They think my only value is as a black woman': Sailors say Navy leaders failing to prepare for war

Washington Examiner: US warns Cuban regime: Protesters are 'deeply tired of the repression’

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Washington Examiner: Paratrooper smashes through roof of California residence after chute failure

Breaking Defense: Appropriators Increase Air Force Aircraft Procurement, Cut Missiles And Ammo

Stars and Stripes: Lying About Vaccination Status Could Mean Trouble For Marine Corps Personnel

AP: Taliban surge in north Afghanistan sends thousands fleeing

New York Times: U.S. Embassy Operations Proceed in Afghan Capital

AP: Afghan vet: ‘What have we ended up with at the end of it?’

Washington Times: Navy Says Chinese Military’s Claim Of Driving Destroyer Out Of South China Sea Is ‘False’

Washington Times: Rivalry With U.S. Heats Up With New Chinese Supercarrier

Defense One: Danger from China ‘Clear and Present Already,’ INDOPACOM’s Top Intel Officer Warns

AP: Florida suspect in Haiti president killing deepens mystery

Marine Corps Times: Marine Raider Gunny Busted To Private But No Discharge In Green Beret Hazing Death

Daily Beast: Biden Fave ‘Unaware’ She Was Talking to Notorious Iran Group

Air Force Magazine: JADC2 Aims to Prevent Adversary from ‘Cutting the Head off the Snake’

Bloomberg: F-35 Closes In on New Timeline for Combat Test Once Set for 2017 The Ultimate Weapon: The F-35 Stealth Fighter Can Go Into 'Beast Mode' The Russian Navy Is Arming up With Mach 9 Tsirkon Hypersonic Missiles Opinion: NATO Needs to Drop the 2% of GDP Requirement



8:15 a.m. — National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence virtual Global Emerging Technology Summit with Secretary of State Antony Blinken; Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin; Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.; Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.; House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.; Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I.; Deputy NATO Secretary General Mircea Geoana; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager; former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen; and former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work.

9:30 a.m. 106 Dirksen — Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for the nominations of Carlos Del Toro to be secretary of the Navy, Gilbert Cisneros to be undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, Kathleen Miller, to be Pentagon comptroller, Mara Karlin to be assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities, and Michael Connor to be assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.

10:15 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual 2021 Project on Nuclear Issues Summer Conference, with Charles Verdon, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.

12 p.m. — American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research virtual discussion British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Mackenzie Eaglen, AEI senior fellow

12 p.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual Nuclear Deterrence Forum with Uzi Rubin, founder of the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s Arrow long-range missile defense program. Video posted afterward at:

12 p.m. — New America virtual discussion on a new report, "Soleimani's Shadow: The Fatemiyoun Division and Iranian Proxy Warfare Propaganda,” with co-author Amir Toumaj, co-founder of Resistance Axis Monitor; co-author Arif Ammar; co-author Candace Rondeaux, director of New America's Future Frontlines; and Ali Alfoneh, senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute.

3 p.m. — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces Hearing: “Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request of the Department of Defense for Fixed-Wing Tactical and Training Aircraft Programs,” with Acting Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Director Joseph Nogueira; Acting Director, Operational Test & Evaluation, Raymond O'Toole; Acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Darlene Costello; Air Force Lt. Gen. David Nahom, deputy chief of staff for plans and programs; Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition Frederick "Jay" Stefany; Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Loiselle, director, Air Warfare Division; Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Mark Wise, deputy commandant for aviation; and Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, program executive officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office.

5 p.m. — Chatham House virtual discussion: “Negotiating the New START Treaty" with Rose Gottemoeller, former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and chief U.S. negotiator of the new START treaty; and Patricia Lewis, research director of conflict, science and transformation and director of the Chatham House International Security Programme.


9 a.m. — International Institute for Strategic Studies holds a virtual discussion on a new report, "Democratic People's Republic of Korea Strategic Capabilities and Security on the Korean Peninsula: Looking Ahead," with Mark Fitzpatrick, associate fellow at IISS; and Anton Khlopkov, founder and director of the Center for Energy and Security Studies.

10:15 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual Project on Nuclear Issues Summer Conference, discussion on “Managing Nuclear Threats in a New Era of Arms Control.”

11:30 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “What's Next for Ukraine?” with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk; former Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky; former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor; and Melinda Haring, deputy director of the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center.

12 p.m. — East-West Center in Washington virtual discussion: “Comrades in Arms: North Korea and Syria,” with Samuel Ramani, politics and international relations tutor at the University of Oxford; Keith Luse, executive director of the National Committee on North Korea; and Ross Tokola, executive associate to the director at the East-West Center.

1 p.m. — Flore Albo LLC webinar “Ransomware: Operational Technology Risk and Solutions,” with Mark Carrigan, an expert on OT cybersecurity; Anthony Belfiore, chief security officer of Aon; Steve Katz, former CISO of Citi; Robert Huber, chief security officer, Tenable.

2 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “The State of Special Operations Forces,” with Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., vice chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations.

3 p.m. — Woodrow Wilson Center Science and Technology Innovation Program virtual discussion: “Cybersecurity on the Final Frontier: Protecting Our Critical Space Assets from Cyber Threats, with Brandon Bailey, cybersecurity senior project leader at the Aerospace Corporation's Cyber Assessments and Research Department; Prashant Doshi, associate principal director of the Aerospace Corporation's Cyber Security Subdivision; Ryan Speelman, principal director of the Aerospace Corporation's Cyber Security Subdivision; Erin Miller, executive director of the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center; and Meg King, director of the WWC Science and Technology Innovation Program


12 p.m. — R Street Institute virtual discussion: “The Pentagon's Fiscal Responsibility and Government Waste," as part of the Pentagon Purse Strings series, with Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Andrew Lautz, director of federal policy at the National Taxpayers Union; and Jonathan Bydlak, director of governance at R Street.

12 p.m. — Washington Space Business Roundtable virtual discussion: “Ensuring America's Space Leadership in the Face of Growing Global Competition: Vital Role of the Aerospace Sector,” with Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.

2 p.m. — Intelligence National Security Alliance virtual discussion: "The New IC: Empowering Women and Engaging Men," with Lt. Gen. Mary O'Brien, Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and cyber effects operations; and Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Sue Gordon.

3:30 p.m. — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group conversation with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.

4 p.m. — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness Hearing: “Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for Military Construction, Energy, and Environmental Programs,” with Paul Cramer, performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for sustainment; Jack Surash, acting assistant secretary of the Army, Installations, environment and energy; Todd Schafer, acting assistant secretary of the Navy, installations, environment and energy; Jennifer Miller, acting assistant secretary of the Air Force, installations, environment and energy.


12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “Religious Freedom and a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” with Yahya Cholil Staquf, general secretary of Indonesia's Nahdlatul Ulama; former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, fellow at Hudson; and Kenneth Weinstein, fellow at Hudson.


5:30 p.m. 232A Russell — Senate Armed Services Subcommittees begin markups of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, beginning with closed hearings by the subcommittee on strategic forces and cybersecurity.


9:30 p.m. 106 Russell — Senate Armed Services Subcommittees continue markups of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, with open hearings by the subcommittees on readiness and management support, and at 11 a.m. on personnel; followed by closed hearings by the subcommittees on airland, emerging threats and capabilities, and seapower.

1:30 p.m. — Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies releases new policy paper, “Speed is Life: Accelerating the Air Force’s Ability to Adapt and Win,” with Tim Grayson, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Strategic Technology Office.


12 p.m. — McCain Institute virtual conversation with former U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former British Prime Minister Theresa May.


“I guarantee you every unit in the Navy is up to speed on their diversity training. I’m sorry that I can’t say the same of their ship handling training.”

A recently retired senior enlisted leader cited in a Republican-commissioned report on the state of the U.S. Navy.

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Tags: National Security, Daily on Defense

Original Author: Jamie McIntyre

Original Location: Pentagon concedes Taliban seeking military victory, not peace deal, in wake of US exit