Fdd's overnight brief

September 15, 2021

In The News


Iranian security guards have physically harassed several female United Nations atomic agency inspectors at a nuclear facility over the past few months, diplomats say, and the U.S. has demanded that Iran stop the behavior immediately. – Wall Street Journal 

The U.N. nuclear watchdog on Tuesday described as “unacceptable” incidents in Iran involving its inspectors, in which diplomats say security staff subjected female inspectors to inappropriate searches that the United States is calling harassment. – Reuters 

Iran on Tuesday named Ali Bagheri Kani, a hardline senior diplomat, to replace Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, a seasoned pragmatist diplomat and chief negotiator in talks on Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, state media said. – Reuters 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he is prepared to accept a scenario in which the US manages to revive an Iran nuclear deal, in a rare comment from a senior government official not rejecting the multilateral accord out of hand. – Times of Israel 

A former University of Miami professor, his wife and his sister are facing federal charges related to purchasing genetic sequencing equipment from U.S. manufacturers and illegally shipping it to Iran, prosecutors said. – Associated Press 

An Arab Israeli millionaire who briefly ran for Knesset with former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon was ordered to be released to house arrest on Tuesday, as he awaits trial on accusations of spying on Israel for Iran. – Times of Israel 

Lahav Harkov writes: The Good ISIS said in its initial analysis of the IAEA report that “world leaders, in essence, would choose convenience rather than doing the difficult but critical work to determine if Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.” The US and E3 said they were going to rejoin the JCPOA, and they’re sticking to that goal, even when it no longer makes sense, to the point of causing harm to the institutions they claim to support – discrediting the IAEA – and increasing the threat to their supposed ally, Israel. – Jerusalem Post 


U.S. intelligence agencies are seeing early signs that al Qaeda militants have begun to return to Afghanistan, a senior official said Tuesday, after they dispersed from the country in response to the U.S. counterterrorism effort there. – Wall Street Journal 

The international community and the Taliban will need to find a way to deal with each other for the sake of stabilizing Afghanistan, the chief of the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday. – Associated Press 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday sought to parry bipartisan congressional criticism of the Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal, as new intelligence estimates warned that al-Qaida could soon again use Afghan soil to plot attacks on the United States. – Associated Press 

The European Union has no option but to talk to Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers and Brussels will try to coordinate with member governments to organise a diplomatic presence in Kabul, the top EU diplomat said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

The Taliban have already broken their promises to safeguard women and protect human rights, and the international community must hold them to account, the outgoing government’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Thousands of Afghans protested against the Taliban in the southern city of Kandahar on Tuesday, according to a former government official and local television footage, after residents were asked to vacate a residential army colony. – Reuters 

A major row broke out between leaders of the Taliban just days after they set up a new government in Afghanistan, senior Taliban officials told the BBC. – BBC 

The former commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan said he disagreed with President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw the troops completely from the country, according to one Republican senator. – Washington Examiner 

Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, along with the former first ladies, will be working with an initiative to help resettle Afghan evacuees who fled the Taliban . – Washington Examiner 

The Biden administration added another case to the small outbreak of measles responsible for temporarily halting flights of Afghan evacuees to the U.S., leaving thousands waiting in bases abroad until they can resume operations. – The Hill 

Two Republican lawmakers are calling on the State Department to designate the Taliban a terrorist organization as the extremist group forms a government in Afghanistan following last month’s withdrawal of U.S. troops. – The Hill 

Cole Livieratos writes: As with the Vietnam War, one narrative emerging from the war in Afghanistan is that America’s strategic failure was the result of two decades of lies and cover-ups from the Pentagon and White House. There is no doubt that senior civilian and military leaders misled the public at times about the war effort, but the larger problem was the inability to understand the type of war the United States found itself in and assess progress. – War on the Rocks 

Samuel Sheffield writes: These people put their lives on the line prior to the U.S. agreeing to leave the country. They risked their lives believing they could make their country better. They trusted the U.S.’s belief in the unalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These words may have just been lip service while our allies, and even many U.S. citizens still within Taliban-controlled Afghanistan , endure subjugation under an oppressive regime. – Washington Examiner 

Teresa Casale writes: As we watch with horror the desperation and the danger in Afghanistan, we must go back to the principles of the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace and Security. For it to mean something, we must put Afghan women’s lives at the top of our foreign policy agenda. We owe it to the women on the streets fighting for their freedom and their survival. – The Hill 

Cecilia Munoz and John Bridgeland write: Our focus is on our new Afghan neighbors — their needs, hopes and dreams of rebuilding their lives. So many have demonstrated courage few of us ever will be called upon to summon. Their resilience, skills and determination will enrich us all. But this moment is also about us as Americans — how we can reach beyond ourselves to reflect a common humanity, transcend divisions and heal, and see in others a spark of hope we want to see in ourselves. – The Hill 


Two and a half years after its self-declared caliphate was extinguished amid a blitz of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in the palm groves of Baghouz, further to the south, the militants in northeastern Syria are down but not defeated. – Washington Post 

Syria is still unsafe for the return of refugees a decade after its conflict began, U.N. war crimes investigators said on Tuesday, documenting worsening violence and rights violations including arbitrary detention by government forces. – Reuters 

The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State terror group denied on Tuesday night it had conducted airstrikes against Iran-backed militias operating in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq, after reports claimed a number of vehicles in the area were struck. – Times of Israel 

Unidentified drones struck on Tuesday pro-Iranian militants in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. – Haaretz 


A Palestinian military court began the trial of 14 members of its security forces who are accused of beating to death a critic of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in a case that has highlighted what activists say is the growing reach of paramilitary troops in the West Bank and a creeping culture of authoritarianism. – Wall Street Journal 

The New Jersey Department of Treasury Division of Investment announced its plan to divest from Unilever after Ben & Jerry’s decision to end ice cream sales in West Bank settlements, claiming it violates New Jersey law. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel wants to work with its allies against Iran, but will stop the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear weapon even if it has to work alone, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in an interview with Channel 12 News on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post 

Facebook’s Oversight board has recommended an independent review into alleged bias in moderating posts related to Israel and Palestinians. – BBC 

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday ruled out meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. – Ynet 

Hamas has been ordered to pay 38 million shekels ($9.34 million) in compensation to the families of the three Israeli teenage boys who were kidnapped and murdered by the terrorist group in 2014, according to an Israeli court ruling. – Algemeiner 

It would be a terrible mistake to create a Palestinian state, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a series of media interviews he gave on Tuesday night just after his return from his historic meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. – Jerusalem Post 

Eric R. Mandel writes: That is why America must not let the War Between the Wars turn hot. It must not concede a nuclear weapon to Iran, or Israel will act. Israel will not allow Iran to cement a foothold in Syria because it knows Iran’s eyes next would turn to Jordan and the Gulf States. Americans may not have heard about the War Between the Wars, but if we care about our security, we need to tell our representatives not to relegate this war to a third-tier security status, or it will come back to bite us. – The Hill 

Eitan Fischberger writes: Clearly, foreign aid for civilians is not the chief concern of Hamas and the human rights groups in the PFLP network. Rather, they aim to facilitate illegal terrorist activity and escape all consequences for their actions. Until the international community drastically overhauls its oversight mechanisms for foreign aid, this misconduct is bound to continue. – Jerusalem Post 


Hamdi Malik writes: Besides avoiding blanket measures that create unnecessary friction with Najaf, the Biden administration needs to become much more familiar with Sistani-affiliated factions. At the very least, closely following local Shia religious and political developments could help Washington avoid unintended conflicts with elements who share its goal of keeping Iraqis in charge of a sovereign, stable Iraq. – Washington Institute 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran has also bragged about its support for Houthis in Yemen who have achieved long range ballistic missile and drone capabilities. They have used drones and missiles to target Aramco and other energy facilities in Saudi Arabia. Iran also used a drone to target the Mercer Street in late July. The Houthis may be basing Iranian drones capable of threatening Israel as well. – Jerusalem Post 

Michael Knights, Crispin Smith, and Hamdi Malik write: Since Qaani’s June 29 demarche, the militias have gradually scaled back their rocket and drone attacks on U.S. sites in Iraq and this will probably continue until after the October 10 elections. While adopting a “wait-and-see” approach towards the level of U.S. military withdrawal from by the end of the year, the militias also need to be seen to be “resisting” the United States, and they will primarily create this impression with elevated levels of claimed attacks on trucks that are identified by militias as supplying the U.S.-led coalition. – Washington Institute 


Lebanon’s former prime minister left the country for the United States on Tuesday, his advisor said, despite a subpoena from the judge investigating last year’s devastating explosion at Beirut port. – Associated Press 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran sees Lebanon as a section of the chessboard and it wants to remove US pieces from that area. It cannot use military means, so it will use economic means. This comes in the context of the US leaving Afghanistan. Iran believes that with a bit of a push, the US will fold up its cards in many regions. Lebanon is one such region. – Jerusalem Post 

Robert G. Rabil writes: Washington should work with civil society organizations to help change the sociopolitical conditions that allowed Hezbollah and other non-state actors to thrive in the first place. Otherwise, Washington may soon be watching, in the same way, London and Paris had done during the Great War, an impending catastrophe befalling the Lebanese that is no less consequential than the mass starvation of the Great War. – National Interest 


The Biden administration will withhold $130 million worth of military aid to Egypt until Cairo takes specific steps related to human rights, a State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Egypt’s president met Tuesday with Libya’s parliament speaker and a powerful military commander as Cairo pushes for the withdrawal of foreign forces and the holding of elections as scheduled in December. – Associated Press 

Josh Rogin writes: Continuing the status quo of de facto condoning of Sissi’s autocratic repression may seem pragmatic. But that’s not what Biden promised as a candidate, and it’s a tragedy for those who believed him. In short, the Biden team can’t pull out of the Middle East and advance democracy and human rights there at the same time. – Washington Post 

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia has reached out to Jerusalem about the possibility of procuring Israeli-made missile defense systems, at a time when the American systems the Kingdom has for so long relied upon have been removed, Breaking Defense has learned. – Breaking Defense 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a virtual meeting on Friday with his counterparts from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco to mark the first anniversary of normalization agreements between the Arab countries and Israel, officials said. – Reuters 

United Nations ambassadors from the U.S., Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain gathered at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan in New York City on Monday for an event commemorating the first anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords. – Jewish Insider 

For Asher Fredman, the historic signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates one year ago enabled him to put to the test a long-held belief of his: that peace would rise from the ground up, from bringing people together. – Jewish Insider 

Bahrain’s first-ever ambassador to Israel, Khaled Yousif Al-Jalahma, said it was a “great honor” to have handed his credentials to President Isaac Herzog on the eve of the anniversary of the historic Abraham Accords. – Algemeiner 

David Ignatius writes: Though it’s easy to miss amid the turmoil in Afghanistan, there’s a new trend of de-escalation in global foreign policy — symbolized by the country that once was seen as “Little Sparta,” the United Arab Emirates. With a raw pragmatism that would make Machiavelli blush, the UAE has recently changed course from urging confrontation against Iran and Islamist parties to advocating dialogue. Over the past year, it has moved to settle quarrels with Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Libya and other former foes. – Washington Post 

Ilan Berman writes: While details of the agreement remain sparse, speculation abounds that it encompasses systems like unmanned aerial vehicles and military helicopters, which Riyadh needs to address its immediate security needs. On a broader level, however, the Saudi-Russian deal reflects a momentous strategic shift, as the kingdom adapts to the changes taking place in America’s Mideast policy. – Newsweek 

Efraim Chalamish writes: Though we are all eager to see the next chapter of the Abraham Accords and Jewish-Muslim relations in the Middle East advance, only a nuanced and transparent approach can lead to the desired progress and regional growth. – Algemeiner 

Middle East & North Africa

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on Tuesday discussed coordination within OPEC as well as bilateral, regional and international issues, Algeria’s presidency and the Saudi minister said. – Reuters 

Mohammed Soliman writes: Alongside France, India has also been building strategic partnerships with Israel and the UAE as well as deepening its bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia and Greece. Given also that Japan, France, and India are each major proponents of the free and open Indo-Pacific construct, whose long-term viability depends partly on the Persian Gulf’s sustained economic growth, the three countries have a natural role to play in the Middle East’s future stability. – Foreign Policy 

Korean Peninsula

North Korea launched two ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday, South Korean and Japanese officials said, in Pyongyang’s second weapons test in recent days. – Wall Street Journal 

North Korea sees its nuclear program as essential to regime survival, serving to deter a U.S.-led invasion. Decades of denuclearization talks, economic sanctions and diplomacy have done little to slow Pyongyang’s advance to becoming a self-declared nuclear state. – Wall Street Journal 

South Korea says it has carried out its first underwater-launched missile test, hours after rival North Korea fired two ballistic missiles toward the sea. – Associated Press 

The foreign ministers of South Korea and China held talks in Seoul on Wednesday amid concerns over North Korea’s recent missile test and stalled denuclearisation negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington. – Reuters 

President Joe Biden’s envoy for North Korea said the door remains open for talks, after Pyongyang claimed it tested new long-range cruise missiles that bolster its nuclear strike capabilities against Japan and South Korea. – Bloomberg 

Lami Kim writes: With merely eight months remaining in Moon’s term of office, not only has engagement with North Korea floundered, but the transfer of OPCON looks increasingly unlikely to happen before the end of his administration. […]If his top priority was taking back wartime OPCON, Moon should have built up South Korea’s military capabilities to meet the necessary conditions before pursuing peaceful engagement with North Korea. Alternatively, if engaging North Korea was the top priority, Moon should have delayed a military buildup. When states set incompatible goals, it is imperative that they also have policy priorities. – War on the Rocks 

Tim Culpan writes: The simple truth is that regulators and legislators haven’t taken on big names the way Xi has, nor have they had anywhere near the same impact. […]Xi’s China tends to be far less lenient, and far more willing to tackle the biggest of names, no matter how fast they’re growing or what innovations they bring. If anything, what Seoul’s crackdown shows is just how different South Korea is than China, and maybe that’s something the country should embrace. – Bloomberg 


A Beijing court ruled against the accuser in a closely-watched sexual-harassment case Tuesday, delivering a blow to Chinese civil-society activists who have fought to sustain a fledgling women’s-rights movement. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s new ambassador to Britain was banned from his host country’s Parliament on Tuesday, in the latest mark of mounting tensions between Beijing and London. – Washington Post 

The top U.S. general secretly called his Chinese counterpart twice over concerns then-President Donald Trump could spark a war with China as his potential election loss loomed and in its aftermath, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. – Reuters 

China’s refusal to accept requests for deeper carbon emissions cuts during recent visits from the top climate envoys of the United States and Britain may undermine progress at the upcoming global climate summit in Glasgow in November, experts say. – Reuters 

U.S. President Joe Biden denied on Tuesday a media report that his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, last week turned down an offer from Biden for a face-to-face meeting. – Reuters 

China has emphasized its role in United Nations peacekeeping operations with its hosting of multinational exercises that ended Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Leaders from across the Intelligence Community today discussed their agencies’ priorities and challenges, ranging from Russia to counterterrorism, cybersecurity, and foreign influence operations. – Breaking Defense 

The speed of China’s “unprecedented nuclear modernization” and its “build-out of a modernized triad” is the biggest concern for the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as he nears the end of his tenure. – USNI News 

U.S. President Joe Biden suggested the possibility of an in-person meeting with Xi Jinping during a phone call last week, but the Chinese president declined to commit to one as he continues to avoid leaving his country even for major gatherings amid the Covid-19 pandemic. – Bloomberg 

Joseph Bosco writes: There is ample reason to worry about which American interests will be surrendered or undermined by Biden’s desire to return to the more congenial Clinton, later Bush, and Obama years. Given the loss of U.S. credibility from America’s callous and inept end to the 20-year Afghanistan distraction, he would be better advised to revive the early, pre-9/11 Bush approach of strategic clarity with China. – The Hill


The European Union will seek new digital partnerships with Japan, South Korea and Singapore, and closer trade and investment relations with Taiwan, in an effort to build influence in Asia, Nikkei reported on Tuesday, citing a draft Indo-Pacific strategy document. – Reuters 

President Joe Biden drew a rebuke from the government of a Central Asian country that took offense to a jibe he used to deflect criticism of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from neighboring Afghanistan. – Washington Examiner 

A Hong Kong court handed down fresh jail sentences to a group of democracy activists, including a former chief executive candidate and the ex-leader of city’s biggest protest group, over their roles in vigil to commemorate the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square. – Bloomberg 

John Lee writes: Beijing consistently characterizes American alliances as Cold War relics that will prove ineffective in preventing China’s inevitable rise and dominance. […]If AUSMIN delivers little of substance, it will be offered as more evidence the democracies are in retreat and that this administration does not have what it takes to turn the tide. After recent events in Kabul, faith in American leadership is faltering and needs to be righted urgently. In Australia, America has a willing and proven ally to help it do just that. – The Hill 


Russian President Vladimir Putin received his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on Monday for the first time since 2018 and criticised foreign forces that are in Syria without permission or a U.N. mandate – a rebuke of the United States and Turkey. – Reuters 

John D. Maurer writes: Reducing Russian nuclear weapons of all types is a desirable goal, but American negotiators must approach discussions with their Russian counterparts with clear, realistic priorities. Limiting shorter-range nuclear weapons is simply not as important to American security as limiting longer-range ones is. American leaders should avoid conflating key objectives with marginal ones and instead prioritize those issues most important to American security: comprehensive and verifiable limits on the long-range Russian nuclear weapons capable of striking the United States directly. – American Enterprise Institute 

Ben Dubow writes: But Putin’s assertion that the West wielded the specter of jihad solely to grab power may stem less from Western actions than from imputing to his rivals his own worldview. The authorities had blamed the fortuitously timed bombings of Putin’s first week in office on Chechens, but that story soon unraveled. FSB agents were caught in Ryazan planting the same explosives that had been used in earlier attacks. Reporters investigating the story were killed and a channel that aired interviews with Ryazan residents was threatened with termination. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


Britain has delayed the implementation of some post-Brexit import controls for a second time, saying it would phase in checks through next year rather than impose them now when industry supply chains are under strain. – Reuters 

German police arrested a German-Iranian man suspected of exporting equipment to be used in Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes in breach of European Union sanctions, Germany’s federal prosecutor said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

The European Commission is expected to outline by the end of September plans that could ease the movement of goods from Britain to Northern Ireland in an effort to ease tensions resulting from Brexit, EU diplomats said. – Reuters 

Since taking office, the Biden administration has kept up Washington’s shipments of weapons and training to the Ukrainian military, including $275 million worth of equipment and support packages since March. – Politico 

A new agreement signed between Finland, Latvia and Finnish armored vehicle manufacturer Patria represents the official start of a joint-procurement effort by those two countries, known as the Common Armoured Vehicle System (CAVS) program. – Breaking Defense 


France’s foreign minister on Tuesday criticised plans that would bring Russian mercenaries into Mali, saying such a move was “incompatible” with the French military presence in its former colony. – Reuters 

Angola’s former President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos returned home on Tuesday for the first time since he went into exile in Barcelona in April 2019, the official Angola Press News Agency reported. – Reuters 

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has requested Senate approval for a plan to borrow more than $4 billion from international lenders for infrastructure projects, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Latin America

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is seeking to add to a new member to his team negotiating in Mexico with his political opponents — an ally jailed in Cape Verde awaiting extradition to the U.S. on money laundering charges.  – Washington Post 

One of Haiti’s top prosecutors sought charges against Prime Minister Ariel Henry in connection with the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, adding new uncertainty to a nation reeling from political instability, gang violence and the aftermath of a major earthquake. – Washington Post 

Venezuela’s access to International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDR) will be on the agenda in talks between the opposition and the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Mexico, opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Daniel F. Runde and Ryan C. Berg write: Fortunately, there is good reason to believe the United States can forge an effective security partnership with Ecuador. […]Cooperation on tackling IUU fishing could be a jumping-off point for other kinds of technical security assistance to help Ecuador’s armed forces address the complex criminal threat environment throughout the region. While Ecuador’s challenges should not be understated, President Lasso’s success in the first 100 days augurs well for the country. The United States ought to engage with the Lasso administration before the opportunity passes. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


Three former American intelligence officers hired by the United Arab Emirates to carry out sophisticated cyberoperations admitted to hacking crimes and to violating U.S. export laws that restrict the transfer of military technology to foreign governments, according to court documents made public on Tuesday. – Washington Post 

The general who leads U.S. efforts to thwart foreign-based cyberattacks, and punish those responsible, says he’s mounting a “surge” to fight incursions that have debilitated government agencies and companies responsible for critical infrastructure. – Associated Press 

Huawei Technologies Co. has gained strength through the years of U.S. sanctions and is ready to pay more for talent, aiming to lead the race in next-generation telecom technologies after 5G, founder and Chief Executive Officer Ren Zhengfei said. – Bloomberg 

Nicholas Lalla writes: With Afghanistan in the news, national security is once again a subject of national debate, engaging even those of us who normally focus their attention on more domestic concerns. This is why it’s the right moment to pause and inquire whether the challenges we’re imagining are the actual ones we’re likely to face. Ask average Americans to describe the ultimate national security nightmare scenario, and they would probably reach into their collective, Hollywood-inspired imagination to come up with a script that involves foreign foes invading our shores or any other combination of dramatic doomsday scenarios unfolding at a fast and furious pace. – Newsweek 


BAE Systems is moving into the quadcopter drone sector in a collaboration with drone maker Malloy Aeronautics to produce an electric-powered vehicle capable of lifting loads up to 300kg. – Defense News 

A Republican senator is vowing to delay President Joe Biden’s nominees to the State Department and Pentagon unless Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan resign over the administration’s handling of Afghanistan. – Defense News 

The U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray unmanned tanker conducted its first aerial refueling with an F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, the third aircraft type to take fuel from the Navy’s first unmanned system designed to deploy in a future carrier strike group. – Defense News 

During his time as the U.S. Air Force’s acquisition executive, Will Roper had no shortage of disruptive and boundary-pushing projects, whether it was conceptualizing a “Digital Century Series” of rapidly produced fighters or developing an autonomous drone wingman known as “Skyborg.” – Defense News 

Despite the long-standing efforts by DoD to improve the military’s aging space tracking system’s accuracy and timing by incorporating commercial data and services, both defense lawmakers and industry are getting impatient with the lack of progress. – Breaking Defense 

The Pentagon on Monday awarded Lockheed Martin a contract worth up to $6.6 billion to sustain the F-35 joint strike fighter from fiscal 2021 to 2023, a deal that will reduce the cost of flying the aircraft by about 8 percent. – Defense News 

Disinformation and malign influence online are among nascent digital threats the U.S. military is actively countering, top officials said on Monday. – Defense One 

Eric Oehlerich and Mick Mulroy write: The U.S. needs strategic patience to meet its long-term goals. These recent conflicts didn’t meet our goals because we couldn’t withstand a sustainable lift for the amount of time required. Quite frankly, we quit too early. We need to learn lessons from the past and approach future efforts in a smarter way to risk fewer U.S. lives and incur fewer costs than we’ve experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. The tactical advantage model can accomplish these goals at a fraction of the cost, saving lives and billions of dollars. – Middle East Institute 

Long War

Intelligence officials said that Al Qaeda could become a threat to the U.S. homeland within a year, using Afghanistan as a base once again. – Washington Examiner 

US special-operations forces’ missions only multiplied as the global war on terror went on, but the action on Objective Gecko remains the longest air assault in US history, reflecting the scale of their challenge. Twenty years on, the US mission in Afghanistan is widely seen as a failure, epitomized by the recent chaotic withdrawal, but further reflection on the war may lead to fuller recognition for the troops who took the fight to the Taliban in its opening days. – Business Insider 

Marc A. Thiessen writes: When he was in CIA custody, Mohammed told his interrogator something prophetic. In the end, he said, al-Qaeda will prevail in this struggle because “Americans don’t realize … we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.” To our nation’s everlasting shame, he was allowed to live to see his prophecy come true — as the Taliban regime returned to power in Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks he orchestrated. Disgracefully, Joe Biden had a hand in both of those travesties. – Washington Post 

Cole Bunzel writes: Both al Qaeda and ISIS face serious challenges in trying to reestablish themselves in Afghanistan. The return of the Taliban could create the biggest opportunity for al Qaeda to reconstitute and reorganize in more than a decade, but it is not well positioned to seize it. ISIS will seek to play a spoiler role, but it will have a hard time winning domestic support or matching the Taliban in terms of manpower and resources. The United States, meanwhile, will continue to attempt to degrade both groups through continued drone strikes—in the case of ISIS, potentially with Taliban support. – Foreign Affairs