Fdd's overnight brief

September 16, 2021

In The News


Iran acknowledged on Wednesday that it had removed several surveillance cameras installed by U.N. nuclear inspectors at a centrifuge assembly site that came under a mysterious attack earlier this year. – Associated Press 

Iran Wednesday resumed commercial flights to Afghanistan that had been halted after the Taliban assumed power, news agencies reported. – Associated Press 

Iran, emboldened by the messy U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, is betting that its new hardline cabinet — including Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani — can force concessions in talks on Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. – Reuters 

Iran’s new president is flying to Tajikistan for his first foreign trip where he’s expecting to gain membership of a growing Eurasian club led by China and Russia, whose economic muscle has helped Tehran blunt American sanctions. – Bloomberg 

Toomaj Salehi is an Iranian dissident rapper, originally from Isfahan, who was arrested on Monday, September 13, 2021, by Iranian authorities. The official charges for his arrest are unknown, though many suspect it is due to the highly dissident nature of his work. – NUFDIran 

Nicole Grajewski writes: Iran’s full accession to the SCO—a process that could take up to two years once formally set in motion—is unlikely to spur substantive changes to the organization itself. Rather, the move should be viewed in the context of Tehran’s efforts to alleviate its international isolation by expanding bilateral and multilateral ties with Russia, China, and the Central Asian states. Membership would also bolster Tehran’s role in managing regional security and further its quest to add an “Eastern vector” to its foreign policy. – Washington Institute 

Kevjn Lim writes: Tehran has had the foresight to cultivate the Taliban in anticipation of the U.S. withdrawal. Even so, the world’s largest Islamic theocracy will now likely find itself hedging against the new theocracy to the east—with half of Iran’s population, 1/34th of its GDP, and nothing like its military capabilities but a proven potential to spread instability. The United States may have lost Afghanistan, but whether this is Iran’s gain is hardly clear. – Foreign Policy 


Abdul Ghani Baradar, deputy prime minister in the Taliban’s interim government, took to the airwaves Wednesday to assure his compatriots that he is alive and well, and that reports that he was harmed during an internal clash among the Taliban leadership are untrue. – Washington Post  

A leading figure in the Afghan resistance has retained a Washington lobbyist to seek military and financial support in the United States for a fight against the Taliban, according to a lobbying contract and a representative of the resistance leader. – New York Times  

An Iranian Mahan Air plane landed in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday with Iranian diplomats on board, arriving from the city of Mashhad, Iran’s Al-Alam TV said. – Reuters 

Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled central bank said it had seized nearly $12.4 million in cash and gold from former top government officials on Wednesday, including former vice president Amrullah Saleh. – Reuters 

Afghanistan’s banks are running out of dollars, and may have to close their doors to customers unless the Taliban government releases funds soon, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said. – Reuters 

A month after seizing Kabul, the Taliban face daunting problems as they seek to convert their lightning military victory into a durable peacetime government. – Reuters 

The Taliban’s abrupt return to power has left hundreds of Afghan diplomats overseas in limbo: running out of money to keep missions operating, fearful for families back home and desperate to secure refuge abroad. – Reuters 

Friction between pragmatists and ideologues in the Taliban leadership has intensified since the group formed a hard-line Cabinet last week that is more in line with their harsh rule in the 1990s than their recent promises of inclusiveness, said two Afghans familiar with the power struggle. – Associated Press 

Ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani bears responsibility for the Taliban’s swift seizure of Kabul last month, according to a key State Department official who panned the search for “a scapegoat of some kind” in Washington. – Washington Examiner 

China wants to end international sanctions on the Taliban, posing a threat to Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s hope for unity at the United Nations Security Council. – Washington Examiner 

Jim Huylebroek writes: Long before their full takeover, the Taliban were already governing and delivering swift justice in many areas, often through their own court system. Chak-e Wardak, along with many parts of rural Afghanistan, has been under their de facto control for two years. But the question remains whether the movement, which has brutally put down protests in urban areas against its rule, can pivot to a solid governance structure soon enough to cope with the problems underlying the country’s gathering humanitarian crisis. – New York Times  

Elizabeth Hoffman writes: Congress should give serious consideration to creating a standing commission, modeled on the 9/11 Commission. This would ensure adequate follow-up from the dozens of U.S. agencies and departments with a share of responsibility in areas of counterterrorism, immigration, and human rights to push the administration to take steps to fulfill the promises made to its Afghan partners.  There is an extraordinary amount of work to be done to save thousands of Afghan lives, and time is of the essence. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Elisabeth Braw writes: Western capitals had thought Ghani, an academic with a long career in Western institutions, was a man they could work with and, better yet, a man who would understand how to build a functioning democratic society. And yet Western policymakers make that mistake time and again, mistaking developing-country representatives who say the right things in Davos for promising leaders. To be sure, Afghans had elected the anthropology professor, but Western capitals had been keeping their fingers crossed. – Foreign Policy 


Israel’s navy has stepped up its activities in the Red Sea “exponentially” in the face of growing Iranian threats to Israeli shipping, the country’s just-retired navy commander said in an interview. – Associated Press 

Qatar resumed its distribution of aid to Gaza on Wednesday for the first time since the May war between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers, this time through a new mechanism that does not involve suitcases full of cash. – Associated Press 

The Palestinian Authority slammed countries boycotting the upcoming Durban Conference anniversary event, with an emphasis on the US. – Jerusalem Post 

Israeli officials — not least of all the prime minister — expressed great satisfaction and optimism after Naftali Bennett’s first meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi that the cold peace that Israel has made do with since 1979 is about to thaw. – Times of Israel  

After Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he was prepared to accept a scenario in which the US negotiates a fresh nuclear deal with Iran, Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu went on the offensive Wednesday, saying Israel’s new government was a “huge disaster” for national security. – Times of Israel  

A Palestinian man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of stabbing and seriously wounding an East Jerusalem resident in Jaffa, with police saying the assailant planned to harm Jews. – Haaretz  


A convoy of tanker trucks carrying Iranian diesel crossed the border from Syria into Lebanon early Thursday, a delivery organized by the militant Hezbollah group to ease a paralyzing fuel crisis in the crisis-hit country. – Associated Press 

The Lebanese government will resume negotiations with the International Monetary Fund while beginning reforms demanded by donors, according to a draft policy programme that aims to tackle one of the worst financial meltdowns in history. – Reuters 

In a September 12, 2021 article, Khalid bin Hamad Al-Malik, editor of the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, responds to the news that a new government has finally been established in Lebanon, headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, after more than a year since the Beirut Port blast during which the country did not have a functioning government. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Hussein Ibish writes: There will be a respite because of arrival of the pending aid and loans. […]That period should also give the international community a huge opportunity to force Lebanese leaders into serious concessions on transparency, accountability and responsibility. Lebanon may have won breathing room. But its leaders — and the world around it — should not forget that the country’s existential crisis is not over. – Bloomberg 

Anchal Vohra writes: Lebanon needs America’s guarantees to civil society activists that it would raise hell were any of them to be assassinated, its ability to find and punish the corrupt elite who siphoned away people’s cash in foreign banks, its threat to use the whip of sanctions that France was too timid to crack, and its insistence on making Hezbollah’s disarmament a part of the nuclear negotiations with Iran in Vienna. Absent all that, Lebanon may never recover at all. – Foreign Policy 

Arabian Peninsula

At least 50 rebels and pro-government troops, including a high-ranking officer, have been killed in clashes in Yemen’s central province of Al-Bayda, military sources told AFP on Thursday. – Agence France-Presse 

Three people were killed in violent protests in Aden and other cities in south Yemen over widespread poverty and electricity outages as public services have collapsed within areas controlled by a Saudi-backed alliance. – Reuters 

Saudi air defences on Wednesday destroyed an explosives-laden drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi group toward Abha airport in the southwest of the kingdom, the Saudi-owned Dubai-based al-Hadath channel reported. – Reuters 

Gulf States

Bahrain has conditionally released 30 prisoners under new rules allowing electronic monitoring and home detention instead, the government and activists said on Wednesday. Almost all those freed are considered political detainees by rights groups. – Reuters 

The United Arab Emirates is to announce a big increase in investment in the UK as the oil-rich Gulf state expands a multibillion-pound partnership with the British government. – Financial Times  

Three former U.S. intelligence operatives have admitted to selling their hacking talents, connections, and U.S. cyberweapons to the United Arab Emirates, federal officials announced Tuesday. – Military.com 

Yigal Carmon writes: One error made by Qatari hubris will not be forgotten or forgiven. It was the marginalization and humiliation of Turkish President Erdoğan, who was stripped of his intended role as savior of the Americans as manager-in-chief of Kabul airport. […]When the Qatari balloon finally does burst, America’s further loss of power will be collateral damage to Doha’s downfall. Such are the wages of alliance with Qatar. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

Within days of each other, the United States and Egypt announced moves this week that, for the first time in years, would put human rights on the agenda in Egypt, a country that has become notorious for jailing activists, targeting journalists and squashing free speech. – New York Times 

Iraq is taking measures to close loopholes and conduct fair elections despite attempts to compromise the upcoming polls, the head of Iraq’s electoral commission said. – Associated Press 

Algerian authorities arrested a prominent journalist and a Berber linguist this week as part of what appears to be a growing crackdown on dissent in the Kabylie region. – Associated Press 

Bobby Ghosh writes: To stand a chance of influencing Cairo’s attitude toward human rights, the Biden administration would, at the minimum, have had to withhold a much larger proportion of military aid. […] With his stock rising in the Biden administration, Sisi can surely stomach the occasional a wet noodle. – Bloomberg 

Jon Hoffman writes: Moving forward, U.S. policymakers should dispel the myth that Russia or China are capable—or willing—to fill a void in the Middle East if the United States were to withdraw militarily. […]Instead of providing Moscow or Beijing with an opportunity for advancing their interests, a U.S. military withdrawal from the region would undermine those countries’ ability to maneuver without assuming the direct costs of such deeper engagement. – Foreign Policy 

Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Yair Lapid write: Real breakthroughs are tough, but Emiratis and Israelis have shown that they are possible. This is just the beginning — the next step is to expand opportunity and connect people across the region. This is the best antidote to pessimism and the dead-end extremist ideology that has held the Middle East back for too long. – Financial Times  

Korean Peninsula

A United Nations panel of experts tasked with monitoring international sanctions on North Korea has fallen into dysfunction, people familiar with the matter said, as China seeks to help its ally and feuds with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s remarks that the South’s new missile systems can deter North Korea are illogical and regrettable and could damage relations, a senior North Korean official said on Wednesday, according to state media. – Reuters 

The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday criticized South Korea’s president and threatened a “complete destruction” of bilateral relations after both countries tested ballistic missiles hours apart. – Associated Press 

Editorial: Abandoning denuclearization as a goal in exchange for modest monitoring and limits on the North Korean program would be an invitation for the North to cheat, as it always has in the past. The U.S. should be open to accommodation if the Kim family ever decides to give up its weapons. But, until it does, maintaining sanctions and military deterrence is better than paying extortion. – Wall Street Journal 

Victor Cha writes: We are stuck in a rut on North Korea. The absence of any forward progress on denuclearization diplomacy is the result of a unique intersection of American distraction and North Korean disinterest. […]If the United States is unwilling to pursue such assistance, then it can simply wait for the next nuclear test by North Korea and roll the dice in hopes that diplomacy can pull us back from the brink. But with all else that Biden needs to deal with at home, does he really need another crisis? – Washington Post  

Bruce Klingner writes: North Korea has so far refrained from the large-scale provocations it historically did in the first year of a new U.S. or South Korean administration. But it appears only a matter of time before Pyongyang conducts another ICBM launch or nuclear test. Either would severely test U.S. leadership in the region. – 19fortyfive 


Now, “the Li materials” are the subject of a legal fight that pits Stanford University against Mr. Li’s widow in Beijing. It is a custody battle over an unofficial history of China. – Wall Street Journal 

Growth across a range of Chinese economic indicators pulled back sharply in August, as a new outbreak of the Covid-19 Delta variant and tighter government regulations on the property market hit consumer spending and the housing sector. – Wall Street Journal 

The White House on Wednesday said there was an ongoing discussion with Chinese leaders about future engagement by President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. – Reuters 

China has denied a German warship entry into a local harbour, a German foreign ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

China says it will attend a virtual meeting of Central and South Asian state leaders to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. – Associated Press 

Robert C. O’Brien and Alexander B. Gray write: Washington and Taipei have a relatively brief interval to change Beijing’s calculus. As the narrative of American decline becomes increasingly popular and politically expedient, it becomes more likely that China could use force to change the status quo in Taiwan. There is bipartisan support in Congress for strengthening Taiwan’s defenses. […]By acting swiftly, the U.S. and Taiwan can dissuade Mr. Xi from making what could be the most disastrous geopolitical calculation since 1939. – Wall Street Journal 

Yehan writes: The CCP has long accused those questioning its barbaric policies of engaging in a double standard. It presents such criticism as evidence of prejudice against the Chinese people. […]We must call out the CCP’s false war on terror, and that starts with not repeating a genocidal regime’s talking points. – Foreign Policy 

South Asia

A senior official in Sri Lanka accused of barging into prisons and abusing political prisoners just as the island nation’s government was downplaying concerns about worsening human rights conditions resigned on Wednesday, officials said. – New York Times 

Pakistan urged the world to engage with Taliban-led Afghanistan and said the United States should listen to its message as it reassess its relationship with the South Asian nation, a top Pakistani security official said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the best way forward for peace and stability in Afghanistan is to engage with the Taliban and “incentivize” them on issues such as women’s rights and inclusive government. – CNN 


The U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia are creating a new security partnership in the Indo-Pacific, building on the longstanding alliance between the three to share intelligence, deepen cooperation and help Australia to build nuclear-powered submarine capabilities as China’s influence grows. – Wall Street Journal 

Judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday authorized an investigation into possible crimes against humanity conducted during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent “war on drugs,” saying alleged extrajudicial killings represented a “widespread and systematic attack” against civilians. – Washington Post 

Taiwan proposed on Thursday extra defence spending of T$240 billion ($8.69 billion) over the next five years, including on new missiles, as it warned of an urgent need to upgrade weapons in the face of a “severe threat” from giant neighbour China. – Reuters 

Taiwan is a “sea fortress” blocking China’s expansion into the Pacific and is willing to share with other democracies its knowledge of countering Beijing’s efforts to undermine it, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told a U.S. audience on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Hong Kong’s security chief called on Wednesday for the city’s main press association to disclose to the public who its members work for and how many of them are students, a day after he accused the group of infiltrating schools. – Reuters 

Nine Hong Kong pro-democracy activists were sentenced to between six and 10 months in prison on Wednesday for taking part in an unauthorised assembly at last year’s vigil for the victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on protesters. – Reuters 

An Australian university said on Wednesday that it has asked journal publisher Wiley Online Library to retract a research study conducted by a former faculty member that helps Chinese facial recognition software better identify ethnic Uyghurs. – Reuters 

Taiwan and Japan have hailed the potential for a new security pact between Australia, the UK and US to offset an increasingly assertive China, even as France reacted with fury to Canberra’s cancellation of a $90bn submarine programme to agree the deal. – Financial Times  

John Schaus writes: The Biden administration is at the beginning of laying out its vision and policies for the next four years. The Morrison administration has established a clear vision of where it plans to invest for Australia’s future. Committing to a small number of high-impact actions to move the alliance forward will change the tone in the Indo-Pacific, contribute to stability and security, and lay the foundation for continued close cooperation in the U.S.-Australia alliance for decades to come. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Riley Walters writes: Whoever becomes Japan’s next prime minister, it’ll be important that the Biden administration welcomes them with open arms given the increasing importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Even though Suga is already planning to make one last trip as prime minister to Washington to attend a Quad leaders’ summit, American and Japanese officials should start planning for another leaders’ summit in the spring at the latest. – Hudson Institute 


Russian and separatist flags flutter in the air as lively music blares and soldiers from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic sit listening to speeches. Members of the Russian nationalist Night Wolves motorcycle club mill around nearby. – Reuters 

Allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny urged Russians on Wednesday to vote for the Communist Party at a parliamentary election this week, part of a tactical voting campaign meant to hurt the ruling United Russia party. – Reuters 

In the run-up to the Duma elections, RBC polled all the parties running for the Duma to find out their political stances on, among other things, vaccination, pension reform, tax increases, the future of Donbass, and Lenin’s burial. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Anton Troianovski and Ivan Nechepurenko write: The smart voting strategy shows how an opposition movement that the Kremlin has managed to crush inside Russia in recent months is still able to influence political events from the outside. It is also a reason this weekend’s elections will come with a degree of suspense, even though an overall victory for United Russia is assured. […] Its nominal democracy is not free and fair, but the Kremlin still seeks the sheen of popular legitimacy by holding elections in which a stable of dull parties typically splits the opposition vote. – New York Times  

Max Seddon writes: In the months leading up to the election, officials have crushed Navalny’s organisation, banned dozens of candidates from running over alleged ties to it, and interrogated hundreds of ordinary supporters in an apparent attempt to scare them from protesting against the result. […]The elections put Putin in the odd position of lending his star power to boost United Russia’s flagging fortunes while simultaneously distancing himself from the party so as not to be damaged by its toxic brand. – Financial Times  

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 


A series of hacks on Belarus’s government by pro-democracy activists has uncovered details of apparent abuses by security forces, exposed police informants and collected personal data on top officials including a son of President Alexander Lukashenko. – Washington Post  

Hoping to re-energize his government and push forward into a post-Brexit, post-covid future, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reshuffled his cabinet Tuesday, demoting the man who oversaw the chaotic exit of British citizens and Afghan allies from Kabul. – Washington Post  

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain on Wednesday held a long-awaited meeting with his regional counterpart in Catalonia to seek an end to Spain’s territorial conflict, four years after a failed Catalan secession attempt and 18 months after a first round of negotiations was abruptly curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic. – New York Times  

Britain’s defence minister said on Thursday that a new nuclear submarine pact between the United States, Britain and Australia did not herald a new Cold War between the West and China. – Reuters 

The European Union must stand with Lithuania against Chinese pressure and not give in to trade threats, Slovenia’s prime minister said in a letter to fellow EU leaders, according to a copy seen by Reuters. – Reuters 

France will look to ensure any financial hit to Naval Group from a cancelled Australia submarine deal is limited, French Armed Forces Florence Parly said on Thursday. – Reuters 

The European Union’s chief executive on Wednesday vowed no let-up in battles with Poland and Hungary over democratic standards, threatening to take more legal action and block off funds. – Reuters 

A special tribunal in The Hague investigating allegations of atrocities committed by Kosovo pro-independence fighters opened its first case on Wednesday, against a commander accused of torturing prisoners during the 1998-1999 conflict with Serbia. – Reuters 

Police stepped up their protection of a synagogue in western Germany on Wednesday evening after receiving information about a possible threat, but no injuries were reported. – Reuters 

Greenland said on Wednesday it had agreed a new economic aid package with the United States which seeks to boost ties the world’s biggest island and strengthen U.S. military presence in the Arctic. – Reuters 

The European Union’s chief executive set out plans on Wednesday to make the 27-nation bloc more independent in areas from defence to global trade, and urged other countries to join it in accelerating the fight against climate change. – Reuters 

Germany’s approaching change of power in an election on September 26 is also a key moment for France, the other most important EU member state in shaping policy across the bloc. – Financial Times  

A French court has acquitted an imam in the city of Toulouse of incitement to racial hatred for a sermon he gave in 2017 that quoted a hadith — a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammed — predicting the mass killing of Jews by Muslims. – Algemeiner 

Philip Stephens writes: Both the EU and Dublin have signalled they are willing to make compromises to preserve the agreement — and lay the foundations for a restoration of good relations between the UK and its European neighbours. Biden’s message should be that of a candid friend, if not of Johnson then certainly of the UK: take the deal. – Financial Times  

Andrew Lohsen writes: The future of U.S.-Ukraine relations will be based on the long, hard slog that is the Ukrainian reform process. The path forward for Zelensky is challenging, but a vigorous campaign to safeguard the integrity of public institutions and to hold corrupt actors accountable will enable him to unlock U.S. and European assistance and opportunities for further cooperation with Euro-Atlantic institutions. Ultimately, it is not high-profile visits, commissions, or press statements that will bring Ukraine the international support that it seeks—just really hard work. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


West African leaders will meet on Thursday to decide how to respond to the coup in Guinea and how to pressure the junta leaders to return the country to constitutional rule, Ghana’s foreign minister said. – Reuters 

Nigeria said on Wednesday it expects to end its ban on Twitter in a “few more days”, raising hopes among users eager to return to the social media platform three months after the suspension took effect. – Reuters 

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday urged Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to resume African Union-led talks to reach a binding deal “within a reasonable timeframe” over the operation of a giant hydropower dam on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. – Reuters 

Germany joined France on Wednesday in expressing concern about an agreement between Mali’s military rulers and a Russian security company that would bring Russian mercenaries into the African country. – Reuters 

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday ordered the immediate repatriation of the entire U.N. peacekeeping contingent from Gabon serving in the Central African Republic following credible reports of sexual abuse by some of its 450 members and past allegations. – Associated Press 

Surging violence in Sudan’s peripheries has forced more than 410,000 people to flee their homes this year, the United Nations said, casting a shadow over the African nation’s prospects of emerging from decades of war and dictatorship. – Bloomberg 

The Americas

The Pentagon is asking all military personnel, civilian officials and contractors to report any anomalous health episodes similar to the illnesses that have befallen diplomats and C.I.A. officers at the American Embassy in Havana, according to a new departmentwide message. – New York Times 

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  

Fresh turmoil hit Haiti’s government on Wednesday as Prime Minister Ariel Henry replaced his justice minister and a senior official stepped down, saying he could not serve a premier under suspicion in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. – Reuters 

United States

In between the threat of Taliban violence and the promise of American freedom lies this large military installation, which has become a conduit between two worlds for thousands of Afghans. – Wall Street Journal 

President Joe Biden on Wednesday threw his support behind the top U.S. military officer, Mark Milley, a day after a new book said he went around civilian leaders to place secret calls to his Chinese counterpart over concerns about then-President Donald Trump. – Reuters 

Nearly two out of three people believe American forces will have to return to Afghanistan to fight against terrorism, according to a new poll. – Washington Examiner 

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee wants answers from the Biden administration about how it intends to keep America safe from terrorism. – Washington Examiner 

A group of GOP senators unveiled a bill Wednesday that would direct the State Department to officially list the Taliban as a terrorist organization, ramping up their pressure on the Biden administration to take action against the militant group following its takeover of Afghanistan last month.  – The Hill 


The rapid evolution of artificial-intelligence-based technologies and their adoption by businesses and governments have outpaced efforts to hold them to human rights standards, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, warned Wednesday. – Washington Post 

TikTok is facing two EU data privacy investigations, one into its handling of children’s personal data and another over its data transfers to China. – Associated Press 

James Poulos writes: Americans need just the opposite: the right to produce and buy computers powerful enough to mine Bitcoin and build data centers; the right to use and move cryptocurrency free from invasive monitoring, reporting requirements and arbitrary restrictions; and the right to freely choose to use cryptocurrency as true digital currencies among themselves. Federal laws to this effect would be ideal, but in the current hostile environment, the urgent place to begin is at the state level. – New York Times  


Leonardo and Northrop Grumman have joined forces to pursue the nascent vertical-takeoff-and-landing unmanned systems market. – Defense News 

An ongoing Global Posture Review and a 2022 update to the National Defense Strategy will provide the U.S. Navy more clarity on what its roles and expectations are in the future, as the maritime space increasingly sees activities that the service considers aggressive but under the threshold of war. – Defense News  

Leonardo has announced more details of the 757 test bed aircraft it will use in the Tempest program, including a 28 ton payload for equipment and six locations for sensors. – Defense News 

The US Navy (USN) and Boeing used the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle to pass fuel to a Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter receiver aircraft for the first time on 13 September. – Janes 

US private equity firm AE Industrial Partners (AEI) has expanded its unmanned aircraft portfolio by acquiring autopilot provider Jennings Aeronautics Inc (JAI), AEI announced on 14 September. – Janes 

The leaders of the U.S. Navy entreated a global audience of international navies to uphold international freedom of navigation, as China and Russia have challenged international maritime norms. – USNI News 

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35, the world’s costliest weapons system, may fail to keep pace with Chinese and Russian air defense improvements given its “extraordinary costs” so far, the U.S. House defense policy committee has warned. – Bloomberg 

Robert Joseph writes: We have made important progress with homeland missile defense, but today we risk falling further behind the threat. What is needed is leadership in the administration and in Congress. We will not stay ahead of the growing threat if MDA’s freedom from bureaucratic constraints is undermined. We must not allow the bureaucracy to add time and cost to the fielding of effective defenses required by the urgent threat from North Korea and soon from Iran. – Defense News  

Long War

President Emmanuel Macron of France announced Wednesday that French military forces had killed the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. – New York Times 

A British woman who ran away from home at age 15 to join the Islamic State group in Syria has asked for forgiveness and appealed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to let her come home. – Associated Press 

The Afghan man who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last month was an enthusiastic and beloved longtime employee at an American humanitarian organization, his colleagues say, painting a stark contrast to the Pentagon’s claims that he was an Islamic State group militant about to carry out an attack on American troops. – Associated Press 

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  

Giselle Donnelly writes: There is perhaps no better example of the problems of the monist fallacy than “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism. […] More importantly, standing off over the horizon will both delay and obscure intelligence gathering and slow response times. It will also introduce complexity and centralization in command decision-making — the final approval for strikes frequently falls to a legal officer or the White House itself. Widespread situational awareness can thicken the fog of war as much as dispel it. – American Enterprise Institute 

Hany Ghoraba writes: But the joy of seeing Afghanistan fall back into the grasp of Taliban rule hasn’t yet led Western Islamists to express any intention of moving there. […]Accordingly, the very presence of Islamists in the secular and democratic West is the ultimate form of blasphemy as per Salafi literature and statements. Therefore, it is unfathomable that those who are supporting the Taliban’s sharia law — and call for it to be applied in the Western countries — don’t want to seize this opportunity and move to Afghanistan and other countries that apply strict sharia. – Algemeiner