‘THE HARD ROAD AHEAD’: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in remarks opening the fifth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Germany, announced another package of U.S. arms for Ukraine and called on allies to redouble support for Ukraine as the war “is at another key moment.”
“Today, this contact group needs to position itself to sustain Ukraine’s brave defenders for the long haul, and that means a continued and determined flow of capability. Now, it means urgently, moving urgently to innovate and to push all of our defense industrial bases to provide Ukraine with the tools that it will need for the hard road ahead.”
At the meeting of contributors at Ramstein Air Force Base, Austin announced another $675 million in U.S. weaponry, including more GMLRS rockets for the Lockheed Martin HIMARS artillery systems,105-millimeter howitzers, artillery munitions, HARM anti-radar missiles, HUMVEEs, armored ambulances, anti-tank systems, and small arms.
And as Ukraine attempts to dislodge Russian troops from its southern Kherson province, Austin made only an oblique reference to the difficulty Ukrainian troops are having against dug-in and better-armed Russian forces.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the face of the war is changing, and so is the mission of this contact group,” Austin said. “It means renewing and deepening our resolve to stand by Ukraine, with support and strength that doesn’t hinge on any one particular battle … We must evolve as the fight evolves.”
THE UNTOLD STORY: In his nightly video addresses and his meetings with U.S. lawmakers, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is relentlessly upbeat about the progress of the war, but interviews with wounded soldiers from the southern front tell a different story.
Concerned about maintaining morale, Zelensky has barred war correspondents from the front lines, but the Washington Post was able to talk to survivors of the first days of the southern counteroffensive, who provided harrowing accounts of being outnumbered, outgunned, and outmaneuvered.
“The soldiers said they lacked the artillery needed to dislodge Russia’s entrenched forces and described a yawning technology gap with their better-equipped adversaries,” the Post reported.
“They used everything on us,” said a 33-year-old Ukrainian soldier, who told the Post his unit had to retreat in the face of a barrage of cluster bombs, phosphorous munitions, and mortars. “Who can survive an attack for five hours like that?” he said.
“We lost five people for every one they did,” said another Ukrainian soldier, a 30-year-old platoon commander.
The soldiers related how Russian tanks were protected from mortar and rocket fire by concrete bunkers, emerging only long enough to deliver withering volleys of fire, how the Russian counter-battery radar systems systematically targeted and neutralized Ukrainian artillery, and how Russian hackers caused Ukrainian forces to lose control of their drones.
“They were just hitting us all the time,” another soldier said. “If we fire three mortars, they fire 20 in return.”
“Each soldier said it was impossible to predict when Kherson might be liberated, and many said it would depend on when the Ukrainians receive enough artillery from allies,” the report said.
MAINTAINING A BRAVE FACE: The grim realities of the current phase of the war is not something Zelensky highlights when he meets with Western officials, whose aid and support is crucial to the success of the counteroffensive.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Rob Portman (R-OH), who just returned from a face-to-face meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv, said in a joint appearance on Fox last night that Zelensky projected an image of strength.
“He is as strong as ever, and he is incredibly grateful for America and for what we have done with our humanitarian, economic help, but, most importantly, our military help,” Klobuchar told Fox anchor Bret Baier.
“Actually, right now, it’s a pretty optimistic time in Ukraine,” said Portman. “You see a counteroffensive in the south going toward Kherson, but also a counteroffensive in the east, sort of the northeast, going into the Kharkiv area, and the Ukrainians are making progress.”
“The tables have turned. And the main reason is, they now have the weapons they need to be able to make progress.”
In his remarks in Germany this morning, Austin said it was incumbent on the contact group to “renew our commitment and intensify our momentum to support the brave defenders of Ukraine for the long term.”
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HAPPENING TODAY: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will have more to say in a news conference from Ramstein Air Force Base at the conclusion of today’s Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting.
He will be joined by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley for the press conference, which will be streamed live on the Pentagon’s website defense.gov at 9:45 a.m. The Pentagon will also replay Austin’s opening remarks from 4 a.m. Washington time at 8 a.m.
Also, Secretary of State Antony Blinken showed up in Kyiv today with word of an additional $2 billion in military aid for Ukraine and other European countries threatened by Russia.
THE HORRORS OF ‘FILTRATION’: The U.S. is accusing Russia of forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens to Russia through so-called “filtration operations,” a charge Moscow dismisses as “a fantasy.”
In remarks to the U.N. Security Council yesterday, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Ukrainian civilians are routinely rounded up if they are deemed “insufficiently compliant or compatible” to Russian control.
“At these filtration locations, Russian authorities or proxies search, they interrogate, they coerce, and reportedly sometimes torture subjects. But these horrors are not limited to the centers that have been set up — filtration may also occur at checkpoints, routine traffic stops, or on the streets.”
Among the forced deportations are thousands of children taken from their families and put up for adoption in Russia. “The United States has information that over the course of July alone, more than 1,800 children were transferred from Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine to Russia,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
“The forcible transfer or deportation of protected persons from occupied territories, to the territory of the occupier, is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians, and constitutes a war crime,” she said.
“So why are they doing this? Why are they confiscating Ukrainian identity documents? Why are they forcing Ukrainians to fill out Russian passport applications? Why are they intimidating locals and deporting anyone deemed threatening?” she said. “The reason is simple: to prepare for an attempted annexation. The goal is to change sentiments by force. To provide a fraudulent veneer of legitimacy for the Russian occupation and eventual, purported annexation of even more Ukrainian territory.”
ISIS WATCH: For the last few years, the U.S. Central Command has warned that the al-Hol displaced persons camp in Syria is a hotbed of ISIS activity, and yesterday the U.S. military released a statement that said it has been “advising, assisting, and enabling” Syrian Democratic Forces who have been “conducting security operations,” at the crowded facility.
The two-week operation resulted in the arrest of “dozens of ISIS operatives and the dissolution of a major ISIS facilitation network both within the camp and throughout Syria,” according to the statement from CENTCOM spokesman Col. Joe Buccino.
“Additionally, the SDF liberated four women in the camp who were found in tunnels, chained, and tortured by ISIS supporters on September 5th, 2022,” he said. “This operation will make the camp safer for those residents who remain or wish to return to their countries of origin, but are unable to do so.“
TALIBAN FACING ‘THE RESISTANCE’: The fledgling Taliban government is struggling to defeat a growing anti-Taliban insurgency in northeastern Afghanistan, according to a new analysis by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.
The threat to Taliban rule comes from a loose alliance of factions known as the National Resistance Front.
“The longer the NRF is able to grow its insurgency, the greater the chance that it could eventually acquire support from another state. External support could enable the NRF to eventually become powerful enough to threaten Taliban control over parts of Afghanistan,” the ISW says in its analysis. “If local Tajik Taliban fighters lose their willingness to fight the NRF, or defect outright to the NRF, then NRF capabilities will continue to grow at the expense of the Taliban’s ability to govern and control northeastern Afghanistan.”
“Taliban leaders appointed a new slate of military commanders to lead anti-NRF operations, indicating dissatisfaction with the previous commanders’ performance,” the ISW says. “Continued Taliban failures against the NRF could lead to the strengthening of the Haqqani Network within the Taliban’s military leadership.”
ANNE GARRELS 1951-2022: Anne Garrels, former ABC and NBC correspondent and longtime foreign correspondent for NPR, died yesterday of lung cancer at the age of 71.
Garrels was remembered by her colleagues at NPR as “a passionate reporter,” and “a warm and generous friend to many.”
Garrels’s 2003 book Naked in Baghdad, referred to her decision to work unclothed in her hotel room while covering the war as a security precaution to hide her satellite phone, as NPR’s Lynn Neary explained in an obituary on the NPR website.
“I decided it would be very smart if I broadcast naked, so if that, god forbid, the secret police were coming through the rooms, that would give me maybe five minutes to answer the phone, pretend I’d been asleep and sort of go ‘I don’t have any clothes on!’ And maybe it would maybe give me five seconds to hide the phone,” Garrels said.
Garrels retired from NPR in 2010.
9/11 MEMORIAL CLOSED: The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial will be temporarily closed to the public beginning Friday at 4 p.m. through Sunday 2 p.m., as the Pentagon prepares for a weekend observance of the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
President Joe Biden is expected to speak at ceremonies Sunday.
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Air Force Times: Reed Expresses Caution Over Sending US Aircraft to Ukraine
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THURSDAY | SEPTEMBER 8
8:30 a.m. 801 Mt. Vernon Pl. N.W. — Billington Cybersecurity Summit with Sen. Angus King (I-MA) co-chair, Cyberspace Solarium Commission; William Burns, director, Central Intelligence Agency; Defense CIO John Sherman; and others. Full agenda at https://billingtoncybersummit.com/agenda/2022-agenda
8:30 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “Two years since the Abraham Accords: How the region is transforming,” with Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.; Bahrain Ambassador to the United States Abdullah bin Rashed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa; and Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/two-years-since-the-abraham-accords/
9 a.m. — Intelligence and National Security Alliance virtual discussion: “NSA’s current research priorities and challenges, the outlook for high performance computing, artificial intelligence/machine learning, quantum encryption, and partnerships with industry and academia,” with Gil Herrera, NSA research director; and John Doyon, INSA executive vice president https://www.insaonline.org/event/coffee-and-conversation-with-gil-herrera
9:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “Recent Developments on the Korean Peninsula,” with Sue Mi Terry, director of the Wilson Center’s Asia Program; Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies at CSIS; Victor Cha, senior vice president for Asia and Korea chair at CSIS; and Mark Lippert, nonresident senior adviser at CSIS https://www.csis.org/events/capital-cable
9:45 a.m. Ramstein Air Base, Germany — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley hold a news conference following the Ukraine Defense Consultative Group meeting. https://www.defense.gov/News/Live-Events/
10 a.m. — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace virtual book discussion on No Shortcuts: Why States Struggle to Develop a Military Cyber-Force, with author Max Smeets, senior researcher at ETH Zurich’s Center for Security Studies https://carnegieendowment.org/2022/09/08/why-states-struggle
12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “From Ukraine to Taiwan: Charting a new U.S.-Japan Alliance,” with former White House national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Japan chair at Hudson; and Kunihiko Miyake, research director of the Canon Institute for Global Studies https://www.hudson.org/events/2144-virtual-event-from-ukraine-to-taiwan
4 p.m. 1521 16th Street N.W. — Institute of World Politics discussion” “A Year On: Current Events in Taliban Afghanistan,” with Mohibullah Noori, founder of the Heart of Asia Nations Integration Movement and former policy director for Afghanistan’s National Security Council https://www.iwp.edu/events/a-year-on-current-events-in-taliban-afghanistan
FRIDAY | SEPTEMBER 9
TBA — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin returns to Washington after meeting with Czech Republic defense minister in Prague.
9 a.m. — 8:30 a.m. 801 Mt. Vernon Pl. N.W. — Billington Cybersecurity Summit with Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director, Defense Intelligence Agency; and others. Full agenda at https://billingtoncybersummit.com/agenda/2022-agenda
9:50 a.m. — The Pentagon holds its annual 9/11 staff memorial observance in remembrance of the “sacrifice and service of those who were involved in the events of 9/11,” with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Christopher Grady; and Michael Donley, director of Defense Office of Administration and Management
10 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. — Hudson Institute discussion: “Chinese Economic Decoupling Strategy against the United States,” with Patrick Cronin, Asia-Pacific security chair at the Hudson Institute; Miles Yu, senior fellow and director at the Hudson Institute’s China Center; and John Lee, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute https://www.hudson.org/events/2143-chinese-economic-decoupling
2:30 p.m. — Brookings Institution virtual discussion: “Capping the price of Russian oil: Will it happen? Will it succeed,” with Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo; and David Wessel, director of the Brooking Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy https://www.brookings.edu/events/capping-the-price-of-russian-oil
4 p.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. — Brookings Institution discussion on “The role of veterans in strengthening our democracy,” with retired Navy Adm. Steve Abbot, former deputy homeland security adviser to the president; retired Adm. Thad Allen, former commandant of the Coast Guard; retired Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, former chief of the National Guard Bureau; Ellen Gustafson, co-founder of We the Veterans; and Elaine Kamarck, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Effective Public Management https://www.brookings.edu/events/the-role-of-veterans
TUESDAY | SEPTEMBER 13
12:30 p.m. — New America and Arizona State University annual Future Security Forum, with Jen Easterly, director, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; Joshua Geltzer, deputy assistant to the president and deputy homeland security adviser, National Security Council; Maj. Gen. Steven Edwards, incoming commander, Special Operations Command Europe; CMC Pete Musselman, senior enlisted leader, Special Operations Command Europe; and retired Maj. Gen. Michael Repass, NATO strategic adviser for special operations, Ukraine, former deputy commander of Special Operations Command Europe and former commanding general, U.S. Army Special Forces Command https://events.newamerica.org/futuresecurityforum2022
“Ladies and gentlemen, the face of the war is changing and so is the mission of this contact group … It means renewing and deepening our resolve to stand by Ukraine, with support and strength that doesn’t hinge on any one particular battle … We must evolve as the fight evolves.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urging allies not to weaken their resolve to help Ukraine even if it suffers setbacks on the battlefield.