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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news
The U.S. military has completed between 2–6% of the process of completely withdrawing from Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said Tuesday, moving approximately 60 C-17 cargo planes worth of material out of Afghanistan and sending 1,300 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction, Centcom said. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
The Taliban launched a major offensive against several Afghan military checkpoints Tuesday, including in southern Helmand province, taking over some of them and displacing hundreds of families, said Attaullah Afghan, the head of Helmand’s provincial council, in what is thought to be the insurgent group’s response to the Biden administration missing a May 1 withdrawal deadline set by the Trump administration. “Afghan security forces had carried out air strikes and deployed elite commando forces to the area. The insurgents had been pushed back but fighting was continuing on Tuesday,” Reuters reporting.
The Taliban has captured the district of Barka in the northern province of Baghlan, forcing government forces to retreat. Reuters reporting.
Progress on women’s rights could likely “roll back” if the Taliban are able to regain power in the country, a report by the National Intelligence Council found.
A minibus carrying medical workers was the target of a bomb in the Afghan capital, killing one person, a police official said. AP reporting.
Afghan militants kill four Pakistani soldiers and wound six more during an ambush along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border Wednesday, Pakistan’s military said. AP reporting.
Myanmar’s National Unity Government, a junta opposition group, has formed a “people’s defense force” to protect its supporters from military attacks and violence. Reuters reporting.
Myanmar’s military junta has banned satellite dishes as part of a crackdown on media reporting, in what it described as a security threat, with a possible one-year prison sentence or $320 fine for anyone who installs a satellite. Rebecca Ratcliffe reports for the Guardian.
Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.N. told Congress yesterday that Washington should up its sanctions on the state-run Myanmar oil and gas company and a state-owned bank. Reuters reporting.
In 2020 Germany recorded its highest number of right-wing extremist crimes committed in 20 years, the interior ministry said. Such crimes “accounted for 23,064 criminal offenses [in 2020]. That is more than half … of all politically motivated crimes,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said at a press conference in Berlin. Laurenz Gehrke reports for POLITICO EU.
Germany today banned Ansaar International, an Islamic organization which is accused of supporting “terrorism globally with its donations.” “The ministry alleged the money the organization collected ostensibly went into welfare projects as a ruse to help finance groups such as the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate known as the Nusra Front, the Palestinian group Hamas and al-Shabab in Somalia,” reports AP.
The National Security Council (NSC)-led review into domestic extremism has been completed, with policy recommendations due in the coming weeks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. The review looked at how the government can better share intel about potential domestic terror threats, deter radicalization and disrupt extremist networks. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
National Explosives Task Force documents obtained by transparency group Property of the People reveal that a broad range of explosive, flamethrowers and incendiary devices were found outside public buildings and political conventions and during far-right protests in 2020 and 2021. “A separate New York police department intelligence document circulated in the wake of the Capitol attack defines groups including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters, QAnon adherents and the Oath Keepers as potential risks to officer safety, characterizing all of the rightwing groups as extremists in the strongest terms yet seen from any law enforcement agency,” reports Jason Wilson for the Guardian.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson has ordered the release of a memo by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel supporting former Attorney General Bill Barr’s conclusion that former President Trump should not be prosecuted for obstruction of justice over matters investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller, rejecting an attempt by the department to keep the opinion a secret and saying the department had been “disingenuous” to the court. “The department had argued in court that the largely redacted March 2019 memo was legal reasoning that helped … Barr make a decision about Trump. But federal judge … Jackson said she believed Barr and his advisers had already decided they wouldn’t charge [Trump] with a crime before he got the written advice, and the memo was partly strategic planning instead of legal reasoning – and therefore could be made public …. Jackson’s strongly worded opinion, though largely about technicalities around government confidentiality, comes close to accusing the Justice Department of a cover-up,” reports Katelyn Polantz for CNN.
Trump allies, including his former attorney, have formed the Election Integrity Alliance to focus on “ending election fraud and strengthening election safeguards by providing information, resources, endorsements of allies’ efforts, and solutions to secure free and fair elections.” The alliance was created by the American Greatness Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group aligned with Trump, and has on its board former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Alex Isenstadt reports for POLITICO.
Federal prosecutors want a court-appointed special master to review the mounds of information FBI agents seized from former President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani before it’s handed over to investigators, citing “the unusually sensitive privilege issues that the Warrants may implicate” as well as the Michael Cohen case as reasons why such a review may be necessary and appropriate. “It is not that unusual for authorities in a case involving lawyers’ records to use a ‘filter’ or ‘taint’ team to review seized material and decide what information is relevant to the warrant and keep separate any information that is covered by attorney-client privilege … It is unusual, however, for prosecutors to preemptively ask for an outside special master to oversee such work and make determinations. In the Cohen case, his defense attorneys requested such an appointment, and the judge agreed,” reports Devlin Barrett for the Washington Post.
Giuliani’s allies are reportedly calling for Trump’s team to dip into its $250 million campaign bank account to support his former lawyer in paying for his growing legal costs. Maggie Haberman and Ben Protess reports for the New York Times.
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
Abram Markofski, a member of the Wisconsin National Guard, has been arrested and faces four charges in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the Justice Department said, the fourth service members to be charged. Alex Horton reports for the Washington Post.
Patrick Edward McCaughey III, jailed since Jan. 19 for assaulting and resisting government officers during the Jan. 6 attack, has been released pending trial. Spencer S. Hsu reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Department of Defense (DoD)’s inspector general will examine “the extent to which the DoD has taken actions regarding Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), [or UFOs],” Randolph Stone, assistant inspector general for evaluations on space, intelligence, engineering and oversight, wrote in a memo to the Pentagon leadership. Oren Liebermann and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.
Pentagon officials are finalizing recommendations to create a Space National Guard, the chief of the National Guard Bureau told lawmakers, potentially setting up a new group of part-time space professionals for the military. Connor O’Brien reports for POLITICO.
“We are conducting oversight of Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s reported decision to provide potentially classified intelligence to Iran [on Israeli attacks on Iranian interests in Syria],” Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee said in a letter to White House counsel Dana Remus. Rachel Frazin reports for The Hill.
John Cameron Denton, a former leader in a violent neo-Nazi group, the Atomwaffen Division, was sentenced yesterday to 41 months in prison for what prosecutors called “the most widespread swatting conspiracy in the country.” “Swatting is the practice of making fake bomb and hostage threats to provoke an overwhelming law enforcement response,” reports Rachel Weiner for the Washington Post.
An armed suspect who was shot by an FBI agent outside of the CIA headquarters has died, the FBI confirmed yesterday. Reuters reporting
The attorney for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has requested a new trial, alleging the court abused its discretion when it denied the trial to be moved out of Minneapolis and then refused to sequester the jury, as well as citing that prosecutorial and jury misconduct undermined “the fairness of the trial.” Holly Bailey reports for the Washington Post.
President Biden says he hopes to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his June trip to Europe. Alex Leary reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A bipartisan group of senators yesterday called on the State Department to press international donors to address the $2.5 billion shortfall in aid to assist the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. “Today, nearly 50,000 people in Yemen are living in famine-like conditions with 5 million more just a step away. Unlike in 2018, the international community has so far mostly failed to rise to the challenge and provide the robust funding needed to stave off this catastrophe,” the senators wrote in a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Reutersreporting.
Indirect, U.S.-mediated talks between Lebanon and Israel resumed yesterday over their disputed maritime border,after nearly a six-month pause. AP reporting.
Biden stressed the importance of normalizing ties between the UAE and Israel during a call with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the White House said in a statement. Reuters reporting.
The Pentagon is tracking a large out of control Chinese rocket which is set to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere this weekend. Barbara Starr and Paul LeBlanc report for CNN.
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerk arrived in Sudan and was welcomed by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, amid tensions over Ethiopia. AP reporting.
“An Iranian diplomat sentenced to 20 years in prison for planning a bomb attack in France has dropped an appeal in Belgium and will serve his sentence, his representative said on Wednesday,” reports Reuters.
Egypt and Turkey will hold two days of political consultations in Cairo today and tomorrow as part of an effort to mend ties. “These exploratory discussions will focus on the necessary steps that may lead towards the normalization of relations between the two countries, bilaterally and in the regional context,” a statement released by the foreign ministries of both countries said. Reuters reporting.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has missed a midnight deadline for forming a new coalition government, meaning Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will now be tasked with deciding how to proceed. AP reporting.
The novel coronavirus has infected over 32.52 million and now killed over 578,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 154.43 million confirmed coronavirus cases and close to 3.23 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.
Latest updates on the pandemic at the Guardian.