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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 already started conducting so-called over-the-horizon operations as it withdraws from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said. Austin declined to confirm reports that the military is considering continuing to provide air support to Afghan forces if a major city starts to fall to the Taliban, however, Austin said that he “would just point to the fact that, as we have retrograded a lot of our capability out of country, we are doing a lot of things over-the-horizon now.” “ISR is being flown from [Gulf countries]. A lot of our combat aircraft missions are being conducted from platforms in the Gulf. And so we have the capability now to do that,” he added. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
Turkey should withdraw troops from Afghanistan under the 2020 deal for the pull-out of U.S. forces, a Taliban spokesperson has said. The statement effectively rejects Turkey’s proposal to guard and run Kabul’s airport after U.S.-led NATO forces depart. “The development raises serious questions for the United States, other countries and international organizations with missions in Kabul about how to securely evacuate their personnel from landlocked Afghanistan should fighting threaten the capital,” Jonathan Landay reports for Reuters.
The Islamic State (IS) affiliate has claimed responsibility for the attack in northern Afghanistan that killed 10 workers of the HALO Trust demining agency and wounded 16 others. The IS statement said that “IS operatives killed and wounded 60 workers ‘firing on them with their machine guns,’” Tameem Akhgar reports for AP.
President Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson have signed a new Atlantic Charter that outlines eight key areas on which the U.S. and U.K. plan to collaborate. The charter, modelled on the 1941 agreement, includes commitments “to deepen cooperation in democracy and human rights, defense and security, science and innovation, and economic,” according to a U.S.-U.K. joint statement. Rebecca Shabad and Alexander Smith report for NBC News.
Biden raised concerns over Northern Ireland and the risk of Brexit undermining the historic Good Friday peace agreement in his meeting with Johnson, according to officials of both governments. Johnson told U.K. broadcasters that Biden’s approach is a “breath of fresh air,” and that his talks with the president had gone well. Anne Gearan and Ashley Parker report for the Washington Post.
Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau has criticized President Biden’s decision not to meet eastern European leaders on his first trip abroad. Rau has also expressed regret that the U.S. waived sanctions against the company behind the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will carry natural gas from Russia to Germany. Reuters reports.
The U.S. embassy in Cambodia has said that its defense attaché had been refused full access to Cambodia’s largest naval base during an invited visit. The refusal comes days after U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman expressed concern about China’s military activities at the base and asked for clarification about the demolition of U.S.-funded buildings there. Reuters reporting.
The U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights has encouraged stronger diplomatic effort by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other “influential states” in de-escalating the conflict in Myanmar, warning of the worsening violence in the country. “There appear to be no efforts towards de-escalation but rather a build-up of troops in key areas, contrary to the commitments the military made to ASEAN to cease the violence,” Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. Reuters reports.
The U.S. is prepared to review “trade-related activities” with Nicaragua, if the country’s upcoming elections are not free and fair, a senior State Department official has said. Daphne Psaledakis and Matt Spetalnick report for Reuters.
IRAN AND YEMEN
Russia is preparing to supply Iran with an advanced satellite system that will boost the country’s ability to surveil military targets across the Middle East and beyond. Former U.S. and Middle Eastern officials briefed on the details of the arrangement said that “the plan would deliver to the Iranians a Russian-made Kanopus-V satellite equipped with a high-resolution camera that would greatly enhance Iran’s spying capabilities, allowing continuous monitoring of facilities ranging from Persian Gulf oil refineries and Israeli military bases to Iraqi barracks that house U.S. troops,” Joby Warrick reports for the Washington Post.
Iran’s state TV has reported that the Iranian warships sailing in the Atlantic Ocean are on a rare mission. Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, Iran’s deputy army chief, described the mission as the navy “improving its seafaring capacity and proving its long-term durability in unfavorable seas and the Atlantic’s unfavorable weather conditions,” adding that the warships would not call at any other ports during the mission. AP reports.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers yesterday that he shares their concerns about the Iranian warships and the possibility that they are transferring weapons to Venezuela. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), speaking during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, said that allowing the ships to dock would be “significant” on many levels and “the precedent of allowing Iran to provide weapons to the region” caused him “great concern.” Austin said that he shared Blumenthal’s concerns, adding that “I am absolutely concerned about the proliferation of weapons, any type of weapons, in our neighborhood.” Lara Seligman, Betsy Woodruff Swan and Andrew Desiderio report for POLITICO.
President Biden’s administration has lifted some Iran sanctions, signaling a willingness to further ease economic pressure on Iran if the country changes course. The Treasury Department lifted sanctions on three former Iranian officials and several energy companies. However, the Department insisted that the moves were routine administrative actions and had no connection to the indirect talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Ian Talley and Laurence Norman report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. has announced sanctions against an international network that has ties with Houthi rebels and Iran. The sanctions penalizing individuals and entities who make up a smuggling network that brings the Houthi’s tens of millions of dollars’ worth of funds are part of an effort to pressure the group to agree to a cease-fire in Yemen and for parties to resume political talks. Tal Axelrod reports for The Hill.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels fired missiles on Yemen’s central city of Marib, killing at least eight people and wounding as many as 27, Yemen’s state news agency reported. A mosque and a women’s prison were struck in the “second such attack on Marib in nearly a week as rebels push to capture the key city from the forces of the internationally recognized government to complete their control over the northern half of the country,” Ahmed Al-Haj report for AP.
Two Palestinian intelligence officers have been killed by Israeli special forces during a raid in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli forces, some undercover, entered Jenin in the northern West Bank overnight to arrest two Palestinians suspected of recent attacks. The Palestinian officers were shot dead after they witnessed the raid and reportedly opened fire at the Israelis, according to Israeli media. BBC News reports.
An Israeli court has postponed a hearing of two Palestinian families facing deportation from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. A group of supporters had gathered outside the Israeli central court to demonstrate against the forced expansion, with Israeli forces detaining three Palestinians. Al Jazeera reports.
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged six men with new conspiracy charges relating to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The men from California are said to be affiliated with the Three Percenters and allegedly organized themselves as a “DC Brigade,” including one man who spoke at a right-wing rally in Washington, DC, the day before the attack. Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has been grilled by the House Judiciary Committee over the FBI’s actions surrounding the Jan. 6 attack, as well as the bureau’s approach to domestic extremists. “The FBI’s inaction in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6 is simply baffling. It is hard to tell whether FBI Headquarters merely missed the evidence — which had been flagged by your field offices and was available online for all the world to see — or whether the bureau saw the intelligence, underestimated the threat and simply failed to act. Neither is acceptable. We need your help to get to the bottom of it,” Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
Wray suggested that “serious charges” are still coming in the ongoing criminal investigation into the attack. Wray testified that the FBI considered the attack an act of “domestic terrorism” and that “there’s a lot more to come” on the ongoing investigation. Jan Wolfe reports for Reuters.
Wray also dismissed claims from former President Trump about a stolen presidential election. “We did not find evidence of fraud that could have changed the outcome of the election,” he told lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee. The Guardian reports.
Wray also said that he is “not aware of any investigation” against Trump in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, but that the FBI “have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of investigations related to January 6, involving lots and lots of different pieces of it.” Christina Carrega reports for CNN.
The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) are hiring a retired Secret Service agent to oversee “major event planning,” including “National Special Security Events,” according to a statement from the USCP. The announcement comes as the USCP works to make changes following the Jan. 6 attack. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
Prosecutors in the DOJ under former President Trump subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of House Intelligence Committee Democrats, including chair of the committee Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), according to an Intelligence Committee official and source familiar with the matter. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) has also been notified that his data had been seized as part of the probe. Manu Raju, Evan Perez, Katie Bo Williams and Paul LeBlanc report for CNN.
Prosecutors “were hunting for the sources behind news media reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks,” Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt and Adam Goldman report for the New York Times.
Schiff is calling for an inspector general investigation of the Trump administration DOJ following the report that his phone records, along with those of aides and another member of the committee, had been seized. Schiff described the DOJ’s reported actions as a “terrible abuse of power.” “It also makes the Department of Justice just a fully owned subsidiary of the president’s personal legal interests and political interests,” Schiff told reporters. Myah Ward reports for POLITICO.
Pentagon leaders are requesting that the Armed Services committees, in writing the fiscal 2022 defense authorization bill, prescribe changes to the Freedom of Information Act that would limit public access to certain data; changes which transparency advocates are describing as indefensible restrictions on the Act. “If such a new law is not enacted, it could lead to the disclosure of information that adversaries can use against U.S. troops, whose lives could consequently be ‘seriously jeopardized,’ as could ‘defense of the homeland,’ the officials said in a report to Congress on Monday,” John M. Donnelly reports for Roll Call.
The U.S.’s top general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that the proposal to remove military prosecutions of all serious crimes from the chain of command “requires some detailed study.” Miller reiterated that he is “very open minded to some significant and fundamental change in the area of sexual assault, sexual harassment,” but that “the bright line of all felonies … requires some detailed study before we completely overhaul the entire [Uniform Code of Military Justice].” Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved Frank Kendall, President Biden’s nominee, to be Air Force secretary. The approval included six other Pentagon nominees, and all seven will now go to the Senate floor for approval. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
The State Bar of Texas is investigating whether Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton committed professional misconduct by challenging President Biden’s victory in the courts. The lawsuit has been described as “frivolous” and wasting taxpayer money. Dave Montgomery reports for the New York Times.
The wife of Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, the drug-lord known as El Chappo, has pleaded guilty to helping her husband’s multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise smuggling drugs into the U.S. Emma Coronel Aispuro also admitted to aiding her husband’s escape from a prison in Mexico in 2015 and has remained in custody, pending sentencing on Sept. 15. Spencer S. Hsu reports for the Washington Post.
FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that the cyber threat is “increasing almost exponentially,” during the hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. “The scale of this is something that I don’t think this country has ever really seen anything quite like it and it’s going to get much worse,” Wray said. Erin Doherty reports for Axios.
Biden’s nominees for the top two cybersecurity positions in the federal government faced little opposition during their Senate nomination hearing. Chris Inglis, the former National Security Agency Deputy Director, nominated to fill the new position of national cyber director at the White House, and Jen Easterly, nominated to lead the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, stressed to senators during the hearing the need to confront mounting cyberattacks in the U.S. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
A bipartisan group of senators have introduced a bill intended to protect small businesses from cyberattacks. The Small Business Credit Protection Act, introduced by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), John Kennedy (R-LA), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA), “would mandate credit bureaus inform small businesses of a nonpublic personal data breach within 30 days. It would also bar credit bureaus from charging such businesses for a credit report within 180 days of a breach,” Tal Axelrod reports for The Hill.
France is ending its counterterrorism operation in the Sahel region of Africa as part of a plan to replace the operation with a broader international force, French President Emmanuel Macron has announced. The current operation will be folded into an international alliance that will include France’s Western and regional partners; however, Macron did not say if he was planning to withdraw any of the 5,000 troops that France has stationed in the region. Noemie Bisserbe and Benoit Faucon report for the Wall Street Journal.
More than 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region are suffering famine conditions, with millions more at risk, according to analysis by U.N. agencies and aid groups. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification analysis placed more than 350,000 people in phase 5 catastrophe, which can rise to a declaration of famine in the region, and most of the 5.5 million people in Tigray need food aid. Reuters reports.
Food is becoming a weapon of war in Tigray as famine looms, with Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers blocking food aid and even stealing it, Rodney Muhumuza reports for the AP.
A U.K. report on Hong Kong has said that Beijing has broken its legal obligations by undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and used a national security law to “drastically curtail freedoms,” “The report criticized Beijing’s overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system, prosecution decisions made by the Department of Justice and the contentious security law,” Anne Marie Roantree reports for Reuters.
China has created a “dystopian hellscape” in Xinjiang with hundreds of thousands of predominately Muslim minorities subjected to mass internment and torture in police stations and camps, a latest report from Amnesty International says. Sarah Johnson reports for the Guardian.
Support for a global treaty that bans nuclear weapons is growing within NATO, an advocacy group has said. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said in a statement “that it had seen increased backing for the accord among voters and lawmakers in NATO’s 30 countries, as reflected in public opinion polls, parliamentary resolutions, political party declarations and statements from past leaders,” Rick Gladstone reports for the New York Times.
Millions of Syrians risk losing access to lifesaving aid, including food and Covid-19 vaccines, if the use of the last remaining cross-border corridor for U.N. aid into rebel-held northwestern Syria is blocked by Russia at the U.N. Security Council, according to a leading rights group. “Veto-wielding Russia, Damascus’ close ally, has been pressing for the closure of the last remaining aid crossing corridor into the area, insisting the Syrian government should control all assistance going into the country — even to areas outside its control,” Sarah El Deeb reports for AP.
A plane belonging to Myanmar’s military has crashed, killing at least 12 people, including a well-known senior Buddhist monk, according to Myanmar state media reports. The crash occurred during bad weather when the plane was making its landing approach. AP reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 33.42 million and now killed close to 598,750 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been close to 174.90 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.770 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
President Biden has announced that the U.S. will buy and donate 500 million does of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine do donate to countries around the world. The move is part of Biden’s efforts to reassert the United State’s health leadership around the world and “will also serve to counter efforts by Russia and China to use their own state-funded vaccines to expand their global influence,” Betsy Klein, Kate Sullivan and Maegan Vazquez report for CNN.
More people have died across the world this year from Covid-19 than in all of 2020, according to official counts. The figures highlight “how the global pandemic is far from over even as vaccines beat back the virus in wealthy nations,” Jon Kamp, Jason Douglas and Juan Forero report for the Wall Street Journal.
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.