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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 Afghan government could fall within 6-12 months of the U.S. military departing, according to U.S. officials citing a new U.S. intelligence assessment which shows that numerous criteria are trending in the wrong direction. Dan Lamothe and Shane Harris report for the Washington Post.
Approximately 650 U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main U.S. military force completes its withdrawal which is set to be effectively completed in the next two weeks, U.S. officials said speaking to the AP on the condition of anonymity. “In addition, several hundred additional American forces will remain at the Kabul airport, potentially until September, to assist Turkish troops providing security, as a temporary move until a more formal Turkey-led security operation is in place, the officials said. Overall, officials said the U.S. expects to have American and coalition military command, its leadership and most troops out by July Fourth, or shortly after that, meeting an aspirational deadline that commanders developed months ago,” AP reports.
President Biden yesterday vowed that Afghan nationals who helped the U.S. during the Afghan war “are not going to be left behind” as they wait for their visa applications to be approved, indicating that he will address the matter with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. “We’ve already begun the process,” Biden said at the White House yesterday, adding, “they’re welcome here just like anyone else who risked their lives to help us.” Kylie Atwood, Natasha Bertrand, Phil Mattingly, Jennifer Hansler and Jeremy Herb report for CNN.
Biden and members of Congress will meet at the White House today with Ghani and the chair of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah. “In their first face-to-face meeting, Biden will seek to reassure Ghani and Abdullah of U.S. support for the Afghan people including diplomatic, economic and humanitarian assistance, the White House said in a statement. Biden will also repeat his pledge to ensure that the country never becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups,” Reuters reports.
The Post reports that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other senior American officials. will also join the meeting.
Amid Taliban gains in the country, the Afghan government this week recruited and armed local militia volunteers to help with its fight. “Observers say the move only resurrects militias that will be loyal to local commanders or powerful Kabul-allied warlords, who wrecked the Afghan capital during the inter-factional fighting of the 1990s and killed thousands of civilians … On Wednesday at Koh Daman on Kabul’s northern edge, dozens of armed villagers in one of the first National Mobilization militias gathered at a rally,” AP reports.
Over the past week, militia members and armed citizens in over a dozen provinces have rushed to join Afghan security forces fighting the Taliban. “Some critics have warned that relying on former ethnic militia leaders and informal local fighting groups could weaken government control of the military effort and risk a revival of abusive and predatory behavior that marred past anti-Taliban campaigns, such as the suffocation of hundreds of Taliban prisoners inside shipping containers by an ethnic Uzbek warlord whose forces have now been invited to join the national campaign,” report Pamela Constable and Ezzatullah Mehrdad for the Washington Post.
U.S. and Turkish military officials met in Ankara on Thursday to discuss security plans for Turkish troops to continue securing Kabul’s airport after U.S. and NATO troops withdraw, AP reports.
A Canadian government report says Iran was “fully responsible” for the downing of a Ukrainian jet in January 2020 but found no evidence it was “premeditated.” The report acknowledged that an air defense unit operator “likely acted on his own in making the decision to launch the missiles,” although made clear that an eight-month forensic investigation concluded that the downing would not have happened if not for the “incompetence, recklessness, and wanton disregard for human life” of Iranian officials. BBC News reporting.
Iran dismissed the report as “highly politicized.” “From a legal standpoint, [Canada] lack any authority to conduct a unilateral or arbitrary report or comment on an air crash outside their jurisdiction,” Mohsen Baharvand, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for international and legal affairs, was quoted as saying. “If this highly politicized and illegal behavior by Canada became the norm, all countries, even the civil aviation industry, would be the main victims.” Reuters reporting.
A State Department official has said that indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran in Vienna cannot last “indefinitely.” “We’ve made progress” and “the Iranians have been serious,” the official said yesterday in a briefing for reporters, adding, “but we do have differences, and if we can’t bridge them in the foreseeable future, we’re going to have to regroup.” “Dismissing reports that a framework agreement had been reached, the official repeated the administration’s mantra that ‘nothing is agreed until it is all agreed … We are still negotiating every issue,’ including the extent of U.S. sanctions relief, a rollback of Iranian nuclear activities in violation of the terms of the initial deal, and the sequencing of any steps that may be agreed,” Karen DeYoung reports for the Washington Post.
The department official also said that although key differences remain on nuclear talks, a deal is “possible.” “We’re going to try to get them back as soon as possible. Under the terms of the deal, if it’s not done quickly and if Iran continues to make progress, of course it’s something that we’re gonna have to consider in terms of the provisions of the deal that we’d be prepared to accept,” said the official. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan arrived back in Moscow Thursday. “In a statement tweeted from the U.S. Embassy spokesperson’s Twitter account, Sullivan said he was ‘ready to work with the (US Embassy Russia) team toward progress on U.S. foreign policy priorities, and with #Russia on our goal of a stable and predictable relationship between our countries,’” reports Jennifer Hansler for CNN.
Russia warned it will bomb U.K. naval vessels in the Black Sea if there were any further provocative actions by the U.K. navy off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea. “Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Thursday that ‘the inviolability of the Russian borders is an absolute imperative,’ adding that it will be protected ‘by all means, diplomatic, political and military, if needed,’” reports AP.
E.U. leaders have rejected a Franco-German proposal to hold a summit with Russia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. Reuters reporting.
The Biden administration yesterday imposed trade bans on five Chinese entities over forced labor allegations in Xinjiang, the White House said yesterday. Customs and Border Protection yesterday issued a withhold release order barring the import of solar panels and other goods made with materials produced by Chinese-based company Hoshine Silicon, three other Chinese firms and the paramilitary Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), which stand accused of using forced laborers from China’s Xinjiang region. Rebecca Angel reports for the Guardian.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a meeting on Wednesday to consider sweeping legislation to boost economic competitiveness with China and pressure Beijing on human rights abuses. “Committee aides said on Thursday the panel would mark up – or debate and consider amendments to – the ‘Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act,’ or Eagle Act, at a meeting at 1 p.m. EDT on June 30,” Reuters reporting.
Israel said it would further ease its blockade on Gaza, expanding the coastal territory’s fishing zone and allowing the import of raw materials for “essential civilian factories.” “COGAT, the Israeli military body that oversees civilian affairs in Gaza, said the measures would take effect on Friday and are ‘conditional upon the preservation of security stability.’ It said the fishing zone would be expanded from 6 nautical miles to 9 nautical miles,” AP reporting.
The U.N. accused Israel of violating international law by expanding settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying settlements had “no legal validity,” citing a 2016 Security Council resolution, and urging Israel’s new government to end the expansion. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland reported to the Security Council on implementation of the 2016 resolution. Wennesland said in the briefing to the council on Guterres’ 12-page report that he was “deeply troubled” by Israel’s approval of a plan to add 540 housing units to the Har Homa settlement in east Jerusalem as well as the establishment of settlement outposts, saying it was “illegal also under Israeli law.” AP reporting.
Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley repeatedly pushed back on then-President Trump’s argument that the military should intervene violently to quell violent protests that erupted around the nation last year, and he often felt like a lone wolf when pushing back, according to excerpts of a new book, obtained by CNN, from Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, entitled “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost.” Trump “would highlight videos that showed law enforcement getting physical with protesters and tell his administration he wanted to see more of that behavior, the excerpts show,” Zachary Cohen reports for CNN.
A White House staffer, former Biden campaign workers and former Texas state representative are among those suing several people involved in a “Trump Train” that allegedly harassed a Biden campaign bus in Texas in October, claiming in a lawsuit filed yesterday that the Trump supporters engaged in coordinated, illegal political intimidation in violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act. Natasha Bertrand reports for CNN.
Concern has been sparked within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over a conspiracy theory that former President Trump will be re-instated, it was revealed in a members-only briefing that John Cohen, the department’s top counterterrorism official, gave to the House Committee on Homeland Security. Cohen said that “DHS is not aware of any specific, credible threats of violence linked to the conspiracy theory about Trump being reinstated. But he added that DHS is following discussion of the topic online among extremist communities. And he said department officials are highly concerned about it because it fuels the false narrative that the election was rigged — a narrative that may trigger a violent response from extremists,” Betsy Woodruff Swan reports for POLITICO.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced yesterday that the House will form a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Jeremy Herb, Clare Foran, Ryan Nobles and Daniella Diaz report for CNN.
The total number of people arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 attack reached 500 as the Justice Department yesterday arrested the first defendant to face charges for assaulting a journalist, Attorney General (AG) Merrick Garland announced. Spencer S. Hsu reports for the Washington Post.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth yesterday rebuked Republican lawmakers who downplayed violence by insurrectionists at the Capitol, saying that those who break the law must pay a penalty.Lamberth’s comments were made during the first sentencing hearing to be held for any defendant charged in connection with the Capitol attack. Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner report for the Washington Post.
2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
A New York court has suspended Rudy Giuliani from practicing law in that state over his claims of fraud during the 2020 presidential election. “We conclude that there is uncontroverted evidence that respondent communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020, a five-judge New York Supreme Court appellate panel concluded in a per curiam opinion issued yesterday. Josh Gerstein reports for POLITICO.
Former Vice President Mike Pence yesterday said he was proud of his decision to approve the certification of Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential race, Amy B Wang reports for the Washington Post.
Trump’s former lawyers and allies yesterday urged a federal judge in Washington to dismiss a trio of billion-dollar defamation lawsuits brought by Dominion Voting Systems over false claims that the company’s technology was used to rig the election. Ann E. Marimow reports for the. Washington Post.
Georgia Superior Court Judge Brian Amero yesterday dismissed seven out of nine lawsuits that alleged there were fraudulent mail-in ballots in Fulton County, “dealing a potential blow to a group of local voters that has pushed to inspect all 147,000 absentee ballots cast in the state’s largest county last November,” Amy B Wang reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER U.S. DEVELOPMENTS
The State Department has approved the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets, as well as Sidewinder and Harpoon missiles, to the Philippines in three separate deals that have a combined value of around $2.5 billion, the Pentagon said yesterday. Al Jazeera reports.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a pair of bills yesterday that would expand video coverage of federal court trials and put Supreme Court hearings on camera for the first time, the first time such legislation has passed the Senate committee in more than ten years, according to Fix the Court, a group advocating for more transparency in the judicial system. “Both bills have bipartisan support, including the endorsement of the panel’s chair, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and the longstanding backing of the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa,” Josh Gerstein reports for POLITICO.
A network of gig workers, many of them in the developing world, is unwittingly providing basic intelligence to the U.S. military by using only a consumer app on their smartphones. San Francisco-based Premise Data Corp. pays users to complete basic tasks for small payments, which started off focused on commercial information. However, “Premise in recent years has also started working with the U.S. military and foreign governments, marketing the capability of its flexible, global, gig-based workforce to do basic reconnaissance and gauge public opinion,” Byron Tau reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The fiancée of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has urged President Biden to stop the extradition case against him. Reuters reporting.
The deadliest massacre that Burkina Faso has suffered, which left over 130 dead earlier this month, was carried out mostly by children between the ages of 12 and 14, the government said. Danielle Paquette and Henry Wilkins reports for the Washington Post.
The U.N. said over 230,000 people have been displaced due to the ongoing conflict in Myanmar, Reuters reports.
64 people were killed and 100 others wounded after a military airstrike hit the Ethiopian region of Tigray, AP reports
The U.N. Development Program (UNDP) has found that the 12-year-old conflict in northeast Nigeria has caused, directly and indirectly, the deaths of around 350,000 people, the vast majority of which are children below the age of five, Al Jazeera reporting.
The U.N. on Thursday inaugurated a U.N. office for counter-terrorism and training in Africa. Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said the new office in Rabat will seek to “unite our efforts to deal with the complex and evolving terrorist threat.” Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the U.N. Office of Counter-Terrorism, said the office “will allow the United Nations to raise African countries’ capabilities, especially in West Africa and the Sahel, where terrorist groups threaten stability and peace.” AP reports.
Islamic State-linked groups in Africa “are set for major expansion after a series of significant victories, new alliances and shifts in strategy reinforced their position across much of the continent,”reports Jason Burke for the Guardian.
Raman Pratasevich, the dissident Belarusian journalist, and his Russian girlfriend who were arrested after being pulled off a Ryanair flight that was diverted to Minsk have been moved from jail to house arrest. BBC News reporting.
The coronavirus has infected over 33.591 million and now killed over 603,180 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 180.076 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.902 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
In summer 2020, the U.S. had six times as many cases as reported and nearly five asymptomatic cases went undetected, according to a new study by the National Institutes of Health. Neil Vigdor reports for the New York Times.
There are at least 200 known cases of the Delta Plus coronavirus variant worldwide, including the U.S., U.K. and India. More details are provided by Jessie Yeung for CNN.
Inside the extraordinary effort to save former President Trump from Covid-19 by Damian Paletta and Yasmeen Abutaleb for the Washington Post, adapted from the book entitled “Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History,” set to be published June 29.
The Biden administration plans to give Afghanistan three million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week, a senior administration official said. Gordon Lubold and Yaroslav Trofimov 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.