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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
AFGHANISTAN – TALIBAN GOVERNMENT
The Taliban yesterday announced the formation of a new acting government in Afghanistan, with a permanent leadership soon expected – tops posts went to veterans of the group who led the 20-year war against U.S.-NATO forces, former Guantánamo inmates, members of a U.S.-designated terror group and subjects of United Nations sanctions lists, and a member of the FBI’s “most-wanted” list, though no women or members of Afghanistan’s recently ousted leaderships were chosen, contradicting the Taliban’s early vows and defying the demands of the international community for an “inclusive” government. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid defended the appointments as “inclusive,” saying the group held discussions about the temporary cabinet “all over the country.” He said people were chosen based only on who “fought hard and sacrificed the most for freedom.” The State Department said it was “assessing” the announcement of the caretaker cabinet, noting that the list of officials “consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women.” “We also are concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals,” said a department spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity, adding, “we have made clear our expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government.” Susannah George, Haq Nawaz Khan, Rachel Pannett, Ezzatullah Mehrdad, Adam Taylor and Karen DeYoung report for the Washington Post.
More on the appointments by Reuters, New York Times, Washington Post and CNN. The Taliban named Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a close aide of the group’s late founder Mohammad Omar, currently under U.N. sanctions, as acting prime minister. Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the group’s co-founders, was appointed Akhund’s deputy. Baradar served in the Taliban’s political bureau in Doha, Qatar, and led the group’s peace talks with the United States. He also recently arrived back in Afghanistan after a 20-year-exile and reportedly met with CIA Director William J. Burns. Mohammed Yaqoob, a son of Omar, was appointed acting defense minister. Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terror group aligned with the Taliban and al Qaeda, will be the acting interior minister. Haqqani has been one of two deputy leaders of the Taliban since 2016, and is a member of the FBI’s “most-wanted” list, with a $10 million bounty on his head. Khalil Haqqani, Sirajuddin’s uncle and member of his network, was appointed as acting minister for refugees. Amir Khan Muttaqi will be acting ass foreign minister, and was until recently head of the Taliban’s Invitation and Guidance Commission, which was responsible for persuading many members of the Afghan security forces to surrender in recent months. Four appointed officials had previously been detained by the U.S. at Guantánamo Bay and were released as part of a prisoner swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in 2014: the Taliban appointed Noorullah Noori to acting minister of borders and tribal affairs, Abdul Haq Wasiq as acting intelligence director, Khairullah Khair to acting minister of information and culture and Mohammad Fazil Mazloom to deputy minister of defense. A fifth detainee released in the 2014 trade, Mohammed Nabi Omari, was appointed as the new governor of the southeastern province of Khost last month, according to Taliban.
Akhund pledged that the acting ministers would protect the human rights of all Afghans and called on educated and experienced citizens not to leave the country, saying Afghanistan’s new government “desperately needs their talents, guidance and work.” Susannah George, Haq Nawaz Khan, Rachel Pannett, Ezzatullah Mehrdad, Adam Taylor and Karen DeYoung report for the Washington Post.
Mujahid told reporters that the line-up was an “acting” Cabinet and said the Taliban will “try to take people from other parts of the country,” an apparent nod to previous pledges to form an “inclusive” leadership for Afghanistan. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme leader, will retain his position as ultimate authority over the group’s political, religious, and military affairs, a position he has held since 2016. Akhundzada said Tuesday, in his first public statement since his group’s takeover on Aug. 15, that the Taliban were committed to all international laws, treaties and commitments not in conflict with Islamic law, which would henceforth regulate all governance in Afghanistan. Reuters reports.
AFGHANISTAN – U.S. DEVELOPMENTS
The White House budget office yesterday sent Congress an “urgent” spending request asking for $6.4 million to pay for the ongoing Afghanistan resettlement effort. “A senior administration official said those funds would be used to help bring 65,000 Afghans to the U.S. by the end of September as well as another 30,000 who may come over the course of the next year,” reports Rebecca Beitsch for The Hill.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) yesterday denied reports that he threatened the U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan and embassy staff when asking for assistance with transporting a large amount of cash into the country as part of an effort to enter Afghanistan. “Well, first of all the ambassador and I in Tajikistan get along. And it was his group that really tried to help us as much as they could. It wasn’t, that’’s a misnarrative, him and I actually spoke about this yesterday and he actually apologized about it,” Mullin said during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day.” “His guys are the ones that were actually there trying to volunteer their time and help towards the end of this, not going up to it,” he added. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a leading voice on foreign policy matters, predicted during an interview with BBC News on Monday that the U.S. “will be going back into Afghanistan” to fight against what he predicts will be a “large” terrorist threat, warning that the Taliban will offer safe haven to al Qaeda.Alexander Bolton reports for The Hill.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will testify before Congress’s foreign affairs committees in public hearings next week as lawmakers probe the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. “Blinken will address the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a public hearing on Monday, Sept. 13., at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) in a public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 14, the committees said,” Reuters reporting.
President Biden told reporters yesterday that he was “sure” the likes of China, Russia and Pakistan would try to “work out some arrangement with the Taliban.” Reuters reporting.
AFGHANISTAN – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported Tuesday that basic services are beginning to collapse in Afghanistan as aid supplies and food start dwindle. OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said during a briefing in Geneva that millions of Afghans need health care and food. OCHA has issued a call for nearly $600 million to be donated to Afghanistan in order to sustain the needs of 11 million people who face threats of starvation and drought through the rest of the year, and encouraged donors to lend their financial support before an international aid conference for Afghanistan later this month. Reuters reports.
Hundreds of men and women protested in the streets of Kabul Tuesday in support of resistance fighters in the Panjshir province after the Taliban claimed victory, taking control of the area Monday.The protests were initially peaceful, with Taliban fighters escorting the march, until demonstrators neared the presidential palace and the firing began. Protestors report people being detained, journalists being stopped from filming and even being forced to delete photos and videos already taken. Mujahid said protests would not be allowed during this tenuous period, so people are not able to “use the current situation to cause trouble.” Susannah George, Haq Nawaz Khan, Rachel Pannett, Ezzatullah Mehrdad, Adam Taylor and Karen DeYoung report for the Washington Post.
U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Lawmakers and law enforcement agencies are bracing for potential security threats on Sept. 18 at the “Justice for J6” rally in support of the more than 570 people charged with crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The rally has been organized by campaign staffer for former President Trump and is expected to be attended by members of far-right extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. The Capitol Police are expected to present their security plan to the Capitol Police Board this week, according to a congressional source who declined to speak on any details prior. The Metropolitan Police Department is planning an “increased presence around the city.” Cristina Marcos and Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
U.S. Park Police (USPP) and National Park Service (NPS) emails sent on the morning of the Jan. 6 attack highlight gun incidents and warnings of violence as mobs made their way from Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally at The Ellipse, near the White House, to the Capitol building, NBC 4 Washington reported following a Freedom of Information Act request. “In one alert shared by a Park Police commander with police lieutenants and NPS officials, a growing crowd was described to be near the White House ‘Wearing ballistic helmets, body armor and carrying radio equipment and military grade backpacks’ … Another Park Police official said one person who had a rifle was detained near the World War II Memorial. Other emails also revealed several instances of guns being discovered, according to NBC 4 Washington … Some emails also reveal reports of ‘very suspicious packages around Capitol proper,’” reports Mychael Schnell for The Hill.
The House Ethics Committee confirmed yesterday that it is reviewing whether Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) violated ethics rules and federal law after two ethics complaints were filed against the lawmaker earlier this year following a report by Business Insider that he failed to disclose stock transactions worth at least $671,000 in violation of a federal law designed to prevent insider trading by members of Congress, and an Associated Press report that Malinowski bought or sold as much as $1 million of stock in medical and tech companies with a stake in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “The Ethics Committee has not opened a formal investigation into Malinowski, but rather is reviewing a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an independent entity that probes allegations of misconduct and then makes referrals to the panel,” Cristina Marcos reports for The Hill.
A group of bipartisan House lawmakers this week introduced legislation to set a term limit for the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). “The CISA Cybersecurity Leadership Act would establish a five-year term for the CISA director position, and reaffirm that the position is presidentially nominated and Senate approved,” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
More Americans are worried about domestic extremism than threats posed from overseas, according to a survey by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which found that 65% of Americans are extremely concerned or very concerned about U.S.-based extremist groups, compared to 50% of Americans who said the same of extremist groups based outside of the United States. When broken down by party, Democrats were more likely to be concerned about homegrown terror threats than Republicans, 75% to 57% respectively. AP reporting.
Cameras, Drones and X-Ray Vans: How 9/11 Transformed the N.Y.P.D. Forever by Ali Watkins for the New York Times.
U.S. authorities are investigating whether payments by Raytheon Technologies Corp. to a Qatar Armed Forces contractor may have been bribes intended for a member of the country’s ruling royal family, according to people familiar with the matter. The antibribery probe was prompted after a lawsuit in California, dismissed last year on jurisdictional grounds, included allegations that Raytheon had funneled around $1.9 million in payoffs through Qatar-based defense and security-consulting firm Digital Soula Systems, that was part-owned by a brother of the country’s emir. “A Thales [spokesperson] said the investigations disclosed by Raytheon concerned Raytheon or a joint venture under Raytheon’s full control, and that the French company hadn’t received any inquiries from U.S. or French authorities about the matter,” Dylan Tokar reports for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley will visit Moscow and Paris this week for talks with Russian and European officials on “Iran’s nuclear program and the need to quickly reach and implement an understanding on a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” a State Department statement said. “Speaking on condition of anonymity, a U.S. official said Malley was expected to meet Russian officials in Moscow on Wednesday and Thursday and British, French, German and European Union officials in Paris on Friday. The official suggested the talks would not focus on next week’s meeting of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Reuters reporting.
An Israeli manhunt has so far failed to find six Palestinian militants who escaped an Israeli jail early on Monday morning. The jail break has been described by prison officials as the biggest Palestinian jailbreak in 23 years. “The six men were among about 5,000 Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli prisons after being convicted or accused of militant activity. Five are members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a militant Islamist group, the prison service said. The sixth is the most widely known, and also the odd one out: Zakaria Zubeidi, a 45-year-old former commander in the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, an armed group loosely linked to Fatah, the secular political party that dominates Palestinian institutions in the West Bank,” Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that Iran is blocking a probe into its past nuclear activities. In two reports seen by Reuters, the IAEA said that it had not made progress on explaining uranium traces found at several old, undeclared sites, nor had it been given urgent access since May 25 to monitor equipment to keep track of Iran’s nuclear program. The second report raised concerns about four locations Iran had not declared. “The Agency’s confidence that it can maintain continuity of knowledge is declining over time and has now significantly further declined,” one of the reports read. Reuters reporting.
Syrian refugees who were pressured to return home by host countries in Europe and Asia have been subjected to detention, disappearance and torture, including sexual violence, at the hands of Syrian security forces, Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday, titled ‘You’re going to your death.” Amnesty detailed the abuses by Syrian intelligence officers against 66 former refugees, including 13 children, between mid-2017 and spring 2021, and specifically criticized Denmark, Sweden and Turkey for stripping protections from refugees and pressuring them to return home. Rachel Scully reports for The Hill.
Myanmar’s shadow government has launched what it dubbed a “people’s defensive war” against the country’s military junta, calling on citizens across the country to revolt. “In a video address posted on his official Facebook page on Tuesday, acting president of the National Unity Government (NUG) Duwa Lashi La called on militias and ethnic armed organizations to attack military forces,” Helen Regan and Kocha Olarn report for CNN.
Up against declining poll numbers, a failing economy and judicial investigations, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called on his supporters to rally across the country on Sept. 7, Brazil’s Independence Day, in a show of force critics fear could be a prelude to a power grab and lead to “insurrection.” Flávia Milhorance and Ernesto Londoño report for the New York Times.
Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested four members of a pro-democracy group – the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – that organizes the city’s annual June 4 Tiananmen Square vigil, after the group refused to comply with a police order to submit information in relation to an accusation it was working as a “foreign agent,” in violation of the city’s weeping national security law. Jessie Yeung and Eric Cheung report for CNN.
The trial of 20 men suspected of involvement in a jihadist rampage across Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, started Wednesday, with police mounting tight security around the Palais de Justice courthouse in central Paris. Reuters reporting.
The coronavirus has infected over 40.28 million and has now killed over 650,600 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 222 million confirmed coronavirus cases and cover 4.58 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
Three quarters of U.S. adults have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, a White House official announced on Tuesday. Justine Coleman reports for The Hill.
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.