Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Saturday released the first of what is expected to be several documents related to its investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and suspected Saudi government support for the hijackers. The document, which is from 2016, was released following an executive order from President Biden. The document “provides details of the FBI’s work to investigate the alleged logistical support that a Saudi consular official and a suspected Saudi intelligence agent in Los Angeles provided to at least two of the men who hijacked planes on September 11, 2001….It details multiple connections and witness testimony that prompted FBI suspicion of Omar al-Bayoumi, who was purportedly a Saudi student in Los Angeles but whom the FBI suspected to be a Saudi intelligence agent. The FBI document describes him as deeply involved in providing ‘travel assistance, lodging and financing’ to help the two hijackers,” Evan Perez reports for CNN.
The declassified document from the FBI reveals new connections between the Sept. 11 hijackers and Saudi religious officials. The 16-page heavily redacted document was a final inventory of circumstantial evidence and leads from the FBI’s investigation of Saudi ties to the Sept. 11 attack. Lawyers for families of the Sept. 11 victims, “who are suing the Saudi kingdom in federal court, said the document provided important support to their theory that a handful of Saudis connected to their government worked in concert to assist the first two Qaida hijackers sent to the United States in January 2000,” Tim Golden and Sebastian Rotella report for Pro Publica.
The U.S. has withdrawn some of its most advanced missile defense systems and Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia amid ongoing attacks levied against the country by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthis, satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press show. The redeployment of the defenses from the Prince Sultan Air Base outside of Riyadh came as the U.S. withdrew its final troops from Afghanistan and reinforces perceptions that the U.S. is no longer as committed to the Gulf, with the U.S. military perceiving growing threats in Asia that require the missile defenses. Jon Gambrell reports for AP.
American Green Berets were training local forces in Guinea last weekend when the military, including potentially those the U.S. forces were training, were involved in a military coup. The team of about a dozen U.S. Army Special Forces had been in Guinea since mid-July to train about 100 soldiers in a special forces’ unit led by Colonel Doumbouya, who served in the French Foreign Legion and took part in U.S. military exercises. The U.S. has condemned the coup and the U.S. military has denied having any advanced knowledge of it. U.S. officials have however said that they are “investigating reports that Colonel Doumbouya and his fellow coup-makers had set off in an armed convoy from that same base early on Sunday — raising the prospect that they slipped away while their instructors were sleeping,” Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.
Biden continues to face major obstacles to his goal of closing the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. As well as having to address opposition in Congress, the military trial process has failed to yield a verdict, or even a trial, for the five men charged with helping plan the Sept. 11 attacks. The trial of the five men, which had a pretrial hearing last week, has been “delayed by years of initial proceedings, is not expected to begin until at least 2022 [and] is a stark example of the problems and dark detours that have characterized the detention operation since the first terrorism suspects arrived there after the 9/11 attacks,” Missy Ryan provides analysis for the Washington Post.
President Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson are expected to meet for talks later this month. Johnson is expected to seek to patch up Britain’s frayed relationship with the Biden administration. The bilateral talks are expected as part of the U.K. Prime Minister’s four-day trip to the U.S. for the U.N. general assembly which starts in New York on Sept. 21. Johnson’s administration has asked the Biden administration for a meeting to coincide with the trip and sources on both sides said this has been agreed in principle. David Charter and Oliver Wright report for The Times.
Samuel Bickett, a U.S. lawyer imprisoned in Hong Kong, has spoken out about his treatment and the Hong Kong prison system. Bickett “arrived in Hong Kong nine years ago as a corporate lawyer handling cases for American companies in Asia. But his fate has come to embody fears about a diminished rule of law in the Chinese territory and the unchecked power of the police force, after he was convicted and jailed for assaulting an officer who identified himself as such only after arresting Bickett. He is out on bail and appealing the verdict,” Shibani Mahtani reports for the Washington Post.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) has announced that disciplinary action has been recommended in six cases against officers following internal investigations into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. “Violations sustained include three cases for conduct unbecoming, one for failure to comply with directives, one for improper remarks, and one for improper dissemination of information, according to a USCP statement released Saturday. The statement did not specify if the six cases involved six separate officers nor did it name any of them,” Sonnet Swire reports for CNN.
Criminal charges will not be filed against any of the USCP officers facing disciplinary action, after the U.S. attorney’s office did not find sufficient evidence to do so. Details about the recommended disciplinary penalties, nor the officers, were also not provided in the USCP statement. Emily Cochrane reports for the New York Times.
Seven more U.S. Capitol attack defendants have pleaded guilty, including the armed man who threatened to shoot House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Cleveland Meredith Jr., drove from Colorado to Washington, DC, with two guns and 2,500 rounds of ammunition. He missed former President Trump’s speech at a rally on Jan. 6 but texted a relative the next day that he was thinking about attending an event with Pelosi and “putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV.” According to a CNN tally, following the latest activities, 10% of the more than 600 known federal defendants charged in connection with the attack have now plead guilty. Marshall Cohen, Hannah Rabinowitz, Olanma Mang and Andrew Millman report for CNN.
AFGHANISTAN – EVACUATING AFGHANS AND U.S. CITIZENS
An additional 21 Americans made it out of Afghanistan on Friday via a chartered flight and overland route, adding to the 10 U.S. citizens and 11 U.S. permanent residents that left Kabul’s international airport in a flight last Thursday. “Today the United States government facilitated the additional departures of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents both on a chartered Qatar Airways flight from Kabul and via overland passage to a neighboring country,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement Friday afternoon. “The Qatar Airways flight held 19 U.S. citizens and the party traveling overland included two U.S. citizens and 11 lawful permanent residents,” Horne said. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
A group of Afghan Air Force pilots and their relatives who had fled the Taliban aboard Afghan Air Force helicopters and airplanes and had been held in a camp in Uzbekistan, flew out of Uzbekistan this weekend after the U.S. and Uzbek governments reached an agreement on their transfer. The Uzbek government had been under intense pressure from the Taliban in Afghanistan to hand over the pilots and the Taliban have criticized the transfer of the pilots, “these pilots should return to their country, the country needs them,” a Taliban spokesperson said. Jessica Donati and Siobhan Hughes report for the Wall Street Journal.
The fate of 46 aircraft, including A-29 light attack planes and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, that the pilots flew to Uzbekistan continues to remain in doubt. The Taliban are calling for the aircraft to be returned to Afghanistan, a move likely to be strongly opposed by the U.S., and “current and former U.S. officials have said that the Taliban pressured Uzbekistan to hand over the aircraft and personnel,” Phil Stewart reports for Reuters.
The first plane carrying the Afghan passengers, transferred them to a U.S. military base in the United Arab Emirates. It was not immediately clear whether the group would ultimately be transferred to the U.S. or elsewhere. Eric Schmitt and Madeleine Ngo report for the New York Times.
A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) commercial passenger flight took off from Kabul airport on Monday, bound for Islamabad, a witness has said. “The PIA flight is the first commercial passenger flight out of Kabul since the foreign troop withdrawal and evacuation process was completed in Afghanistan. Last week the Qatari government flew civilian charters out of Kabul,” Reuters reports.
AFGHANISTAN – U.S. RELATED DEVELOPMENTS
News reporting and investigations are continuing to cast doubt on the intelligence behind a deadly drone attack last month against a vehicle that American officials thought contained an ISIS bomb and posed an imminent threat to Kabul airport. The investigations are raising doubts over the U.S. version of events, including whether explosives were present in the vehicle, whether the driver had a connection to ISIS, and whether there was a second explosion after the missile struck the car. A New York Times investigation of video evidence along with interviews with more than a dozen of the driver’s co-workers and family members in Kabul, “has identified the driver as Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group. The evidence suggests that his travels that day actually involved transporting colleagues to and from work. And an analysis of video feeds showed that what the military may have seen was Ahmadi and a colleague loading canisters of water into his trunk to bring home to his family,” Matthieu Aikins, Christoph Koettl, Evan Hill and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has supported President Biden and pushed back against European complaints that the Biden administration had failed to consult its European allies over the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. In an interview with the New York Times, Stoltenberg said that the objections were exaggerated, and that NATO had given unanimous approval for the withdrawal as far back as April. Stoltenberg also said that talk of a new, separate European Union military force could only weaken the trans-Atlantic alliance and divide the continent. Steven Erlanger reports for the New York Times.
The Biden administration’s “over-the-horizon” surveillance strategy in Afghanistan is drawing serious questions from lawmakers and counterterrorism experts, following the U.S. withdrawal from the country. Critics are saying that Biden’s administration has not yet provided lawmakers conducting oversight with sufficiently detailed plans or explanations about the counterterrorism and surveillance strategy, with a tense call between Biden’s top national security officials and senators from both Republican and Democratic parties having occurred on Aug. 27, the day after the deadly Kabul airport bombing. Analysis is provided by Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu reporting for Axios.
AFGHANISTAN – INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY, AID AND SUPPORT
The U.N. is convening an aid conference in Geneva today in an effort to raise more than $600 million for Afghanistan, warning of a humanitarian crisis there following the Taliban takeover. The conference will be attended by top U.N. officials including U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer, as well as dozens of government representatives including German foreign minister Heiko Maas. U.N. officials and aid groups have warned that “even before the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul last month, half the population – or 18 million people – was dependent on aid. That figure looks set to increase due to drought and shortages of cash and food,” Emma Farge reports for Reuters.
Qatar Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani has visited Kabul and has met Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the acting Prime Minister in the Taliban’s new government. Al Thani, who is the highest-level foreign official to visit Afghanistan since the Taliban took power, also visited former President Hamid Karzai as well as Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the National Reconciliation Council as he encouraged Afghan parties and groups to engage in national reconciliation. Al Jazeera reports.
The Taliban are lying, and France will not have any relationship with its newly-formed government, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said late on Saturday. The comments were made before Le Drian headed for talks in Qatar on Sunday to discuss future evacuations from Afghanistan. Reuters reporting.
Russia is planning to soon send food and medicine as humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, the RIA news agency has cited Russia’s foreign ministry as saying today. Reuters reporting.
AFGHANISTAN – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Taliban fighters are tightening the group’s grip in the rebellious Panjshir region of Afghanistan with killings and food control, witness have said. Taliban fighters have imposed a siege in the province, denying residents food and carrying out some extrajudicial executions of civilians, a tribal elder who recently fled the province said on Friday. A Taliban spokesperson has denied that the group’s fighters had killed any civilians in Panjshir. Haq Nawaz Khan and Kareem Fahim report for the Washington Post.
A pro-Taliban demonstration at Shaheed Rabbani Education University on Saturday involved hundreds of women, many wearing full-length robes, their faces obscured by black veils. The women marched in support of the Taliban and filled the auditorium of the university in Kabul on Saturday and held signs — many of them in English — in support of the Taliban and its strict interpretation of Islam, including separate education for men and women. The Taliban said that the protest was organized by female university lecturers and students. Reporters were kept away from the protesters by armed Taliban fighters and were not allowed to speak with any of the women. Melissa Eddy and Victor J. Blue report for the New York Times.
Female students in Afghanistan can continue with their university studies, but classes must now be segregated, and head coverings are mandatory, the Taliban Higher Education Minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani announced on Sunday. Haqqani said that the Taliban “will not allow female and male students to study in one classroom,” and added that the Government was reviewing the subjects that would be permitted to be taught to women. Rebecca Falconer reports for Axios.
North Korea has said that it has successfully test fired what it described as newly developed long-range cruise missiles over the weekend, its first known testing activity in months. The Korean Central News Agency said today that the cruise missiles, which had been under development for two years, successfully hit targets 1,500 kilometers away during flight tests over the weekend. North Korea state media hailed the missile as a “strategic weapon of great significance,” implying that they were being developed with an intent to arm them with nuclear warheads. AP reports.
The missile test is North Korea’s first long-range cruise missile that could possibly carry a nuclear warhead, according to analysists. However, although U.N. Security Council sanctions forbid North Korea from testing ballistic missiles, they do not forbid testing of cruise missiles, which the Council consider to be less threatening as they have a shorter range, fly slower and carry smaller and less powerful payloads than ballistic missiles. Analysis of the relevance of the latest North Korean missile test is provided by Laura Bicker for BBC News.
A U.S. Military statement on the North Korea missile launches states that the “activity highlights DPRK’s [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community.” The statement confirms that the U.S. “will continue to monitor the situation and are consulting closely with our allies and partners.”
IRAN AND IRAQ
Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have reached a last-minute deal of nuclear monitoring by the U.N. nuclear inspectors. Iran has agreed to allow the IAEA to install new memory cards into its cameras monitoring Iran’s nuclear program. Rafael Grossi, the head of the IAEA, struck the deal in Tehran yesterday and will report to the IAEA’s board meeting today. “The head of the Iranian atomic energy association, Mohammad Eslami, said he had held constructive talks with Grossi and as a result new memory cards would be installed. The existing cards showing Iranian activity at its main nuclear sites will be kept in Iran under what is described as a joint seal. It has also been agreed the cameras can be serviced. No further details were given in the joint statement apart from that the two sides had reached an agreement on how this was to be done,” Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
The deal makes it less likely that E.U. states and the U.S. will table a motion of censure against Iran to the U.N. Security Council, and helps meet what has been considered a basic requirement for the resumption of international talks over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Steven Erlanger reports for the New York Times.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi met with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday, becoming the first foreign leader to meet Rasi since the hardliner took office in August. “I hope despite the aims of the enemies of the two countries, we will witness expansion of good relations between Iran and Iraq,” Raisi said in a joint news conference in Tehran. Reuters reports.
Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq have said that at least two explosives-laden drones targeted Irbil international airport, where U.S.-led coalition troops are stationed, on Saturday. The attack is the first following a two-month lull in drone and rocket attacks to target the U.S. presence in Baghdad and military bases across Iraq. There were no reports of casualties. AP reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri has appeared in a video marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, attacks, months after rumors spread that he had died. “The SITE Intelligence Group that monitors jihadist websites said the video was released Saturday. In it, al-Zawahri said that ‘Jerusalem will never be Judaized,’ and praised al-Qaida attacks including one that targeted Russian troops in Syria in January,” AP reports.
Israeli police said on Saturday that they had captured four of the six Palestinians who escaped a maximum-security prison last week. “Two of the prisoners, Mahmoud al-Arida and Yaqoub Qadri, were captured Friday night on the southern edge of Nazareth, in northern Israel, five days after they had escaped through a hole in the floor of the shower cubicle in their cell and tunneled out of a prison about 15 miles southeast of the city. A second pair, Zakaria Zubeidi and Mohammad al-Arida, Mahmoud’s brother, were seized on Saturday morning in a truck parking lot in Umm el-Ghanem, a village east of Nazareth,” Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.
Hamas has been aiming to capitalize on the Palestinian prisoner escape from an Israeli prison last week, saying that it would demand the release of the men who have been rearrested. Abu Obeida, a spokesperson for the Hamas militant arm, al-Qassam Brigades, released a video statement saying that “an upcoming exchange deal will only take place with the liberation of these heroes.” The statement was released during a weekend of rocket fire exchanges between Isael and the Gaza strip that is threatening to shatter a fragile four-month cease-fire. Rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Saturday and overnight Saturday, Israeli fighter jets and helicopters struck three Hamas targets in Gaza. Shira Rubin reports for the Washington Post.
Japan and Vietnam have signed a defense transfer deal, under which Japan can now give Vietnam defense equipment and technology. The deal marks a step up in the military cooperation between the two countries amid worries about China’s growing military influence. “Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the deal elevates their defense partnership ‘to a new level’ and that Japan and Vietnam plan to deepen defense ties through multinational joint exercises and other means. Details about the transfer of specific equipment, including naval vessels, will be worked out in subsequent talks, the ministry said,” Mari Yamaguchi reports for AP.
Japan’s defense ministry said on Sunday that a submarine believed to be from China was spotted in waters near its southern islands, as maritime tensions persist in the Pacific. Japan’s navy on Friday morning identified a submerged vessel just outside its territorial waters and a Chinese destroyer was also spotted in the vicinity, the defense ministry said in a statement. The vessels were in a contiguous zone, which is outside territorial waters where vessels are required to identify themselves. Reuters reporting.
The U.N.’s rights chief Michelle Bachelet has lamented today that efforts to gain access to China’s Xinjiang region to probe reports of serious violations against Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities have not succeeded. “I regret that I am not able to report progress on my efforts to seek meaningful access to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” Bachelet said at the opening of the U.N. Human rights Council in Geneva. Bachelet added that her office is finalizing a report on the allegations of serious human rights violations in Xinjiang. Reuters reporting.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the deposed leader of Myanmar leader, has been unable to appear in court for health reasons, a member of her legal team has said. Suu Kyi, 76, who has been detained on various charges since her overthrow in a military coup, did not have Covid-19 but felt ill having not travelled in a vehicle for a long time, her lawyer said. Reuters reporting.
The coronavirus has infected over 40.90 million and has now killed close to 660,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 224.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.63 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
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.