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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 Biden administration will hold back some of the $300 million in conditioned military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns and the money that is sent will also have restrictions on its use, a U.S. official said yesterday. “Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to take the unprecedented step of not using a waiver that would have let him send the funds along, the U.S. official said…The U.S. gives Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid annually. Of that, Congress has put human-rights-related conditions on $300 million. But the Secretary of State can overrule those conditions and let the aid reach Cairo, which has been the standard move,” Nahal Toosi reports for POLITICO.
The new judge presiding over the case against five individuals accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attack said yesterday that the trial would not begin for at least another year. The judge, Col. Matthew N. McCall, who took over the case last month, was holding his second week of pretrial hearings at the U.S. navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. McCall set out the timeline for the trial while rejecting two defense challenges which argued that he was unqualified and should suspend the proceedings until he was up to speed. Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
The top nuclear envoys from Japan, the U.S. and South Korea held talks in Tokyo today to discuss how to rein in North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, a day after Pyongyang said it conducted a new long-range cruise missile test which was described by North Korea’s state media as “strategic.” The three countries have been discussing how to break a standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs that have drawn international sanctions. “The recent developments in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] are a reminder of the importance of close communication and cooperation from the three countries,” Sung Kim, the United States special envoy for North Korea, said in his opening remarks. Al Jazeera reports.
The U.S. has no hostile intent towards North Korea and hopes it responds positively to offers for talks on its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, U.S. envoy Sung Kim said today as he met envoys from Japan and South Korea in Tokyo. “We hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our multiple offers to meet without preconditions,” Kim said in his opening remarks. Reuters reports.
Biden will host the leaders of Australia, India and Japan on Sept. 24 for the first White House meeting of the “Quad” alliance. The four-country Quad alliance has been a foreign policy priority for Biden in an effort to counter Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific. “The Quad Leaders will be focused on deepening our ties and advancing practical cooperation on areas such as combatting Covid-19, addressing the climate crisis, partnering on emerging technologies and cyberspace, and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill.
Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, has warned that countries besides Afghanistan, even after the takeover by the Taliban, pose a greater terror threat for the U.S. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the collapse of the U.S.-backed government has created challenges for collecting intelligence in Afghanistan, Haines said. However, she added said that Afghanistan is not the top global terrorism threat. “What we look at is Yemen, Somalia, Syria and Iraq for ISIS. And that’s where we see the greatest threat,” Haines explained. Julian E. Barnes reports for the New York Times.
U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
An internal memo has revealed how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) restricted the flow of open-source intelligence reports about “election-related threats” to law enforcement, citing First Amendment concerns, in the months before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The revelations from the documents reviewed by CNN also raise questions about Joseph Maher, a key staffer on the House select committee investigating the attack. Maher, in his previous role as head of DHS’s intelligence arm, changed the protocols around disseminating open-source information and in a memo dated Oct. 30, 2020, Maher informed DHS officials that all open-source intelligence reports on election-related threats must be approved by DHS leadership and legal counsel prior to release. Zachary Cohen reports for CNN.
Congressional leaders and top security officials are saying that the U.S. Capitol will be well-prepared for Saturday’s far-right rally, including plans to reinstall perimeter fencing that was up for months after the Jan. 6 attack. A vote of confidence was given yesterday for the Capitol security plans, following a security briefing of the top Democratic and Republican leaders in each chamber by Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger and House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker. “They seem very, very well-prepared, much better prepared than before Jan. 6,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said. Claudia Grisales reports for NPR.
The Justice Department will impose limits on the powers of the monitors who oversee local police departments carrying out federally mandated reform plans, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland told the law enforcement officers yesterday. The changes address longstanding requests from police departments, who say that monitors overseeing policing overhauls, who earn lucrative consulting fees while police forces make changes, needed more accountability and have incentive to keep police departments locked into such overhaul plans for too long. Kaite Benner reports for the New York Times.
U.S. Capitol Police have said that they have arrested a man who had a bayonet and machete in his car near the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters. Officers on patrol noticed the pickup truck, which had a swastika and other White supremacist symbols painted on it as well as not having a license plate, around midnight on Sunday. Lauren Fox, Ted Barrett, Manu Raju and Ali Zaslav report for CNN.
The leader of an Illinois anti-government militia group who authorities say masterminded the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque has been sentenced yesterday to 53 years in prison. No one was hurt in the bombing, but more than a dozen members of the mosque community gave victim impact statements about the trauma it left behind. U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank said evidence clearly showed Emily Claire Hari, who was charged, tried and convicted under the name Michael Har, indented to “scare, intimidate and terrorize individuals of Muslim faith.” AP reports.
AFGHANISTAN – U.S. RELATED DEVELOPMENTS
The Pentagon is continuing to assert that the last U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan on Aug. 29 was necessary to prevent an attack on U.S. troops at Kabul airport, despite investigations raising doubts over the military’s version of events and intelligence. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that Central Command, was investigating the results, however the inquiry may be limited to what Central Command can glean from intercepts, video imagery and interviews with sources, and that there were no plans to send investigators to Afghanistan. “I am not aware of any option that would put investigators on the ground in Kabul to complete their assessment,” Kirby said. Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.
Just Security have published a piece considering specific questions for members of Congress, reporters, and investigators to ask about the drone strike in Kabul that killed 10 civilians. “Questions to Investigate U.S. Drone Strike in Kabul: An Alleged Killing of 10 Civilians” by Ryan Goodman, Sarah Butterfield, Siven Watt and Heather Zimmerman.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended President Biden’s administration’s plan for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan yesterday in a five-hour testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. During the testimony Blinken faced at least two calls for his resignation as well as a string of demands from critics who accused the Biden administration of mishandling the war in Afghanistan and the U.S. withdrawal. Laura Jakes reports for the New York Times.
Blinken sought to shift the blame for the chaos in the U.S.’s withdrawal on former President Trump’s administration, arguing that Biden “inherited” a disaster-in-the-making from Trump. “We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan,” Blinken said in his congressional testimony. “Blinken said [that] the Biden administration was handcuffed by Trump’s agreement with the Taliban, which in part reduced the U.S. troop presence to 2,500 by the time Biden took office. With the Taliban continuing its ‘relentless’ military campaign regardless of that agreement, Blinken said, Biden ‘immediately faced the choice between ending the war or escalating it,’” Andrew Desiderio reports for POLITICO.
Blinken during his congressional testimony said the 20 years the U.S. spent in Afghanistan show that using force to “remake a society is something that is beyond our means and capacity.” “Blinken said the U.S. had long ago achieved its objectives in Afghanistan, including degrading the ability of the al Qaeda terrorist group to strike the U.S., and that staying longer wouldn’t have led to a different outcome,” Courtney McBride and William Mauldin report for the Wall Street Journal.
An overview of how Blinken defended the chaotic withdrawal form Afghanistan and evacuation, is provided by BBC News.
AFGHANISTAN – INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY, AID AND SUPPORT
The U.N. has warned that a million children in Afghanistan are at risk of starvation and death if their immediate needs are not met. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, speaking at a high-level U.N. conference in Geneva, said that the people in Afghanistan face “their most perilous hour.” He explained that “since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan last month, the nation’s poverty rate has soared and basic public services have neared collapse and, in the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless after being forced to flee fighting,” Marc Santora, Nick Cumming-Bruce and Christina Goldbaum report for the New York Times.
The U.N. has obtained $1 billion in pledges of fresh funds to stave off a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, nearly double the initial $606 million initial appeal, and have received written assurances by Taliban authorities that they would allow aid workers to operate freely across the country. Guterres explained that the U.N. has received two written documents from the Taliban, “One was guaranteeing full humanitarian work of the U.N. and the respect by the Taliban to that full humanitarian work; and the second, that they are able to provide security and even escorts when there are situations of insecurity that would justify it,” he said. “So not only there is an attitude of acceptance but there is an attitude of support,” he added. Guterres added that the Taliban communiqué also appealed for international support for development, including to combat the drug trade and improve security. UN News Centre reports.
The Taliban’s letter, which included a plea for international aid, said that the Taliban was committed to the rights of women and girls. “We are committed to all rights of women, rights of minorities and principles of freedom of expression in the light of religion and culture, therefore we once again reiterate our commitment and will gradually take concrete steps with the help of the international community,” the letter said, according to Martin Griffiths, the U.N.’s emergency-relief coordinator. Guterres told a press conference later that the international community “will now have to see what happens on the ground.” “We are of course very much concerned in making sure that humanitarian assistance is an entry point for an effective engagement with the Taliban in all other aspects of concern to the international community,” he added. Saeed Shah reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. will send nearly $64 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, a day after the U.N. issued an emergency call for $600 million to prevent famine and a public health in Afghanistan. The funding will come from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. State Department and will be distributed through the U.N. and independent aid groups, USAID said in a press release. In addition to these funds, USAID has also created a Disaster Assistance Response Team based outside Afghanistan to run the U.S. government’s response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis. Monique Belas reports for The Hill.
AFGHANISTAN – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
At least 20 civilians have been killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, which has seen fighting between the Taliban and opposition forces. Communications have been cut from the valley, but the BBC has received evidence, including footage, of the killings, despite promises of restraint from the Taliban. BBC News reports.
The Taliban have denied that one of their deputy prime minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has been killed in a shootout with rivals, following rumors about internal splits in the movement. Rumors had spread that supporters of Baradar had clashed with those of Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network that is based near the border with Pakistan and was blamed for some of the worst suicide attacks of the war.
Sulail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson, said Baradar, the former head of the Taliban political office, issued a voice message rejecting claims he had been killed or injured in a clash. The Taliban also released video footage purportedly showing Baradar at meetings in the southern city of Kandahar. Reuters reporting.
Thousands of Afghans have protested against the Taliban in the southern city of Kandahar today after about 3,000 families were told to vacate a residential army colony, according to a government official and local footage. Protesters gathered in front of the governor’s house in Kandahar and footage from local media showed crowds of people blocking a road in the city. Reuters reporting.
A senior Taliban figure has said that women should not be able to work alongside men, raising further concerns for women in Afghanistan. If formally implemented this would effectively bar women from employment in government offices, banks, media companies and beyond. Waheedullah Hashimi, a senior figure in the Taliban who is close to leadership, told Reuters that the Taliban plan to fully implement a version of Sharia. “We have fought for almost 40 years to bring [the] sharia law system to Afghanistan,” Hashimi said, “Sharia … does not allow men and women to get together or sit together under one roof.” Alasdair Pal reports for Reuters.
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan will reshape the Middle East for many years, a senior Gulf official has said. The official also warned that despite the Taliban’s promises of moderation, the group is “essentially the same” as the last time it was in power, Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
Iran has come within roughly a month of having enough material to fuel a single nuclear weapon, experts studying new data contained in reports last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have said. The move towards a bomb’s worth of fuel is seen as a tactic by Iran to pressure the United States and its allies to improve the terms of a potential deal to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement and agree a quick renewal of the agreement. David E. Sanger and William J. Broad report for the New York Times.
Iran has said that it intends to resume talks to renew the 2015 nuclear agreement in the near future. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted by state television saying that “the government has announced that it will certainly resume the talks in the near future.” The comments came as the President Biden’s administration confirmed that it will drop a resolution censuring Iran for failing to cooperate with the IAEA, if Iran implements its weekend agreement with the IAEA. Speaking to reporters yesterday IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said Tehran had also invited him for talks with senior Iranian officials, which will include discussions about a probe into unreported nuclear material found in Iran that Tehran has stymied for more than two years. Laurence Norman and Aresu Eqbali report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Apple has issued a software fix for all users after researchers at The Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity lab, warned that the Israeli spyware company NSO Group had developed a way to take control over nearly any Apple computer, watch or iPhone. The Citizen Lab published yesterday a report about the “zero-click” software exploit, which does not require a victim clicking a link or downloading a file to take over, and warned Apple about the issue. “The malicious software takes control of an Apple device by first sending a message through iMessage, the company’s default messaging app, and then hacking through a flaw in how Apple processes images,” Kevin Collier reports for NBC News.
Israeli aircraft have struck a series of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip while Palestinian militants launched rockets into Israel in the third consecutive night of fighting between the sides. “The Israeli military reported three separate rocket launches late Sunday and early Monday, saying at least two of them were intercepted by its rocket defenses. It said it attacked a number of Hamas targets in retaliation. There were no reports of casualties on either side,” Josef Federman reports for AP.
Guinea’s military rulers are to open talks over Guinea’s future following the military coup of the country last week. The military rulers are expected to face more pressure to set a timeframe for new elections as they open a four-day series of meetings. Though, “concerns are growing about how quickly the junta led by Col. Mamady Doumbouya will give up power to a civilian-led transitional government as called for by regional mediators and the international community,” Boubacar Diallo and Krista Larson report for AP.
Indonesia’s elite counterterrorism squad arrested last Friday a convicted militant and suspected leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked group that has been blamed for a string of past bombings and attacks, Indonesia’s police said yesterday. Abu Rusdan was seized in Bekasi near the capital of Jakarta, along with three other suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a police spokesperson said. Niniek Karmini reports for AP.
Haiti’s Office of Citizen Protection is demanding that Prime Minister Ariel Henry step down as authorities seek to interview him about telephone calls he allegedly had with a key suspect in former President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination. Attorney Renan Hédouville, who directs the ombudsman-like office, said Henry should appear at the public prosecutor’s office as requested to help shed light on the assassination. Hédouville described the decision to call for Henry’s resignation as “objective and courageous” and urged the international community to stop supporting Henry. Evens Sanon and DÁnica Coto report for AP.
Russian President Vladimir Putin received Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in Moscow for the first time since 2015 yesterday. Putin congratulated Assad on winning a fourth term in office in a presidential election in May and told Assad that foreign forces in Syria without a U.N. decision were a hinderance to consolidation, the Kremlin said. The Kremlin also said that Assad thanked Putin for humanitarian aid to Syria and for his efforts to halt the “spread of terrorism.” Reuters reports.
U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet yesterday deplored “multiple and severe reports of alleged gross violations of human rights, humanitarian and refugee law” committed by all parties to the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. In an update to the U.N. Human Rights Council on the situation in the region, Bachelet also warned that the conflict “risks spilling over to the whole Horn of Africa”. UN News Centre reports.
Bachelet also said that a highly awaited joint investigation into abuses in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict was unable to deploy to the site of the alleged massacre of several hundred people in the holy city of Axum, one of the deadliest attacks in the conflict. Cara Anna reports for AP.
Thousands of civilians have been displaced in Yemen’s Marib region after a Houthi rebel offensive that began this month saw the group take control of a key district in the south of the Marib and are now threatening to take control over Marib, the last government stronghold. “Rahabah, which lies to the east of the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, was captured on September 8 after heavy fighting that led to at least 65 fighters’ death on both sides,” Abubakr Al-Shamahi reports for Al Jazeera.
The coronavirus has infected over 41.20 million and has now killed over 662,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been close to 225.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.64 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.