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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
An investigation by U.S. Central Command has determined that the drone strike in Kabul on Aug. 29 killed an aid worker and nine members of his family, and not a member of Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K), the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan. The command now assesses that “it is unlikely” that the man and vehicle targeted was affiliated with ISIS-K, or “a direct threat to U.S. forces,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters on Friday. “This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to forces at the airport,” McKenzie said. “Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake,” he added. Lara Seligman reports for POLITICO.
The CIA warned that children were possibly present in the vehicle seconds before the U.S. missile that killed 10 civilians in Kabul was launched, according to sources familiar with the matter. The CIA issued the urgent warning that civilians were in the area, including possible children inside the vehicle, however it is not clear whether the military informed the intelligence community that it had decided to pull the trigger. The situation was rapidly evolving, and the strike was “dynamic,” meaning that commanders in the field were authorized to strike without consulting up the chain of command. Sources have also commented that “the miscommunication highlights a now-pressing decision for [President] Biden’s administration as it weighs how to conduct future strikes in Afghanistan without U.S. troops on the ground there: Will the Defense Department or CIA own the mission?” Katie Bo Lillis, Zachary Cohen and Natasha Bertrand report for CNN.
ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly blasts targeting the Taliban in Jalalabad over the weekend. Improvised explosive devices were set off Saturday and Sunday around the city of Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern province of Nangahar and known as a stronghold for ISIS-K. The attacks reportedly killed several people and injured tens more in another escalation of violence as the Taliban works to consolidate its control. Miriam Berger and Haq Nawaz Khan report for the Washington Post.
The Afghan family who lost 10 family members in the U.S. drone strike in Kabul has welcomed the U.S. military’s recognition of its mistake but are seeking a new life in the U.S. Not only did they lose their loved ones, but the family have also faced a destroyed home and fears of persecution from the Taliban after the media spotlight on the family noted that some members, including survivors, worked for U.S.–based entities or the former Afghan security forces. In interviews on Saturday the family explained that they want compensation from the U.S. government and help in leaving Afghanistan and getting settled in the U.S. or another safe country. Sudarsan Raghavan reports for the Washington Post.
A survivor of the U.S. drone strike also demanded on Saturday that those responsible be punished and said Washington’s apology was not enough. Emal Ahmadi, a family member of those killed, told the Associated Press that he wants the U.S. to investigate who fired the drone and punish those responsible. “That is not enough for us to say sorry,” said Ahmadi who heard of the U.S. apology from friends in America. “The U.S.A. should find the person who did this,” he said. Kathy Gannon reports for AP.
A fourth chartered flight carrying civilians from Afghanistan to Qatar since U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan left Kabul on Sunday with more than 230 passengers, including Afghans, Americans, Canadians and Europeans, a Qatari official has said. Reuters reporting.
A report from the New York Times on the Panjshir region of Afghanistan, previously a stronghold of resistance against the Taliban, has revealed claims of massacres, ethnic cleansing and false charges from the Taliban. The New York Times reports little signs of heavy fighting and that any resistance that remains seems to be confined to the mountainous areas. Jim Huylebroek and Victor J. Blue report for the New York Times.
Taliban leaders have turned a Kabul building that previously housed Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs into the offices for the religious morality police under the Taliban’s Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, “suggesting at least a symbolic slapping down of a ministry that had come to embody the ascent of women in Afghanistan,” Jim Huylebroek, Wali Arian and Rick Gladstone report for the New York Times.
About two dozen women activists protested outside Afghanistan’s women’s ministry on Sunday after it was closed by Taliban militants in power in Kabul and replaced by the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. “Female staff said they had been trying to return to work at the ministry for several weeks since the Taliban takeover last month, only to be told to go home,” Reuters reports.
The interim mayor of Kabul has said that female employees in the Kabul city government have been told to stay home unless their jobs cannot be filled by men. The decision, along with the recent announcement from the Taliban government that female middle- and high school students could not return to school for the time being, while boys in those grades resumed studies this weekend, “is another sign that the Taliban…are enforcing their harsh interpretation of Islam despite initial promises by some that they would be tolerant and inclusive,” Kathy Gannon reports for AP.
President Biden has signed an executive order which threatens sweeping new sanctions that target all sides of the widening conflict in northern Ethiopia and demands an end to fighting and safe passage for aid. Biden’s administration has not yet applied the sanction, hoping to shift the course of the war without directly punishing officials from Ethiopia. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia “reacted with indignation and defiance. In a three-page statement, his office accused the West of bias, denounced any criticisms of Ethiopia as the product of neocolonial impulses, and showed no sign that he intended to bow to Biden’s demands,” Declan Walsh reports for the New York Times.
The U.S., U.N. and U.K. condemned yesterday the executions of nine Yemenis by the country’s Houthi rebels over allegations that they were involved in the killing of a senior Houthi official in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition more than three years ago. The Iranian-backed Houthis on Saturday publicity executed the nine by firing squad before hundreds of people. A spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said that Guterres “deeply regrets” the executions and that the trial in which the nine were convicted and sentenced to death did not meet “the requirements of fair trial and due process.” AP reports.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has warned of a potential new Cold War if the U.S. and China don’t repair their “completely dysfunctional” relationship. In an interview with the Associated Press, ahead of this week’s annual United Nations gathering of world leaders, “Guterres said the world’s two major economic powers should be cooperating on climate and negotiating more robustly on trade and technology even given persisting political fissures about human rights, economics, online security and sovereignty in the South China Sea,” Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
Ukraine began joint military exercises with U.S. and other NATO troops today. 4,000 Ukrainian troops and 2,000 foreigners will participate in the “RAPID TRIDENT – 2021” drill, due to run until Oct. 1, a Ukrainian defense ministry spokesperson has said. The drills in Ukraine come at a time when neighboring Russia and Belarus have been holding large-scale drills. Reuters reporting.
The Biden administration has made little progress towards Biden’s goal of closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Months into Biden’s term, “39 detainees remain housed at the prison. 10 detainees have been cleared by the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board system and are eligible for release, but they have not been transferred to a different country and out of the prison yet…17 detainees are eligible for periodic review board hearings, two detainees have been convicted and ten are in the office of military commission process, meaning they are still in the pretrial process in the military court system created for law of war offenses, and they have yet to be proven guilty or innocent,” Ellie Kauffman reports for CNN.
U.S. troops are continuing to be deployed to Iraq, even as the U.S. military has now withdrawn from Afghanistan. About 2,500 American troops are in Iraq now – protecting a few strategic bases in the country. A report on the latest 2,000 soldiers from First Brigade who will take over much of the duty in Iraq is provided by Dave Phillipps for the New York Times.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested in a Facebook video that Biden fell asleep in an August meeting with Netanyahu’s successor, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. “I heard that Biden was very attentive at this meeting. He dropped his head in agreement,” Netanyahu said in the video. Though, a Reuters fact check from August found that the video of the meeting between Bennett and Biden was misleadingly cropped and Biden replied to Bennett seconds after his head nodded downwards. Reuters reporting.
France’s defense minister, Florence Parly, has cancelled a defense summit with her U.K. counterpart amid the row prompted by a new security deal, named “Aukus,” between the U.K., the U.S. and Australia. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that France has nothing to worry about from the deal, however Parly’s meeting with U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace this week has been “postponed to a later date,” according to Lord Ricketts, a former British ambassador to France who was due to co-chair the two days of talks. BBC News reports.
France is still furious at Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government decision to scrap its $90bn submarine program with France, with France recalling its ambassador to the Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault. France has said that it felt “blindsided” by Australia’s decision to pull out of the submarine deal and was only informed after details had already been leaked to the media. “We discover through [the] press that the most important person of this Australian government kept us in the dark intentionally until the last minute,” Thebault told ABC radio today. “This is not an Australian attitude towards France. And maybe we’re not friends,” he added. Amy Remeikis reports for the Guardian.
Paris has also recalled its ambassador to the U.S., calling American and Australian behavior “unacceptable between allies and partners.” In a statement, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said the decision was made by French President Emmanuel Macron. It is the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States, dating back to 1778, that a French ambassador has been recalled to Paris in this way for consultations. Roger Cohen and Michael D. Shear report for the New York Times.
Macron and President Biden will have a phone call in the “next few days” to discuss the escalating diplomatic crisis stemming from the Aukus pact and Australia’s cancellation of its submarine deal with France. A French government spokesperson announced the upcoming call on TV station BFMTV and said that Biden had asked for the call. Laura Kayali reports for POLITICO.
Australia’s Prime Minister said yesterday that he stands with his decision to enter into the Aukus pact with the U.K. and the U.S. and forgo the previous deal made with France in 2016. Morrison said that he had flagged his concerns with the French submarine deal to Paris months ago and had continued to discuss the issues with France. “I don’t regret the decision to put Australia’s national interest first,” Morrison said. Lidia Kelly and John Mair report for Reuters.
North Korea has condemned the Aukus pact and said it could trigger a “nuclear arms race.” “These are extremely undesirable and dangerous acts which will upset the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and trigger off a chain of nuclear arms race,” a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Foreign Ministry official said referring to the security agreement. BBC News reporting.
JUSTICE FOR J6 RALLY
Fewer than 100 right-wing demonstrators attended the “Justice for J6” rally in Washington D.C. on Saturday and were greatly outnumbered by an overwhelming police presence. The peaceful gathering was the first significant right-ring protests since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Mounted police, riot shields and law enforcement with armored cars from the capital region were all present, and one hundred National Guard troops from the District of Columbia were on alert. “The few scuffles on the outskirts of the rally were quickly squelched. The Capitol Police said on Twitter that they had arrested a few people at the event, including a man who had a gun and was charged with unlawful activities,” Jonathan Weisman and Matthew Rosenberg report for the New York Times.
Fencing around the Capitol installed ahead of the “Justice for J6” rally on Saturday started coming down yesterday afternoon, according to footage shared by reporters. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manager had previously told reporters that the fencing would come down “very soon after” the rally on Saturday “if everything goes well.” Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
The U.S. on Sunday begun flying Haitian migrants back to Haiti from Texas in the beginning of what appears to be a mass expulsion, as well as taking steps to block others from crossing the border from Mexico. “More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince on three flights, and Haiti said six flights were expected Tuesday. In all, U.S. authorities moved to expel many of the more 12,000 migrants camped around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico,” AP reports.
Haitian officials have asked the U.S. to stop the deportation flights since Haiti is in crisis and cannot handle thousands of homeless deportees. Haiti requested a “humanitarian moratorium” on deportations and denounced the U.S. plans to return migrants from Texas. Haitian officials are expecting six flights from the U.S. a day for three weeks, split between Port-au-Prince and the coastal city of Cap Haitien, however “the Haitian state is not really able to receive these deportees,” Haiti’s national migration office, Jean Negot Bonheur Delva has said. Harold Isaac and Catherine Porter report for the New York Times.
President Biden’s administration has said that it is sending additional border agents to Del Rio in South Texas where thousands of Haitian migrants are being held under a bridge, as officials prepare to fly them back to their home country under a public-health policy allowing for rapid expulsions. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to send 400 agents and officers to Del Rio, Texas, and is moving migrants to other processing locations along the border, including about 2,000 on Friday, the Department of Homeland Security said on Saturday,” Michelle Hackman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said that he will travel to the U.S. southern border with Mexico. “We certainly are experiencing a challenging situation, but we are surging resources and we have a multi-pronged approach to this,” Mayorkas said Sunday. Paul LeBlanc reports for CNN.
The Senate parliamentarian on Sunday rejected the Democratic party’s push to include a pathway to legal immigration status in their social spending plan, a blow to the party’s efforts to enact immigration reform. In the decision, the parliamentarian determined that the proposal is “by any standard a broad, new immigration policy” and that the policy change “substantially outweighs the budgetary impact of that change.” Marianne Levine reports for POLITICO.
Since January more than 70 people have been killed inside northeast Syria’s al-Hol camp, with many of the killings being blamed on Islamic State women. The camp houses 62,000 family members of Islamic State fighters and others detained during the collapse of its self-declared caliphate more than two years ago. Religious militancy is on the rise in the camp and “killings are often blamed on hard line women who take advantage of the fragile security to enforce their strictures and settle scores. Security sweeps to confiscate handguns, knives and other weapons have made little difference, according to officials at the camp, which is run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces,” Louisa Loveluck reports for the Washington Post.
Syria’s defense minister met on Sunday with Jordan’s army chief in Amman to discuss border security. The rare visit was reported by the Hala Akhbar news site, which is linked to Jordan’s military, as being “to increase coordination in the field of border security to serve the interests of the two brotherly countries.” The visit comes after a recent push by Syrian troops in Syria’s south captured several rebel-held areas near the border with Jordan. AP reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Russia’s ruling United Russia party, which supports Russian President Vladimir Putin, will retain its majority in parliament after a three-day election, despite losing around one fifth of its support, partial results from today show. “With 50% of votes counted, United Russia was ahead with 46.11% of the vote, the election commission said, followed by the Communist party with 21.4%. Although that amounts to an emphatic win, it would be a weaker performance for United Russia than the last time a parliamentary election was held in 2016, when the party won just over 54% of the vote,” Reuters reporting.
A German government spokesperson has said that there are credible reports of massive irregularities in the Russian Duma elections, as the election results were finalized today. Reuters reporting.
The U.N. General Assembly this week in New York will focus on two parallel challenges: ending the pandemic and redefining the post-pandemic global economy to be healthier for the planet; Caitlin Hu provides an overview of what to watch for at the General Assembly, reporting for CNN.
The U.N. Security Council has urged Somalia’s feuding government leaders to resolve their disagreements through dialogue and to give top priority to holding long-delayed national elections this year. The press statement approved by all 15 council members came after an emergency consultations last Friday on Somalia’s worsening political crisis, which followed Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s announcement last Thursday that he suspended Somalian Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble’s power to hire and fire officials, the latest action in their increasingly divisive relationship. Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
France’s Armed Forces Minister arrived in Mali on Sunday to pressure the military junta in Mali to end talks to bring Russian mercenaries into the country and push it to keep a promise to return the country to constitutional order. Sources have said that Mali is intending to recruit the Russian Wagner Group, with France saying that such an arrangement is “incompatible” with an ongoing French presence in Mali. Reuters reports.
Israeli security forces have captured the last two Palestinians who escaped with four others from an Israeli maximum-security prison on Sept. 6. “Security forces tracked the final two escapees to a hideout in the West Bank city of Jenin before surrounding the building in a high-stakes standoff on Sunday. The two fugitives gave themselves up to avoid anyone being injured, according to the father of one of the prisoners,” Dov Lieber reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Hong Kong police have forced the group who organizes the Tiananmen Square Vigil, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, to delete its online presence. The deletions are the most high-profile instance of internet censorship under Hng Kong’s national security law. Vivian Wang reports for the New York Times.
A Kenyan judge has ruled that four police officers and a police informer have a case to answer in the killing of a human rights lawyer. The ruling is a rare move in a nation where rights groups have accused the police of hundreds of extrajudicial killings. “Lawyer Willie Kimani, 32, and his client Josephat Mwendwa disappeared in June 2016, shortly after filing a complaint alleging that Mwendwa had been shot and injured by police. Days later, their bodies – along with their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri – were recovered from a river outside Nairobi,” Ayenat Mersie reports for Reuters.
The coronavirus has infected over 42.08 million and has now killed over 673,700 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 228.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.69 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
There are fears that the upcoming U.N. General Assembly in New York could be a super spreader event for Covid-19, highlighting the inequality of global access to Covid-19 vaccines. Many presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers are set to ignore a U.S. suggestion to attend the General Assembly virtually and will converge on New York in person. Countries have also criticized the U.N.’s ask for all entrants to the U.N. chamber to be vaccinated, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who has already promised to flout the U.N.’s ask. Stephen Collinson reports 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.