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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
None of the military personnel involved in the botched 29 Aug. drone strike that killed 10 civilians in Kabul, Afghanistan will face any kind of punishment, the Pentagon has said. The two officers, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the military’s Central Command, and Gen. Richard D. Clarke, the head of the Special Operations Command, charged by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with deciding on any administrative action after a high-level investigation into the episode found no violations of law and no grounds for penalizing the military personnel involved in the strike, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson has said. Eric Schmitt reports for the New York Times.
The new Taliban administration in Afghanistan, devoid of international recognition and cut off by the U.S. from the global financial system, is struggling to revive a devastated economy. Combined with the worst drought in decades, and the suspension of many foreign-aid projects, a crisis in Afghanistan is looming and millions of Afghans could face starvation in coming months. “We are on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe that is preventable,” the United Nations Special Representative to Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, has said. Yaroslav Trofimov reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Documents from Huawei Technologies suggest that the Chinese tech giant played a broader role in tracking China’s populace than the company previously acknowledged. A review by the Washington Post of more than 100 Huawei PowerPoint slides, many marked “confidential” though they were at one point posted to a public-facing website, “show Huawei pitching how its technologies can help government authorities identify individuals by voice, monitor political individuals of interest, manage ideological reeducation and labor schedules for prisoners, and help retailers track shoppers using facial recognition. ‘Huawei has no knowledge of the projects mentioned in the Washington Post report,’ the company said in a statement,” Eva Dou reports for the Washington Post.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged China to cease “aggressive actions” in the Indo-Pacific, during a trip to the region. In a speech in Indonesia, Blinken outlined the U.S. approach to the Indo-Pacific region and said that Washington would work with allies and partners to “defend the rules-based order” and countries should have the right to “choose their own path.” Agence France-Presse reports.
European diplomats are expressing frustration with Iran’s stance in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Diplomats from the U.K., France, and Germany, the three European countries involved in the talks, have made clear that Iran’s position has not improved although “all delegations have pressed Iran to be reasonable,” and that they are wasting “precious time” dealing with new Iranian demands. The U.S. is participating indirectly in the ongoing talks and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today that diplomacy remains the best option but that Washington is engaging with partners on alternatives. Geir Moulson reports for AP.
Iran’s chief negotiator has traded barbs with Iran’s counterparts in the nuclear talks, writing on Twitter that some still “persist in their blame game habit, instead of real diplomacy.” Maziar Motamedi reports for Al Jazeera.
It is unlikely that the first delivery of refueling tankers to Israel from the U.S. will be ready until late 2024, despite Israeli requests that the Biden administration speed up the delivery. The tankers could prove critical for Israel to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities and the Israeli defense minister, Benny Gantz, made the request last week when he met with Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and other senior U.S. officials in Washington. David E. Sanger, Ronen Bergman and Helene Cooper report for the New York Times.
Israeli Prime Minster Naftali Bennett has met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in the first ever official meeting between leaders of Israel and the UAE since the two countries established diplomatic ties last year. The talks are the latest in a flurry of diplomacy in the Middle East amid fears that the Iran nuclear talks will collapse and concerns over the shrinking U.S. role in the region. Thomas Grove, Stephen Kalin and Summer Said report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Russia has vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution to treat climate change as a security threat. The resolution, which enjoyed wide-ranging support, would have significantly expanded the criteria used by the U.N. Security Council to justify intervention in armed conflicts around the world. Rick Galdstone reports for the New York Times.
Militants fired on a police bus in the Indian region of Kashmir on Monday, killing at least two officers and wounding more than a dozen, Indian police have said. The latest clash comes only three days after gunmen fired on a squad of officers patrolling streets in northern Kashmir, leaving two policemen dead. Sameer Yasir reports for the New York Times.
Indian troops have killed a suspected rebel during a gun battle in Kashmir. Fighting between Indian security forces and rebels broke out in the early hours today in the Surankote area of Jammu region’s Poonch district, where a small group of armed fighters are believed to be holed up, a police official has said. Al Jazeera reports.
Colombia’s national police were responsible for the deaths of 11 people during two days of protests against police brutality last year, an independent investigation requested by the mayor of Bogotá and supported by the U.N. has found. The killings amounted to a “massacre,” former national ombudsman Carlos Negret wrote in a scathing report. “Negret and a team of researchers blamed the deaths on an institutional failure to instruct officers not to use firearms against the crowds, and on a response that prioritized the protection of police stations over the lives of officers and protesters,” Samantha Schmidt and Diana Durán report for the Washington Post.
Tunisian President Kais Saied has announced a constitutional referendum to be held July 25, 2022. The referendum is scheduled for a year to the day after Saied seized broad powers in moves his opponents have called a coup. The referendum will follow an online public consultation starting in January and Parliamentary elections will follow at the end of 2022, Saied said in a televised speech. Reuters reports.
Turkey and Armenia will appoint special representatives to discuss steps to normalize their diplomatic ties, Turkey’s foreign minister has said. AP reports.
South Korea is planning to build a test version of a small modular nuclear reactor for marine propulsion. Nuclear experts however have said that the project could potentially allow South Korea to develop a nuclear-powered submarine, despite a nearly 50-year old treaty with the U.S. which blocks South Korea from using nuclear materials for military purposes. Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has withdrawn his candidacy for a Senate seat, according to a statement on Twitter from a spokesperson for the Philippine’s election commission. Al Jazeera reports.
NatWest has been fined £265 million ($350.9 million) for failing to prevent the laundering of nearly £400 million, in the first criminal money laundering case against a U.K. bank. Reuters reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The Jan. 6 House select committee has voted to recommend to the House that Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff for former President Trump, be charged with criminal contempt of Congress for defying the committee’s subpoena. The 9-0 vote sends the contempt resolution against Meadows to the full House, which is scheduled to vote on it today. If the resolution is sustained, the matter could then be referred to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. Siobhan Hughes reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Prior to the committee’s vote on Meadows, committee member Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) read aloud text messages sent to Meadows by Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and by the Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Brian Kilmeade urging that Trump speak out against the Jan. 6 attack. “These text messages leave no doubt…The White House knew exactly what was happening here at the Capitol,” Cheney said. Luke Broadwater and Alan Feuer report for the New York Times.
In a series of text messages to Meadows, Trump Jr. repeatedly said that Trump had to “condemn” the violence happening during the Jan. 6 attack. “He’s got to condemn this sh*t ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough,” Trump Jr. wrote in one message, with Meadows texted back: “we need an Oval office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.” Paul LeBlanc reports for CNN.
The video of Cheney reading aloud texts sent to Meadows is available on CNN.
Further reporting on the text messages to Meadows released by the Jan. 6 committee is provided by Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney for POLITICO and Zachary B. Wolf for CNN.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
In a long running case dating back to an early 2019 House Oversight Committee demand to see years of former President Trump’s financial data from his accounting firm, a lawyer for Trump has urged a federal appeals court to quash the congressional subpoena. Trump’s legal team argued yesterday that the demand is too broad and could open the door for future lawmakers to harass and intimidate presidents, while the House’s lawyer argued that the subpoena was well within the authority of Congress, especially since the House reissued it once Trump left office. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the Biden administration’s bid to terminate the Trump-era “remain in Mexico” policy, which requires non-Mexican migrants to stay in Mexico until their U.S. immigration court dates. Yesterday evening, “the 5th Circuit upheld a district judge’s ruling blocking the administration’s termination of the program. The opinion…said the administration’s efforts to terminate the program did not comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which sets out specific processes that agencies must go through in unveiling new policies,” Tierney Sneed and Priscilla Alvarez report for CNN.
Navy prosecutors have alleged in court that a sailor charged with setting the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard last year was “disgruntled” after dropping out of Navy Seal training. AP reports.
Some of the biggest companies in the U.S. have steadily increased their donations to Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 election results. “Less than a year after the Jan. 6 attack, PACs [political action committees] affiliated with Fortune 500 companies and their trade groups have contributed $6.8 million to the 147 Republicans who objected, according to a new analysis of campaign finance records from liberal watchdog group Accountable.US.. Every major corporation paused PAC giving after the insurrection, prompting such donations to disappear entirely in January and total just $28,000 in February. Those same corporate PACs quietly resumed and later increased their political giving, doling out a total of $2.3 million to GOP election objectors between September and October, the most recent months on record,” Karl Evers-Hillstrom reports for The Hill.
The Air Force has discharged 27 airmen for refusing to get a Covid-19 vaccine, the Pentagon has said. The individuals, who did not apply for a religious or medical exemption to vaccination, are among the first active duty service members to be removed for not meeting the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate. In October, the Air Force discharged 23 airmen in basic training and 17 who were receiving specialized training for refusing the vaccine. Roughly 97% of the active-duty members of the Air Force and Space Force are vaccinated. Nancy A. Youssef reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The coronavirus has infected over 49.92 million people and has now killed over 797,300 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 270.22 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.30 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The Omicron Covid-19 variant appears to cause less severe illness than previous variants but is more resistant to the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to a major private study in South Africa. Lesley Wroughton reports for the Washington Post.
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.