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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments. Here’s today’s news:
A GOP report on the August 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan contains few new revelations but may lay the groundwork for investigations of the Biden administration should Republicans recapture the House majority in the November midterm elections. The investigation by Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee found that only 36 U.S. consular officers were at the Kabul airport at the height of the evacuation, and that “over 800” Americans were left behind, according to a draft report obtained by the Washington Post. U.S. officials had put the number left behind when withdrawal operations ended on Aug. 31, 2021, at between 100 and 200. From Karoun Demirjian and Tim Craig at the Washington Post.
The Biden administration has moved four dozen relatives of the ten Afghans killed in the August 2021 drone strike out of the country in recent weeks. “More than 40 members of Ahmadi’s extended family made it across the border last month, and onto a U.S. government-chartered flight to Albania, officials and family members said.” Thirty-two of the 144 relatives the U.S. had said it would help are still in Afghanistan. The resettlement of the relatives of the victims marks a rare instance in which the U.S. government took responsibility for civilian deaths caused by a U.S. drone strike and offered compensation. The U.S. military admitted last fall that it had made a “horrible mistake” when it launched a Hellfire missile on Aug. 29 at Ahmadi’s home, killing him and nine of his relatives — most of them children — under the false belief that it was targeting a member of a terrorist organization, during the final days of the U.S. withdrawal. Abigail Hauslohner reports for the Washington Post.
The Biden administration will not release $3.5 billion in Afghan funds due to ongoing concerns about terrorism. Citing the discovery of the leader of al-Qaeda in Kabul, the administration ruled out sending the funds, which are currently in the United States, back to the Afghan central bank. “We do not have confidence that that institution has the safeguards and monitoring in place to manage assets responsibly,” U.S. special representative to Afghanistan, Thomas West said in a statement. “And needless to say, the Taliban’s sheltering of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri reinforces deep concerns we have regarding diversion of funds to terrorist groups.” Peter Baker reports for the New York Times.
Trump-allied lawyers pursued voting machine data in multiple states, according to new records obtained by the Washington Post. The documents show that the lawyers asked a forensic data firm to access county election systems in at least three battleground states. Lawyers including Sidney Powell accessed the election data in Michigan, Nevada and Georgia. The emails came out as part of a long-running lawsuit in federal court over the security of Georgia’s voting systems. Emma Brown, Jon Swaine, Aaron C. Davis and Amy Gardner report for the Washington Post.
Rudy Giuliani was told yesterday that he is a target of the Trump election inquiry in Georgia. Giuliani, who spearheaded efforts to keep Trump in power after the 2020 election, emerged in recent weeks as a central figure in the inquiry being conducted by Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia. The announcement came on the same day that a federal judge rejected efforts by Senator Lindsey Graham, to avoid giving testimony before the special grand jury hearing evidence in the case in Atlanta. Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim report for the New York Times.
FALLOUT FROM EXECUTION OF SEARCH WARRANT ON TRUMP’S MAR-A-LAGO
The Justice Department objected to calls to release the affidavit that justified the search of Mar-a-Lago. The Department said that releasing the sealed document would “compromise future investigative steps” and “likely chill” cooperation with witnesses. Prosecutors also said that it was important to keep the affidavit sealed in order to protect cooperating witnesses from death threats. The pleading filed in court by prosecutors comes as fallout from the search continues. In a post to Truth Social yesterday, former President Donald Trumpclaimed that FBI agents had “stole[n] my three Passports.” Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman, Alan Feuer and Katie Benner report for the New York Times.
The twice-elected Florida State Attorney recently suspended by Governor Ron DeSantis was escorted from his office by an armed Sheriff’s Office major and an official from the governor’s office within minutes of receiving the emailed notice of his suspension. Prosecutor Andrew Warren had angered law enforcement officers with some of his reforms and had signed statements declaring, based on his prosecutorial discretion, that he would not prosecute women who get abortions and people seeking gender-affirming medical treatments. “The dramatic ouster has alarmed many in Florida, who say DeSantis — widely considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate — usurped the will of the voters by removing a twice-elected local official who disagreed with him politically.” Lori Rozsa reports for the Washington Post.
President Biden is set to sign the Inflation Reduction Act into law today. The sweeping legislation seeks to lower prescription drug prices, boost the renewable energy sector, and impose new taxes on large corporations. The president and Democrats at large now face the issue of selling the legislation to the American public in the run-up to a crucial election, with many of the bill’s benefits manifesting years from now. Andrew Restuccia reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Migrant apprehensions at the southern border surpassed a fiscal year high. Despite border crossings falling for the second month in a row in July, the number in just the first 10 months of the government’s fiscal year already exceeds the total during the previous year, setting a record. Many of the migrants coming across are seeking asylum, which was significantly restricted through several policies during the Trump administration when there was also a spike in migration. Eileen Sullivan reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
A major explosion rocked a Russian ammunition depot in Crimea this morning. This attack comes just a week after a Ukrainian strike on a Russian airbase that took out several fighter jets. A senior Ukrainian official told the New York Times that an elite Ukrainian military unit operating behind enemy lines was responsible for the explosion. The two consecutive attacks in Crimea have demonstrated that the peninsula, thought to be a Russian stronghold safe from Ukrainian attacks, is more vulnerable than first presumed. Michael Schwirtz reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
U.N. Secretary General Guterres spoke with the Russian Defense Minister about the security of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The meeting comes after weeks of explosions in close proximity to the plant, risking a meltdown after several days of shelling at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. The U.N. also said it could help send in nuclear inspectors, if both sides agreed. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has accused Russia of “nuclear blackmail” at the site, reiterating that claim in his nightly address on Monday. Carly Olson reports for the New York Times.
William Ruto was declared the winner in Kenya’s presidential elections, but the losing candidate, Raila Odinga, has rejected the result. The election’s outcome was complicated from the outset, with four of the seven commission members saying they could not verify the outcome just minutes before it was announced. The statement raised questions about the legitimacy of the result and is likely to feature in any challenge in Kenya’s Supreme Court by supporters of Mr. Odinga. Razor-thin election results like these have a concerning history in Kenya: its last three contests were marred by disputed results that led to protracted crises, court cases and street violence that killed over 1,200 people in 2007 . Declan Walsh, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Abdi Latif Dahir report for the New York Times.
Iran has responded to the E.U.’s final draft of a renewed nuclear agreement, designed to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Biden administration has said it is keen to quickly seal a deal to restore the 2015 accord on the basis of the E.U. proposals, but Iranian negotiators said Tehran’s “additional views and considerations” to the text would need to be considered. E.U. officials on Monday provided no additional details on Iran’s response. Parisa Hafezi reports for Reuters.
The final contingent of French troops has left Mali, after nine years of counterterrorism operations. Tensions have grown over the past year between Mali, its African neighbors, and the European Union after Mali’s transitional government allowed Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group to deploy on its territory. French President Emmanuel Macron previously said that the “heart” of the French operation will be moved to Niger, especially in the region bordering Burkina Faso. French forces have been active in Mali since 2013, when they intervened to oust Islamic extremists from power. But the insurgents regrouped in the desert and began attacking the Malian army and its allies. The Associated Press reports.
COVID-19 has infected almost 92.93 million people and has killed almost 1.04 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been more than 590.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.4 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Byron Manley, Sean O’Key, and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine rollout 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.