‘EVERYBODY WALKED OUT’: A classified briefing for members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday did not go well. Biden administration officials were unwilling or unable to answer basic questions about the effort to evacuate the remaining Americans and Afghan allies from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan — and frustration boiled over.
“The briefing, intelligence briefing, everybody walked out,” Rep. Mike McCaul, the ranking Republican on the committee, told CNN afterward. In particular, lawmakers from both parties wanted an accounting of how many U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and Afghans who have Special Immigrant Visas are still trapped in Afghanistan. “Are they not being transparent or do they not know the answer to that question?” McCaul said.
“This is bipartisan. This is not some, you know, attack on the administration,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican. “Why we're frustrated here is not just wanting to throw gratuitous attacks, but we don't have answers,” Kinzinger told CNN. “Secretary Blinken didn't give us appropriate answers. I've sent official letters to ask how many people were even pulled out of Afghanistan. The details. How many did we do versus our allies and partners, et cetera? We have no answers on that.”
REPORTS OF BEHEADINGS: Lawmakers continue to get anecdotal, sometimes unconfirmed accounts of the Taliban’s atrocities, including gruesome retribution against Afghan interpreters who worked with the U.S. military.
“I'm getting new reports of, you know, executions, beheadings of their families and themselves. Horrific stories,” said McCaul, who told CNN he is concerned about more than 100 Afghans who signed up to serve in the U.S. military who can’t get their families out.
“Taj Mir Jawad, who is the man that he has put in charge as the deputy intelligence minister, who is systematically hunting down every single Afghan that worked with the U.S. or coalition forces,” said Lara Logan, a host of Fox Nation, who covered the war as a CBS news correspondent and still has contacts in the military.
“I had a guy at my house today, a Green Beret, one of his interpreters, he was sent his headless body, images of his headless body this morning,” Logan told Fox’s Jeanine Pirro in a Saturday appearance. Another image showed another interpreter holding his toddler.
“He was also beheaded,” Logan said. “I wake up every day ... I am sick in the pit of my stomach because I don't know who is dead and who is still alive.”
STAGE IS SET: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be flanked by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and U.S. Central Commander Gen. Frank McKenzie next week for two days of grilling by first the Senate and then the House Armed Services Committee.
”The American people need answers on how this withdrawal went so horribly wrong and what risks to our national security this debacle has created,” said Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers. “We intend to finally get those answers from the Biden administration at our hearing next week.”
Ranking Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe has already put Austin on notice that he needs to be prepared to provide more expansive answers to questions outlined in a demand letter Inhofe sent to Austin yesterday, which sets an Oct. 8 deadline for all the information to be provided to the committee.
“I want to lay out the information I believe the committee needs to conduct robust, methodical oversight of the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Inhofe said in a statement. “We need a full accounting of every factor and decision that led us to where we are today and a real plan for defending America moving forward.”
Inhofe requests a long list of documents and reports, including copies of intelligence reports, execute orders, internal communications, as well as a complete accounting of all persons evacuated and left behind, and a list of all U.S. military equipment and materiel now in the hands of the Taliban.
Good Friday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Victor I. Nava. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at DailyonDefense.com. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.
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HAPPENING TODAY: President Joe Biden hosts the first-ever in-person Quad Leaders Summit in the East Room of the White House, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
ALSO TODAY: White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas brief reporters on the crisis at the southern border.
NDAA PASSES HOUSE: National security continues to be the last bastion of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, as evidenced by the lopsided 316-113 vote in the House last night approving the annual defense policy bill known as National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.
“For 61 consecutive years, the House has proven that our collective commitment to U.S. national security can help us rise above partisanship. Instead of focusing on what divides us, each year we choose to pass a defense bill that fulfills Congress’ constitutional obligation to ‘provide for the common defense’” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state.
“I thank my colleague, Chairman Adam Smith, for working with us to produce this bipartisan bill, and I’m glad to see its passage with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said lead Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama. “The FY22 NDAA ensures that our men and women in uniform have the funding they need to be ready for any conflict or battle our nation may face.”
WHAT’S IN THE NDAA: The mammoth $768 billion defense policy bill has thousands of provisions. Here’s a thumbnail of what’s in this year's authorization:
Adds $25 billion to fund additional ships, planes, and other requests from combatant commanders
Authorizes $6.2 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative to deter China
Bans DOD research programs in China, including gain-of-function research
Contains more than 20 provisions on Afghanistan accountability
Reforms the Uniform Code of Military Justice to change the handling of sexual assault cases
Reinstates 10-year waiting period for recently retired senior officers to serve as secretary of defense
Authorizes a 2.7% pay increase for troops
Establishes a $15 minimum wage for covered service and construction contracts
Fully funds the nuclear triad modernization
Creates a Space National Guard
Bars the move of the U.S. Space Command headquarters to Alabama pending reviews by the GAO and DOD IG
Authorizes a Global War on Terror Memorial to be built on the National Mall
TRUMP LOYALISTS SUBPOENAED: The Democrat-led House committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol has issued subpoenas to four of former President Donald Trump’s closest aides, including Kash Patel, who was installed as former chief of staff to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller in the waning days of the Trump administration.
In the letter to Patel, Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi wrote that the committee has “substantial reason to believe that you have additional documents and information relevant to understanding the role played by the Defense Department and the White House in preparing for and responding to the attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
In a statement provided to the Washington Examiner, Patel said he has always been willing to testify. "I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Committee tried to subpoena me through the press and violated longstanding protocol — which I upheld as a congressional staffer — by resorting to compulsory process before seeking my voluntary cooperation. I will continue to tell the truth to the American people about the events of January 6th."
Also subpoenaed were former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino, and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
MILLEY’S GOT SOME EXPLAINING TO DO: Next week will be the first public appearance by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley since the Bob Woodward Robert Costa book, Peril, revealed Milley’s efforts to stop Trump from launching nuclear weapons and avert a possible miscalculation by China.
In an article for the current issue of the Washington Examiner magazine, I examine the nuance of Milley’s defense that he was acting within his authority as the nation’s senior military officer and adviser to the president and was faithful to the Constitution.
“[Milley] was caught between a rock and hard place,” argues Jessica Sleight, program director at Global Zero, a group that seeks to eliminate nuclear weapons. “Fearing what a president he deemed unstable might do, told military officers he was to be included in the nuclear launch process. If true, Milley took an extraordinary step that undermines the long held civilian-military division of nuclear responsibility. That’s a big deal.”
“Maintaining a clear chain of command is pivotal to the stability of the nuclear launch process but ensuring an irrational president doesn’t start a nuclear war is essential,” Sleight writes in an essay in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “While Milley’s actions are laudable, the system in place to order a nuclear strike also made them at least arguably unconstitutional.”
But the real problem, she argues, is not with Milley, but the system that has evolved in which the president has the sole authority to launch an offensive nuclear attack. “The US nuclear process is long overdue for change. The problem is not with any one person or individual action, it’s with the entire system.”
Here’s another view: AMERICA NEEDS NO PRAETORIAN GUARD
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Washington Examiner: How strong is the case against Gen. Mark Milley?
Washington Examiner: America needs no Praetorian Guard
Washington Examiner: Executions and hand amputations will return to Afghanistan, Taliban official says
Washington Examiner: Taliban announce hunt for ancient treasure
Reuters: Islamic State Uses Taliban’s Own Tactics To Attack Afghanistan’s New Rulers
AP: Milley: U.S. Should Explore More Military Talks With Russia
Washington Times: U.S. Icebreaker Gap With Russia A Growing Concern As Arctic ‘Cold War’ Heats Up
Yonhap: Kim Yo-jong calls Moon's war-end declaration offer 'admirable idea,' demands end to hostile policy
Politico: Biden’s Nuclear Agenda In Trouble As Pentagon Hawks Attac
Air Force Magazine: New Longer-Range Missiles Needed to Preserve Stealth Advantages
USNI News: CNO Gilday: Developing, Building Australian Nuclear Submarine Could Take Decades
19fortyfive.com: Not Just Submarines: France and America Have Never Been Easy Allies
AP: China sends 24 fighter jets toward Taiwan in show of force
Defense One: Just Half of Workers at Two Critical Shipyards Are Vaccinated
Marine Corps Times: Newest Sniper Rifle For Soldiers, Marines Takes On ‘Final Hurdle’ Before Fielding
19fortyfive.com: The Army Didn't Want the Glock 19X, But a Lot of Americans Did
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FRIDAY | SEPTEMBER 24
2 p.m. — President Joe Biden hosts the first-ever in-person Quad Leaders Summit at the White House, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi.
10 a.m. — Texas Tribune Festival interview with retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on “Testifying Against Trump, Career in Military and More,” with Jason Kander and Ravi Gupta, co-hosts of the “Majority 54” podcast. Register at https://docs.google.com/forms Info at https://festival.texastribune.org
MONDAY | SEPTEMBER 27
2 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual event “Africa's Security Challenges: A View from Congress, the Pentagon, and USAID, with Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md; Chidi Blyden, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs; and Travis Adkins, deputy assistant administrator, Bureau of Africa, USAID. https://www.csis.org/events/africas-securit
TUESDAY | SEPTEMBER 28
9:30 a.m. G50 Dirksen — Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: “The conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations,” with Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense; Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander, U.S. Central Command. https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings
WEDNESDAY | SEPTEMBER 29
9:30 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee hearing: “Ending the U.S. Military Mission in Afghanistan,” with Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense; Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander, U.S. Central Command. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings
FRIDAY | OCTOBER 1
10 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual event, “ A Conversation with Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen H. Hicks,” with Nina Easton, CSIS senior associate; and Beverly Kirk, fellow and director for outreach, International Security Program, and director, CSIS Smart Women, Smart Power Initiative. https://www.csis.org/events/conversation
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“China is acquiring a first strike capability. No one could rationally desire or plan to initiate a nuclear war, and I’m convinced China does not. But as a 20-year veteran of the Cold War who saw the world come far too close to nuclear exchanges between the Soviet Union and the United States, I am deeply concerned about the implications of China’s change in policy for nuclear stability and the potential for a catastrophic mistake.”
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, in a speech this week at Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Convention.
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Original Author: Jamie McIntyre