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Politics Overnight Defense & National Security — Blinken heads to the hot seat

02:55  08 september  2021
02:55  08 september  2021 Source:   thehill.com

The Latest: Blinken says US working with Taliban on flights

  The Latest: Blinken says US working with Taliban on flights DOHA, Qatar — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the State Department is working with the Taliban to facilitate additional charter flights from Kabul for people seeking to leave Afghanistan after the American military and diplomatic departure. Blinken was speaking on Tuesday at a joint news conference with Qatar’s top diplomats and defense officials. He said the U.S. has been in contact with the Taliban “in recent hours” to work out arrangements for additional charter flights from the Afghan capital.

Happy Thursday and welcome to Overnight Defense . I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Antony Blinken CIA director to meet with Israeli, Palestinian leaders: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Final countdown: Senate inches toward last infrastructure vote Taliban claim responsibility for deadly Kabul blast MORE pressed China on Thursday to use its influence with North Korea to push Pyongyang toward denuclearization.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken Antony Blinken US military faces growing calls to do more to evacuate Afghanistan Biden officials offer lawmakers details on challenges with Afghan evacuation efforts OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Drought hits Colorado River “We have started consultations, inside the government with elders and political leaders, representatives of different levels of the community as well as our international allies,” Ghani said, according to the AP. U.S. troops are arriving in Kabul this weekend as part of an effort to evacuate embassy staff as the Taliban close in on the capital city.

It's Tuesday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Tony Blinken wearing a suit and tie: Secretary of State Anthony Blinken © UPI Photo Secretary of State Anthony Blinken

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to appear before both chambers of Congress as questions remain on the Biden administration's messy Afghanistan withdrawal and the future of those left behind in the war-torn country.

We'll share how many people are still in the country, the efforts to facilitate their exit and what lawmakers want to know.

For The Hill, we're Ellen Mitchell and Rebecca Kheel. Write to us with tips: emitchell@thehill.com and rkheel@thehill.com.

Senior Democrat's spokesperson disputes Blinken's comments about flights grounded in Afghanistan

  Senior Democrat's spokesperson disputes Blinken's comments about flights grounded in Afghanistan The communications director for a senior Democratic senator pushed back on comments from Secretary of State Antony Blinken about charter flights that have been grounded for days in the north of Afghanistan, as uncertainty over the militant group's promises to let Americans leave Afghanistan continued to roil Washington and as the Taliban named members of a designated terror group to its interim government. © OLIVIER DOULIERY/POOL/AFP/Getty Images US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin meet with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Qatari Deputy Prime Ministe

Antony John Blinken (born April 16, 1962) is an American government official and diplomat serving as the 71st United States secretary of state since January 26, 2021.

It's Monday, welcome to Overnight Defense , your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. “We cannot afford to cut corners and play politics with our national security , unfortunately that is all President Biden has done,” Rogers said in a statement. “From China to Russia to Iran to North Korea to the threat of global terrorism – the United States faces no shortage of adversaries who work around the clock seeking ways to supplant or inflict harm on our nation .”

Let's get to it.

Afghanistan hearings set to kick off

a group of people standing around a plane © Provided by The Hill

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will appear before lawmakers on Monday to answer questions about the State Department's role in the evacuation of Afghanistan.

The hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee will kick off what is likely to be a number of hearings about the administration's handling of the end of the United States' longest war.

Few details: The State Department has yet to release a number of details about its planning for the Afghanistan withdrawal or offer a full accounting of the 124,000 people the U.S. evacuated.

Sharp questioning ahead: Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) in mid-August requested Blinken as well as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin appear before the committee.

WATCH LIVE: Blinken testifies to House on botched Afghanistan withdrawal

  WATCH LIVE: Blinken testifies to House on botched Afghanistan withdrawal Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to be grilled Monday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the United States's botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. © Jose Luis Magana/AP Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria. Blinken said the failure of a cease-fire in Syria poses serious consequences for Moscow and gives the U.S. leverage.

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense . I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Carolyn Maloney Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ted Deutch Theodore (Ted) Eliot Deutch Senate Intel chair vows 'tough but necessary questions' on Afghanistan collapse Incorporating mental health support into global assistance programs Ethics panel upholds 0 mask fines against Greene, other GOP lawmakers MORE (D-Fla.) asked for

It's Wednesday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security , your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Antony Blinken Biden directs DHS to take lead on resettling Afghan refugees Top Chinese diplomat calls for world to 'positively guide' Taliban US, 97 other countries say they expect Taliban to ensure 'safe and orderly' travel out of Afghanistan MORE on Wednesday said about 1,500 Americans remain in Afghanistan and are waiting to be evacuated.

"The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly changing and it is imperative that the administration provide the American people and Congress transparency about its Afghanistan strategy," Meeks said at the time.

Blinken is likely to face sharp questioning from both sides of the aisle, particularly from members who had been urging the State Department to speed processing of Special Immigrant Visa applications for those who assisted the U.S. military.

"The security and humanitarian disaster unfolding was avoidable, and it was caused in large part by the acts, omissions, and delays from the State Department which you lead," the committee's ranking member, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), wrote in an Aug. 20 letter to Blinken asking the State Department to turn over a number of documents.

A Senate hearing too: Blinken will also appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 14 to testify about the administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Blinken Baffled as GOP Congressman Asks Him About Hunter Biden During Afghanistan Hearing

  Blinken Baffled as GOP Congressman Asks Him About Hunter Biden During Afghanistan Hearing Rep. Scott Perry continually pressed Blinken to comment on Hunter Biden and unrelated matters during testimony on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry seemed to baffle Blinken by asking him about a seemingly unrelated issue: "A little off-topic here, but I think it is interesting.

Blinken ’s statement echoed his own comments on Sunday, when he first directly accused Iran of being behind the attack and vowed an “appropriate response” to the incident. The US is yet to announce any specific steps. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said on Monday that his nation would not hesitate to protect its national security and interests should any threat arise, as he warned the three nations against any “adventures.” Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense . I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Penalties: After the report’s release, Secretary of State Antony Blinken Antony Blinken US in desperate need of a foreign policy renewal Zeldin calls on Biden to resign in the wake of Afghanistan attack Overnight Defense & National Security : Terror in Kabul as explosions kill and injure hundreds MORE announced visa restrictions against 76 Saudi individuals believed to be engaged in threatening dissidents overseas

It was the first scheduled public hearing with administration officials since late last month, when the Biden administration was caught off guard by the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and military and the advance of the Taliban into Kabul.

Blinken is the only witness currently listed for the hearing. A spokesman for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) didn't immediately respond to a question about potential testimony from additional administration officials.

The total so far: White House officials said that since Aug. 14, the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of about 105,000 people out of Afghanistan. Since the end of July, approximately 110,600 people have been relocated.

On Thursday from 3 a.m. EDT to 3 p.m. EDT alone, about 7,500 people were evacuated from Kabul. Roughly 5,100 people were carried on 14 U.S. military flights and 2,400 people on 39 coalition flights. The U.S. topped 100,000 people evacuated since Aug. 14 on Thursday.

QUESTIONS REMAIN

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is over, but congressional oversight has just barely begun.

Republican chides Blinken for not testifying in person about Afghanistan

  Republican chides Blinken for not testifying in person about Afghanistan Secretary of State Antony Blinken was criticized by a Republican congressman for testifying virtually on the Biden administration's withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. © Provided by Washington Examiner Rep. Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, chastised Blinken as he testified via video call from the State Department building on Monday, blocks from where the physical hearing took place on Capitol Hill in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Mr. Blinken, assuming it isn’t classified, can you tell us where you are today?" Perry said.

Lawmakers continue to have lingering questions about a withdrawal that saw the deaths of 13 U.S. service members, as well as scores of Afghans, and are promising hearings and probes in the coming weeks.

Already one House committee has moved to try to compel answers, advancing a defense policy bill last week that would require reports on everything from the decision to leave Bagram Air Base to what military equipment was left behind.

Read more on the five questions about the withdrawal lawmakers want answered.

Biden asks for funding to help bring 95,000 Afghans to US

Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: President Biden © Provided by The Hill President Biden

The Biden administration is planning to ask Congress for funding to bring some 95,000 Afghans to America and assist in resettling them - a sign both of U.S. commitments to allies and the likelihood that efforts to evacuate them will linger for months.

How much?: The White House is asking for $6.4 billion through a continuing resolution to fund ongoing efforts to get allies and other vulnerable Afghans out of the country.

What would it do?: A senior administration official said those funds would be used to help bring 65,000 Afghans to the U.S. by the end of September as well as another 30,000 who may come over the course of the next year.

"The majority of the funds requested are for DOD and State to support overseas sites, like Ramstein in Germany, and sites in the United States as well as transportation for allies and partners between those overseas sites and the United States," the official said on the call, referring to the departments of Defense and State.

RNC Calls for Antony Blinken to Be Fired As Afghanistan Congressional Hearings Begin

  RNC Calls for Antony Blinken to Be Fired As Afghanistan Congressional Hearings Begin "Blinken's disastrous handling of Afghanistan and weak leadership put American lives in danger," the RNC said in a statement released Monday.Republicans have been highly critical of how the Biden administration handled the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and have been demanding answers as to why American citizens were left behind.

The senior administration official said the funding would also be used to continue to house Afghans who arrive in the U.S. - often at military bases - before they are connected with various resettlement agencies.

In for the long haul: The funding indicates that so-called lily pad sites, overseas bases used to house evacuated Afghans as they await vetting to enter the U.S., will be operational for months on end.

The official said the funding for the overseas sites "shows the commitment to continue that work to ensure that we have the facilities that will be necessary so that individuals who do continue to depart from Afghanistan have certain locations to which to go for the same process that those already evacuated have gone through, including the critical step of security screening and vetting."

The details: The funding request includes $2.4 billion for Defense Department bases and personnel while $1.3 billion would go to the State Department for its resettlement efforts.

Also included in the request is $815 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide humanitarian assistance funding and $1.7 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide refugee services.

As of last week, there were nearly 40,000 evacuated Afghans waiting abroad to enter the U.S. Those in Qatar have complained about the extreme heat, as well as a limited number of bathroom facilities.

Public input wanted for Confederate-named bases redo

a sign on the side of the road © Provided by The Hill

A congressionally mandated commission is seeking public input on new names for military bases and ships that bear Confederate monikers.

‘Debacle’ and ‘betrayal’: Blinken ripped for Afghanistan failures in rancorous House hearing

  ‘Debacle’ and ‘betrayal’: Blinken ripped for Afghanistan failures in rancorous House hearing MORE GRILLED BLINKEN ON TAP: To call yesterday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan “contentious” would be to risk serious understatement. Secretary of State Antony Blinken faced withering criticism from Republicans on the committee, including demands he resign. More “grilled Blinken” is on the menu for this morning as the embattled secretary of state is raked over the hibachi by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, beginning at 10 a.m. © Provided by Washington Examiner DOD header 2020 “I can summarize this in one word, ‘betrayal,’” said ranking Republican Rep.

The Naming Commission, as the panel is informally known, put out a call on its website Monday for recommendations from the public for new names for at least 10 Army bases and two Navy ships.

"As we work with the local communities, we welcome input from the American public," retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, the commission's chairwoman, said in a statement. "This feedback will help us determine names that appropriately reflect our military today and recognize the courage, values and sacrifices of our military men and women."

A bit of background: The commission - officially called the Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense that Commemorate the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America - was created by last year's defense policy bill over the veto of then-President Trump.

After last year's nationwide racial justice protests reinvigorated efforts to reckon with the legacy of slavery and take down monuments honoring the Confederacy, lawmakers in both parties argued that it's far past time for the military to remove names honoring those who fought against the United States.

The focus: The Naming Commission's initial focus is on Forts A.P. Hill, Bragg, Lee, Rucker, Benning, Gordon, Hood, Polk, Belvoir and Pickett, the USNS Maury, and the USS Chancellorsville.

Of the bases, only Fort Belvoir is not named after a Confederate leader. But the base was added to the list for renaming because in the 1930s, officials changed the name from Camp A. A. Humphreys, which honored a Union general, to the name of the plantation that originally sat at the site.

Another base that's named after a Confederate military officer, Camp Beauregard, does not fall within the commission's authority because it is owned by the Louisiana National Guard.

U.S. Senate panel may force Afghanistan answers from Biden administration

  U.S. Senate panel may force Afghanistan answers from Biden administration U.S. Senate panel may force Afghanistan answers from Biden administration (Reuters) Your browser does not support this video Menendez blasted the exit as "clearly and fatally flawed." Blinken said U.S. officials had not expected the Taliban's lightning advance and the "11-day collapse" of U.S.-backed Afghan forces. "That's what changed everything," Blinken said. U.S. forces had been in Afghanistan since toppling the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks which they say were masterminded by al-Qaeda leaders based in the country.

Potentially hundreds of changes: While public attention has largely focused on the Army bases being renamed, the legislation that created the commission requires scrubbing Confederate names from any "base, installation, street, building, facility, aircraft, ship, plane, weapon, equipment or any other property owned or controlled by the Department of Defense."

Earlier this year, Howard predicted that when streets, buildings and other smaller assets are accounted for, the number of items that need to be renamed "potentially could run into the hundreds."

Read the rest here.

VETS GRAPPLE WITH NEW AFGHANISTAN

Veterans are grappling with the fallout from the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan that ended the nation's longest running war but also left the Taliban in control.

Afghanistan war veterans who spoke to The Hill said they have spent the past few weeks questioning their military service, while some said they have also tried to help get Afghan allies out of the country. Groups that work with veterans say processing the withdrawal has been difficult for many who fought there over the past two decades.

Increased calls: David Maulsby, executive director of PTSD of America Foundation, said his organization has received more calls to its crisis hotline from Afghanistan veterans who are "really, really angry with what they have seen on television the last couple of weeks."

"What they're angry about is that so many of the men, women, children that they met while they were there, many of them who served them while they were there in Afghanistan, were just left behind and the process of trying to get those SIVs out there was an unmitigated disaster," Maulsby said, referring to special immigrant visa holders, many of whom worked for the U.S. government at some point during the 20-year war.

"They are absolutely furious, not only with the administration but with the hierarchy, the military. They are just absolutely beside themselves," he added.

Read the full story here.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Institute of International and European Affairs will hold a lecture on The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan: Lessons learned and Future challenges, at 8 a.m.
  • The Middle East Institute will host a discussion on "Taliban 2.0: What We Should Expect from Afghanistan's New Rulers," at 9:30 a.m.
  • The Atlantic Council will hear from national security experts on "The future of counterterrorism: Twenty years after 9/11," at 10:30 a.m.
  • The Washington Space Business Roundtable will hear from Army Gen. James Dickinson, head of U.S. Space Command, at 11 a.m.
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) will speak about "20 Years After 9-11," at an Institute for Policy Studies event at 1:30 p.m.
  • Reps. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) and Young Kim (R-Calif) will speak at The Center for Strategic and International Studies' virtual talk on "What Lies Ahead for the U.S.-ROK Alliance?" at 2 p.m.​​
  • Government Executive will host its "State of Defense" event at 2 p.m.

WHAT WE'RE READING

  • Congress fumes over latest Afghanistan chaos...
  • Taliban announces new government that includes FBI-wanted militant...
  • Milley says civil war 'likely' in Afghanistan...
  • More Americans worried about domestic extremism than threat abroad: survey...
  • Five Navy sailors killed in helicopter crash identified...
  • The Hill: Opinion: The ubiquity and subtlety of China's expansion compel a response
  • The Hill: Opinion: Biden and Blinken must end diplomatic failures
  • The Associated Press: Evacuees plead for action: 'We are in some kind of jail'

That's it for today. Check out The Hill's defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. We'll see you Wednesday.

U.S. Senate panel may force Afghanistan answers from Biden administration .
U.S. Senate panel may force Afghanistan answers from Biden administration (Reuters) Your browser does not support this video Menendez blasted the exit as "clearly and fatally flawed." Blinken said U.S. officials had not expected the Taliban's lightning advance and the "11-day collapse" of U.S.-backed Afghan forces. "That's what changed everything," Blinken said. U.S. forces had been in Afghanistan since toppling the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks which they say were masterminded by al-Qaeda leaders based in the country.

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