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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.
“I can summarize this in one word, ‘betrayal,’” said ranking Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas. “The America I know keeps its promises. The most important promise in our military is no man left behind, no one left behind. But you broke this promise.”
“You put the lives of our men and women in the hands of a brutal terrorist organization, as you claimed that the Taliban would never even be in charge of the country … It was lie after lie. President Biden wanted out at any cost,” said Missouri Republican Rep. Ann Wagner.
“Now, 20 years later, we have the Taliban back in charge there. And they have billions and billions of dollars worth of our equipment and our weaponry. And once again, they're a haven for terrorists,” said Ohio Republican Rep. Steve Chabot. “How is this not a debacle of monumental proportions?”
“This was fatally flawed, poorly executed. We had the loss of U.S. service members as a result. We should not have been operating off of an arbitrary July 31st deadline,” said New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin. “It is so greatly unfortunate the consequences, and I believe you sir should resign. That would be leadership.”
‘WE INHERITED A DEADLINE; WE DID NOT INHERIT A PLAN’: Blinken blamed both the fall of the Afghan government and the chaotic evacuation operation on failures of the Trump administration, including forcing the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, including some “top war commanders,” as well as the halt of the Special Immigrant Visa program that would have cleared the way for thousands of Afghan partners to come to the U.S. in the months before President Donald Trump’s May 1 deadline for a full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“We inherited a deadline; we did not inherit a plan,” Blinken said. “There had not been a single interview in the SIV program in Kabul for nine months, going back to March of 2020. The program was basically in a stall.”
‘WE DID THE RIGHT THING’: “We made the right decision in ending America's longest war, we made the right decision in not sending a third generation of Americans to fight and die in Afghanistan,” Blinken testified.
“We did the right thing by our citizens and are working feverishly to get every one of them out. We did the right thing by 125,000 Afghans, to bring them to safety. And now we're working to do the right thing to hold the Taliban to the expectations of the international community to ensure people can continue to travel freely, to ensure that the rights of Afghans are upheld, to ensure that they make good on commitments they've made on counterterrorism.”
MANIPULATED INTELLIGENCE? One of the most tense moments in the hearing came when Florida Republican Rep. Brian Mast lit into Blinken for what he said was President Joe Biden’s “manipulation” of intelligence to make the Afghan army seem more formidable than it was.
Mast was referring to a transcript of a phone call between Biden and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani leaked to Reuters, in which Biden tells Ghani, “I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban ... And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
“Did President Biden work with the coward exiled president of Afghanistan to manipulate the intelligence about the Taliban?” Mast asked Blinken.
“The president said to then President Ghani in private exactly what he said in public, that the issue was not whether Afghanistan had the capacity to withstand the Taliban, it's whether it had the will and the plan to do so,” Blinken replied.
“I do not believe whatsoever what you're saying about the administration, not working to manipulate that intelligence,” Mast said during the exchange, his anger rising. “To me, that is the most logical, the most logical explanation of how so many in the intelligence community got this so wrong about what was going to happen in Afghanistan.”
“Simply put, congressman, what you said is dead wrong,” replied Blinken, prompting Mast to shoot back. “I don't wish to hear your lies.”
“You've heard the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff say that he has not seen anything that indicated to him or to anyone else, but the Afghan government and military would collapse in 11 days,” Blinken said after Mast’s time had expired and he was gaveled down. “The director of national intelligence has said that even in the days leading up to the Taliban takeover, intelligence agencies did not say collapse was imminent. This unfolded more quickly than we anticipated, including in the intelligence community. And I could go on. So what has been said and alleged is simply not true.”
Good Tuesday 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: Round 2 of Blinken’s defense of the Biden withdrawal begins this morning at 10 a.m. in Room 106 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building when Blinken appears in person before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Yesterday’s appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee was virtual because the House was not technically in session.
While Republicans have been most pointed in their questioning, Democrats have also admitted the withdrawal suffered from inadequate planning, including Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menedez of New Jersey.
“I believe the exit was poorly executed,” Menendez said on CNN yesterday. “Of course, you know, the Biden administration was handed a bad situation ... The previous Trump administration with Stephen Miller would not permit the SIV visas who helped us be processed.”
“But even when you inherit such a set of circumstances, you know, it would have been important to come to the Congress and say, we have a problem, we have to surge dramatically, we need your support in doing so, and to have a clarion call that there was more that needed to be done. In that respect, the execution in my mind was totally unacceptable.”
PILING ON: After yesterday’s hearing, many Republicans lawmakers released statements blasting Blinken and Biden.
“After lying about this slow-motion hostage crisis for weeks and stonewalling requests for hard numbers, Secretary Blinken just admitted to Congress that ‘several thousand’ American green card holders are still trapped in Afghanistan,” said Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. “This is a national humiliation. Let’s be very clear about this: These men and women are legal permanent residents of the United States. When America gives someone a green card, it’s a promise that their permanent home is here in the United States with us. President Biden abandoned thousands of these American residents behind Taliban lines to fend for themselves.”
“Antony Blinken continues to peddle lies about Biden and his disastrous handling of Afghanistan, the lives of Americans he left stranded in the Taliban-run country, and his failed leadership on the world stage,” said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in a statement. “Today’s hearing makes Blinken’s failures and lies abundantly clear – Biden has no choice but to fire Blinken, hold him accountable, and take responsibility for the disaster he created.”
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: Blinken and the Biden administration will be facing further opprobrium tonight at a 6:30 p.m. news conference called by Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The committee will have just heard testimony behind closed doors from that last U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, who is believed to have advised Biden against the full withdrawal of U.S. troops but has not said so publically.
“The request for a closed discussion with Gen. Miller was made by the Senate Armed Services Committee,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. “I'm not aware of any public testimony right now by Gen. Miller.”
The news conference led by ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe will be livestreamed @SenateGOP on Twitter.
RETURN OF THE FENCE: The U.S. Capitol Police says that as part of the stepped-up security in advance of Saturday’s “Justice for J6” rally, a 7-foot fence will be reinstalled around the Capitol
“Today the Capitol Police Board approved a plan to temporarily put up a fence around the Capitol Building. When the inner-perimeter fence was taken down in July, USCP leaders noted that from time to time, they may exercise the ability to enhance security around the Capitol Complex,” the police said in a statement.
The fence could come down as fast as it went up if there are no problems Saturday. “We want to reassure everyone these are temporary measures to ensure everyone’s safety,” said Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger.
“We are here to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” said Manger. “I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.”
LEAVE YOUR TRUMP GEAR AT HOME: Organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally are asking the demonstrators to limit their signs and apparel to the protesting of the treatment of those arrested Jan. 6 and not wear clothes or carry flags that support a particular political cause, such as Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
Guidance for the protesters on the Look Ahead America website asks participants “to be respectful to our security team and law enforcement” and not to “wear or bring political, candidate, or another organization’s paraphernalia.”
“This includes clothing or banners supportive of President Trump or President Biden,” the site says. “Do wear your red, white, and blue and bring your American flag and signs to show your support of the J6 prisoners.”
NORTH KOREA’S NEW CRUISE MISSILE: The state-run Korean Central News Agency reported yesterday that North Korea successfully tested a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, calling the missile “a strategic weapon of great significance.”
North Korea said the missiles traveled more than 900 miles, traveling in “oval and pattern-8 flight orbits in the air above the territorial land and waters” before hitting targets.
At the Pentagon, spokesman John Kirby refused to confirm the tests but said based on the reports, “The activity itself certainly highlights the DPRK's continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that it continues to pose to its neighbors and to the international community.”
“The new cruise missile has the range to threaten Japan and would augment North Korea’s ballistic missile arsenal intended to intimidate Tokyo from assisting the United States during a Korean conflict. The missile could also be used against South Korean targets or potentially U.S. naval forces near the Korean Peninsula,” says Bruce Klingner, a Korea expert at the Heritage Foundation.
“The cruise missile launches are not technically a violation of UN resolutions, which only preclude ballistic missile tests. But they will nonetheless pose a challenge to the Biden administration as it seeks to curtail North Korea’s nuclear and missile growing threats,” Klingner writes at the website 19fortyfive.com. “To date, Pyongyang has rejected all efforts at dialogue or negotiations.”
Washington Examiner: Blinken faces demand for resignation in acrimonious start to Afghanistan debacle review
Washington Examiner: 'Thousands' of lawful US residents left in Afghanistan, Blinken says in testimony
Washington Examiner: Afghan evacuee flights to US halted for another week amid measles outbreak
Washington Examiner: First foreign commercial flight lands in Kabul since Taliban takeover
Washington Examiner: Pentagon remains mum as CENTCOM investigates questionable Afghan airstrikes
Washington Examiner: Air Force report says black airmen face more discipline, fewer promotions
Washington Examiner: Spicer to Biden: Shove it, demand to quit Navy board is illegal
Washington Examiner: DHS chief of staff resigns as agency faces multiple crises
Washington Examiner: Texas to award border wall contract as early as this week
Reuters: Afghan pilots start leaving Uzbekistan for UAE, despite Taliban pressure-source
Washington Examiner: Israeli firm unveils armed autonomous vehicle to patrol battlegrounds
Wall Street Journal: Nations Stop Short of Recognizing Taliban
New York Times: Iran Is Inching Toward Producing Enough Fuel For One Nuclear Bomb
Yonhap: U.S. Remains Open To Diplomacy With N. Korea After Latest Missile Launch: White House
AP: Once inmates, Taliban now in charge in a Kabul prison
AP: A U.S. Marine, a curious Afghan boy, an unfathomable moment
CQ Roll Call: A Top General Calls For Restraining The Defense Budget
Defense Daily: Nuclear Modernization Based on Obsolete Thinking, STRATCOM Commander Says
Air Force Magazine: China’s Expedited ICBM Program Has Been a Top US Secret, Shows Need for Speed, Hyten Says
Breaking Defense: U.S. Momentum Grows For Push To Start Strategic Talks With China
The Drive: Chinese Warships Sailing Near Alaska's Aleutian Islands Shadowed By U.S. Coast Guard
ABC News: Putin Watches Huge Display Of Firepower During Zapad War Games
CNN: Russia's Vladimir Putin is self-isolating after several Covid-19 cases in his entourage
CBS: Air Force secretary orders investigation into domestic violence cases following CBS News report
Task & Purpose: No, F-22 pilots aren’t ‘walking off the job’ to avoid the COVID-19 vaccine
19fortyfive.com: Could the Air Force Send in F-15s to Sink a Navy? Maybe.
19fortyfive.com: The U.S. Military Can Shootdown Nuclear Missiles from North Korea (But How Many?)
19fortyfive.com: The Royal Marines Want a 'James Bond' Stealth Submarine
TUESDAY | SEPTEMBER 14
9 a.m. National Harbor, Maryland — Intelligence and National Security Alliance Summit with Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate; Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; Army Maj. Gen. Charles Cleveland, associate director for operations at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; Deputy CIA Director David Cohen; Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, director of the National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service; Chris Scolese, director of the National Reconnaissance Office; Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for China Michael Chase; Wayne Ulman, defense intelligence officer for East Asia at the Defense Intelligence Agency; and White House National Cyber Director Chris Inglis, former deputy director of the National Security Agency and former commissioner of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. https://intelsummit.org/
10 a.m. 106 Dirksen — Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing: “Examining the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan,” with testimony from Secretary of State Antony Blinken. http://foreign.senate.gov
10 a.m. — Woodrow Wilson Center Science and Technology Innovation Program virtual discussion on "Artificial Intelligence in the Indo-Pacific: Enhancing Shared Security and Defense,” with Yll Bajraktari, executive director of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence; Meg King, director of the WWC Science and Technology Innovation Program; and Abraham Denmark, director of the WWC Asia Program. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/ai-and-allies
10: 30 a.m. — Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md., delivers virtual remarks for the launch of Welcome.US, a national bipartisan coalition to support the resettlement of Afghan allies in the United States. Livestream at https://www.youtube.com/watch
12 p.m. — German Marshall Fund of the United States virtual discussion: “Discussing the Taiwan Peace and Stability Act, with Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif.; Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio; and Bonnie Glaser, director of the GMFUS Asia Program https://www.gmfus.org/event/discussing-taiwan-peace
12:30 p.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion: “Securing Cyberspace,” with House Homeland Security ranking member John Katko, R-N.Y.; and former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Assistant Director Jeanette Manfra, global director of risk and compliance at Google. https://www.washingtonpost.com/washington-post-live
12:30 p.m. — New America virtual Future Security Forum: “Redefining National Security for 2040," with Former Afghan Ambassador to the United States Roya Rahmani; and Former National Security Council Senior Director for Counterterrorism Javed Ali. https://www.newamerica.org/international-security/events
WEDNESDAY | SEPTEMBER 15
9:15 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “National Security and Digital Privacy,” with Bruno Lasserre, chief justice and vice president of the French Council of State. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event
11 a.m. — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace virtual book discussion on The Strategy of Denial, with author Elbridge Colby, co-founder and principal at the Marathon Initiative; Christian Brose, chief strategy officer at Anduril Industries; Jennifer Lind, associate professor at Dartmouth College; and Ashley Tellis, chair for strategic affairs at CEIP. https://carnegieendowment.org
2 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual film screening and discussion on "Source Code," focusing on artificial intelligence in a future war, with Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, director of the Defense Department's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center; producer and director Mark Kiefer; executive producer Steven Grundman, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Center for Strategy and Security; Jamie Metzl, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; Stephanie Wander, deputy director of the Atlantic Council's GeoTech Center; and Clementine Starling, deputy director at the Atlantic Council's Center for Strategy and Security https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/source-code/
THURSDAY | SEPTEMBER 16
8 a.m. — Potomac Officers Club virtual Fall 2021 5G Summit, with Jay Dryer, director of the Defense Department's Strategic Capabilities Office. https://potomacofficersclub.com/events
9 a.m. — German Marshall Fund of the United States virtual discussion on a new report, "Security Implications of Chinese Infrastructure Investment: Mapping the China Playbook in Europe,” with Dario Cristiani, senior fellow at GMFUS; Jonas Parello-Plesner, nonresident senior fellow at GMFUS; Mareike Ohlberg, senior fellow at GMFUS; and Andrew Small, senior transatlantic fellow at GMFUS. https://www.gmfus.org/event/mapping-china-playbook-europe
10 a.m. — Middle East Institute virtual discussion: “The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Biden administration's Middle East policy," with retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, and president of the Brookings Institution. https://www.mei.edu/events/mei-defense-leadership-series
1 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “Congress and Authorizations for Use of Military Force Repeal, with Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich.; and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.; and Tess Bridgeman, co-editor in chief of Just Security https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event
FRIDAY | SEPTEMBER 17
12 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual book discussion on Three Dangerous Men: Russia, China, Iran, and the Rise of Irregular Warfare, with author Seth Jones, director of the CSIS International Security Program; and David Sanger, national security correspondent at the New York Times. https://www.csis.org/events/book-launch-three-dangerous-men-seth-jones
1 p.m. — Heritage Foundation virtual book discussion on The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict, with author former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Elbridge Colby, co-founder and principal at the Marathon Initiative. https://www.heritage.org/defense/event
SATURDAY | SEPTEMBER 18
2:20 a.m. EDT/8:20 a.m. CET — NATO’s highest Military Authority, the Military Committee meets in Athens, Greece. Gen. Konstantinos Floros, Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff will host the Conference. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_186299.htm
5:45 p.m. CET — Joint press conference with the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer and the Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, Gen. Konstantinos Floros. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_186299.htm
12 p.m. — ”Justice for J6 rally,” on the west side of the U.S. Capitol, which is intended to protest the treatment of protesters arrested in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. https://lookaheadamerica.org/rally
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We inherited a deadline; we did not inherit a plan.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, faulting the Trump administration for lack of planning for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
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Original Author: Jamie McIntyre