Top US Afghanistan commander: ‘The security situation, it's not good’

‘IT'S NOT GOOD’: The senior U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, in an interview with ABC News, says the security situation continues to decline as U.S. troops near completion of their departure from the country, and Afghan forces are increasingly facing the Taliban alone.

“I think what you're seeing, just if you look at the security situation, it's not good," Gen. Scott Miller told ABC’s Martha Raddatz in Kabul. “The Afghans have recognized it's not good. The Taliban are on the move.”

As the Taliban take control of dozens of districts in recent weeks, Afghans in major population centers, such as the capital Kabul, are beginning to fear an impending military takeover and protracted civil war.

“As you watch the Taliban moving across the country, what you don't want to have happen is that the people lose hope, and they believe they now have a foregone conclusion presented to them,” Miller told ABC. “The loss of terrain and the rapidity of that loss of terrain has to be a concerning one.”

HIS HANDS ARE TIED: Miller’s mission now is to get all the U.S. troops out safely. He’ll help the Afghans when he can, but with each passing day, there is less he can do. These days when Afghanistan’s defense minister requests U.S. military assistance, more often than not, the answer is “no.”

"There's points where I have to tell him I won't be able to do that,” said Miller. “It's a tough, tough business. It is tough.”

Miller has served on and off in Afghanistan over the past 20 years and will be leaving friends behind. “I don't like leaving friends in need, and I know my friends are in need,” he says. “As we continue to move down the retrograde and withdraw forces, there's less and less I can directly offer them in terms of assistance ... So that's hard.”

“What we've said is this is Afghanistan, this is their country," says Miller. "The Afghan security forces have to hold."

WATCHING A DEATH SPIRAL: Meanwhile, here in Washington, some 6,900 miles from the front lines, a former Afghanistan commander sees his worst fears playing out.

“I feared that we were consigning Afghanistan to a civil war, and again, that seems to be materializing sooner than I had even feared it would,” said retired Army Gen. David Petraeus in a Washington Post Live interview.

The startling Taliban advance, which has seen some Afghan units surrender, suggests a worrisome break in morale that could have a cascading effect once the Americans are gone.

“It appears that that kind of psychological element that is so important with soldiers — that they know that someone is coming to the rescue and that there will be close air support, air medevac, additional forces — they seem to be doubting that,” Petraeus told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. “And whenever that happens, then you start to see soldiers not fight, desert, surrender, what have you, and we've seen that in dozens of districts, again, just in recent months.”

The Achilles heel of the Afghan military, says Petraeus, is not just its reliance on U.S. troops, but the fact that most of its equipment is sophisticated American hardware that requires U.S. or Western mechanics, spare parts, and maintenance systems. And all of the contractors are leaving, too.

“As the contractor force is reduced, as the air worthiness and the readiness of these air assets degrades, the Afghan forces will come to see that there is not someone coming to the rescue,” he says. “It's also critical, I think, that we commit to providing air support when critical cities or critical province capitals are being threatened.”

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NOTE TO READERS: Daily on Defense will not publish on Monday, July 5, as we observe the long Independence Day holiday weekend. Back on Tuesday, July 6.

HAPPENING TODAY: The budget hearings are winding down on Capitol Hill, but there is one more this morning as Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville appear before the House Armed Services Committee at 11 a.m.

TIME FOR AN AIRLIFT? As the Taliban continue to gain ground in Afghanistan, the plight of the Afghan interpreters seems more dire, and the plan to gradually evacuate them to a third country using chartered airliners seems more problematic.

In his Washington Post interview yesterday, David Petraeus said that when he and Ryan Crocker wrote the State Department in April urging expedited approval of special immigrant visas for Afghans who help the U.S. on the battlefield, he didn’t think a massive military airlift would be necessary.

But with time running out, Petraeus says it may be time to think big.

“It is looking as if to meet the policy decision the president has announced now, which is that we will not leave them behind, it's not going to be business as usual,” he says. “I don't think the normal process is going to accelerate sufficiently in the course of the next month or two so that we can get them all to the United States with the visa that they have earned.”

The battlefield interpreters do much more than just translate from English to Pashto, Petraeus said. “They're also, in many cases, your eyes and ears. They are your cultural advisers ... They're rucked up every day. They're out there. They are the ones who are the interface for us with the local population. So, they're critical to the effort.”

Bringing them to America is a moral obligation, he says. “They have risked their lives not just on the battlefield interpreting and translating, but then because of the fact that they worked for our forces, they're marked men or, in some cases, women, and they have family members who are also targeted by the Taliban.

US TROOPS IN SYRIA COME UNDER ROCKET FIRE: Just hours after U.S. Air Force jets bombed three suspected weapons storage facilities along the Iraq-Syria border, a facility housing U.S. troops in northeast Syria came under rocket attack.

“At approx. 7:44 PM local time, U.S. Forces in Syria were attacked by multiple rockets. There are no injuries and damage is being assessed,” tweeted Army Col. Wayne Marotto, a U.S. military spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria.

“U.S. Forces in Syria, while under multiple rocket attack, acted in self-defense and conducted counter-battery artillery fire at rocket launching positions,” Marotto said in a follow-up tweet.

AIRSTRIKES RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT BIDEN’S RED LINES: Sunday’s airstrikes against Iran-backed militia targets in Syria and Iraq were generally met with support by members of Congress but also raised concerns about President Joe Biden’s use of force without congressional notification or approval.

The Pentagon said the strikes came under the rubric of self-defense after a series of attacks that employed small, explosive-laden drones that targeted American and Iraqi personnel in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

“I will be seeking more information from the administration in the coming days regarding what specifically predicated these strikes, any imminent threats they believed they were acting against, and more details on the legal authority the Administration relied upon,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez of New Jersey. “Congress has the power to authorize the use of military force and declarations of war, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning to hear from the Administration more on these strikes as well as have a broader discussion on the 2002 AUMF when we return to Washington, D.C.”

“Congress has not authorized these strikes (or others like them) in any meaningful way,” argues John Glaser of the Cato Institute. “The post-9/11 authorizations for the use of force have been stretched and abused by four presidents in a row and must be thoroughly debated and repealed in order to right-size the balance of war powers of the legislative and executive branches.”

“President Biden's airstrikes in Iraq and Syria are a clear indication that the post-9/11 model of perpetual unchecked executive war powers are not winding down,” he said.

IRAQ OBJECTS: The fact that one of the three airstrikes Sunday was on the Iraqi side of the border drew condemnation from the Iraqi government, which called the bombing a “blatant” violation of its national sovereignty.

“I am not surprised at that Iraqi response,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, on MSNBC. “But the fact is, if the Iraqis are not able to control those Iranian-backed militias, and they have free rein to attack Americans and other people in the region, then it needs to be clear that those kinds of attacks just are not acceptable.”

The problem for the Iraqi government is that these Iranian-supported Shiite militia fought in the war against ISIS and are now part of the political landscape, says retired Gen. David Petraeus, whose career included commanding in Iraq.

“They were allowed to reassemble and get back on the streets when the threat of ISIS loomed large in Iraq. And they have never left the street since then, and they're now much more heavily equipped and armed with weapons provided by Iran,” Petraeus said in his Washington Post interview.

“The Iraqi government ... does not love these elements at all but did employ them, and they did fight hard against the Islamic State. They are a reality, and they're linked to political parties,” Petraeus said. “That's the reality that a very competent prime minister and president and other ministers are dealing with in Iraq with an election probable later this year.”

POSTHUMOUS JUSTICE FOR OPPENHEIMER: More than 50 years after the fact, a group of four senators have written to President Joe Biden in an attempt to set the historical record straight and clear the name of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the nuclear physicist who led the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb.

“Despite Dr. Oppenheimer’s indispensable contributions to the war effort and his expertise as a scientific advisor, in 1954 he was denied security clearance after a McCarthy era hearing that involved unsubstantiated accusations of disloyalty, questionable evidence, and politically motivated judges,” says the letter signed by Sens. Patrick Leahy, Edward Markey, Jeffery Merkley, and Martin Heinrich.

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The Rundown

Washington Examiner: New increase in migrant children at border five months into Biden tenure

Bloomberg: Top Pentagon Cyber Official Probed Over Disclosure Concerns

Defense News: Moderate Democrats rebuke defense budget cuts

Politico: GOP Senator Jams Up Pentagon Pick Over Biden’s Navy Plan

Federal Times: Biden Introduces Sweeping Diversity Initiative Amid Race-Training Controversy

Reuters: Japan Minister Says Necessary To 'Wake Up' To Protect Taiwan

USNI News: Taiwan Sovereignty Key to Western Pacific Security, Says Japanese Defense Official

AP: Russia, China Declare Friendship Treaty Extension, Hail Ties

Breaking Defense: U.S. ‘Retains Clear Superiority’ In Cyber; China Rising: IISS Study

ABC: An inside look at the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: ABC News exclusive

Washington Post: The Taliban’s offensive is prompting Afghans to join the fight: ‘We need to defend our lands’

Washington Post: Blinken says the number of ISIS fighters and family members being held at detention camps in Syria is ‘untenable’

Reuters: Biden Vows To Israel: No Nuclear Weapon For Iran On My Watch

AP: U.S. Warns That Islamic State Extremists Still A World Threat

New York Times: On Iran, Biden Walks a Tightrope Between Force and Diplomacy

CNN: UK-Russia Naval Flap Shows Putin's On Edge

USNI News: U.S., Ukraine Begin Sea Breeze 2021 Exercise with 30 Other Countries

Japan Times: As North Korea And U.S. Vie For Leverage, Nuclear Talks Likely A Long Way Off

Air Force Magazine: ACC Activates the First Spectrum Warfare Wing

USNI News: Six Littoral Combat Ships To Deploy By Year’s End As Navy Continues To Refine Operations

Stars and Stripes: Marines No Longer Have To Send 360-Degree Tattoo Photos To The Corps

19fortyfive.com: The U.S. Military Should Worry: Russia Just Tested A New ICBM

19fortyfive.com: Yasen: The Russian Stealth Submarine Even the U.S. Navy Can't Find

19fortyfive.com: Opinion: Joe Biden’s Limited Iraq and Syria Strikes Won't Stop Iran

Calendar

TUESDAY | JUNE 29

9 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “Space Race in the 21st Century: Understanding Russia's Evolving Military Capabilities,” with C. Robert Kehler, former commander of U.S. Strategic Command and senior fellow at National Defense University; former Associate NASA Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Douglas Loverro, president of Loverro Consulting LLC; and Victoria Samson, Washington office director of the Secure World Foundation https://www.csis.org/events/space-race

9:30 a.m. — Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International and the U.S. Naval Institute virtual West 2021 Conference: “What is the Promise and Progress of Naval Integration," Vice Adm. James Kilby, deputy chief of Naval operations for warfighting requirements and capabilities; Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant for combat development and integration and commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command; Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, director of the National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service; Vice Adm. Jeffrey Trussler, deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare in the Office of the Director of Naval Intelligence; Rear Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, commander of Naval Information Forces; Rear Adm. Jeffrey Jablon, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet's Submarine Force; Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lewis Craparotta, commanding general of the Training and Education Command; Rear Adm. Brendan McLane, commander of the Naval Surface Force Atlantic; and Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander of Naval Air Forces and commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Naval Air Force; Rear Adm. Hugh Howard III, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command; Rear Adm. Mark Fedor, assistant commandant for resources and CFO of the Coast Guard; Lt. Gen. John Jansen, deputy commandant for programs and resources at the Marine Corps; and Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget. https://www.westconference.org/WEST21

9:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies and the European Union Delegation to the United States EU Defense Washington Forum, with Trine Bramsen, minister of defense of Denmark; Harjit Sajjan, minister of national defense of Canada; Joao Gomes Cravinho, minister of national defense of Portugal; and Victoria Coleman, chief scientist for the Air Force. https://www.csis.org/events/eu-defense-washington-forum

10 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “Hong Kong's Future on Edge: Countering China's National Security Law One Year On,” with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; former Hong Kong Legislative Council Member Nathan Law, fellow at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics; Walter Lohman, director of the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center; Ellen Bork, president of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong; Shibani Mahtani, southeast Asia bureau chief at the Washington Post; and Ash Jain, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Center for Strategy and Security https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/hong-kongs-future

11 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee hearing: “The Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for the Department of the Army,” with Christine Wormuth, secretary of the Army; and Gen. James McConville. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

12:30 p.m. — The Hill virtual discussion: “The Future of Missile Defense,” Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio; Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.; Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill; Tay Fitzgerald, vice president for strategic missile defense at Raytheon Missiles and Defense; and Steve Clemons, editor-at-large at the Hill https://thehill.com/event

2 p.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion: “Securing Cyberspace," with Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, member of the House (Select) Intelligence Committee; and Kevin Mandia, CEO of FireEye. https://www.washingtonpost.com/washington-post-live

2 p.m. — Association of the U.S. Army’s Thought Leaders webinar, with retired Col. Tom Vossler and retired Col. Jeff McCausland to discuss their book, Battle Tested! Gettysburg Leadership Lessons for 21st Century Leaders. Register at: https://info.ausa.org/e/784783/s-Webinar-Series-Battle-Tested

4 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems hearing, “Department of Defense Information Technology, Cybersecurity, and Information Assurance for Fiscal Year 2022,” with John Sherman, acting Pentagon chief information officer. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

WEDNESDAY | JUNE 30

9:30 a.m. — Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International and the U.S. Naval Institute virtual West 2021 Conference: “What is the Promise and Progress of Naval Integration,” with Jennifer Edgin, assistant deputy commandant for information at the Marine Corps; Rear Adm. David Dermanelian, assistant commandant for command, control, communications, computers and information technology at the Coast Guard; Vice Adm. Jeffrey Trussler, deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare; Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday; Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard; former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work; Rear Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, commander of Naval Information Forces; Vice Adm. William Galinis, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command; Brig. Gen. Arthur Pasagian, commander of the Marine Corps Systems Command; Rear Adm. Carola List, assistant commandant for engineering and logistics at the Coast Guard; Rear Adm. Douglas Small, commander of the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command; and Vice Adm. G. Dean Peters, commander of the Naval Air Systems Command; Lt. Gen. Nina Armagno, director of staff of the Space Force; and Adm. Sam Paparo, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. https://www.westconference.org/WEST21

3 p.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces Hearing: “Fiscal Year 2022 Rotary Wing Aviation Budget Request,” with Douglas Bush, acting assistant secretary of the army for acquisition, logistics and technology; Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, director, Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command; Frederick “Jay” Stefany, acting assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition; Lt. Gen. Mark Wise, deputy Marine Corps commandant for aviation; Rear Adm. Andrew Loiselle, director, Air Warfare Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; Darlene Costello, acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics; Brig Gen. Mark August, director, Air Force Global Reach Programs. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings

THURSDAY | JULY 1

11 a.m. — Heritage Foundation virtual discussion on "Critical Race Theory in the Military,” with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; and Dakota Wood, senior research fellow for defense programs at heritage. https://www.heritage.org/defense/event

11 a.m. — National Press Club Newsmaker Program with House Foreign Affairs ranking member Michael McCaul, R-Texas; and Rep. Al Green, D-Texas urging the Biden Administration to work to free Austin Tice, a freelance journalist that was abducted in Syria in 2012. https://www.press.org/events/npc-headliners

3:30 p.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “Fight and Flight in Modern Air Warfare,” with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.; Vivian Salama, national security reporter at the Wall Street Journal; Michael Andersson, head of strategic partnerships and international affairs at Saab; and former Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, vice chair of the Atlantic Council's Center for Strategy and Security https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event

FRIDAY | JULY 2

1 p.m. 16th St. and Constitution Ave. N.W. — UFO Activists rally on the Ellipse to protest “the secrecy regarding extraterrestrial life." https://www.eventbrite.com/e/world-ufo-day-2021


QUOTE OF THE DAY

"I don't like leaving friends in need, and I know my friends are in need."

Gen. Scott Miller, U.S. Afghanistan commander, in an interview with ABC News.

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Tags: National Security, Daily on Defense

Original Author: Jamie McIntyre

Original Location: Top US Afghanistan commander: ‘The security situation, it's not good’