The White House has issued a memorandum in response to the release of a Republican report criticizing the withdrawal from Afghanistan by the Biden administration.
We’ll go over the arguments on both sides, as well as a new attack on a U.S. military base in Syria, the latest assessment of the COVID-19 outbreak by the Pentagon’s top official, and the role that cutting-edge U.S. missiles play in assisting Ukrainian pilots.
In Defense & National Security, we bring you the day’s top stories from the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and around the world. It’s me, Ellen Mitchell, reporting for The Hill. Please enter your email address to subscribe.
New Republican Afghanistan report criticized by White House
In response to a report from the Republican Party that criticized the withdrawal from Afghanistan that was implemented by the Biden administration, the White House has released a memo arguing that the decision actually improved national security and did not hinder the United States’ ability to eradicate terrorist threats.
As the one year anniversary of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches in August, Republicans are renewing their criticism of the haphazard withdrawal.
Meanwhile, on Monday it will have been an entire year since the Taliban overran Kabul and precipitated the swift collapse of the Afghan government.
The Republican report, led by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been criticized for being “partisan” and “riddled” with inaccuracies, but the White House memo, which lays out Biden’s reasoning for ending America’s longest war, pushes back on specific claims made in the report.
It’s a mess that was passed down: The agreement with the Taliban regarding the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan was passed on to President Biden by the Trump administration, as stated in a White House memorandum.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson writes in the memo, text of which was first reported by Axios and obtained by The Hill, that “when President Biden took office, he was faced with a choice: ramp up the war and put even more American troops at risk, or finally end the United States’ longest war after two decades of American presidents sending U.S. troops to fight and die in Afghanistan and $2 trillion spent.”
“The President refused to send another generation of Americans to fight a war that should have ended long ago — and we fundamentally disagree with those who advocated for miring the United States’ fighting men and women in an indefinite war with no exit strategy,” the memo continues, referencing an argument from 2016.
In the immediate aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal, Biden repeatedly used the same argument, claiming that he had to act quickly to protect American lives.
Representation of the Republican Party: The release of McCaul’s report this week provides an in-depth analysis of the mayhem that took place a year ago and criticism of the Biden administration for its lack of preparation for the withdrawal.
In a preview of the report on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, McCaul said, “There is a disconnect between the intelligence on the ground and what the White House is doing.”
The administration’s defense is revealed in a White House memo from a year later. Claims that the United States is now better equipped to deal with threats from Russia and China, pointing to the recent drone strike that killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan as evidence.
The memo also serves as a reminder that military leaders like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley warned that the United States would have needed to keep more than 2,500 troops in Afghanistan to fend off Taliban attacks had Biden not delayed the withdrawal.
Learn the rest of the story here.
Some more from The Hill:
Trump’s agreement with the Taliban on the United States’ withdrawal was widely panned by Afghanistan’s former president.
The Republican Party has released a report criticizing Vice President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal, and they plan to investigate further after the midterm elections.
U.S. military outpost in Syria is attacked by a drone.
According to a Pentagon statement, multiple drones attacked a base housing U.S. troops in eastern Syria early on Monday, but there were no reported casualties or damage.
The Defense Department reported that the attack occurred near al-Tanf Garrison, which is staffed by American troops and the American-backed Maghaweir al-Thowra (MaT) opposition fighters in Syria. The garrison is located near the borders of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq.
Why did this occur? It has been reported that coalition forces “successfully engaged one [unmanned aerial system], preventing its impact. Nothing was reported missing or damaged after a second UAS exploded inside a MaT forces compound. The other unilateral UAS attacks that were attempted failed, the statement said.
At this time, no group has taken responsibility for the incident.
As such, the al-Tanf base, where U.S. and coalition troops are stationed to train Syrian forces to counter ISIS militants and prevent the resurgence of the terrorist group, is a tempting target.
The base is located on a major supply route used by forces supported by Iran, making it a prime target for terrorist groups.
Learn the rest of the story here.
Second COVID positive test for the Pentagon chief
On Monday morning, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time in his career.
In a statement, Austin, 69, said he is experiencing “mild symptoms” and plans to quarantine at home for the next five days in accordance with the latest CDC recommendations.
Austin also stated that he would be able to keep up his regular work schedule and authority levels while working remotely.
Absence of last communication: Austin claimed his last in-person conversation with Vice President Biden took place on July 29—more than two weeks ago.
Since early January, when Austin was last virus-positive, he hasn’t had it. He, too, was experiencing mild symptoms at the time.
Learn more about it here.
U.S.-supplied anti-radiation missiles have been credited with helping to destroy some of Russia’s most lethal weapon systems in Ukraine in recent days.
However, a Ukrainian fighter pilot told The Hill that the missiles are just one part of a complex strategy to expel all Kremlin forces from the country.
A pilot who goes by the alias “Juice” claims that anti-radiation missiles have recently been used by the air force to neutralize Russian air defenses.
For the first time, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl confirmed the missiles’ presence in Ukraine last week, saying they were part of several recent lethal aid packages from the United States and improved the efficiency of the Ukrainian military’s preexisting capabilities.
This is a tremendous boost for us. In spite of the fact that “the missiles are only one part of the complex mission,” Juice referred to them as “one of the most advanced weapons that we have at the moment.”
Learn the rest of the story here.
PLANNED FOR TOMORROW
There will be a webcast discussion on “The Taliban Today” at 12 p.m., hosted by the Cato Institute.
The Reading Material
TOP OF THE HILL OPINIONS
The Hill: Editorial: America’s Great Power Potential and Its Limits
The Hill: Editorial: Leaving Afghanistan was the right call, but no one is being held accountable
We’re done here for the day. Read up on the newest developments in Defense and National Security on The Hill’s dedicated pages. See you in the morning!
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