OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Outrage at Russia over Snowden

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called it a “slap in the face,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said it was a “game changer.”

The two senators had introduced a resolution last month calling for Obama to propose an alternative location for the G-20 summit.

“Today’s action by the Russian government could not be more provocative and is a sign of Vladimir Putin’s clear lack of respect for President Obama,” Graham said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement Thursday, and then called a Senate press conference later in the afternoon to express his displeasure.

"Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife," Schumer said.

McCain called on expanding a bill that sanctioned Russian human rights violators and to reconsider finishing all phases of a missile defense shield in Europe.

Some lawmakers did not think a G-20 boycott was a good idea.

“I wouldn’t not go to the G-20 summit,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). “There’s just too many issues going on there involving too many countries.”

Senate panel passes Defense spending bill: The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday passed a $594 billion Pentagon spending bill on a 22-8 vote.

Eight Republicans voted against the bill, not because they disagreed with the Defense bill but over a larger appropriations dispute about the discretionary topline.

Just as the Pentagon’s budget is wrapped up in a larger sequestration fight over taxes and spending, the 2014 Defense appropriations bill is stuck in limbo as the House and Senate fight over the discretionary budget — even though the two chamber’s Defense appropriations bills are only $3 billion apart.

“I have opposed every bill that the committee has reported this year, not because they have no merit, but because I cannot support a topline $91 billion above the level at which across-the-board cuts will kick in,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the committee, said before Thursday’s vote.

The committee passed an amendment to the bill that would require congressional approval before military action is taken. The bill passed on a 20-10 vote after a lengthy debate on the war powers act.

White House walks back Kerry's drone pledge: The Obama administration was forced into damage control on Thursday as officials attempted to walk back Secretary of State John Kerry's pledge to end armed drone operations in Pakistan.

During a diplomatic visit to Pakistan on Thursday, Kerry told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that Washington plans to severely curtail and eventually end armed drone operations in the country.

"I think the [drone] program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it," Kerry said in an interview with Pakistani television. 

The Obama administration reacted quickly to Kerry's comments, saying his statements did not reflect a coming change in the use of armed drones against terrorist targets or overall U.S. counterterrorism policy. 

"Clearly the goal of counter-terrorism operations, broadly speaking, is to get to a place where we don't have to use them, because the threat goes away," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Thursday. 

The Obama administration is "realistic about the fact that there is a threat that remains and that we have to keep up our vigilance to fight in this and other places around the world." 

U.S. drone strikes against suspected terrorist targets inside Pakistan has long been a source of contention in the often tense relations between Washington and Islamabad. 

Pakistan claims the strikes, focused on the volatile provinces in the northwest part of the country that border Afghanistan, are a clear violation of the country's sovereignty. 

U.S. military and intelligence officials maintain the drone strikes have been an invaluable tool in decimating the core leadership of al Qaeda and other extremist groups based inside Pakistan. 

Afghan postwar plan nearly complete: American and Afghan negotiators are reportedly close to finalizing a postwar deal that would keep a U.S. force in Afghanistan to conduct counterterrorism missions and continue training local forces. 

Specifics on the total number and makeup of U.S. forces that will remain in Afghanistan after the White House's 2014 withdrawal deadline is still under debate. 

But the U.S. counterterrorism force will have a significantly small presence in postwar Afghanistan and be focused on going after al Qaeda cells in the country, according to recent reports. 

Afghan leaders have also agreed to grant legal immunity for U.S. troops in that postwar force, according to recent reports. 

The immunity deal is part of a larger bilateral security agreement, the pact that lays the groundwork for a postwar American force. 

Lack of an immunity deal for U.S. troops was a key factor in the failed attempt to set up a postwar security deal in Iraq and set the stage for the recent wave of sectarian violence against Iraqi forces and civilians in the country. 

While work on a postwar deal for Afghanistan is largely complete, negotiators are awaiting final approval of the deal by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. 


In Case You Missed It: 

— CIA fielded 'dozens' of operatives in Benghazi during consulate strike

— White House, Yemen pledge cooperation on GITMO detainees

— House lawmakers demand flexibility for DOD on sequestration

— NSA chief Alexander asks for cyber hackers help


Please send tips and comments to Jeremy Herb, jherb@thehill.com, and Carlo Muñoz, cmunoz@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @DEFCONHill, @JHerbTheHill, @CMunozTheHill

You can sign up to receive this overnight update via email on The Hill’s homepage.