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The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by AT&T – Biden defends Afghanistan exit; Taliban talk ‘amnesty’

President Biden discusses the fall of Afghanistan
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                            Presented by AT&T

President Biden discusses the fall of Afghanistan



Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Tuesday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 621,635; Tuesday, 622,321. 

For Americans and for Afghans, a question asked by U.S. officials and thousands of families stranded in Kabul on Monday was whether the lessons President Biden said he learned after two decades of war in Afghanistan trigger a new chapter of lasting pain. 


The president’s critics were unsparing. Biden was defensive and unbowed.


Our mission was never supposed to be nation building,” he said Monday in the East Room before flying back to Camp David. “I stand squarely behind my decision.


The president said the Taliban’s takeover and the Afghan government’s rapid collapse were “proof” that “no amount of military force” could secure Afghanistan, which he reminded Americans has been called the “graveyard of empires.”


The Associated Press: Taliban today announced “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged Afghan women to join the government. 


The Hill: Biden defends U.S. military exit, blames Afghanistan leaders for chaos.


The Hill: Biden, former President Trump battle over who’s to blame for Afghanistan.


TEXT of Biden’s remarks.


Across the political and national security sphere, Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal and the chaotic scenes in Kabul as the Taliban took control earned widespread criticism, with many drawing parallels to foreign policy debacles in U.S. history. 


Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who also led the CIA and was a White House chief of staff to former President Clinton, compared Afghanistan’s precipitous fall to the Cuba Bay of Pigs debacle under former President Kennedy (The Hill).


John Bolton, who served as White House national security adviser under Trump, tweeted a blistering critique of Biden’s speech on Monday, calling his defense of the withdrawal and possible rise of terror threats in the region a “huge and potentially fatal mistake.” 


Retired Gen. David Petraeus, who helmed the CIA under former President Obama and played a key role in the Iraq War, told NBC News on Monday that the enveloping situation is “catastrophic.”   


“It’s also heartbreaking. It’s tragic,” Petraeus said. 


Meanwhile, former President George W. Bush said in a statement late on Monday that he feels “deep sadness” watching the “tragic events” as they unfold across the globe. 


“Our hearts are heavy for both the Afghan people who have suffered so much and for the Americans and NATO allies who have sacrificed so much,” Bush said (Reuters).


The comments came weeks after the 43rd president predicted to a German interviewer that “the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad.” He said the U.S. withdrawal from the region “breaks my heart.”


Lawmakers also weighed in. 


Speaking to reporters in his home state, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the withdrawal an “unmitigated disaster” (Kentucky Public Radio). Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), who served three tours of duty in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, pleaded for the administration to do all it could to keep the airport in Kabul open, adding that the evacuation of U.S. embassy personnel on Sunday took place dangerously late. 


“Secure that airport and keep it open as long as we possibly can. We have the means,” Crow told reporters. “I’m not going to mince words on this. We didn’t need to be in this position. … We should have started this evacuation months ago.”


Abroad, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron separately addressed their nations about the downfall of the Afghan government. Merkel argued that the world must help Afghans flee from Taliban rule (Reuters), while Macron called for the European Union to develop a plan to deal with expected Afghan migration (Politico Europe). 


The New York Times: Lawmakers unite in bipartisan fury over Afghanistan withdrawal.


Reuters: United Nations Security Council pushes for talks to form new Afghan government.


Politico: The whole world is watching.



Crowds swarm a jet at the Kabul airport



On Monday, desperation filled the Kabul airport as thousands of Afghans and their frightened families, many seeking special visa consideration from the United States and allies, sought flights out of their country.


Biden conceded on Monday what was obvious to observers worldwide: “This did unfold more quickly than we anticipated.” Taliban fighters were seen on Kabul streets brandishing U.S. weapons and riding in Humvees.


With an estimated 3,000 U.S. soldiers expected on the ground today and thousands more American troops — up to 7,000 total — ordered to arrive to protect the Kabul airport, Monday’s scenes of Afghan men fleeing the wrath of the Taliban beyond the barbed wire by scrambling into aircraft wheel wells and climbing on moving planes proved “gut wrenching,” the president said.


U.S. officials said at least eight Afghans died on Monday during the evacuation chaos (The Associated Press). The airport situation was so frenzied that no flights could land or depart safely until late in the day (The New York Times). Biden said the United States would take over air traffic control as it evacuated American citizens and Afghan allies, but he did not offer a timeline.


Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, warned Taliban officials during a Monday meeting in Doha, Qatar, that the U.S. military would respond forcefully to defend the airport if necessary. Biden repeated that warning at the White House and said a “swift and forceful response,” if necessary, would prove “devastating” to the new rulers of Afghanistan (The Associated Press).


Biden said the United States will continue to provide economic and diplomatic support to the Afghan people and advocate for human rights in Afghanistan, but he offered no explanation about how that will work under Taliban control. 


He said current terrorist threats have “metastasized well beyond Afghanistan” and “warrant our attention and our resources,” but in his Monday address, he said little about either current U.S. intelligence warnings or what critics say was an epic intelligence failure in miscalculating how swiftly the Taliban could take control of a country of 37 million people in a matter of days.


The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports that the U.S. debacle poses new questions about whether the United States has adequately prepared to face the threats emanating from Afghanistan.  


The Department of Homeland Security on Friday issued a heightened terrorist threat alert ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.


The Wall Street Journal analysis: Chaotic Afghanistan pullout caps two decades of missteps. 


Niall Stanage, The Hill analysis: Biden gambles he can plow through Afghan crisis.


Defense One (with eye-popping photo): A U.S. Air Force C-17 evacuation flight carrying fleeing Afghans from Kabul to Qatar came close to setting a record for the most people ever flown in the Boeing airlifter.


Biden will be interviewed on ABC News by George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday.



US troops guard the Kabul airport



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CORONAVIRUS: U.S. health officials are expected to advise that individuals should receive booster COVID-19 vaccine shots eight months after they got their second jab over worries about the reduced potency of the shots over time and the ability for the delta variant to evade the vaccine.


Americans could start receiving these shots as early as mid- to- late September for health care workers and nursing home residents as they were among the first to have them after emergency use authorization was granted in mid-December for Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccine. 


Administration officials could roll out the announcement as early as this week, with the move being dependent on getting the green light by the Food and Drug Administration. Booster recipients are expected to either receive an additional dose of whichever shot they already got (The New York Times). 


Nathaniel Weixel, The Hill: Action by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention heats up debate over vaccine boosters.


> Vaccine mandates: New York and Washington, D.C., on Monday announced that health care workers will be mandated to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September as vaccine directives continue to take hold across the country. 


Outgoing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) decision expands on the state’s initial mandate from weeks ago requiring all patient-facing health care workers at state hospitals to become vaccinated without testing options. The new directive includes workers at “nursing homes, adult care, and other congregate care settings.” Empire State workers must be vaccinated by Sept. 27 (CNN).


In the nation’s capital, officials are requiring health care workers to receive at least one dose by Sept. 30. Workers must receive either the first dose of the Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccines or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson by that deadline. 


The new mandate applies not only to all licensed, certified and registered health employees but also all emergency medical services providers, including paramedics and emergency medical technicians, and all unlicensed health care workers, including patient care technicians, personal care aides and environmental services staff (The Hill).


The New York Times: New York City mandates vaccines for museum visitors and staff.


Axios-Ipsos poll: Most Americans favor mandates.


The decisions in the U.S.’s financial and political hubs come as Biden treads carefully on the issue of vaccine requirements, as The Hill’s Peter Sullivan writes. While Biden has encouraged employers to mandate shots for workers, he has not gone as far as other nations, including Canada, which announced last week that all air travelers would have to be vaccinated. 


The president also stopped short of calling for additional cities to follow New York and San Francisco to require vaccines in order to dine indoors at restaurants. Any federally issued mandates covering the general public would be sure to provoke GOP objections.


NBC Sports: Las Vegas Raiders to require proof of vaccination to attend home games for regular season.



Workers wait at a vaccination clinic



Meanwhile, battles over mask mandates continue to flare up in pockets of the country, headlined by the situation in the Lone Star State. The Dallas Independent School District indicated on Monday that it will defy a ruling by the Texas Supreme Court, which backed up Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) decision to ban mask requirements in the state (The Dallas Morning News). 


Politico: Republicans have been railing against mask mandates. Former President Trump, not so much. 


> International: Infections across Australia are way, way up, and restrictions put in place have been ignored, furthering the spread of COVID-19. A curfew is back on Tuesday: Only 26 percent of Australians aged 16 and older had been fully vaccinated by Saturday. Australia has one of the slowest vaccine rollouts among wealthy countries, which is making the spread of the delta variant particularly dangerous. … A lockdown that was due to end on Thursday was extended to Sept. 2, with an overnight curfew that ends at 5 a.m. daily starting today (The Associated Press).


CONGRESS: House members won’t be back in Washington until next week for a brief appearance before September, but an intra party feud among Democrats rages about a procedural dance in the House that can theoretically get Biden’s pending infrastructure and social policy agenda to his desk later this year.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is buffeted on the left by progressives who want the House to adopt a $3.5 trillion budget bill before considering a $1 trillion infrastructure measure passed by the Senate (NBC News). Nine House Democratic moderates, however, say they are determined to get infrastructure spending into law first, and without their assent, the mammoth social policy provisions awaiting a reconciliation vote in the Senate will be stuck. They said Monday they do not favor a procedural olive branch floated by Pelosi (The Wall Street Journal and The Hill).   


> Unemployment help: Millions of Americans are set to lose federal unemployment aid after Labor Day at a time when advocacy groups believe the temporary assistance should be extended by Congress or the president. The administration appears reluctant to do so, and legislative efforts would likely fail in the Senate (The Hill).


> Campaigns: Progressive Democrats are doing some soul-searching about quality candidates and messaging after a series of prominent left-wing election losses (The Hill). They want to counter an emerging narrative that Democrats need to approach voters as moderates in order to retain House and Senate majorities next year.


> RIP: Former Rep. Paul Mitchell (Mich.), 64, who did not run for reelection in 2020 and left the GOP entirely after criticizing Trump, died Sunday of renal cancer (The Hill).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 


In the end, the Afghan army was always doomed, by James Stavridis, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion.

Afghans need an ‘underground railroad,’ by Paul Wolfowitz, opinion contributor, The Wall Street Journal.



The House will meet at 9:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. Members are out of town until Aug. 23. 


The Senate convenes for a pro forma session at 9:30 a.m. Senators are expected back in Washington Sept. 13.


The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief. He is at Camp David and has no public schedule. 


Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will headline a virtual town hall with educators and students around the country to take their questions at 1:30 p.m. EDT. Information is HERE.


Economic indicator: The Census Bureau will report at 8:30 a.m. on retail sales in July. Analysts expect to see a drop in sales rather than an increase (Yahoo Finance).


The White House briefing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. to include Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.


MORE INTERNATIONAL: Fatalities in Haiti rose on Monday to 1,419 and injuries soared near 7,000 following the weekend’s powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake. U.S. rescuers and world aid began to arrive to help thousands of displaced Haitians and overwhelmed hospitals (pictured below) (The Associated Press and The Hill). To make matters worse, Tropical Depression Grace slammed the country overnight, bringing rain and flooding (The Washington Post). … In Zambia, veteran opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema on Monday won the southern African country’s presidency with more than 50 percent of the vote (The Associated Press).  



A boy is tended to outside Les Cayes General Hospital after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake



STATE WATCH: Tropical Storm Fred on Monday made landfall across Florida’s Panhandle (Fox News) and prompted tornado watch alerts in Georgia today (WSBTV). … U.S. communities are experiencing climate change, and people from Miami to Alaska say they see the consequences while bracing for future impacts (The Hill). 


SPACE FIGHT: Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin went to federal court on Monday to challenge a NASA contract with Elon Musk’s SpaceX for a lunar lander, alleging unlawful and improper NASA evaluation of proposals (NBC News).


MONEY FOR SOMETHING: A rare and well-conditioned T206 Honus Wagner baseball card, which depicts the Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop whose career ended in 1917, sold Monday for $6.606 million, setting a new record for the highest-selling sports card in history. The card received a grade of 3 from Sportscard Guaranty Corp., a grade that has been eclipsed by only four other versions of the Wagner card, all in private collections. The buyer and seller have decided to remain anonymous (ESPN). Ty Cobb once called Wagner “maybe the greatest star ever to take the diamond.”



A rare baseball card of Honus Wagner of the Pittsburgh Pirates



And finally …   When you enjoy a career, stick with it! Virginia Oliver, 101, pictured below wearing her protective apron, sturdy gloves, earrings and lipstick, is the oldest licensed lobsterer in Maine and possibly on the planet. From her perspective, it’s simply what she does. “I grew up with this,” explained Oliver, who began lobstering when she was 8, just before the Great Depression. “It’s not hard work for me. It might be for somebody else, but not me” (The Boston Globe and News 18).



Virginia Oliver, a Rockland woman, began lobstering when she was 8, just before the Great Depression


Tags Andrew Cuomo Barack Obama Donald Trump Elon Musk Emmanuel Macron George Stephanopoulos Jake Sullivan Jason Crow Jeff Bezos Joe Biden John Bolton Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Paul Mitchell

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