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Overnight Defense: Biden makes his Afghanistan decision

Overnight Defense: Biden makes his Afghanistan decision
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Happy Tuesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: President BidenJoe BidenBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' Conservative group sues over prioritization of women, minorities for restaurant aid MORE will withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the longest war in. American history.

Two congressional aides briefed on the plan confirmed the news to The Hill. A senior administration official later told reporters the United States “will begin an orderly drawdown of the remaining forces before May 1 and plan to have all U.S. troops out of the country before the 20th anniversary of 9/11.”

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“We judge the threat against the homeland now emanating from Afghanistan to be at a level that we can address it without a persistent military footprint in the country and without remaining at war with the Taliban,” the official added.

An altered deadline: The plan, which Biden is expected to formally announce Wednesday, pushes back a May withdrawal deadline that was set in a deal with the Taliban signed by the Trump administration last year.

But it sets a new formal deadline of Sept. 11, 2021, in line with Biden’s recent prediction that U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan by next year.

A long time coming: The Biden administration has telegraphed for weeks it would not adhere to the May 1 deadline set in the U.S.-Taliban deal, if only because of the logistical challenges of moving out thousands of troops and their equipment in a short time frame.

But Biden, who unsuccessfully argued for a smaller troop presence in Afghanistan during the Obama administration, stressed last month that he didn’t intend to keep the roughly 3,500 troops still there much longer than May. 

Seemingly set in stone: The senior Biden administration official insisted Tuesday the September deadline is set in stone.

“This is not conditions-based,” the official said. “The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever.”

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“President Biden will give our military commanders the time and space they need to conduct a safe and orderly withdrawal, not just of U.S. forces but of allied forces, as well, on the principle of ‘in together, out together,’” the official added. “And so, we will take the time we need to execute that, and no more time than that.”

Congressional pressure on both sides: Prior to his upcoming announcement, Biden faced pressure from the progressive wing of his party to end U.S. military involvement in America’s longest war.

Those progressive hailed the news that Biden will commit to withdrawing by September.

“I applaud President Biden for achieving an impossibility here in Washington: ending a forever war,” Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaSenate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech GOP downplays Jan. 6 violence: Like a 'normal tourist visit' House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill MORE (D-Calif.) said in a statement Tuesday.

But the president was already receiving criticism from Republicans after news broke Tuesday of his planned announcement.

“I am shocked and extremely concerned by reports of President Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September,” Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulHouse lawmakers roll out bill to invest 0 million in state and local cybersecurity Asian American lawmakers say State's 'assignment restrictions' discriminate Senate Intelligence panel working on legislation around mandatory cyber breach notification MORE (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “This premature withdrawal shows a complete disregard for the realities on the ground.”

More stories on this from The Hill:

-- Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  

-- Graham: 'A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous'

-- GOP lawmaker 'encouraged' by Biden's Afghanistan strategy

-- Colin PowellColin Luther PowellOvernight Defense: Biden makes his Afghanistan decision Colin Powell on Afghanistan: 'We've done all we can do' Is nonpartisan effectiveness still possible? MORE on Afghanistan: 'We've done all we can do'

 

CALLED OUT: Armed Services head knocks White House over slow budget request

The Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee tore into the White House on Tuesday for a delay in sending Congress its full 2022 budget request.

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“I am deeply concerned about the Biden administration dragging their feet on getting us the damn budget,” Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Ex-Pentagon chief defends Capitol attack response as GOP downplays violence | Austin, Biden confer with Israeli counterparts amid conflict with Hamas | Lawmakers press Pentagon officials on visas for Afghan partners Debate over ICBMs: Will 'defund our defenses' be next? Infrastructure should include the right investment in people MORE (D-Wash.) said at an event hosted by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

“Shout it from the rafters. I can’t get the White House to take my calls on this one. Just send it to us. We need it in order to pass the budget and move forward,” Smith added. “I cannot strongly enough urge the Biden administration and [White House chief of staff] Ron KlainRon KlainBiden sees Trump rematch as real possibility White House says Biden won't 'underestimate Trump' if he runs in 2024 House Republicans urge opposition to vaccine patent waiver MORE and everyone driving the ship over there. Get us the numbers before May 10.”

The background: Last week, the White House released an outline of its fiscal 2022 budget request that provided top-line dollar amounts for federal government agencies. But the outline provided no specifics on what the money would buy, with a more detailed budget request expected later this spring.

New administrations typically do not meet the usual March time frame to deliver Congress a budget request.

But the Biden administration has blamed obfuscation by the Trump team during the presidential transition for delaying its budget even more than normal for a new administration.

What Smith blamed: On Tuesday, Smith also said the White House is prioritizing other work over the budget.

“I understand they have other priorities. That's the answer that we get back,” Smith said. “I know that the pandemic is more important. The vaccine is more important. The COVID relief package is important. The infrastructure package is important. But within all of that, if you could just find the time to fill out the budget.”

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Smith also said the delay is not being caused by the Office of Management and Budget but that “the White House itself is not doing the job they should be doing right now.”

Read more here.

 

MORE TROUBLE FOR KAHL: GOP senators want FBI investigation into Pentagon nominee

A group of 18 Republican senators on Tuesday wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray seeking an investigation into President Biden's nominee for a top role in the Pentagon over whether he disclosed or solicited classified information after leaving his government job in the Obama administration.

The senators requested Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill MORE (D-N.Y.) not advance the nomination of Colin Kahl for under secretary of Defense policy for a full vote until the FBI has completed an investigation, according to a copy of the letter obtained exclusively by The Hill.

The accusations: Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), who led the letter-writing effort, accused Kahl of using social media to disclose classified information.

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"These disclosures are extremely concerning and warrant a complete FBI investigation to determine the full scope of the nominee’s mishandling of sensitive national security information, apparently for his own perceived political gain," Hagerty said in a statement to The Hill. 

Where Kahl’s nomination sits: The Senate Armed Services Committee last month deadlocked in a vote on Kahl's nomination to lead the Pentagon’s policy shop. The 13-13 vote meant Kahl's nomination advanced out of committee but will have to overcome an additional procedural hurdle on the Senate floor.

Read more about the letter here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Ex-Pentagon chief defends Capitol attack response as GOP downplays violence | Austin, Biden confer with Israeli counterparts amid conflict with Hamas | Lawmakers press Pentagon officials on visas for Afghan partners Trump appointee endorses Christine Wormuth as Army secretary Austin repeats 'ironclad support' for Israel in conflict with Palestine MORE and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will hold a joint news conference at NATO Headquarters. 

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hold its annual hearing on worldwide threats, with Avril HainesAvril HainesDomestic security is in disarray: We need a manager, now more than ever Will Biden provide strategic clarity or further ambiguity on Taiwan? States step in as Congress fails to fight foreign influence MORE, director of National Intelligence; CIA Director William BurnsWilliam BurnsSenate Intel vows to 'get to the bottom' of 'Havana syndrome' attacks Dozens of scientists call for deeper investigation into origins of COVID-19, including the lab theory US investigating possible 'Havana syndrome' attack near White House: CNN MORE; FBI Director Christopher Wray; NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone; and DIA Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, at 10 a.m. in Hart Senate Office Building, room 216. 

The Heritage Foundation will hold a virtual event on “Resurrecting the First Fleet for Great Power Competition,” with former Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite, at 10:30 a.m. 

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activity in North and South America,” with Robert Salesses, performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security; Adm. Craig Faller, commander, U.S. Southern Command; and Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, at 11 a.m. in Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. 

The Heritage Foundation and Ronald Reagan Institute will hold a virtual event on “Old Bullies, New Toys: Confronting Iran and North Korea,” with Rep. Mike TurnerMichael Ray TurnerSunday shows preview: Advocates, lawmakers push for police reform after Chauvin verdict, Ma'Khia Bryant's death Mixed messages on F-35 undermine our allies GOP Rep. Steve Stivers plans to retire MORE (R-Ohio) as well as defense experts at 1 p.m. 

The Institute of World Politics will hold a virtual lecture on “Fear and Insecurity: Addressing North Korean Threat Perceptions,” at 4 p.m. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Pentagon chief: US sending 500 more troops to Germany

-- The Hill: DOD pauses administration of J&J vaccine to military

-- The Hill: China sends 25 warplanes into Taiwan air zone

-- The Hill: Biden emphasizes 'unwavering commitment' to Ukraine during call with Putin

-- The Hill: Navy, Marines investigated 13 white supremacy cases, held no court-martials: USA Today

-- The Hill: Army throws support behind officer pepper-sprayed in Virginia traffic stop

-- The Hill: DARPA awards 3 companies contracts for nuclear spacecraft by 2025

-- Stars and Stripes: Jon Stewart leads rally for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits

-- Military Times: Fort Sill sexual assault case stirs up the worst kind of déjà vu

-- The New York Times: China Poses Biggest Threat to U.S., Intelligence Report Says