Overnight Defense: Senators get classified briefing on nuclear arsenal | A-10s return to Afghanistan | IG says Pentagon backed Afghan units involved in human rights abuses

Overnight Defense: Senators get classified briefing on nuclear arsenal | A-10s return to Afghanistan | IG says Pentagon backed Afghan units involved in human rights abuses
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THE TOPLINE: The Senate Armed Services Committee received a classified briefing Tuesday on the Pentagon's soon-to-be-released Nuclear Posture Review.

Senators emerging from the briefing were tight-lipped about the contents but spoke generally about the need to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal to deter competitors such as Russia and China.

"Our posture has to always reflect not just the capability of our force, but the developing capability of what other countries are doing in terms of their strategies," Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanCruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke Spotlight shifts to Kavanaugh ahead of hearings GOP senator: Trump firing Sessions wouldn't be 'politically wise' MORE (R-Alaska) said. "The Russians are, in some ways ... modifying their strategies in ways, and we've got to take that seriously."

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The Pentagon is expected to release the results next month of the months-long review of the nuclear arsenal.

Earlier this month, a leaked, "pre-decisional" draft of the document was obtained and published by the Huffington Post.

The draft calls for the development of "low-yield" nuclear weapons in order to deter Russia and China.

Arms control advocates have expressed alarm at the plan, saying it could lower the threshold for when the United States is willing to use nuclear weapons. They have also argued the price tag is cost-prohibitive.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated nuclear modernization and sustainment could cost $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years. The estimate was based off Obama administration plans.

But senators in both parties on Tuesday expressed support for nuclear modernization despite the cost estimate.

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has the rest here

 

US SENDS A-10s TO AFGHANISTAN FOR FIRST TIME IN THREE YEARS: For the first time in more than three years, the United States Air Force has deployed a squadron of A-10C Thunderbolt attack jets to Afghanistan. 

The A-10 squadron -- deployed as part of a U.S. and Afghan air campaign targeting Taliban drug facilities and counterterrorism operations -- is the latest sign of increasing U.S. military involvement in the country. 

"The Taliban still has not felt the full brunt of American and Afghan air power," Air Force Maj. Gen. James Hecker, head of NATO Air Command-Afghanistan, said in a statement. 

"With the arrival of new air assets and the growing capabilities of Afghan pilots, the Taliban will have a constant eye towards the sky as an integrated unified fight is aimed directly to them."

The A-10 Thunderbolt, commonly referred to by its "Warthog" nickname, is known for its ability to fly low and slow and is fitted with a powerful gun capable of destroying enemy tanks. The use of the plane will help destroy Taliban opium production facilities. 

Read more on that here.

 

IG SAYS PENTAGON BACKED AFGHAN UNITS INVOLVED IN 'GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS': The Pentagon used a loophole in the law to continue training, equipping and otherwise assisting Afghan security force units that have committed "gross violations of human rights," according to a previously classified report released Tuesday.

A law known as the Leahy Law bans the U.S. government from assisting foreign forces that have been found to commit gross human rights violations, but exceptions can be made for national security reasons under the so-called notwithstanding clause.

"Although DOD [Department of Defense] and State have confirmed that some units of the Afghan security forces have committed gross violations of human rights, the Secretary of Defense has used the notwithstanding clause in the DOD Appropriations Acts to continue providing [Afghanistan Security Forces Fund] funding for select training, equipment, and other assistance to some implicated units in Afghanistan," the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) wrote in the report released Tuesday.

SIGAR's investigation was requested by 93 members of Congress after news reports alleged a Pentagon policy kept U.S. troops from reporting when Afghan police and militia officials sexually assaulted children in a practice known as "bacha bazi" -- or "boy play."

U.S. troops were allegedly punished when they did report the abuse. The SIGAR investigation was completed in June, but classified until this month.

Read more on the report here

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGrassley agrees to second Kavanaugh hearing after GOP members revolt FEC: Cruz campaign didn't violate rules with fundraising letter labeled ‘summons’ Cruz criticizes O'Rourke on Dallas shooting: Wish he wasn't 'so quick to always blame the police officer' MORE (R-Texas) will speak on "U.S. responses to the North Korean threat" at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Hudson Institute in Washington. 

A Senate Armed Services Committee subpanel will hear from military officials on "officer personnel management and the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act of 1980," at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the Russell Senate Office Building, room 222. 

 

ICYMI:

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-- The Hill: Tillerson blames Russia for allowing new Syrian chemical weapons attack

--The Hill: CIA director: Trump grasps intelligence at same level as 25-year veteran

--The Hill: Opinion: Civil ballistic missile warning needs federal leadership

-- Reuters: Trump to speak soon with Turkey's Erdogan on Syria offensive: US official

-- Military Times: As Trump seeks new nuke options, weapons agency head warns of capacity overload