Overnight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council

Overnight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council

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.

 

THE TOPLINE: State governors are pulling their National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy on illegal immigration that's separating families at the U.S-Mexico border.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced Tuesday that he would recall three members of the Guard deployed at the border.

Cooper tweeted that the policy, which has resulted in the separations of thousands of undocumented children from their families, was "cruel" and required a "strong response."

Other states follow: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Tuesday ordered the recall of Virginia National Guard troops from the southern border over Trump's family separation policy, ordering the return of a helicopter and four Virginia National Guard soldiers.

Northam said in a statement that Virginia would not support enforcement until Trump ends the policy. 

And Maryland's Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Tuesday recalled a National Guard helicopter and four crew members from New Mexico.

"Until this policy of separating children from their families has been rescinded, Maryland will not deploy any National Guard resources to the border," Gov. Larry Hogan (R) wrote on Twitter.

Others vow not to deply: Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), meanwhile, announced that she would not deploy the state's National Guard units to the U.S.-Mexico border if asked.

"I have not yet been asked, but if I am, I will not deploy units from the Rhode Island National Guard to the southern border to support the Administration's policy that is ripping families apart," Raimondo said in a statement.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) a day prior also said he will not deploy Guard troops from his state to the border, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) the same day canceled the deployment of his state's Guard troops to the border.

GOP senators ask administration to pause the separations: More than a dozen Republican senators led by Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchNY's political prosecution of Manafort should scare us all Congress must break its addiction to unjust tax extenders The FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate MORE (Utah), sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump O'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump MORE asking for a moratorium of the controversial "zero tolerance" policy."

"We support the administration's efforts to enforce our immigration laws, but we cannot support implementation of a policy that results in the categorical forced separation of minor children from their parents," the Republican senators wrote.

"We therefore ask you to halt implementation of the Department's zero tolerance policy while Congress works out a solution that enables faster processing of individuals who enter our country illegally without requiring the forced, inhumane separation of children from their parents," the senators continued.

 

NOMINEE TO HEAD AFGHANISTAN WAR APPEARS BEFORE SENATE LAWMAKERS: The special operations commander nominated to take over as head of the war in Afghanistan on Tuesday appeared before lawmakers for his nomination hearing.

Lt. Gen. Scott Miller - asked by senators about his strategy for the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan - repeatedly pledged to further assess issues in the war-torn country.

But many senators expressed skepticism about how to proceed in the long-running war.

The mood: In a largely genial hearing, several senators said they supported Miller and expected him to be easily confirmed to become the next commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

But senators also asked Miller what he plans to do differently after 17 years of war and nearly one year into the Trump administration's strategy for the region.

The most contentious exchange: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses Pollster says 'it's certainly not looking good' for Trump ahead of 2020 Big Tech is not the enemy, Sen. Warren MORE (D-Mass.) pushed Miller the hardest on the issue, quoting several past defense leaders as saying Afghanistan reached a turning point.

We've supposedly turned the corner so many times that it seems now we're going in circles," Warren said. "So let me just ask you, do you envision turning another corner during your tenure as commander? After 17 years of war, what are you going to do differently to bring this conflict to an end?"

Miller replied by acknowledging the length of the war, saying "that's generational."

"I can't guarantee you a timeline or an end date -- I know that going into this position -- or offer necessarily a turning point, unless there is one, unless there's something to report back and something has changed," he continued.

Warren pushed back, saying Afghanistan is "in crisis," listing the Taliban's territorial gains, Afghan security force losses, spiking food insecurity and political corruption, among other benchmarks.

"Some of those underlying challenges will also have to be addressed," Miller said of political issues in Afghanistan.

"I'd like to assess": Miller left many questions unanswered, pledging to instead assess the query.

Asked Tuesday by Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerJuan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget MORE (R-Miss.) whether he agrees with an inspector general assessment that there has been a lack of progress in recent months, Miller said he believes the counterterrorism mission is going well but has to further assess the train, advise and assist mission.

Under questioning from committee ranking member Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Pentagon sends Congress list of projects that could lose funds to Trump's emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget MORE (D-R.I.) about the capabilities of Afghan special operations forces and Afghan airpower, Miller said he agrees those are the country's most important military power against the Taliban. But, he added, "I'd like to look, go forward, take some time to make an assessment."

And when Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems look to rebuild 'blue wall' Funding caps, border wall set stage for defense budget battle Trump's claims of defeating ISIS roil Congress MORE (R-Okla.) asked Miller whether he believes the military has the right amount of resources in Afghanistan, Miller replied that his "instinct" is that it does, but pledged to "come back to you with a better assessment."

Afghanistan's current strategyPresident TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE announced a new strategy for Afghanistan last summer that included bolstering U.S. forces in Afghanistan by a few thousand to help end a stalemate. Trump's strategy also took away a timeline for withdrawal, saying it would be based on the conditions on the ground.

The United States has about 16,000 troops in Afghanistan, according to figures cited by senators Tuesday. The troops are on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban and conducting counterterrorism missions.

Inhofe, a senior committee member who has been leading hearings while Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral Trump's approval rating stable at 45 percent GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' MORE (R-Ariz.) is at home battling brain cancer, later told Miller that continuing on the same path as the last 17 years "is not going to be acceptable." 

 

US PULLS OUT OF UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: Trump administration officials on Tuesday said the U.S. has pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying that the international body is "not worthy of its name."

U.N. Ambassador Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) Haley40 years of Iranian threats against Israel and few pay any attention Nikki Haley endorses term limits for Congress Pelosi: Kim 'big winner' of North Korea talks MORE announced the withdrawal alongside Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo presses for resolution to Gulf dispute The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Dems put manufacturing sector in 2020 spotlight State Department blocks reporters from Pompeo briefing with faith-based media: report MORE, following multiple news reports that the move was imminent.

Haley blasted the council as a "protector of human rights abusers and cesspool of political bias" and accused the body of "politicizing and scapegoating countries with positive human rights records."

At issue: The withdrawal, which comes as the 47-member body begins a three-week session in Geneva, had been expected as a result of the Trump administration's frequent criticism of the group's treatment of Israel.

Haley repeatedly voted against U.N. measures that were critical of Israel, and she has rebuked the council for what she called a "chronic anti-Israel bias."

"We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights," she said, adding that the U.S. would be "happy" to rejoin the council if it is reformed.

 

B-1 BOMBER FLIGHTS TO RESUME AFTER ISSUES WITH EJECTIONS: The Air Force will restart B-1B Lancer bomber flights this week after an issue with its ejection system caused a two-week grounding of the fleet.

"We have high confidence that the fleet's egress systems are capable and the fleet is ready to return to normal flight operations," Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, head of the bomber force, said in a statement.

Air Force Global Strike Command grounded the B-1Bs on June 7 as part of a "directed safety stand-down," after a safety investigation board found issues with the aircraft's ejection seat components.

What caused the investigation: The investigation came about after a B-1 made an emergency landing May 1 in Midland, Texas.

"The stand-down allowed the command time to thoroughly evaluate the egress components and determine potential risks before returning to flight," the Air Force noted in the statement.

The Air Force said the safety investigation is still ongoing, but did not provide additional details.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Defense officials will speak at the 2018 Defense Communities National Summit starting at 7 a.m. at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C.  

Reps. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration A conservative climate plan will build on personal responsibility while reducing emissions 13 House Republicans who bucked Trump on emergency declaration MORE (R-Fla.), and Bill KeatingWilliam (Bill) Richard KeatingBottom Line Foreign Affairs chairman: US military intervention in Venezuela 'not an option' Seniors are big winners in House elections MORE (D-Mass.) will speak on "Russia the 21st Century Disrupter in Europe," at 9 a.m. at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. 

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on the policy response to Russian interference in the 2016 U. S. elections at 10 a.m. at the Hart Senate Office Building, room 216. 

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. policy toward Afghanistan with Alice Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary, at 10 a.m. at Rayburn house Office Building, room 2172. 

The Hudson Institute will hold a discussion on driving NATO's military transformation agenda forward with Adm. Manfred Nielson, NATO's deputy supreme allied commander of transformation, at 12 noon in Washington, D.C. 

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Trump-Kim summit, outcomes and oversight at 2 p.m. in Rayburn 2172. 

A House Armed Services subpanel will hear from defense officials on "Military Health System Reform: Pain Management, Opioids Prescription Management and Reporting Transparency" at 3:30 p.m. in Rayburn 2212. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: South Korea: Drills with US suspended to help talks with North

-- The Hill: US wasted millions building Afghan hotel that posed risk as enemy sniper's nest

-- The Hill: McCain, Coons: Trump should withdraw controversial refugee nominee

-- The Hill: Most Americans satisfied with Trump, Kim summit

-- The Hill: Kim meets with Xi in Beijing

-- The Hill: Opinion: Ignore the naysayers trying to disrupt US diplomacy with North Korea

-- The Hill: Opinion: A short pause in US-South Korea military exercises won't harm our readiness

-- Defense News: Which nations increased the size of their nuclear arsenal in 2017?

-- Stars and Stripes: 2 USS Fitzgerald officers face courts-martial in wake of fatal collision a year ago