Overnight Defense: Agency watchdogs probing response to Capitol riots | 25,000 guardsmen now approved for inauguration security | Troops levels in Afghanistan, Iraq hit 2,500

Overnight Defense: Agency watchdogs probing response to Capitol riots | 25,000 guardsmen now approved for inauguration security | Troops levels in Afghanistan, Iraq hit 2,500
© Greg Nash

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, 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: Inspectors general across four government agencies plan to review the government’s response to the riots on Jan. 6, examining how poor communication and planning led to a siege on the Capitol.

Investigators at the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Homeland Security, Defense and Interior each plan to review their agencies' response amid questions about delays in calling for assistance as Capitol Police were outnumbered by pro-Trump rioters.

“The DOJ OIG [Office of Inspector General] review will include examining information relevant to the January 6 events that was available to DOJ and its components in advance of January 6; the extent to which such information was shared by DOJ and its components with the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal, state, and local agencies; and the role of DOJ personnel in responding to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6,” Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, announced on Friday.

“The DOJ OIG also will assess whether there are any weaknesses in DOJ protocols, policies, or procedures that adversely affected the ability of DOJ or its components to prepare effectively for and respond to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6,” the statement read. 

Pentagon IG's review: The Defense Department inspector general said it has put together a “multidisciplinary team” to review the Pentagon’s role and actions in responding to both the planned protest and the violent aftermath.

Specifically, the investigation will cover requests for support from the Pentagon leading up to the protest and will examine whether the department’s actions were lawful.

Even more guardsmen coming: Another 5,000 more National Guard troops have been authorized to be in D.C. for next week’s inauguration.

As many as 25,000 National Guard troops will be in Washington, D.C., for President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenEx-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' News leaders deal with the post-Trump era MORE’s inauguration on Wednesday, the Army confirmed on Friday.

The service members will support the “federal law enforcement mission and security preparations” in the inauguration, as led by the Secret Service, according to an Army statement.

“Our National Guard soldiers and airmen are set around the city to protect our nation's Capital,” National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson said in the statement.

Every state and territory, as well as D.C. itself, will have Guardsmen deployed to the Beltway to support the Wednesday event following last week’s deadly attack on the Capitol, which forced a joint session of Congress to temporarily delay certifying Biden’s Electoral College victory.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FINISHES ITS AFGHAN, IRAQ DRAWDOWNS: The U.S. military has met its Friday deadlines of dropping down to 2,500 service members in Afghanistan and the same number in Iraq, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said in two separate statements.

In his Afghanistan statement, Miller argued “the United States is closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war and welcoming in an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process to achieve a political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.” 

Miller also said the planning continues for a full withdrawal by May, potentially putting pressure on President-elect Joe Biden as he considers how to proceed.

“Moving forward, while the department continues with planning capable of further reducing U.S. troop levels to zero by May of 2021, any such future drawdowns remain conditions-based,” he said. “All sides must demonstrate their commitment to advancing the peace process. Further, the United States will continue to take any action necessary to ensure protection of our homeland, our citizens and our interests.”

Skirting the law: The Afghanistan drawdown proceeded despite a bill that became law at the beginning of the year requiring the Defense Department to deliver Congress an assessment of the risks before withdrawing any more troops.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which became law after Congress overrode Trump’s veto for the first time, blocked funding for the U.S. military to drop below the number of troops in Afghanistan when it was enacted until the risk assessment is sent to Congress.

At the time the NDAA became law, the military had more than 2,500 service members in Afghanistan but less than 3,500, a Defense official told The Hill, declining to get more specific.

The NDAA did allow the requirement for an assessment to be waived for national security concerns. No such waiver has been sent to Congress yet, but the Defense official said Friday one is in the works and could be sent to lawmakers as soon as next week.

Since the NDAA was enacted, the Pentagon “has been working with the [National Security Council] on the most efficient means to ensure consistency amidst an anterior drawdown already occurring across Afghanistan, and in a manner that continues to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel,” Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Rob Lodewick said in a statement Friday.

“Pursuant to the requirements set forth in Section 1215 of the FY21 NDAA, the president has determined that waiving the limitations of this section with respect to a reduction in the total number of U.S armed forces deployed to Afghanistan is important to the national security interests of the United States,” Lodewick added.

Because the drawdown was already fully in motion when the NDAA was enacted, pausing it would have caused “significant security concerns” for the hundreds of troops moving out, the official said. The drawdown might have been able to be delayed had the bill become law a month earlier, the official added.

COCOM RESHUFFLING: President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' MORE has ordered the Pentagon to include Israel in the U.S. military command structure for the Middle East, the Department of Defense (DOD) confirmed Friday, a major change meant to reflect an easing of tensions between Israel and several Arab countries.

The shift, which comes as Trump prepares to leave the White House next week, means Israel will be moved from U.S. European Command to U.S. Central Command (Centcom), which oversees U.S. military policy involving Arab nations. Israel for decades was grouped with European countries due to animosity between Israel and some Arab countries.

“DOD reviews the [Unified Command Plan] every two years and reassesses all boundaries and relationships against the operational environment. We structure boundaries to best mitigate risk and protect U.S interests and partners,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The easing of tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors brought about by the recent "Abraham Accords" has "provided a strategic opportunity for the United States to align key partners against shared threats in the Middle East” and “will open up additional opportunities for cooperation with our U.S. Central Command partners,” the statement adds.

The change was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.


The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Arvil Haines to be director of national intelligence at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/3qpINRf

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasDemocrats press ICE, DHS to not re-detain migrants released during pandemic Report: Nearly 4,000 children separated from parents at border under Trump Texas governor to sign bill banning vaccine passports MORE to be Homeland Security secretary at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/3sChMMv

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing for Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenSunday shows preview: Biden foreign policy in focus as Dem tensions boil up back home Concerns grow over China's Taiwan plans Biden should remind Erdogan of NATO's basic tenets and values MORE to be secretary of State at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/3bGLnOv

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing for retired Gen. Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinConcerns grow over China's Taiwan plans Overnight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Austin says he's 'concerned' about Iranian ships in Atlantic MORE to be Defense secretary at 3 p.m. https://bit.ly/3qhre5Q


-- The Hill: Pelosi taps retired Army general to lead immediate review of Capitol attack

-- The Hill: Biden nominates David Cohen to key CIA post

-- The Hill: North Korea displays ballistic missiles at parade

-- Associated Press: Capitol rioters included highly trained ex-military and cops

-- New York Times: Russia to exit Open Skies Treaty, escalating military rivalry with U.S.

-- ABC News: Sending carrier back to Middle East will keep tensions low after Soleimani death anniversary, admiral says