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Overnight Defense: DC National Guard activates 250 troops ahead of Chauvin verdict | Planning update on Afghanistan withdrawal

Overnight Defense: DC National Guard activates 250 troops ahead of Chauvin verdict | Planning update on Afghanistan withdrawal
© getty: National Guard vehicles drive into downtown behind police officers in riot gear as protests occur on May 30, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky.

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: National Guard troops were on hand Tuesday in cities throughout the country following the guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Chavin was found guilty on all charges in the murder trial of George Floyd, whose death led to months of demonstrations against police brutality last summer.

Details of the DC Guard: Ahead of the verdict, the D.C. National Guard approved a request from the Metropolitan Police Department to activate about 250 personnel.

The D.C. National Guard announced in a statement Monday that it would activate the personnel “to support local law enforcement in response to potential First Amendment demonstrations.”

The force is approved to support D.C. and law enforcement “as needed” until May 9.

The guardsmen were specifically requested to “assist police with street closures at multiple intersections in order to provide safety in and around pedestrian areas,” according to the statement.

Who made the request: In a letter sent to the D.C. National Guard on April 8, Christopher Rodriguez, the director of the D.C. government’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, requested that the Guard be activated to help the D.C. police manage crowds, block vehicles at traffic posts and provide a “quick response force.”

Elsewhere in the country: In downtown Minneapolis, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis National Guard confirmed to The Hill last week that 3,000 Guardsmen are being deployed. 

The Minnesota National Guard was activated as part of Operation Safety Net, a joint undertaking by the Minneapolis Police Department, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, the state of Minnesota and local jurisdictions to “protect people, freedom of speech and property during the Derek Chauvin trial as well as the aftermath of the police involved shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center.” 

Wright, a young Black man, was killed in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on Sunday, just miles away from where Floyd died. 

Similar measures are underway in other cities, including in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Atlanta and New York, where police presence will be increased.  

Read more on the Chauvin verdict here.

 

COUNTERTERRORISM STRIKES IN AFGHANISTAN AFTER WITHDRAWAL ‘HARDER’ BUT ‘NOT IMPOSSIBLE’

Striking terrorist targets in Afghanistan without a U.S. troop presence there will be “harder” but “not impossible,” the top U.S. general overseeing the region said Tuesday.

Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said he is in the midst of “detailed planning” for options for "over the horizon” forces, or forces positioned elsewhere in the region that could continue counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan. He plans to give Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinPush to combat sexual assault in military reaches turning point Overnight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate MORE those options by the end of the month, he added.

“If you leave Afghanistan and you want to go back in to conduct these kinds of operations, there are three things you need to do: you need to find the target, you need to fix the target, and you need to be able to finish the target,” McKenzie said. “The first two require heavy intelligence support. If you're out of the country, and you don't have the ecosystem that we have there now, it will be harder to do that. It is not impossible to do that.”

Earlier: McKenzie was testifying about a week after President BidenJoe Biden28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Franklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Schools face new pressures to reopen for in-person learning MORE announced he was ordering all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, bringing an end to U.S. military participation in America’s longest war.

Later Tuesday, Austin, Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBlinken speaks to AP chief after Israeli airstrike destroys media building Biden speaks with Israel's Netanyahu again amid ramped-up strikes in Gaza State calls for Azerbaijan to pull back forces from Armenia border MORE, Director of National Intelligence 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 and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyPush to combat sexual assault in military reaches turning point Congress, not the courts, say who has authority to court-martial servicemembers Overnight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech MORE are also scheduled to brief the full House and Senate behind closed doors on Biden’s plan for Afghanistan.

Biden's decision came despite repeated statements from U.S. military officials that the Taliban was not yet upholding its end of a deal made during the Trump administration to reduce violence and break from al Qaeda, as well as warnings about the potential for chaos in Afghanistan that could allow an al Qaeda resurgence should U.S. troops withdraw.

Read the rest here.

 

RUSSIAN BUILDUP BIGGER THAN THOUGHT

Satellite photos show Russia has moved more warplanes, troops and equipment to near its border with Ukraine than previously revealed, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The military buildup, which has taken place in Crimea and at Moscow’s bases near Ukraine, has alarmed the United States and other NATO countries as it indicates an increased pressure for political coercion or likelihood of Russian military intervention into Ukraine.

What’s been added: One commercial satellite image from April 16 specifically shows Su-30 fighters on a runway at a Crimea air base which had not been there in late March, according to the Journal.

Russia apparently has also added military units to the area that include attack helicopters, motorized rifle and armored units, smoke generators, spy drones, jamming equipment and a military hospital, according to the photos taken between March 27 and April 16 by Maxar Technologies.

More Russian troops: The added forces and armaments come after the European Union's (EU) top foreign policy minister Josep Borrell warned Monday that tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border were at an all-time high, adding that “a spark” could set off a war between the two countries. 

Borrell said there are more than 100,000 Russian troops amassing at the borders and in Crimea - double the forces there about four weeks ago - with the risk of further escalation “evident" and “very concerning.”

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby also said Monday that the Russian military buildup is “certainly bigger” than the one witnessed in 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Blinken to participate in G-7 foreign minister meeting in London next month

-- The Hill: Inspector general chose not to investigate Secret Service in clearing of Lafayette Square: report

-- The Hill: Opinion: Did Biden blink on Russia? Limited sanctions and no summit

-- The Hill: Opinion: From exit strategy to exit timetable in Afghanistan

-- The Hill: Opinion: Japan needs to stand stronger with the US to defend Taiwan — and itself

-- Military Times: Multiple VA medical centers may be rebuilt under Biden’s infrastructure plan 

-- Stars and Stripes: Coronavirus pandemic is causing a massive funding shortfall in the Defense Health Program

-- The Associated Press: Russia defends foreign navy limits amid buildup near Ukraine