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Overnight Defense: Afghanistan withdrawal process 2 to 6 percent complete | Wisconsin National Guard member charged in Capitol riot

Overnight Defense: Afghanistan withdrawal process 2 to 6 percent complete | Wisconsin National Guard member charged in Capitol riot
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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: The U.S. military has completed about 2 percent to 6 percent of the process of entirely withdrawing from Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said Tuesday.

Moving out: Progress on the withdrawal includes moving about 60 C-17 cargo planes worth of material out of Afghanistan, Centcom said in a news release.

In addition, about 1,300 pieces of equipment have been given to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction and the U.S. military officially gave control of its New Antonik base in southern Helmand province to the Afghan National Army.

Few other details: Centcom, which said it plans to release weekly updates on the progress of the withdrawal, “will only be providing an approximate range of the percentage of the exit process that is complete” because of concerns about operational security, according to the release.

The aim: 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 last month ordered all U.S. troops to be out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked America’s longest war, with the withdrawal officially kicking off last week. 

Amid the pullout, the Taliban has threatened to resume attacks on U.S. and coalition troops that it largely refrained from after signing a deal with the Trump administration last year that set a withdrawal deadline of this past Saturday.

More stories from The Hill on the withdrawal:

-- If Taliban regains power, they would roll back rights for women: US intelligence

--  Taliban launches massive offensive after missed deadline for US troop withdrawal

-- Afghan president: 'Critically important' for US, NATO to fulfill security funding commitments

 

WISCONSIN NATIONAL GUARD MEMBER CHARGED IN CAPITOL RIOT

A member of the Wisconsin National Guard has been charged in connection to the deadly Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Abram Markofski was arrested Monday and faces four charges in relation to the riots, the Department of Justice said.

A spokesperson for the Wisconsin National Guard confirmed to The Associated Press that Markofski joined the Guard in 2019 and is a private first-class in the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry.

A new effort: Markofski’s arrest comes as the Pentagon seeks to weed out extremism in its ranks. More than 400 people have been arrested in connection with the riots. According to ABC News, at least 52 are active or former military, law enforcement or government service employees.

While the military has been dealing with the issue for a long time, the presence of current and former military personnel during the Jan. 6 riots made the issue more pressing.

Details of the case: According to an FBI affidavit, Brandon Nelson, who was with Markofski, said the two traveled together from the Madison, Wis., area to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5 for the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the riots.

Nelson told agents that the men entered the Capitol after the rally, adding that police officers were guiding people in. Nelson said the two were in the Capitol for about 40 minutes.

Markofski also told agents that the men were inside the Capitol, but didn’t say that officers were guiding people in. Instead, he said that an officer inside said, “I can’t make you guys leave. However, for your safety, you should leave.”

The charges: Markofski and Nelson have been charged with entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; violent entry or disorderly conduct; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. 

Read more here.

 

TRUMP MUDDLES GOP MESSAGING ON AFGHANISTAN

Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' More than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill McConnell says he's 'great admirer' of Liz Cheney but mum on her removal MORE’s hearty endorsement of pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September has undercut efforts by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' McConnell says he's 'great admirer' of Liz Cheney but mum on her removal McConnell: 'Good chance' of deal with Biden on infrastructure MORE (Ky.) and other key Republicans to question President Biden’s strategy. 

More broadly, the former president has focused the nation’s attention on China as the United States’s premier national security concern, putting pressure on Senate Republicans to support legislation 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.) plans to move to respond to Beijing’s growing influence and power. 

McConnell’s move: McConnell is the most powerful Republican leader in Washington, but he doesn’t have the same unrivaled platform that he did when he was in the same position — head of the minority opposition in Washington — at the start of former President Obama’s tenure. 

McConnell has seized on Biden’s announcement that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan as a prime example of him talking like a centrist but governing from the left. 

The GOP leader has warned that Biden has ordered “a hasty total withdrawal from Afghanistan” that will “leave coalition partners and vulnerable Afghans high and dry.” 

Trump’s undercut: But Trump has undercut the messaging from Senate Republican leaders, opening the way for other Republicans to express support for Biden’s decision or at least publicly question the wisdom of keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the fall. 

Read the rest here.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Brookings Institution will hold a webinar on “China's Arctic Activities and Ambitions,” at 10:30 a.m. 

U.S. Strategic Command head Adm. Charles Richard will speak at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at 10:30 a.m. 

The House Armed Services Committee will hold its “Member Day” hearing, in which committee members testify on their national defense priorities for the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act and offer legislative proposals as amendments when the full House considers the bill, at 11 a.m. in Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118.  

U.K. Ambassador to the United States Karen Pierce will speak at a Woodrow Wilson Center webinar on “Global Britain: The Future of the Kingdom's Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy,” at 11:30 a.m. 

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and acting Army Secretary John Whitley will speak at a House Appropriations Defense subcommittee hearing on “Fiscal Year 2022 United States Army Budget, at 12 p.m. 

A House Armed Services subpanel will hear from Defense and State Department officials on “Creating a Framework for Rules Based Order in Space,” at 3 p.m. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Republicans urge probe into Amazon government cloud-computing bid: report

-- The Hill: Top general: Defense officials nearing plan for Space National Guard

-- The Hill: China: Biden should seek diplomacy with North Korea, not 'extreme pressure'

-- The Hill: Australian general warned of 'high likelihood' of conflict with China: report

-- The Hill: White House completes domestic extremism review

-- The Hill: Opinion: Ukraine and Russia: NATO should clarify its deterrent approach, while it still can

-- Military.com: Pentagon's Watchdog to Investigate Military's Response to UFOs

-- Stars and Stripes: After nearly three years in Mexico, combat veteran’s wife to reunite with family in the US