Overnight Defense: Biden participates in NATO summit | White House backs 2002 AUMF repeal | Top general says no plans for airstrikes to help Afghan forces after withdrawal

Overnight Defense: Biden participates in NATO summit | White House backs 2002 AUMF repeal | Top general says no plans for airstrikes to help Afghan forces after withdrawal
© Getty Images

Happy Monday 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: President BidenJoe BidenFighter jet escorts aircraft that entered restricted airspace during UN gathering Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy FBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp MORE was in Brussels on Monday for his first NATO summit since taking office.

Upon arriving, Biden touted the "sacred obligation” of NATO’s mutual defense commitment, known as Article 5.

“NATO is critically important for U.S. interests in and of itself. If there weren't one, we'd have to invent one," he said.

Among the focuses of the summit were updating the alliance's defense strategy, cybersecurity, climate change and the looming U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

On Afghanistan: One of the outcomes of the summit was a decision to continue NATO’s training mission for Afghan forces after U.S. and NATO troops withdraw from the country.

“NATO leaders reaffirmed their commitment to continue to stand with Afghanistan with training and financial support for Afghan forces and institutions,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in remarks at the end of the meeting.

The training would take place in an as-yet-undetermined third country.

Biden and Erdogan: On the sidelines of the summit, Biden also had his first meeting with Turkish President —and frequent source of NATO alliance friction — Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Biden called it a “positive and productive meeting,” and the Turkish president’s office released photos showing the two leaders smiling and bumping elbows. 

Biden said the two had “detailed discussions about how to proceed on a number of issues.” 

“Our two countries have big agendas, our teams are going to continue our discussions and I’m confident we’ll make real progress with Turkey and the United States,” he said.

Biden’s upbeat tone about the relationship with Turkey reflects a desire by the administration to normalize relations that have fractured on a number of fronts.

Article 5 in space: In a first, NATO explicitly said Monday that Article 5 applies to attacks in space.

“We consider that attacks to, from, or within space present a clear challenge to the security of the Alliance, the impact of which could threaten national and Euro-Atlantic prosperity, security, and stability, and could be as harmful to modern societies as a conventional attack. Such attacks could lead to the invocation of Article 5,” communique issued at the end of the summit said. “A decision as to when such attacks would lead to the invocation of Article 5 would be taken by the North Atlantic Council on a case-by-case basis.”

NATO not quite ready for Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky caused a brief stir Monday when he tweeted that “NATO leaders confirmed that [Ukraine] will become a member of the Alliance,” prompting questions about whether NATO had decided to admit Ukraine as Zelensky has been pushing for.

In reality, the communique just reaffirmed a 2008 declaration that Ukraine can become a member one day after Kyiv completes some reforms.

In his post-summit press conference, Biden said Ukraine still must root out corruption before it can become a full member of the alliance.

"It depends on whether they meet the criteria. The fact is, they still have to clean up corruption. The fact is, they have to meet other criteria to get into the action plan. And so, school’s out on that question. It remains to be seen," Biden said at a press conference at the NATO summit.

"In the meantime, we will do all that we can to put Ukraine in the position to be able to continue to resist Russian physical aggression," he continued. "And it will not just depend on me, whether or not we conclude that Ukraine can become part of NATO, it will depend on the alliance and how they vote."

More coverage related to Biden’s trip and the NATO summit:

-- NATO members agree to new cyber defense policy

-- Biden reflects on 'diminished' GOP at NATO in wake of post-Trump fallout

-- NATO tackling climate change for first time

-- Biden meets with foreign leaders as ambassadorships sit vacant

-- Biden prepares to confront Putin

-- Detainee fates hangs over Biden meeting with Putin

WHITE HOUSE BACKS 2002 AUMF REPEAL

The White House is backing a bill getting a vote in the House this week that would repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) for the Iraq War.

“The administration supports the repeal of the 2002 AUMF, as the United States has no ongoing military activities the rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations,” it said Monday in a statement of administration policy.

Timing: The statement comes ahead of an expected House vote later this week on a bill from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that would repeal the 2002 AUMF.

In March, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 28-19 largely along party lines to advance Lee’s bill.

Harder work to come: Repealing the 2002 AUMF is being considered the low-hanging fruit of the current congressional efforts on war powers.

It’s the 2001 AUMF, which is used as legal justification for counterterrorism missions around the world, that’s expected to pose a bigger challenge.

The White House reiterated in Monday’s statement that it is willing to work with Congress on crafting a more narrow war authorization.

“The president is committed to working with Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats,” Monday’s statement said.

As it works with Congress on a replacement, the White House wants to ensure Congress “has a clear and thorough understanding of the effect of any such action and of the threats facing U.S. forces, personnel and interests around the world,” the statement said. 

“As the administration works with Congress to reform AUMFs, it will be critical to maintain the clear authority to address threats to the United States’ national interests with appropriately decisive and effective military action,” the statement added. 

TOP GENERAL SAYS NO PLANS FOR AIRSTRIKES TO HELP AFGHAN FORCES

One of the open questions about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has been whether U.S. troops will provide air support for Afghan forces fighting the Taliban, in addition to the over-the-horizon counterterrorism operations officials have pledged.

In an interview published Monday, the top U.S. general for the region said no such air support for Afghan forces is planned.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, also told Voice of America (VOA) that counterterrorism strikes will be limited to when plots attack the U.S. homeland or a U.S. ally have been uncovered.

“That would be the reason for any strikes that we do in Afghanistan after we leave, [it] would have to be that we’ve uncovered someone who wants to attack the homeland of the United States, one of our allies and partners,” McKenzie told VOA while traveling to the region.

Inhofe’s idea: The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee is proposing that the Biden administration leave 1,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan to prevent a security vacuum.

Biden “could leave a small force of about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan until at least the spring of 2022,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Sunday.

“Maintaining a small, tailored troop presence for an additional six months would accomplish critical objectives,” Inhofe writes, referring to Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline for a full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/3xnui3W

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the nominees to be assistant secretary of State for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs; assistant secretary of State for intelligence and research; and assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/3cIWINL

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday and Marines Commandant Gen. David Berger will testify before the House Armed Services Committee at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/3xlPmb4

The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the Jan. 6 insurrection with testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray, Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt and Gen. Charles Flynn at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/3iGCWWV

A Senate Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on Army modernization with testimony from Army officials at 2:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/2TVqyYP

A House Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on missile defense programs with testimony from defense officials at 3 p.m. https://bit.ly/3pWJ8vQ

ICYMI

-- The Hill: 2 paratroopers found dead at Fort Bragg, drugs suspected

-- The Hill: Concerns grow over China's Taiwan plans

-- The Hill: Opinion: In the Iran nuclear crisis, the IAEA stands alone

-- Task and Purpose: The story behind a viral video of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin surprising a group laying wreaths at Arlington Cemetery

-- Military.com: Documents reveal new details about Sinai Peninsula crash that killed 5 soldiers

-- Washington Post: Op-eds in a Chinese state tabloid slammed U.S. policy. The author works at the Pentagon.

-- Voice of America: New Pentagon watchdog facing 'significant challenges' in internal anti-extremism effort