Overnight Defense: Milley reportedly warned Trump against Iran strikes | Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer killed in Afghanistan | 70 percent of active-duty military at least partially vaccinated

Overnight Defense: Milley reportedly warned Trump against Iran strikes | Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer killed in Afghanistan | 70 percent of active-duty military at least partially vaccinated
© 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: The Mark MilleyMark MilleyAfghan civilian casualties hit record high amid US withdrawal Top US general won't rule out airstrikes against Taliban after withdrawal Authoritarianism: It can definitely happen here MORE news cycle continues unabated.

The latest chapter in the saga is a new report from The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser that said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Milley feared former President TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE could take military action against Iran in his final days in office that could launch a full-scale war.

Glasser said her reporting on Milley came as part of a book about Trump she and her husband, New York Times reporter Peter Baker, are working on that’s due to come out next year.

In her telling, the subject of Iran was repeatedly raised at White House meetings with Trump after his election loss, and Milley repeatedly argued against strikes.

“If you do this, you’re gonna have a f------ war,” Milley would say, according to Glasser.

Trump convened an Oval Office meeting on Iran on Jan. 3, at which point then-Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions MORE and then-national security adviser Robert O’Brien argued it was “too late to hit them,” according to the report. Milley also walked through the potential consequences, and Trump agreed, Glasser wrote.

Trump escalates attacks: Following the New Yorker report, Trump issued another statement attacking Milley, his second in two days against the man he, again, chose to make Joint Chiefs chairman.

In the latest statement, Trump said that “if he said what was reported,” Milley “perhaps should be impeached, or court-martialed and tried.”

What violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice exactly does Trump think Milley violated that would warrant a court martial? He didn’t say.

 

REUTERS REPORTER KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Danish Siddiqui was killed in Afghanistan on Friday.

Siddiqui, who worked for Reuters, was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters near a border crossing with Pakistan, an Afghan commander told the news outlet.

“We are deeply saddened to learn that our photographer, Danish Siddiqui, has been killed in Afghanistan,” Reuters President Michael Friedenberg and editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni said in a statement posted to Twitter.

“We are urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region, and support Danish’s family and colleagues. Danish was an outstanding, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, a devoted husband and father, and a much-loved colleague. Our thoughts are with his family at this time,” Friedenberg and Galloni said.

Official condolences: In response to Siddiqui’s death, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan wrote on Twitter that “media working in #Afghanistan & journalism itself in the country is under increasing threat."

“Our deep condolences to family & friends of @dansiddiqi. A painful reminder of mounting dangers faced by media in Afghanistan. Authorities must investigate this & all killing of reporters,” the mission said.

The White House later Friday also sent its condolences, with press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiSenators scramble to save infrastructure deal Overnight Health Care: New round of vaccine mandates | Health groups call for mandates for all health workers | Rising case count reignites debate over restrictions On The Money: Senate infrastructure talks on shaky grounds | Trump tells Republicans to walk away | GOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden MORE tweeting, "Our condolences to @dansiddiqui’s family, loved ones, and colleagues at @Reuters. Journalists should be able to do their vital work safely and free from repression or fear of persecution. The senseless violence in Afghanistan must stop."

 

MILITARY HITS 70 PERCENT VACCINATED

Seventy percent of active-duty service members are now at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, the Pentagon said Friday.

The announcement came in a tweet from Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Biden says US combat mission in Iraq wrapping by year's end | Civilian casualties in Afghanistan peak amid US exit | VA mandates COVID-19 vaccine for health workers Biden, Iraqi prime minister to announce end of US combat mission in Iraq Top US general won't rule out airstrikes against Taliban after withdrawal MORE, who added that 62 percent of active-duty troops are fully vaccinated.

“Our healthcare professionals are administering COVID vaccines as fast as we receive them,” Austin said in a video attached to the tweet.

“All the available vaccines have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for a simple reason: they are safe and they are effective,” Austin added. “I got my shots, and I hope you will too. It will take all of us to control this virus.”

Context: Friday’s update is a bit more than the end of June, when officials said 68 percent of active-duty troops were at least partially vaccinated.

The 70 percent milestone lags behind what officials suggested earlier this year was a goal to have the entire force vaccinated by mid-July.

And it also comes after earlier reports of vaccine hesitancy in the military. Military officers testified in February they were seeing about one-third of service members decline to take the shots.

Wider context: The news also comes as the country is seeing a new wave of COVID-19 cases fueled by the unvaccinated and the more transmissible delta variant.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyCNN: Every county in Florida, Arkansas rated 'high transmission' for community spread House Democrats expand probe into political interference into CDC during Trump administration No one wants to say it: We need to mask up again MORE warned of rising cases on Friday, stating that COVID-19 is "becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated" and that vaccinated people are protected against severe disease.

"This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated," Walensky said during a White House press briefing. "We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage, because unvaccinated people are at risk."

 

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

The Senate Armed Services Committee will begin marking up the National Defense Authorization Act with closed-door markups in the strategic forces subcommittee at 5:30 p.m. and cybersecurity subcommittee at 6 p.m. https://bit.ly/3hKOHek

 

ICYMI

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-- The Hill: Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report

-- Air Force Times: Biden nominates defense industry expert Andrew Hunter as Air Force acquisition boss

-- Associated Press: Women’s groups call for UN peacekeeping force in Afghanistan

-- Task and Purpose: The Marine Corps is now the only service not allowing women to wear ponytails in uniform