Defense & National Security — More US citizens, permanent residents leave Kabul

More US citizens, permanent residents leave Kabul

 

 

It's Friday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

An additional 21 Americans have made it out of Afghanistan on Friday, adding to the 10 U.S. citizens and 11 U.S. permanent residents that left Kabul’s international airport on Thursday. 

We’ll share the Biden administration’s progress in evacuating both Americans and Afghans and further plans for more extractions.

For The Hill, we’re Ellen Mitchell and Rebecca Kheel. Write to us with tips: emitchell@thehill.com and rkheel@thehill.com

Let’s get to it.

21 more Americans make it out of Afghanistan 

The White House said that 21 American citizens were evacuated from Afghanistan on Friday via a chartered flight and overland route, bringing the total Americans evacuated over the past two days to 31.

“Today the United States government facilitated the additional departures of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents both on a chartered Qatar Airways flight from Kabul and via overland passage to a neighboring country,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The specifics: “The Qatar Airways flight held 19 U.S. citizens and the party traveling overland included two U.S. citizens and 11 lawful permanent residents,” Horne said.

Additionally, the State Department said late Thursday that 10 American citizens and 11 U.S. permanent residents were evacuated on a Qatar Airways charter flight that left Kabul’s international airport earlier that day.

How many more?: The Biden administration has not offered specific figures on the number of U.S. citizens seeking to leave Afghanistan who are still there, but officials have said over the past several days that the number was around 100.

‘Clear and safe options’?: President BidenJoe BidenHaiti prime minister warns inequality will cause migration to continue Pelosi: House must pass 3 major pieces of spending legislation this week Erdoğan says Turkey plans to buy another Russian defense system MORE has come under harsh scrutiny for the execution of the U.S. exit from Afghanistan, which resulted in a hurried and chaotic effort to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who assisted the U.S. military during the 20-year war after the Taliban overran the country.

Horne said Friday that the new departures show how the administration is “giving Americans clear and safe options to leave Afghanistan from different locations.” Horne said that some U.S. citizens in Afghanistan have not taken advantage of the options offered by the administration, without going into further detail.

“We understand these are difficult decisions. We will continue to provide proven options for leaving. It is up to Americans who remain whether they choose to take them,” Horne said.

Earlier: Thursday’s successful charter flight, which landed in Qatar, represented a significant development after the Taliban was not allowing aircraft to leave for several days. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenDefense policy bill would require 'forever chemical' testing at military sites Biden criticizes treatment of Haitians as 'embarrassment' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs MORE urged the Taliban to allow charter flights to depart, after lawmakers expressed concerns the Taliban was blocking Americans and Afghan allies from leaving the country.

MEASLES TEMPORARILY HALTS US-BOUND FLIGHTS CARRYING AFGHANS

Elsewhere on Friday, U.S.-bound flights carrying Afghan refugees from overseas bases were temporarily halted due to four confirmed cases of measles among Afghans who arrived in the United States, the White House said. 

“Operation Allies Welcome flights into the United States have been temporarily paused at the request of the CDC and out of an abundance of caution because of four diagnosed cases of measles among Afghans who recently arrived in the United States,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden does not plan to shield Trump docs in Jan. 6 probe The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Arizona recount to show Trump's loss by even wider margin Watch live: Psaki, Homeland Secretary Mayorkas hold press briefing MORE told reporters Friday afternoon.

“These individuals are being quarantined in accordance with public health guidelines and the CDC has begun full contact tracing,” Psaki added. 

How many flights stopped?: The Associated Press, citing a U.S. government document, said that the flights had been halted from two main bases overseas in Germany and Qatar where Afghan refugees are being vetted. 

Vaccines required: Psaki noted that all Afghans arriving in the U.S. are required to be vaccinated for measles and that the U.S. is administering vaccinations, like the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, to Afghans at U.S. military bases. Psaki said officials are exploring options to vaccinate Afghans overseas before they come to the U.S.

It is unclear when the U.S.-bound flights will resume.

US paratrooper dies in Italy 

 

A U.S. paratrooper was found dead earlier this week in his residence in Vicenza, Italy, the Army revealed on Friday.

Spc. Ryan James, 20, of Baytown, Texas, was found unresponsive on Sept. 7 in his barracks, according to a service statement.

Limited details: James, who joined the Army in December 2019, had been assigned to Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, in August 2020.

No other details were given about the incident, which is currently under investigation. 

Kind words: “Spc. Ryan James was an intensely passionate and driven paratrooper who served his country admirably,” Lt. Col. Kevin Ward, commander of the 2-503 PIR, said in the statement. “His strength of character, work ethic and remarkable maturity consistently built up those around him.”

Ward recalled that during James’s first week in the battalion, he placed a bet that he would don a Ranger Tab within his first two years in the unit and that “he was well on his way to achieving that goal” before he died.

Read the rest here.



Biden, Chinese President Xi talk amid tensions 

President Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday amid mounting tensions between the two nations in recent months.

Biden initiated the call, just the second between the two leaders since he took office and the first in seven months. The call was less focused on hot-button issues and more on mending the U.S.-Chinese relationship. 

What was discussed: "The two leaders had a broad, strategic discussion in which they discussed areas where our interests converge, and areas where our interests, values, and perspectives diverge,” the White House said in a statement.

Biden addressed cybersecurity issues during the call, according to CNN, an issue that has been a main source of tension.

China won’t play ball: While the White House said it remains hopeful that the two nations can repair their relationship, China has pushed back, saying they will remain uncooperative until Biden can lessen his criticism of what the country says are internal Chinese matters.

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

The Brookings Institution will host “A conversation with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Hyten, at 2 p.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING

 

That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. We’ll see you Monday.