Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Afghan evacuation still frustrates

Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Afghan evacuation still frustrates
© Greg Nash

It's Tuesday, 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.

Lawmakers are frustrated over a lack of data disclosed by the Biden administration on a precise breakdown of the different categories of those who fled Afghanistan amid and after the U.S. withdrawal.

We’ll break down what they want to know, what administration officials are saying and how big the gap is between the two sides. 

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.

 

Lawmakers want evacuation numbers 

Lawmakers on Tuesday aired frustration over a lack of data disclosed by the Biden administration, which has boasted of evacuating more than 124,000 people from Afghanistan, but hasn't given a specific breakdown of who escaped.

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordBill requiring companies report cyber incidents moves forward in the Senate Manchin's 'red line' on abortion splits Democrats Lankford draws second GOP primary challenger in Oklahoma MORE (R-Okla.), speaking to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasTop officials turn over Twitter accounts to 'share the mic' with Black cybersecurity experts Federal officers detail abuse described by asylum seekers Senate Republicans raise concerns about TSA cyber directives for rail, aviation MORE, pointed to a gap between the 60,000 people who have been brought into the U.S. and the total number evacuated.

“We don't know the remaining where they're going, who they are, are they coming here or not. We don't know the breakdown of refugees and parolees. We don't know the breakdown of SIVs — special immigrant visas — and what are called partial SIV immigrant visas or folks that were American citizens and green card holders. There's some very basic pieces of information that we keep trying to be able to get,” Lankford said.

Administration offers some figures: Mayorkas did offer some figures during the hearing, saying that roughly 12,000 Afghans remain at different military sites while they await vetting to enter the U.S.

He also pointed to previously released numbers from the administration, noting that of the 60,000 Afghans who have entered the U.S., nearly 8,000 are either U.S. citizens or residents, while about 1,800 are SIV holders, having obtained visas after assisting the U.S. military.

But not others: Mayorkas did not provide numbers for how many fit into the Priority 1 and Priority 2 categories created for vulnerable Afghans and others who assisted in a range of U.S. projects.

‘Does that concern you?’: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee ranking member Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Top GOP senators want joint review of Afghan visa process Timken rolls out six-figure ad campaign, hits Fauci MORE (R-Ohio) said the U.S. left allies behind and that Homeland Security has relied too heavily on “paroling” people into the country, a process that allows it to temporarily waive immigration requirements to allow people to enter the U.S. and begin the work to gain status.

“Around 75 percent of the people who came are called parolees, meaning they don't fit in any of those categories,” he said. “Does that concern you?”

“We all know that we left American citizens behind, but mostly we left behind people who had helped us. But we also had people get on these flights to leave who, as far as we know at this point, had no connection to us in the sense of helping us or helping our allies,” Portman added later.

Read the full story here.

PENTAGON NAMES HEAD OF DEADLY DRONE STRIKE REVIEW

Meanwhile, at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBiden remarks on Taiwan leave administration scrambling Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan GOP lawmakers worry vaccine mandate will impact defense supply chain MORE has tasked Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall with overseeing the investigation of a drone strike that killed 10 civilians in the final days of evacuations from Afghanistan.

Lt. Gen. Sam Said, the Air Force inspector general, will conduct the review.

What it will look at: "Part of that review will be to examine the investigation itself, the thoroughness of the investigation, to study the degree to which any policies, procedures or targeting mechanisms may need to be altered going forward, if any, and of course to then take a look at what levels of accountability might be appropriate and if so at what level," Pentagon press secretary John KirbyJohn KirbyTrump Defense chief blocked idea to send 250,000 troops to border: report Pentagon offers to pay families of those killed in Afghan drone strike China, US military officials held talks to discuss relations MORE said in a briefing.

A tragic mistake: On Friday, the Pentagon confirmed that it had mistaken a civilian vehicle for an ISIS-K threat on Aug. 29.

“I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike,” U.S. Central Command head Gen. Frank McKenzie said, stating that it was unlikely that the vehicle or its occupants, seven of whom were children, were associated with ISIS-K.

"Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake," he said.



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Momentum builds for war on terror memorial 

Bipartisan support is growing for legislation allowing a new memorial honoring thousands of U.S. service members who died in the war on terror to be located on the National Mall.

Rep. Jason CrowJason CrowThe United States must lead the way on artificial intelligence standards Colorado remap plan creates new competitive district Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Afghan evacuation still frustrates MORE (D-Colo.), an Army veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who has authored the bill, said he may have found a path forward for the stalled memorial legislation: He will offer it as an amendment to the massive defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act that will come to the House floor this week.

“There’s a lot of momentum behind the bill. We are submitting it as an amendment to the NDAA and getting broad support on it,” Crow said in an interview with The Hill.

Some background: In 2017, then-President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE signed into law legislation that would authorize a nonprofit, the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation, to begin planning for a new memorial in Washington, D.C. But a 2003 law prohibits new memorials from being built on the National Mall.

Since the 9/11 attacks two decades ago, 4,431 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq and 2,352 have died in Afghanistan, including 13 who were killed last month during a bombing at the Kabul airport as the U.S. was evacuating Americans and Afghan allies.

Growing support: Crow has co-authored legislation with Rep. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherChina denies it tested missile, says it was space vehicle Biden slips further back to failed China policies Lawmakers using leadership PACs as 'slush funds' to live lavish lifestyles: report MORE (R-Wis.), a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who also served in Iraq, to provide an exemption for the war on terror memorial. Together, they have rounded up support from 179 co-sponsors — 98 Republicans and 81 Democrats — though Crow says that number is actually closer to 200.

A version of the bill rolled out in 2019 only attracted 103 bipartisan co-sponsors.

What the bill would do: The Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act would not provide any public funding for the memorial itself; private funds would be raised by the foundation to pay for construction.

What the bill would do is authorize the new memorial to be constructed on one of three preferred locations on the National Mall: Constitution Gardens near the lakeside memorial dedicated to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence; on the JFK Hockey Fields; or West Potomac Park, south of the Reflecting Pool.

Meanwhile, in the Senate: Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrat Mike Franken launches challenge to Grassley in Iowa Trump heads to Iowa as 2024 chatter grows Photos of the Week: Manchin, California oil spill and a podium dog MORE (R-Iowa), an Iraq war veteran, has authored the companion bill in the upper chamber. She argued that Congress approving a memorial on the Mall would serve as a unifying moment at a time of partisan bickering over President BidenJoe BidenGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal.

On Monday, Ernst requested that the Senate unanimously approve the memorial’s location somewhere on the National Mall, noting that all six surviving Defense secretaries back the legislation. 

Read the full story here.

New Space Force uniforms draw jokes 

The U.S. Space Force unveiled new uniform prototypes on Tuesday, drawing comparisons to “Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica.”

The Space Force’s service dress prototype was introduced at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in Maryland on Tuesday. It includes a navy coat with six buttons running diagonally up the right-hand side and gray pants.

The new uniforms mark a change from the Air Force dress blues the Space Force uniform was derived from in 2019, according to Military.com.

Military dress details: Gen. John Raymond said the six buttons, which bear the Space Force emblem, are meant to symbolize the Space Force being the military’s sixth service, Military.com reported.

Lt. Col. Alison Gonzalez, the Space Force deputy chief of strategy who modeled the new uniform at the conference on Tuesday, reportedly said the prototypes were designed taking women into account, which is a diversion from the military's usual strategy of creating uniforms for men and then adjusting them for women.

What’s so funny?: The prototype, however, is now drawing comparisons to sci-fi series “Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica,” with individuals turning to social media to discuss the similar uniforms.

Stephen Losey, a reporter at Military.com, tweeted a photo of a woman wearing the uniform prototype and Captain Kirk from "Star Trek" with the caption “Getting some Wrath of Khan flashbacks all of a sudden.”

​​And the Twitter account for the Armed Forces Committee of Western New York also tweeted photos of the prototype and Captain Kirk.

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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 Wednesday.

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