Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling

Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling
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It's Monday, 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.

Top Pentagon leaders are expected to get slammed this week with critical questions on the Biden administration’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and other military-related controversies in a series of hearings on Capitol Hill.

We’ll break down what lawmakers want to know, how administration officials are preparing and what’s likely to come up in tomorrow’s hearing in the Senate.

For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. Write to me with tips: emitchell@thehill.com.

Let’s get to it.

Milley to face toughest day yet on Capitol Hill 

Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyFormer envoy: U.S. 'did not succeed' in building democratic Afghanistan Poll: New Hampshire Senate race tight Republicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers' MORE is expected to face a GOP grilling on Tuesday and Wednesday weeks after a number of Republicans said he should resign for threatening the principle of civilian control of the military.

Milley, the chairman of the joints chiefs of staff, was criticized for “treasonous” behavior by Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Senators call for answers from US firm over reported use of forced Uyghur labor in China MORE (R-Fla.) and others after revelations in a new book, “Peril,” that Milley assured his Chinese counterpart that the U.S. was not about to launch a strike in the final days of the Trump administration.

The hits keep coming: Milley can also expect to take some bipartisan hits over the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and a drone strike that killed 10 people in the country and was later ruled a mistake. Milley had said it was a “righteous” strike.

Career on the line?: “I think his credibility, and career, is on the line,” one former senior Defense official told The Hill. “I think he's gonna get a grilling like he's never seen before. And if he takes the bait and gets argumentative and defensive, it's gonna be a big problem.”

Past controversies...: Milley, who will appear alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinRepublican spin on Biden is off the mark Biden remarks on Taiwan leave administration scrambling Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan MORE and U.S. Central Command head Gen. Frank McKenzie before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday and the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, has been no stranger to controversy in his two years on the job. 

He apologized last year after walking across Lafayette Park with former President TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled MORE to St. John’s Church after police forcibly cleared the area of racial justice protesters.

Trump and his allies were also outraged after Milley at a House hearing in June pushed back on Republicans who questioned whether critical race theory had any place in military training, prompting an impassioned speech from the four-star general on the importance of being well read and his desire to understand where “white rage” comes from.

...And current: But it is questions about his interactions with the Chinese that are likely to be at the forefront of the GOP’s questioning this week.

Milley offered a brief defense of his decisions in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this month. He said the calls he made to his Chinese counterpart were “routine” and made “to reassure both allies and adversaries, in this case, in order to ensure strategic stability.”

Milley also indicated he would have more to say when he testifies before Congress. 

Read the full story here.

GOP warns about military cooperation with Russians 

Top Republicans in the House and Senate on Monday pushed back on the Pentagon’s recent call to increase coordination between the U.S. and Russian militaries, saying they were “deeply troubled” by the news.

Earlier: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley last week said U.S. and Russian forces should “have an effective means of military-to-military communications in order to clearly understand each other’s positions on very difficult issues” and help “de-escalate any kind of crisis situation.”

Milley’s comments come as the U.S. government is hoping to make inroads with Russia to gain Moscow’s help in fighting extremist groups in Afghanistan.

Why GOP lawmakers are bothered: “We are deeply troubled to learn from press reports that your administration is in discussions with the Russian Federation to secure access to Russian military installations in Central Asian countries and potentially engage in some form of military cooperation on counterterrorism with the Russians,” Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“Inviting Russia into discussions will not further vital U.S. counterterrorism goals, nor is it the path to a ‘stable and predictable’ relationship with Russia the Biden Administration claims it wants,” they added.

The Republican lawmakers also warn that Moscow "is more concerned with collecting intelligence on the U.S. and our allies" than with helping prevent terrorist threats or conflicts, pointing to Russia’s role in aiding "the brutal Assad regime" in Syria rather than fighting Islamic State extremists.

What they want: They also demand an “immediate briefing” from the State and Defense departments on Milley’s recent meeting with his Russian counterpart, the Biden administration’s counterterrorism plans in Central Asia and any negotiations or coordination with Russia on such plans.

Read the full story here.

A MESSAGE FROM AM GENERAL

 

AM General has a strong legacy of designing, manufacturing and supporting iconic, high-quality military, commercial, and consumer vehicles. We offer versatile vehicles, innovative product solutions, and end-to-end support that keeps pace with the changing world.

 

About 100 US citizens, legal residents ready to leave Afghanistan 

US soldiers board an US Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul

About 100 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are ready to leave Kabul, Afghanistan, the State Department announced on Monday.

A senior State Department official said that number is not precise because it changes every day, but that’s the pool on which the Biden administration is focusing its evacuation efforts.

“The highest priority remains helping the U.S. citizens who wish to leave the country now to do so,” the official said.

Unknowns: The official did not specify when the group will depart Kabul. 

What happens after?: After they leave, the administration will continue to support the departure of any other Americans in Afghanistan “whether they’re people who have just come to our attention, whether they are people we have been talking to and in touch with on a periodic basis who change their mind,” the official said. 

“We’re also going to continue working closely with other governments and with a range of outside advocates to support Afghans wanting to leave the country,” the official added. 

The State Department is continuing to encourage the Taliban to reopen the Kabul airport to commercial traffic and to allow safe passage out of Afghanistan for U.S. citizens, legal residents and at-risk Afghans.

How many have gotten out?: At least 85 U.S. citizens and 79 lawful permanent residents have departed Afghanistan with U.S. assistance since the U.S. wrapped up its withdrawal efforts on Aug. 31, according to the State Department.

Read more on the effort here.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

WHAT WE’RE READING

 

A MESSAGE FROM AM GENERAL

AM General has a strong legacy of designing, manufacturing and supporting iconic, high-quality military, commercial, and consumer vehicles. We offer versatile vehicles, innovative product solutions, and end-to-end support that keeps pace with the changing world.


That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. See you Tuesday.