Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Nation mourns Colin Powell

Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Nation mourns Colin Powell
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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s unexpected death was greeted by an outpouring of grief from across the political spectrum, as Democrats and Republicans alike lauded the four-star general as a giant of public service and an African-American hero.

We’ll share the reactions from across the nation and globe, how the White House has responded, and Powell’s long and distinguished legacy.

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

Let’s get to it.

Powell death leads to bipartisan outpouring of grief

Powell, 84, who rose from humble beginnings as the son of Jamaican immigrants to hold some of the nation’s most senior positions in military and government leadership, died of complications from COVID-19 at Walter Reed National Memorial Medical Center, his family announced in a statement.

The family said the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been fully vaccinated. Powell reportedly had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of cancer. 

High praise: Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle quickly united in hailing the nation’s first Black secretary of State, praising his leadership and integrity.

Few on Monday spent much time criticizing Powell’s biggest moment at State, when in 2003 he presented false U.S. intelligence to the United Nations that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Instead, lawmakers and civil servants offering tributes focused more on the general’s iconic status as a trailblazer unafraid of splitting with his party. Powell served in Republican administrations and was once seen as a potential presidential candidate but endorsed Democrats Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden for president.

‘A hole in my heart’: “I feel as if I have a hole in my heart,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “The world lost one of the greatest leaders that we have ever witnessed.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who offered a lengthy on-camera tribute, hailed Powell for acknowledging his errors.

“He could admit mistakes. It was just another example of his integrity,” Blinken said.

Read the full story here.

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BIDEN ORDERS FLAGS FLOWN AT HALF-STAFF

Following news of Powell’s death, President BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE ordered flags at the White House and federal buildings be flown at half-staff until Oct. 22 in honor of the former Secretary of state.

“General Colin Powell was a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity. The son of immigrants, born in New York City, raised in Harlem and the South Bronx, a graduate of the City College of New York, he rose to the highest ranks of the United States military and to advise four Presidents. He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others,” Biden said in a proclamation issued Monday afternoon by the White House.

Powell "embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat,” Biden said.

The details: Flags are to be flown at half-staff at the White House as well as on all public buildings and grounds, military posts, naval stations, and overseas embassies, consular offices and military posts for the next five days.

Top US envoy to Afghanistan resigns

The Biden administration’s top envoy to Afghanistan tendered his resignation Friday and is slated to be replaced by his deputy.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is leaving his post less than two months after the U.S. wrapped up a chaotic evacuation from the country, capping 20 years of military involvement in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad’s background: Khalilzad, an Afghan American, served under two presidents as the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. He led discussions under the Trump administration with the Taliban that resulted in the Doha Agreement, which committed the U.S. to withdrawing troops by May of 2021.

Who is the replacement?: Khalilzad will be replaced by Tom West, who has recently participated in meetings with Taliban leaders and who accompanied CIA leaders on recent trips to Kabul, according to CNN.

Read more on that here.

A MESSAGE FROM RAYTHEON TECHNOLOGIES

 

Read how to deliver quick, seamless access to intelligence from any system in the battlefield, and how to adapt commercial data networks and clouds to military settings.

STATE WATCHDOG TO LAUNCH REVIEW OF BIDEN’S AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAWAL

On the heels of Khalilzad’s resignation, the acting inspector general of the State Department is launching a number of inquiries into the Biden administration’s handling of the U.S.'s withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to a notification sent to Congress and obtained by The Hill. 

State Department acting Inspector General Diana Shaw on Monday notified the chairs and ranking members of relevant committees in the House and Senate that the investigative body would be launching “several oversight projects related to the suspension of operations at U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan.”  

“Given the elevated interest in this work by Congress and the unique circumstances requiring coordination across the Inspector General community, I wanted to notify our committees of jurisdiction of this important work,” Shaw wrote.  

More on that here.

From the weekend: Pentagon, State square off on Afghanistan

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say constant finger-pointing between the Pentagon and State Department is making it difficult to get a full accounting of the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Recent hearings on Afghanistan have left members of Congress frustrated as top officials from the State Department and Department of Defense (DOD) lay blame on the other at congressional hearings on Afghanistan.

“When the State Department is here and we asked them a question they say, ‘Well, you have to ask the Defense Department that,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said at a recent hearing. “And now today, again, Defense Department people are before us. And the question was asked and the answer ... was, 'Well, you'll have to ask the State Department that.”

When will a review come?: It’s been two months since President Biden said “the buck stops with me” on Afghanistan, but the State Department has yet to announce a formal review of its work in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon has stopped short of laying out its own timeline.

“There is a lot of finger-pointing taking place right now, and I think we’ve got to learn what worked and what didn’t,” Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), whose district is home to one of the largest Afghan populations in the U.S., told The Hill.

“I would try to take the politics out of it,” he said. “How did we get Afghanistan so wrong after 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars of investment?”

Read the full story here.

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