PIVOTING FROM AFGHANISTAN: As President Joe Biden takes center stage at the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this morning, his “America is back” slogan is wearing thin with some U.S. allies — in particular with France, which has accused Washington of a “breach of trust” in undercutting Paris in a surprise submarine deal with Australia.
White House officials say in his first speech to the world body as president, Biden is hoping to move beyond the chaotic U.S. exit from Afghanistan and reach out to allies to tackle other problems, including the global pandemic and climate change.
“The speech will center on the proposition that we are closing the chapter on 20 years of war and opening a chapter of intensive diplomacy by rallying allies and partners and institutions to deal with the major challenges of our time,” a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call yesterday.
“The president will essentially drive home the message that ending the war in Afghanistan closed a chapter focused on war and opens a chapter focused on purposeful, effective, intensive American diplomacy defined by working with allies and partners to solve problems that can’t be solved by military force,” the official said.
NO NEW COLD WAR: Biden’s first stop upon arriving in New York was a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who, in an interview over the weekend, warned that the U.S. and China were headed for a dangerous new Cold War unless they repair their “totally dysfunctional” relationship.
In his speech, Biden “will make absolutely clear that he is not looking to pursue a future, a new Cold War with any country in the world,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “The president’s view and this administration’s view is that our relationship with China is one not of conflict, but of competition, and so we wouldn’t agree with the characterization of the relationship.”
Psaki pointed to a White House readout of a 90-minute phone call Biden had with Chinese President Xi Jinping two weeks ago. “It was a conversation that was candid, but it was certainly not elevated,” she said. “We recognize that China is a country that, while we may take issue with some means they engage in the world, we also have areas we will want to continue to work together.”
Xi is scheduled to address the assembly in a video address later this week.
FENCE MENDING WITH FRANCE: The White House is working to arrange a call between Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, who is still smarting over the surprise announcement that the U.S. and U.K. would be helping Australia build a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, a deal that effectively scuttled the $66 billion contract Australia had to buy French-made diesel-powered subs.
“We’re still working on the scheduling of it with President Macron in the coming days,” said Psaki. “And what I expect the president will do on that call is reaffirm our commitment to working with one of our oldest and closest partners on a range of challenges that the global community is facing.”
France appears in no mood to make nice just yet, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accusing the Biden administration of the kind of high-handed treatment they had come to expect from President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy.
“The unilateralism, the unpredictability, the lack of consultation between allies that we have seen displayed in the decision taken by Australia and the United States is the persistence of reflexes from an era that we hoped was over,” Le Drian said yesterday.
Le Drian is in New York but has no plans to meet with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Macron skipped the U.N. session, the first in-person assembly in two years, because of the pandemic.
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HAPPENING TODAY: President Joe Biden’s U.N. address is scheduled for 10 a.m. At 12 noon, Biden meets with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in New York before heading back to Washington, where he meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 4:45 p.m.
THREE-STAR REVIEW: The Pentagon has released more details on the after-action review of the flawed Aug. 29 drone strike in Kabul that killed an innocent Afghan aid worker and nine members of his family, including seven children.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has directed Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall to assign a senior military officer, three-stars or higher, to conduct a thorough review of the investigation conducted by the U.S. Central Command, which resulted in what top commander Gen. Frank McKenzie called “a tragic mistake.”
“The secretary’s asked for the secretary of the Air Force to nominate somebody for that and then to have that review done within 45 days,” said spokesman John Kirby at a Pentagon briefing. “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.”
Kirby did not rule out McKenzie, a four-star general, being held accountable. “If the reviewing officer believes that there should be a level of accountability at someone at a higher rank than he or she, the reviewing officer needs to make a note of that to the secretary of the Air Force and to the secretary of defense,” he said.
COMING TO AMERICA? The U.S. is working to pay reparations to surviving members of the family of Zamarai Ahmadi, who was working for the U.S.-based Nutrition and Education International and was the sole breadwinner for his family.
But in addition to compensation from the U.S. government, family members have indicated they want help to leave Afghanistan and resettle somewhere safe, possibly in the United States.
“I believe the secretary of defense would absolutely support — if the family wanted to leave Afghanistan and come to the United States, I believe he would support that, assuming that, you know, all of the proper legal hoops were worked through,” Kirby said. “I don’t want to get ahead of a process or a decision that hasn’t been made yet, but I think he would absolutely consider that.”
SYRIA STRIKE: In a statement, U.S. Central Command said it killed a senior al Qaeda leader yesterday in Syria.
“U.S. forces conducted a kinetic counterterrorism strike near Idlib, Syria, today, on a senior al Qaeda leader. Initial indications are that we struck the individual we were aiming for, and there are no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike,” said Navy Lt. Josie Lynne Lenny, a CENTCOM spokesperson.
CHANGE OF COMMAND: Later this week, French Gen. Philippe Lavigne will take over as the new Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, relieving French Gen. Andre Lanata as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation at a change of command ceremony in Norfolk, Virginia.
Lavigne is a former fighter pilot and French Air Force chief of staff. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is scheduled to preside over the Thursday ceremony.
CSIS NATO REPORT: The Center for Strategic and International Studies is out with a new report, “Strengthening European Deterrence and Defense: NATO, Not European Defense Autonomy, is the Answer,” which argues that “NATO needs to be fixed rather than broken.”
“The time has come for the U.S. and its NATO allies to take a truly serious look at how they are shaping the future defense of Europe, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean,” write authors Anthony Cordesman and Grace Hwang.
“The U.S. focus on the Chinese threat, the way the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan, the lack of full U.S. consultation with its NATO partners, the collapse of the Afghan government and its forces, and the casual way in which the U.S. engaged Australia and the U.K. in a closer alliance by substituting U.S. nuclear submarines for French conventional submarines have all raised a whole new series of European doubts about relying on the U.S. as a strategic partner,” they write.
“At the same time, Europe needs to both be far more realistic about its strategic dependence on U.S. forces and do far more to improve its own military capabilities. It needs to focus on nation-by-nation force improvements rather than burden sharing and arbitrary spending levels, and it must recognize there is no credible European alternative to NATO and an Atlantic alliance.”
MARKING 10 YEARS SINCE THE END OF ‘DA/DT’: Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the repeal of the 1993 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” compromise that allowed gay military personnel to serve only so long as they kept their sexual orientation secret.
“The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” reminds us that when we strive for greater inclusivity, we help strengthen our nation’s defenses,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a statement marking the occasion. “By insisting on standards of merit and allowing to serve in uniform all those who are qualified, we avail ourselves of more talent, better leaders and innovative solutions to the security challenges we face around the world.”
Austin also urged any who received a “less than honorable discharge” based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity to appeal to their military department to have their record corrected. That could make them eligible for full veterans benefits under new guidance issued on Monday.
“VA adjudicators shall find that all discharged service members whose separation was due to sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status are considered ‘Veterans’ who may be eligible for VA benefits, like VR&E, home loan guaranty, compensation & pension, health care, homeless program and/or burial benefits, so long as the record does not implicate a statutory or regulatory bar to benefits,” the Department of Veterans Affairs said on its website.
Washington Examiner: Biden administration asks Pentagon to send military to border
Washington Examiner: Texas troopers credited with retaking control of Del Rio border
Washington Examiner: US conducts airstrike on senior al Qaeda leader in Syria
Washington Examiner: Angry France opens UN session with cold shoulder for Antony Blinken
Washington Examiner: Milley was ‘not going rogue’ in secret call to Chinese general, authors say
Washington Examiner: Defense secretary would support evacuating Afghan families of botched airstrike victims, spokesman says
Washington Examiner: Afghan aid worker killed in drone strike demonstrates flaws in ‘over the horizon’ anti-terror strategy, experts say
Washington Examiner: CIA official who traveled with director to India experienced Havana syndrome symptoms: Report
Washington Examiner: Federal officer arrested at ‘Justice for J6’ rally won’t face charges
Reuters: World Powers To Meet With Iran At U.N. To Push For Return To Nuclear Talks -France
Washington Post: North Korea says Australia’s submarine deal could trigger ‘nuclear arms race’
Bloomberg: China Neighbors Worry Australia Sub Deal Will Disrupt Region
Air Force Magazine: Kendall: Modernize Now to Counter China
Defense One: Air Force Secretary Warns Of China’s Burgeoning Nuclear Arsenal, Reveals B-21 Detail
Air Force Magazine: Air Force Leaders: ‘We Are Out of Time,’ China Has Caught Up
Air Force Magazine: Kendall Says ‘BRAC’-Like Package Deal May Help Congress Let Air Force Retire Old Gear
USNI News: 13th Sailor Dies From COVID-19 Complications
CNBC: 85 Americans Have Left Afghanistan Since U.S. Completed Its Withdrawal
AP: IS Bomb Attacks On Taliban Raise Specter Of Wider Conflict
AP: After Afghans fell from plane, families live with horror
New York Times: A Harsh New Reality for Afghan Women and Girls in Taliban-Run Schools
19fortyfive.com: Why the U.S. Navy Wants Solid-State Laser Weapons
Breaking Defense: CBO Pegs Price Of Navy’s FY22 Plans For Distributed Fleet: Over $32B
19fortyfive.com: Can’t Find Any Ammo? Why Bullet Shortages Aren’t Going Away.
Washington Examiner: Opinion: Erdogan’s U-turn in Afghanistan shows the danger of outsourcing security missions to autocrats
19fortyfive.com: Opinion: How a Rising China Complicates Europe’s Future
TUESDAY | SEPTEMBER 21
8:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual conference on “The Nuclear Policy Trilemma: Balancing Nuclear Modernization, Alliance Management and Effective Arms Control in a Competitive Security Environment,” with Sen. Angus King, I-Maine. https://www.csis.org/events/nuclear-policy-trilemma
8:30 a.m. National Harbor, Maryland — Air Force Association “2021 Air, Space & Cyber Conference,” with Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations; Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command; and many others. Full agenda at https://www.afa.org/events/airspacecyber2021/agenda
9:30 a.m. 342 Dirksen — Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee annual hearing: “Examining Threats to Homeland Security,” with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas; FBI Director Christopher Wray; and National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid. https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/hearings/threats
9:30 a.m. — German Marshall Fund of the United States virtual discussion: “Afghanistan’s Humanitarian Future: What’s Next?” with former Maidan Shahr, Afghanistan Mayor Zarifa Ghafari, Afghan human rights activist; Magdalena Kirchner, country director Afghanistan at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung; Jacob Kurtzer, director and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Fulya Memisoglu, associate professor at the Yildiz Technical University Department of Political Science and International Relations. https://www.gmfus.org/event/afghanistans-humanitarian-future-whats-next
10 a.m. New York — President Joe Biden addresses the United Nations General Assembly in person. https://media.un.org/en/webtv/
11 a.m. — Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress virtual discussion: “Leadership in the Shadows: Lessons from the Frontlines of Intelligence,” with Marc Polymeropoulos, author, Clarity in Crises and former CIA senior intelligence service officer. https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register
12 p.m. — Hudson Institute Virtual discussion: “Israel After the Abraham Accords: Changing Regional Dynamics,” with former Israeli Deputy Ambassador to Egypt Ruth Wasserman Lande, co-chair of the Knesset Abraham Accords Caucus; Former Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis, co-chair of the Knesset Abraham Accords Caucus; and Josh Block, adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute https://www.hudson.org/events/2013-virtual-event
1 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “The Future of the French Navy,” with Adm. Pierre Vandier, chief of the naval staff for Marine Nationale; and Seth Jones, senior vice president and director of the CSIS International Security Program. http://www.csis.org
2 p.m. — Association of the U.S. Army “Thought Leaders” webinar: “Suicide Prevention and Awareness,” with Dr. James Helis, director, Army Resilience Directorate. https://www.ausa.org/events/thought-leaders
WEDNESDAY | SEPTEMBER 22
8:30 a.m. National Harbor, Maryland — Air Force Association “2021 Air, Space & Cyber Conference,” with Gen. John. Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Tod Wolters, commander, U.S. European Command, and Supreme Allied Commander Europe; Gen. Mark Kelly, commander, Air Combat Command; and many others. Full agenda at https://www.afa.org/events/airspacecyber2021/agenda
8:45 a.m. National Harbor Marina, Sunset Room — Defense Strategies Group “Critical Infrastructure Security Summit,” with David Frederick, executive director of the U.S. Cyber Command; and David Mussington, executive assistant director for infrastructure security at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. https://infrastructure.dsigroup.org
9 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program webcast: “Russia’s Strategic Role in Afghanistan and Central Asia.” with Pavel Baev, research professor, Peace Research Institute Oslo; Erica Marat, associate professor and chair of the Regional and Analytical Studies Department, National Defense University; Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic; and director, Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program, CSIS. https://www.csis.org/events/russias-strategic-role
9 a.m. — Henry L. Stimson Center virtual discussion: “ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the Return of Geopolitics to the Indo-Pacific,” with Alice Ba, professor in the University of Delaware’s Department of Political Science and International Relations; Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior fellow in Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Security and International Studies; Amitav Acharya, UNESCo chair in transnational challenges and governance, and professor in American University’s School of International Service; and William Wise, nonresident fellow and chair of the Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Forum https://stimsoncenter.zoom.us/webinar/register
9 a.m. — German Marshall Fund of the United States virtual discussion: “Building a Stronger U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership,” with Olena Tregub, secretary general of the Independent Defense Anti-Corruption Committee; Mykhailo Zhernakov, head of the board at the DeJure Foundation; Kostyantyn Krynytskyi, head of the Center for Environmental Initiatives Ecoaction’s Energy Department; Igor Burakovsky, head of the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting; Olena Prokopenko, GMFUS visiting democracy initiatives fellow; and Jonathan Katz, GMFUS senior fellow. https://www.gmfus.org/event
9:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual conference: “The Nuclear Policy Trilemma: Balancing Nuclear Modernization, Alliance Management and Effective Arms Control in a Competitive Security Environment,” with former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller, lecturer at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. https://www.csis.org/events/nuclear-policy-trilemma
THURSDAY | SEPTEMBER 23
10 a.m. — Arms Control Association and the Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition virtual discussion: “U.S. Chemical Weapons Stockpile Elimination: Progress Update,” with Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Chemical and Biological Defense Brandi Vann; Irene Komelly, chair of the Colorado Citizens’ Advisory Commission; and Paul Walker, coordinator at CWC https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register
11 a.m. — Counter Extremism Project webinar: “Future Terrorism And Security Challenges Emanating From Afghanistan,” with Edmund Fitton-Brown, coordinator of the ISIL, al Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Team, U.N. Security Council; Sofia Koller, research fellow, German Council on Foreign Relations; and Guido Steinberg, senior fellow, German Institute for International and Security Affairs. https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register
12 p.m. — Washington Post Live virtual book discussion on Peril, with co-authors Bob Woodward, Washington Post associate editor; and Robert Costa, Washington Post national political reporter. https://www.washingtonpost.com/washington-post-live
1:30 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group and Aerospace Security Project virtual event “Investing Intelligently in Remotely Crewed Systems: Leveraging Capability for Future Conflict,” with Will Roper, former assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics; Rebecca Grant, president, IRIS Independent Research; Todd Harrison, senior fellow, CSIS International Security Program; and Rose Butchart, associate fellow, Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group. https://www.csis.org/events/investing-intelligently-remotely-crewed-systems
2 p.m. — Middle East Institute virtual discussion: “Iran Facing Outward: Changing Politics, Military Doctrine, and Border Issues,” with former Afghan Interior Minister Ali Jalali, professor at National Defense University; Manochehr Dorraj, professor of political science at Texas Christian University; Mahmood Monshipouri, professor of international relations at San Francisco State University; and Fatemeh Aman, nonresident scholar at MEI https://www.mei.edu/events/iran-facing-outward
FRIDAY | SEPTEMBER 24
TBA — President Joe Biden meets with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi.
TUESDAY | SEPTEMBER 28
TBA — Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: “Testimony on U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan,” with Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense; Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander, U.S. Central Command. https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“The unilateralism, the unpredictability, the lack of consultation between allies that we have seen displayed in the decision taken by Australia and the United States is the persistence of reflexes from an era that we hoped was over.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
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Original Author: Jamie McIntyre