Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Victoria Gallegos
Thursday, April 15, 2021, 3:00 PM

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise visit to Afghanistan today, shortly after President Biden formally announced complete U.S. troop withdrawal from the country, writes the Hill. Blinken met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to reiterate the U.S. commitment to an ongoing relationship between the two nations. According to a statement by the State Department, the two leaders discussed the importance of preserving gains made over the past 20 years and continual counter-terrosim cooperation. Ghani expressed support for the U.S. troop withdrawal, stating “Afghanistan's proud security and defense forces are fully capable of defending its people and country, which they have been doing all along.”

All 30 members of the NATO military alliance will withdraw their forces from Afghanistan by the Sept. 11 deadline, writes the Washington Post. A closed-door meeting between the foreign ministers was followed by a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Stoltenberg said the decision to withdraw was “unanimous” and that “This is not an easy decision and it entails risks. … We’ve said for many months we face a dilemma, because the alternative to leaving in an orderly fashion is to be prepared for a long-term, open-ended military commitment with potentially more NATO troops.”

The White House announced harsh new sanctions on Russia and formally attributed the SolarWinds hacking attack to the SVR, Russia’s top intelligence agency, according to the New York Times. In an executive order, Biden announced sanctions on 32 entities and individuals for their involvement in the spread of disinformation and for carrying out the Russian government’s interference in the 2020 election. Additionally, 10 Russian diplomats were expelled from the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., many of them believed to be intelligence operatives. This is the first time the U.S. government has formally blamed the Kremlin for the massive SolarWinds hack.

In response to the U.S. sanctions, Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said “[w]e have repeatedly warned the United States about the consequences of their hostile steps which dangerous raise the temperature of confrontation between our two countries. … Such aggressive behavior will without doubt receive a decisive rebuff. Responsibility for what is happening lies wholly with the United States.” Zakharova also said the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, had been summoned to the foreign ministry.

Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of killing George Floyd, invoked the Fifth Amendment and declined to testify in his defense today, writes the New York Times. Yesterday, the defense called David Fowler, former Maryland chief medical examiner, to testify as part of the defense’s argument that Floyd’s death was caused by factors beyond Chauvin’s actions. Fowler testified that cardiac arrhythmia was the main cause of Floyd’s death and that he would classify the death as “undetermined,” not homicide. The trial will soon move to closing arguments.

Kim Potter, the police officer charged with second-degree manslaughter for the death of Daunte Wright, was released from jail after posting bond, reports the Hill. Potter will face a maximum of 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $20,000 if convicted.

Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton appeared before the House Administration Committee today to testify on the intelligence and operational failures of the Capitol police during the Jan. 6 attack, writes the Associated Press. Bolton said that the police force needs a “culture change,” and recommended that the “department needs to move away from the thought process as a traditional police department and move to the posture of a protective agency.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, featuring Benjamin Wittes’s conversation with Daniel Byman, Lawfare’s foreign policy editor and senior fellow at Brookings, and Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow at the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League, about their new paper titled “Identifying and Exploiting the Weaknesses of the White Supremacist Movement.”

Victoria Gallegos shared a livestream of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on worldwide threats.

Howell shared an episode of Rational Security, the “The Longest War is Ending” edition.

Berin Szóka and Corbin Barthold argued that Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurrence on platform regulation was misguided.

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk, featuring an interview with Scott Rozelle, co-director of the Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions, about his book “Invisible China: How the Urban-Rural Divide Threatens China’s Rise.”

Jackson Neagli advocated for the necessity of discussing “biological destruction” in coverage of the Xinjiang crisis.

Gallegos shared a livestream of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Kristen Clarke to be the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

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