Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Monday, May 3, 2021, 2:35 PM

Gen. Mark Milley, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described Afghan security forces as “reasonably well equipped, reasonably well trained, reasonably well led,” but stated the U.S. government does not yet know whether the Afghan army will remain intact following a full U.S. withdrawal, according to Politico. May 1 was the deadline for a full U.S. withdrawal under last year’s agreement with the Taliban. As the deadline passed on Saturday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid warned of future attacks on U.S. troops, writes the Hill. “As withdrawal of foreign forces from #Afghanistan by agreed upon May 1st deadline has passed, this violation in principle has opened the way for [Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan] Mujahidin to take every counteraction it deems appropriate against the occupying forces,” Mujahid tweeted on Saturday.

India continues to grapple with a dire oxygen and supplies shortage as coronavirus cases surge in the country, writes France 24. India reported 3,689 coronavirus-related deaths and nearly 400,000 new infections on Saturday, marking grim new global records. International aid from the U.S., U.K., E.U. and Russia, including medical equipment, has been flown into New Delhi. 

Australia imposed an unprecedented absolute travel ban to and from India in an effort to guard against the spread of COVID-19, according to the Times. The new measure, which went into effect today, brings a threat of jail time or large fines for Australia’s own citizens or permanent residents if they attempt to enter the country from India. About 8,000 Australians are estimated to be affected by the decision, including children.

There is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that reaching the “herd immunity” threshold will not be attainable in the U.S. for the foreseeable future, reports the New York Times. Polls show that about 30 percent of the U.S. population is reluctant to be vaccinated, and given new virus variants with increased levels of contagiousness, experts estimate the herd immunity threshold to be at least 80 percent. This means that the virus will likely continue to circulate in the country for years to come, causing hospitalizations and deaths but at much lower rates.

The Facebook Oversight Board will issue a ruling on Wednesday morning that could determine whether former President Trump will be allowed to return to Facebook’s platforms, according to the Wall Street Journal. Trump was banned in the aftermath of Jan. 6, a decision that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg stated was important to reduce the risk of violence.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said yesterday that “there’s still fair distance” between the U.S. and Iran in reaching an agreement to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, writes Politico. Sullivan stated that the issues lie in determining which sanctions the international community will roll back in exchange for what nuclear restrictions Iran will accept.

On Sunday, North Korea warned that President Biden had made a “big blunder” by saying that Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal posed a serious security threat during his address to a joint session of Congress last week, according to the Times. The country’s foreign ministry further stated that Biden’s remark “clearly reflects his intent to keep enforcing the hostile policy toward” North Korea, warning that Pyongyang might respond with unspecified “corresponding measures” to put the U.S. in a “very grave situation.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) today announced a proposal to impose sharp limits on hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in refrigeration and air conditioning, reports the Times. This is the first attempt to set a federal restriction on hydrofluorocarbons in the U.S. and marks the E.P.A.’s first significant step to curb climate change under President Biden. The regulation would reduce the production and importation of the earth-warming class of chemicals in the U.S. by 85 percent over the next 15 years.

The Biden administration has disclosed the Defense Department’s “Principles, Standards and Procedures for U.S. Direct Action Against Terrorist Targets”—a set of rules former President Trump issued in 2017, writes the Hill. The release comes as the Biden administration is conducting a review to determine whether the White House will keep the rules in place or issue new guidance.

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Erik Skare explained why the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has become more powerful in recent years and argued that the organization must maintain a delicate balance to continue growing.

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