Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma
Monday, August 9, 2021, 3:56 PM

Members of Congress are seeking more information from the Pentagon and the U.S. Africa Command regarding last year’s attack in Kenya that killed three Americans, wounded at least two more and damaged aircraft operated by defense contractors, reports the Washington Post. A letter sent to the Department of Defense expressed that members of the National Security subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee have sought to be briefed on the attack since it took place in January 2020, but “DOD has not provided any substantive information about the attack or the security lapses that contributed to it.” The attack, which took place at Manda Bay, was carried out by al-Shabab, an Islamist group affiliated with al-Qaeda. Though a Pentagon spokesman indicated that the investigation into last year’s attack was completed in April, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin decided to initiate a review of the investigation.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report on Monday warning that climate change is proceeding at an “unprecedented” pace, writes the Washington Post. The panel, which examined thousands of studies, describes evidence of anthropogenic climate change as “unequivocal.” John Kerry, the Biden administration’s special envoy for climate, urged quick action in response to the grave image painted by the panel, and highlighted the report’s emphasis on lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

U.S. authorities arrested two Myanmar nationals on Friday in connection to what the Department of Justice described as a plot to “seriously injure or kill Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations … on American soil,” reports Deutsche Welle. Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s representative at the U.N., is highly critical of the military junta that took control of the country in a February coup and has resisted calls to step down amid an attempt by the junta to remove him from his post. The two charged with the plot were allegedly hired by a Thai arms dealer and face up to five years in prison for conspiring to assault a foreign official.

Democrats revealed a $3.5 trillion budget plan that would significantly expand the social safety net and spending in areas including health care, child care, education and climate change, according to the New York Times. Senate Democrats are seeking to pass the blueprint, which is facing opposition from Republicans, through the budget reconciliation process following the passage of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. The blueprint does not address the impending statutory debt ceiling, which Democrats may attempt to address in future legislation, though raising the debt ceiling also lacks bipartisan support.

The Taliban took the city of Aybak, the capital of the Afghan province of Samangan, on Monday, according to Reuters, marking the sixth provincial capital captured by the Taliban since the beginning of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. Gains made by the Taliban have become a source of international tension, with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace describing the deal between the U.S. and the Taliban as “rotten” and asserting that without U.S. military presence, other NATO countries are not likely to maintain strong military presences in Afghanistan.

The U.N. has reported that fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces has taken the lives of 27 children in three days, according to the BBC. The deaths were recorded across three provinces, with UNICEF expressing concern over the “rapid escalation of grave violations against children.” Over 1,000 civilians have been killed in fighting between the Afghan government and the Taliban during the past month.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko denied his country’s involvement in the death of a dissident, Vitaly Shishov, who was found hanged near his residence in Ukraine, reports the BBC. Shishov, like many other members of the Belarusian opposition to Lukashenko, fled the country during a crackdown on dissent after last year’s disputed election triggered widespread protests in Belarus. Ukrainian authorities are investigating Shishov’s death and considering the possibility that it was a murder staged as a suicide. The United States, United Kingdom and Canada have recently taken steps to increase pressure on Lukashenko’s government, with President Biden signing an executive order on Monday imposing sanctions on major Belarusian industries, according to Reuters.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida sided with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., granting a preliminary injunction in its case against a Florida rule preventing businesses from requiring customers to provide proof of vaccination, writes the Wall Street Journal. The cruise line asserted that the rule violates the First Amendment and interferes with interstate commerce, which the state of Florida does not have the authority to regulate. The state plans to appeal the decision.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jessica Davis analyzed the international security implications of central bank digital currencies in this week’s Foreign Policy Essay.

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