Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Christiana Wayne
Thursday, August 19, 2021, 3:27 PM

In their first public remarks since the fall of Afghanistan’s government, top officials at the Pentagon said they are now focused on evacuating all American citizens and as many Afghan allies “as possible,” reports the Washington Post. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said American troops had secured the Kabul airport, but they did not say what would be done for American citizens who could not reach the airport safely. They also repeatedly declined to comment on their plan for the Afghan allies that the U.S. had pledged to evacuate but are being stopped at Taliban checkpoints. Earlier this week, administration officials told Congress that more than 15,000 American citizens were in Kabul when the government fell.

On Thursday, Afghanistan’s national Independence Day, protestors gathered in Kabul to demonstrate against the Taliban takeover of the Afghanistan government, according to the New York Times. Taliban forces violently broke up a gathering of around 200 people in the city. These protests come a day after several people were killed in Asadabad and a curfew was announced in Khost as demonstrations broke out there.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that Afghanistan will no longer have access to IMF funds, according to the BBC. An IMF spokesperson said the decision is due to a “lack of clarity within the international community” about recognition of an Afghanistan government. Over $320 million had been set to arrive in the country on Aug. 23. Earlier this week, the Biden administration said any assets the Afghanistan government had in the U.S. would not be available to the Taliban, and members of Congress called for assurance from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that the country would receive no U.S.-backed aid.

A man who claimed to have a bomb in his pickup truck near the Capitol surrendered to U.S. Capitol Police, writes the Washington Post. The suspect drove the truck onto a sidewalk near the Library of Congress and engaged in an hours-long standoff with police. Authorities say there was a possible explosive device in the truck, but so far no explosives have been found. Congress is not in session this week, but several House and Library of Congress office buildings have been evacuated.

President Biden ordered Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to take action against governors who have banned mask mandates in public schools, according to the Washington Post. Though Biden did not name any governors by name, Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona are among those who have threatened to withhold funding from school districts who defy their mask mandate bans. The president said his directive to Cardona “includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal action if appropriate against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local schools officials and educators.”

More than 20,000 Mississippi students are quarantined after exposure to coronavirus as the state experiences a surge in cases among unvaccinated people that is overwhelming hospitals, reports the Washington Post. Mississippi has the second-lowest vaccination rates in the nation, and Mississippi State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said the state is “clearly at the worst part of the pandemic that we’ve seen throughout, and it’s continued to worsen.” The state’s top doctors continue to urge Mississippians to get vaccinated, noting that unvaccinated people account for 89 percent of hospitalizations and 86 percent of deaths from coronavirus.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Zack Beauchamp, a senior correspondent at Vox, talks to Lawfare Senior Editor Alan Rozenshtein about the American Right’s Embrace of the Hungarian Regime of Viktor Orbán.

Neil Eggleston responded to Jack Goldsmith on the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium.

Lawfare Senior Editor Scott Anderson announced a live recording of the Lawfare Podcast with several people involved in the Kabul evacuation effort, including Camille Mackler of the Truman Center for National Security and the Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative; Susannah Cunningham of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; and Chris Purdy of Human Rights First.

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