Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Emily Dai
Friday, December 10, 2021, 3:46 PM

The Pentagon announced on Thursday that the U.S. military ended its combat mission in Iraq, shifting to a training and advisory role, according to the Hill. The United States has wound down the mission against the Islamic State for months under the terms of a July agreement. The approximately 2,500 service members that will remain in Iraq for the time being will advise and support Iraqi security forces. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters that the change “[i]s in keeping with [the United States’s] commitments to the Iraqi government.”

Two former top D.C. National Guard officials claim an internal Army report on its reaction to the Jan. 6 insurrection is full of lies, says Politico. The Army report defends the Pentagon’s response against claims that it took too long to approve the deployment of the National Guard, and it found that Guard members were unprepared to respond promptly and describes repeated interactions between top Army officials and the D.C. Guard’s commander, then-Maj. Gen. William Walker. Walker says that some of the communications described in the Army report never took place.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange moved a step closer to facing criminal charges in the United States for breaking a spying law and conspiring to hack government computers after U.S. authorities won an appeal over his extradition in an English Court, reports CNBC. Assange is wanted for the disclosure of hundreds of thousands of classified military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011, which U.S. authorities argue put lives in danger. According to London High Court Judge Timothy Holroyde, the United States has promised Britain that Assange’s incarceration will meet certain conditions. 

The latest wave of the pandemic is forcing politicians across Europe’s democracies to reimpose sweeping restrictions on free movement, sparking heated street protests and reigniting debate over how far countries should go in order to protect public health, writes the New York Times.  While many Europeans have shown surprising tolerance when it comes to giving up some freedoms to curb the spread of the virus, the sudden threat of the omicron variant of the coronavirus is forcing countries to revert back to restrictions, prompting harsh criticism.

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of the U.S. Central Command, said in an interview with AP News that the departure of U.S. military and intelligence assets from Afghanistan has made it considerably more difficult to track al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. McKenzie said that al-Qaeda has grown in Afghanistan since U.S. forces left in late August, and the country’s Taliban commanders are split on whether to follow through on their commitments to terminate relations with al-Qaeda by 2020. “We’re probably at about 1 or 2% of the capabilities we once had to look into Afghanistan,” McKenzie said, making it “very hard, not impossible” to ensure neither al-Qaeda nor the Islamic State can pose a threat to the United States.

Sen. Joe Manchin told CNN on Thursday that he is open to changing the Senate rules that will expedite the confirmation process for dozens of President Biden’s ambassador nominees if Republicans support the initiative. An increasing number of Senate Republicans are concerned about Sen. Ted Cruz’s blockade of Biden’s nominees, a move that may take up a significant amount of floor time to go through the full parliamentary process before the ambassadors are approved. Cruz has refused to allow quick confirmation votes on nominees until the Biden administration’s strategy on a major pipeline between Russia and European countries is reversed.

All operations at the Navy’s Red Hill Bunk Fuel Storage facility in Hawaii will be paused until an investigation into the source of petroleum in drinking water is finished, says CNN. The move comes after the Navy previously stated that it will challenge the Hawaii Department of Health’s order to suspend activities at the location. The Red Hill water well was shut down on Nov. 28 after residents living on the base reported symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and skin-related concerns.

In an episode of “The Fourth Watch Podcast” released on Thursday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson revealed that one of his children was present in the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, reports the Hill. Podcast host Steve Krakauer talked with Carlson about his “Patriot Purge” documentary, which attempts to provide an alternative narrative to the Jan. 6 riot.

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Nicole Wong about content moderation and how Wong’s thinking about the danger and promise of the internet has changed over the years.

Ryan A. Musto explained why Xi Jinping wants to join Southeast Asia’s nuclear-free zone.

Emily Eslinger and Michel Paradis discussed the unique legal questions the governor of Oklahoma recently raised when he asserted the right to exempt the National Guard of his state from receiving the coronavirus vaccine.

David Priess shared an episode of the Chatter podcast in which Shane Harris talks with David McCloskey about his new book “Damascus Station.”

Claudia Swain announced this week’s Lawfare Live in which Bart Gellman discusses his recent article for The Atlantic, "Trump's Next Coup Has Already Begun."

Emily Dai shared the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit’s opinion upholding the conviction of an Uzbek immigrant that relied on information obtained through warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance.

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