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Wake Up To Politics - April 14, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Ending America’s longest war
Wake Up To Politics - April 14, 2021

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 573 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,301 days away.

Biden to announce withdrawal plans for America’s longest war

The U.S. war in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, two decades and three presidents ago. The conflict has resulted in the deaths of more than 2,300 U.S. military personnel and around 40,000 civilians, and cost more than $800 billion, according to ABC News. It is the longest war in U.S. history.

President Joe Biden — the fourth U.S. commander-in-chief to oversee the war — is slated to announce today that he will withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by September 11 of this year, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that triggered the invasion.

Biden’s announcement is a break from the timeline set by his predecessor, Donald Trump, who negotiated a peace agreement with the Taliban that called for a full withdrawal of U.S. troops by May 1. According to the Washington Post, the Taliban has “promised to renew attacks on U.S. and NATO personnel” if troops are not withdrawn by next month, but “it is not clear whether the militants will follow through with the earlier threats given Biden’s plan for a phased withdrawal between now and September.”

The U.S. currently has about 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, the Post reported, although official numbers place the troop levels at 2,500.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

Biden served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the outset of the war in Afghanistan and was an early supporter of the invasion. “Whatever it takes, we should do it,” he said at the time time. “History will judge us harshly if we allow the hope of a liberated Afghanistan to evaporate because we failed to stay the course.”

He eventually became disillusioned with the war, however, repeatedly urging former President Barack Obama to drawn down the American presence in Afghanistan while serving as vice president. Biden’s advice was largely ignored during the Obama era; he is now in a position to act on it himself.

A senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday that Biden’s withdrawal will not be “conditions-based,” meaning it will move forward by September no matter the situation in Afghanistan. “The president has judged that a conditions-based approach . . . is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official added.

After the president’s decision was reported on Tuesday, it received immediate blowback on Capitol Hill, including within Biden’s own party. While Democrats such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Elizabeth Warren (MA) applauded the move, others in the party were more critical.

“I’m very disappointed in the president’s decision to set a September deadline to walk away from Afghanistan,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH), a top Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel, said in a statement, adding that “the U.S. has sacrificed too much to bring stability to Afghanistan to leave without verifiable assurances of a secure future” and that Biden’s decision “undermines our commitment to the Afghan people, particularly Afghan women.”

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Global Roundup
By Miles Hession

President Biden has called for a summit with Russia amid a troop buildup in Crimea. Conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been simmering for years following the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, but there hasn’t been as much physical conflict with recent confrontations being through cyberwarfare or propaganda. The recent increase in military presence was likely a response to new sanctions imposed on Russia by Ukraine as well as an attempt to cement Russia’s presence in the region. Biden is seeking de-escalation of this military presence that the NATO secretary general described as“unjustified, unexplained, and deeply concerning.”

The Kremlin has largely been stonewalling any sort of intervention efforts by Western nations. Biden made his request for a summit during a Monday phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin had previously  rebuffed calls from other Western nations for talks on defusing the growing conflict. Prior to the Biden-Putin call , the Russian deputy foreign minister described the U.S. as an adversary. In a chilling final remark, he added that U.S. warships in the coming days should avoid Crimea and the Black sea coast, “for their own good.”

Putin and then-Vice President Biden in 2012. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Iran has vowed revenge against Israel following a recent sabotage of nuclear facilities, causing further uncertainty for nuclear deal revival. The sabotage of an enrichment facility in Natanz entailed a power blackout that damaged highly sensitive centrifuges, potentially setting back enrichment capabilities by nine months. A setback of that size would quickly diminish some leverage that Iran has accumulated in ramping up their nuclear capabilities as it negotiates to end U.S. sanctions, although Iran indicated Monday that they will respond by enriching their uranium to a higher level than ever before. While the Israeli government has denied allegations it is behind the attacks, Israeli media had widely reported that one of the country’s intelligence agencies planned the sabotage. As the conflict between Iran and Israel continues to escalate, with Israel referring to Iran as a “fanatical regime” in a meeting with the U.S., the viability of current talks to renew the 2015 nuclear deal seem to be in further jeopardy.

Growing opposition to incumbent President Patrice Talon of Benin led to low voter turnout in a boycotted election on Sunday. Talon faced heavy criticism from pro-democracy groups and opposition forces after breaking his one-term pledge, changing election laws, and barring leading opposition figures from running. Opposition groups started a boycott of the recent election, which Talon appears to have  won easily, after arrests were made of key rivals leaving only obscure candidates on the ballot against Talon. Protests across the country leading up to the election turned violent as the government cracked down on dissidents. On Election Day, roads were blocked and election officials were prevented from setting up in various precincts, especially in anti-government strongholds. Benin, once seen as a model for democracy in West Africa, is experiencing somewhat of a backslide, with organizations like Freedom House downgrading their rating of the country from “free” to “partly free.”

Protesters in Benin. (Samantha Dubois/AFP via Getty Images)

More global headlines, via Miles:

  • Riots in Northern Ireland have broken out, partly led by  pro-British loyalists who are angry with the outcome of Brexit negotiations.
  • The health of Alexei Navalny, a leading opposition figure in Russia, has been quickly deteriorating amid a hunger strike in Russian jail.
  • China has warned the U.S. against establishing stronger diplomatic ties with Taiwan, launching  the largest deployment of Chinese aircrafts into Taiwainese airspace to date.
  • A trial of a far-right group in Germany has begun, with the group accused of planning mass attacks in order to spark a civil war.


All times Eastern.

President Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. Then, at 2:15 p.m., he will deliver remarks on his timeline for withdrawing troops in Afghanistan. At 3:05 p.m., he will visit Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, where many veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.

The president will also accompany First Lady Jill Biden “to an appointment for a common medical procedure at an outpatient center in Washington, D.C.,” according to the White House.

Vice President Kamala Harris will convene a virtual roundtable at 10 a.m. with experts on the three Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador). Harris has been tapped by Biden to lead diplomatic efforts with the countries amid a migration surge at the Southern border.

U.S. public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, will hold the bi-weekly COVID-19 press briefing at 11 a.m.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will hold an emergency meeting at 1:30 p.m. to discuss updated recommendations for the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. The chamber will vote at 11:45 a.m. on confirmation of Gary Gensler to be chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, followed by a cloture vote advancing the nomination of Brenda Mallory to be chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. At 3 p.m., the Senate will vote on Mallory’s confirmation, followed by a procedural vote to advance S. 937, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. to “examine worldwide threats,” featuring testimony from Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA Director William Burns, and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing at 10 a.m. for the nominations of Kristen Clarke to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and Todd Sunhwae Kim to be Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The House will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will vote under “suspension of the rules” on 17 pieces of legislation, which have been fast-tracked and must receive two-thirds support to pass.

The chamber will also vote on H.Res. 303, a rules resolution setting up consideration of H.R. 7 (the Paycheck Fairness Act) and H.R. 1195 (the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act) later in the week.

House Republican leaders will hold their weekly press conference at 10 a.m. House Democratic leaders will also hold their weekly press conference.

The House Judiciary Committee will meet at 10 a.m. to consider several pieces of legislation, including H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations for African-Americans. It is the first time such a bill has received a vote by a House committee.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee will meet at 10 a.m. to vote on several pieces of legislation, including H.R. 51, which would admit Washington, D.C., as a state.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will ceremonially swear in Rep.-elect Julia Letlow (R-LA) at 12 p.m. Letlow won a special election last month to fill the seat vacated by her husband Luke, who died of Covid-19 last year before he could take office.

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing at 1 p.m. on H.R. 1522, which would admit Puerto Rico as a state, and H.R. 2070, which would create a status convention to allow Puerto Ricans to consider their political status. Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi and other officials from the commonwealth will testify.

The Supreme Court is not in session.

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