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Wake Up To Politics - August 31, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: America’s longest war comes to an end
Wake Up To Politics - August 31, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, August 31, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 434 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,162 days away.

America’s longest war comes to an end

For the first time in 19 years, 10 months, and 24 days, there are no U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The last plane carrying Americans took off from Kabul at 3:29 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday — which was precisely 11:59 p.m. local time, or one minute before the deadline set by President Joe Biden to complete the withdrawal.

Biden had promised that the U.S. exit from Afghanistan would be “secure and orderly”; instead, the final days of the drawn-out war were marked by chaos and bloodshed, as the U.S. raced to evacuate more than 100,000 American citizens and allies and lost 13 service members in a deadly attack last week.

Thus, the nearly 20-year-long American project in Afghanistan ended much as it started: leaving behind a country mired in conflict and ruled by the Taliban, after the group seized power once again within days of the U.S. beginning to withdraw.

Just two weeks ago, Biden committed to keeping troops in Afghanistan until every American is out of the country — but Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, acknowledged Monday that “hundreds” of Americans were left behind and unable to be evacuated.

“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure,” McKenzie said. “We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out.” Still, McKenzie added, “I think if we’d stayed another 10 days... we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out.”

The final American solider to leave Afghanistan, Major Gen. Chris Donahue, boards a C-17 cargo plane at the Kabul airport on Monday. (U.S. Central Command / Twitter)

In remarks later on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken estimated that “under 200 and likely closer to 100” remain in Afghanistan who want to leave the country. Blinken said that the U.S. diplomatic mission had closed in Afghanisan, but the American personnel had relocated to Qatar and would cotninue working on evacuating the remaining Americans, having secured an agreement with the Taliban to do so.

Even with the Americans still in the country, Biden said in a statement that “it was the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and of all of our commanders on the ground to end our airlift mission as planned.” The president will expand on his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in remarks to the nation today at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Biden was the third consecutive president elected on a promise to end the war in Afghanistan. Although he voted to authorize the initial deployment as a senator, Biden had long since become disillusoned with the war effort. Most polls show majorities of Americans sharing Biden’s belief that it was time to end the war — although he must now contend with the fact that most Americans, including many Democrats, also believe he bungled the withdrawal.  

According to an analysis by Brown University, “America’s longest war” — which lasted five months longer than Vietnam, 11 years longer than the Revolutionary War, and 16 years longer than World War II — cost the U.S. more than $2.3 trillion.

The war also led to the loss of around 171,000 lives, including 2,455 U.S. service members, about 66,000 Afghan soldiers, about 51,000 Taliban fighters, and about 47,000 civilians.

The Rundown

More news to know.

January 6 committee: “The House Select Committee investigating the deadly January 6 riot has requested that a group of telecommunications companies preserve the phone records of a group of GOP members of Congress and former President Donald Trump, as well as members of the Trump family, who played some role in the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally that served as the prelude to the Capitol insurrection.” CNN

Coronavirus: “The European Union recommended halting nonessential travel from the U.S. because of the rise of Covid-19 cases, diplomats said Monday, ending a summer-vacation reprieve for American tourists.” Wall Street Journal

Top Afghanistan reads: “In Afghanistan, an Unceremonious End, and a Shrouded Beginning” New York Times

  • “‘Don’t you ever forget that name’: Biden’s tough meeting with grieving relatives” Washington Post

Programming note: I’m honored to be joining the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this week for a livestream conversation on the legacy of 9/11 for young Americans. You can tune in here at 6 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday.

Policy Roundup: Education

A weekly education update from Wake Up To Politics contributor Kirsten Shaw Mettler.

As school mask battles wage, the federal government has launched an investigation into state policies. The Education Department opened a civil rights investigation on Monday into five states — Iowa, South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma, and Tennessee — for banning mask requirements in K-12 schools. The administration is alleging that by banning school mask mandates, states are endangering the rights of students with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate public education.

School vaccine mandates are on the rise. A number of schools are now requiring that educators receive COVID-19 vaccines, including those in New York City, New Jersey, and California. Some districts have even gone further, mandating that eligible students receive the vaccine.

A landmark settlement for a Virginia lawsuit sided with transgender students. Gavin Grimm sued the Gloucester County school board after they instituted a bathroom bill that barred transgender students from using the facilities that matched with their chosen gender identity. The school board agreed in a settlement to pay $1.3 million in legal fees. The financial agreement comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the school’s bathroom policy violated the Constitution and federal law.

Gavin Grimm speaks to reporters during the multi-year legal battle with his high school over their transgender bathroom policy. (Steve Helber / AP). 

More education headlines, via Kirsten:

  • Liberty University is holding virtual classes after experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak.

An unvaccinated teacher in California made headlines this week after infecting much of their elementary school classroom with COVID-19.

During Britain’s Delta variant surge earlier this summer, young children did not wear masks — instead schools relied on testing and quarantine procedures.


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
Executive Branch
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9:30 a.m. and meet with his national security team at 10:30 a.m. to receive an update on Afghanistan. At 1:30 p.m., he will deliver remarks on Afghanistan.

According to the White House, he will also receive briefings on Hurricane Ida from his homeland security team throughout the day.

Vice President Kamala Harris will join Biden for his 10:30 a.m. meeting on Afghanistan.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 2:30 p.m.

U.S. public health officials will hold their weekly COVID-19 press briefing at 2 p.m. Briefers will include Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.
Legislative Branch
The Senate will briefly convene at 10:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. The chamber will not fully convene again until September 13.  

The House will briefly convene at 11:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. The chamber will not fully convene again until September 20.
Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court is on recess until October 4.

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