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Ex-Trump Defense Secretary Swears He Never Really Planned to Go Through With His Own Afghanistan Plan

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After President Donald Trump fired Mark Esper late last year, he handed the Pentagon over to Chris Miller, who served as the acting Defense Department secretary for the final months.

Speaking to DefenseOne, Miller claimed that there was never any intention to withdraw all of the American troops by May 1, despite the fact that Trump and the Taliban signed an agreement to do exactly that.

It was actually a “play” that masked Trump’s intentions to get Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to resign or get him to do a power-sharing agreement with the Taliban. Trump wanted to ensure some U.S. troops would always remain in Afghanistan for counterterrorism missions.

According to Miller, “many Trump administration officials expected that the United States would be able to broker a new shared government in Afghanistan composed primarily of Taliban officials. The new government would then permit U.S. forces to remain in country to support the Afghan military and fight terrorist elements.”

But that’s not what happened, in large part because Trump lost the election and spent the final months of his presidency trying to overturn the election.

The comments were similar to revelations from Esper, who told CNN International on Tuesday that he warned Trump that the plan he was crafting wouldn’t end well.

One former senior Trump administration official told DefenseOne that there were efforts to oust Ghani to appease the Taliban.

“That was what [former Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad] was pushing and that’s what the Taliban wanted. They wanted to get rid of the legitimate government,” said the official.

“The decision space was either: keep a small U.S. counterterrorism presence along with 7,000 to 8,000 NATO troops and kind of hold down the fort and protect our counterterrorism interests, or go to zero and cede the country to the Taliban,” the official said.

“The Taliban were never going to agree to let any U.S. forces stay in the country and if any U.S. official thought that was possible, I think they were a victim of wishful thinking,” the official said, disagreeing with Miller.

However, the official thinks that with a slower withdrawal all of this could have been avoided. It’s unclear how that was possible with a May 1 deadline.

“There’s probably a middle option to withdraw U.S. forces gradually and keep [special operations] contractors, or at least some of the contractors, in the country. I think what really undermined the Afghans was pulling all 16,000 contractors as well as all U.S. forces so abruptly. It changed the ground under their feet drastically and overnight. And there’s a psychological element if you realize that your partner of the last 20 years has just abandoned you,” the official closed.

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‘Jan. 6 Wasn’t a Fantasy’: Top Missouri Paper Says It’s ‘Long Past Time’ for Senate to Investigate Josh Hawley

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On Sunday, the editorial board of the St Louis Post-Dispatch called on the U.S. Senate Ethics Panel to investigate Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) over any possible involvement he may have had in the Jan 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Hawley, whose political future will be haunted by a photo of him giving a raised fist to insurrectionists as they stormed the halls of Congress has been excoriated by the paper’s editors multiple times, but Sunday’s call for an investigation ramps up their attacks on the home state senator.

According to the board, “Ten months after a group of Senate Democrats lodged ethics complaints into the conduct of Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas regarding their roles in sparking the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the Senate Ethics Committee has shown no sign of movement.,” with the editors saying it is “long past time” to take a hard look at both Republican senators.

“Jan. 6 wasn’t a fantasy; it was real, and the culpability of these two senators must be determined,” they wrote. “Hawley and Cruz were the only two senators to object to certification of Joe Biden’s clear victory in the 2020 election results, citing (with zero evidence) supposed concerns about the election’s integrity. That was the same baseless, toxic nonsense then-President Donald Trump had been spewing since before the election. Such talk whipped up the mob of Trump loyalists to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.”

Related: Lauren Boebert needs to be subpoenaed to explain her ‘violent revolution’ Jan 6th tweets: MSNBC contributor

Adding, “Even after the violence, he persisted in voting with just five other senators to continue promoting Trump’s big lie that Biden’s win was illegitimate,” the editors wrote, “If he had an ounce of honor, he’d have heeded our Jan. 7 call for his resignation (we certainly weren’t alone on that). But at this point, why even talk about honor?”

Writing that, “Just because there’s a mechanism in place allowing senators to object to election results doesn’t mean it’s OK for Hawley to abuse that process for crass political gain,” the editorial concluded, “Hawley and Cruz have the right to defend themselves from the allegations — but so far, they haven’t even had to. The Ethics Committee should stop sitting on this.”

You can read the whole piece here.

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Marjorie Taylor Greene Is Demonstrating ‘The Depth of Power She Has Over Kevin McCarthy’: Politico Reporter

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Appearing on CNN on Saturday morning, Politico’s Rachael Bade explained that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s overwhelming desire to become the leader of a Republican Party-dominated House has put him at the mercy of the demands and whims of extremist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

As the plans for the 2022 midterm elections ramp up, and political prognosticators are saying a GOP House takeover is highly likely, McCarthy’s path to staying leader is not certain with the far-right wing of the party balking at just handing the California Republican the gavel.

As Bade explained to CNN’s Christi Paul, Taylor Green is just now starting to feel her power over McCarthy grow.

“What is the takeaway for Kevin McCarthy?” Paul asked. “Particularly, I have to point out that after last night, Marjorie Taylor Greene said she tweeted that she got off a good call with him. spent time talking about problems not only for the country. ‘I like what he has planned ahead.’ Two different — two different points of view from her and in a 24 to 48-hour period. What do you make of that?”

“Look, I think Kevin McCarthy has a really long year ahead of him,” Bade suggested. “You’re right, the midterms are far away. That vote for him to become speaker is a long way off, but Marjorie Taylor Greene is just starting to realize the depth of power she actually has over Kevin McCarthy.”

“This is a man who has wanted to be Speaker for a decade,” she continued. “He needs her vote, he needs her support in order to get the gavel. I think what you’ll be seeing for the next few months, for a year, anytime Kevin McCarthy does anything to infuriate Marjorie Taylor Greene or infuriates [Donald] Trump — they’re going to be lording it over his head.”

“He’s got this real bind right now, he’s going to be in this pickle for a very long time,” she later added.

Watch below:

 

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Fauci Warns: ‘It’s Not Going to Be Possible to Keep’ Omicron ‘Out of the Country’

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The World Health Organization addressed the new COVID-19 “variant of concern” Friday night, naming it “Omicron” and issuing an ominous warning about the future.

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the statement said. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant.”

Omicron was initially referred to as B.1.1.529.

Earlier on Friday, the European Commission issued a similar warning and proposed that its member countries activate the “emergency brake” on travel from countries in southern Africa and other affected countries to limit the spread of the variant, The New York Times reported.

Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform, said Omicron has 10 mutations and many more entry points than the highly contagious Delta variant.

“All air travel to these countries should be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the danger posed by this new variant,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive arm, said in a statement. “And travelers returning from this region should respect strict quarantine rules.”

In addition to the U.S. and Canada, the following governments have halted or restricted flights from South Africa to try to curb the spread of Omicron: Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Croatia, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Singapore.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said the travel restrictions would “buy us some time” and that “it’s not going to be possible to keep this infection out of the country. The question is: Can you slow it down?”

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