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Forced to confront bipartisan anger over the bungled U.S. exit from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden instead gave a speech on why drawing down U.S. troops after two decades war was in the American interest.

In so doing, he missed the point.

Americans aren’t troubled by the withdrawal policy – a majority support it – they are upset by the execution of the exit that occurred on his watch. They did not want to see Afghan allies executed as city after city were overrun. They didn’t want to see desperate Afghan civilians clinging to a C-17 military jets, some falling to their death as planes lofted to the sky. They didn’t expect the capital to fall in six days. And they didn’t expect to hear a top U.S. general warn terror attacks may once again launch from Afghanistan, threatening America.

In his nationally televised speech, Biden made one concession most Americans would agree with: his administration was caught off guard that Afghanistan fell to the Taliban even before the U.S. could get its diplomats, Afghan loyalists and troops out safely.

“The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” Biden told Americans, while insisting he sticks by his withdrawal decision.

The rest of the speech, however, failed to address the bungled exit with specificity and served as a reminder that – as The Washington Post declared in a front-page article last year – Biden has been “maddeningly inconsistent” on Afghanistan.

He opposed in 2009 the military surge that military leaders proposed, and President Obama authorized, one now widely credited with quieting the insurgency that killed numerous soldiers with IEDs and blue on green attacks from 2007 to 2010.

Biden also opposed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a mission cheered by Americans. And he overruled his own commanders this summer when he abruptly shut down the U.S. air base in Bagram when military leaders were arguing to keep a small contingent of U.S. troops in country beyond September. That decision looks more consequential with the chaos now at the Kabul civilian airport.

For most of his speech, Biden sounded the same ending endless war principles that his predecessor Donald Trump advocated. In so doing, he revised his own personal history, most importantly when it came to using the military for nation building.

“Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy,” the president said Monday.

That statement ignored an important reality: Biden as a U.S. senator co-sponsored the first multibillion nation-building legislation for Afghanistan in 2002, insisting building a stable country and government was essential.

“Perhaps the most important question, however, is one of commitment,” Biden argued in sponsoring the law. “Will we stay the course and build security in Afghanistan, or will we permit this country to relapse into chaos?” He compared nation-building in Afghanistan as important as the U.S. effort known as the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.

“After World War II, America used its soldiers as peacekeepers and its dollars as peacebuilders. This may have been the wisest investment of the past century: We turned our most bitter foes into our staunchest allies.” he said. “But if we’re going to talk about a new Marshall Plan, we should be willing to back up our words with deeds. The original Marshall Plan cost $90 billion in today’s dollars. Our total pledge for Afghan reconstruction is less than 1 percent of that, and we’ve only delivered a fraction of this pledge.”

A year later, Biden doubled down on nation building as essential to preventing chaos in Afghanistan, even as some Bush administration and conservatives questioned such a mission.

“Just two months ago, the President signed the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act of 2002, and Senator Hagel and Senator Lugar and I cosponsored that,” Biden crowed at a February 2003 Senate hearing. ”It was pushed forward by this committee, and we finally got it passed. But the act authorizes $3.3 billion for reconstruction and security of Afghanistan over and above the funds the President might see fit to allocate from other sources.”

Biden, then-the-ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, directly endorsed nation building during the hearing, recounting what local Afghans told him was necessary for success during a trip to the war-torn country.

“In some parts of this administration, ‘nation-building’ is a dirty phrase,” Biden argued. ”But the alternative to nation-building is chaos–a chaos that churns out bloodthirsty warlords, drug-traffickers, and terrorists. We’ve seen it happen in Afghanistan before–and we’re watching it happen in Afghanistan today.”

In his speech Monday, Biden also hailed the killing of bin Laden without noting he opposed the mission under Obama.

He suggested he had no choice but to follow the withdrawal plans started by Trump, even though he has reversed nearly every other approach Trump left behind, from the border to the budget.

Biden also declared he was “moving quickly to execute the plans we had put in place to respond to every contingency, including the rapid collapse we’re seeing now” without noting he overruled his military leadership on keeping a small military presence in Afghanistan this fall. He also failed to note the U.S. departure of the Bagram air base was done so awkwardly Afghan commanders felt blindsided.

Aside from truth and consistency, the long-term consequences of Biden’s approach and the chaotic fall of Afghanistan may be far more severe. A top general warned over the weekend Afghanistan could quickly become a terrorist haven capable of striking America again.

And on Monday, competitors like China used the Afghan debacle to sow doubt about America’s commitment to allies like Taiwan.

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Government

Milley defiant amid increasing pressure to resign over China calls revelations

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As the embattled Gen. Mark Milley took a defiant tone regarding reports that he surreptitiously tried to circumvent the authority of his then-commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump, critics increasingly demanded his resignation while the White House offered him full support.

Milley’s alleged actions include making secret calls to the top military officer in Beijing, and holding a clandestine gathering of military officers to demand that they only obey command orders that came through Milley, according to the authors of a forthcoming book. 

The actions are described in “Peril,” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. Milley took the unprecedented actions because he was afraid Trump might launch a nuclear strike, the authors wrote. 

Milley in a statement confirmed that the anecdotes in the book are true, but couched them as normal procedure – and signaled that he plans to remain in office.

“General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution,” the chairman’s spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, said in a statement.

The doubling-down further alarmed critics who described his actions as dangerous. 

“We could have a nuclear war over a mistake because the general is going outside the line of command to insinuate something that nobody believes to be true, but actually could have started a war,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told the John Solomon Reports podcast. “So really, instead of actually calming tensions, he could have actually started an accidental war.” 

The White House on Wednesday stood up for Milley, with President Joe Biden affirming that he has ‘great confidence’ in his Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

The Pentagon supported Milley in general, but officially evaded questions about his alleged actions.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “has full trust and confidence in Chairman Milley and the job that he’s doing,” spokesman John Kirby told reporters in an afternoon briefing.

When asked to comment on specifics of the controversial incidents, Kirby waved off. 

“I’m not going to speak to unconfirmed reports from a book that we haven’t looked at and read yet, and certainly not to a conversation that took place before the administration took office,” Kirby said. “I’m not going to go there or anything.”

When pressed to address what one reporter called “a pretty serious allegation,” Kirby held firm.

“It’s not that I’m not denying it, I’m simply going to refuse to speak to two specific anecdotes that are in this book,” Kirby said. 

Elsewhere inside the Pentagon, the “Milley situation” has been Topic A, officials said.

“Everyone is talking about it, and not in a good way,” one civilian contract officer told Just the News. “People are talking about whether they should leave. They don’t want to be tarred with this mess.” 

Discussion has centered on questions about the anecdotes in the book, said one senior Pentagon official who doubted the explanation that Milley was afraid Trump would launch a nuclear attack in order to remain in office.

“If he really thought that Trump was so unstable that he was going to start a nuclear war, there was a way to address that,” the senior official told Just the News. “We have provisions for that as spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, namely that the Cabinet would remove him under the 25th Amendment. But instead of doing that, he ran his own independent operation.”

Some within the Pentagon interpret the “I’m in command” affirmation meeting as meaning Milley wanted to make sure he wasn’t being marginalized, the contract officer said.

“When Milley had the meeting with his subordinates, if you take the report at face value, he asked them if they would follow the procedure,” the officer said. “What he said to them wasn’t technically wrong. If you look at the procedure of the National Command Authority, he does have to be in the loop in any command decision in the event of war.”

At the time was meeting was held, the officer said, Milley had grown suspicious that Trump would edge him out of his position.

“I think he was trying to make sure that nobody took him out of the loop,” the officer said.

The officials are not authorized to talk to the press, and spoke on the condition that they would not be identified.

The meetings and the phone calls demonstrate a lack of judgment, according to one combat veteran who has numerous tours of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and elsewhere.

“If true, it’s just an example of his inability to grasp not just the Constitution in this case, but also the situation in Afghanistan,” which he bungled, according to retired Army officer Jim Lechner. 

Milley’s promise to give advance warning to China of a hypothetical attack crossed the line from bungling to giving aid and comfort to the enemy, Lechner said.

“His lapse in judgment has resulted in treason,” he said.

Milley’s spokesman Butler said that Milley’s calls were acceptable standard procedure. Such calls “remain vital to improving mutual understanding of US national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict,” Butler said.

“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability,” Butler said. “All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.”

Former Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, who would have led the Pentagon when Milley made the January call, said he ‘did not and would not ever authorize’ the general to have the secret calls.

Trump was not on record as having said he planned to order a nuclear strike.

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Congress

Biden impeachment conversation spreading among voters, GOP lawmakers

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Impeaching President Biden is “absolutely” a conversation that’s happening among GOP lawmakers, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) told the John Solomon Reports podcast Wednesday.

Cammack was asked whether House Republicans were having a conversation regarding impeachment. “There’s absolutely that conversation happening,” she replied. “And I absolutely hear people loud and clear all across America, saying, ‘Why in the hell have we not impeached this guy? Why are we not doing this?’ Folks, elections have consequences,  and we don’t have the votes.”

Despite some Democrats disagreeing with Biden, “they will not go against Nancy Pelosi,” Cammack cautioned. “Nancy Pelosi is a very scary figure in the Democrat Party” and will make the lives of Democrats and the lives of “everyone they know … a living hell for them.”

Cammack made the remarks as she discussed Biden’s reported call with then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban,” Biden told Ghani, according to a Reuters report citing a transcript and recording of the call. “And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”

“You don’t say that if you [aren’t] intending to mislead the general public,” remarked Cammack. “That transcript is pretty damning.”

Meanwhile, the Biden impeachment conversation is spreading among American voters, with a Rasmussen Reports poll published Wednesday finding that 60% believe he should be impeached and 52% are calling for his resignation following his mishandling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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Government

Arizona father threatens school principal with citizen’s arrest, zip tie over quarantine rules

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Wielding zip ties, an Arizona father threatened the principal of his son’s elementary school with a citizen’s arrest upon learning his child would be required to quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

The school district confirmed that the father arrived Thursday morning at the Mesquite Elementary School with his son and two other men to protest the quarantine policy. The men told the principal, Diane Vargo, that they would conduct a citizen’s arrest if the child was not permitted to enter the school building.

Schools in the state are required to report virus cases to the county health department, which in turn assesses who needs to quarantine. John Carruth, the district superintendent, said Thursday was a “tough day.”

“One of the most powerful tools as adults is the behavior that we model to young people – and the behavior that was modeled today makes me really sad,” he said. 

In August, Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey said that state would not provide federal COVID-19 relief funds to public school districts that required students to wear masks.

“Parents are in the driver’s seat, and it’s their right to make decisions that best fit the needs of their children,” he said at the time. 

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