Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Christiana Wayne
Tuesday, August 17, 2021, 12:23 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion.

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In remarks at the White House on Monday, President Biden defended the Afghanistan withdrawal and blamed the rapid Taliban takeover on the Afghan army’s unwillingness to fight, according to the Washington Post. Biden argued that keeping troops in the nation was not in the best interest of the United States, saying, “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.” Monday night, the president authorized up to $500 million to aid Afghan refugees and others at risk after the Taliban takeover.

Taliban officials announced general “amnesty” for Afghan government officials and urged women to join the government, reports NPR. The regime is attempting to convince the Afghan population that they are more moderate than the Taliban of the 1990s that severely restricted women’s rights and ordered stonings and public executions. Many Afghans remain skeptical and crowds trying to flee the country resulted in multiple deaths at the Karzai Airport in Kabul. Although there were no major reports of fighting in Kabul as the Taliban took over, many residents are staying home, fearful after the militants emptied prisons and looted armories. Despite the Taliban’s announcement, many women are expressing dread about a return to a repressive past under the regime.

The Biden administration is planning to announce that most Americans who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus will need a booster shot, according to the Washington Post. The administration’s experts say that people will not need the booster until eight months after being fully vaccinated, and the booster shot program will begin in mid- to late September. The announcement is a change of policy for the nation’s top health officials, who said in late July that they had no conclusive evidence that a booster shot was necessary. The shift comes as the highly transmissible Delta variant is sparking a surge in cases around the nation. The announcement will likely come this week, but the exact date of the rollout is unknown.

Heavy rains brought by Tropical Storm Grace have hampered rescue efforts following the earthquake in Haiti that has killed more than 1,400 people, reports the BBC. The downpour turned dirt into mud, making the rescue workers’ efforts to find those buried in the rubble even more difficult. More than 6,900 people are injured and an unknown number are still missing, along with the tens of thousands left homeless by the damage. The tropical storm moved through southwest Haiti near the city of Les Cayes, the region of the country already suffering the worst damage from the quake and is now moving toward Jamaica.

Khieu Samphan, the last living leader of the Khmer Rouge, appeared in court Monday to appeal his life sentence for genocide and other crimes during the Cambodian regime’s reign, according to the New York Times. The appeal is considered the final leg of a long-standing and expensive tribunal focused on prosecuting atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, which was responsible for the deaths of at least 1.7 million people in the late 1970s. Khieu Samphan was the regime’s head of state, and in 2018 the tribunal convicted him of genocide against the ethnic Vietnamese in the country and violations of the Geneva Conventions. At the hearing on Monday, Khieu Samphan claimed he “knew nothing, saw nothing and heard nothing” during over four years in office. The tribunal is expected to deliver its judgment on the appeal late next year.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes and Lawfare Fellow in Cybersecurity Law Alvaro Marañon discuss their recent piece, “Ransomware Payments and the Law.”

Stewart Baker remembered former general counsel for the CIA John Rizzo.

Wittes welcomed Natalie Orpett as Lawfare’s new executive editor.

Alan Rozenshtein discussed what Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation means for the state of American democracy.

Rohini Kurup posted the livestream of President Biden’s remarks from the White House on the collapse of the Afghanistan government and the Taliban takeover.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared an episode of the National Security Law Podcast in which they discuss the latest developments in Afghanistan.

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Christiana Wayne is a junior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill studying history and English. She is an intern at Lawfare.

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