Today’s D Brief: Biden on US leadership; China’s space station; Air Force One, delayed; Cost estimate jumps on interceptor; And a bit more.
This article features our Investigator Zack Kopplin and was originally published here.
“American leadership means ending the forever war in Afghanistan,” President Joe Biden said in his first State of the Union address Wednesday evening, noting, “I’m the first President in 40 years who knows what it means to have a son serving in a warzone.”
“We went to Afghanistan to get terrorists,” the president said, “the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 — and we said we would follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell to do it… And we delivered justice to bin Laden. We degraded the terrorist threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And after 20 years of value — valor and sacrifice, it’s time to bring those troops home.”
America will now lean on its “over-the-horizon capacity to suppress future threats to the homeland,” Biden said, referring to counterterrorism forces carrying out operations without a significant troop presence in countries like, e.g., Afghanistan and Somalia.
“And make no mistake: In 20 years, terrorism has metastasized. The threat has evolved way beyond Afghanistan,” Biden said. “Al Qaeda and ISIS are in Yemen, Syria, Somalia, other places in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.”
It’s metastasized at home, too, he said. “We won’t ignore what our intelligence agencies have determined to be the most lethal terrorist threat to the homeland today: White supremacy is terrorism,” the president said. “We’re not going to ignore that either.” Read more about the foreign policy themes in Biden’s Wednesday address via Defense One’s Jacqueline Feldscher, here.
Back to Afghanistan: Investigative journalists seem to have uncovered an “illegal mining corruption ring” that appears to involve the president of Afghanistan and his brother, an American military contractor, and even an allegedly supporting role by U.S. Special Forces, according to Margaux Benn and Zack Kopplin of the Government Accountability Project.
At the heart of the story: Chromite mining in Kunar province, which yields “a valuable anti-corrosion additive used in stainless steel and aircraft paint.”
This one’s a long and winding tale, and Kopplin goes a great distance explaining what he can of it all — as well as curious sidebar discoveries — in a lengthy Twitter thread from Wednesday, here. (Or read the full report here.)
ICYMI: “I don’t think [Afghanistan’s government] is gonna last that long. It’s just too rotten,” a member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces told us on our most recent Defense One Radio podcast.
BTW: A 35-year-old U.S. military contractor from Georgia was just sentenced to more than four years in prison “for her role in a theft ring on a military installation in Kandahar, Afghanistan,” the Department of Justice announced Wednesday. The newly-sentenced “used her position as a security supervisor at Kandahar Airfield to make fake badges that allowed unvetted Afghans to enter the base between April and July 2015 and remove military property,” including “a truck, a van, at least three generators and a refrigerator,” Stars and Stripes reports. Read more about her and her co-conspirator, here.