The Biden administration has unveiled plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The move would end the longest war in U.S. history. Over the past 20 years, the war has killed more than 100,000 Afghan civilians, 2,300 U.S. servicemembers, and has cost the U.S. trillions of dollars. NATO forces are also expected to withdraw 7,000 troops by September 11. This is White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “The president has been consistent in his view that there’s not a military solution to Afghanistan, that we have been there for far too long.”
The White House announcement comes just over a week before the scheduled start of a new round of peace talks in Istanbul between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government. But on Tuesday, the Taliban announced it would boycott the talks because Biden is reneging on a deal made by President Trump to have all U.S. troops out by May 1.
In Minnesota, protesters took to the streets for a third straight night in Brooklyn Center, where a white police officer killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man, during a traffic stop Sunday. Police fired projectiles into a demonstration in front of the Brooklyn Center police station, declaring it unlawful, and ordered reporters to leave.
Kim Potter, the officer who killed Daunte Wright, and the city’s police chief, Tim Gannon, both resigned Tuesday amid mounting anger. Potter was also an officer trainer. Daunte’s aunt, Naisha Wright, responded to the news of her resignation during a joint press conference with the family of George Floyd.
Naisha Wright: “She was the law. She was the law, right? Protect and serve. Put her in jail, like they would do any one of us.”
Naisha Wright also revealed that George Floyd’s girlfriend was her nephew’s former teacher. Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, also spoke at the press conference.
Philonise Floyd: “Minneapolis, you all can’t sweep this under the rug anymore. We are here, and we will fight for justice for this family, just like we’re fighting for our brother. To the protesters all around this nation: Stand up. We need you all to come out.”
The emotional press conference was held outside the Hennepin County Courthouse, where the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin continued inside for a 12th day.
As the murder trial for Derek Chauvin continued Tuesday, the defense called its first witnesses, including Barry Brodd, a former police officer and “use-of-force expert”, who argued Chauvin was acting “with objective reasonableness” when he kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, leading to his death. New bodycam footage was also shown to the jury of Floyd sitting, handcuffed, and giving his name and birthdate to Minneapolis police officer Peter Chang — among the first officers to arrive at the scene, before Chauvin.
Talks are set to resume in Vienna today between the U.S., Iran and other parties to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, just days after an attack on the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran. Iran blamed the attack on Israel, which is staunchly opposed to relaunching the international accord. Iran said Tuesday it will ramp up its uranium enrichment efforts following the attack.
The Biden administration is moving ahead with more than $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, after reviewing a deal made under Trump. The deal includes the sale of Lockheed Martin F-35 jets and armed drones. Antiwar groups and progressive lawmakers have called for the U.S. to stop all arms sales to the UAE over its involvement in the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war in Yemen.
Ukraine says 40,000 Russian troops have amassed on its eastern border, prompting some to warn Russia could be preparing for war. Another 40,000 troops are in annexed Crimea. But others say Russia is sending its soldiers to the region as a show of force and intimidation to Ukraine and its allies. The U.S. and NATO have vowed to support Ukraine, though it is not a member of the alliance. Analysts also say Russia could be seeking a distraction from domestic issues, including the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday the U.S. military will increase its presence in Germany — a reversal from the Trump administration’s plans to withdraw troops. Austin said the move reaffirms U.S. support to NATO and “improves our ability to surge forces at a moment’s notice to defend our allies.”
President Biden has sent an unofficial delegation of former government officials and a former lawmaker to Taiwan, two days after Taipei said China sent 25 warplanes into its air defense zone. China has been increasing military drills around Taiwan and warned the U.S. against intervening in the territory, over which it claims sovereignty.
In Burkina Faso, authorities have charged exiled former President Blaise Compaoré with the murder of Thomas Sankara, who was killed in a 1987 coup. Sankara was a revered leader, an anti-colonialist Marxist who enacted popular social programs and was dubbed the “African Che Guevara.” Compaoré succeeded Sankara, his one-time close friend, and was eventually ousted decades later in a popular uprising in 2014. He will be tried in absentia.
The Guardian reports Facebook knew right-wing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was using thousands of fake Facebook accounts to make his political campaign appear more popular — and let him get away with it for nearly one year after the company was alerted to the activity. Facebook reportedly learned what was happening in 2018, with posts on Hernández’s page receiving engagement from tens of thousands of fake accounts. But Facebook took no action until the following year, even though it violated company policy. Hernández — a key U.S. ally — has long been accused of spreading misinformation online to discredit his critics and undermine social movements.
The European rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been delayed after regulators here in the U.S. moved to temporarily halt its use as reports of extremely rare blood clots were being investigated. South Africa also suspended its use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Six women, aged 18 to 48, reported the clots after receiving the shot, and one has died. The number represents less than one in a million administered J&J shots in the U.S., and it’s not yet known if the condition is linked to the vaccine. What is known is the standard treatment of blood clots — heparin — is contraindicated for this reaction. President Biden sought to reassure the public the pause in J&J’s use would not hamper the White House’s vaccination goals.
President Joe Biden: “So, there is enough vaccine — that is basically 100% unquestionable — for every single, solitary American.”
India is fast-tracking the approval of foreign-made vaccines as it reported yet another record daily caseload of 184,000 infections Wednesday. Mumbai and the state of Maharashtra are going into a full two-week lockdown.
Uddhav Thackeray: “This disease is spreading at a horrifying pace. I say 'horrifying' because today’s numbers of positive cases in the state are the highest so far. Nearly 60,212 COVID-19-positive cases have been reported in the state today, hence the situation is very grim.”
A new report by the Capitol Police’s watchdog reveals officials knew Congress was the target of the deadly January 6 insurrection, yet officers were instructed to refrain from deploying a more aggressive response. Officials on duty on January 6 said the use of “crowd control” equipment such as stun grenades could have helped “push back the rioters.”
An ally of embattled Florida Congressmember Matt Gaetz is reportedly cooperating with the Justice Department in its probe into Gaetz’s possible sex trafficking crimes. Joel Greenberg, a former Florida county tax collector who has himself been indicted for sex trafficking, told investigators that he and Gaetz gave cash or gifts to women in exchange for sex, according to a New York Times report. The House Ethics Committee recently launched its own investigation into Congressmember Gaetz.
President Biden is nominating Robert Santos to head the U.S. Census Bureau. Santos is president of the American Statistical Association. Santos, who is Mexican American, would become the agency’s first permanent director of color. If confirmed, Santos would fill the term of Trump appointee Steven Dillingham, who quit in January following whistleblower complaints over the agency’s attempt to rush an inaccurate report on undocumented residents.
In reproductive rights news, the Food and Drug Administration will allow providers to mail abortion pills to people who choose to terminate an early-stage pregnancy without surgery for the duration of the pandemic. The move was welcomed by medical groups who had been fighting a January ruling by the Supreme Court, which sided with the Trump administration in enforcing the “in-person requirement” even after a federal judge waived it in order to spare patients unnecessary travel during the pandemic.
Wisconsin is on track for a devastating wildfire season as hundreds of blazes have already caused destruction comparable to the whole of 2020, in just four months. Governor Tony Evers declared a state of emergency last week. Climate groups say wildfires are likely to get worse in Wisconsin due to increasing droughts and heat waves.
New York announced it will become the first U.S. state to divest its pension fund from tar sands companies. Divest New York Coalition said, “It is wrong to be invested in companies that are destroying the planet, and it is also financially unwise, considering that the world is transitioning to renewables, which is causing fossil fuel values to steadily decline.”