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Ranking Republicans ‘Plan to Vigorously Investigate’ Withdrawal from Afghanistan, Demand Admin ‘Preserve all Records’

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Afghanistan

Three top Republicans on the key oversight committees for the Afghanistan War sent a letter to President Joe Biden Wednesday to say that once the effort to “locate and evacuate” the thousands of Americans that are stranded, “House Republicans plan to vigorously investigate your administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

The three ranking members who penned the letter are Representatives Devin Nunes of the Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence, Mike Rogers of the Committee on Armed Services and Michael T. McCaul of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In addition to President Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence were all CC’d on the letter.

“The ongoing chaos in Afghanistan profoundly concerns the American people. The horrifying scenes on the ground and the resulting erosion of America’s worldwide geostrategic position raise troubling questions about your administration’s ability to competently manage a major foreign crisis” the letter begins.

Stating “our primary duty is to protect the American people” the Republicans say they “Were shocked to hear White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declare that no Americans are stranded in Afghanistan.” They asked Biden to acknowledge that thousands in fact remain stranded and “do all in your power to locate and evacuate these U.S. citizens. Our nation has no higher priority at this moment in history.”

However, “once that effort is complete and our people are safely returned to their families, House Republicans plan to vigorously investigate your administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

They then request that Biden’s administration “including the Department of Defense, Department of State, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as the broader Intelligence Community – take immediate steps to preserve all records related to your Administration’s withdrawal of U.S. personnel, including diplomatic staff, intelligence personnel, and military forces, as well as those of our allies, from Afghanistan.”

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International

China Warns Olympic Athletes Could Face Serious Consequences if they Speak Publicly on Human Rights

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Olympics

The 2022 Winter Olympic Games are prepared to begin February 4th in Beijing, but not without consequences. Chinese officials have issued a “warning” to all foreign athletes that they are “subject to certain punishment” if they speak “against the Olympic spirit.”

That “Olympic spirit” means politically speaking out about China. “Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment,” said Yan Shu, deputy director-general of international relations for the Beijing Organizing Committee (BOC).

National Review notes the Chinese Party’s suppression of speech is well known and many are concerned with consequences and punishments for political speech because of strict local laws. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the Olympic Charter Rule banning protesting at medal ceremonies would force athletes to follow “applicable public law.”

The Associated Press reports according to the IOC athletes can “enjoy freedom of speech” when speaking to journalists or posting to social media during the games. However, the committee expressed any measures that would protect athletes from Chinese persecution.

CBS Sports reports Global Athlete Group director general Rob Koehler suggested Olympians could suffer severe consequences if they criticize China, especially while in the country itself. “Silence is complicity and that’s why we have concerns,” said Koehler. “We know the human rights record and the allowance of freedom of expression in China, so there’s really not much protection” he added.

Last month White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the U.S. government delegation planned to boycott the Olympic Games over the Chinese government’s human rights abuses, including the presumed detention of tennis star Peng Shuai.

“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses. The athletes on team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games,” Psaki said.

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Psaki Warns Russia Could ‘At Any Point Launch An Attack In Ukraine’

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Jen Psaki

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki warned that tensions between Russia and Ukraine have grown to the point where “we are now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine.”

Psaki made the comments in response to a reporter asking about Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveling to Europe to meet with top Russian officials.

“This morning, Secretary Blinken spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. They agreed to meet in Geneva as you noted. At that meeting, Secretary Blinken will urge Russia to take immediate steps to de-escalate,” Psaki said. “He will also fly to Kiev to consult with President Zelensky and Ukraine’s leaders and to Germany for consultations. As you also know, there is a congressional delegation that is also on their way there. And it’s a note, I would note that that just indicates that support for Ukraine has always been a bipartisan issue, and we welcome that.”

“But where things stand right now, President Putin has created this crisis by amassing 100,000 Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders.

This includes moving Russian forces into Belarus recently for joint exercises and conducting additional exercises on Ukraine’s eastern border,” she continued. “So, let’s be clear, our view is this is an extremely dangerous situation. We are now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine.”

Psaki said that Blinken will push for a diplomatic way forward to de-escalate the situation and that if Russia invades then they “are going to suffer severe economic consequences.”

Russia has been behaving more aggressively in recent months as it has moved military forces to Latin America and might relocate nuclear weapons near the United States coastline.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “wants to extend Russia’s sphere of influence to Eastern Europe and secure written commitments that NATO will never again enlarge,” The New York Times reported. “If he is frustrated in reaching that goal, some of his aides suggested on the sidelines of the negotiations last week, then he would pursue Russia’s security interests with results that would be felt acutely in Europe and the United States.”

“There were hints, never quite spelled out, that nuclear weapons could be shifted to places — perhaps not far from the United States coastline — that would reduce warning times after a launch to as little as five minutes, potentially igniting a confrontation with echoes of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis,” The Times added.

“The current crisis was touched off by the Kremlin’s release of a series of demands that, if the U.S. and its allies agreed, would effectively restore Russia’s sphere of influence close to Soviet-era lines, before NATO expanded into Eastern Europe. It has also demanded that all U.S. nuclear weapons be withdrawn from Europe, saying it felt threatened by their presence — though the types and locations of those weapons haven’t changed in years. And it wants a stop to all Western troop rotations through former Warsaw Pact states that have since joined NATO.”

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